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US hosts Chinese chess championship

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-11-27 10:54

Chinese player Meng Chen (center), Vietnamese player Lai Ly Huynh (left) and Singaporean player Woo Tsung Han won the first, second and third place in men's category at the 18th World Xiangqi Championship held in Houston Nov 19-25. MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

The 18th world championship of Chinese chess (xiangqi) concluded in Houston over the weekend with over 100 players from more than 13 countries and regions participating. 

It was the first time that the United States hosted the World Xiangqi Championship.

Tang Sinan, who is on the Chinese team and finished first in the women's category, joined the championship as a backup player because one of her teammates experienced a visa-processing delay.

"I didn't know I was coming until the day before the trip," said Tang. "It has been such a huge and pleasant surprise for me. From the first day I embarked on the journey, I felt lucky. For me, the luck lasted to the last minute, and I have had a perfect ending in Houston. This is my blessed land."  

Despite her victory, Tang said the competition was no easy ride for her. "The players are all really good," Tang said. "The skills of the international players are getting better, players from Vietnam, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Japan," she said.

"Even Malaysia and Malaysia Timur offered strong competitors. I noticed that American players are also getting very good. All these are good for xiangqi's development." 

With the championship taking place over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Tang said she and some other players got a taste of Texas steak and the Black Friday shopping experience.

"It's all very nice; I will have to find an opportunity to visit the US again," she said.

Meng Chen of the Chinese team was the winner in the men's category. Just like Tang, he said the process wasn't easy. 

"My opponents were strong, especially the opponent from Vietnam, who gave me a hard time at the last match. I am very happy to win, and I think this is big step for my xiangqi career."

As one of only two non-Asian players on the US team, Matthew Boey was awarded the best player, excluding players from China and Vietnam, where the sport is most popular, at the championship. He has been playing xiangqi for more than 20 years. 

"I first saw Chinese people playing xiangqi outside a building in San Francisco around 1998," Boey told China Daily. He got hooked and started learning how to play.

The more he learned, the more he wanted to improve. Because most of the xiangqi strategy books are in Chinese, Boey began to study Chinese around 2005. He said he spent about four to five years in China to learn the language and improve his xiangqi skills. 

It was the second time that Boey competed in the world championship. However, he doesn't believe his success was a big deal because there are so many excellent players out there.

Olivier Tessier first learned Korean chess while living in South Korea. Upon returning to North America, he found that hardly anyone was playing it, but that there was a xiangqi community, and the game is similar to Korean chess. He switched to xiangqi and has really enjoyed it for the past three years.

"This was my first time playing at the world championship. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. Everyone is a strong player," Tessier said. 

The Fourth Youth World Xiangqi Championship was held concurrently. Hu Yushan, co-chair of the Organizing Committee of the championship and president of the Houston Xiangqi Association, said he's happy to see the young generation carry the torch.

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