Introduction to Xiangqi end game compositions


Xiangqi composed games or endgame compositions排局 are Xiangqi puzzles that were deliberated created to demonstrate a brilliant checkmate or an equally brilliant forced draw. They are unlikely to be seen as a continuation from mid-games in the course of normal play. Most have their origins from end games.
In the past, people who studied end games studied them to such an extent that they felt that the formation of a certain endgame was not complex or exciting enough. So, they added or took away some of the pieces, and then repositioned them to make the formation much more exciting, and much more complex than the old one. Seldom, if possible, in real play, does the game progress to the same formation found in set-up games. They did this to increase the difficulty level so that only one best solution is possible.

These Xiangqi puzzles were not really distinguished from practical end games until about 2-3 decades ago when the late Mr Xu Bide许弼德, a master of such endgame compositions himself, coined the term: 排局, which can be directly translated as setup puzzles. Today, these Xiangqi endgame compositions have continued to evolve.

Xianqi composed games normally have red to move first by default. The end result is either a brilliant win for red or an equally brilliant draw forced by red. One of the most widely known Xiangqi puzzles 七星聚会 or The gathering of the seven stars , is said to have more than 300 variations. 

There are basically 6 types of set-up puzzles.

1)      字形排局 / Letter Xiangqi endgame compositions (no WXF translation yet). These are Xiangqi puzzles with the pieces deliberately positioned such that the puzzles would take the form of a Chinese character or English letter or Arabic numeral.

2)      图形排局 / Figure Xiangqi endgame compositions (no WXF translation yet). These Xiangqi puzzles have the pieces positioned such that they formed different shapes like diamonds, squares…etc

3)      趣味游戏排局 / Fun Xiangqi endgame compositions(no WXF translation yet) . These Xiangqi puzzles were deliberately created for fun. They are not limited to checkmates or draw. Capturing a certain piece might be equivalent to a win, and even the red/black king might need not be present.

4)      连照胜排局/连照和局 Consecutive checks Xiangqi endgame compositions(no WXF translation yet) . These by far, are the most commonly available Xiangqi endgame compositions. Normally, red’s king is placed in such a position whereby the next black move would result in a checkmate. Therefore, red must consecutively check and usually sacrifice his pieces until a win or draw is forced. They are very exciting and often show brilliant combinations.

5)      宽紧胜/和局 Non-consecutive checks Xiangqi endgame compositions (no WXF translation yet) . These differ from consecutive checks Xiangqi puzzles in that not every move is a check. Some moves threaten to check but do not place black’s king in immediate danger.

6)      民间排局 = 江湖残局 Street Xiangqi endgame compositions (no WXF translation yet). A direct translation for 民间would be common folk. And it is nearly impossible ( I have not found an English term that can capture the spirit of 江湖). These Xiangqi setup puzzles are normally the bread and butter of Xiangqi chess hustlers who normally present the Xiangqi puzzle to onlookers and challenge them to try to solve the puzzle. Prize money or rewards are used to entice the unknowing onlooker, who would have to pay a fee. However, these seemingly benign puzzles contain many brilliant moves for the chess hustler, who usually takes black, to force a draw or even win. The chess hustler then pockets the bet and lives to another day. Sometimes, the more intricate of the puzzles have many more variations and the chess hustler would challenge the onlooker again, making more money. These Xiangqi puzzles are hard to collect, being the secret tools of trade for chess hustlers, but they are very brilliant in their own.

These Xiangqi puzzles often show many brilliant moves and combination. Learning from these moves would often improve your Xiangqi skills.

Last updated 21st March, 2011
                                                 To the next article: History of Xiangqi

Adapted from :
1. In chinese<<象棋入门>> by 李浭 and 马正福

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