This is the 1st page of Chapter 1 of the book on endgames by GM Liu Dianzhong. In this chapter, he introduces the very basic concepts of the endgame, comparing it to the opening and midgame. The GM also goes into detail the four different types of endgames there are and offers advice on how to learn the endgame well. Although it is mostly narrative, I have tried to translate it and make it as palatable as possible. For anyone who really wants to learn the Xiangqi endgame, please go through it.
<<象棋新編教程 ---象棋殘局基礎>> 劉殿中 齊津安
Section 1: A brief introduction to the Xiangqi endgame
The game of Xiangqi can be divided into 3 stages: the opening, the midgame and the endgame.
In actual play, a win or loss can occur in any of the three stages, and there are many games that do not progress to the endgame stage. However, under most circumstances, most of the games played progress to the endgame before a final decision on the outcome of the game can be made.
The endgame in Xiangqi, can be defined as the stage of play that comes after the midgame. Compared to the midgame and opening, there is less contact of the chess pieces and the number of chess pieces remaining are the least amongst the three stages. There are casualties to the major attacking pieces ( chariot, horse and cannon). Although this is a very rough summary of the endgame, the evolution of the game to this stage is also very very different, so it is impossible to define the parameters of the endgame stage precisely. There is no consensus as to the actual definition of the endgame to date and it would be impractical to do so. However, it is generally accepted that if the endgame were to be defined in terms of the value of the remaining attacking chess pieces left on the board, the following should be met:
1) the material value of the attacking chess pieces should be =< 2rxp , where x represents any number of pawns left on the board , OR
2) 1r1h1c , 1r2c , 1r2h and 2h2c where there may be more than three attacking chess pieces.
Again, it must be noted that there are still many contrasting viewpoints.
As for the actual endgame itself, we believe that it is impractical for the beginner to be overly concerned with its definition.
To begin with, it is at best an obscure concept; a concept or idea that was born to facilitate more practical and scientific study of the topic. The beginner only needs to have a rough notion and that would be more than enough.
Another point to note is that as the study of Xiangqi endgames flourished, men began to have better understanding of the principles behind it as they delved deeper and deeper. As in all disciplines, further study of Xiangqi endgames led to the categorization of various topics so that one could concentrate more on particular combination(s). The categorization of endgames also became more systematic and further facilitated the exploration of certain rules and principles in greater detail, allowing more definite conclusions to be made. This greatly increased the content of endgame study in Xiangqi, and also included the study of various attacking combinations that were worth more that the value of two chariots, such as the 2r1h, 2r1c endgames which were not very systematically studied in the past.
The endgame is the last stage in a battle of Xiangqi. A win, loss or draw is often decided in this stage. Two (actually three is given in the book) very fundamental factors in deciding this endgame outcome are :
1) the remaining formation that was reached by both sides toward the end of the midgame
This is very obvious as the endgame is an immediate consequence of the midgame. Therefore, the way the battle has been played in the midgame, the remaining quantity and quality of the troops and their positions on the board all influence the endgame greatly.
2) the way the endgame is planned and played itself.
One must reposition the remaining troops and rethink the game plan and strategy for the final showdown.
3) the human factor
Lastly, as all decisions for play are human made, errors or unforeseen circumstances might arise. Coupled with the fact that many endgames are inconclusive, and that in actual play, there is time pressure and rules to follow, the ability of the Xiangqi player in making the correct or best decision is also a major factor deciding the outcome of the endgame.
As play in the endgame progresses, sometimes it would become a standoff. This can be attributed
to the opening and the midgame, whereby the strategy employed favored such play. For example, if all four chariots were exchanged in the midgame, it would be impossible to arrive at an endgame scenario that includes the chariot. This may seem like common sense but one has to appreciate the cause-effect relationship of the decisions made in the midgame and the repercussions that would present in the endgame itself. And as the characteristics of the endgame itself are very different, one has to fully comprehend various endgame conditions that would lead to a draw or a win.
This is why endgame study is so important as a discipline by itself.
The research of Xiangqi endgames has been given much emphasis from the ancient times. "The
Elegant Pastime Manual "<<適情雅趣>> , "The Secret in the Tangerine" <<橘中祕>> from the
Ming Dynasty and many other great ancient manuals are loaded with examples of various endgame
examples. This is proof that this endgame study had already been systematically studied and pursued even a few hundred years ago. The lessons learnt from the ancient manuals still influence the Xiangqi endgame today.
In more recent times, Tian Yushu田玉書's "The Chariot Horse Manual"<<車馬專輯>> , Chen Lianyong
陳廉庸's "The Cannon Pawn Manual" <<炮兵專輯>> and "The Horse Pawn Manual" <<馬兵專輯>> etc are some of the greatest works of all time dedicated to the endgame. (Jim: these great manuals were published approximately in the mid 20th Century.) They also sparked the trend of studying endgames according to a particular combination, increasing the breadth and scope of Xiangqi endgames.
The above mentioned manuals also prompted an increase in the number of publications devoted to the endgame alone. Jia Titao 賈題韜's <<象棋殘局新論>> "A New Theory on the Xiangqi Endgame", Tu Jingming 屠景明's <<象棋實用殘局>> "Practical Xiangqi Endgames" are still often referred to. Other great men to have influenced the study of endgames include GM Yang Guanlin楊官麟 and Li Zhongjian 李中健. GM Yang and Li's work are still very much studied today. The collective efforts of these great men form the basis of many of the endgame theory we take for granted today.
And after 1956, when the first ever Chinese National Championships were held (Singles section), there has been an explosion in the number of endgames played, amongst them many very practical and interesting ones which form the basis of modern day Xiangqi endgame study.
Our aim is to provide the fundamentals of endgame theory with this book, to allow the beginner to master the basic attacks and defences so as to improve their own game. We will also provide our views on commonly encountered endgame problems.
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First created: 30th Aug 2012
Last updated: 31st Aug 2012
GM Liu Dianzhong for making learning endgames a much easier job!
Mr Felix Tan for advice in various aspects of the game.
1. <<象棋新編教程--象棋殘局基礎>> by GM Liu Dianzhong 劉殿中, Qi Jinan 齐津安.
2. <<象棋辭典>> by the late legendary Master Tu Jingming 屠景明
3. <<跟我學象棋 初級教程>> by Wang Guodong 王國棟, Fang Shiqing 方仕慶, Li Yangui 李燕貴
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