Liu Dianzhong 刘殿中

Name: Liu Dianzhong 刘殿中 April 1948-present
Birthplace: Tangshan City 唐山市, Hebei Province 河北, China
Titles: GM, International Master

Summary of achievements: 3rd Place in the 2002 Chinese National Xiangqi Singles Championships 4th Place in 1975,1984 and 1992 in the Chinese National Xiangqi Singles Championships 5th Place in the 1996 Chinese National Xiangqi Singles Championships
Key member and head coach of the Hebei Team who won gold in the 1983,1985,1997,1998 National Team Championships in China
3rd Place in the 1985 Asian Xiangqi Championships Runner up in the 1993 Asian Xiangqi Championships
Current Head of the Hebei Chess Society.
Nicknames: 北昆仑 The Human Kunlun Mountain, 五七炮校长 (Principle of the School for the 57 Cannnons)

There are not many players who have been a force to be reckoned with for decades in Xiangqi. GM Liu Dianzhong is one of the handful few. The following has been adapted from an autobiography given on his own account (ref 2). GM Liu Dianzhong was born in April 1948 in Tangshan City ( the city which suffered from a huge earthquake in the 1976 which was subsequently made into a movie) in Hebei Province. He was the eldest sibling of a miner and times were hard when he was very young. His mother passed away when he was only 5.
One day, when he was 6 or 7 years old when he saw people playing Xiangqi in one of the alleys near his place, and he was hooked for life. He began playing the game very often and before long, at the age of 11, he had beaten on of the past Xiangqi champion in Tangshan City. But, as he recalled, he was still merely a Xiangqi king of the streets. Hard times ensued not long after and he was forced to leave school as there were famines, natural disasters. In order to survive, he did a variety of labourous jobs in order to feed himself and his siblings. But as he recalled, not having to go to school actually left him with more time for Xiangqi.
In 1961, the turning point of his life, he got to know Mr Liu Heting 刘鹤亭 who was the Tangshan City Xiangqi Champion back in 1947 and 1948. Mr Liu Heting was forced to retire from work due to illness but took a liking to the young Liu. Although sickness prevented Liu Heting from actually coaching the young Liu, he did introduce many Xiangqi experts at that time which were instrumental in helping GM Liu's games. GM Liu was also well off and had a huge collection of books which opened GM Liu Dianzhong's world. Mr Liu Heting later even opened a chess club whereby GM Liu recalled fondly that he would play Xiangqi and Go day in and day out. It was during this period that GM Liu's improved greatly. GM Liu would become the Tangshan City Xiangqi champion at age 15 in 1963, thereby allowing him to take part in more regional events. He achieved good results and won the support of the provincial government in helping him become a professional Xiangqi player. But, as he recalled, it was hard for him to reach greater heights as a lone Xiangqi professional in 1965.

Luckily, he was admitted into the Heilongjiang Provincial team, under recommendation of GM Wang Jialiang on the 1st of March in 1965 and his genius quickly made him the champion in a competiotion whereby Xiangqi players from three different provinces took part. Then the 1966 Cultural Revolution took place. Mishaps happened one after another and Xiangqi was banned throughout China. During that period of time, the Heilongjiang Provincial Xiangqi team was disbanded and Liu returned to Tangshan. His father also passed away suddenly from lung disease and as the eldest in his family, he was forced to hard labour to feed his family and siblings. He became a miner for 4 years and it was a dangerous job but he had no choice. But he never gave up and became more determined than ever. He firmly believed if he could survive, he could face any other problems that life could throw at him. In his own words, " 人生再大的困难,我都能坦然面对" (no matter what life throws at me, I will still be able to face it head-on").

Despite the hardships he faced, he NEVER gave up on Xiangqi, and silently prepared himself. In 1974, Xiangqi started again after the Cultural Revolution ended. GM Liu continued with his Xiangqi career and became champion in a few regional events. In recognition for his efforts, Hebei province appointed him as coach. He organized a Xiangqi team which represented Hebei in the National Team Championships. One of the team members which he recruited was future GM Li Laiqun.

On 28th July 1976, Tangshan suffered from one of the worst earthquakes in the history of Mankind. GM Liu escaped uninjured but the death of hundreds and thousands left around him left a lasting impression. It was another dark period in his life and his Xiangqi suffered from the trauma of the event. GM Liu picked himself up and suddenly Lady Luck shined on him. In recognition for his efforts, he began his second tenure as a professional Xiangqi player in August 1978, one job that he has held till now. Throughout his years as a professional Xiangqi player, he was the headcoach of the Hebei provincial Xiangqi team and was subsequently the Head of the Hebei Chess School. His contributions were not limited there.

GM Liu is even more well known for his proteges. Amongst the list of his disciples include GM Li Laiqun , GM Hu Ming (the longest reigning Xq queen in the history of the sport ), Master Huang Yong (currently one of the leading figures in Shenzhen), Master Yan Wenqing ( one of the top players now in Beijing, and author of one of the best books on openings with Master Zhang Qiang, and husband of Hu Ming... ) , Master Yan Yusuo etc...there are just too many people to be mentioned in this short article. Indeed, GM Liu's Xiangqi school is one of the major sects of Xiangqi in China. GM Liu has also written many books and articles on Xiangqi. The introduction to Xq openings in this website and on Youtube are based on his books. GM Liu never stopped competing and has continued to participate in competitions even when he was in his 60's.

He has taken part in many competitions, of national and international scale. He gave his best all the time and has been one of the most consistently top ranked players. He was made Grandmaster in the late 90's for his high winning percentage when he was already 50 years old. In fact, if you looked at GM Liu's achievments, you would find that he consistently improved as he got older. It was great feat considering the fact that Xiangqi had been taken to new heights in the past 2 decades. He said in his autobiography that he had thought of retiring in the new millenium but coming in third place in the 2002 Chinese National Singles Championships (when GM Yu Youhua was champ) and the subsequent formation of the A League erased all thoughts of retirement. Today, GM Liu fights on, and still has respectable rankings year in and year out. GM Liu is known for his aggressiveness. His games are seldom boring and most of the time are filled with fireworks. His games are always a pleasure to watch. A great Grandmaster whose legacy will live on for a long time.

First created: 16th March 2011
Last updated: 17th April 2011
Acknowledgements: None yet

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In Chinese, <<中元五豹>>, chief Editor Hu Ronghua by 上海文化出版社
In Chinese, <<象棋词典>> by 屠景明 杨柏伟