Chess in Mongolia has a long history and has been a popular sport on both a competitive and casual level for many years. Although many don’t immediately think of Mongolia, when they think of chess, they really should. We have a strong chess culture that still persists to this day and has proven ourselves in international competitions.
Mongolia had its own version of chess for centuries before it became a global sport. The Mongolian chess is called “Shatar” and is quite similar to Xiangqi, or Chinese chess, but the form, rules, and ways to move the chess pieces are more like international chess.
Originally, when the Persians first introduced it in the 13th century, the board of the game was a square board with 64 small squares of two different color shades alternating with each other, pretty similar to the modern board. There are a total of 32 pieces, with 16 for each player, including one king, one commander-in-chief, two chariots, two camels instead of elephants, two horses, and eight hunting dogs instead of soldiers, adding a nomadic twist to the classic game.
The Mongol names for the pieces are:
King – noyon (prince, duke)
Queen – bers (fantastic animal resembling a big dog)
Knight – mori (horse)
Rook – tereg (chariot, vehicle)
Bishop – teme (camel)
Pawn- fu (child, young)
Bodyguard – hia (senior adviser, warrior, bodyguard)
Chess In Modern Mongolia
It is estimated that about 60% of the population knows how to play chess. Not only do the majority know how to play chess, they actively engage in it. Many public schools boast chess clubs, and amateur chess tournaments are very popular amongst district schools. Furthermore, the sport is especially popular in the countryside, where more people know how to play it than in the capital.
In Mongolian culture itself, chess is recognized as an intellectually stimulating sport great for mental development, which is why many parents sign their children up for practices. At school, it is not uncommon to see students playing chess or checkers during break time.
Shockingly, one of the most common sights to see is people playing chess on the streets. Oftentimes, outside of universities, you can play a round of chess with a money bet online. During the match, while the two players focus, typically a small group of spectators forms.
Mongolia has proven itself as a formidable opponent in the world of competitive chess.
In recent years, Mongolia has repeatedly distinguished itself in international chess.
The 44th Chess Olympiad concluded with the Mongolian men’s team placing 35th out of 188 countries, while the women placed 15th out of 162.
Khulan Enksaikhan led her team to gold at the 2020 Asian University Chess Championship (AUC).
The chess scene in Mongolia is thriving with many promising young amateur athletes preparing themselves to represent their country on the International stage. With a rich and long history, it is no wonder that Mongolians love chess and the game’s culture so much that they play it everywhere from their homes to schools.