Markham Xiangqi Association kicks off with celebration; China’s star players bring the fireworks

Official opening of the Markham Xiangqi Association's clubhouse at New Kennedy Square

Official opening of the Markham Xiangqi Association’s clubhouse at New Kennedy Square

The Greater Toronto Area has just got its fourth Xiangqi club.

The three that already existed are the Toronto Xiangqi Association, the Scarborough Seniors Chess Club, and a group that is associated with the Vietnamese Association Toronto (a Vietnamese team competed in the recent Inter-City Team Championship).

Markham Regional Councillor Nirmala Armstrong

Markham Regional Councillor Nirmala Armstrong

Now a club has been formed that reflect Xiangqi’s steady expansion to the North. The newly created Markham Xiangqi Association (MXA’s) sent a team to the North American championships in New Jersey. It was officially inaugurated this past Sunday, December 15. In attendance were elected officials from the City of Markham and an illustrious Xiangqi team from China.

New Kennedy Square, which is now the GTA’s leading Xiangqi hotspot (Sunday afternoon is the best time) has provided a space for the MXA’s club house. This will be used to display the trophies and banners belonging to the TXA and MXA. The official opening of the clubhouse on Sunday was attended by Markham Regional Councillor Nirmala Armstrong and by our Chinese guests.

After this, we went to New Kennedy Square’s stage area, where the Chinese players entertained a large audience with their formidable skills. Before play began, Ms. Armstrong read a greeting from Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti (who frequently attends our events in person) and Grandmaster Guo Liping 郭莉萍 made a speech hailing the inauguration of the Markham Xiangqi Association.

This is the fourth visit by one or more Chinese grandmasters since 2012. This group was comprised of:

  • Grandmaster Guo Liping 郭莉萍 of Heilongjiang, the 2002 and 2004 Chinese women’s champion, the 2003 and 2005 World Women’s Champion, and the current deputy secretary general of the Chinese Xiangqi Association. She frequently appears as an analyst on CCTV – here’s an example on Youtube.
  • Grandmaster Ouyang Qilin 欧阳琦琳: the 1993 Asian women’s champion, runner-up in the 1992 and 1993 Chinese women’s championships, and a member of Shanghai teams that won the Chinese women’s championships in 1989 and 1993. She is the current vice-president of the Shanghai Chess Association and is involved in the organization of a range of Mind Sports events in Shanghai.
  • Master Zhao Wei 趙瑋 ,who follows the great Hu RongHua as one of Shanghai’s top players, and who has won a number of strong tournaments in Shanghai and elsewhere.
  • Li ZeChao 李澤超, the current Deputy Secretary General of the Chinese Xiangqi Association.

Up on stage, Zhao Wei was challenged by Mark Wang WeiQiang 王伟强, winner of the last four Toronto championships and fresh off a third place finish in the North American championships. Despite all this, he was a distinct underdog, and made a brave effort. He attacked, Mr. Zhao counter-attacked, both sides played bold sacrifices, but eventually Mr. Zhao played a chariot (rook) sacrifice that Mark could not effectively meet. Even though Mr. Zhao’s general (king) was more exposed, it was Mark’s general that could not be defended.

Grandmaster Ouyang Qilin

Grandmaster Ouyang Qilin

While this was happening, the two grandmasters each played eight of Toronto’s most avid players. We did not go easy on them: their opposition included 2010 Toronto Champion Lin ShiXiong 林世雄, along with most of the players that regularly take the other top spots in our tournaments. Almost all lost, and several of the best were cut to pieces.

The games were all over in about two hours. Zhou Wei and Guo LiPing then analyzed his game with Mark for the audience. and after this Chinese players autographed event posters.

Master Zhao Wei and Grandmaster Guo LiPing

Master Zhao Wei and Grandmaster Guo LiPing

The exhibition was attended by Markham’s Ward 2 Councillor, Alan Ho, long one of our best supporters. The audience also included two of our greatest players:  Grandmaster Huang YuYing 黃玉瑩 and her husband Stephen Fung, who have four Toronto champions between them. Ms. Huang won the world women’s championship in Singapore in 1995, and competed in the 2005 world women’s championship, which was won by Ms. Guo. When the exhibition was over, three of the world’s best female Xiangqi players had a friendly chat.

As always, the event was followed by dinner at New Kennedy Square’s anchor restaurant, the New Mongkok Restaurant. In addition to the Chinese players, the guests included Nirmala Armstrong and Alan Ho.

Below is a gallery of pictures from this event taken by Andy Chan 陈晃佑 and Bill Brydon.

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