World’s best Chinese Chess players compete in Richmond

Elite Chinese chess players from around the globe descended on Richmond this week.

The 2019 World Xiangqi (Chinese chess) championship will be held at Executive Hotel Vancouver Airport until Oct. 11, with more than 70 players from 18 countries participating in both male and female divisions, including six players from Canada. 

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When it comes to strategy board games, Risk, Monopoly and Settlers of Catan might be the first that come to mind. However, most people are unaware that Chinese chess is one of the most popular board games in East Asia, according to Dominic Shing Kin Ho, chairperson of the organizing committee of 2019 World Xiangqi Championship. 

“Xiangqi, also known as Chinese chess, is well-liked in China. Currently, we are in the process of introducing the game to more Richmondites so that chess players can have fun together,” said Ho. 

Chinese chess consists of a battle between two armies, with the goal of the game being to capture the opposing side’s king. Similar to Western chess, some game pieces are prohibited from certain movements, from facing each other or from being placed on certain parts of the board. 

While rules of the game are simple, the strategies and moves involved are continuously changing, which is one of the reasons why people from all walks of life in China love playing Xiangqi, said Ken Yu, an amateur chess player and co-organizer of the event. 

Yu added that people play Xiangqi in parks, streets and alleys back in his hometown, but it’s a bit difficult to find a chess-mate after immigrating to Canada. 

“Some people are used to playing Western chess and they feel hesitant to learn a new kind of chess. Actually, Xiangqi can be as exciting as Western chess if you devote time to it. Just like the old Indian proverb states: Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe.” 

Yu is also working to promote the game to Richmondites of all ages — from 80-year-olds to young students — by hosting game nights where residents can learn how to play Chinese chess. 

“The game should be promoted nationwide because it’s beneficial for improving mental and physical health,” said Yu. “Chess masters always need to think several moves ahead in planning, which can reduce the risk of dementia. Why not join us?”

The sessions are held every Thursday at the Richmond Centre for Disability in Lansdowne Mall from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

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