Xiangqi (Chinese Chess)

Xiangqi is the World's number one Chess variant in terms of number of players. Almost all players live in China, Taiwan or Vietnam, though. It is a fast and aggressive game, often described as a 'race to mate'. When it gets to an end-game it is often a draw, because there are many pieces that cannot leave their own board half, and thus can be used to defend but not to attack or to trade for the opponent's defenders.

Initial setup

e0, e9: King
a0, a9, i0, i9: Rook
b2, b7, h2, h7: Cannon
b0, b9, h0, h9: Horse
d0, d9, f0, f9: Advisor
c0, c9, g0, g9: Elephant
a3, c3, e3, g3, i3, a6, c6, e6, g6, i6: Pawns

Moves at a Glance

Click on a white piece below to see its moves

Sliding capture or non-capture,
can be blocked on any square along the ray

Non-capture only
Capture only
Unreachable square where move to other square can be blocked


Piece ID value Moves (Betza notation) Remarks
King K - W Cannot leave its Palace
Rook R 10 R
Cannon C 4-5 pR Must jump 1 piece to capture
Horse H 5-4 n[WF] Cannot jump
Adviser A 2 F
Elephant E 2 nA Cannot move onto opponent's board half
Pawn P 1 fW Acquires sideway moves (fWsW) on opponent's board half

Pawn peculiarities

General rules

Differences with FIDE

The board is sub-divided into zones, and some pieces are not allowed to cross some zone boundaries. Pieces move in general different than their FIDE counterpart. Only the Rook moves truly the same.

Perpetual Chasing

It is forbidden to perpetually harass the same piece, and when a repeat loop (after 3 repeats) has one side violating this rule, that side will forfeit the game. This is only invoked if there wasn't any perpetual checking in the loop as well. Exact rules for this are quite complex. Basically, when a repeat loop creates a new attack on the same unprotected piece on every move, the move sequence will be considered a perpetual chase. The chasing side then is ruled to lose, but if both sides are chasing, it is a draw. A Rook counts as unprotected against attacks of C or H. On the other hand, being able to capture your attacker (as when equal pieces attack each other) counts as (pre-emptive) protection. Attacks on a Pawn that is still on its own board half, or attacks by a King are never considered chases.

Only legal moves should be taken into account; i.e. pinned pieces are not considered attackers or protectors. An attack by the same piece is not considered a new one just because the attacking piece moved to another location, e.g. when a Rook moves along the ray of the attack. Note that the above rules do not take into account whether the attacking or protecting captures are good or non-sensical, or if pieces are sufficiently protected against multiple attacks. Even if recapturing would get you mated in one, the piece would still count as protected! Also note that is perfectly allowed to alternately chase different pieces. Even if one of the pieces is a King.

Strategy issues

Any piece except a Pawn on the last rank can force Checkmate against a bare King.