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African Chess
Inventors: Arthur & Wald
Amberstone, early 1960s
Ranks: Eight by Eight
Sowing: Single laps
Region: USA

African Chess was invented by Arthur and Wald Amberstone, New York (USA), in the early 1960s. African Chess is a two-dimensional abstract strategy game, which is a cross-over between chess and mancala.


African Chess is a classic two-person strategy board game. It is a form of chess using mancala-like sowing to move pieces.

The board is a standard chess board. The squares should be 2 inches in size to accommodate the pieces.

The pieces are called "stones". They are round and undifferentiated but regular in shape. They can be disks (like checkers) or tall and three-dimensional (cone-shaped). A perfect size and shape are Go stones, from which their name is derived.

There are 32 stones, 16 for each player. One set is white, the other is black. 15 stones on each side are plain and unmarked. One stone on each side is marked with a central dot. These are called the "touchstones". The white touchstone is marked with a black dot and the black touchstone is marked with a white dot.

The object of the game is to place the opposing Touchstone in a position where it cannot avoid capture on the following move. This is the exact equivalent of checkmate in chess.

Starting position[]

The starting set-up is two rows of 8 stones for each side, at opposite edges of the board. The touchstone for each side is located in the same square as the king would be in chess.

African Chess ini

Initial Position


Movement for any single stone, including the touchstone, is one square in any direction, the same as the kings move in chess.

However, more than one stone may occupy the same square at the same time. A square may contain two, three or four stones at once, of one or both colors.

A player may move a single stone into an adjacent square already containing one, two or three stones of either or both colors.

When a square contains two or more stones of one color, they form a group and must be moved as a group.

A group of stones is moved from its square in a standard mancala seeding movement, one stone to a square in a straight line in any direction, extending from the point of origin. All the stones in a group must be seeded in the move.

A player may move only his own stones from a square. Any opposing stones that share a square are left where they are.

A group of stones is always seeded one stone to a square in a straight line of squares, even when one or more of those squares is already occupied by other stones.

Four stones is the maximum permitted in a square at one time. If a square containing four stones is in the proposed line of movement of a seeded group, it forms a block to the movement of that group. Any stones of the group that have not yet been seeded when they reach the blocking square are deposited together in the square before it and the move ends there.

The edge of the board is also a block to the movement of a group of stones. If a group is seeded toward the edge of the board, any stones unseeded when they reach an edge square are deposited together in that square and the move ends there.

If the square preceding a blocked square is already occupied as well, and the remains of the seeded group would make a total in excess of four, the move is not allowed and may not be begun.

No single stone may be moved by itself if it shares a square with another stone of the same color, with one exception. If the touchstone is part of a group, it may be moved as part of that group or by itself, at the players discretion.

When the touchstone is seeded with a group, the player decides where it should be placed in the seeding order.

Capture occurs when a single stone of one color enters a square containing only a single stone of the opposing color.

When a single stone of one color enters a square containing another stone of its own color as well as two opposing stones, both opposing stones are captured at once.

When a group is seeded, the last (and only the last) stone of that group captures in the same way as a single stone.

When a single stone or the last stone of a seeded group enters a square containing two opposing stones but none of its own, there is no capture.

Groups of three or four stones of one color cannot be captured, with one exception. A Touchstone captures any or all opposing stones in any square it enters. The Touchstone captures even a blocking group of four opposing stones. It captures even when it is not the last stone in a seeded group. It captures even the opposing Touchstone.

However, the opposing Touchstone may be captured by a single stone or the last stone of a group even when it is part of a group of three or four.

When one player threatens to capture the opposing Touchstone on the following move, he is obliged to give warning by saying Guard! This is the exact equivalent of saying Check! in chess.

The threatened Touchstone must be saved from imminent capture if that is possible. If a threat is made that cannot be avoided, the threatening player says Touch! and the game is over. This is the equivalent of Checkmate! in chess.

See also[]


Amberstone, W.
Re: African Chess (E-mail to R. Gering). New York (USA), June 24, 2006.


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By: Ralf Gering
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