Ouk Chaktrang – Cambodian Chess (អុកចត្រង្គ)


The first type of Cambodian chess game is known to the Cambodians as Ouk Chaktrang (អុកចត្រង្គ).
The name “Ouk” was believed to come from imitating the sound made between the chessman and the chessboard while checking. As terminology and rule are concerned, the word “Ouk” means check, and it is required to say out loud by the player who checks the enemy King.
The game is also named “Chaktrang” is formal and derived from Indian, Sanskrit Chaturanga (चतुरङ्ग).
Like the international chess, Ouk Chaktrang requires two people to play against each other, but in Cambodia there are always two teams of people participating in the game. This does make every game played even more exciting and entertaining. People, I mean Cambodian men, usually gather to play at a barbershop or Cafe shope for men in their town or village.
The object of Chaktrang is also to checkmate the opponent’s King. In the beginning, who should move first is simply a matter of agreement between the players. However, for the next game, the loser usually has a privilege to move first. If the first game was drawn for some reason, once again the mutual agreement decides for the matter in question.
The second type of Cambodian chess game is Rek, please see the Rek game also.The Initial Position or Arrangement
The opening setup of Cambodian chess or Chaktrang is like that of the international one except for three features. First, the Pawns or Fishes are set up on the third and sixth ranks, not the first and eighth ones. Second, the Kings are placed crosswise, not opposite each other. And third, each Queen is on the right-hand side of its corresponding King. Their powers of move are not all like those of the international chess. We are turning to this matter in the following paragraphs.



  • Trey moves and captures like a pawn in international chess (But cannot move two steps on the first move and, therefore, cannot be captured en passant). A pawn that reaches the sixth rank is always promoted to a Trey Bork (Neang).

      • Neang moves one step in any diagonal direction. She can jump at the 2nd case straight ahead at her first move (This special move is no more used in Thailand).
Normal move
Normal move

      • Koul moves one step in any diagonal direction or one step forward.

      • Ses moves like a knight in international chess: two steps in one direction and then one step perpendicular to that movement. It jumps over any pieces in the way.


      • Tuuk moves like a rook in international chess: any number of steps horizontally or vertically.


  • Ang moves like a king in international chess – one step in any direction. He is allowed to make a Ses (knight jump) at his first move (This special move is no more used in Thailand). The game ends when the king is checkmated.
Normal move
Normal move
First move
First move

Counting Rules (The King hunt)When a player has only the King left and all the Fishes currently available on the board were promoted, he can claim the game drawn after the applicable rule or condition of move counting is met. The rule of move counting is determined according to the presence of the most valuable unit left on the board regardless of the other units available.

  • If there are two rooks left: 8 moves
  • If there is one rook left: 16 moves
  • If there are no rooks left, but there are two bishops: 22 moves
  • If there are no rooks or bishops left, but there are two knights: 32 moves
  • If there are no rooks left, but there is one bishop: 44 moves
  • If there are no rooks or bishops left, but there is one knight: 64 moves
  • If there are no rooks, bishops, or knights, but queens: 64 moves

The weaker side pronounces aloud the counting of his fleeing moves, starting from the number of pieces left on the board plus 1. The stronger side has to checkmate his opponent’s king before the maximum number is pronounced, otherwise the game is drawn. During this process, the count may restart if the counting side would like to stop and start counting again.[box type=”info”]For example, doing the King hunt, if White has two rooks and a knight against a lone black king, he has three moves to checkmate his opponent (start count from 6 to 8 not from 1 , the total number of pieces, 5). If Black captures a white rook, the count does not automatically restart, unless Black is willing to do so, at his own disadvantage. However, many players do not understand this and restart the counting while fleeing the king.[/box]
Another Style of Play
Another style of chess play is Kar Ouk (Check Prevention) game. In this style, the object of the game is to simply check the opponent King. The game is over when one King is in check. If you can check your enemy King first, you win the game. The game is even more challenging since prevention of a check is surely more difficult than that of a checkmate. The checkmate is not the point here. This style of play has all the same rules and settings as those of regular Ouk.A Glossary of Cambodian Chess or Ouk Chaktrang
Stalemate. A situation in which the running, alone King has no legal move and is not in check. Not like international chess, the game is not draw when in this situation.
Ang (អង្គ)
King, also called ‘Sdaach’.
Bet (បិទ)
Block the checking enemy unit, especially the Boat, by the friendly unit; literally means (l.m.) ‘close’.
Bet Ouk (បិទអុក)
Bet and at the same time check back in return, usually done by the Kningt or other protected unit.
Bak (បក)
Promote; promoted; it is done by turning or flipping the Fish unit over; l.m. ‘peel, turn over or double the betting amount’.
Bak Ruk
Promote and check at the same time; see ‘Ruk’.
Bak Denh
Promote and at the same time be in a position to take a more valuable enemy unit; l.m. ‘Bak and chase’.
Protection, noun of ‘Chang’; see below.
Chang (ចង)
Protect or guard; protected; l.m. ‘tie’.Cheub Ang (ជាប់អង្គ)
A situation under which the King is taken or in check by the enemy Boat when the blocked unit, whether friendly or enemy, is removed; l.m. ‘trapped King’.
Daak Ang (ដាក់អង្គ)
Place one’s Boat in the position of checking the enemy King while there is a unit, friendly or enemy, between the two. This is done to gain ‘Cheub Ang’ advantage.
Denh (ដេញ)
Be in a position to take a more valuable enemy unit; King hunt for the end game; l.m. ‘chase’.
Trade off.
Double, e.g. Dub Tuuk; a loaned word from French; also called ‘Truot’.
Ouk Baek
A check on the enemy King while at the same time other enemy unit(s), esp. the more valuable such as the Boat and Horse, could also be taken although “not free”; c.f. ‘Ruk Baek’; l.m. ‘check and split’.
Ouk Daach
A same case of ‘Ouk Baek’ except that while the King runs or escapes, the other unit can be taken free; c.f. ‘Ruk daach’.
Ouk Ngeub
Checkmate, a situation in which the enemy King is checked and has no legal move; the end point of the game.
Ouk Ta
A check on the enemy King done in an attempt to trade off that checking unit with its enemy counterpart, i.e., the enemy unit that has the same value.
A checking situation in which a player removes his unit away from the legal move of his Boat that checks the enemy King as a result. This is the purpose of ‘Daak Ang’ and done in the situation of ‘Cheup Ang’; see ‘Si Paay’; l.m. ‘gallop’.
Paay Ouk
A ‘Paay’ situation that the removed unit also checks the enemy King; it is a double check: by the Boat and remomed, friendly unit.
Ruk (រុក)
Another word for check usually done by the Fish, the Neang and promoted Fish; l.m. ‘push’.
Si (សី)
Take or capture; l.m. ‘eat’.
Si Bak (សីបក)
Only for the Fish, take an enemy unit and at the same time becomes a promoted.
Si Brateanh
The captures of two enemy units that are under the protection of the same single unit. Take the first one first and then the second can be captured “free”.
Si Denh
Take an enemy unit and be in a position to take an more valuable enemy unit at the same time.
Si Ouk
Capture an enemy unit and at the same time check as well; c.f. ‘Si Ruk’.
Si Paay
Take an enemy unit by using the removed unit to make a ‘Paay’; this is very powerful tactic.
Si Pir
Take two enemy units by sacrifying one friendly unit; l.m. ‘eat two’.
Even or equal in the play; a draw.
Resist an enemy attack by a friendly unit that is equivalent the attacking enemy unit.
Cambodian name of the pawn; the Fish; l.m. ‘fish’.
Trey Bak
Promoted Fish.
Trey Chang
The two mutually protected promoted Fishes that are always in the diagonals when placed adjacently.
Trey Tim
The two promoted Fishes that cannot protect each other and both are always in a rank or file when located adjacently; referred to as ‘side-by-side promoted Fishes’ in this article.

Cambodian International
Ang, Sdaach (King​, ស្តេច រឺ អង្គ រឺ ខុន) King
Neang (Maiden, ព្រះនាង រឺ នាង) Queen
Koul (Pillar, គោ) Bishop
Ses (Horse , សេះ) Knight
Tuuk (Boat, ទូក) Rook
Trey (Fish, ត្រី) Pawn