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chinese chess (Xiangqi)

  • #1

    xiangqi (chinese chess) is a fascinating counterpart to what is formally known as international chess — what chess.com is all about. more people worldwide play x. than ic, which is not surprising, given the population of china, and beyond that, asia.

    what's more interesting is that xiangqi is just as interesting. it's chess all right, but different enough to be intriguing to an ic player like me, to the point where i divide my time between the two flavors.

    anyway my friend jim (aka yi zhi shen gong), a bilingual surgeon practicing in taiwan, has just launched a xiangqi site for english speakers: xqinenglish.com.

    check out the "white-face general" checkmates in "basic kills".

    the "king" is often known as the "general" in xiangqi, since chinese kings aka emperors frowned on being killed even in a game.

    if you understand these white-face general mates you are getting the point of xiangqi.


  • #2

    cool, thanks.  I went to the site, and I really want to learn to play.  I think it would be helpful if there was a way to play with the names on pieces written in English.

  • #3

    Yeah, it's just as amazing as ic, except of course for the fact that half your non-pawns can't cross the middle of the board, and three of them are confined to a 3x3 area.

    Maybe it's a case of you love what you learned first, but it just don't see the appeal.

  • #4

    Xiangqi is a wonderful game. Despite the presence of these defensive pieces, the draw rate is not really higher than in Chess. You should really see these pieces as a replacement for the Pawn-shield that you use in Chess to protect your King; in XQ you cannot do that because the Pawns start too far from your King, and do not form a closed rank. So you need the Palace Guards (Advisors), and because of the presence of Cannons, which can jump over a one-thick shield, you need the second layer of the Elephants.

    So effectively tyou have fewer pieces than in Chess to attack with. (You have Cannons in stead of Bishops, and the Queen is lacking.) And the board is larger. But the King is also much more vularable, having no diagonal moves, and being confined to the Palace. So Xiangqi games are often a race to mate; you don't need a Queen there to perform a devastating mate attack.

    Note that the Chess interface WinBoard also supports XQ, and does so in a Western representation. (Where you play in the squares, rather than on their corners, and the pieces just look like Chess pictograms rather than draughts chips with Chinese scribbles.) The WinBoard install also contains a reasonably weak XQ engine (MaxQi), and offers some assistance in learning the game through the possibility to indicate the squares where a 'picked up' piece can move to.

  • #5

    Never heard it explained like that, makes sense.  I guess it's not so crazy after all :)

    Still, I learned ic first and not likely I'll switch, still interesting though.

  • #6

    I would like to play the game, but the only site I could manage to get close seemed really low budget.  I'm surprised there isn't better support for it.  I just read a bit of book about the history of chess that had a large part about chinese chess and I'm anxious to play it more; Japanese chess sounded pretty cool too, when you capture a piece it's taken prisoner and becomes part of your "army".

    If this is more popular than European Chess, do they have professional players?

  • #7

    As I recall, Xiangqi *does*, it's just that the USA in particular doesn't really do anything with Xiangqi at the national level.

  • #8

    All country's chess games have professional players I believe.  There are 5 or so variations I've read about.  Go is a bit different but definitely has professional players in a few different countries. 

    I don't know how many countries have professional Xiangqi players.  I think ic is the most wide spread even if the raw numbers aren't as high as Xiangqi, but that's just a guess.

  • #9

    Xiangqi is big in China, Taiwan and Vietnam. In Korea they play a variant of it (with the same board and pieces, but some of them move subtly different). I don't think it is played much outside these countries. Perhaps in South-East Asia. But in Thailand they have their own national variant, Makruk, which is more like the ancient Persian / Arabic Chess, from which our current "Mad Queen" variant is derived. A variant of Makruk is played in Cambodia, but I don'tknow if it is the most popular board game there.

    WinBoard also supports Makruk:

  • #10

    I think they should fool with the variants of European Chess a little bit.  I'm not good enough to remember all the openings, but to the hardcore players some variant of Chess960 or Capablanca Chess would be well received I think.  Anyway, maybe we could borrow from Chinese Chess or something.  

    To you who have played XQ, do you think it is more or less complex than chess?

  • #11

    I was surprised to hear that Xiangqi is more popular than Chess too.  It would be hard to figure out, but Chess is so international in comparison.  Xiangqi must be almost non-existent in most countries while millions in dozens of countries are familiar with European Chess.  

    I am curious about it though.  Bobby Fischer invented Chess960 because he said the game was "dead".  I really do think there should be some new layouts for the pieces in someway.  Do you guys know if Xiangqi has the same issue?  Specifically are the openings and what not well figured out with no emphasis on creativity but being well "booked"?

  • #12

    i can't "prove" xiangqi is more popular than international chess but let me make this point: china has over 1.3 billion people, and xiangqi is more popular among them than international chess  is anywhere in the world, including russia. (and i'm not even counting other cultures — such as vietnam, and singapore — where xiangqi is widely played). just to get a feel for the popularity, check any decent sized chinatown on a warm day & you'll find knots of men — yes, mostly men — playing for hours. xiangqi is really almost a folk game in china. it's weichi (known here by the japanese game "go") that is more the game of the elite.

    as for me, i first saw xiangqi played outdoors in boston's chinatown, picked up the rules through the wikipedia, & still go back there to watch — and get whooped. (these are some serious chess fiends).

    i appreciate the mention of bobby fischer: i think he might have enjoyed a taste of xiangqi, a game different enough from international chess to wipe out a lot of the memorization that bothered him.

    as for which game is better, i don't need to choose. sometimes i concentrate more on one, sometimes on the other. if nothing else, learning x. puts ic. in a new light. they are like separated twins.

    last points & i'll cork it. the summation of rules failed to mention what some people call flying kings. kings can't face each other on an open file. on an open file kings, opposite the enemy kings, your king can fly across the board like a rook (in x., a "chariot").

    also, reducing the number of draws is  the fact that stalemate is checkmate: if you opponent's king can't but move into check, it's not a draw. you win.

    finally for now, there are companies that make doubled sided xiangqi discs: on the one side the chinese chars, on the other a helpful image. for example, on the other side of the cannon, there is a pic of a cannon. on the other side of the horse, there is, yep, an equine.

    i used such a double sided set breifly. i'm comfortable enough now with the chinese chars (only about 7, depending on the set). besides i find them beautiful, just as international chess pieces are, but in a whole other way.

    i agree "international chess" is clumsy terminology & don't really want to get bogged down in that discussion. i've seen weichi translated as "chess".

    the "qi" in xiangqi means "board game." xiangqi is literally translated as "elephant chess." i don't know chinese, but have absorbed some of the material about xiangqi.

    there is some decent material in english about the game, but not much. (that's the point of xqinenglish.com.)

    a book i found really useful — and fun — is sam sloan's "chinese chess for beginners."

    lots of chinese are learning international chess. more and more westerners are learning xiangqi.

    i think of it as the globalization of chess.


  • #13

    I like to play xiangqi, thanks for the link.

  • #14
    uhohspaghettio wrote:

    The "International" part of OP's phrasing of it is not proper phrasing. "Chess" is the CORRECT term to use, it's the CORRECT name of the game.

    Actually this depends on where you live; Xiangqi, Shogi and what we play here are all "Chess". We might think the proper name for Xiangqi is "Chinese Chess", but to the Chinese it is just "Chess", and when they are talking about our game they call it  "western Xiangqi".

    The correct name of what we play on this side is "Mad Queen variant of Chess", to distinguish it from its predecessor, where the Queen only moved like a modern King.

  • #15

    hgmuller is on target. in fact, one writer about xiangqi calls what we play queenqi . . . 

  • #16

    i learned to play xiangqi in 2005...the husband from my sister-in-law taught me that excellent game and since there i´ve been adicted to it...i taught a couple of friends here in germany and now we play when we see each other...sometimes they are the ones who tell me to play and it seem a little adicted...sometimes i joke about it and i tell them that i´ve created two monsters because this fever increases like a disease hahaha...there's a great website that all you guys can play online but i can say that the players are professionals...tough you can try it and play online or you can practise against the computer (also difficult)...the website is:


    i hope you enjoy it

  • #17

    there are a number of  sites for xiangqi. (i use itsyourturn.com)

    just as you say, westerners are now teaching each other.

    a friend of mine is setting up a site for english speakers at xqinenglish@gmail.com

  • #18

    I'm Chinese,who will want to learn playing Xiangqi with me ?Follow me!

  • #19

    follow you where?

  • #20

    i will help uCool

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