Zhang Guofeng 张国凤
Name: Zhang Guofeng 张国凤, 1975-present
Birthplace: Zhenjiang 镇江 Jiangsu Province 江苏.
Summary of achievements:
1. 2001 National Xiangqi Singles Female Champion (12th ever Champion in the history of the sport)
2. Key player on the Jiangsu team which won the Chinese National Xiangqi Team Championships in 1992，1994，1995，1997，1998，1999
3. Asian Female Xiangqi Champion in 1995 and 2002. 1995、2002年获亚洲象棋个人锦标赛冠军
4. Top ranked female player in the second half of 2006
5. Mixed doubles Champions (together with GM Liu Dahua) in the Changjia Zhuangyuan Cup Paired Doubles Xiangqi Championships “常家庄园杯”象棋混双赛冠军
GM Zhang Guofeng was born in 1975. She was a native of Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province. When she was in Grade 1 of elementary school, she caught the eye of local Xiangqi champion Qiu Xiantan 邱先坦. One thing led to another and she was admitted to Zhenjiang City's Xiangqi Coach Yang Yi杨毅's school where she learnt continued improving her Xiangqi skills. By the time she was 13, she was already the provincial Xiangqi Youth champion. For her achievements, she was welcomed into the Jiangsu Provincial team, and came directly under Coach Li Guoxun 李国勋's tutelage where she blossomed. Coach Li is one of the more famous Xiangqi coaches in China, in case you did not know. By the time GM Zhang was a teen, she was already a serious competitor for the National Xiangqi Xiangqi Female Championships, but luck was not on her side.
As early as 1991, she came in 4th place in the competition. Her second chance was in 1994, where in the last round, had she won Beijing's Chang Wanhua常婉华, she would have been the Queen of Xiangqi. She already had the advantage in that game ( a sure win endgame of 1h1c1p vs 1c2a2e) and her only threat, GM Hu Ming was in deep trouble in her own game. Spectators gathered around GM Zhang's game and perhaps she knew that she was winning and let her guard down, losing an all important pawn before drawing that fateful game. GM Hu Ming came back from behind and won her own game, leaving young GM Zhang to fight for another day.
But GM Zhang did not let that defeat haunt her. She roared back to become Asian Xiangqi Queen in both the 1995 and 1998 Asian Xiangqi Championships, Females section. In China, she continued to improve her standings and came in 3rd place in 1996, 2nd place in 1997 and 6th place in 1998. Coach Li had this to say about her " No matter if it were Cultural studies or Xiangqi studies, Zhang Guofeng was very hardworking and focused. She has a super aggressive style of play, a very clear idea of where her opening stood in the game; has a very quick and adept line of thought, and is very accomplished in non-chariot endgames. She stood out especially in her will to fight in active competition, and is one of the players I have high hopes for. Her achievements are merely results of the hard work she has put in. Even on nights when we did not train, she would burn the night oil till 1am. I remember on one occasion, when the night patrol guard entered the training room, he was able to stand behind a very focused Zhang for over 10 mintues before she knew that there was another person in the room."
But the young GM Zhang was not without her weaknesses. Her psyche was still criticized as immature and she was often too rash in competition. And Lady Luck did not seem to be with her as she just was not able to capture the coveted title of Xiangqi Queen on many occasions. In fact, she was once nicknamed the " Perennial Runner Up". That was, before the turn of the century. Her luck changed. 2001 would be the year when she would kill all the demons in her closet to become the 12th National Xiangqi Singles Female Champion and become the undisputed Queen of Xiangqi. She recalled "In the second round against Shanghai's Zhu Weipin朱伟频, I had basically lost that game when suddenly, my opponent gave me a big present in the form of a chess piece. After so many years of competitive Xiangqi, it was the first time that I received such a present. I felt that my situation was better than hers and I eventually came back from behind to win that game. It proved to be instrumental and I gained momentum, bearing Zhao Guanfang (also a GM) and Wang Linna (another GM) in the next few rounds. I was on a roll and after 6 rounds, I had amassed 5.5 points to be in the lead. UInfortunately, in the 7th round, I went up against Guo Ruixia, and in an effort to increase my lead, after a fierce battle, I lost instead. I shut myself in the house, fuming, thinking of my immature psyche. After all, it has been so many years, after so many close calls, that I have tried to win the Championship. After much reflection, I knew that I was inadequately prepared mentally. So in round 8, I readjusted my mental state of mind and managed to beat Zheng Chufang. In round 9, I was up against Guo Liping (another GM), and in that midgame, I had already come back from behind. Unfortunately, I rushed my moves again and lost that one. I felt that it was not a game that I had played. In the final round, I was up against GM Hu Ming ( one of the longest reigning Xiangqi queen in the history of the sport ), all I had to do was to draw that game to win the trophy. I decided not to force myself anymore... " And she did indeed relaxed herself. When the curtains fell, she was crowned the Queen of Xiangqi. After winning the trophy, she said " Winning the championship left me with mixed feelings. A feeling of ecstacy and yet calmness. I was happy for the fact that I had not wasted so many years of hard work. Yet, I was calm because I knew that the championship was not the end of my journey, it was to be a beginning. The road ahead is still long and arduos, and there are still many more championships for me to win..."
In team competitions, the Jiangsu Female team was feared throughout the 90's with 6 championship trophies and 2 runner up placings. GM Zhang was, of course, one of the heart and soul of the team, together with GM Wu Xia. In 2001, when the Jiangsu team claimed Gold again, she had a perfect record of 6W3D, which no other first board player could achieve. GM Zhang was also a well known competitor in the Males Division! Her achievement in 1999 has been a story that is still mentioned from time to time. In 1999, Maite.Xinghua Cup "麦特.兴华杯" was held. It was a competition whereby only Xiangqi Masters were allowed to compete. In that year, female competitors were allowed to play against male competitors. GM Zhang pounced upon the chance and when that tournament was over, she came in 8th place, with a 5W2D2L record! What was phenomenal about that accomplishment was that she beat 5 of the top male players of that era, including Masters and Grandmasters: Master Li Zhiping 李智屏 (top seed in that competition), Master Zhang Xiaoping 张晓平, Master Zhuang Yuting 庄玉庭 (who later became GM) and GM Wan Chunlin 万春林. GM Wan said after that 5 hour battle, he had tried his best and that he just could not find any weaknesses in GM Zhang 's game. Indeed, GM Zhang is one of the few Xiangqi players whose games are ALWAYS a pleasure to watch. She is famous for her aggressive style, so aggressive that stats show that a win or loss occurs over in over 90% of her games. Some have even joked that she does NOT know how to draw. In her own words, " It is not that I do not know how to draw games, just that I just cannot accept a draw. Even in even games, I just start to attack after a few moves. That is why many say that I either win or lose but seldom draw in actual competition."
GM Zhang and GM Wu Xia are often compared, being from the same team, but with totally different approaches to the game. While 90% of GM Zhang's games are decided, 90% of GM Wu Xia's games are draws. While GM Wu's style has been descibed as firm and cautious, GM Zhang's style has been free of and dominating. Jiangsu legend, GM Xu Tianhong , was once asked how to judge a person's character from the way they played Xiangqi, and he had this to say... " Wu Xia and Zhang Guofeng had dinner together. Wu Xia would slowly nibble at her food while Zhang would just gulp down one mouth after another ...." GM Zhang still participates actively in competition.
First created : 28th March 2012
Last updated: 28th March 2012
1.In Chinese, <<江南四燕>> chief editor 胡荣华 . Very good stuff!!!
3.In Chinese http://www.zgxqds.com/zixun_info.asp?id=746 , a short autobiography of GM Zhang