The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 8
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.
(8) Easing the calamity at home --- The chess king got ambushed
When Xie returned, China was in the midst of turmoil and the Kuomintang government had just relocated the capital to Chongqing. In March of 1939, Xie who had just recovered from his illness went to Kunming where he used Xiangqi to raise funds and also to provide entertainment to the troops there. Xie would return to Chongqing in May where Shao Lizi welcomed him personally. A banquet was thrown, and the upper class of society and distinguished government officials all gathered. Xie would tell of his trip to South-east Asia and how well the overseas Chinese had received him and their patriotism. As Xie had managed to raise the largest donations, Chiang Kai-shek would ask for his presence. After that banquet, Xie would remain in Chongqing where he would use Xiangqi in open tournaments as means of publicity to gain support for the cause against the Japanese. That period was regarded as the hardest time in the fight against the Japanese. For his efforts, Xie was known as the Patriotic King of Chess.
In 1938, Wuhan and Guangzhou fell, and the Japanese tried to force the Kuomintang to surrender using many political means. It was a chaotic time, and the Kuomintang was on the verge of doing so. There were many different factions. The Communist party made use of the opportunity and infiltrated the various factions, trying to gather people for their cause which was to wage a prolonged war against the Japanese. Zhou Enlai (周恩来 Hanyu Pinyin zhōu ēn lái), Ren Bi (任弼时Hanyu Pinyin rèn bì shí) were amongst the communist representatives that infiltrated the upper class in Chongqing. Naturally, Xie was targeted.
In mid-summer of 1939, the president of the Oriental Culture Society Guo Chuntao (郭春涛 Hanyu Pinyin guō chūn tāo) requested that Xie join him for lunch and made him stay back after it was finished. After lunch, he whispered to Xie: “There is a communist party official who would want to see you this afternoon. Are you willing?”
This meeting would change Xie’s life forever. However, it was also a very dangerous thing to do at that time.
They agreed to meet at two pm in the afternoon. The meeting was described vividly in Xie’s biography. The person who had wanted to meet Xie was none other than Zhou Enlai himself! It was said that Xie held Zhou’s hand for a very long time.
The two discussed and exchanged their views on many subjects and Xie was impressed with the ideals of the Communist Party. After their meeting, Zhou requested for a match against Xie, and the games that they played would become an important part of Xiangqi history. In the first match, Zhou had asked for a two move handicap. Not long into the opening, Xie discovered that Zhou was a very adept player himself and soon Xie was placed at a disadvantageous position. Xie could only manage a draw in the first match. In the second match, Xie could only offer a one move handicap match. Zhou would start with his Central Cannon opening, and both players adopted a steadfast approach to the game which also ended in a draw.
Xie had never expected that Zhou’s skill in Xiangqi was so high and both men started discussing Xiangqi. In the end, the endgame that was played in the second match was made into and endgame composition which Xie named “Easing the calamity at home” and it was published in a newspaper. Zhou Enlai was a prominent politician, and Xie was an international King of Chess. The newspaper report of their encounter generated waves.
Of course, Zhou Enlai had intentionally visited Xie.
After their initial meeting, the two men would meet many times again. Xie was engrossed in Zhou’s views of the times and would travel far and wide to hear Zhou’s speeches, and in the process of doing so, Xie would meet other communist officials.
To publicize his patriotism, Xie would create many endgame compositions that poked fun at the times. These endgame compositions would then be published in the newspapers.
In 1940, the Kuomintang would begin their first major clean-up. Xie was displeased with the Kuomintang’s passive stance toward the war and had been vocal about it. He even made himself heard in an International Chess tournament and welcomed the players from the Soviet Union.
The Kuomintang was displeased and reprimanded Xie, even threatening him, but Xie did not care. Finally, the Kuomintang was forced to show their hand, and during one of Xie’s trips to Zeng Jiayan (to listen to the communist speeches), Xie was ambushed.
He sustained many injuries, and two of his right ribs were fractured together with contusion to the lungs. Xie fainted after coughing blood but he was lucky to have been discovered by people from Zeng Jia Yan, or he would have died. Zhou Enlai heard about his plight and visited him in the hospital himself.
News of Xie’s ambush was made known in Chongqing’s newspaper, and patriotic nationals were incensed and became very critical. Even more people applauded Xie for his stubbornness, refusing to concede to authority.
To be continued…
Note: This article is original and may not be shared or downloaded without permission from the author or translator. Please use the navigation arrows at the bottom of the page or click here to return to the contents page for this section.