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Playing Xiangqi with xboard


Out of the box, xboard is expecting you to play western chess. It does support Xiangqi, but the default setup uses ugly western pieces and western square fields rather than lines:

You can make it look more traditional ..

.. but it is not really trivial to get there. Windows users have WinBoard Xiangqi install as an option but Linux users don't. You could select board theme "xiangqi" at

MENU / View / Board / # ORIENTAL THEMES / double click on "xiangqi"

but you would end up with broken board scaling (despite xboard 2.8 knowing how to do better) without further tuning. To summarize you have to teach xboard to

  1. play variant "xiangqi" rather than western chess,
  2. use different graphics, and
  3. get the board scaling right.

The following is a list of related options and how to get board scaling right by using a special symlink.


  • xboard 2.8 or later (for proper scaling of the board image, see below)
  • a Xiangqi engine, e.g.
    • HoiXiangqi (of HoiChess, games-board/hoichess in Gentoo betagarden) or
    • MaxQi (of FairyMax, games-board/fairymax in Gentoo betagarden).

Command line view

Now some command line parameters need to be passed to xboard: Tell engine to play chess variant "xiangqi":

-variant xiangqi

Use images for drawing the board:

-useBoardTexture true

Use xqboard-9x10.png for drawing both light and dark fields of the board:

-liteBackTextureFile /usr/share/games/xboard/themes/textures/xqboard-9x10.png
-darkBackTextureFile /usr/share/games/xboard/themes/textures/xqboard-9x10.png

xqboard-9x10.png can be a symlink to xqboard.png. The "-9x10" part is for the filename parser introduced with xboard 2.8. It ensures proper board rendering at any windows size. Without that naming (and with earlier versions), you need to be lucky for proper scaling. Suppress drawing squares (of default line-width 1px) around fields:

-overrideLineGap 0

Use SVG images of the traditional Xiangqi pieces:

-pieceImageDirectory /usr/share/games/xboard/themes/xiangqi

Suppress grayscale conversion of piece graphics applied by default:

-trueColors true

Use HoiXiangqi for an engine:

-firstChessProgram /usr/games/bin/hoixiangqi

If you are running Gentoo, feel free to

sudo layman -a betagarden
sudo emerge -av games-board/xboard-xiangqi

to make that a little easier.