♕ Okk Chatrang (Khmer Chess) ♞
The Chess game is one of the oldest and most popular strategy board games in South East Asia.
Its origins still remain obscure but it is supposed to originally come from North India, around the year 500.
First a warrior game, it then spread to Central Asia and China, while following the road of Buddhism and gradually became a symbol of social promotion in the 18th century.
Bas-reliefs at Bayon Temple in Angkor Archaeological Park even depict chess players, showing that the game arrived in Cambodia at least during Angkorian times.
The most popular Cambodian chess game is called “Okk Chatrang”. “Okk” is believed to come from the sound made between the piece and the chessboard while the player is checking. When checking the enemy King, the player must say out loud the word “Okk” (which means “check”).
This overwhelmingly male game is still a very popular pastime widely played in Cambodia. It is very common here to see players, mostly old men concentrating over a chessboard in the streets of Phnom Penh, in the province and in the countryside, on some coffee house terraces or on the sidewalk in front of their shop or even on a chessboard drawn on the dirt soil or with a chalk.
While the western version of chess requires two players only, in Cambodia there are usually 2 teams of people playing against each other. It makes the game more stimulating and fun as a small crowd is usually gathering around.
If you are interested in knowing more about the rules of the Khmer chess, you can join our interactive walking adventure in Phnom Penh… You’ll be surprised that playing chess can sometimes help unveil a mystery …! 😃