An Illustrated History of Chess

  1 Origins
  2 Early Chess

  3 Thailand, Burma
  4 China

  5 From China?
  6 Korea
  7 Japan
  8 Evolution
  9 Europe
  10 Variants

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An Illustrated History of Chess

Ooops did I say something a little different? This diagram looks terribly similar to the Chinese chess we were just discussing.

But look more closely!
There is no river in the middle of the board;
the pieces are octagonal, not round;
the characters on the red side are similar to the Chinese pieces, but totally different on the green side;
the board is stretched a little left to right;
some pieces are larger than others; and
the commander (king) starts out on the second row.

the initial array of pieces in janggi (Korean chess)
the initial array of janggi
 a janggi (Korean chess) set, all ready to play
What we have here is Korean chess — janggi. It has also been written changgi, jangki, and even (as per Murray) tjyang keui... because it's taken so long to agree on how to transcribe Korean into English!
If you compare the rules of xiangqi (Chinese chess) with janggi (Korean chess), you'll find some rather peculiar differences.

In fact, the moves of the commander, advisors, elephants/ministers, cannons and pawns are all significantly different from the corresponding pieces in the Chinese game.
 the chessmen of xiangqi (Chinese chess)
the Chinese (xiangqi) pieces, compared to...

the chessmen of janggi (Korean chess)
...the Korean (janggi) pieces.
Note the similarities and differences.
 the strange and unusual move of the elephant in janggi (Korean chess)
the elephant's move in janggi

It's not nice to pick on elephants, but here, once again, one of the most peculiar aspects of the game is raising it's tusk- bearing head to be scrutinized. It's true: this is perhaps the most peculiar move to be found in any long-standing chess tradition.

The fact is the Korean elephant moves one space (or one point) front, back or sideways, plus two spaces diagonally.
Just as the Chinese elephant is a logical extension of the advisor's move, the Korean elephant is an extended horse's move.

Here is another rather special thing about Korean chess. Remember that "X" in the middle of the board which indicates the general's fortress, both in Chinese and Korean chess? Well, in the Korean game, the lines which form the "X" affect the moves of the pieces.

According to the Korean sensibility, pieces which move along the horizontal and vertical lines of the board (i.e., the rooks, pawns, canons advisors and generals) should also be allowed to move along any line which is printed on the board — including the diagonal lines within the fortress. You can imagine how this wild expasion of moves heightens the drama of attack when enemy pieces enter the general's private chamber!
 the special power of pieces in the fortress, in janggi (Korean chess)
The rook moves not only horizontally and vertically — as it does in other forms of chess — but also along the diagonal lines within the fortress.

If you are intrigued by the peculiarities you see here, I recommend that you take a look at the rules of janggi. Some of the conventions of this game are actually older than the modern Chinese game, such as the starting position of the general (king), and the 9 x 10 point board, without the Chinese river. Other rules, like the ones shown above, are newer — rather quirky — innovations.

You may find that, as we take our survey toward the East, the forms of chess we find are ever more foreign and strange to our western eyes. But we have just one more eastward step to the most complex chess form of them all! Let us complete our journey at the Land of the Rising Sun with shogi, the chess of Japan!...

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