Xiangqi Clippings

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Name: Felix Tan
Location: SG

December 14, 2005

Puzzle at the Xiangqi Park of Xingyang

The Xiangqi Park of Xingyang, Henan was featured in my earlier posting. The blueprint of this park is in fact an ancient endgame puzzle. When I was there, I'd just written down the title of that endgame, never expected that I could not trace it from my collection of classic xiangqi manuals after coming back to Singapore. I now manage to get the diagram (with no solution) from the organiser. The title of this puzzle is "Qi Ji Yi Yue", which means the jump of a steed. Here it is, black to move and draw. Hmn... does not seem to be difficult to solve, but there are some hidden brilliant checkmate combinations. Hope xiangqi fans will find amusement in it.

November 30, 2005

Hubei won its first team championship

China's Xiangqi A Division Leaque 2005 concluded on 30 November with all the 12 teams met in Shanghai for the final round. After nearly 4 hours of keen contest, Hubei emerged as champion for the first time with 11 win, 9 draw and 2 loss.

At the completion of the previous round, the two leading teams were Hubei and Guangdong. They tied with a match point of 29 but Hubei had a slight edge with one extra game point. Shanghai was behind them with a match point of 25. In this round, Hubei played Jiangsu, while Gungdong met Beijing. Naturally, all eyes were focused on these two matches.

The tension was at its height after Hubei and Jiangsu had three boards drawn and, over the other battle field, Guangdong's Lv Qin and Xu Yin Chuan each claimed a rather easy victory from their opponents Zhang Qiang and Jin Yuyan. Guangdong just needed a draw from the remaining two boards to beat Beijing, whereas the game between GM Liu Dahua and GM Xu Tianhong was still unclear and if that also ended in a draw...history would repeat itself.

In 1958, GM Li Yiting was the first man from Hubei to win the National Individual Champion. Twenty two years later, Liu Dahua won the title for two successive years to end the reign of Hu Ronghua. But, Hubei has yet to ascend the throne in national team competitions. Last year, their team almost made it. The folks in Hubei are all yearning for their first team victory. Hubei has been neck to neck with Guangdong in the previous few rounds. No adequate words could describe the pressure on the players and the anxiety of their supporters at this critical moment.

The next situation report came as a comforter -- that Guangdong's Chen Fujie lost to Beijing's external player Zhang Shenhong. Before long, GM Liu forced GM Xu to resign after a tough 4-hour tussle. Thus, Hubei had bagged the champion trophy even if Guangdong won the remaining board because of their advantage on game points. Unexpectedly, Guangdong scored nothing from the remaining game Li Hongjia vs Jiang Chuan, and that put Hubei 1 match point ahead of them eventually.

Below is the final ranking of the 12 teams (figures in brackets denote match points and game points):

1 Hubei (31, 50.5)
2 Guangdong (30, 49.0)
3 Shanghai (27, 48.0)
4 Beijing (24, 46.5 )
5 Shenyang (24, 43.5)
6 Heilongjiang (23, 47.0)
7 Hebei (21, 45.5)
8 Kailuan Coal (20, 43.0)
9 Jiangsu (20, 42.5)
10 Zhejiang (19, 40.0)
11 Sichuan (14, 37.5)
12 Hunan (11, 35.0)

November 18, 2005

The Largest Xiangqi Board in the World

The 3-day Xiangqi Culture Festival, organised by the municipal government of the city of Xingyang came to a finale on 12 November. The closing ceremony was held at 2:00 pm at the Xiangqi Park, next to the city stadium. The event served two purposes, it declared the closing of the Xiangqi Culture Festival, and the completion of the Xiangqi Park.

As usual there were speeches by VIPs including the Mayor Mr Yang Fuping. The main event of the day was the presentation of prizes to winners in the Guinness record breaking 10,000-people xiangqi competition. The participants competed under five categories: departments under the jurisdiction of the municipal government, street administration offices of towns and villages, upper secondary schools, lower secondary schools and primary schools. Eight xiangqi grand masters were invited on stage to give away the awards. This was followed by a very special moment when the Mayor conferred the Honorary Residentship on six xiangqi GMs as a token of appreciation for their contribution to the art of xiangqi. The six recipients (last four female) are: Liu Dahua, Yu Youhua, Hu Ming, Zhang Guofeng, Jin Haiying and Guo Liping. Each of them received a certificate and was requested to leave his/her palm impression on a mud slate which, I guess, will be kept in the proposed xiangqi museum.

The last item on the program was simultaneous display matches by masters and grand masters at which the fans of Xingyang treasured the opportunity to learn from the invited maestri: Liu Dahua, Chen Xiaokun, Yu Youhua, Jiang Quansheng, Hu Ming, Zhang Guofeng, Jin Haiying and Guo Liping. Each master was taking 20 challengers.

Picture above: fearless against the Lady World Champion Quo Liping, will there be another Hu Ming from these cheerful school girls?

As I mentioned earlier, this was also the day that marked the inauguration of the Xiangqi Park. This is a park that lives up to its name. Board a helicopter and look down, it is a huge xiangqi board, 88 metres long and 80 metres wide. A brooklet runs in the centre representing the border of the xiangqi board. Lines are formed by marbles of dark colour. The "palace" on each side is a flowerbed. The red King is a sculpture of Liu Bang(king of Han) standing on a chariot, his counterpart, you guess it, is that of Xiang Yu(king of Chu) in readiness to shoot an arrow. The pieces are circular stone platforms each with a diameter of about 6 metres. All the pieces are placed according to an ancient endgame puzzle.

The sculpture of Liu Bang, at the position of the red King in Xiangqi. The performance of the lion-dance troupe seen here served as the curtain raiser to the closing ceremony of the 1st Xiangqi Culture Festival.

A row of cannons were lined up along the Chu frontier, they were specially made for the occasion for firing colourful confetti into the air at the appropriate moments.

November 11, 2005

Spectacular Opening Ceremony and a
New Guinness Record...

The Xingyang City stadium was filled with 15,000 people to witness the opening of the first Xiangqi Culture Festival. 10,000 of them were taking part in a fast game competition to make a new Guinness Record of mass participation in xiangqi. There was an array of 500 long tables at the stadium field, divided equally into two quarters leaving a passage way in the centre symbolizing the Chu-Han border. The 5000 players on the Eastern quarter were dressed in black, while the other 5000 players on the Western quarter were dressed in Red.

The ceremony began at 2:00 pm with a mass display whereby the designated players at the order of the commander swiftly put on their yellow caps and yellow capes to form the Chinese characters of "Xing Yang". After a speech by the Mayor of the City, and the opening declaration by the Director of the China Institute of Qi (a general term covering Weiqi, Xiangqi & Chess), a variety show entitled "Wanna Challenge", presented by the CCTV took place at the stage at the Southern side of the stadium.
There were 5 challenge acts:

  1. Two weight lifters competed to setup a huge set of xiangqi where each piece was made from a tyre and weighted 80 kg.

  2. A policeman tooked the challenge of memorizing the order of the 32 xiangqi pieces drawn on the costume of 32 dancers.

  3. Two lion-dance teams racing on soft ropes to beat the drum on top of a tower.

  4. GM Liu DaHua took the challenge of playing 10 endgames blinded folded after glancing at them for just 3 minutes.

  5. The 10,000 players cracked their heads simultaneously at solving an endgame puzzle.

These challenge acts were interspersed with performance of pop singers including a lady singer from Taiwan. The finale, engaging the 10,000 players again, was a fast game match at the end of which the winner would carry home the xiangqi set.

More Photographs from the China National Championship

For the last two postings, I was unable to upload photographs owing to technical constraint at the internet bars I went. Here are 3 more photos I took on the last day of the Championship:

Men' s A Division Champion Hong Zhi and Women Champion Zhao GuanFang at the prize-giving ceremony

Runner-up of the Women's Division:Chen Li Chun (facing the camera)

The youngest player in this Championship, the 12-year old Zuo WenJing from Hubei

November 10, 2005

Xingyang, the Capital City of Xiangqi

It takes about two hours to travel from Jincheng, Shanxi to Xingyang, via Zhengzhou, the provincial city of Henan. Hundreds of banners are displayed on both sides of the major roads and buildings announcing the 1st Xiangqi Culture Festival to be held in Xingyang from 10th to 12th November. This is an event organised by the municipal goverment; they have spent a tremenous effort on publicity.

Xingyang is where the historical Chu-Han border is stiuated. Known as "Hong Gou" in Chinese (picture right), the border in ancient time was a canal connecting the Yellow River and the Huai River. From 205bc to 202bc, the Chu army of Xiangyu and the Han army of Liu Bang after engaging in a deadlock here for 4 years, agreed to divide the kingdom into two with the canal as the border. This historical fact is depicted on the chessboard of xiangqi.

The main activity of the festival is a 3-day symposium on xiangqi culture which will be held at the Longyintang Hotel. Besides, the Provincial Xiangqi Open Championship is in progress at the moment. There will also be display matches by GMs such as Liu Dahua. I am very impressed with the great number of articles that are packed into this symposium. Speakers invited to present their articles include many renounced xiangqi masters, arbiters, promoters, scholars, collectors and reporters. The topics and the speakers are as follows:

  1. Xiangqi, a popular game for all walks of life -- Han Kuan

  2. A brief review of the foundation of xiangqi culture -- Chen Wei

  3. Xiangqi culture and education -- Prof Huang ShaoLong

  4. Fusing traditional xiangqi culture with modern sports competitions -- Sun ZhiWei

  5. Xiangqi, the perception of life -- Xu TianLi

  6. The publication of xiangqi books -- Yang BoWei

  7. Thoughts on the "One Game Two Rules" situation -- Ji BenHan

  8. Ancient xiangqi sets -- Zhang ChaoYing

  9. Media coverage of xiangqi acitivities -- Li ZhongWen

  10. Xiangqi and thinking -- Ruan YiZheng

  11. A discussion on the characters and discipline of xiangqi players --Wang PinZhang

  12. About ancient xiangqi manuals -- Liu GuoBin

  13. The origin of xiangqi -- Xu JiaLiang

  14. Artificial Intelligence & xiangqi culture --Luan XiaoFeng

  15. Development prospect of the art of xiangqi today --Zhang XiaoXia (Ms)

  16. "Invicible since day one", some archeological findings -- Zhang Feng

  17. Experiments on scientific management of xiangqi competitions -- Zhu BaoWei

  18. Study on how xiangqi culture enhances health and prolongs life span -- Dong QiLiang

November 09, 2005

Hong Zhi and Zhao GuanFang are the new champions

I left Taiyuan yesterday after the closing ceremony of the China National Individual Champion. I am spending two days at Jingcheng, a southern city in Shanxi before I go to Xingyang, Henan to attend the first Xiangqi Culture Festival.

Nobody could predict who would be the new champions when the final round started at 8:00 am on 7 November. In the Men's A Division, five of the six players at the top three boards all have chances. To the surprise of all present, Wang Yang playing red at board 2 resigned to Hong Zhi in only 30 moves with a delayed counter cannons opening. This was the only game he lost and it costed him the National Champion title when it was within grasp. The first board concluded in a draw though Pan ZhenBo was dominating the battle all the way and was one piece up in the endgame. Board 3 saw a long tussle between Wan ChunLin and Xu YinChuan. Coincidently, they also played the delayed counter cannons opening and within 30 moves transformed into a no-chariots endgame. Xu though one Elephant down was trying very hard for counter attacking chances. But the meticulous play of Wan forced him to resign on the 83rd move. The last game to finish was that between Zhang Qiang and Miao LiMing, which ended in a draw after 5 solid hours of play. Here are the top 8 ranking of the Men's A Division (figures in blackets are the score and Bucholz points):

1st Hong Zhi (7.5 69.5)
2nd Pan ZhenBo (7.5 67.5)
3rd Li HongJia (7.0 69.0)
4th Wang Yang (7.0 68.5)
5th Bu FengBo (7.0 67.0) - 1 win playing black
6th Wan ChunLin (7.0 67.0) - 0 win playing black
7th Xu YinChuan (6.5 70.0)
8th Wang Bin (6.5 69.5)

In the Women's campus the situation was less complicated. Zhao GuanFang only needed a draw from Jin HaiYin to seize the champion title, and she did it without much trouble. At Board 2, Chen LiChun defeated Feng XiaoXi without much obstacle and secured the second place. The most exciting fight was between Zhang GuoFeng and Wang LinNa, as they tied in score and the winner would be assured of at least the third position. Zhang smiled last and sent her opponent to the 4th place. 5th to 8th place went to Jin HaiYing, Shi SiXuan(Beijing), Yang Yi(Jiangsu), and Tang Dang(Beijing). By the way, there were 68 contestants in the Women' s division.

The Men's B division has becomes a "training session" (in the words of Huang HaiLin) after the announcement of the abandon of the two-division system next year. Nevertheless, we congratulate the following players who raced to the top eight among 68 contestants:
1. Huang HaiLin 2. Jin Bo 3. Jin Song 4. Zhuang YuTing 5. Zhao Jian 6. Cheng Jin Chao 7. Xu WenXue 8. Zhao JinGang.

And here is the game between Wang Yang (Red) and Hong Zhi (Black):

November 07, 2005

Pan ZhengBo caught up with Wang Yang

Today is Sunday, 6 November. Three local xiangqi fans accompanied me to visit the famous Jinci Temple and Mount Tianlong, some 25 km away from the city centre. When I returned to Shanxi Hotel at about 3:30 pm, there was a large crowd of spectators at the Men's A campus. Judging from the way they clustered around the tables, there must be many exciting games this round.

I could only peep through the crowd at the top two boards. At my first sight, the game between Wang Yang and Bu FengBo had reached a rather calm endgame, and it concluded in a draw indeed. Wang therefore raised his score to 7 points. At board 2, the game between Jiang Chuan and Pan ZhenBo (Photo right: Jiang Chuan in white jacket) went on longer. In the endgame, Jiang with a Chariot and 2 Cannons tried in vain to hold his position against the attack from the two enemy Chariots, as he had only one Adviser to guard the palace. With this victory, Pan caught up with Wang to lead the race.

Following closely behind them are four players with 6.5 points: Xu YinChuan, Li HongJia (the two met and drew this round), Bu FengBo and Hong Zhi. Next come Jiang Chuan, Wang Bin, Zhao GuoRong, Chen HanFeng, and Wan ChunLin, each with 6 points.

I would only add that the results are unpredictable. The final round will be played tomorrow morning (7 November) at 8:00 am. Let's wait and see. Meanwhile, take a look at the game Jiang Chuan vs Pan ZhenBo in the Java Chessboard below.

November 06, 2005

Wang Yang still at the top seat after Round 9

The competition of the CNIC 2005, Taiyuan starts daily at 1:00pm. I went to the tournament hall half an hour late today (5 Nov, Round 9). To my surprise, the game between Wang Yang and Jiang Chuan at the first board already finished, and you guess it, a draw. Out of my curiosity, and thanks to the kindness of the tournament director, I was able to take a look at the game record. Believe you me, they drew with repetition after ten moves when all the 32 chessmen are still on board! No wonders there have been more and more complaints about "unsportive draws", and I think, somethings must be done soonest.

Having said so, I would of course not post the Wang-Jiang game here. Instead, I wish to share with you a more exciting game with checkmate brillancy here. This game is from round 6. in which Tang ZhuoGuang (a master from Guandong who represents the KaiLuan team) playing black, defeated Hu RongHua in just 25 moves!

After round 9, Wang Yang led with 6.5 points. Xu YinChuan, Pan ZhenBo, Li HongJia, Jiang Chuan and Bu FengBo tracked behind with 6 points. Most of xiangqi fans here are looking forward to seeing the birth of another male GM. But, the younger masters must play to win in the remaining two rounds.

In the Women Division, Zhao GuanFang (Yunan) tops the scoreboard with 7 points. Next come Chen LiChun (Guangdong) and Zhang GuoFeng (Jiangsu) each with 6.5 points. Wang LinNa (Heilongjiang), Quo RuiXiq (Sichuan) and Jin HaiYing (Zhejiang) shared the 3rd rang of 6 points.
In this round Chen LiChun drew Wang LinNan. On entering the endgame she had a winning position, but failed to tighten the grip. The general opinion is that Chen is the most likely lady master to grap the champion trophy.

November 05, 2005

Wang Yang still leading after Round 8

When my plane landed at the Taiyuan airport yesterday, round 7 of the China Natioal Individual Championship (CNIC) had already completed. Mr Wang Guitian, one of the arbiters of this championship, met me at the airport. I couldn 't wait to ask him for the result of the match between Xu Yin Chuan and Wang Yang. "All the top three boards ended in draw", I was told.

Xu YinChuan, of course, is a household name in the xiangqi community. Our foreign friends may ask who is Wang Yang. Well, He is a young and promising master from Hubei, and a disciple of IGM Liu Dahua, the "Oriental Computer". Wang took the lead after beating IGM Tao HanMing in round 6; in round 7 he drew with Xu YinChuan and maintained a half point lead from Xu, while another young master from Guangdong Li HongJia rose to the 5 points group. Photo: Wang Yang (right) vs Li HongJia.

Round 8 took place this afternoon. Wang met Li at the first board. The game ended in a draw by repetition. But what thrilled the spectators most was the game at board two, where Pan ZhenBo who represents the Sports Association of the Communications Authority forced Xu YinChuan to concede the game after nearly 4 hours of tough play.

At the close of round 8, Wang Yang tops the scoreboard with 6 points. Closely behind him are Li HongJia, Pan ZhenBo and Jian Chuan(BeiJing). There are five players at the 5 points rang: Xu YinChuan, Wang Bin(Jiangsu), Bu FengBo(Shenyang) , Song GuoQiang (Sports Association
Coal & Mine) and Tao HanMing(Jilin). If Wang maintains his momentum, I think he will be joining the rank of Grand Master at the close of this championship.

Did I hear you asking "where are Lv Qin and Hu Rong Hua"? Well, there was the most unbelievable scene at the tournament hall four rounds ago--the two GMs met at the rock bottom board each with 1 point. And after the 8th round, they are still struggling to race into the upper half.

I was told that Taiyuan hosted the CNIC in 1977. This is the second time the competition is held in this city and at the same venue, the Shanxi Hotel. With a lapse of almost 30 years, there are now many new faces among the contestants, in both the Men's division and the Women's division. The hotel has also undergone a facelift. The tournament hall is simple magnificient! It is the most spacial, most comfortable tournamenent hall ever in this series, remarked by all the contestants and officers of the championship.

In the women's division, Chen LiChun (Guangdong) and Zhao GuanFang (Yunan) shared the top rang with a score of 6 points. Closeley behind them are Zhang GuoFeng (jiangsu), Wang LinNa (Heilongjiang) and Dang GuoLei (Yunnan) each with 5.5 points. The 5 points group is congested with seven players including the six-time national champion Hu Ming. The contest in the next round is certainly going to be more intensive and fierce.

I was watching the second half of the game between Zhao GuanFang and Zhang GuoFeng. In the middle game, Zhang had a clear pawn superiority after a series of piece changes. Oh la la,
no one would expect that she could have overlooked a simple discovered attack that costed her a Chariot.

October 31, 2005

Take a good look at this set of xiangqi. Can you tell of what are the pieces made?

To give you a little hint, all the chessmen are edible. 10,000 such pieces were specially made for an open tournament held at the Marine Parade shopping complex in Singapore during the mid-autumn festival this year.

Photograph above: the scene of Singapore's first ever Novelty Xiangqi Competition organised in conjunction with the mid-autumn festival cerebrations.

Some special rules unique to this competition (7-round Swiss 30-minute game) are:

(a) A brand new set of edible, individually and hygienically packed moon cake Xiangqi pieces for every game.
(b) On capturing an opponent's piece, the player is required to consume that captured piece of moon cake.
(c) All players are required to put on a new pair of disposable gloves, provided by the organiser prior to the start of every game.

An Annotated Game from the 9th World Xiangqi Championships

I want to test if Java chessboard can be used on blog page. The game posted here was played between Liu DianZhong, GM of China and Nguyen Vu Quan of Vietnam in round 6 of the recent World Championships in Paris. Thanks to IGM Zhao GuoRong for annotating the game.

In the commentary, the move number is tagged with r or b to differentiate the colour. So 11r means Red's 11th move, and 11b means Black's 11th move. The number within the blackets is the move number shown on the Java chessboard which counts the moves singly.

Among the opening systems for Red, the 5-9 Cannons is much favoured by players of aggressive style. It offers more variations with plenty of attacking opportunities for both sides. Having done some careful study before the match, GM Liu decided to play this opening. His intention is to seek better results by engaging the opponent in fierce contest.

11r(21) Red has several options: R8+6, C9+4, C5+4 are also playable.

11b(22) Another line of play is c2-1; R4-3, e3+5; R8+7, h8+7; R4-2, c7+1.

13b(26) An alternative is p7+1, then E1+3, c7=3; P5+1, p5+1; H7+5, r8+3; H5+6, r8=4; H6+7, r4+3; an equal position more or less.

14r(27) The usual continuation here is H3+4. "Seeing that my opponent moved pretty fast in the opening stage, and thinking that he might have done some homework about the usual line of play, I decided to make a detour and surprise my opponent with this unfamiliar move." explained GM Liu after the match.

14b(28) Certainly not h3+1 which leaves Red with Pawn majority after C5+4, e3+5; C5=9.

18b(36) Guarding the Pawn rank. Good move!

20b(40) r1=5 would be a blunder. C5=2, r8+4; H3+4 and good-bye to the black Chariot.

21r(41) Simple and effective. If H5+4, r8+2; R8=4, c3=5; -R=5, c5=2; Red would not be able to dominate the game easily.

22b(44) This costs Black the game. The right move is p7+1, with two possible lines of play as follows:

(a) H4+6, r1=4; H6+8, h8+6; H8+7, k5=4; Red has nothing to further his attack
and Black has a better chance with the ensuing h6+4 or h6+5.
(b) E1+3, h8+6;
R4-4, r1=3; R8=4, e7+9; and black has a slight edge.

23r(45) Winning a piece for nothing. However, capturing the Horse with the Cannon would allow Black to gain back a piece after p7+1, E3+1, r8+1 and in all likelihood draw the game.

23b(46) p7+1 will not save the day either. R8=4, r1=5; H2+4, p7+1; -R-1, p7+1; -R+1, r5+1; H4+3 and Red wins.

26b(52) Tougher would be r8=1, C9=8, r1=3, though being one piece down.

In the final position, Black resigns as he is helpless against the ensuing C9-4 or R8=4.

Commentary by IGM Zhao Guo Rong (China), translated by Felix Tan (Singapore)

China National Xiangqi Individual Championship

The championship is being held (from 28 Oct to 7 Nov) in Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi. I am making a trip there on 3 Nov. This blog (my first) is created so that if there are any interesting news for the xiangqi fraternity, I can post them quickly while on the move.

Following closely after the national championships, another major event - the first Xiangqi Culture Festival will take place on 10 to 12 November, at the city of Xingyang, in the neighbouring province Henan. The programs include a seminar on the history of xiangqi, a town planning exhibition of the "Chu-Han Border" district, a xiangqi competition at provincial level, and simultaneous display matches by xiangqi masters.