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Spotlight on Xiangqi

Xiangqi

The WXF was founded in Beijing, China in 1993 after more than four years of a preparatory period in which the Xiangqi Federation Preparatory Committee was formed. However, this strategy board game, also known as Chinese chess, is rumored to have been around since the Tang Dynasty (years 618-907). Xiangqi gained popularity around the world after the Federation was consolidated. Several organizations for the sport have been established in North America, Australia, and Europe, all of which work alongside the Asian Federation.   

Xiangqi is played by two players, each representing an army that has to capture the opponent's General (King) through tactics and strategy, much like chess. Each player controls 16 pieces in their army, the Generals (kings), Advisors (guards), Elephants (bishops), Horses (knights), Chariots (rooks), Cannons, and Soldiers (pawns).   

The General is the most important piece. It cannot leave the castle unless there is a moment in which both Generals are facing each other along the same file without any other pieces intervening. 

The Advisors are on either side of the General and they may not leave the palace, so they are confined to five points on the board. They protect the General.  

The Elephants are located next to the Advisor and they are defensive pieces. They may not cross the river nor jump over intervening pieces. 

The Horses are always placed next to the Elephants on their outside flanks. Horses can be blocked by the opponent. 

The Chariots are considered the strongest pieces on the board since they have the most freedom to move and fewer restrictions. They are placed on the points at the corners of the board.  

The Cannons (each player has two Cannons) start on the row behind the Soldiers and two points in front of the Horses. Cannons can also be exchanged for Horses as soon as the game starts. 

The Soldiers move and capture by advancing one point, and they are located one row back from the edge of the river on every other point. They cannot move backward, thus cannot retreat, but can move sideways. Each player has five Soldiers.   

These pieces are round disks engraved in black or red color with the Chinese character identifying the piece. Even though they are different in color, the characters for each of the corresponding pieces are also different. It is presumed that this practice originated when there was only one material to make the pieces, so they needed to differentiate each army in some way. Hence the different characters in more modern pieces that already have different colors. As for the board, it is nine lines wide and ten lines long, and the pieces are placed on the intersections (points) of the vertical lines (files) and horizontal lines (ranks) on the board. There are two areas known as castles, which are centered at the first to third rank and eighth to tenth rank of the board. There is a division, known as the river, on each side of the opponents located between the fifth and sixth ranks.   

The Xiangqi federations and members rank male and female players in a format similar to the Elo rating system of chess. Even though Xiangqi originated in Asia, there are several leagues and clubs all over the world. Almost every nation has its own governing league and there are several international federations and tournaments. 

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