Hex XiangQi is Chinese Chess played upon an elongated hexagonal field, consisting of nine files with the outer ones being seven cells and the center being eleven. The "palace" consists of seven cells, the first three cells of the center file and the first two cells which flank. The "river" is denoted by fourth cell of the first and ninth file, the fifth cell of the third and seventh file and the sixth cell of the center file. The player's side of the field consist of the cells before the "river".
Soldiers step one forward orthogonal before entering the "river". Upon and after entering the "river" step one forward, right forward or left forward orthogonal, or right or left diagonal.
Each side has five soldiers, labelled 卒 (pawn/private) for black and 兵 (soldier) for red. Soldiers cannot move backward, and therefore cannot retreat.
Horses step one vacant orthogonal then one diagonal in the same direction. The horses are labelled 馬 for black and 傌 for red. They begin the game next to the elephants.
Chariots slide orthogonal. Chariots are labelled 車 for black and 俥 for red. Some traditional sets use 車 for both colors. All of these characters are pronounced as juu. The chariot moves and captures vertically and horizontally any distance, and may not jump over intervening pieces. The chariots begin the game on the points at the corners of the board. The chariot is considered to be the strongest piece in the game.
The chariot is sometimes known as the "rook" by English speaking players, since it is like the rook in Western chess. Chinese players (and others) often call this piece a "car", since that is one modern meaning of the character 車.
The cannons are labelled 砲 for black and 炮 pào for red. They are homophones. Sometimes 炮 is used for both red and black. 砲 pào means a "catapult" for hurling boulders. pào means "cannon". The 石 shì radical of 砲 means 'stone', and the 火 huǒ radical of 炮 means 'fire'. However, both are normally referred to as cannons in English.
In Xiangqi, each player has two cannons. Cannons move like the chariots, horizontally and vertically, but capture by jumping exactly one piece (whether it is friendly or enemy) over to its target. When capturing, the cannon is moved to the point of the captured piece. The cannon may not jump over intervening pieces if not capturing another piece, nor may it capture without jumping. The piece which the cannon jumps over is called the 炮臺 (trad.) / 炮台 (simp.) pào tái ("cannon platform"). Any number of unoccupied spaces may exist between the cannon and the cannon platform, or between the cannon platform and the piece to be captured, including no spaces (the pieces being adjacent) in both cases. Cannons are powerful pieces at the beginning of the game when platforms are plentiful, and are used frequently in combination with chariots to achieve checkmate. Although cannons can be exchanged for a horse immediately from their starting positions, this is usually not favorable, in part due to the superiority of cannons over horses at the beginning of the game. The two cannons, when used together, can form a check that cannot be stopped easily. As they line up in the attack against the opposing general, the back cannon checks the general while the front cannon, serving as the platform, prohibits blocking for the opposing side. The opposing side can only move the general, capture the back cannon, or block between the two cannons.
The elephants are labeled 象 xiàng (elephant) for black and 相 xiàng (minister) for red. They are located next to the advisors. These pieces may not jump over intervening pieces.They may not cross the river; thus, they serve as defensive pieces. Because an elephant's movement is thus restricted to just seven board positions, it can be easily trapped or threatened. Typically the two elephants will be used to defend each other.
The Chinese characters for "minister" and "elephant" are homophones and both have alternative meanings as "appearance" or "image". However, both are referred to as elephants in the game.
The advisors (also known as guards or ministers, and less commonly as assistants, mandarins, or warriors) are labelled 士 ("scholar", "gentleman") for black and 仕 ("scholar", "official") for red. Rarely, sets use the character 士 for both colours.
The advisors start to the sides of the general. They move and capture one point diagonally and may not leave the palace. They serve to protect the general.
General step orthogonal and never leave the "palace". Not permitted be on an empty file with the opposing General.
The general starts the game at the midpoint of the back edge (within the palace). The general may move and capture one point either vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally. A general cannot move into a file which is occupied by the enemy general unless there is at least one piece positioned between the generals in the file. The general may not leave the palace. The Indian name "king" for this piece was changed to "general" because China's rulers objected to their royal title "king" or "emperor" being given to a game-piece.
End of gameThe game is won by checkmating the opposing general. A player loses if stalemate or repetition of position. If both players have no pieces which can cross the "river", the game is drawn.