The Chess Variant Pages


Korean Chess

Recognized! Janggi is recognized as a VINTAGE Chess variant, distinguished for its popularity and having proven itself through the test of time.

Janggi (also known as Changgi, Jangki, Tjyang Keui, or Korean Chess) is a variant of chess played in Korea.

Editor's note: a reader from Korea (Seongmo Yoon) has noted the following: Janggi is correct both by Korean government's guideline for translation and by convention in Korea.

It is widely accepted that Janggi derives from an old variety of the Chinese Xiang-Qi.


The Board is a 9 x 10 intersections like for Xiang-Qi but there is no river and it is wider in relation to its length so it looks like a rectangle. The pieces are put on the intersection of the lines.

The pieces are wooden disks with the symbol of the piece printed on it. They are green or blue and red, and have an octogonal shape and come in three sizes: the large is the General (King), the medium are the Chariots (Rooks), Canons, Horses (Knights) and Elephants, and the small are the Guards and the Soldiers. The person playing the green or blue pieces moves first.

The Korean Chess can be played with a Chinese Chess Set, pieces and board are similar, but with rules are different.

The opening setup is as follows:

Each player has the following pieces:

  • 2 Chariots (Rooks)
  • 2 Horses (Knights)
  • 2 Elephants
  • 2 Guards
  • 1 General (King)
  • 2 Cannons or Catapults
  • 5 Soldiers (Pawns)

Seongmo Yoon (a reader from Korea) writes:
Korean chess permits several combinations of initial positions of Horse and Elephant.

"Han" (Red Army) players put peaces on board first. They can choose one among these.

  1. Elephant-Horse Elephant-Horse
  2. Elephant-Horse Horse -Elephant
  3. Horse-Elephant Horse-Elephant
  4. Horse-Elephant Elephant-Horse

Now , it is turn for "Cho" (Blue Army) to choose their opening. Likewise,

  1. Elephant-Horse Elephant-Horse
  2. Elephant-Horse Horse -Elephant
  3. Horse-Elephant Horse-Elephant
  4. Horse-Elephant Elephant-Horse


The piece movement:


<1. The Chariot moves identical to the orthodox chess Rook and Chinese Chess Chariot, with one exception:

a. for movement, it can move as far horizontally or vertically as it has clear passage to move. The movement for one move must be that of one single straight line.

b. in addition, for movement, the Chariot can move as far down a fortress single diagonal line as long as there is clear passage and the movement remains that of a single straight line (this means the starting position has to be in one of the corners or the center of the fortress).

c. for capture, the Chariot during it's normal movement, can take any enemy piece that it first bumps into (there must not be any intervening same-side piece).


2. The Horse move is identical to the Chinese Chess Horse. The Horse must make its move by first moving one step vertically or horizontally and then one outward diagonal step and in this movement, there must be clear passage. In other words, the Horse can not jump like a western Knight does.


3. The Elephant, unlike its Chinese Chess "cousin", is like a giant Horse. It moves 3 positions away from itself: first by going one step horizontally or vertically and then TWO outward diagonal steps and there must be clear passage.

As mentioned above, unlike Chinese Chess, the Elephant is not only a defensive piece, it can move onto the enemy's side of the board and be an offensive piece. (Remember that there is no river in Changgi).


4. The Guard and General move identical to each other. They are both limited to the center 3x3 fortress that resides in the 1st 3 rows of one's home side. Each piece can only move 1 step down any painted straight line whether or not the line is a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line. (This is different than Chinese Chess wherein the Guard can only move diagonally and the General can only move horizontally or vertically).


5. The Cannon, with several restrictions named below, moves and captures by making one jump during a single straight line move. The straight line move can be down a single vertical line, a single horizontal line, or a single diagonal line in either fortress (provided the cannon's starting position is on a fortress border gridpoint).

Note: a fortress canon diagonal move can't start from the dead center of the fortress but a canon can land in the fortress dead center from a normal vertical or horizontal move or jump. But once inside the center of the fortress, the canon can make a move or jump away by going horizontally or vertically.

The canon, when it moves, has to jump over a single non-canon piece, regardless whether the jumped-over piece belongs to his side or the enemy side. When making a move (not a capture), the canon can land on any empty gridpoint that exists on the other side of the jumped-over piece. That landed-onto (previously) empty gridpoint can be immediately on the other side of the jumped-over piece or several gridpoints beyond that jumped-over piece.

The cannon, when it captures, has to jump as in a normal move, but instead of landing onto an empty gridpoint, it has to land onto an enemy piece that it encounters in, what would otherwise be a normal jump-type-move. The jumped-over piece is not captured--it is that second piece encountered in the jump that is captured.

The cannon can't jump over a cannon (either color).

The cannon can't capture a cannon.

The cannon can not make the first move in a game (unlike Chinese Chess).

Note: the Korean Cannon is very different than the Chinese Chess Cannon wherein the Chinese Chess Cannon moves like a Rook but jumps like a Korean Chess canon (but unlike the Korean canon, the Chinese Chess canon can jump over or jump onto another canon).


6. The Soldier moves the same way it captures: it can move either one step forward or one step sideways. It can never move backward. It can move forward down a diagonal line in the enemy's fortress. If during that one step move, it moves onto an enemy's occupied, position, it is a capture of that enemy piece.

If the Soldier makes it to the last row, it can only move sideways then.

For the curious, the Chinese Chess Soldier is different; it can't move sideways until after getting to it's 6th row (called after crossing the river) and it can't move down the diagonal line in the enemy's fortress.

Other rules

7. Special end game notes:

a. Neither side ordinarily want to allow the two kings to face each other naked (in Chinese Chess but not Korean Chess, the side that causes this to happens loses the game [ed. note: other sources hold that the position is illegal in Chinese Chess]). Facing each other "naked," means that there are no intervening chess pieces.

If you cause this to happen in Korean Chess, you are placing the other General in check in a desperate last-chance move on your part for you irreversably foresake the right to checkmate the other side--you are hoping for a stalemate, which would be the case if the other side can not get out of that desperate check.

This is the case even if the game continues for many moves and even if otherwise the game could have gone into a good checkmate, the side that initially caused the two kings to be naked can at best only obtain a stalemate.

b. Gollon adds the rule (page 159, hardbound edition) that "If in mating, the mating piece is defended by only the allied 'General'--i.e., if the piece is on an open file occupied by its 'General' and therefore cannot be captured by the checked General because of the above rules, the game is only drawn."

(This is the different in Chinese Chess; for there one frequently will use one's General to protect a piece who is making check and who otherwise would be captured by the General being checked--in Chinese Chess, that is considered successful checkmate--it is a win, not a draw).

c. Unlike Chinese Chess, if you have no other move to make, except to put your General in check or checkmate, you can "pass." In other words, your General can stand still, if it stays in safety and there are no other pieces it can move at all (regardless if those other pieces would be captured or not) and if it would otherwise (if a move had to be made) cause the General to move into check or checkmate. Gollon states that one declares his pass by turning his General over, upside down, on the same spot.


8. As a reminder, the Soldier, Cannon, and Chariot get to treat the diagonal lines in either fortress (except the Soldier can only get to the enemy fortress) as ordinary straight lines that they can move on -- except the Soldier can only move to the side or forward -- but the Soldier can move forward to the rear line down the diagonal.


9. Unlike Chinese Chess, the double Cannon lineup against a General poses no immediate threat -- the rear Cannon can't jump over the front Cannon, remember.

A stalemate is possible where neither side recognizes that neither side can win by checkmate.


A komi (deduction) for Blue army is 1.5 points as the Blue army makes the first move and it is an advantage.

If Blue army captures (kills) King of Red army, Blue army wins. But, if a game becomes a draw game, each player adds up points of remaining pieces on board to decide who wins the game. And in that case, blue army is supposed to deduct 1.5 points from his total points.

  • cha (car) rook : 13 points
  • poe cannon : 7
  • ma horse knight : 5
  • sang (elephant) xiang bishop : 3
  • sah guard : 3
  • byoung, chol pawn : 2

A player can make a draw request only when summation of points of each players is respectively less than 30 points (in a casual janggi game between friends, this pointing system is just ignored and not many Koreans have ever heard of it).

In a casual game, it is customary that older player takes Han (Red Army).



The very first author who made Changgi known to westerners has been Stewart Culin. It has been reprinted and is highly recommendable for those who love board games with very precious observations.

Culin, Steward, 1991 reprint of an 1895 original: "Korean Games. With Notes on the Corresponding Games of China & Japan". Dover Press. ISBN 0-486-26593-5.

More modern Chess Variant books including a section on Changgi are:

Gollon, John E., 1973. Chess Variations: "Ancient, Regional &Modern". Charles E. Tuttle Co. ISBN: 0-8048-1122-9.

Pritchard, D.B., 1994. "The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants". Games and Puzzles Publications. ISBN: 0-9524142-0-1.

Wurman, David, 1991(?). "Chinesisches Schach/Koreanisches Schach". (German) China Schach Spielerkreis, Postfach 6530, D-6300 Giessen, Germany.

Cazaux, J.-L., 2000. "Guide des echecs exotiques et insolites". (French ) Chiron Editeur. ISBN: 2-7027-0628-2.



Written by Jean-Louis Cazaux. Certain parts of the text were taken from Roleigh Martin and from David B. Pritchard. Seongmo Yoon wrote to us about the official name for Korean Chess (Janggi), optional setup positions, and Komi & piece values.
WWW page created: March 10, 2000.