Yes, that’s right! Triple and quadruple checks are possible in chess. Seriously.

Well, this happens in one of the Asian versions, XiangQi (pronounced something like shyang-chee), also known as Chinese, or Elephant chess. The mental Kung fu on the chessboard.

XiangQi pieces are similar to standard chess ones

XiangQi, or Chinese chess, another strategy board game

The name XiangQi has an interesting origin. In China, a learned person was and is expected to be conversant in four areas of performing arts: playing a musical instrument (qin), doing painting (hua), doing calligraphy (shu), and playing a strategy board game (qí). The latter term, qí, provides the final syllable of XiangQi.

XiangQi exercises the brain in much the same way as Western (international) chess, but it’s much faster moving – a tactics-heavy/strategy-medium game that tends to escalate very quickly into threat, counter-threat, and mate situations.

Cannon (Pao)

To see how triple and quadruple check work in Chinese chess, let’s familiarize ourselves with the Cannon, a chess piece found exclusively in XiangQi.

The phonetic for its Chinese name is pào which sounds like the English sound effect pow and it is likely that the Chinese name for the Cannon is onomatopoeic.

As a chess player you know how the Rook operates. In XiangQi, it’s called Chariot and is the most valuable piece. [1]

The Cannon, in turn,  moves like the Rook, any distance horizontally or vertically, but can only capture by jumping a single piece (whether it is friendly or enemy) along its path. This piece is called cannon platform.

How to play with Cannon in Elephant chess

Cannon can only capture by jumping over a screen (the cannon platform)

Double check

A double check occurs when two pieces simultaneously threaten the enemy General (by the way, the name King for this piece was changed to General because China’s emperors didn’t like their royal title to be given to a game piece).

An example of the double check is a Chariot/Rook checking the General and acting as a platform for a Cannon situated behind. This can be blocked by moving a piece between the General and the Rook, blocking the Cannon’s fire and that of the Rook’s as well.

Triple check

Particular to XiangQi  is triple check. It arises with a Cannon, a Chariot/Rook, and a Horse. The Horse moves to give check uncovering a double check from the Chariot and the Cannon, which uses the Chariot as the platform.

Or alternatively, a Chariot discovers two checks from two Horses and gives check itself.

Board is forty percent bigger than in standard variant

XiangQi chessboard and set

Here the Horse should be introduced if we want to understand the second example above and quadruple check explanation that follows.

Horse (Mao)

The Horse is capable of moving as the Knight in Western chess, but it cannot leap over pieces. When it moves, it first moves one space horizontally or vertically followed by one more space diagonally outward. When the first space it would move over is occupied, its movement in that direction is blocked. So it cannot reach any space a chess Knight could reach.

XiangQi horse doesn't leap and can even pin an enemy piece

Possible movements of Horse in XiangQi

Since Horse in XiangQi steps to its destination instead of leaping there, as the chess Knight does, it’s also capable of pinning pieces!

Quadruple check!

Finally, quadruple check is also possible. It arises with 2 Horses, a Chariot, and a Cannon. For example, Chariot has moved, thus giving check and exposing a triple check from Cannon and two Horses.

* * *

You may have not believed triple and quadruple checks were possible. Well, nothing is impossible!


1. Western chess pays too much attention to the Queen, as the most powerful piece on the board. Even worse: since a Pawn can be promoted to be a Queen, Western Chess pays too much attention to the Pawn as well. According to Prof. (Ret.) David H. Li, in Give up Western Chess – play Chinese Chess instead!, neither rule makes any sense, if one views chess as a kind of war simulation game

2. Learn Chinese Chess in English

3. Article on XiangQi in Wikipedia

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