Mancala World
Other Names: Chongka, Tchonka
First Description: Georg Fritz, 1904
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Marianas (Guåhan, Saipan)

Georg Fritz (1865-1944), the German commander-in-chief of Saipan, wrote an extensive history and ethnography of the Chamorro ("Chamoru"), which was published in 1904 by the Royal Museum of Ethnology in Berlin. He described a game he called Tchonka that appears to be almost identical with Sungka, the predominant mancala variant played in the Philippines. The game also resembles Dakon on the island of Java and Ohvalhu in the Maldives. Chongka' was probably introduced by Filipino immigrants, which arrived on Guam in great numbers after 1722, when according to Robert F. Rogers the Spanish colonial government made a "proposal (...) to transport [them] to the Marianas for voluntary resettlement to revitalize the economy". Later the game became an integral part of Chamorro culture and identity.

The Chamorro are the native people of the Mariana Islands, once an independent kingdom in northwestern Oceania / Micronesia. First they suffered under the "fanatic missionary zeal of Spanish monks" (G. Gritz), then the Mariana Islands became a German "protectorate" (bought in 1899 from Spain), and today they are de-facto an American colony. The native people are more and more strangers in their own country and the Chamorro language is spoken less and less. Today the Chamorro are just 57% of the total population in Guam (Guåhan) and 18.7% in Saipan.

Chongka' Board (G. Fritz; drawn in 1903)

Master Carver Robert Taitano is well-known on Guam for his ability to create wooden Chongka' boards. He owns the “Ifit Shop” in the village of Yigo located in northern Guam as well as a shop in the Chamorro Village in the island’s capital, Hagåtña.

On Sunday, February 18, 1940, there was a friendly multi sports competition, in which the Young Men’s League of Guam (YMLG) whipped the Guam Teachers Association (GTA in Chongka'. The game is still quite popular. The "University of Guam" ("Unibetsedåt Guåhan") in Mangilao organized a Chongka' tournament for older folks at the first "First Chamorro Games & Toys Festival" ("Ferian Huegu yan Hugeten Chamoru") on June 28, 2008. According to UOG Professor Peter R. Onedera (Micronesian Studies, Chamorro language), the festival was a "multicultural attempt and a reading across multiethnic lines to showcase what is uniquely Chamoru". Other featured games were shotput, talåya (cast net), over and under, bowling, kunggees (jacks), kareran dukduk race (small hermit crab race), balåha (a card game), bailan tåli (jump rope), båton salåppe' (hole in the ground), hållan tåli (tug of war), tres siete (a card game), and tiliphone (telephone). On March 2 and 3, 2010, there were Chongka' public demonstrations at the Adacao Elementary School, Guam, and on March 13 and 14, 2010, Chongka' was taught at the Arizona Azaloha Festival in Tempe (USA).


Chongka' is played on a wooden board slightly over 70 cm long. It has seven small holes (in the German article: "Ställe" = "sheds") and a larger store, the "till" (German: "Kasse"), at each end. The players own the till on their left side. Initially there are seven stones, sea shells or snail shells in each shed.


Initial Position

A player picks up the contents of any of the seven sheds on his side of the board and then distributes his pieces clockwise, one by one, into the following sheds, his own till, but not into the opponent's till.

If the last piece is put into a non-empty shed, its contents are distributed again in another lap.

The move ends if the last piece is dropped into an empty shed.

If the move ends in an empty shed at the player's side, all contents of the opposite shed are captured and put into the player's till.

It appears that the game ends when a player can no longer play. The remaining counters are probably captured by the player who could move last.

The player who captured most pieces wins. Fritz wrote that the endgame can become lengthy.


Binsbergen, W. van. 
Board-Games and Divination in Global Cultural History. African Studies Center, Leiden (Netherlands) 1995.
Borja, T.
First Chamorro Games & Toys Festival at UOG. In: Marianas Variety June 27, 2008.
Fritz, G. 
Die Chamorro: Eine Geschichte und Ethnographie der Marianen. In: Ethnologisches Notizblatt (Berlin, Germany) 1904 (3); 3: 57-58.
Realica, F. V.
Festival Features Chamoru, Toys, Games. In: Pacific Daily News June 27, 2008.
Rogers, R. F.
Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu HI (USA) 1995.
Voogt, A. J. de.
Mancala Board Games. British Museum Press, London (UK) 1997, 18.

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© Wikimanqala.
By: Ralf Gering
Under the CC by-sa 2.5 license.