Chinese chess is a game of strategy played by two opponents. The game is known in Chinese as xiangqi. Xiangqi is a two-player board game similar to Western chess and is one of the most popular strategy board games in the world. In recent times, Chinese chess has become more popular in the West. English versions of the board can sometimes be found in specialty shops and it is also very popular in online gaming communities.
The rules of Xiangqi are extremely complex, but the pace is much faster and more fluid than a game of Western chess, which can go on for hours or even days. A game of Chinese chess is usually over in about an hour. Players take alternate turns making single moves with one playing piece, which can be captured by the opponent. The game is over when one player checkmates, or takes the general, of his opponent.
The Xiangqi board is made up of 9 lines by 10 lines, with a “river” separating the two opposing sides. There are seven types of pieces: Advisor/Guard, Minister/War Elephant, Horse/Cavalry, Chariot/Rook, Cannon/Catapult, Private/Soldier and Marshall/General. Each one can make specific types of moves based on its stated purpose. For instance, Advisors/Guards can only move diagonally to one place, while Ministers/War Elephants can move diagonally two places but can’t jump over other pieces.
The precise history of Xiangqi is unknown, but it is thought to have originated sometime around the 9th century A.D. It is possible that other forms of chess came to China from South Asia and combined with other local games to form modern Xiangqi.
Xiangqi is a very popular game throughout China today. You will often see groups of old men huddled over green tea, playing chess in the street. Likewise, cheap, portable versions of the game are available in shops and stores. It is a favorite among schoolchildren and students, who can often be seen playing quick games during breaks from class. Worldwide Chinese chess leagues and clubs also organize associations and tournaments dedicated to the game, evidencing its global popularity.