Abbreviations for Xiangqi Openings

A few visitors to my site asked me about the abbreviations used for the various openings.
This is a little invention of my own, to help me to categorize the games I have so that I can have a neat database.
Anyway, before we continue, a little background knowledge is needed.
Prior to ECCO, there was no major system able to categorize ALL the openings that there are in Xiangqi. Different ancient manuals had different names for the same or similar opening ( see the names given in the Invincible Manual for the same direction cannons...). The situation got much worse when the variations and subvariations were thrown into the picture.
It is not that bad in Chinese but it becomes HELL when you try to translate it to English. Please go to the Central cannon vs Screen Horse Defense ECCO classification page and you will know what I mean.
To make things even more complicated, ECCO is still in its early stages. It has caught on, and most of the better Xiangqi engines use it.
Unfortunately, for those who do not use computers for Xiangqi, they rely on published books or periodicals. The "traditional" names for the major openings and variations are used, which are a little bit different from ECCO. That is why I have had to think up an abbreviation system or my fingers would be fractured before I am finished with what I want to do.
PS: Openings in Xiangqi are basically names of the major moves played, unlike International Chess whereby most openings are named after people or places. So a red opening with a black counter might be a small paragraph in Xiangqi but a few words in International Chess. And at the speed that Xiangqi is developing in China, the sub-subvariations of the subvariations of the variations of one single opening are studied over and over again. Indeed, I once read an article whereby GM Lv Qin admitted to NOT having seen a subvariation before.
To help Xiangqi catch on in the English speaking world, a system of abbreviations must be invented to facilitate recording purposes so that study of Xiangqi openings would catch on as in China. It must also reflect ECCO and the study of openings currently in China so that anyone who looks at the label would immediately know what is going on. Finally, to ensure that everybody is referring to the same opening, the WXF recommendations (though limited thus far) will be used.
After half a year of doing my site, the following system is what I have come up with...

1. All numbers except for the ECCO label refer to the number of files and not actual Arabic numerals.

Therefore, 56 cannons will refer to the formation that red has in the opening whereby one cannon is on the central file and one cannon is on the 6th file.  ( C2=5 , C8=6 ).
If in special circumstances, numbers are needed (like 7th pawn advancing twice) it would be typed out in English.


2. If ECCO is available, it would be placed on the left. The first alphabet and 2 digit number refer to the ECCO classification. For example, B03 would refer to the ECCO classification for the opening of :

B03 Central cannon vs Mandarin duck cannons.


3. The first abbreviation of both red and black’s opening refer to the main type of opening and counter used.

For example,

CC vs SAH would be central cannon vs Sandwiched Horse Defense .

The next string of alphabets/numbers that comes along refer to the variation and sub variation that is discussed.

For example,

Ap with lt cc vs td with left e

Would be equivalent to Angel’s Pawn with Left central cannon variation vs Thundering Defense with Left Central Elephant variation, which is a huge opening topic by itself. The order of the variation will be such that the most important variation will be mentioned first…although it may not necessarily be played in that order.


Cc 7pa prr vs Sch 7pa ecrx -->  would refer to the most commonly played opening nowadays : central cannon with 7th Pawn Advancement Pawn ranked Chariot vs Screen Horse Defense with 7th Pawn Advancement with Edge Cannon for Chariot Exchange variation. (ecrx = edge cannon for chariot exchange was suggested by my good friend Georg Jeiter !!!)


4. Very rare openings will not be given abbreviations as it would be impractical to do so. It would just simply be typed out.

For example , one horned monster opening (P1+1) , blind dog opening ( 1. P7+1 P3+1 ) , nine-tailed tortoise opening (P9+1) , golden hooked cannon, left overlapping cannons….will be named as such.

5. By default, I have set the movement of the pieces to move toward the center as default.
  For example, lt e would mean left elephant to center.
  Movement of pieces to the side (except for the horse) are would thus be specified.

6. Pieces on the left flank will be denoted with lt or "l" simply. For example, left ranked chariot would be lfr or lt fr. Pieces on the right flanke would be denoted with rt or simply "r".

7. Positions relative to ranks : Unless specified, it would mean that a piece is moving away from his side of the board toward the opponent's side. For example, pawn ranked chariot or prr would mean that the chariot is placed in the pawn rank of THE OPPONENT in the same file. Riverbank chariot would mean that the chariot would still be on the same side of the board as his king but on the riverbank. Crossriverbank chariot would mean that the chariot is now on the opponent's side of the riverbank.

Commonly used abbreviations (WXF recommendations first and foremost):
Major Openings and major variations

Cc = central cannon

Sch = screen horse defense ( for black or screen horse opening for red)

Sah = sandwiched horse defense (for black or sandwich horse opening variation for red )

Ap = angel’s pawn

Td = thundering defense

E = elephant opening

H = horse opening

P= pawn opening

Pcc = palcorner cannon opening

Cpc = cross palace cannon opening

3st = 3 step tiger

Sdc = same direction cannons

Odc = opposite direction cannons

Hodc = halfway opposite direction cannons

Lt c blockade =  left cannon blockade

Ppdc = edge cannon for chariot exchange

Shd = single horse defense
Slow = namely to represent the slow chariot variation of some major opening.


Positions of the pieces:


7pa = 7th pawn advancement

3pa = 3rd pawn advancement

1pa = 1st pawn advancement and so on

37pa = 3rd and 7th advancement a.k.a double headed snake pawn formation

7pa twice = advance 7th pawn twice ( eg ECCO E34,E35 )



Rr = ranked chariot , lrr = left ranked chariot , rrr = right ranked chariot

Fr = filed chariot , lfr = left filed chariot, rfr = right filed chariot

Slow r , or just slow = slow chariot

Rbr = riverbank chariot (eg R2+4 at the start )

Crbr = cross riverbank chariot (eg R2+5 )

Prr = pawn ranked chariot (your opponent’s pawn rank, not yours) eg R2+6

Armpit chariot or advisor chariot = ar (seldom used…) ( eg A4+5 , E3+5 , R1=4 )

Horse :

7th file horse =  7fh ( a very popular variant in the past, slightly less common nowadays)

Side horse = side h (H8+9 or H2+1)

Riverbank horse = horse on the riverbank (usually H8+7à H7+6)
Cetral linked horses = Mandarin duck horses = clh ( for central linked horses)


Prc = pawn ranked cannon ( eg C2+4 or C8+4)

Very unorthodox openings or counters like the turtle back cannons, phoenix cannons …will not be given abbreviations



Sometimes, the advisor is played very early in the game.

It would then be called early a (A4+5/A6+5).

First Created: 4th Dec 2011
Last updated: 19th October 2012
1.Georg Jeiter, always to my rescue!

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