This page is prompted by the article written by Richard Parnkhust in the May-June issue of Ethiopian Review Magazine. According to Pankhrust, the Ethiopian Chess was played for many hundred years. Qerquis, people who played the game, were condemed by the then legal code, Fetha Negest. He made references such as Aleka Taye’s dictionary, a record by Alessandron Zorizi who met an Ethiopian Monk Aba Thomas in Venice, who told him that Emperor Lebna Dingel Played Chess at the royal court in Shoa with a Venetian artist Hieronimo Biccini. In the second half of the centuary an Ethiopian Chronicle states that the Great Ruler of Tigray Ras Michael Sehul played Senterej, according to his custom at the time of the battle of Fageta in 1769. Here are some important notes about the game.
The game has been played in
A large chessboard all the squares of which were red in color separated only by a small blue band. The Ethiopian board consisted of 8 x 8 squares. Chess pieces were coarsely made of ivory, very large and clumsy or made of horn and delicately fashioned.
Place pieces on chessboard in more or less the same position as Chess. On each corner of the board sits the castle (Der) which can move horizontally or vertically to any distance.
Ferese (Knight) Ferese sits next “to the castles” on the board moving inward- moves a straight and a slant, can jump over any intermediate piece.
Fil also known as Saba or man next to the horse, can move diagonally but only three squares and could jump over an intermediary square.
Negus (king) is placed in one of the two central squares. It is powerful. Always place this piece in the square on the players right. Negus moves one square at a time in any direction and its capture results in the end of the game.
Ferz is the king’s companion is a male Councillor can move diagonally one square at a time.
Medeq (pawns) are placed in a row in front of the other pieces. Move one step forwards at a time only. A Medeq reaching the opponents first square could be replaced by any of its player’s pieces, which had by then been captured.
Werera phase (Mobilization phase): 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 (probably equivalent to castling). Werera ends until after the first capture. The players move alternatively as in the modern western game.
Sentereje is based on a combination of observation, prudence, strategies and surprises. It is a way of testing and trying the spirit of the players. The best was to win to achieve checkmate with only two bishops or with a queen and a pawn.