Introduction to the Xiangqi Chessboard

  

 

The Xiangqi chess board is basically a 9X10 board. Unlike international chess, the pieces are played on the intersections, not in the squares.The empty space in the middle is the river, separating the 2 opposing sides. There are 2 squares with diagonal lines running across at each side. This is known as the palace or 宮. The king and advisors cannot leave this palace. Many openings are named with reference to the palace like the cross palace cannon opening and the palcorner cannon opening (see Glossary of terms). Note that a few of the intersections are highlighted with extra lines. This is to denote the placement of the pawns. 

 

This is what a board looks like when the game starts. Some boards come with additional Chinese characters. Often there are Chinese characters in the middle.
楚河汉界, simply refers to the river separating the Chu and Han Kingdom in ancient China when they were at war.

Sometimes, additional Chinese verses are found at the side
.
观棋不语真君子 means that onlookers(观棋) should not comment(不语) on the game during active play, and that such behavior is the mark of a true gentleman (真君子). However, more often than not, onlookers comment like crazy during street games...I guess that shows the appeal of Xiangqi. Everyone has something to say. After all, Xiangqi is a great spectator sport, where many a time, spectators make great sport of the game played...

起手无回大丈夫 means that once you finish a move(起手), you are not allowed to re-do it(无回), even if it means losing the game. That should be the behavior expected from a great man(大丈夫). This rule is strictly observed in competition, but when you play on the streets or for fun, sometimes, your opponent might let you take back a blunder.

 
Before we continue, two terms have to be explained.
Any vertical line on the chessboard is called a file.
Any horizontal line on the chessboard is called a rank.
Finally, for recording purposes, the board is numbered from right to left for both sides. Therefore, for red, red's first file or file number 1 will be the right-most file. The same goes for black. So, it follows that black's 9th file would be equivalent to red's 1st file. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW OR ELSE YOU WOULD HAVE TROUBLE READING THE NOTATIONS. All the notations basically follow this rule. The notations used here basically follow that recommended by the WXF (World Xiangqi Federation).

There are different names for the files.
The WXF calls the 1st and 9th files the edge files.
The 3rd and 7th files have been called the elbow files.
The 4th and 6th files are called, …what else, the armpit files.
The 5th file is called the central file.
There are no names given to the 2nd and 8th files to date.
Each move can basically be represented by 4 letters. For example, C2=5, means that the red cannon found on the 2nd file traverses to the 5th file, in the same rank. Everything is relative. More will be said on this subject in the article : Recording of XQ moves.  
Please take a loot at the chinese characters at the bottom of the board, they represent the numbers of the files for red starting from right to left.
The arabic numerals at the top of the represent the number of the files for black. 

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Finally, a few more terms to be introduced.The river separates the two opposing sites.
There are names to each of the horizontal ranks.
The bottom rank, that is the row occupied by red’s solitary king in the adjacent diagram, is called the bottom-most row or 底线. The WXF simply calls it the base or first rank. Please note that Red's first rank is not Black's first rank. Everything is relative. So you have to mention the rank in relation to the player/side.
The next rank, as represented by red’s two chariots, is known as the death row or 死亡线. The WXF calls it the 中士线 or throat rank.
The horizontal row linked by red’s cannons is known as the 布置线.  The WXF calls it the cannon rank, or 炮位线.
The pawn rank would be the row occupied by the pawns or soldiers. It is known as 兵林线/卒林线. The same name is used by the WXF.
Finally, the row whereby red’s horses are placed is known as the riverbank row or 沿河线. The WXF adopts a similar name called the river bank rank. And according to the WXF, your opponent’s river bank would be called the cross-river bank to you or 骑河线to you.

To the next article: Intro to the XQ pieces   

First created: April 2011
Last updated: 13th November 2011
Acknowledgements:
Michale Yuen for pointing out a typing error that has been corrected.
I need more feedback. Please email to admin@xqinenglish.com or xqinenglish@gmail.com .

Reference:

In English, the WXF official terms:  
http://99.237.250.152/wxf/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23&Itemid=36
In Chinese, <<少兒象棋啟蒙篇>> by 傅寶勝
In Chinese, <<象棋入门>> by 李浭 and 马正福
 

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