The Rules for Korean Chess

Draft by Roleigh Martin

Copyright 1994,1995

All Rights Reserved


Hi! My wife is Chinese and after playing Chinese Chess and falling in love with the game, I learned about Korean Chess which is virtually identical in board and piece lay-out but different in move-rules. There is very little English literature on Korean Chess--I've found 2 chapters in English on the game. I have posted this document on the Internet to find out if anyone in this group can verify if I have the complete rules to Korean Chess. Please reply if I have made any mistakes or if you know that my rules are correct and complete. Please correct this document if it is wrong or incomplete.

I also wish to find out if there is any other software: public domain, freeware, shareware, or commercial ware on Korean Chess for MS-DOS computers. I have obtained and make available for others to immediately ftp the file, JANGKI.ZIP (100KB). Can you please inform me of any such software and how I may obtain it (BBS phone numbers, FTP site names/directory/filename, or ordering address)? Thanks!

Last, is there any internet mailing list groups on Korean Chess? Is there any English language books or magazines on Korean Chess? Thanks again!

Distribution Policy

This document is copyrighted. It can be distributed electronically for non-commercial use as long as nothing is altered in this document. I am working on a book on Chinese and Korean Chess and intend to build upon this document for the chapter on Korean Chess.


Thanks to Young Won, Compuserve ID 75541,2100 for his FLEFO forum message who confirmed this document with his message "It has been 10 years since I have played my last Korean Chess game. I briefly read the rules you posted (not line-by-line, though), and they seem to be in line with what I remember." In addition, he provided the Korean names and meanings of each piece which I've incorporated in this updated version of this document.

Thanks to J. Kim of HANAnet Operating Center (KTRC) (Internet address: who pointed me to a public domain Korean Chess game, JANGKI.ZIP (100KB). (Jang-gi V1.0, 1991.1.26) by Hak Jong Lee of Daejon, Korea, from There is a tiny README file but no copyright or distribution restrictions documented with the ZIP file--hence by inference it is in the public domain. (My FTP program could not access this using this hostname, but J. Kim informed me correctly of it's IP address: This file was found at one time (but no more) in the directory, /pub/games. (That is why it is now available via my web site.) I got this feedback via the USENET group, soc.culture.korean.

JANGKI is a great DOS-based Korean Chess game. It does support CGA through VGA and it does work on ordinary MS-DOS computers as well as a HP100/200 palmtop. After FTPing JANGKI.ZIP and UNZIPping it in any directory you want (preferably, it should be a new one), change to this directory, and run the program, JT.EXE.

This program, JT.EXE, is quite nice as it allows human to play human or against the computer.


Korean Chess can be played with a Chinese Chess Set -- same pieces and board -- but different rules. Actually quite fun! Very few Chinese people know this game -- if you find yourself loosing to Chinese friends in Chinese Chess, play them a game of Korean Chess -- you might win!

The below resource by Culin is still in print and has an entire chapter on Korean Chess -- it is the best known English-language source on Korean Chess. Other resources are included.

Culin, Steward, 1991 reprint of an 1895 original. Korean Games:
        With Notes on the Corresponding Games of China & Japan. 180
        Varick Street, New York, NY 10014: Dover Press. ISBN
        0-486-26593-5. Toll Free Order Number: 1-800-223-3130.

Gollon, John E., 1973. Chess Variations: Ancient, Regional &
        Modern. 28 South Main Street, Rutland, Vermont 05701:
        Charles E. Tuttle Co. ISBN: 0-8048-1122-9. Toll Free Order
        Number: 1-800-526-2778. Other phone number: 802-773-8930.
        Fax: 802-773-6993. (As of 1995, this book is out of print.)

Horne, Malcolm, January 1992, April 1993, April 1994. Chinese Chess/
        Korean Chess News. Newsletter published by author. These 3
        issues cover the rules, sample games, and interesting
        tidbits as well as a citation of a German book on Korean
        Chess by David Wurman. Write: Malcolm Horne, 10B Windsor
        Square, Exmouth, Devon EX8 1JU, England.  Telephone:

Pritchard, D.B., 1994. The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. PO Box
        20, Godalming, Surrey, United Kingdom: Games and Puzzles
        Publications. ISBN: 0-9524142-0-1. 21.99 pounds (British

Wurman, David, 1991(?).  Chinesisches Schach/Koreanisches Schach.
        (German; 345 pages; cost: DM48 (about $34.01) including
        postage and is available from China Schach Spielerkreis,
        Postfach 6530, D-6300 Giessen, Germany.
Your library should be able to get the Gollon book through interlibrary loan. Also, I have been suggested to try (but did not, as the library succeeded): Howard Frisch, New and Antiguarian Books, Box 128, Village Station, New York City, NY 10014. The library actually got me the hard cover book, which was published in 1968. Instead of an ISBN number, it had only a Library of Congress Catalog Card Number, No. 68-11975.


Korean Chess derives, historically, from Chinese Chess. Since the pieces in Chinese Chess have been given official English names by the international Chinese Chess Association, I will use the same English names for the Korean Chess pieces.


The pieces are placed on the board gridlines not inside the squares as in Western Chess. The board has 9 columns (also called files or aisles) and 10 rows. The 9 columns are labeled A-I. The 10 rows are labeled 0-9.

Left to right on the rear row, the pieces are called:

Rook, Knight, Bishop, Guard, [empty], Guard, Bishop, Knight, Rook
 (r)   (n)      (b)    (g)             (g)   (b)      (n)    (r)

A picture of these pieces can be viewed now: CPIECES.GIF - 20KB GIF file The Westernized Chinese Chess images include some depictions taken, with permission, from the game pieces from Xian for MS Windows, software copyrighted by Leong Jacobs Inc., 2729 Lury Lane Annapolis, MD 21401. The author of Xian is Nick Jacobs (, to whom thanks is due. Nick's game, Xian, is the most beginner-friendly Windows-based program of 2-player Chinese Chess in existence.

Note: the Knight and Bishop can, as a setup option (not a move), be transposed on either or both sides or neither side. (The game JANGKI calls this a Pozin change and the default setup shown is to have the bottom side's righthand Bishop and Knight transposed and the top side's lefthand Bishop and Knight transposed.)

The second row only initially holds the king, abbreviated as (k), in the center of the row.

The third row only initially holds the two cannons, abbreviated as (c), each cannon being in the 2nd column from the edge.

The fourth row only initially holds the five pawns, abbreviated as (p), starting with a pawn on each edge column and then every OTHER column.

The initial board looks like the below (remember the knight and bishop can be transposed as a setup option). If you transpose the knight and bishop to just one side of the lineup, then the four pieces (your 2 knights and 2 bishops) can theoretically hit every spot on the board (not each piece but together the 4 pieces can "hit" every spot on the board granted enough moves are made). This setup transposition option doesn't count as a move.

In real life, the colors of the two pieces are either Black and Red, Green and Red, or Blue and Red.

(FIG 1: Knight and Bishop are not transposed.)

     9 [r][n][b][g]-+-[g][b][n][r]
     .  |  |  |  | \|/ |  |  |  |
     8  +--+--+--+-[k]-+--+--+--+   Note: the pieces are put
     .  |  |  |  | /|\ |  |  |  |   down on the gridpoints of
     7  +-[c]-+--+--+--+--+-[c]-+   board -- not inside the
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |   squares as in Western Chess.
     6 [p]-+-[p]-+-[p]-+-[p]-+-[p]
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
     5  +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
     4  +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
     3 (P)-+-(P)-+-(P)-+-(P)-+-(P)
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
     2  +-(C)-+--+--+--+--+-(C)-+
     .  |  |  |  | \|/ |  |  |  |
     1  +--+--+--+-[K]-+--+--+--+
     .  |  |  |  | /|\ |  |  |  |
     0 (R)(N)(B)(G)-+-(G)(B)(N)(R)
     .  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I
(FIG 2: One Knight and Bishop are transposed -- this is the default setup shown in the JANGKI software version of Korean Chess; one is allowed to change this setup, but this is the default setup.)

     9 [r][n][b][g]-+-[g][n][b][r]
     .  |  |  |  | \|/ |  |  |  |
     8  +--+--+--+-[k]-+--+--+--+
     .  |  |  |  | /|\ |  |  |  |
     7  +-[c]-+--+--+--+--+-[c]-+
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
     6 [p]-+-[p]-+-[p]-+-[p]-+-[p]
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
     5  +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+   Note:
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  | <-This row is the "river"
     4  +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+   in Chinese Chess and on
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |   a Chinese Chess board,
     3 (P)-+-(P)-+-(P)-+-(P)-+-(P)  the middle 7 vertical
     .  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |   lines of this single row
     2  +-(C)-+--+--+--+--+-(C)-+   are not painted on a
     .  |  |  |  | \|/ |  |  |  |   Chinese Chess board.
     1  +--+--+--+-[K]-+--+--+--+
     .  |  |  |  | /|\ |  |  |  |
     0 (R)(N)(B)(G)-+-(G)(N)(B)(R)
     .  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I
A picture of the game setup can be viewed now. The image is a snapshot taken from the program, JANGKI (see above reference). KCHSET.GIF - 11KB GIF file

One inevitably asks the question: "If your opponent transposes the knight and bishop on his left side, do you normally transpose your bishop and knight on your right side or left side?" The software program, JANGKI defaults to doing the same on the same columns -- even though the user has the choice to do otherwise. What little advice is available on the game suggests doing a pozin-transposition on just one side and to do it on the same columns as your opponent does his.

On the board are two fortresses (also called castles) which is a 3x3 grid in the center of the 1st 3 rows of both sides, in which the king and his two guards must remain--they can not leave the fortress--however, as will be explained below, the king can perform a check against the other king from within the fortress. Inside the fortress, there are diagonal lines that form a big "X" inside the fortress.

On a Chinese Chess Board, there is a river that "exists" in the middle row of the board; it does not exist in Korean Chess. If one plays Korean Chess with a Chinese Chess board, one ignores the "river" of the Chinese Chess board.

A picture of what a Chinese Chess game looks like in comparison to Korean Chess can be viewed now. This image is taken per permission of Nick Jacobs (, to whom thanks is due. Nick's game, Xian, is the most beginner-friendly Windows-based program of 2-player Chinese Chess in existence. Note: this picture shows the Chinese Chess setup with the King on the home row instead and the knight and bishop in their symmetric position similar to what's used in International chess. CCHSET.GIF - 13KB GIF file

In both Korean and Chinese Chess, one has to move a full step to move across the center row, regardless of whether it's called a "river" or not (as in Korean Chess). Bottom line: in Korean Chess and Chinese Chess, there are 10 rows. In Chinese Chess, moving from the 5th to the 6th row is "moving across the river" where the pawns gain the power to move one step sideways--and where the Bishops can not move across. In Korean Chess, the pawns can move sideways one step immediately and the Bishops can move anywhere on the board that is legal for a given move.

Actually, the real Korean Chess set uses 8-sided pieces not round pieces as in Chinese Chess. Also not all the pieces are the same diameter as they are in Chinese Chess. The red pieces are 100% identical but the blue have four pieces that use brush/script style Chinese calligraphy and the pieces are difficult to translate -- I had to ask a Korean shopper in the Korean Grocery store that I found the set at to identify the blue pieces. (My Chinese Chess friends recognize these four different charactered Blue pieces.) The board doesn't have a blank (no vertical lines) river across the middle of the board as in Chinese Chess -- that's because there is no promotion or barrier concept in Korean Chess as there is in Chinese Chess. Again, you can play Korean and/or Chinese Chess with either country's pieces/board. One thing nice, the Korean Grocery store had the pieces for only $4 and a nice wooden board for only $10.

Each piece is inscribed with a corresponding Chinese character. However, on the King pieces, "Han" is inscribed on the red team, and "Cho" is described on the blue (or green) team. Han and Cho are names of two dynasties (or kingdoms) that were at war with each other. (Note: "Han" and "Cho" is not what you call the individual King pieces -- these names refer to the "team names" --the actual King piece names are shown below.)

I do not know the OFFICIAL conventional English spellings of the Korean names for these pieces. Below I redescribe these pieces per their Chinese names as well as the Korean spellings I've been given by one Korean Chess player who has not played in 10 years (see Acknowledgement section above).


Can anyone in this group provide me with confirmation or correction of the below Korean names as they are spelled out in English? Thanks! In particular, are the Korean names for the Red and Blue King correct or should they be transposed (if so, the Korean Jang would be very close to the Pinyin Jiang).

A0,I0,A9,I9    both   Rook    Ju     Kui    Cha or Tcha
B0,H0,B9,H9    both   Knight  Ma     Ma     Ma
C0,G0          Red    Bishop  Xiang  Sheung Sang or Syang
C9,G9          Blue   Bishop  Xiang  Cheung Sang or Syang
D0,F0,D9,F9    both   Guard   Shi    See    Sa
E1             Red    King    Shuai  Sui    Jang*
E8             Blue   King    Jiang  Cheung Wang*
B2,H2,B7,H7    both   Cannon  Pao    Pow    Po or Hpo
A3,C3,E3,G3,I3 Red    Pawn    Bing   Ping   Byung or Pyeng**
A6,C6,E6,G6,I6 Blue   Pawn    Zu     Tsut   Jol or Tjol**
Note: the Korean names first spelled out are those obtained from Korean Chess player whom I've corresponded with on Compuserve, Young Won. The two chapters on Korean Chess, cited above, provide the "or..." variation. For the King (*), they provide two alternate names, neither depicting color specific names. Koung or Tyang is what John Gollon provides; Tjyang or Koung is what Stewart Culin provides. The Koung, Culin, explains is the generic term for both--as it is similarly pronounced in Chinese Chess by the Cantonese--meaning "general." For the Pawn (**), Culin provides the Pyeng to be the Red, and Tjol to be the Blue. Gollon provides the same two spellings but does not tie them to a color.

Sometimes you'll hear Chinese Chess players translate the chess pieces to different English names -- the ones above are the "official" English names -- the ones below are others you might hear and they are presented here for you to maintain understanding in real life play:

        Rook      Car              Chariot         Tank
        Knight    Horse
        Bishop    Prime Minister   Elephant        Minister
        Guard     Counsellor       Advisor
        King      General          Emperor
        Cannon    Catapult
        Pawn      Soldier          Foot Soldier


The Arabic name for "Chariot" is pronounced "Rook." The Chinese symbol for Chariot is now used for the symbol for a car.

In the traditional Chinese Character for the Knight, the "Ma" -- which means "horse, you'll note the four depicted legs in the red character (the pieces in real life are like Checkers but with the Chinese character written on top of the piece) -- these are the horse's legs.

The historical reason the pieces are depicted differently for both sides (although modern sets use the same depiction for the Rook, Knight and sometimes the Cannon), is that players could tell whose piece was whose even if the colors wore out. For instance, Red has as it's bishop the Chinese Character for Prime Minister, while Blue (or Green or Black) has as it's bishop the Chinese Character for Elephant. They both have identical powers however.


The object of the game is identical to Western and Chinese Chess: to checkmate the enemy king--that is, to place the enemy king in a position of entrapment from which it can not save itself. A stalemate is possible where neither side recognizes that neither side can win by checkmate.


1.  The rook moves identical to the Western Chess and Chinese
    Chess rook, 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 rook 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 rook 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 knight ends up moving identically to the western knight,
    and it moves identical to the Chinese Chess knight.  The
    knight however 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.  Thus, the
    initial two places that the knight at B0 can move to are A2
    or C2.  It can not initially move to D1 because the Bishop at
    C0 is in the way.

3.  The bishop, unlike its Chinese Chess "cousin", is like a
    giant knight.  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.  Thus
    in Figure 2 above, the Bishop at C0 can not move as it is
    blocked, but it does protect the center Pawn.  The Bishop at
    H0 can move to F3.

    As mentioned above, unlike Chinese Chess, the Bishop is not
    only a defensive piece, it can move onto the enemy's side of
    the board and be an offensive piece (as is true for both
    Chinese and Korean Chess for all other pieces but the King
    and Guards).

    (For the curious, the Chinese Chess Bishop is a defensive
    piece, and can only move two diagonal places at a time (not
    any more nor less; and the passage must be clear) and the
    Chinese Chess Bishop can not cross the "river"--it must stay
    within the 1st 4 rows of it's home side.)

    A picture of how the Korean bishop can move can be viewed now.
    The image is a snapshot taken from the program, JANGKI (see
    above reference). The grayed-circled positions show where the
    bishop at the center-bottom-side can move. There are
    grayed-circled out empty spaces it can move to as well as two
    grayed-shaded enemy pieces that it can capture. The
    pointed-finger on the bishop under discussion is the mouse
    cursor for the software program so ignore that.
    KBISHMV.GIF - 11KB GIF file

4.  The Guard and King 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 King can only move horizontally or

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

    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 canon, 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.  Remember, the 1st piece can be of
    either color; the 2nd piece--that is jumped-onto (not over)
    has to be that of the enemy.

    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 canon is very different than the Chinese
    Chess canon wherein the Chinese Chess canon 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 pawn 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

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

    For the curious, the Chinese Chess pawn 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.

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).  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 King in check in a desparate 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 desparate 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.

        I call this (I do not claim originality though) the
        "Kings Naked Rule."

    b.  Gollon adds the rule (page 159, hardbound edition) that
        "If in mating, the mating piece is defended by only the
        allied 'king'--i.e., if the piece is on an open file
        occupied by its 'king' and therefore cannot be captured
        by the checked king 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 King to protect a piece who is
        making check and who otherwise would be captured by the
        King 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 King in check or checkmate, you can
        "pass."  In other words, your King 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 king to move into check or
        checkmate.  Gollon states that one declares his pass by
        turning his King over, upside down, on the same spot.

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

9.  Unlike Chinese Chess, the double cannon lineup against a king
    poses no immediate threat -- the rear cannon can't jump over
    the front cannon, remember.  (In Chinese Chess, if the
    farthest away canon from the enemy king is safe and if no
    opponent's piece can intervene between the two canons, the
    game is over if the King is unable to move sideways, which
    can often be the case.)

[End of Document]

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Last updated November 24, 1995