The Five Rams Cup 五羊杯was perhaps the toughest Xiangqi tournament in the world. Sponsored mostly by the late Hong Kong casino tycoon Huo Yingdong霍英東, the very first tournament was held in January 1981. All the tournaments were held in Guangzhou.
When the tournament first started, only winners of the Chinese Xiangqi National Singles Championship were allowed to participate. Therefore, upon its inception in 1981, there were only 4 players eligible for competition: GM Liu Dahua, GM Hu Ronghua and GM Yang Guanglin and GM Li Yiting. However, GM Li Yiting had already retired, so there were only 3 players. To make place for more top players to take part, the entry requirements were loosened in 2002. Still, it was perhaps the toughest Xiangqi tournament in the world.
Winners of the Five Rams Cup three times in a row were allowed to retain the coveted trophy. Players who have accomplished the feat include GM Hu Ronghua (5th-8th tournament from 1985-1988) and GM Lv Qin ( twice: 9th-13th tournament 1989-1992, 20th-22nd tournament, 1999-2001).
The games played by these greats have been studied meticulously. It was considered to be a great honor to be able to take part in the competition. Unfortunately, as there were no more sponsors after the 29th event, it seems to have stopped. The entire Xiangqi world is still waiting for someone to step up and sponsor the event.
Some interesting facts:
1. Taking part in the Five Rams Cup would increase the player’s chance of becoming National Champion.
Lv Qin represented GM Yang Guanlin in 1985 and 1986 when Yang relinquished his invitation to let young Lv Qin have more exposure. Lv Qin would become the National Champion the following year.
Yu Youhua 于幼華 was invited to take part in the tournament in 2002. Like Lu Qin, he was not national champion yet. But after the Five Rams Cup, he became National Champion in the same year.
Hong Zhi was also invited to the Five Rams Cup in 2005, where he was not national champion yet. Again, following the steps of Lv Qin and Yu Youhua, he would win the following National Championship. And guess what, he won the next Five Rams Cup in 2006.
Jiang Chuan made his debut in 2004. He would become National Champion in 2010.
2. There were only 3 players in the first Five Rams Cup. Liu Dahua won the very first championship, thus becoming the first Champion of Champions. The prize money, sponsored by Coca Cola, was 150 yuen for the champion. By the 16th tournament, the prize money for the champion had multiplied many-fold to 50000 yuen. GM Liu Dahua never won the tournament again after 1983…
3. The 16th Five Rams Cup was so “peaceful” that champion Lv Qin won the tournament with only one win and many draws…Controversy was sparked and additional awards like continuous wins was added in the hope of adding fireworks to the sport.
4. Players who had not won the Chinese Xiangqi National Singles Tournament were allowed to take part in the 16th Five Rams Cup after 2002, as long as they made Grandmaster by virtue of a high winning percentage.
5. Hong Kong casino tycoon Huo Yingdong was the major sponsor of the tournament up till 2009. He announced that he would sponsor the event indefinitely in 1988. Unfortunately, he died in 2006. Guangdong’s 羊城晚報proceeded to take to sponsor the 29th tournament, but stopped afterward. There has not been another Five Rams Cup to date.
Winners of the Five Rams Cup:
First created: 5th March 2011
Last updated: 25th Jan 2012
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