Free Online Resources to Play and Learn Xiangqi (Chinese Chess)
Author: Jim Png from www.xqinenglish.com
Note: This article first appeared on www.xiangqi.com .
Advances in technology have made learning Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) much more accessible and allowed busy people to learn and enjoy the game at their own pace independently. While people needed to meet to enjoy Xiangqi in the past, the way Xiangqi can be accessed and enjoyed has changed drastically in the age of the internet. There are now many free websites, computer programs, smartphone apps et cetera to help the Xiangqi lover.
In this article, the author will recommend free websites and free software available on the internet for playing and learning Xiangqi. This article is devoted to learning Xiangqi using the internet with a computer or smartphones. It also targets the Xiangqi lover who might not have the time to travel to different venues to watch actual tournaments in play. Xiangqi lovers with limited time will also find this article useful.
Note: The author assumes that the reader has a functional computer or smartphone and access to the internet. These are the fundamental pre-requisites that are required.
As this article targets non-Chinese speakers, websites or applications that offer English as a medium will be prioritized. Unfortunately, in the world of Xiangqi, most of the websites and apps are in Chinese. The author has translated the material and recommended some of the better programs to help the Xiangqi lover with limited knowledge of Chinese. There will be diagrams to help the interested enthusiast know what button to push or which option to select when navigating these websites and programs. It would also be the guide or collection of resources that he wished he had when he started learning Xiangqi over three decades ago.
The article will introduce the following:
- Where to play the game
- Websites to play the game against other people
- Tools for Learning Xiangqi
- Websites to learn the game
- Computer programs for Analysis
- Website where you practice solving a particular position
To enjoy and learn Xiangqi, you have to play the game yourself, learn from your mistakes, and be inspired by the experts.
The next thing that is required a strong Xiangqi engine would be needed. Xiangqi engines are apps or computer programs that can allow users to organize and store their game records/scores. Most positions can now be stored using FEN (Forsyth–Edwards Notation)
Another essential tool would be artificial intelligence which is needed to analyze different positions.
Where to play the game
The author has often been asked about websites where you can play Xiangqi online. While the majority of websites are either in Chinese or Vietnamese, there is a growing number of websites that are in English. Some even provide more languages for their interface. Playing Xiangqi online can be further divided into websites where you can play against other people and websites or apps to play against the computer or some other form of AI.
Websites to play the game against other people
Compared to the time before 2010 when the author first started promoting Xiangqi on the internet, many more user-friendly websites provide English as a medium for playing Xiangqi.
The following is a list of websites highly recommended by the author.
a) www.xiangqi.com – highly recommended
Headed by philanthropist Paul English, the author has personally seen the effort put in by Mr. English and his international team of computer programmers and Xiangqi lovers. It is ever-expanding and ever-growing and is perhaps the most-user friendly website for Xiangqi. There are several language interfaces available. You can also choose between traditional Xiangqi pieces (with Chinese characters) or figurine pieces which might ease the ‘pain’ for players with a background in International Chess.
There are also different time controls, and the website offers live chats where you can interact with the opponent during actual play.
Since its launch in early 2021, the number of players has steadily increased.
Mr. English has put in much effort in making the game more accessible to the West. Not only has he assembled a team of teachers to teach the game, but there are also several areas where you can learn about the game. The author is also honored to help write articles to promote Xiangqi on this platform.
Playok.com is a website whereby Xiangqi is available as one of the games that can be played. It is also one of the earliest websites for Xiangqi that has been around for the past two decades in the author’s memory. It also offers an array of other board games.
It is free to use, and the process of signing up for an account is no hassle. One of its strengths is that it provides many different languages to cater to people speaking other languages. There are various board interfaces and time controls to choose from when playing a game. The Xiangqi section of the website is divided into different ‘areas’ where you can find opponents. Setting up a match is very quick and convenient.
The level of play is relatively high as many Xiangqi lovers and experts from Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam (alphabetical order), et cetera grace the site to quell their itch for Xiangqi. Indeed, the websites give points to rank their players to make it easier to set up a game with players of similar strengths.
It has also grown in popularity recently since the folks in Belarus decided to use the platform to hold online tournaments.
Please be warned that sometimes offensive players may be met who are rude and spoil your day. The vast majority of players are cool, but Xiangqi, like any other game or sport, has its share of jerks, and it is not uncommon to meet other rude players.
A relative newcomer with much growth potential, xichess offers Xiangqi with figurine pieces and a built-in section to analyze your game. You can play against artificial intelligence (AI) or other humans. A variety of time controls is also available for your liking.
Like Playok.com, Xiangqi is offered as one of the games available on pychess.org. Chinese characters are used as pieces, and all the basics required to have a game of Xiangqi can be found here.
This ‘unique’ website has been around for over two decades. It offers only correspondence Xiangqi amongst other games. The author regrets saying that the website presents Xiangqi as a variant of International Chess on the website. www.itsyourturn.com gives dozens of different board games and can be a nice place to spend time.
It is free and easy to sign up for an account. Unfortunately, there is a move limit of twenty moves per day for each player on the website for all the different games that he might be playing. There are also ‘ladders’ with varying limits of time to challenge other players on the same ladder to climb to the top.
The concept of the time limit on the website is drastically different from other websites. The shortest time limit is to make a move within 24 hours. Therefore, a game of Xiangqi often takes more than a few weeks to complete. The author still plays on the website, but he only plays with friends and chats about the nuances of daily life.
Clubxiangqi.com has been one of the oldest and most popular websites for the past two or three decades. The level of play is relatively high, and although the website caters primarily to Vietnamese players, there is an English interface.
Signing up as a member is free and not too tricky. It is also straightforward to set up a game against other players.
Tools for Learning Xiangqi
Before the internet age, Xiangqi lovers had to buy books, position the pieces on the board according to the books and try to understand the various positions. Help from the experts was also often needed, which could be a chore in today’s busy world. It was also very easy to get lost in the myriad of variations and sub-variations.
Advances in technology and the internet have made learning Xiangqi much easier. Today, there are built-in analytical programs on some apps, and advancements in artificial intelligence have seen significant improvements in the general level of play.
But, for the newcomer in Xiangqi, non-Chinese resources are still limited. It can be hard to find websites where the focus is to learn Xiangqi, not play the game.
The following is a list of websites and apps that the author highly recommends.
Websites to learn the game
The author has written this website over a decade ago to help share his love of the game with non-Chinese. It is also the website that he wished he had when he started learning the game over three decades ago. Everything is in English on the website, as evidenced by the name ‘xqinenglish,’ where ‘xq’ stands for Xiangqi.
The author moved the website to a new domain address in 2020 and tried to condense the original content while adding new content. There are now at least 1000 pages on the website that discusses practically everything about Xiangqi. Playing the game, endgame techniques, basic kills, opening theory, commentaries of games by the greats, et cetera are but some of the technical aspects covered in the website.
The author has also taken an avid interest in the history and culture of Xiangqi. He has tried his best to introduce the history of Xiangqi and the culture of Xiangqi.
Please go to the website and tell the author what you think of it.
Computer programs for Analysis
Analyses of your games are critical to learning the game. One of the best ways of doing research is to use computer programs. To the author’s knowledge, there is only one free website that offers a free Xiangqi engine. It is called SA Chess, and the URL is http://www.sachess.com/.
You can download a free version of the Xiangqi engine. To analyze games, you can either manually position the chess pieces into the position you want to analyze or simply copy and paste the FEN code. Merely press the analyze button, and the computer will start studying the position. The strength of analysis may not be as strong as other programs, but it is more than enough for most players. The author believes that the analytical power of the computer program is at least the level of a Xiangqi Master or perhaps even stronger.
Where to download the free version of SA Chess.
For interested players, a paid version is available.
Disclaimer: there are no conflicts of interest with the author and SA Chess, nor is this a paid advertisement.
A website where you practice solving a particular position
It is an excellent way to learn the game if you can try practice puzzles or different positions. There is one such website that the author highly recommends that can help in this aspect.
You can choose to train yourself on this website and play a particular position against the AI available.
When you visit the website, the default language interface is Chinese. It is not very user-friendly in terms of the language interface, though.
Diagram 1 Main Page Interface
Just click on the arrow at the left upper corner, and a menu will drop down.
Simply click on any link other than the top link. A new page would open, and in the ribbon at the of the Xiangqi board, there would be options for language interface.
Diagram 2 Click on the top left-hand arrow for the menu
For Xiangqi lovers who do not understand Chinese, please click on the button ‘EN’ for English, and you are good to go. You might have to repeat the process a few times because the language interface seems to jump back to the Chinese interface, which can be quite a chore for non-Chinese speakers.
Diagram 3 Click here for the English Language interface
Then click again on the top left-hand arrow for the menu, and an English menu will appear.
Diagram 4 Available functions on the website
To arrange your own puzzle for practice, the following can be done. Choose endgame editor. Although the name suggests that only endgames can be arranged, it is not so. You can import any position.
Diagram 5 Import Interface. Paste Fen or arrange the pieces manually.
As can be seen, you can copy and paste the FEN of a particular position onto the board.
Then click on the green button to play against the AI.
The suggested websites above are by no means exhaustive. There are still some websites that should be on this list, but the author seldom goes there. The websites mentioned above are ones that the author visits and has used.
There need to be more user-friendly websites for Xiangqi for the game to be promoted to non-Chinese speakers. There are some excellent Vietnamese sites, but the author suspects that Xiangqi enthusiasts from the West might also have trouble accessing them. It has been very challenging to promote the game in English, but it has been worthwhile.
The author would like to take the opportunity to thank Mr. Paul English for his efforts to promote the game. The author can only do so much, and it is nice to see more people willing to help out!