Senterej, the Ethiopian Chess

Les échecs éthiopiens

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Senterej is Ethiopian Chess, Chess once played in Ethiopia.

There is a description of this game on the Homepage for Senterej. Fearing that this precious information could vanish, I have taken the liberty of copying it before it's too late. Mirror page is here.

Information about Senterej comes from Murray ("A history of Chess", Oxford, 1913) and from an article written by Richard Parnkhust, specialist of Ethiopia, in the 1971 May-June issue of Ethiopian Review Magazine. According to this paper, the Ethiopian Chess was played for many hundred years. Tigran, who live in North of Ethiopia and in Erythrea, have been reported to play the game as soon as 1809 (Source: Pritchard).

The names of the pieces and their meanings are the following :











Fil, Saba













The most typical characteritic is a mobilization phase called Werera. Players move as they wish as fast or slowly as they like without waiting for their opponent to move. The king can move two squares to the right and the nearer castle can be moved or shifted to the immediately adjacent square. Werera ends until after the first capture. Then, the players move alternately as in the modern western game.

The board was uniformly red with fine blue lines marking the squares.


The Senterej is without any doubt of Arab origin. Senterej was also spelled Sunteridge or Shunteridge by Murray and comes directly from the word Shatranj.

The Werera is somewhat similar to the Ta'biyat which were used by Arabs to remedy the slowness of beginnings of the Shatranj game. Also, Murray reported comparable mobilization phase done by a Syrian player ("A history of Chess", Oxford, 1913,p359).

The Fers'move is the old Shatranj move with only 1 diagonal step. The Fil's move caused some emotion among Chess amateurs because it was said that it could move diagonally 3 squares, jumping over an intermediary square. As a matter of fact, it was an ambiguous habit in old time, especially in Orient, to count 3 squares for a move leaping 1 square: they counted the starting and the arriving squares as well. An old testimony from W.C.Plowden, reported by Murray ( p363), dated 1868, is clear : "three squares, including its own". So, the Fil's move is the well known old Shatranj move : jumping diagonally to the second square.

In addition, many names are of Arab origin, Fers, Fil, Ferese (for Faras) and Medeq (for Baidaq).

Retrouvez le Senterej, les échecs éthiopiens, dans L'Univers des Echecs


Set which belonged to Welled Sellasse, Ras of Tigre in 1805
(Gareth Williams, "Master Pieces", Apple Press, London, 2000)

The authors of the works, books and photographs, are kindly acknowledged.
If there is any problem with their presence here, please do
mail me.