The Chinese Chess Xiangqi Rules

Xiangqi is a classic board game, also known as Chinese Chess, might be the perfect board game for you and your children. This game is a captivating blend of strategy, development of thinking skills, and cultural significance. It’s no wonder it’s a sensation worldwide, especially in Asian countries where it’s as common as International Chess in the West.

The Chinese Chess Xiangqi Rules
The Chinese Chess Xiangqi Rules 5

Xiangqi Board Game Explained

Here’s a quick snapshot of ‘Xiangqi’ the Chinese chess board game:

  • Origin: Evolved from an ancient Indian game called Chaturanga.
  • Popularity: One of the most popular board games in Asia, particularly China.
  • Gameplay: Similar to International Chess but with unique rules and piece movements.
  • Board Setup: Game is played on a 9×10 grid with distinct ‘River’ and ‘Palace’ areas.
  • Pieces: Each player has 16 pieces: 1 General, 2 Advisors, 2 Elephants, 2 Horses, 2 Chariots, 2 Cannons, and 5 Soldiers.
  • Objective: The goal is to checkmate the opponent’s General.

See an infographic: Xiangqi Rules at a Glance

Xiangqi rules summary infographic - xiangqi rules infographic pillar-5-steps
The Chinese Chess Xiangqi Rules 6

The Xiangqi Board

The Xiangqi board is composed of 9 vertical lines intersected by 10 horizontal lines. These lines form 90 intersections, and it’s on these intersections where the pieces are placed and moved.

how to play xiangqi
how to play xiangqi chinese checkers game

Description of the Xiangqi Board

Each line on the board has a unique name to aid in gameplay. The vertical lines are referred to as “files,” while the horizontal lines are known as “ranks.” At the beginning of each game, players (Red and Black) should place their pieces in the required positions. Don’t worry about memorizing the initial positions of each piece. As you continue playing, you’ll naturally remember where each piece belongs at the start of the game.

The Role of the River in Xiangqi

The ‘River’ is a significant feature on the Xiangqi board. It’s the area in the middle of the board that doesn’t have any straight line crossing through. The River plays a crucial role in the movements of the Elephants and Soldiers. Elephants cannot cross the River, restricting them to their respective sides of the board. On the other hand, Soldiers gain more mobility after crossing the River, being able to move sideways as well as forward.

The Importance of the Palace in Xiangqi

The ‘Palace’ is another fundamental feature on the Xiangqi board. It’s located in the middle of both the top and bottom of the board. The Palace is crucial because the General (King) and Advisors (Guards) can only move within this area. This restriction plays a significant role in the game’s strategies and outcomes.

The Pieces in Xiangqi and Their Movements

In this section, we will explore the seven unique pieces used in Xiangqi, their movements, and their restrictions. This forms a critical part of understanding rules for xiangqi board game pieces. Let’s take each piece one by one and unravel their moves and restrictions.

The General

The General, labelled as ‘將’ in traditional Chinese for the black side and ‘帥’ for the red side, starts the game at the midpoint of the back edge, within the palace. It can move and capture one point orthogonally and is not allowed to leave the palace. The only exception to this rule is the flying general move, where the general crosses the board to capture the enemy general if both generals face each other along the same file with no intervening pieces.

The Guard

The Guards, labelled as ‘士’ for Black and ‘仕’ for Red, start on either side of the general. They can move and capture one point diagonally, but they cannot leave the palace. This rule confines them to five points on the board.

The Bishop

The Bishop, labelled as ‘象’ or ‘xiàng’ for Black and ‘相’ or ‘xiàng’ for Red, moves and captures exactly two points diagonally. However, it cannot jump over intervening pieces. Furthermore, the bishop is not allowed to cross the river to attack the enemy, limiting it to defensive roles.

The Knight

The Knights, often referred to as Horses, move two spaces horizontally and one space vertically, or vice versa. If there is a piece next to the horse in the horizontal or vertical direction, the horse is blocked and the move is not allowed.

The Rook

The Rook, or Chariot, moves and captures any distance orthogonally, similar to the Rook in western Chess. It is not hindered by pieces in its path, making it one of the most powerful pieces in Xiangqi.

The Cannon

A unique piece to Xiangqi, the Cannon moves like the Chariot when not capturing – any distance orthogonally. However, to capture, it must jump over exactly one piece (friend or foe), then land on an enemy piece and remove it from the board.

The Pawn

The Pawns in Xiangqi move and capture by advancing one point forward. However, once they cross the river, they gain the ability to move and capture sideways as well.

Understanding the movements and restrictions of these pieces is crucial to mastering the xiangqi game rules and will help you develop your strategy when playing the game. In the next section, we will discuss the objective of Xiangqi and delve deeper into the intricacies of the game. Stay tuned as we continue to unravel the exciting world of Xiangqi.

How to Play Xiangqi Chinese Checkers

The goal of xiangqi, much like in international chess, is to place your opponent’s King (or General) in a position where it’s under attack and cannot escape without being captured. This situation is known as “Checkmate.” However, there’s another scenario called “Stalemate,” which also leads to a win in xiangqi, unlike in western chess. Let’s delve deeper into these two critical concepts.

Chinese Chess Rules
Rules For Chinese Chess Gameplay

Checkmate in Xiangqi

In xiangqi, the king is your most important piece. A checkmate occurs when your opponent’s king is under direct threat of capture and there’s no viable move to remove this threat. This can be achieved by either attacking the king directly or setting a trap where any move the king makes would lead to its capture.

Once a checkmate is achieved, the game is over. In xiangqi rules, a king is not allowed to move to a position which is being attacked by an enemy piece. If a king is in check and no move can cancel the check, the game is lost .

Stalemate in Xiangqi

In xiangqi, a stalemate is when the king isn’t currently under attack, but all its possible moves would put it in check. Unlike in western chess, where a stalemate results in a draw, in xiangqi, a stalemate is a loss for the stalemated player. This adds an extra layer of strategic depth to the game and makes the endgame phase particularly intense.

Xiangqi Rules

In addition to understanding the movement and capturing techniques of the pieces, mastering the xiangqi rules also involves learning about some special rules. These rules add a layer of complexity and strategy to the game, making it even more engaging and competitive.

The Rule of Perpetual Check and Perpetual Chasing

In xiangqi, there is a rule against perpetual check and perpetual chasing. This rule states that a player cannot check an opponent’s king more than three times in a row with the same piece and in the same position. If this happens, the player making the checks must make a different move. This rule is in place to prevent a player from indefinitely checking the opponent’s king and stalling the game.

Similarly, it’s also forbidden to perpetually chase an unprotected enemy piece. In other words, a player cannot continuously attack the same enemy piece moving to and from the same two points indefinitely. The player who causes such a situation must break it off.

The Rule of Kings Facing Each Other

Another unique rule in xiangqi is that the two kings cannot face each other along the same file with no intervening pieces. If a move results in the kings facing each other, it is considered illegal and must be corrected. This rule adds an extra layer of strategic depth to the game and forces players to think carefully about their piece placement.

The Rule of Repetition in Xiangqi

Xiangqi also has a rule regarding repetition. Specifically, if the same sequence of moves is repeated three times, the game is declared a draw. This rule, similar to the threefold repetition rule in western chess, prevents the game from continuing indefinitely without progress.

As in all board games, strategy plays a crucial role in Xiangqi. One key strategic aspect of the game is the opening moves. As mentioned on, the most powerful pieces – chariots, horses, and cannons – should be developed early in the game. Early development of these pieces allows for better control of the board and puts you in a stronger position.

Consider exploring other variations of the game like Blitz Chess or Supply Chess to add more excitement and challenge to your gaming experience. And don’t forget, if you’re looking for other fun and educational games to play, we’ve got a wide range of guides and reviews on games like Triominos and Swoop.

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