Ancient Turkic Game Resembling Chess, Yet More Complex, Sees New Life in Kazakhstan

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 - The Kazakh ancestors of Turkic origin played a game that resembled chess, but was more complicated in nature, Kazakh archeologists concluded recently after they completed studying what they found after
unearthing a cite of ancient settlement close to Almaty, Vremya newspaper reported last month. Then, in a peculiar confluence of scientific research and business interests, a young local businessman has fallen in love with the game and now seeks to promote his ancestors' heritage.

The game, Oi Kures (meaning Mind Struggle), was found in the Talgar settlement, called Talkhir in the Middle Ages, only few miles away from modern Almaty. Professor of archaeology Ivan Kopylov studied it and concluded that the Kazakh ancestors indeed played this game several centuries ago.

Just like ordinary chess, Oi Kures has a 64-square black and white board, and black and white figures of kings, queens, rooks, bishops, and knights, and it has the same idea of defeating an opposing side.

Yet, the difference and complexity lie in the fact that pawns in Oi Kures are no ordinary pawns. Instead, they have their own hierarchy, and, as such, are not treated simply as cannon fodder.

Marat Urtashev, an Almaty entrepreneur, produced the first 1,000 sets of Oi Kures and is actively seeking to promote the game whose rules are currently known to no more than 100 people.

He says he doesn't seek to rewrite history and to claim Kazakhstan was the birthplace of chess. "Rather, we are just proposing a new game that was
unearthed at Talgar," Mr. Urtashev said in a newspaper interview. "Oi Kures can move beyond our borders. When I showed the game to Turks they said that while classic chess is politics, Oi Kures amounts to a battle."

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