The Elephant Game

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Did you know that Earth’s most widely-played boardgame (Xiangqi) is also one of Earth’s oldest boardgames? Xiangqi (pronounced “Shang Chi”) is also known as Chinese Chess (or “The Elephant Game,” as it translates to in English.)  Chess scholars can trace the roots of Xiangqi all the way back to the 2nd century B.C.E..  In addition to being a “must play” for abstract strategy gaming fans of all ages, Xiangqi has also been credited with greatly enhancing the skills of those who prefer the western hemisphere’s version of chess instead.

Having been a player of Xiangqi for twenty-five years, it never fails to entertain, stimulate, and teach me. With plenty of similarities to western chess, players new to the Xiangqi experience will see that they already possess an adequate foundation upon which to develop an understanding of the game’s rules. Chariots move like rooks do. Elephants move like bishops do, sort of. Horses move like knights do, sort of. Soldiers move like pawns do, sort of. Cannons, however, move like no known piece in western chess does.

The board is divided into two halves by a river; a natural obstacle which may never be crossed by generals, advisors, or elephants. Pieces move along the intersections, instead of inside the squares. Generals and advisors cannot exit the palace (unless the players both agree to a “flying general” rule, in which a player’s general can fly across the board, enter the opponent’s palace, and capture the opposing general: a rule that often gets handwaved, at least in the hundreds of Xiangqi sessions that I’ve participated in.)

To learn more about the ancient (and increasingly-popular) game of Xiangqi, click HERE

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