Basic Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) Midgame Tactics 05 Sacrificing Material

Author: Jim Png from

Note: This article first appeared on

This article is the fifth article in a series of articles introducing the basic tactics used in Xiangqi (Chinese Chess). In this article, the author will focus on introducing the tactic of sacrificing material. This tactic is very commonly used in Xiangqi play and can be employed to achieve many different goals.

The article will be divided into the following sections:


Some Background Theory

Sacrificing material is defined as the act of deliberately allowing the enemy to capture one or more friendly pieces such that gains in other areas can be obtained. Often, a small sacrifice, if successful, will lead to gains in the overall situation. A sacrifice can also occur in the form of using a valuable piece to trade for a less valuable piece with a clear goal in mind. (1 页 146) (2 页 75) (3 页 135-136)

These gains include:

  • the opportunity to go for a kill,
  • to gain the initiative,
  • to aim for a draw,
  • to checkmate, et cetera.

Often, there is an element of surprise, and the pace on the board becomes accelerated very quickly. Tactics to sacrifice material to try to gain the initiative is also present in many opening traps. They can be considered to be the same as gambits in International Chess.

Grandmaster Liu Dianzhong also mentioned that many beginners often sacrifice material for various purposes. Although their attempts may or may not work, their aggressive and proactive spirit deserves commendation. (2 页 75)

The tactic of a sacrifice differs from a pseudo-sacrifice whereby lost material is gained back later on. With a sacrifice, the material lost is permanent.

Sacrificing to checkmate

The ancient manuals, matches by the Masters and Grandmasters, and Xiangqi endgame compositions are full of such examples. The author has selected a few examples which he deems to be textbook material on the subject.



This brilliant checkmate would not have been possible if Black had not sacrificed his Chariot for the first move.

The author considers it textbook material on ranked checkmates and possible tactical combinations with the Chariots and Cannons.


Sacrificing to gain the initiative

Sacrifices are commonly used to break the deadlock in an otherwise even situation. The following example is the Horse Gambit for Thirteen Move Kill from the ancient manual, the Secret in the Tangerine.



 The author has translated the entire ancient manual into English which is for sale on 


Sacrificing Material for a Draw

Sacrificing material to aim for a draw is less seen in Xiangqi. Nevertheless, it is still a brilliant technique that can save a game. The next board that the author presents is one such situation.

The 2015 Chinese National Xiangqi Individual Championships was one of the most heated tournaments in the event's history. The tournament had just adopted a brutal elimination format. Two games were played for each round whereby the two contestants would have to try to win on aggregate to make it to the next round. In the event of a draw (e.g., 1W1L, 2D), a tie-breaker would be played in the form of a rapid Xiangqi match with special stipulations. There were many upsets that year.

We shall look at the round of 32 when tournament favorite Grandmaster Wang Tianyi battled Zhong Shaohong. Wang had been in contention for winning the tournaments this decade, and he was able to win the tournament several times in the past decade.

Unfortunately, his encounter with up-and-coming Zhong Shaohong proved that he was not to shine that year. In the first match, Wang Tianyi took Red and played the Central Cannon Opening, and Zhong countered with the irregular Right Three Step Tiger.

Determined to win his match, the Grandmaster attacked relentlessly, but the young Zhong Shaohong (born in 1991) never backed down and fought fearlessly. Before the match, Zhong Shaohong's most significant achievement was representing China in the Asian Xiangqi Federation Youth Tournament, which he won. (4)

The entire match records have been shown but the author has chosen to comment on the relevant portions.




Although the situation on the board was drawish, Red's attack was relentless. Black had to find a way to ensure a draw without making a mistake, or things could go rapidly downhill when facing the top player of the last decade.

Fortunately, Black played very decisively and sacrificed his Chariot for the Red Horse, thus ending all hopes of winning Red.

The match shown here was the first match. In their second match later than afternoon, Zhong Shaohong took Red and played brilliantly, sacrificing material to win against Wang Tianyi. Wang Tianyi's run in the tournament ended, and Zhong Shaohong progressed to the next round, where he eventually lost. But his results met the criteria for becoming a Xiangqi Master in China. To date, his win against Wang Tianyi has been hailed as his signature win that stamped his name on the Xiangqi scene.

The author believes that Zhong would not have been successful if he had not sacrificed material in both his games against Wang.


 Many goals can be achieved with the tactic of sacrificing material. It is one of the most common tactics seen, and in the author's opinion, it is much more prevalent in Xiangqi than in International Chess.

It is noteworthy to mention that that Master Cao Yanlei (曹岩磊 cáo yán lěi, 1991-present) is the 'current' King of Sacrifice in Xiangqi (弃子大师) in China. He represents Macau in International competitions.

Works Cited

1. 黄少龙. 象棋入门初步. 成都 : 成都时代出版社, 2009. 9787807055228.

2. 刘, 殿中. 象棋新编教程 象棋初学门径. 北京 : 北京体育大学出版社, 2000. 7-81051-484-9.

3. 朱, 宝位. 棋牌入门丛书 象棋入门. 合肥 : s.n., 1994. 978-7-5337-0734-7.

4. 象棋王子. 特大冷門!王天一不敵鍾少鴻. 每日头条. [Online] Nov 25, 2015. [Cited: Aug 15, 2021.]

5. 刘殿中. 象棋新编教程 象棋中局战法. 北京 : 北京体育大学出版社, 2003. 7-81051-905-0/G.756.

6. 有文王. 象棋战术——抽将. 今日焦点. [線上] 2020年July月26日. [引用日期: 2021年July月8th日.]

7. contributors, Wikipedia. Xiangqi. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. [Online] Page Version ID: 1031515692, Jul 2, 2021. [Cited: Jul 8, 2021.]

8. 王, 贵龙. 象棋名词术语手册. 呼和浩特 : 远方出版社, 2000. 7-80595-652-9.

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