Learning any body of knowledge requires a basic vocabulary of that subject. One of the reasons I personally think that Xiangqi has not caught up with the English speaking world is the lack of such a vocabulary in English. Imagine trying to communicate or teach someone the Ruy Lopez opening, or the Sicillian Dragon when there are no such English terms available. Fortunately, the World Xiangqi Federation (WXF) has put together a pamphlet on commonly used terms which are heavily used on this site. The Asian Xiangqi Federation (AXF) has also published rules on Xiangqi with a lot of terms explained.
The World Xiangqi Federation’s (WXF) published terminology will be used. The following is the url, which can be hard to find sometimes. I think this is the official nomenclature used.
Some of the terms associated with the rules have been already made official by the WXF/AXF. The rules can be found at the following url.
Another link would be: http://184.108.40.206/xq/book/AXF_rules_Eng.pdf.
This is the pdf version of the rules and is more detailed. I personally recommend reading this PDF for the serious player. This pdf article is also available for download under the downloads section.
There is another link to a url with slightly different terminology. The link is showed because some of the terms are still used now and then.
A problem which I encountered was that the above urls were limited. In the rules published by the same authority, there were many more terms found. Anyway, I have collected and summarized the more commonly used must-know terms and tried to present them in a more palatable fashion. The terminology or nomenclature will not be presented or explained in full. It is beyond me to write an English dictionary on the subject within the scope of this site. I will only choose important terms and then translate and explain them, as clearly as possible. For other terms not mentioned in the lists, but quite commonly used in Xiangqi manuals, I will attempt to translate them.
Hopefully, one day, I will be able to gather enough information so that this list would approximate something like a simple dictionary on Xiangqi, in English.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive. And there will errors here and there. I had not anticipated the problems that I have encountered when I started on this project. Please feel free to email me should you find any errors in the description or if you have a have a better explanation.
象棋 Chinese chess: self explanatory. Note that Xiangqi is the preferred term use on this site. It is the Hanyu Pinyin of the Chinese characters.
棋盘 Board: self explanatory
棋子 Pieces or the various different chess pieces:the king, soldiers,horses…
棋证 arbiter, referee or judge: the person in charge of the ruling of a game when controversy arises.
限着 movecount : in competition, a time limit is set for both players. Once the limit is exceeded, a movecount is given whereby a player must make a certain amount of moves within a limited period of time or he loses. If he completes the movecount, a new movecount will be given after the previous movecount has ended.
先走 move first, play red : in xiangqi, by default, red moves first
后走 move next, play black : by default, black moves last
开局 opening : the first few moves of the game.
中局 midgame : self explanatory
残局 end game: self explanatory
排局 composed game/end game composition : a deliberately arranged formation. Think of it as a xiangqi puzzle. Seldom if possible, does such a formation appear in a normal game.
实用残局 practical endgame : similar to end game compositions排局, except that it can happen during the course of normal play.
例胜 won position : a situation normally in the endgame where one side is sure to win unless he/she makes a blunder.
例和 draw position : a situation normally in the endgame where the result is a draw if nobody makes a blunder
判和 judged draw : a situation where there might be controversy but the game is ruled as a draw by the arbiter.
巧胜 positional win : a situation whereby under normal circumstances, the game would be a draw. However, the positioning of the pieces on one side is poor and there is a chance of way for the other side to sneak in a win.
巧和 positional draw : a situation whereby under normal circumstances, the game would be a win for one side. However, the positioning of the pieces for the winning side is poor and there is a way for the weaker player to force a draw.
欠行 stalemate : self explanatory. But please remember, in Xiangqi, a stalemate is ruled as a win for the aggressor and a loss for the passive side! There is no ruling of a draw in a stalemate situation.
正着/官着 correct move : the best possible or correct move.
妙着, “!” excellent move : a brilliant ingenious move. Usually represented by an exclamation mark at the end. For example, C2=5! is a brilliant move in that particular situation. Two exclamation marks means that the move is super brilliant. There are at most 2 exclamation marks.
软着 “?” weak move : self explanatory. Usually represented by a question mark at the end. For example, C2=5? would mean that the move was bad.列着 bad move : self explanatory. Usually represented by two question marks at the end. For example, C2=5?? would mean the moves was horrible.
闲着 idle move : A move that does not Check, TTC, Chase, Exchange, Block, or Sacrifice. Sometimes used as a tactic to force the other side into a stalemate position.
“?!” : a controversial move, but most likely to be good. Much to be discussed.
“!?” : a controversial move, but most likely to be bad. Discussion required.
先手 initiative : self explanatory
得先 gain initiative : would mean a material gain or gain in tempo or positional advantage
后手/被动 lose initiative/lose tempo : self explanatory
均势 even position : self explanatory
将 check : AXF def: A move of any piece that causes the opponent's King to be threatened with capture in the next move. When checking, one should verbally inform the other player for courtesy.
将军死棋, 将军无解Checkmate : - Check in such a way that the opponent's King cannot resolve the check
Threatening to Checkmate (TTC) : AXF defn: A piece moves into a position where it can launch a sequence of attack that leads to checkmate.
杀, 崔杀 mate/mating threat : self explanatory
兑 exchange, trade : refers to the exchange of pieces , AXF defn: - Using piece "A" to capture the opponent's piece "B" and let the opponent take piece "A". Sometimes, losing "A" does not happen in the opponent's exact next move. Usually it is an exchange only when the value of "A" and "B" are similar
拦 block : A piece moves to a position where it prevents the opponent from moving one of its pieces in certain direction
跟 follow : using a piece to follow another of the opponent’s pieces, where it can take that piece in the next move
封锁 seal off : blockade
吃子 capture piece : self explanatory
得子 gain piece : self explanatory
失子 lose piece : self explanatory
兑子 exchange piece : AXF defn: Using piece "A" to capture the opponent's piece "B" and let the opponent take piece "A". Sometimes, losing "A" does not happen in the opponent's exact next move. Usually it is an exchange only when the value of "A" and "B" are similar.
弃子 sacrifice piece : self explanatory
长将 perpetual check : checking your opponent with every move. AXF defn: Continuously checking the opponent, causing the sequence of moves from both sides to fall into a fixed pattern. This is against the rules. The side who perpetually checks will be ruled to lose the game. At most 3 consecutive checks are allowed. More on this in the rules of Xiangqi.
长捉 perpetual chase, perpetual pursuit : AXF definition: When one keeps chasing and the other keeps resolving the chase, one is perpetually chasing a piece is targeted and you try to catch it consecutively with each move. AXF: One loses if one perpetually chases. However, one is allowed to perpetually chase a pawn that has not moved across the river. One also loses if one uses two or more pieces to perpetually chase. However, if one of the chasing pieces is a Pawn or a King, this perpetual chase is legal.More on this in the rules of Xiangqi.
长兑 perpetual exchange offer : you attempt to exchange one of your pieces for an opponent’s piece. More on this in the rule of Xiangqi.
长杀 perpetual mating threat : more will be discussed in the rules of Xiangqi
长拦 perpetual blocking : similar definition to perpetual chase
长跟 perpetual follow : similar definition to perpetual chase
Perpetual TTC : similar definition to perpetual chase
Note: AXF rulings: Perpetually blocking, sacrificing, offering to exchange, and "threatening to check and capture" are all draws
一将一停 check & wait : please see AXF rules
一将一捉 check & chase : please see AXF rules
一将一杀 check & mating : please see AXF rules
一杀一停 mating & wait : please see AXF rules
一杀一捉 mating & chase : please see AXF rules
一捉一停 chase & wait : please see AXF rules
捉双 fork, attacking two pieces : situation whereby one piece can attack two opponent pieces at the same time
有根 rooted, protected : AXF: A piece is protected if there is a piece that can capture any piece that takes the protected piece. When "A" takes "B", if "C" can take "A", "B" is protected.
无根 unrooted, unprotected : any piece that is not protected. Opposite of rooted.
让一先 1-move handicap : For the first move, one player moves 2 consecutive moves before the opponent starts moving. The rest of the game is carried on as usual
让二先 2-move handicap : same as above except the player first moves 3 consecutive moves.
让三先 3-move handicap : same as above except the player first moves 4 consecutive moves.
让单马 1-horse handicap : one of the sides plays with only one knight, instead of the usual two.
让双马 2-horse handicap : same as above except that one side plays with no horses while the opponent as the full formation
直线 file : any vertical line on which the pieces move
横线 rank : any horizontal line on which the pieces move
河头 river bank (RB) : specifically refers to the rank just before the river on YOUR side of the board
骑河 cross-river (CR) : specifically refers to the rank just opposite the river on YOUR OPPONENT’S board
卒行 pawn rank (PR) : rank where the pawns are lined up in the beginning of the game. Has strategic purposes
己方底线 base, 1st rank : deepest rank on the YOUR side of the board where the king, advisors… are located at the beginning of the game
对方底线 bottom rank : deepest rank on the YOUR OPPONENT’S side of the board where the king, advisors… are located at the beginning of the game
炮位线 cannon rank : rank where the cannons are placed at the beginning of the game on YOUR side.
中士线 throat rank : rank between the cannon rank and the bottom rank, which is also the rank where the advisor moves to in its first move.
中线, 中路 central file : self explanatory
边线 edge files : the 1st or 9th file
三七路 elbow files : the 3rd or 7th file
四六路 armpit files : the 4th or 6th file
士角 palace corner, palcorner : the 2 points adjacent to the center file, on the 4th and 6th file on the cannon rank
象眼, 象田 elephant-eye (E-eye) : the 16 points (or 8 points apiece) on the entire board where the elephant may be blocked. Most often refers to the 2 adjacent points next to the centroid ( on the 4th and 6th file) on the throat rank.
直车 Filed chaRiot : any chariot moving in a file. used mainly in the opening to describe the chariot moving in the 2nd or 8th file.
横车 Ranked chaRiot : any chariot moving in a rank. Used mainly in the opening to describe the chariot moving in throat rank.
河头车, 巡河车 River Bank chaRiot, (RB chaRiot), Patrolling chariot : any chariot found on the river bank file on YOUR side of the board.
骑河车 Cross River chaRiot (CR chaRiot) : any chariot found on the river bank file on YOUR OPPONENT’s side of the board.
中炮, 中官炮 Central Cannon : C2=5
边炮 Edge Cannon : any cannon on the 1st or 9th file. Mostly used to describ the cannon found in certain openings occupying the 1st or 9th file on the cannon rank.
士角炮 Palcorner Cannon : any cannon occupying the palcorner(s)
巡河炮 RB Cannon, Patrolling Cannon : any cannon occupying the river bank on YOUR side of the board
骑河炮 CR Cannon : any cannon occupying the river bank on YOUR OPPONENT’s side of the board
窝心炮 Centroid Cannon : refers to the situation when a cannon occupies the centroid
钓鱼马 Angler Horse (Attack) : one type of a kill in combination with a chariot.
归心马 Centroid Horse : any horse occupying the centroid. Also known in Chinese as 窩心馬
河头马 RB Horse : any horse on occupying the river bank on YOUR OPPONENT’s side of the board. Used mainly to describe the horse occupying the 4th and 6th file on the riverbank.
连环马 Linked Horses : the condition/situation when both horses are linked together.
中兵 Central Pawn : self explanatory. Any pawn on the center file.
高兵 High Pawn : any pawn that is on YOUR OPPONENT’S riverbank or pawn rank.
低兵 Low Pawn (at throat rank) : any pawn on YOUR OPPONENT’S cannon or throat rank
底兵 Bottom Pawn : any pawn on YOUR OPPONENT’s bottom rank. The pawn can only move sideways once it reaches this rank
花心兵 Centroid Pawn : any pawn occupying the centroid
中帅 Central King : refers to the king in one of the 3 points on the center rank
侧帅 King at Side, Palside King : refers to the king in either of the 6 points on the armpit files 4th or 6th files.
士象全 Full guard : having both elephants and advisors
单缺士 Single Adviser guard : having both elephants but only one advisor
单缺象 Single Elephant guard : having one elephant but 2 advisors
羊角士 Palcorner & Centroid Advisers, Ram Horn Advisers: any advisor occupying the palcorners or the 4th and 6th file in the cannon rank.
二字车 2-R checkmate : checkmate with 2 rooks. More on this in the endgame introduction
炮闷宫 Cannon smothered checkmate : a checkmate whereby a cannon checks the opponent’s king which is unable to escape the file or rank where the cannon is attacking from. A must know checkmate.
重炮将军 Double Cannons checkmate, Tandem Cannons checkmate : a checkmate by two cannons in the same file or rank
双马饮泉 Double Horses checkmate : a combination checkmate by 2 horses.
马后炮 Horse-Cannon checkmate : a must know combination checkmate by a horse and a cannon. See endgame introduction
车马冷着 chaRiot-Horse checkmate, chaRiot-Horse zugzwang : combination kill by a horse and chariot. One of the most basic and important things to learn in endgame.
大胆穿心 Throat cutting checkmate : a basic checkmate. See endgame introduction
将军抽子 capture with discover check : capturing an opponent’s piece following a check
三子归边 3-piece at side, flanking trio : situation when 3 major pieces get maneuvered together in the same flank, poised for attack
四子归边 4-piece at side, flanking quartet : situation when 4 major pieces get maneuvered together in the same flank, happens less than the flanking trio attack
弃子抢攻 sacrifice for attacking, assaulting sacrifice : sacrificing a piece to attack the opponent’s king
运子取势 deployment for advantage : the art of maneuvering your pieces to gain positional advantage and tempo
先弃后取 abandoning before gaining : sacrificing one piece and capturing another opponent’s piece one or a few moves later. Usually positional advantage is also gained.
兑子争先 exchange for initiative : exchanging pieces to gain tempo and positional gain.
解杀还杀 counter mating : resolving a check and returning one immediately on the next move.
中炮局 Central Cannon opening : C2=5, most commonly used red opening
士角炮局 Palcorner Cannon opening : C2=4 in the first move. Also known as Short cannon opening
过宫炮局 Cross Palace Cannon opening, Parading Cannon opening : C2=6. Also known as the long cannon opening
仙人指路 Pawn opening, Angel's guide : P3+1 or P7+1 in the first move. Also called the predicting prophet opening by HT Lau
飞象局 Elephant opening : E3+5. Sometimes known as the bishop opening
进马局 Horse opening : H2+3 or H8+7 in the first move. Some call it the knight opening.
中炮进三兵 Central Cannon 3rd Pawn : C2=5 H2+3 P3+1 are red’s first 3 moves.
中炮进七兵 Central Cannon 7th Pawn : C2=5 H2+3 P3+1 are red’s first 3 moves.
中炮进中兵 Central Cannon Central Pawn : C2=5, followed by charging the central pawn within the next few moves.
中炮直车 Central Cannon File chaRiot : C2=5, H2+3 , R1=2. if the rook then moves R2+4 it becomes the Central Cannon PR chaRiot opening, if the rook then moves R2+4, it becomes the Central Cannon Patrolling chariot opening
中炮横车 Central Cannon Rank chaRiot : C2=5, H2+3 , R1+1
中炮过河车 Central Cannon PR chaRiot : C2=5, H2+3 , R1=2, R2+6 are red’s first 4 moves.
中炮巡河车 Central Cannon Patrolling chaRiot : C2=5, H2+3 , R1=2, R2+4 are red’s first 4 moves
中炮七路马 Central Cannon 7th Horse :C2=5, followed by moving the knight 8th file knight within the next move. Emphasis is on this horse.
中炮夹马 Central Cannon Linking Horses : C2=5 H2+3 H8+7 P5+1 H7+5 are red’s first few moves. Normally the chariot would have also moved 1-2 moves. Emphasis is on the direct attack by red’s cannon
五六炮 5th & 6th Cannons : an opening whereby the cannons are eventually lined up at the 5th and 6th file on the cannon rank. Relatively defensive opening.
五七炮 5th & 7th Cannons : an opening whereby the cannons are eventually lined up at the 5th and 7th file on the cannon rank. More of an attacking opening
五八炮 5th & 8th Cannons : an opening whereby the cannons are eventually lined up at the 5th and 8th file on the cannon rank. Can be defensive or attacking
五九炮 5th & 9th Cannons : an opening whereby the cannons are eventually lined up at the 5th and 9th file on the cannon rank. Mostly attacking type of opening
独角兽 : P1+1. no official WXF translation. A direct translation would be one-horned monster. Some call it the side pawn opening
九尾龟 : P9+1. no official WXF translation. A direct translation would be the nine-tailed tortoise opening. Some call it the side pawn opening.
屏风马布局 Screen Horses defense, 2-Horse defence : H2+3 , H8+7 are black’s first few moves. Most widely used counter to the Central Cannon opening. There are many many variations to this defense.
反攻马布局 Sandwich Horses defense : H2+3, C8=6 , H8+7 are black’s first few moves. Sometimes known as the Pseudo Two Knight’s defence.
单提马布局 Single Horse defense : H2+3 H8+9 are black’s first few moves. Some like to call it the lame horse defense.
卒底局 Elbow Cannon defense, Thundering defense : Black counters red’s P7+1 opening with C2=3. Also sometimes known as Short Pawn Cannon Opening.
金钩炮 Long Pawn Cannon Opening (?): Black counters red’s P7+1 opening with C2=7. No WXF translation available. A direct translation would be golden hooked cannon but some call it the Long Pawn Cannon Opening
三步虎 3-step Tiger defense : 1. C2=5 N8+7 2. N2+3 R9=8 3. .... C8=9
斗顺炮 Same Direction (SD) Cannon, Mirror Cannon defense : black answers red’s C2=5 with C8=5. HT Lau called it the lee cannon (?)
斗列炮 Opposite Direction (OD) Cannon, Counter Cannon defense : black answers red’s C2=5 with C2=5.
屏风马平炮兑车 Screen Horses Edge Cannon for chaRiot exchange : 1. C2=5 H8+7, 2. H2+3 R9=8, 3. R1=2 P7+1, 4. R2+6, C8=9…most widely used counter to red’s central cannon opening
屏风马双炮过河 Screen Horses Double PR Cannons : screen horse variation whereby red does not push his filed rook forward, but chooses to use a ranked rook opening. Black aggressively pushes both cannons to red’s pawn line. Very aggressive counter.
屏风马左马盘河 Screen Horses with RB Horse : 1. C2=5 H8+7, 2. H2+3 R9=8, 3. R1=2 P7+1, 4. R2+6 H7+6. Very aggressive counter
屏风马左炮封车 Screen Horses with Left Cannon Blockade : C2=5 N8+7 2. N2+3 R9=8 3. R1=2 C8+4
鸳鸯炮 : No official WXF translation. A direct translation would be the mandarin duck cannon counter , though some call it the Paired Cannons Defence. 1. C2=5 H2+3, 2. H2+3 P7+1, 3. R1=2 R9+2. Seldom used counter
龟背炮/凤凰炮/软硬炮 : No official WXF translation. A direct translation would be the turtle back cannon counter or the phoenix cannon counter , though some call it the parrot cannon counter too. 1. C2=5 H8+7, 2. H2+3 R9+1, 3.P5+1 E3+5, 4. R1=2 C8-1. Seldom used counter
重迭炮 : No official WXF translation. A direct translation would be the tandem or stacked counter 1. C2=5 C8+1, 2. H2+3 C2=8. Seldom used counter
对兵局 Pawn vs Pawn opening : 1. P7+1 P7+1
瞎眼狗 : 1. P7+1 P3+1. Seldom used opening. A literal translation would be the blind dog opening. No official translation.
对马局 Horse vs Horse opening : 1.H2+3 H8+7
顺炮局 SD Cannons opening : 1. C2=5 C8=5
列炮局 OD Cannons opening : 1. C2=5 C2=5
仙人指路对卒底炮 Pawn vs Elbow cannon opening, Angel's Guide vs Thundering defence : 1. P7+1 C2=3
中炮进三兵对反宫马 Central Canon 3rd Pawn vs Sandwich Horses : 1. C2=5 H2+3, 2. H2+3 C8=6 , 3. R1=2 H8+7 , 4. P3+1…
中炮进七兵过河车对屏风马平炮兑车局 Central Cannon 7th Pawn PR chaRiot vs Screen Horses Edge Cannon for chaRiot exchange : 1. C2=5 H8+7, 2. H2+3 R9=8, 3. R1=2 P7+1, 4. R2+6, C8=9
There are still many more terms that are in use but the above are selected terms that everybody should know.
Last updated: 22nd April 2011
Mr Peter Sung from WXF for providing me the urls.
1. In English , from the World Xiangqi Federation official published nomenclature
2. In English and very important, the official competition rules of Xiangqi. : http://220.127.116.11/xq/book/AXF_rules_Eng.pdf
3. In English, also from the WXF, other commonly used translations http://www.chessvariants.org/chinfaq.html
4. Chinese Chess by HT Lau
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