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Imperial Dragon Chess


          Imperial Dragon Chess is a variant of Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) that was designed by Paul Fredrix in 1973. Pritchard describes it as an attempt to boost Xiangqi for western players. It is a relatively modest variant, with some of the weaker pieces given less restrictive moves and piece promotion added.

General Rules

          The rules of Imperial Dragon Chess are identical to those of Xiangqi, except when noted otherwise. The object of the game is the checkmate or stalemate of the opposing General. The two sides are called red and black. The red player moves first. The standard Xiangqi board and setup are used.

The Movement of Pieces

          The General, Chariot, Cannon, Mandarin and the Soldier move as they do in Xiangqi, although the Soldier now promotes to Dragon-Elephant upon reaching the back rank of the board.

          The standard Xiangqi Elephant moves exactly two squares diagonally without jumping. The Imperial Dragon Chess Elephant adds the ability to move one square diagonally, essentially becoming a two square distance Bishop. On an Orthochess board its movement looks like:


While Pritchard's description did not say so, it is possible that Fredrix meant for the Elephant to be a leaper when moving two squares as well, moving like a combined Ferz and Alfil -- it would be consistent with the movement of the Dragon-Elephant (see below).

          One additional power that Elephants gain in Imperial Dragon Chess is, if a player has no more Soldiers, their Elephants may move across the river, and upon doing so they promote to Dragon-Elephants.

          The Xiangqi Horse moves like the Orthochess Knight, except it may not jump over a piece orthogonal to it. Imperial Dragon Chess replaces it with a Horse that moves like the Orthochess Knight, leaping over any piece in the way.

          The Dragon-Elephant is the result of promoting a Soldier by reaching the opponent's back rank, or the result of promoting an Elephant by moving it to the opponent's half of the board when you have no more Soldiers left. The Dragon-Elephant is a powerful piece that may move one square in any direction or leap two squares diagonally, passing over friendly or opposing pieces (or in other words, like a combination of Wazir, Ferz and Alfil). On an Orthochess board its movement looks like:


In the above diagram, red circles mark squares lept to, black circles squares stepped to.


          The major effect of Imperial Dragon Chess's changes from Xiangqi in the early game is to bolster the defense, making Xiangqi -- noted for its aggressive play and early attacks -- more like Orthochess. This is mostly due to considerably increased power of the Elephants, although the improved Horse's movement is as useful for the defender as the attacker. In the end game the threat of Soldier and Elephant promption encourages a Pawn charge, with the goal of either promoting a Soldier or forcing your opponent to capture them all in order to release your Elephants. Once a Dragon-Elephant is in play, the game does not usually last long, as it is deadly against the limited and trapped Xiangqi General.


          This information is based on the description in Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants.

Zillions of Games

          There is an implementation of Imperial Dragon Chess for Zillions of games. You can download it here:

Written by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: April 29th, 2001.