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Xiangqi (pronounced she-on-chee) pieces sit on intersections. There is a "river" in the middle and two square "palaces".

Piece overview:

  • Soldiers AKA pawns move or capture only one space forward at a time (no two space movement or diagonal capture). They may never move backwards. *After crossing the river*, they may also move or capture side to side, but they don't "promote" into other pieces.
  • Chariots AKA rooks move and capture identically to Western Chess rooks: any number of spaces orthogonally.
  • Horses AKA knights move and capture the same way as Western Chess knights, but they can be *blocked by other pieces* (of either color). The horse moves one space orthogonally and then one space diagonally. If another piece is sitting orthogonally adjacent to the horse, it cannot move in that direction.
  • Elephants are defensive pieces that move and capture exactly two spaces diagonally, and are *not allowed to cross the river*. There are only 7 spaces for each side that elephants can actually reach. If there is a piece of either color one space away diagonally, the elephant cannot move in that direction.
  • Advisors start in the palace and *cannot leave the palace*. They may only move and capture one space diagonally, so they can each reach only 5 spaces.
  • The General AKA king can only move and capture one space *orthogonally* (not diagonally), and *cannot leave the palace*. If you checkmate your opponent's general, you win. If a general is directly facing the enemy general with no pieces in between, they can fly across the board and capture the enemy general (in practice, this means that you cannot make a move that would leave the opponent's general facing your general).
  • The Cannon is a rather unique piece that moves like a chariot/rook, but does not capture like one. It can *only* capture pieces in an orthogonal line by jumping over a single piece of either color in between. For example, from the starting position, the cannon can capture the opposing horse. The cannon can jump only one piece, it cannot jump without capturing, and it cannot capture without jumping.

A "stalemate" is a loss for the player with no legal moves. If you think it is impossible for you or your opponent to achieve checkmate, you can click a button at the top of the screen to offer a draw. Some rulesets make repeated checking or chasing a loss for the checking/chasing player: this varies across different websites. There is no "castling" move or "en passant."

Note: in the top right "hamburger menu," you can find options to change the pieces' appearance between "Western" and "Chinese". If using Chinese pieces, be aware that the two sides look a little bit different.