Chess is a two-player strategy board game which began in Asia and is now played all over the world. While its earliest predecessor may come from India before the sixth century AD, some historians believe it originated in China.
Those taking a stroll through Phnom Penh streets may stumble across tables of men at cafes or on corners playing chess.
They are often bent over game-boards deep in concentration as they focus on their strategies to move their king, queen, rooks, knights, bishops and pawns.
A local variant of chess called “ouk” (check) or “chaktrung” is often found being played. The Khmer version doesn’t have the chequered squares of those played in the West and the pieces are also different shapes.
Whereas ouk rules are similar to chess, the movement of each piece is far more restricted, which makes it more difficult for capture the ang – ouk’s equivalent of the king. For example, whereas in the Western version of the game the queen’s movement is relatively unrestricted (thus making it one of the most feared pieces), neang – its ouk counterpart – can only move one square at a time.
Furthermore, some players insist on a maximum number of movements allowed per game as there is a scoring system that determines the size of the pot of each game. So if one sees a group of silent men with their heads hung low on a street corner somewhere, fear not – they are probably thinking about their next move.