Friday, October 10, 2008

First World Mind Sports Games

Xiang qi - Chinese chess - variously translated as "elephant game," something akin to "ambassador game" and "star" or "celestial" game." It has a lot of similarities to western chess, but has enough differences to require learning a whole different set of pattern-recognition and, of course, basic piece moves and rules. The pieces are different from western ches pieces, too. The modern game of xiang qi is played with flat pieces (like checkers) that have their symbols painted or printed on them. The xiang qi board is not checkered like a western chess board; the pieces are placed on the intersections of the squares and not within the squares, and there is a "river" that divides the xiang qi board in half - so a xiang qi board has 72 squares, but the number of playing pieces is 16 to each side because of their placement. Pieces are distingished entirely by color and by subtle variations in the names of the pieces. I'm no expert, that's for sure! The extent of my knowledge is very limited, basically gleaned from a few articles read when I researched the meaning of the name of xiang qi in English ("qi" basically can mean "man" - as in a "playing piece" - but it can also, more intriguingly, refer to the "qi" that is, to put it into popular venacular, rather like "The Force," that invisible yet palpable "something" that forms the very essence of the universe, from "Star Wars." Thre are several different siang qi events taking place side by side with western chess events. Here is news about one of the women's events. Unfortunately, the photograph of the chessboard and pieces in the article is a western chess set with a checkered board! Lan Huong brings home xiangqi bronze 14:06' 10/10/2008 (GMT+7) VietNamNet Bridge – Ngo Lan Huong yesterday secured a bronze medal in the women's individual xiangqi (Chinese chess) event at the first-ever World Mind Sports Games, held in Beijing, China. Huong beat Tan Min Fang Fiona from Singapore in the last round to grab a spot in the top three. The 2007 Asian Indoor Games title-holder pocketed 10 points after seven matches, finishing behind China's Wang Linna and Zhao Guanfang. In a near tie-break for gold, Wang and her compatriot Zhao both accumulated 13 points. Wang was finally awarded the medal because of better rival points, suggesting she encountered stronger opponents during the tournament. "I am so excited with the results," said 28-year-old Wang. "After all, this is the World Mind Sports Games, and in some sense it is just like the Olympic Games for the mind. So being the champion means a lot to me." Ranked as one of the best female xiangqi players in China, Wang earned six victories during, the competition. A native of Heilongjiang Province in northeast China, Wang is a veteran in the sport, having started learning xiangqi at the age of eight. She bagged her first national title in 1997. But facing Zhao was a close call, Wang said. "I did not play well in that match. I left too many chances for my opponent. I think Zhao was too nervous to beat me at that time, or I could not have earned one point from that match." The champion said she hoped her gold medal will be a good start for Chinese female xiangqi players, adding: "Hopefully, my teammates will win another gold for China in the women's team event." The competition was also a hard-won battle for silver medallist Zhao: "Foreign female xiangqi players have made great progress in recent years. Competitors from Viet Nam, the Netherlands and Britain have posed a huge challenge for us during the matches." On the men's side, Vietnamese Nguyen Thanh Bao and Nguyen Hoang Lam are both in the top ten. The duo finished round five with six points. The competition for men has nine rounds and will conclude tomorrow. In the chess event's mixed pair blitz, Ecuador secured gold after tense games against India. In the play-off for third place the Ukraine proved too strong for Iran, winning 3-1 to take the bronze. Vietnamese duo Le Quang Liem and Hoang Thi Nhu Y did not play well, earning only 13 points after 11 rounds, which was not enough to qualify for the semi-final. In the mixed pair rapid event which kicked off yesterday, Dao Thien Hai and Le Kieu Thien Kim of Viet Nam took two points from two first matches and were in the middle of the ranking table. The first World Mind Sports Games attracted more than 3,000 players from 143 countries and regions. Masters compete for 35 medal sets divided into five events: bridge, chess, go, draughts and xiangqi. (Source: VNS/XINHUA)

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