The Anatomy of Xiangqi Part 2:

A rough guide to evaluating your opening : 100% theory

Efficiency is the key to gaining a good start to the key. The following is a simple but rough guide to evaluate the efficiency of your opening.An important concept to remember is that you hope to increase your advantage by default for red when progressing into mid-game and vice versa for black. We often hear of advice such as developing your board, trying not to make the same piece move too many times, increasing your initiative…but what do they mean?


In Xiangqi, as in International Chess, wrong timing of the exchange of pieces can result in loss of initiave as illustrated by the above example. Now to example 2. This is another frequently made mistake by beginners and advanced players alike. We all need to be reminded now and then.


Another commonly made mistake in openings. Never ever move the same piece too many times. Now to example 3.


In example 3, the positioning of the pieces can sometimes be taken into account and their moves may or may not be counted.

The above is a simple guide to evaluate your opening. But it has its pitfalls too.

It does not take into consideration the positioning of the pieces. For example, a well positioned cannon may require the opponent to make a few moves before escaping its threat.
Also, it does not take into consideration the value of the pieces. For example, sometimes a chariot is exchanged for a horse and cannon. The chariot might have moved only say x moves but the horse and cannon might have made y moves where y>x. Efficiency is gained by the chariot’s side but the value might not be worth it.
The third point to note is better explained with a scenario. Let’s say a pawn has crossed the river and made a few moves. The effective moves for the pawn would be say z moves. However, that initiative is readily erased should the pawn be captured, like in the case of the horse in example 2. So, another important principle in your opening is the ability of your pieces to remain unscathed after making many moves.

Note that the above system is generally useful only in openings, ie roughly the first 10-20 moves of the game. Once the game enters mid-game, it becomes useless, as multiple exchanges have already occurred. Positioning of the pieces followed by material advantage becomes key.

I was taught this concept when I attended a Xiangqi introductory lesson by GM Hu Ronghua early in the 1990’s when he visited Singapore. The way GM Hu presented the concept opened a whole new world in Xiangqi for me. I still recall GM Hu stressing the importance of trying to make all your moves as 100% (although impossible) efficient as possible. Since then, my buddies and me have coined it the 100% theory. 

A few months ago, I read about this concept again in an introductory book when I prepared to create this website. It has helped me much and I hope it helps you with your game too. 

Last updated: 1st May 2011                          To the next article: The Anatomy of Xiangqi part 3

Reference:

1. In Chinese, <<象棋入门>> by 李浭 and 马正福 .

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