Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Chinese Chess Xiangqi

The Xiangqi falls under the same family as the Chaturanga, Shogi, Janggi and Western chess. This is a two-player chess game that originated in China and is commonly known as the Chinese chess.

Xiangqi is one of the most popular board games in the world. Features unique to the game is the movement of the pao or cannon piece, the rule prohibiting the generals or chess kings from directly facing each other and the place and river features that restrict the movement of some pieces.

History of Xiangqi

The game has a long history though the accurate origin has not been definitely confirmed. However, earliest indications reveal that Xiangqi may have been played during the 4th century B.C. by the Lord of Mengchang, Tian Wen.

The word Xiangqi can mean "figure game", which can be treated as the "constellation game". The boards used for the game is also called as the "heavenly river", which may mean the Milky Way. More so, the early versions of the game have been based on the movements of the objects in the sky.

During the Song Dynasty, the game took three forms. One of the forms consisted of thirty-two pieces, which was played on a board consisting of nine horizontal and nine vertical lines. Additionally, popular board used during those days was the one without the river borderline.

When the Qing Dynasty entered, the economic and cultural progress gave way to the new stage of Xiangqi. There are different schools of players and circles that came into prominence. Along with the popularity of the game, a number or manuals and books regarding the techniques of playing the game were also published. These publications played a vital role in popularizing Xiangqi and improving the techniques used in modern times.

Rules of Xiangqi

The board used in Xiangqi is nine lines wide and ten lines long. The pieces are played on the intersections or points. Files are the term used for the vertical lines, while ranks are for the horizontal lines. It is also possible to play Xiangqi in a standard chess set but with few substitutions.

Two players control pieces located on either side of the river. The pieces are also painted in red, while the other player's in black. The rules regarding who moves first are varied throughout history and also from one part of Chine to another. There are books stating that the black moves first though others indicate that the red should move first. More so, there are other books referring to the two sides as north and south.

The General are the equivalent of the King used in Western chess. Much like the modern chess, when the General is threatened by an enemy piece, it is "in check". Additionally, it can be checkmated when it is unable to escape a check from an opponent.

The Guard or Advisor is the equivalent of the Queen since most of their powers are similar to that of the Western chess piece. The War Elephant or Minister move two points diagonally and cannot cross rivers, thus they usually serve as defensive pieces.

The Horse or Cavalry begins the game next to the elephants and moves one point horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The Chariot or Rook can move at any distance either horizontally or vertically. The movement of the Cannon or Catapult is similar to the chariot but can capture by jumping at one piece over its target. Lastly, The Private or Soldier can move and capture by advancing one point similar to the pawns.