||This article possibly contains original research. (February 2009)|
Janggi starting position
Abstract strategy game
|Setup time||< 1 minute|
|Playing time||From 20 minutes to several hours|
|Skill(s) required||Strategy, tactics|
Janggi (including romanizations changgi and jangki), sometimes called Korean chess, is a strategy board game popular in Korea. The game derived from xiangqi (Chinese chess) and is very similar to it, including the starting position of the pieces, and the 9×10 gameboard, but without the xiangqi "river" dividing the board horizontally at the middle.
Janggi is played on a board nine lines wide by ten lines long. The game is sometimes fast-paced due to the jumping cannons and the long-range elephants, but professional games most often last over 150 moves and so are typically slower than those of Western chess.
Janggi in Korean culture
One will often see older men crowding around a single janggi board while two men play for small amounts of money. These games are played year round, especially in city parks in Seoul. Generally, janggi is considered a gambling game, and seems less popular in Korea than the strategy game Baduk (Go).
The board is composed of 90 intersections of 9 vertical files and 10 horizontal rows. The board is nearly the same layout as that used in xiangqi, except that the janggi board has no "river" in the central row. The pieces consist of disks marked with an identifying character and are placed on the intersections of the lines (as in xiangqi and go). Janggi pieces are traditionally octagonal in shape, and differ in size. The sides are Blue (or Green), which moves first, and Red. Each side also has a palace that is three lines by three lines (i.e. nine positions) in the center of that side against the back edge of the board. The palace also has four diagonal lines that extend outwards from the center, which form an "X" shape.
The pieces are labeled with hanja (Chinese characters). The labels on the blue pieces are all written in the semi-cursive script. For instance, the blue chariot or cha has a cursive version of 車, which looks something like 车 (the Simplified Chinese equivalent of the traditional character).
The pieces that are equivalent to the kings in Western chess are actually referred to as military generals (janggun) in Korean. They are labelled with the Chinese character Han (in Chinese pinyin: Hàn; 漢) on the red side, and Cho (Chǔ; 楚) on the blue side. They represent the rival states of Han and Chu that fought for power in the post-Qin Dynasty interregnum period in China (see Chu-Han contention). In North Korea, the Chu-Han setup is not used; the red general there is called jang (chang; 將, "general,") and the blue general is called gwan (kwan; 官, "minister.")
Janggi differs from its Chinese counterpart in that the janggi general starts the game from the central intersection of the palace, rather than from the center intersection of the back edge. The general may move one space at a time to any of the nine positions within the palace, following the lines marked on the board. There are four diagonal lines in the palace connecting the center position to the corners. When the general is lost, the game is lost. The general cannot leave the palace under any circumstances. If the generals come to face each other across the board, and the player to move does not move away this is bikjang—a draw. This rule is different from that of xiangqi where it is illegal for the generals to face.
If there is no move for the general to make without getting into check or checkmate, but it is safe for it to stand still, the person may pass their turn—i.e. leave the general in position, and make no move.
The pieces are labeled sa (士) are civilian government officials, i.e. the council members serving the commander in chief. One can call them guards, too, since they stay close to the general. They are also called assistants or mandarins.
To both the left and right of the general are the guards. They move the same as the general, one space at a time along the marked lines in the palace. The guards are one of the weakest pieces because they may not leave the palace. They are valuable for protecting the general, though.
The elephants, sang (象), are located to both the left and the right of the guards. These pieces move one point horizontally or vertically, followed by two points diagonally away from their initial position, ending up on the opposite end of a 2×3 rectangle. (Like the horse and its Chinese counterpart, it cannot move in a direction in which there is a piece standing in its way.) Unlike xiangqi, which assigns its elephants a purely defensive role by confining them to one side of the board, behind the "river", janggi does not limit the movement of its elephants to the other side of the board, as there is no river. The Korean elephant is, therefore, much more of an offensive piece than its Chinese counterpart. The elephant can be transposed with the adjacent horse in the setup.
Called the horse or ma (馬), this piece is very similar to the knight in Western chess, except that the intersection at the "angle" of the horse's move must not be occupied, like the horse in xiangqi. The move of the horse is like that of the elephant, ending its move at the opposite corner of a 2×3 rectangle. The horse can be transposed with the adjacent elephant in the setup.
These are labelled cha (車). Like the rook in Western chess, the chariot moves and captures in a straight line either horizontally or vertically. The two chariots begin the game in the corners. The chariot may move along the diagonal lines inside either "palace", but only in a straight line. The chariot is the most powerful piece in the game.
These are labelled po (包). Each player has two cannons. The cannons are placed on the row behind the soldiers, directly in front of the horses (if the horses are put on the file next to the chariots). The cannon moves by jumping another piece horizontally or vertically. The jump can be performed over any distance provided that there is exactly one piece anywhere between the original position and the target. In order to capture a piece, there must be exactly one piece (friendly or otherwise) between the cannon and the piece to be captured. The cannon then moves to that point and captures the piece. They may also move or capture diagonally along the diagonal lines in either "palace", provided there is an intervening piece in the centre (i.e. it can only happen if the cannon is at a corner of the "palace") They are powerful at the beginning of the game when "hurdles" are plentiful, but lose value rapidly with attrition. The other piece over which the cannon jumps may not be another cannon. In addition, a cannon may not make the first move for either player. A cannon may also not capture another cannon. Unlike xiangqi, janggi requires cannons to jump in order to move, as well as capture.
These are labelled byeong (兵) (soldiers, general term for a soldier) for Red and jol (卒) (also means soldiers, usually lowest ranking soldiers) for Blue. Each side has five soldiers, initially placed on alternating points, one row back from the edge of where the river would be in xiangqi. Unlike pawns in Western chess, they move and capture one point either straight forward or sideways. (Unlike xiangqi, where soldiers must be promoted to move sideways.) There is no promotion; once they reach the end of the board they may only move sideways. Soldiers may also move one point diagonally forward when within the enemy "palace".
In tournaments, the elder player, or the higher ranked player, conceals a soldier from each side on his/her hand, and the other player chooses one of those hands. The other player plays using the side he/she has chosen. After the side is chosen, Han first places his/her pieces, and then Cho places the other pieces. The reason that pieces cannot be placed simultaneously is because the horse and the elephant can be transposed with the adjacent elephant, thus giving some strategical advantage to the player who places the pieces last.
After the pieces are placed, Cho plays first.
Ending the game
Victory is obtained by checkmating the opposing general.
In the Western chess stalemate is achieved when no legal moves are possible. However the stalemate is not a draw in janggi. The player must skip the turn when all the moves are impossible. If both players can't move legally, or if any player cannot win because both player does not have enough pieces, the game ends in a draw.
A player may decide to make a move so that his or her general faces the other player's general unobstructed (which is called bikjang). In this situation, the second player can either call a draw, or make a move that breaks the position with two generals facing unobstructed. In many cases, the bikjang rule can be used to force the opposing player to call a draw on a losing game, by forcing the other player to sacrifice a valuable piece for breaking the bikjang position. It may not apply in some games, and more often than not the players will consent upon the validity of the rule before the game begins.
Check is announced by declaring janggun (將軍), meaning "general". Getting out of janggun is called meonggun, and one may declare meonggun while escaping from janggun. But it is not necessary to say janggun out loud.
In Korean janggi tournaments, according to rules set by the Korean Janggi Association (http://www.kja.or.kr/), there is no draw in any form. There is no draw by perpetual check or repetition of position. If a position is being repeated three times, a referee is called to determine who is at fault. Usually the referee orders the player who is losing to make a different move, so the player who is winning can press for an advantage, but sometimes it is not technically clear who is to blame, and different referees may differ as to which player must deviate, or whether repetition is mutually forced. This rule is applied because they must decide a winner and a loser during tournament game. However, both repetition and perpetual check is allowed when both players have less than 30 points worth of pieces, which results in a draw.
On tournaments where draws are not allowed, draws are resolved by adding up the points of their pieces that are still on the board.
Piece Points chariots 13 cannons 7 horses 5 elephants 3 guards 3 soldiers 2
Because the blue team (cho) started, they have an advantage. To compensate for this, the red team get the 1.5 points (called 'deom (덤)' in Korean), the half-point put in place to avoid ties. So when the game starts, Blue has 72 points and Red has 73.5 points. If neither side can force a win, the person with the most points is declared the winner.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Janggi.|
- Presentation, rules, history of janggi by Jean-Louis Cazaux
- Changgi on The Chess Variant Pages
- The Rules for Korean Chess
- Korean Janggi Association (in Korean)
- PDF (217 KiB)
- Introduction to Korean Chess by Chris McDade
- Brain TV, a janggi cable TV channel (in Korean)
- Changgi at BoardGameGeek