SV: hist-games: Zamma

Mats Winther mwi9 at
Tue Apr 25 01:47:15 PDT 2006

Den 2006-04-25 00:47:10 skrev Peter Michaelsen <PMI at KM.DK>:

> Hello Mats!
> You have made a very nice update of the Zamma game for Zillions-of-Games, including some of the historical information I sent you.
> Concerning the rule that you are obliged to choose the continuation with the most possible captures, you are right, when you say that this is a good, but also an advanced rule.
> You ask: "is this really how the Tuaregs play the game"? Yes, probably, but we cannot know for certain. The article by Abdallahi Ol Bah is by far the most detailed description of the game.
> The somewhat shorter description by Théodore Monod in Notes Africaines no.45, January 1950,p.11-13: "Sur quelques jeux africains a quadrillages", does only state that captures are obligatory,
> and so does R.C. Bell in his description of "Zamma" in The Board Game Book, 1979.
> This rule has probably been followed in Spanish draughts (and a similar, but even more advanced rule in Italian draughts) since the 16th century, and resulted in a game with more combinations than in the similar game without such a rule. Already in 1547 the first Spanish draughts book was published in Valencia. Unfortunately it has been lost, but a book from 1591 with nice problem compositions has been preserved. The rule of "huff" (French: "soufflage", Moorish: "cafar"), as well as the rule of promotion was probably borrowed by the North Africans from the Europeans.
> In a mail Thierry Depaulis pointed out that this "contamination" was not necessarily a result of the French colonization. This could very well have happened already in the early 17th century. In 1609-1614 between 250 and 300 000 Moorish refugees reached Morocco from Spain.
> Scandinavia is one of the few areas in the world, where the advanced rule of capturing has never gained any popularity, but, at the same time, Scandinavia is also one of the areas where the game has never been studied or played seriously in clubs and with organized tournaments.
> Anglo-American checkers, Pool checkers, Russian checkers and Thai checkers are other variants without any priority rule of capturing.
> Yes, Zamma/Srand is an intriguing checkers variant, in which the most astonishing combinations may often occur,while draws will be rare, even among master players.
> Its combinations can only be compared with the likewise ortho-diagonal combinations of Frisian checkers, another excellent game.
> It seems a bit strange that Christian Freeling did not include any of these games in his comparative study of checkers variants, see
> In this study he compares several variants, including his own HexDame and Dameo with traditional variants like Turkish checkers and International checkers, the latter of which has become rather drawish among master players.
> A few days ago I discovered two other variants of Zamma, both with interesting features.
> The first one I found on the web site of Maison des Jeux, Grenoble:
> This game is played with 2x20 pieces on a game board with 41 crossing points.
> Game pieces are promoted to "mullah", when reaching the last line of the opposite camp.
> It seems that this is a much more detailed description of the game named "kharbaga" in Mauretania. There is a diagram, showing this simplification of Srand, in Mokhtar Ould Hamidoun: Précis sur la Mauritanie, Centre IFAN - Mauretanie, Saint-Louis - Sénegal 1952, p.68.
> At the end of the description of Zamma at Maison du Jeux there is a surprising restriction of the captures of the mullah: "Mais, contrarement au jeu de dames, il ne peut enchainer des prises en changeant de direction." Such a restriction is, to my knowledge, not known in any other checkers variant. Was it necessary to add it, because the mullahs became too powerful on such a small board?
> Another Zamma-variant is described at
> See also the descriptions of El-Quirkat and its variants on another fiche ludique there.
> This Zamma-variant is played on a 9x9 board without any diagonals. Pieces do still move in three directions forwards, but this is the case with all pieces, except those at the edges who have only two possible moves. From most squares it is possible to capture in all eight directions.
> This game is perhaps not so sophisticated as the Mauretanian Srand, but it probably takes the prize as the traditional checkers variant with the highest number of possible moves and captures.
> On another web site I saw that there had been an exhibition of Mauretanian culture, including games like Srand/Dhamet in Japan. I think that this Zamma-variant could perhaps become popular in Japan as it is possible to play it with 2x40 Go stones or with 2 sets of Shogi pieces on a Shogi board.
> It is no great surprise that there exist such Zamma variants played on boards with a different topological structure. In fact we find alquerque variants on exactly the same types of game boards not only in the Near East, but also in India, and even in Northern Scandinavia (among the Sámi population).
> Looking forward to hear some comments about these Zamma variants.
> Best wishes,
> Peter.

After all, correct information is not easily retrieved so it's no wonder that
this important game has been a Cinderella among checkers variants.

If there exists another variant which you would like me to implement as
a variant in the program I could do this provided that you dig up the
exact rules, since you seem well-informed. It could be worthwhile to
implement one or two of the simpler variants.


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