Basic Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) Midgame Tactics 04 Maneuvering Material

Author: Jim Png from

Note: This article first appeared on

This article is the fourth article in a series of articles introducing the basic tactics used in Xiangqi (Chinese Chess). In this article, the author will focus solely on introducing the tactics used when maneuvering material.

The article will be divided into the following sections:

Some Background Theory

Maneuvering material is NOT taking a piece from one intersection and then placing it at another intersection. Instead, it refers to the deployment of the forces for the purpose of attack or defense.

When a material is maneuvered for an attack, it will usually mean moving the pieces in a coordinated manner for an attack to materialize. Usually, this is done by concentrating material on the center of the board or on the flanks where the enemy is weak.

The opposite is true when a material is maneuvered for defense. It usually involves strengthening a weak sector or region on the board so that the defense is strong enough to deal with the enemy's attack.

Master Huang Shaolong summarized it best when he said that maneuvering material was the act of moving the pieces to a strategic location to command the important lines. If this were successful, the enemy would be threatened, resulting in an advantageous situation.  (1 页 143)

What are the goals that can be achieved with the correct maneuvering of the material? The late arbiter Zhu Baowei listed the following three goals: (2 頁 134)

  • Maneuvering for the initiative,
  • Maneuvering to gain a winning situation, and
  • Maneuvering for the kill.

Sometimes, the boundaries between the goals as mentioned above may not be clear-cut.

In his book, Grandmaster Liu Dianzhong mentioned that the most crucial aspect to consider when maneuvering material is THE DIRECTION OF WHERE THE PIECES SHOULD GO. The strategy of the game decides the direction. If the situation is read correctly and the appropriate strategy is chosen, maneuvering the pieces will lead to fruitful gains. Indeed, the Grandmaster said that the ability to maneuver material could gauge a player's strength. (3 頁 71)

Three examples are given below to explain the concepts that are presented here.

Example 01

The first thing to do is to read the situation correctly. The following example is from Grandmaster Liu Dianzhong's book. (3)

Maneuvering for the initiative 运子取势

Diagram 1 Example of reading the situation correctly before maneuvering material

It is Red's turn to move.

A quick analysis of the situation will show that Red has 2 Chariots, 1 Cannon, 4 Pawns, and a Single Elephant Guard (2a1e).

Black has 2 Chariots, 1 Cannon, 4 Pawns, and a Full Guard.

Red has a Central Cannon threatening the Black King, which is protected by a Pawn. The Red Chariots are open and control vital lines.

Black's Chariots, on the other hand, are relatively closed. The Black Horse will be an issue as it will take Black some effort to develop it from its current position. 

There is no immediate kill for both colors, as can be seen. Although the Central Cannon is threatening the Black King, an Iron Bolt Checkmate is out of the question at the moment. Black's defense can handle any such possibility.

However, one glaring weakness in Black's position is his right flank which is virtually void of defensive material. The Red Chariots are already in place and prepared to attack.

Therefore, at this point, the best option for Red is to maneuver his Cannon C5=8, where he will go for a flank attack. This move was indeed the recommended move by the Grandmaster for this situation.

The move recommended by the Xiangqi computer program on the Webmaster's computer is also the same. Indeed, after playing C5=8, it was suggested that Black sacrifice his Chariot to capture the Red Cannon!

This example demonstrates the importance of reading the situation correctly, identifying the weaknesses in the enemy's formation, and maneuvering the pieces correctly to attack. 


Example 02

The following example from Zhu Baowei's book will demonstrate a similar concept. The Webmaster has added his analysis to the limited comments given by the late arbiter.



Example 03

The position given here was from Master Huang Shaolong's book.

It is another brilliant example of maneuvering material to cement a considerable advantage.

It is Red's turn to move.


From the above three examples, we can understand what was meant by Grandmaster Liu Dianzhong saying that the direction of the attack is the most critical aspect. If there was an incorrect interpretation of the situation, Red might have chosen to continue his attack from the central file in the first example. In the second example, Red might have decided to move his Cannon to safety in the second example instead of sacrificing it. In the third example, maneuvering the two Cannons correctly opened up many tactical options for Red to continue.

These two examples are also excellent material on understanding the concepts of maneuvering material to gain an initiative (first example) or a winning position (second example) and both (in the third example).

Maneuvering Material for the Pin for Defense

The pin is another powerful tactic that has been partly discussed in the earlier article on capturing material.

In essence, the pin can be considered another artful way of maneuvering material whereby enemy pieces will be limited in their scope and effects on the board.

A few examples of using the pin to capture material have been given in an earlier article on capturing material in the same series. In this article, maneuvering material to pin the enemy for defensive purposes is discussed.

The following example is from Grandmaster Liu Dianzhong's book. (3 页 74)



In this last example, Black could not have saved himself if he did not understand the situation and make the correct maneuvers.

Some reflections

The author used to think that maneuvering material was simply taking a piece and moving it to another place on the board when he was in school a few decades ago. Only when he played more and more than he learned that there was a distinction based on accurate analysis.

Later, when he started reading books did he have a better understanding. Hence, it is ok for not being to understand the initial concepts at first. Play more, analyze more and have fun.

Works Cited

1. 黄少龙. 象棋入门初步. 成都 : 成都时代出版社, 2009. 9787807055228.

2. 朱, 宝位. 棋牌入门丛书 象棋入门. 合肥 : s.n., 1994. 978-7-5337-0734-7.

3. 刘, 殿中. 象棋新编教程 象棋初学门径. 北京 : 北京体育大学出版社, 2000. 7-81051-484-9.

4. 王, 贵龙. 象棋名词术语手册. 呼和浩特 : 远方出版社, 2000. 7-80595-652-9.

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