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Further information: Chess (disambiguation)
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Makruk starting position
Makruk Thai players
Makruk Thai set 100 years before 2012
Makruk Thai set 200 years before 2012 which Bia are made from shells
Makruk Thai from early Rattanakosin era with pieces made from albino and black water buffalos' horn

Makruk (Thai: หมากรุก; rtgsMak Ruk;  [màːk rúk]), or Thai chess, is a board game descended from the 6th-century Indian game of chaturanga or a close relative thereof, and therefore related to chess. It is regarded as the most similar living game to this common ancestor of all chess variants.[1]

There are around two million Thais who can play makruk, while 5000 can play chess.[2]

According to former world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik, "Makruk Thai is more strategic than international chess. You have to plan your operations with total care since Makruk Thai can be compared to an anticipated endgame of International Chess."[3]



  • The pawn (called เบี้ย bia, a cowry shell, formerly used for money) moves and captures like a pawn in international chess, but cannot move two steps on the first move and, therefore, cannot be captured en passant. A pawn that reaches the sixth rank is always promoted to a queen (med).
  • The queen[4][5] (called เม็ด met, seed[4]), the weakest piece, moves one step in any diagonal direction, like the fers in shatranj, or a cat sword in dai shogi.
  • The bishop (called โคน khon, nobleman[4] or mask[5]) moves one step in any diagonal direction or one step forward, like the silver general in shogi.
  • The knight (called ม้า ma, horse) moves like a knight in Western chess: two steps in one direction and then one step perpendicular to that movement. It jumps over any pieces in the way.
  • The rook (called เรือ ruea, boat) moves like a rook in Western chess: any number of steps horizontally or vertically.
  • The king (called ขุน khun, meaning either a feudal lord or a title-holder of the lowest ranks in the ancient Thai nobility) moves like a king in international chess - one step in any direction. The game ends when the king is checkmated.
English king (1) queen (1) bishop (2) knight (2) rook (2) pawn (8) promoted pawn (queen)
Thai ขุน เม็ด โคน ม้า เรือ เบี้ย เบี้ยหงาย
RTGS khun met khon ma ruea bia bia-ngai
Meaning feudal lord seed nobleman/mask horse boat cowry shell Overturned Cowry Shell

In starting position, pawns are placed on the third and sixth ranks. Queens are placed at the right side of kings. Pawns promote (เบี้ยหงาย bia ngai, flipped cowry shell) and move like queens when they reach the sixth rank. There is no castling rule like that of international chess.

Counting rules[edit]

When neither side has any pawns, the game must be completed within a certain number of moves or it is declared a draw. When a piece is captured the count starts again from scratch only if it is the last piece of one side in the game.

  • When neither side has any pawns left, mate must be achieved in 64 moves. The disadvantaged player does the counting, and may at any time choose to stop counting. If the disadvantaged side checkmates the advantage side and did not stop counting, the game is declared a draw.

When the last piece (that is not the king) of the disadvantaged side is captured, the count may be started, or restarted from the aforementioned counting, by the weaker side, and the stronger side now has a maximum number of moves based on the pieces left:

  • If there are two rooks left: 8 moves
  • If there is one rook left: 16 moves
  • If there are no rooks left, but there are two bishops: 22 moves
  • If there are no rooks left, but there is one bishop: 44 moves
  • If there are no rooks or bishops left, but there are two knights: 32 moves
  • If there are no rooks or bishops left, but there is one knight: 64 moves
  • If there are no rooks, bishops, or knights, but queens: 64 moves

The weaker side pronounces aloud the counting of his fleeing moves, starting from the number of pieces left on the board, including both kings. The stronger side has to checkmate his opponent's king before the maximum number is pronounced, otherwise the game is drawn. During this process, the count may restart if the counting side would like to stop and start counting again.

For example, if White has two rooks and a knight against a lone black king, he has three moves to checkmate his opponent (the given value of 8 minus the total number of pieces, 5). If Black captures a white rook, the count does not automatically restart, unless Black is willing to do so, at his own disadvantage. However, many players do not understand this and restart the counting while fleeing the king.


Here are some alternative rules, which do not apply to the standard, formal game, or have been abandoned in professional play. They are called sutras. The first free moves are similar to those in Cambodian Ouk (see below).

  • Sut Khun (King Sutra) can be compared to the castling rule in international chess. The rule allows the player to move the King to a blank square on next row, like a Knight, so long as the king has never moved.
  • Sut Met (Queen Sutra) is the most popular sutra in informal rules. It is a first free move that allows the player to move the Queen and the Pawn in front of the Queen at the same time. Two pieces are moved in this sutra. First, move the Pawn in front of the Queen forward; then move the Queen to the blank square the pawn has just vacated, so the Queen moves two squares.
  • Sut Ma (Knight Sutra) is a first free move that allows the player to move a Knight and a Pawn a Knight's move from that Knight in the same turn. Two pieces are moved in this sutra. First, move the Pawn which is a Knight's move from the Knight forward; then move the Knight to the blank square the Knight has just vacated.
  • Takhaeng Ruea (Boat Tilting, Boat Lean) Turn one or both Boat pieces upside down. This changes the Boat to be a Bia Ngai (flipped cowry shell). This reduces the power of one or two Rooks.

Cambodian chess[edit]

Cambodian men playing Ouk

The variety of chess played in Cambodia, called "Ok" (Khmer: អុក) [6] or "Ouk Chatrang"[7] is virtually identical to Makruk, with a couple of minor differences.[8] On the king's first move, a player has the option of moving the king like a knight, but only if not in check and only if no pieces have been captured. On the queen's first move, the player has the option of moving the queen two squares straight ahead—again, only if no pieces have been captured.[7] There is evidence that Ouk Chatrang has been played in Cambodia since the twelfth century, as it is depicted in several reliefs in the Angkor temples.[8]

Ka Ok[edit]

In the variant "Ka Ok" (aka "Kar Ouk"), the first player to put the other in check wins.[6]


The first Ouk Chatrang tournament was held in Cambodia from April 3 to 4 of 2008, upon the completion of a standardized ruleset by the Olympic Committee of Cambodia and the Cambodian Chess Association.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murray, H. J. R. (1913). A History of Chess (Reissued ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-827403-3. 
  2. ^ Pritchard, D. B. (2007). Beasley, John, ed. The Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. John Beasley. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-9555168-0-1. 
  3. ^ Kramnik plays Makruk Thai by Dr. René Gralla.
  4. ^ a b c How to Play Thai Chess - Makruk - Mak-rook - Makrook - Xiangqi - Shogi
  5. ^ a b Makruk: Thai Chess
  6. ^ a b Khmer Institute (If the link redirects to the mainpage of the Khmer Institute, click on the "culture" link, then the "chess" link)
  7. ^ a b Cambodian Chess games
  8. ^ a b Ouk Chatrang, the Cambodian Chess and Makruk, the Thai Chess
  9. ^ Cambodia to hold first ever Khmer Chess tournament

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makruk — Please support Wikipedia.
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