Historic battles and parallels in games of Chess -

The strategic legacy of ancient Greece with special focus on XiangQi


I N    T H E   F O O T S T E P S    O F    E P A M E I N O N D A S  


By Dr. René Gralla, Hamburg/Germany 


The whole story has started during the long nights of the cold winter of 204 to 203 B.C. At the chilly banks of the River Mian-Man near Gaixia, the soldiers of Han were waiting for the arrival of spring. Then they wanted to thrust across the ford and attack the men of Chu on the other side where the enemy had fortified the hills. In order to condition his troops, the General Han Xin, legendary commander-in-chief under the Prince of Han, invented the game of XiangQi (1).

- The political situation in China at the time of the birth of XiangQi – the battle at Gaixia where General Han Xin from Han has crushed the forces of Chu 2200 years ago. Since that land-mark decision every match of XiangQi is a replay en miniature of that heroic period of Chinese history -


With stunning success: After the ice had melted, his men - their wits having been sharpened by the daily exercise of XiangQi - routed the army of Chu.

- The historic front-line between Han and Chu (see photo on the left side); that front-line is reflected by the Han-Chu-border, that is to say: “The River”, on every board of XiangQi -

Since those early days many political and military leaders have learned to appreciate the logic of chess. Prominent figures, a gallery starting with the French Emperor Napoleon and to be continued with personalities such as Leo Trotzki or Fidel Castro, have been or still are (in the case of Cuba’ Castro) addicted to that unique game.  It is not just accidental that strategic thinkers are fascinated by the eternal contest to checkmate the king. Chess is the perfect simulation of a real battle - a classification that is true for all the different variants of chess, name them Shatranj - as the Arabs have done so during their Golden Age - or Shogi in Japan; but it is true very much with regard to XiangQi of China, in particular.

- Chess match at the River of Destiny, the Huanghe: board of XiangQi in battle-field style (design by ShaolinChess, Germany; photo taken by: Christoph Harder) -

The showdown at the symbolic river that is separating the territories of Red and Black - a reverence to the historic setting at the banks of the Mian-Man - is forming a mirror image to the run of things in the real world:

The theory of XiangQi is similar to military strategy and tactics.



The Oblique Battle Order has been executed for the first time by Epameinondas (see picture left), famous general of Theben, during the endless wars of ancient Greece in the 4th century B.C., more than hundred years before the presumed invention of XiangQi. At that time the legendary army of the warrior state of Sparta seemed to be invincible. But the bloody day of Leuktra, in 371 B.C., has changed the course of world events, at least in ancient Europe of the Classic Age.















The intrepid Epameinondas, though even having been outnumbered by his formidable opponents - only 7.000 fighters from Theben tried to stop 10.000 Spartan Rambos -, devised a brilliant strategic move: He concentrated his forces on just one wing, the left flank, whilst daringly thinning out his units on the right wing.











So he managed to amass a partial superiority on the left flank - with the effect that there it was where the Theban assault could break through the enemy lines. The front of Sparta collapsed, Epameinondas outflanked his stunned adversaries and crushed their resistance.


Thanks to the military genius of Epameinondas, the battle of Leuktra has to be classified on the same level such as Cannae 216 B.C., Tannenberg in 1914 A.D., during the First World War, or the victory of Israel during the Seven-Days-War in 1967.

Trophy at Leuktra

 - Restoration of the trophy that the Thebans have erected
at Leuktra, after the battle in which they defeated
 the Spartans in 371 B.C. -


So, since Chess is the virtual reflex of real battle formations, so we can easily assume that we will observe that timeless stratagem of the Oblique Battle Order in our miniature theatre of operations on the board as well. And, no surprise: yes, indeed, there are many games that have been - and will be - decided by a deployment of forces that could have been orchestrated by the mastermind from Theben, General Epameinondas himself.



- Ancient Shatranj position - 

We can even state that fact when we are examining one of the most ancient matches of Chess - applying the Arabian version of Shatranj - that have been recorded. It is the memorable encounter between two highly honoured Aliyats, the Grand Masters of the L'age d'or, The Golden Age of the Caliphate at Bagdad back in the 10th century (3).


The following match was played between Abu-Bakr Muhammed Ben Yahya as-Suli and Abu'l- Faraj bin al-Muzaffar bin Sa'-id al-Lajlaj in the 10th century.
                      Firzan (Advisor; abbr.: "A*")     Alfil (Elephant; abbr.: "E*")




White: the revered Aliyat Abu-Bakr Muhammed Ben Yahya as-Suli;

Black: the rising star Abu'l-Faraj bin al-Muzaffar bin Sa'-id al-Lajlaj.

Dynamic Elephants

1.f3 ...

Note: In Shatranj, the Pawns are only marching one square per move. Furthermore they can exclusively be promoted to become a firzan. That piece - being positioned on d1 (White) and d8 (Black) respectively - is a relative of the XiangQi-Advisor because it is allowed only to march one square per move diagonally. Abbreviation therefore: "A*"; the firzan of Shatranj has not been confined to some kind of "palace" but has been allowed to try his luck everywhere on the board.

On the four squares c1 and f1 (White) resp. c8 and f8 (Black) there are waiting the Elephants - abbr.: "E*" - to join the action. That animal is moving diagonally but skipping one square; so that very unit can be compared to the Elephant of XiangQi. But there is one big difference: Whereas the Chinese Chess-Elephant is blocked if one piece has occupied the first square diagonnally in that direction which the Elephant wants to take diagonnally, the alfil of Shatranj is moving diagonally by skipping one square - even if the square that is located between the starting point of the alfil and its aiming point is occupied by another piece. In the latter case we are allowed to admire a very funny trick of these Arabian Elephants: namely that they are bursting with energy - since they can, if they are choosing to do so, even hop into battle!

The Knights of "Shatranj" - abbr.: "N" - are moving the same way as Horses of XiangQi can do; but unlike their counterparts in Chinese Chess the Knights of Shatranj can not be blocked but they are jumping into battle. The Rook of "Shatranj" - abbr.: "R" - is moving like the Chariot of XiangQi; "Kings" ("K") and "Pawns" ("P") are moving the same way as the corresponding pieces of Western Chess do so.  

 1....   f6    2.f4 f5

The first indication that both players have decided to attack on one wing - with the only difference to General Epameinondas: that they have chosen the right wing instead of the left wing.

3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 g6 5.Rg1 Rg8 6.h3 h6 7.e3 e6 8.g4 ...

White is revealing his plan: the Oblique Battle Order on the right wing.


Two Veiled and Turbaned Muslim Women

Two Turbaned Muslim Men



8. ... fxg4 9.hxg4 g5

Tit for tat by the young Aliyat al-Lajlaj. Bad luck for him: by trying just to counter symmetrically he will be digging his own grave.

10.fxg5 hxg5 11.d3 ...

Grand Master as-Suli does not neglect the center.

11. ... d6

Black is trying to follow suit.

12.e4 e5 13.E*e3 ...

Taking aim at the Pawn g5.

13. ... E*e6 14.Nxg5 Ke7

Since Castling is unknown in Shatranj, so Black is not hesitating to let his King himself defend the endangered Alfil.

15.c3 Nxg4 16.Ke2 c6 17.d4 d5 18.b3 b6 19.Nd2 Nd7 20.A*c2 A*c7 21.A*d3 A*d6 22.Ndf3 Ndf6


23.E*h3 ... 

Focus at the right wing again.

23.... E*h6 24.E*f5 E*f4 25.Rac1 a6 26.c4 ...

Masterly game on both wings - and unpleasant surprise for Black: sudden breakthrough at White’s left (!!) flank – in the footsteps of Theban General Epameinondas - against the right wing of Black.

26. ... Rac8

Too late.

27.c5 ...

The infantry is winning the day.

27.... bxc5 28.E*xc5+ ...

The unbelievable dynamic power of an Elephant.

28. ... Ke8

The King must pass up the black Alfil on e6.

29. dxe5 Nxe5 30.Nxe6 ...


30. ... Rxg131.Rxg1 Nxf3 32.Kxf3 ...

And Black is lost now: White has not only one Elephant plus, but he is threatening 33.Kxf4 ... and 33.Rg8+ ...  with a devastating attack. So:

32…. End of recording of the match 1:0

So decision finally by a kind of modified version of the Oblique Battle Order: first thrust on right wing, then swing to left wing, but the climax via centre up to right wing.

A very quick and effective breakthrough - but that time mainly via Black’s left flank, a 1:1-copy of the master-plan of General Epameinondas - has been executed more than a thousand years later on part of Black. On the occasion of a Midnight Blitz-Contest on January 13th, 2003 in Hamburg, Germany.


White: the former champion of the German Isle of Sylt, the most honourable lawyer Ulrich W. Schmidt from Hamburg/Germany;

Black: the author Dr. Rene Gralla, Hamburg/Germany (4).

Dr. Rene Gralla (photo: ChessBase)

The King's Gambit - Armoured Cavalry on the Assault

1.e4 e5

And now "The King's Gambit":

King's Gambit CD




 2.f4 ...

An age-old opening in Western Chess: the offer to sacrifice a Pawn in the f-lane.

2. ...Bc5

The King's Gambit - not accepted.

3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.d3? ...


A mistake: Better are 5.Bc4 ... or 5.Bb5 ...

5. ... Bg4 6.h3? Bxf3(!) 7.Qxf3 Nd4

Already the all-winning wheel: by an attack on the centre (!) onward to Black’s left flank.

8.Qd1 Qh4+

Here we go: the Oblique Battle Order!

9.Kd2 Qxf4+ 10.Ke1 Qg3+

11.Kd2 Qf2+

Black's armoured crack troops are shattering the right wing of White.

12.Be2? ...

White could keep on fighting - in a hopeless position, though - quite a little bit longer with 12.Ne2... .

12. ... Nf3+!

The Killer Move.

13.gxf3 Be3#


Most similar to real life-manoeuvres is the Chess-variant of XiangQi, though (5). That's why we can enjoy the strategy of the Oblique Battle Order in many matches of Chinese Chess: being executed just like a didactic play.


In fact, a lot of games will be decided by an energetic attack on the left flank after the player-commander has manoeuvred all of his fighters against the right wing of his opponent. A typical scheme of assault is the advance P7 + 1 + 1 ... pp. that is turning out to be decisive in many games - and which has to be categorized as the XiangQi equivalent of the Oblique Battle Order.

A handbook-case of the foregoing stratagem has been discussed and decided in the China National "A" League during an encounter on April 9th, 2005, between

- Red: Mr. Zhao GuoRong

- Zhao GuoRong (45), XiangQi-World Champion in 1991-


- Black: Mr. Shang Wei.

Mr. Felix Tan, Chairman of the WXF-Study Commission, has pointed out to that match; the author is expressing his sincerest thanks for that very helpful hint.

Echoes of Epameinondas

1.C2=5 ...

- Design by ShaolinChess, Germany (photo: taken by Christoph Harder) -


There are poems teaching the novice the basic principles of starting a match. The basic one is titled "Cannon at the middle":

"First step you move the cannon into the middle of the palace.

Chariots set beside the river and attack with horse.

Pawns go forward by the strength under the cover of a horse behind."

So, from the past to the present, the majority of players is choosing the Central-Cannon opening: attacking the Black Pawn 5vii immediately by the first move. An early assault that can be compared to Western Chess-"2.Nf3 ..." after "1.Pe4 Pe5" (see the Western Chess-diagram below).

- The early Western Chess-assault - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 ... - is the corresponding case to 1.C2=5 ... in XiangQi. -  



1.... H8+7 2.H2+3 R9=8 3.R1=2 P7+1

The beginning of an attack on the left flank.

4.R2+6 H2+3 5.P7+1 C8=9 6.R2=3 C9-1 7.P5+1 ...

Daring play: an early central thrust.

7.... A4+5

Black is enforcing the bulwark of his HQ first.

8.P5+1! C9=7 9.R3=4 P7+1

The melody of the whole match: The Black forces are fighting for a breakthrough via the left wing of the Northern front-line.

10.H3+5 P7+1xP 11.H5+6 R8+8!!

Giving up Black's doomed Squadron H3iii on the Northern right wing ...

 - (Sung-soldiers crafted by "Curteys Miniatures", UK; photo taken from the great website http://www.curteysminiatures.co.uk ) -

... for a swift swing via the left flank onward South. That is Epameinondas at its best.

12.H8+7 ...

That avoids 12.... R8=2 plus cornering of Red's left Horse 8i.

12.... E3+5!!

Red is invited to eat Black Horse on the right wing of the Northern position.

13.H6+7xH ...

The Southern Cavalry is rushing in to annihilate the right-wing Northern Squadron.

- (Sung-soldiers crafted by "Curteys Miniatures", UK; photo taken from the website http://www.curteysminiatures.co.uk) -


13…. R1=3 14.H7-5xP P3+1

Though Black is outnumbered on his right wing the Northern army attacks there too.

15.P7+1xP H7+5xH 16.P5+1xH C7+8xE check

A heavy blow for Red: the loss of the important defense unit E3i, that is to say: 50 per cent of the Southern Elephant corps.

17.A4+5 R3+4xP 18.C8-1 R8+1

The typical constellation of attacking Cannon & supporting Chariot on the opponent's base line.

19.R9+2 E5-3 20.C8=7 R3=8! 21.C7+8xE ...

Looks promising, but ...

21.... C2+7!

Pincer attack by the Northern artillery on both wings starting the bombardement of the Southern HQ from West and East simultaneously.

- (Sung-soldiers crafted by "Curteys Miniatures", UK; photo taken from the website http://www.curteysminiatures.co.uk) -

22.R4-5 RR= 5 23.H7-8xC ...

Assuming apparently that he gets that Cannon for free ...

23.... C7=4xA undiscovered check!

Shattering the Guard of the Southern General- and at the same time demonstrating that Black's right wing Cannon has indeed been protected indirectly ... by Black's Cannon the left.

24.A5-4 C4=2xH check 25.K5+1 R5=3!

And Black's next move could be: 26.... R3+4# or 26.... R3-4xC.

26.R9-1 R3-4xC 27.P5=6 check E7+5 28.R9=8 C2=6xA 29.P6=5 C6=5!

Black's creativity is amazing.

30.C5+5xE check ...

The only way: 30.C5-2xC? ... will be punished by 30.... R3+9xE!; now Red will lose his Cannon and - worse - : the Southern General gets check-mated very fast or has to give up at least one Chariot.

30.... A5-4

Highly volatile situation on both sides of the River Huanghe.

31.E7+5 P7+1

Black's great advantage: that River-crossed Pawn. A unit that is that near to the enemy palace is well-known and aptly described by the Chinese saying "One Ghost Knocking At Your Door".

- The Southern General starting to get the jitters - because of that horrible Northern Ghost "knocking at his door" (Sung-troupiers crafted by "Curteys Miniatures", UK; photo taken from the website http://www.curteysminiatures.co.uk)-

 32.C5=3 C5=7 33.C3-7xC R8=7xC 34.R4+8xA check! ...

A transaction by which South will reap in one Northern Advisor - but that is not enough to recover.

34.... K5=6xR 35.E5-3xR R3+3!

Fimishing off with the last trump-card of Red: the Vanguard Pawn P5vii. That company of footsoldiers is lost - since after 36.P5+1 ... there will follow: 36.... R3=5 check & 37.... R5-1xP.

36.R8+1 R3=5xP check 37.R8=5 R5=7 38.R5+7 check ...

The former World Champion Zhao GuoRong is giving a hard time to Black.

38.... K6+1 39.R5-7 P1+1 40.P1+1 R7+2 41.K5-1 R7=9xP!

Inviting Red to knock out Black's P7viii - but that will not be sufficient to equalize.

42.R5=3xP ...

Mr. Zhao GuoRong may have sighed with relief after the final exorcism of that "Ghost relentlessly knocking at Red's door"  ...

42.... R9=5 check 43.K5=6 K6=5 44.R3=6 P9+1!

That Northern infantry unit though still being that far away will enforce the capitulation of the Southern command in the end. 

45.R6+6 check K5-1 46.R6+1 check K5+1 47.R6-1 check ...

Those checks of revenge are no more than "much ado about nothing".

47.... K5-1 48.R6+1 check K5+1 49.R6-6 ...

That's it: As a result of the iron rule of Chinese Chess that perpetual checks do not enforce the Remis - as it would have been the case during a match of Western Chess - , Red has to stop his show of force now, and he has to try out something else.

49.... P9+1

Turning the tide: The Southern command has run out of moves. Of course Red Chariot can start to check once more by 50.R6+5 check ... pp. - since the position has changed due to 49.... P9+1 - , but that leads to nowhere; in the end Red has again to give up checking.

50.K6+1 R5+3 check 51.K6-1 R5+1 check 52.K6+1 R5=7xE!

Now the situation of the scattered Southern units has become hopeless. True: Red can try to resort to one more series of checks: 53.R6=5 check K5=6 54.R5=4 check K6=5 55.R4=5 check K5=6 56.R5=4 check K6=5 57.R4=5 check K5=6 58.R5=4 check K6=5.

Red has to stop checking - by, say, 59.R4-2 ..., in order to shield off a lethal lateral check on Red King. At this very moment the temporary retreat of Black Chariot will be decisive: 59.... R7-7! Menacing check-mate by 60.... R7=4#, therefore: 60.R4=5 check R7=5! Now Red has to give in trading off the Chariots by 61.R5+6xR check K5+1xR - otherwise Red King will be check-mated by 61.... R5=4# - .

- Hello Han, here we come: Northern infantry on its final march to glory (Sung-soldiers crafted by "Curteys Miniatures", UK; photo taken from the website http://www.curteysminiatures.co.uk)-

But that transaction will leave the Southern General helpless against the Long Northern March to victory by 62.... P9=8=7=6+1+1 ... pp.


53. Resigns 0:1

An impressing show-case piece by Black who has masterly executed the ages-old stratagem of Oblique Battle Order.

But players of Chess, be it the original from China or its Western off-spring, have to be aware of one thing: The Oblique Battle Order is risky, so it does not work every time one tries to apply it: be it on the board – or in reality as we can learn from history.

Archetypical is the example of Friedrich 2nd, the King of Prussia in the 18th century A.D.; the state of Prussia should much later become, in the 19th century, the nucleus of the (first) German re-unification in 1871.

But before that, from 1756 to 1763, Prussia had to survive an overwhelming coalition of enemies, during the War Of Seven Years. Since the great plus of the Oblique Battle Order is the possibility to surprise - and overrun - a superior adversary, Friedrich 2nd has applied that stratagem two times. At the battle of Leuthen in 1757, he scored a triumph that made a military superstar out of the King of Prussia: with a few battalions of veterans - their enemies, the Austrians, had mobilized an army three times stronger -, Friedrich 2nd out-manoeuvred his adversaries by  putting into deadly effect the Oblique Battle Order. In the end 10.000 Austrians had died, whereas Friedrich 2nd had only lost 1200 of his men.

That's why he tried to repeat that success two years later, against the combined forces of the Austrians and the Russians. But this time the strategy failed tragically: The bloodbath at Kunersdorf in 1759 used to be the worst defeat of Friedrich 2nd, nearly wiping out his whole army.

As in real military history, as on the board of XiangQi: The typical feature of the Oblique Battle Order  is the situation that the assailant is already out-numbered, but gallantly tries to compensate that grim fact by concentrating his remaining forces and reserves on just one wing. That audacious plan can succeed brilliantly - see Leuktra 371 B.C. and Leuthen 1757 A.D. -, or the strategy can be wrecked hopelessly: see Kunersdorf 1759 A.D. 

An instructive parallel to the case of Kunersdorf 1759  has happened on the board of XiangQi few years ago, during a friendly tournament at the location of the practice of doctor Quang Nguyen-Chi, Berliner Platz 13, 22045 Hamburg, on February 28th, 2003.


- Quang Nguyen-Chi, Doctor and mentor of XiangQi in Northern Germany (photo taken by Dr. Rene Gralla) -


What a difference one move makes ...!


Commander of the Black army  is Mr. Phan Thang from Quang Nam (Vietnam)/Hamburg;

Red troops are led by Dr. Rene Gralla/Hamburg, Germany.

- Tough defence against a Black assault based on the scheme of the Oblique Battle Order: the author Dr. Rene Gralla, Hamburg/Germany (photo: taken by Quang Nguyen-Chi ) -


Already by move no.1 - after 1.E3+5 ...  - Black has revealed his intentions to storm the right wing of Red:

1. ... P7+1.

And so the fierce fight has started. Black has sent his units into relentless waves of attack against the right wing of Red. That is an Oblique Battle Order in the purest sense: Black has even sacrificed a Chariot against one Elephant (!) - just to reach the position as follows.

The turning point of the XiangQi-battle is demonstrated from the point of view of the attacking Black who tries to push through his Oblique Battle Order scheme - during that match >> Dr. R. Gralla (Red) vs. Phan Tang (Black) <<, Hamburg/Germany 2003.  Chess enthusiast Mr. Christian Borrmann, Executive Producer of the media company FILM-ALLIANCE, Hamburg/Germany, is pondering that highly volatile position; the battle formation has been re-created with pieces in figurine design, a proto-type that has been produced by SHAOLIN CHESS, Germany (check out more informations at www.shaolinchess.de/ProfLiNacht.html; photo: taken by Dr. Rene Gralla).


As a result of grim fighting the right wing of the Red Army is nearly destroyed. Only one Chariot on Red point 3iv/Black point 7vii – together with two Advisors who have dug in on Red point 4i/Black point 6x and Red point 5ii/Black point 5ix – is trying to ward off the Black assault. The Southern command has one extra Chariot, that should be decisive, in the long run – but at this dramatic moment that our readers can watch down below that extra Chariot on Red point 9i/Black point 1x is a kind of straggler far away from real action. So the Northern command seems to have a temporary superiority on the left wing: with shock-troops of a Chariot on Black point 8ii/Red point 2ix, a Cannon on Black point 9iii/Red point 1viii plus a Horse on Black point 9ix/Red point 1ii – the latter being menacingly close to the Southern Fortress .


- Design by ShaolinChess, Germany (photo: taken by Christoph Harder) -


On the other hand the Red Army has one big plus: the central artillery position on Red point 5vii/Black point 5iv. Because of that frightening Red Cannon the whole defence of the Black palace is immobilized – and that could be the key of the Southern strategy.





























Red cavalry is spotting a small, but deadly gap in the defense of Black on the right wing of the Northern front: Coup de main across the Yellow River, the infantry outpost on Black point 3iv/Red point 7vii will be eliminated; and after that hussar-strike there is great danger for the HQ of Commander-in-chief Phan Thang.



Not the best move, though.

As Mr. Felix Tan from Singapore, Chairman of the Study Commission of World XiangQi-Federation, has pointed out the most accurate way of  ensuring victory for Red would have been: 1.H6+4! … with the possible line of continuation: 1…. R8+3 2.H4+3 R8-3 (if 2…. R8=4, then 3.E7+5 … plus enforcing “… a trading of the Chariots by 4.R9=6 … The rest is easy”, says Mr. Felix Tan) 3.R9+2 … (mobilizing the Chariot that has been parked in the barracks on Red point 9i/Black point 1x before) 3…. C9=8 4.E7+5 R8=6 5.R9=6 R6+2 6.C5=9xP R6+5 7.K5=6! E3+1 8.C9=1xP E5-7 9.C1=5 check A5+4! (9…. E7+5?? 10.R6+7#) 10.R6=8 R6-6 11.H3-4!! … (a brilliant sacrifice that is crowning the analyse by Mr. Felix Tan because now there is no defence anymore against the devastating 12.R3+5! …; the try 11…. R6-1 will be answered by 12.H4+5 check A6+5! <12…. A4-5 13.H5+5 double check plus #> 13.R8+7 check E1-3 R8=7xE#) 11…. R6+2xH 12.R3+5!! … and Black is helpless against 13.R3+7 check E3-1 14.R8=7xE# (if 12…. E3-1, then: 13.R8+7 K5=4! <hoping for a temporary blindness on the part of Red and the temporary relief 14…. E7+5> 14.R8=7xE!#).



-          Mr. Felix Tan, Chairman of the WXF-Study Commission, and the author Dr. Rene Gralla (right) at the World XiangQi Championship 2005 at Paris/France in August 2005 (photo: taken by Christoph Harder) -


Herewith the author is expressing his sincerest thanks to Mr. Felix Tan for that amazing in-depths analyse.

1…. C9=8?


- The outlook of that westernized diagram (left) has been inspired by a concept that David Wurman has published in his book “Chinesisches Schach – Koreanisches Schach”, Edition Harri Deutsch (today only available at antiquaries) -


Black is confident enough that nobody can prevent his mobile task force of Chariot & Cannon & Horse – but he should better have tried to de-root that all too dangerous Red Cannon on Black point 5iv/Red point 5vii by an immediate 1…. R8+2!; the latter one is a proposal by XiangQi-expert Mr. Do T. Ha from Mannheim/Germany.







- Mr. Do T. Ha from Mannheim/Germany; during the German Federal League of XiangQi in Hamburg, May 2003 (photo: Dr. Rene Gralla) -


After 1…. R8+2!, Mr. Felix Tan has explored the way as follows to enforce the Southern victory by a most daring way:

2.H7-6 C9=8 3.E7+5 R8=6

A. And now Mr. Felix Tan suggests: 4.R9+2! …

With the possible continuation: 4…. R6+5 5.K5=6 C8+7 check 6.K6+1 C8-1 7.R9=6! R6-5 discovered check 8.A5+4! C8-5 9.R3=4! R6=7 10.C5=2xC R7=8xC 11.H6+4 R8-2 12.R6+6 E5+7 13.H4+6 and winning.

B. At the junction of 3.E7+5 R8=6,  Mr. Do T. Ha from Mannheim and the author – by playing the variation of >> 1. H6+7xP!? R8+2! << as a test-match via e-mail - have found out a possible second way of winning:

4.E5-3 R6+2 5.R9=6 C8+2 6.H6+7 ... (the left cavalry squadron returns to the position no. 7vii/Red-3iv/Black for a second try of incursion) 6.... C8-3 (preventing a deadly check by Red Horse on that notorious Northern right-wing

à "Wou Cao Xiang" ß

 - meaning something like: "... that very place where the horse is abruptly stopping in full swing to get some food ..." - on Black Point 3ii/Red Point 7ix) 7.R3+2 R6-2 8.R6+6! ... (Red is planning to give up some material with the purpose to liquidate the rest of Black's capacity to attack) 8.... C8+2! 9.C5=2xC ... (now that Black Cannon is gone the situation of the Northern General has become hopeless) 9.... R6=4xR 10.C2+3 check E5-7 11.R3+4xE! ... (it has been a good investment to give up the extra Chariot in order to get a Cannon plus an Elephant in return - plus that highly satisfying position where Red is now menacing a horrible undiscovered check by Southern Chariot and Southern Cannon <on Red point 2x/Black point 8i> in friendly collaboration) 11.... R4=8! (of course 11… R4=3xH?? is forbidden because of 12.R3-3# by undiscovered check of Red Cannon on Black’s base-line)   12.C2=1 H9-8 13.P5+1! ...

A funny situation: The central Pawn will march through lane no. 5 until the gates of the Black Palace by 14.P5+1+1 pp. ... - and then this brave infantry unit will storm the walls of the Northern fortress. And there is nothing that Black can do about it - since Black Horse is stuck at the left wing of Black, and Black Chariot can not leave that sector of the front either since that mechanized unit must permanently keep Red Cannon on Red point 1x/Black point 1i under control in order to prevent an undiscovered check by Red Chariot and Red Cannon.


The intro of the execution …

2…. C8+7 check

Black is convinced that he is back in the game with a thunder: by winning material plus threatening check-mate …


Now that Chariot is gone … and even worse …

3…. H9+7xR



Black has wrecked the Red Chariot on the right wing; at this turning point of the battle Mr. Phan Thang conquered a material plus of one Elephant - against the plus of one Pawn on the Red side - . Moreover there is no defence anymore against the looming mate by 4…. H7-6# (by doubled check by undiscovered check by Black Cannon and direct check by Black Horse daringly clinging to Red’s Pal-Corner).

Mr. Phan Tang's strategic concept of Oblique Battle order seems to have been successful on the left flank of the Northern army ...

but Red has calculated one more move in advance: Red will move first … and that will decide the game.

4.H8-6 check …

Quite typical move order: Because of Red Cannon on the central position the otherwise effective Advisor on Black point 5ii/Red point 5ix cannot touch the Red Horse that is checking Black King.

4…. K5=4 5.C5=6# 1:0



So in the end, it is just one extra-tempo that has decided the game in favor of Red.

That's life: "If you are too late in life, you will be punished by life!" - as Mr. Gorbatshev has put it very clearly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Empire.

That teaching has to be taken to heart in particular when you are trying out the Oblique Battle Order on the board of XiangQi. Then there will only be one outcome: victory or defeat.

But in any case: You will finish your game with grandeur. True to the spirit of the great masters of XiangQi - and thanks to one man from Theben who has even not known our wonderful game of XiangQi.

The general Epameinondas.



(1) See David H. Li, "Xiangqi Syllabus On Cannon", Bethesda (Maryland) 1998, p. 7, and footnote no. (2): D.H.Li, "Xiangqi Syllabus On Elephant", Bethesda (Maryland) 2000, p. 87, and footnotes (1),(2). 

(2) That point is made, as far as XiangQi is concerned, by the author Zhu Baowei, in: "Basic Xiangqi Checkmate Methods"; a publication of the World XiangQi Federation and the Chinese XiangQi Association, p. 1 (Preface).

(3) See http://www.chess-poster.com/english/notes_and_facts/oldest_chess_game.htm

(4) See ROCHADE EUROPA, No. 3, March 2003, p. 90.

(5) See Zhu Baowei, "Checkmate Methods", p. 1.


- Dr. Rene Gralla, Hamburg/Germany -