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Maharajah and the Sepoys

Maharajah and the Sepoys
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1 1
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Starting position. White figure is a maharajah; it can move as queen or knight.

Maharajah and the Sepoys, originally called Shatranj Diwana Shah and also known as "The Mad King's Game", is a popular chess variant with different armies for white and black. It was first played in the 19th century in India.


Black has a full, standard chess army ("sepoys") in the usual position. White is limited to a single piece, the maharajah, which can move as either a queen or as a knight on White's turn (hence a manifestation of the amazon). Black's goal is to checkmate the maharajah, while White's is to checkmate Black's king. There is no pawn promotion.

The asymmetry of the game pits movement flexibility and agility against greater force in numbers. By perfect play Black always wins in this game, at least on an 8x8 board. According to Hans Bodlaender, "A carefully playing black player should be able to win. However, this is not always easy, and in many cases, when the white 'Maharaja' breaks through the lines of black, he has good chances to win."

Winning strategy

The following sequence of moves can give a forced win by Black. Each move can be played by Black no matter what the response is from White. This method of moves provides a forced mate in 24 for black and has been created and used by George Tsavdaris on

1... d5
2... Nc6
3... Qd6
4... e5
5... Nf6
6... a5
7... Ra6
8... Rb6
9... Bg4
10... e4
11... Qe5
12... Be7
13... O-O
14... Rb2
15... Ra8
16... Ra6
17... Rab6
18... R6b3
19... h5
20... g5
21... Nh7
22... Qd4

Now if the Maharajah is on a1 then:

23... Rb1
24... R3b2# 0-1


23... Qd1# 0-1