The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 6
Author: 木门先生 from 木门斋 (Recluse of the Wooden Door)
Translated by Jim from www.xqinenglish.com, with permission from the author.
(6) The Chief Commander makes his name known
On his trip to South-east Asia, Xie stopped by Guangzhou where he had many games against Huang Songxuan, Zeng Zhanhong, Lu Hui, Feng Jingru and other experts (Jim: these players were some of the top experts that represented the south at that time). The mere act of playing the Southern players represented a North-South exchange in China.
In China, it was common to call the Chinese who had emigrated and lived in places outside of China as ‘overseas Chinese’ (華僑 Hanyu Pinyin huá qiáo). And the overseas Chinese were keen to see Xie. The had slogans to welcome Xie, which said: “We welcome Xie Xiaxun, the heavenly king of Xiangqi from our ancestral homeland to visit!”
When Xie first reached South-east Asia, he was whisked off to play against the top local experts for eight consecutive nights, and Xie managed to win all his games. In the autobiography, Xie was brought to Singapore, Penang, Jakarta, Bandung et cetera for a total of ten cities in South-east Asia. And it was done in a short span of half a year. Xie was praised to be the King of Xiangqi, the Xiangqi Genius by the locals. It was under such a conducive environment that a proud Englishman wanted to challenge Xie to International Chess. His name was Paul B. Hunter, and he was the RAF Wing Commander to the region. Hunter was also the Malaysian International Chess Champion and wanted to show off the might of the British. But Hunter did not know that Xie was the Chief Commander of Xiangqi and was an expert in International Chess himself.
In the previous installments, we had mentioned that Xie had learned International Chess from a Dane called Charles Kliene and was also the first Chinese to promote International Chess in China.
In 1933, when World Champion Alexander Alekhine visited ShanghaiChina, Xie was one of the few who had managed a draw against Alekhine when he gave simultaneous blindfold matches. This bit of history was very well described in the autobiography. Xie and Kliene also had a bond that was beyond chess. In 1932, it was said that Kliene had even saved Xie’s entire family. In 1932, the Japanese had invaded and occupied Shanghai. As Xie had organized a series of patriotic activities, he was marked by the Japanese, and for a period of five days, Xie’s entire family of sixteen people was surrounded and trapped by the Japanese. In the process, Xie’s youngest son died. If Kliene had not intervened, Xie’s clan would have been exterminated.
Faced with a haughty opponent like Hunter, Xie chose a steadfast approach and used various principles and tactics in Xiangqi to slowly build up his advantage. In the match, it was said that Hunter sent ‘envoys’ on more than one occasion, hoping to use money and other temptations to force Xie to draw the game. Xie flatly refused and finally defeated the haughty wing commander, bringing him back to the ground.
Hunter not only lost his game but also lost his credibility and respect.
The character of a chess player was like the nature of his personality as the Chinese saying goes. Perhaps Hunter had never had such a realization.
Xie would later have more International Chess matches during his tenure in South-east Asia. In Jakarta, Xie would draw the 1927 International Chess Champion; a Dutchman called 溪简 (Jim: Was not able to find the English name in my books or over the internet!) who was associated with the East India Company.
Xie’s achievements in these two matches shocked the International Chess community and significantly increased the pride of Chinese everywhere. The name Xie Xiaxun was now well recognized in the international community.
Because of Xie, the British government organized Silver Dragon Cup which was an international event. International chess players from Germany, America, Austria et cetera gathered in participation. And they all wanted Xie to participate.
Xie traveled back from South-east Asia to take part in the tournament. He had no time to rest or prepare for the tournament but still managed to win the cup with an impressive 18W1D1L record in the twenty round tournament. (Mark Taylor. A Chinese Chess Centenarian. Chesslife Oct 2011 Edition, page 34-35)
It was truly one of the highlights of Xie’s career as a chess player. The chairman of the Kuomintang committee at that time, Lin Sen (林森 Hanyu Pinyin lín sēn) was very impressed and even took up his brush to write “淪靈益智”(Hanyu Pinyin lún líng yì zhì) the four characters as a gift to Xie. (Jim the four characters would mean that Xie was an inspiration to his contemporaries and that he helped stimulated the mind.)
The troubles in the world of chess were quickly overcome by Xie. But during this time, war broke out.
In 1937, Japan started an invasion of China. Xie was bittered and wanted to do his part for his beloved country. Xie brought his family back to his hometown Pingyang, and despite opposition from his family, he stubbornly chose to go to Nanjing to dedicate himself for his country.
To be continued…
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