Author: Jim Png of www.xqinenglish.com
Note: This article first appeared on Xiangqi.com.
Xiangqi is perhaps the most played board game of wits globally. Like International Chess, Xiangqi has its own tournaments, ranking systems, titles, et cetera. However, the majority of the Xiangqi tournaments held each year are still found in China. Efforts to promote the game internationally started in the late 1980s, and the first international tournament was held in 1981. Since then, the number of international Xiangqi events has slowly increased. This article will be an introduction to these international Xiangqi tournaments that started over four decades ago. Some of these tournaments are defunct, but others are still going strong. The author will introduce the history and particulars of each of these tournaments.
The contents include:
- World Xiangqi Championship 世界象棋锦标赛
- Asian Xiangqi Championship 亚洲象棋锦标赛
- European Xiangqi Championship 欧洲象棋锦标赛
- Seven Stars Cup International Xiangqi Invitation七星杯象棋国际邀请赛
- Sport Accord World Mind Elite Games 世界智力精英运动会
- Baoren Cup World King of the Same Direction Cannons Tournament 宝仁杯象棋世界顺炮王争霸战
- Yang Guanlin Chinese National Xiangqi Open Tournament “杨官璘杯”全国象棋公开赛
- Han Xin Cup “韩信杯”象棋国际名人赛
- Zhou Zhuang Cup Bilateral Straits Xiangqi Masters Invitation “周庄杯”海峡两岸象棋大师赛
- Chu River Han Border World King of Xiangqi Tournament 楚河汉界世界棋王赛
The World Xiangqi Federation (WXF) is the official governing body for Xiangqi in the World. It is also one of the tournaments whereby international titles can be acquired. For more on the titles of Xiangqi players, please refer to this article, also by the Webmaster. A list of the titled players can be found by clicking on the link. You would have to click on ‘Read more’ for the complete list
The WXF Tournament is held biannually. There are four divisions:
- Men’s Team Division,
- Men’s Individual Division,
- Women’s Individual Division, and
- Non-Chinese, Non-Vietnamese Division.
The latter three are tournaments for individuals. Two players are selected to represent the member countries. The Men’s Team division winner is determined by the combined score of the two players representing a country in the Individuals division.
The first-ever tournament was held in 1990 in Singapore.
The results of the winners of the various tournaments can be accessed on a Wiki page. The list of the winners is in Chinese.
Some notable facts:
Interestingly, despite winning almost every tournament he has participated in, Grandmaster Hu Ronghua never won the WXF tournament. He was already way past his prime and only participated in the first-ever WXF tournament, which compatriot Lv Qin won. Players who have won the Grand Slam of Xiangqi tournaments include Lv Qin, Zhao Guorong, Xu Yinchuan, Zhao Xinxin, Wang Tianyi, Zheng Weitong, et cetera.
The author managed to find a very precious video showing the proceedings of the 1993 World Xiangqi Championships, which contains many pictures of Xiangqi grandmasters, masters, and players in their prime!
The author managed to find a short video of the proceedings in 2013, which Mr. Felix Tan uploaded.
The thrid video shows the match between IGM Mou Haiqin, who drew his game against IGM Zhao Xinxin in the 2009 event. IGM Zhao Xinxin would win the event that year while IGM Mou was in third place.
The Asian Xiangqi Federation (AXF) was the first official international Xiangqi organization founded in 1978. It was also the first international organization to organize official tournaments where the titles of International Grandmaster and International Master can be obtained. The author is grateful to Mr. Lim Kwan How, secretary-general of the Asian Xiangqi Federation, for providing some of the material used in this passage.
There are a few tournaments that the Asian Xiangqi Federation organizes. They remain some of the most prestigious international tournaments globally (Asia and Oceana).
The Asian Xiangqi Championship 亚洲象棋锦标赛
This biannual tournament is held in even-numbered years. A list of past winners can be accessed at this link. There were several name changes to the tournament.
Asian Xiangqi Federation Individuals Championships 亞洲象棋個人錦標賽
This individuals tournament represented the best that Asia could offer during the early years of international competition. It is a biannual event.
When the tournament was first held, it was called the 亚洲城市象棋名手邀请赛 or the Asian Cities Xiangqi Masters Invitation. The first tournament was held in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1981. The event was canceled in 1983 because of political unrest in the Philippines, which was supposed to be held.
The name was changed to 亚洲象棋名手赛 (Asian Xiangqi Masters Invitation) in 1997 and then changed again to 亚洲象棋个人锦标赛 (Asian Xiangqi Federation Individuals Championships) in 2005.
Currently, it is the event that has produced the most number of International Masters and International Grandmasters. A list of the past winners of the tournament can be accessed at this link.
The Youtube video presented below is a commentary of a match played in the 1987 Asian Cities Xiangqi Masters Invitation. It is an excellent commentary between Taiwan’s Grandmaster Wu Kui-lin against Grandmaster Bu Fengbo from China.
The author has managed to find a video of a match played at the event in 2019.
Asian Xiangqi Federation Individual Open Championship 亚洲象棋个人公开赛
This event started in 2015, and the first event was held together with the Asian Xiangqi Federation Individuals Championships that year. It is a biannual event.
The European Xiangqi Federation (EXF) was officially registered in Munich on 27th January 2017. The formation of the EXF is another milestone in the history of Xiangqi and symbolized the popularization of Xiangqi in Europe as Xiangqi entered a new era.
The European Xiangqi Federation (EXF) is headquartered in Munich, Germany. The EXF includes Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Finland, Russia, and Belarus (8 nations).
The first-ever European Xiangqi Championship was held in Paris in 1984.
This tournament is held almost every year, with the latest event in 2019, the 32nd European Xiangqi Championship, in Minsk.
Back in the 1980s, international tournaments were not often seen. The AXF events were the major international tournaments at the time. When the Seven Stars Cup was first held in 1984, it marked a new era of Xiangqi going global. It was a men’s invitation tournament.
Unfortunately, the event was held only three times, and there has been limited information found.
The legendary grandmaster Hu Ronghua won the first event in 1984. Grandmaster Yu Youhua won the second event in 1986, while Grandmaster Liu Dahua was crowned champion in 1988.
The link below shows the match between Yu Youhua and the late Grandmaster Yang Guanlin in the second event. A Xiangqi viewer (Ccbridge) is shown.
The International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) inaugurated the SportAccord World Mind Games in December 2011.
The first and only four meets thus far from 2011 – 2014 were all held in Beijing. Xiangqi was included as one of the events, including contract bridge, chess, draughts, and Weiqi (Go).
There were five different divisions for Xiangqi:
- Men’s Rapid Xiangqi Tournament
- Men’s Team Tournament
- Men’s Individual Tournament
- Women’s Individual Tournament
- Women’s Team Tournament
The event was also not wholly dominated by China. Cao Yanlei (representing Macau) won the individual event in 2016, and Vietnamese Nguyen Hoang Yen (阮黄燕) won the women’s individual event in 2014. (1)
Note: IMSA is not to be confused with International Motor Sports Association.
The results of the various meets can be found by clicking on the link. (2)
The following is a video showing the competition on Day 6 in the 2012 World Mind Games Xiangqi Division. There are some exciting commentaries of the games played.
This international event was held from the 17th to 20th September 1991. Twenty-two Xiangqi experts from around the world gathered to do battle in Kunming, China. One of the highlights of the tournament was that there were women participants. Xiangqi grandmaster Hu Ming from Hebei, China, also participated. It was truly unique because it was the first and last time, to the author’s knowledge, that an international theme tournament was ever held. Participants from all over the world were only allowed to play the Same Direction Cannons for both colors.
Chinese Grandmaster Hu Ronghua won the event, with another Chinese Grandmaster, Li Laiqun coming in at second place. (3)
The scores of the games can be found on the Webmaster’s website.
The following is a video showing Taiwanese International Grandmaster Wu Kui-lin commentating on the game between Hu Ronghua and Li Laiqun. The commentary is in Chinese.
The Yang Guanlin Cup started in 2004 to commemorate Grandmaster Yang Guanlin (杨官璘 yáng guān lín 1925-2008). It is a biannual event that is another important event on the Xiangqi calendar.
The Yang Guanlin Cup is divided into several divisions:
- Men’s Professional Individuals Division
- Women’s Professional Individuals Division
- Men’s Open Tournament
- Overseas Division
The Overseas Division is an international event whereby International Masters and Grandmasters participate. The tournament is considered to be one of the highest levels of competition in China today. In the 2018 event, there were 170 participants from over 15 countries. The countries included England, France, Canada, Malaysia, Belarus, Vietnam et cetera. (4)
The tournament was not held in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.
The Han Xin Cup is one of the most significant international Xiangqi events in the World. It is also one of the rare events that take place in different countries.
The authorities organize the tournament from Huaiyin, Jiangsu, China, to commemorate General Han Xin (韩信 Hán Xìn 231-196BC). Huaiyin is the hometown of the legendary general who is believed to have been the inventor of Xiangqi. This hypothesis is very popular amongst the many hypotheses regarding the game's origins. Indeed, General Han Xin is also fondly known as the Duke of Huaiyin (淮阴侯Huái yīn hóu). (5)
The Han Xin Cup has been instrumental in helping raise the level of Xiangqi outside of China. It is an invitational tournament whereby international experts are invited to do battle.
While Xiangqi is the central theme, other activities are held during the tournament to promote the culture of Xiangqi. There have also been cheong sam dances, where the Xiangqi experts play the locals, et cetera. (6)
The following link is an article found on a Vietnamese website reporting on the 2016 event.
The link below shows some of the proceedings in the tournament.
Shown below is a link to a video commentary of a game played in 2012 between Singaporean Grandmaster Woo Tsung Han and Chinese Grandmaster Zhao Guorong.
The Zhou Zhuang Cup Bilateral Straits Xiangqi Masters Invitation is another international tournament held by the Chinese Xiangqi Association, the Sports Administration in Jiangsu, and the Kunshan Peoples Government.
The annual event was first held in 2011.
The event is held mainly at different venues in China except for the 2015 event held in Taipei City. Competitors from bilateral straits compete in the event as part of the goodwill. It provided a platform for Xiangqi cross-straits exchange. (7) (8) (9)
The following URL is a link that shows a rapid chess match between Grandmaster Ma Chung Wei against Grandmaster Sun Yongzheng. The Chinese commentary is provided by IM Chao I Fan.
The Chu River and Han Border World King of Xiangqi Tournament has the highest purse: One Million Chinese Yuan! It is an invitation tournament that would pit the Chinese National Individuals Champion against the World Xiangqi Federation Tournament winner the earlier year. It is a biannual event that began in 2016. There have only been two such tournaments that have been held. The 2020 event was canceled because of the Covid pandemic.
The event is part of the efforts of the authorities in Xingyang, Henan, China, to commemorate Xiangqi which the locals believe Xiangqi was invented during the Chu-Han Contention (206-202BC). Xingyang was the place where the troops of Liu Bang (刘邦 Liú Bāng, c.247 BC – 195BC) and Xiang Yu (项羽 Xiàng Yǔ, 232-202 BC ) was held in a deadlock, and neither side could gain the upper hand.
The tournament is held precisely at the Hong Canal, which is believed to have been the river's origins on the Xiangqi board.
The following link is a video showing the match played between Grandmaster Zheng Weitong against Grandmaster Xie Jing in 2016.
The following is the link to a video presentation showing the second tournament between Grandmaster Wang Tianyi and Grandmaster Xu Chao held in 2018. The video shows some of the proceedings and the venue at which the event was held.
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