Checking out Chinese 'chess'

Updated: 2013-12-10 08:26

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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To make traditional Chinese chess, or xiangqi, more attractive to the rest of the world, a delegation of China national players began a US tour on Sunday in San Francisco's Chinatown, where an annual game for local amateurs was hosted over weekend.

"I am so excited to have the opportunity to play chess with young Chinese national champions," Li Yongcong, a San Francisco chess player who has more than 20 years of experience, told China Daily in Chinatown on Sunday night.

As the winner among 40 California amateurs over weekend, Li had the honor of challenging 25-year-old Zhao Xinxin, the youngest delegation member, on the board.

"Across all ages and nationalities, people can build friendships by playing xiangqi," Li said.

The delegation will stay in San Francisco for four days, then visit Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, before flying back to Beijing on Dec20.

"We want more people to love this intelligent sport, which has been one of the most popular board games in China for centuries," said Guo Liping, the vice-deputy of the xiangqi department of the general administration of sport of China, who led the team.

Born in Harbin, Guo was crowned woman team champion in 2003 and 2005.

"The support from overseas Chinese chess fans would also help promote the development of xiangxi in China," she said.

For Wang Yang, a member of the delegation who was born in 1984, the trip was his first time to the United States.

"Chinese chess and international chess are two different board games, though they are quite similar in many regards, especially rules and strategy," he said.

"But the philosophy of xiangqi embodies traditional Chinese culture, which makes it more popular than chess in Chinese communities overseas," he said.

Although xiangqi originated in China, there are many xiangqi leagues and clubs around the world, including 15 associations in North America, nine of which are in the US. In Britain, xiangqi is regulated by the UK Chinese Chess Association. Asian countries like Malaysia and Vietnam also have nationwide leagues.

"As overseas Chinese, we want to promote xiangqi and let our next generation learn the philosophy and wonder of the ancient game," said Patrick Li, secretary general of the American San Francisco Chinese Chess Association.

Xiangqi incorporates Chinese history, ancient military strategy, and in many ways a Chinese sense of a "way of living", he said.

It will train young people to think about problems with an "overall viewpoint", he said.

"We also want to explore the marketing value of xiangqi, which currently falls behind other sports," said Liu Yun, the vice-deputy of marketing department of the China Xiangqi Association.

Last year, the xiangqi department of the general administration of sport of China kicked off a cooperative effort with Tencent on its QQ game platform and China Mobile.

Currently, the development of xiangqi in China is mainly based on the Government support or some private funders who are fans themselves," Guo said.

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