Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) Opposite Direction Cannons: An Introduction

Like the Same Direction Cannons, the Opposite Direction Cannons (列炮 liè pào) is one of the oldest recorded opening systems in Xiangqi. It was also one of the opening systems that were used in Shi Lin Guang Ji, which remains the earliest record of Xiangqi that is still extant, making the Opposite Direction Cannons at least a thousand years old. Both the Opposite Direction Cannons and Same Direction Cannons belong to the Cannon vs. Cannon Opening System (斗炮局 dòu pào jú).

This short article would discuss the evolution of the Opposite Direction Cannons throughout history. 

This article would be presented in the following manner:

Contents:

 

Brief History of the Opposite Direction Cannons

Like the Same Direction Cannons, the Opposite Direction Cannons was one of the major opening systems that were discussed in the ancient manuals. In particular, the Secret in the Tangerines and the Plum Flower Manuals have various sections devoted to the Opposite Direction Cannons.

Click here for the relevant section in the Secret in the Tangerine, Wang’s Plum Flower Manual, et cetera.

However, comparatively speaking, the Opposite Direction Cannons went into decline in popularity. Things were made even worse when Wang Zaiyue’s Plum Flower Manual came into existence.

In ancient times, there were two main ways that the Opposite Direction Cannons were played:

  • Opposite Direction Cannons: Major Variation (大列手炮 dà liè shǒu pào)
  • Opposite Direction Cannons: Minor Variation (小列手炮xiǎo liè shǒu pào)

In the second half of the twentieth century, there was a slight change in the order of the moves, and the Opposite Direction Cannons was reborn as the Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons. Instead of countering Red’s C2=5 with C2=5 for the first move, Black would choose to develop his left flank and only counter with C2=5 after applying pressure on Red’s right flank.

There are three Chinese names for the Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons, and they represent the same thing: 半途列炮 (bàn tú liè pào), 后补列炮 (hòu bǔ liè pào), and 现代列炮 (xiàn dài liè pào).

Because there was a change in the order of the moves, the Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons could be played as a continuation of Black’s Left Cannon Blockade or Black’s Three Step Tiger Counter.

Today, the Opposite Direction Cannons is NOT commonly seen in high-level play or tournaments. However, it is still very commonly seen in regular over the board play on the internet. (1)

Defining the Opposite Direction Cannons

The following diagrams will define the various ways of playing the Opposite Direction Cannons.

Opposite Direction Cannons: Major Variation (大列手炮 dà liè shǒu pào)

Defining moves: Black would counter with the Opposite Direction Cannons as his first move AND develop his Left Horse as an Edge Horse.

 Opposite Direction Cannons Major Variation

 

Opposite Direction Cannons: Minor Variation (小列手炮xiǎo liè shǒu pào)

Defining moves: Black would counter with the Opposite Direction Cannons as his first move AND develop his Left Horse as a Proper Horse.

 Opposite Direction Cannons Minor Variation

 

Central Cannon vs. Left Cannon Blockade with Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons

Instead of countering with the Opposite Direction Cannons immediately, Black would form a blockade with his left Cannon and Chariot. Black would apply pressure on Red’s right flank BEFORE countering with the Opposite Direction Cannons.

 Central Cannon vs. Left Cannon Blockade with Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons

 

Central Cannon vs. Left Three Step Tiger with Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons

As with the Left Cannon Blockade, Black would choose to develop his left flank as the Left Three Step Tiger Counter, before countering with the Opposite Direction Cannons.

 Central Cannon vs. Left Three Step Tiger with Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons

 

 

 

Some innate characteristics of the Opposite Direction Cannons

The following are some of the common characteristics of the Opposite Direction Cannons.

  • Marginal room for error.
  • Would often develop into a ‘flank game’ whereby both colors would attack one of the enemy’s flank.
  • Sacrifices are very common.
  • Red’s first move initiative would be significant.
  • Not for the faint of heart.

 

Key factors for consideration:

The following are some key points to consider when discussing the Opposite Direction Cannons.

  • The development of the 3rd and 7th Pawns would be crucial.
  • The speed of a flank attack.
  • Red’s Right Flank and the Development of Red’s right Chariot.
  • Black’s Right Flank, would it be underdeveloped?
  • Can Red mobilize his horse for attack?

 

A brief summary of the modern-day variations

New Analysis of the Opposite Direction Cannons 列炮新编 (1)

Chap/

Sect

Chinese

English

1

列炮的起源

The Origins of the Opposite Direction Cannons.

1-1

古典列手炮

ODC in the Ancient Manuals.

1-2

近代改进

Modern-day improvements.

2

小列手炮的兴起

The Minor Variation becomes popular

2-1

过河车对平炮兑车

Red: Pawn Ranked Chariot (R2+6)

Black: Edge Cannon for Chariot Exchange

2-2

过河车对进右马式

Red: Pawn Ranked Chariot (R2+6)

Black: Develop Right Horse as Proper Horse H2+3

2-3

士角炮式

Red: Left Palcorner Cannon Variation (56 Cannons)

2-4

互进七兵式

Both colors play P7+1

3

近代列炮 – 左炮封车转列炮

Modern-day Variation.

Black adopts the Left Cannon Blockade with Deferred Opposite Direction Cannons

3-1

红两头蛇正马式

Red: Double Headed Snake Pawns with Proper Horses.

3-2

红两头蛇边马式

Red: Double Headed Snake Pawns with Left Edge Horse.

3-3

红进边马不进七兵式

Red: Left Edge Horse Variation and Red does NOT advance the 7th Pawn.

3-4

红进正马不进七兵式

Red: Left Proper Horse Variation and Red does NOT advance the 7th Pawn.

3-5

红急进右马盘河式

Red: Early Right Riverbank Horse Variation

3-6

红进炮打马兑炮式

Red: Advances Left Cannon to Black’s Cannon Rank to trade Cannons

中炮对三步虎转列炮 (2)

1

红先进三兵式

Red advances the 3rd Pawn very early

2

红两头蛇式

Red: Double Headed Snake Pawns Formation

3

红先进七兵式

Red advances the 7th Pawn very early

4

互进七兵(卒)式

Both colors advance the 7th Pawn

 

Important literature

As with the Same Direction Cannons, the section discussing the Opposite Direction Cannons in the Secret in the Tangerine and the Plum Flower Manuals MUST be studied.

There are a few treatises that have been written for the Opposite Direction Cannons over the past few decades. However, because of its waning popularity as compared to other opening systems, there are not so many books on the topic.

Perhaps the best books are the two treatises from the Modern Xiangqi Opening Series, which have been listed in the reference section below.

 

References

1. 王嘉良 杨典. 象棋现代布局丛书 列手炮新编. 成都 : 蜀蓉棋艺出版社, 2000. 7-80548-679-4/G.680.

2. —. 象棋现代布局丛书 中炮对三步虎转列炮. 成都 : 蜀蓉棋艺出版社, 1997. 7-80548-539-9/G.540.