DONG, WENYUAN 董文渊 (dǒng wén yuān, 1919-1996)
Nicknames: None yet
Dong Wenyuan was one of the most gifted and yet controversial figures in Xiangqi in the past century. Born in 1919, Dong was the son of a farmer who became a blacksmith in Zhejiang province. When he was only ten years old, he began to learn the craft of being a blacksmith at the place where his father worked. In his free time, he would play Xiangqi in the streets and began learning the game from Pan Xuanzi (潘选子, pān xuǎn zǐ). He surpassed his master when he was 14 and also learned to play Weiqi at the same time. His talent soon caught the eye of a local entrepreneur Zhang Danru (张澹如, zhāng dàn rú) who was an avid Weiqi player. Dong's Weiqi skills left a lasting impression, and that entrepreneur would later bring Dong to Hong Kong, where he would be a very prominent figure for many decades. Zhang would have a very major influence on Dong.
In 1936, there was a local Xiangqi tournament in the city of Hangzhou where Dong participated. Dong eventually won that tournament and stamped his name in Xiangqi. There were other prominent participants, the most famous being Liu Yici (see LIU YICI).
In 1937, a Christian group in Hangzhou organized a Xiangqi tournament for Xiangqi Experts from East China "华东地区象棋名手邀请赛" (huá dōng dì qū xiàng qí míng shǒu yāo qǐng sài). Xiangqi legend Xie Xiaxun was invited to host the event and so were other famous Xiangqi names like Jiangsu's Dou Guozhu, Shandong's Shao Ciming
With this victory, Dong began his life as a professional chess player. He would begin to frequent famous teahouses in Shanghai and soon made a name for himself and even earned the nickname "Whiz kid from Hangzhou" (小杭州, xiǎo háng zhōu). There were three other 'whiz kids' like himself at that time.
In 1939, Zhang Danru sent his accountant to look for Dong in Shanghai to participate in a major tournament, a tournament that Zhang had organized himself. There were only six participants, the most prominent being Zhou Deyu, the Xiangqi King of the Seven Provinces, whom some regarded as the best in that era. Other famous names included Lu Hui and Zhong Zhen. Zhou won that tournament and Dong was placed second.
Not pleased with this result, Zhang would organize another tournament, which only invited three participants, Zhou Deyu, Zhong Zhen and Dong himself. It was to be a round robin, and each contestant would play two games against each
The young and brash Dong suddenly issued an open challenge to Zhou, saying that he was willing to forfeit his games with Zhong Zhen and wanted a best of ten against Zhou. This challenge had the crowd going again, and many cheered. That best of ten matches
On the third day, before their encounter, Zhou stood up and opened his hand, showing to the crowd the words he had written: 誓杀周德裕 (shì shā zhōu dé yù). Simply translated, it meant that "I vow to kill Zhou Deyu." This gesture had the crowd going wild and greatly affected the psyche of Zhou. In those days, such a gesture was considered to be a very disrespectful and unfitting, even more so for an event like Xiangqi whom many perceived as being one of the cultured pastimes. Zhou lost the final two matches, and
Dong's success got the better of him, and he started becoming very conceited. Dong owed his success to Zhang Danru and was living in his house in Hong Kong. Zhang looked after Dong very well and treated Dong as his own. Dong began taking things for granted and got used to such a luxurious lifestyle, one that his individual abilities would not be able to sustain in those times.
On one occasion, Zhang needed some cash and asked Dong to pawn a
Times would get better for Dong as the war ended. By then, Dong had gained a name for himself in Shanghai. He began issuing public challenges, earning money with his reputation and returned to his old lifestyle and earned the reputation of becoming a womanizer. In 1951, in one of his open challenges, a scrawny young man challenged Dong. Dong barely escaped losing with a 2W1D1L record. It was said that he belittled that young man and went back to his old ways. Dong took his gift for Xiangqi for granted, treating it as only a way to make money and seldom studied Xiangqi in his free time, where he was interested in other pursuits. However, that young man went back and studied fervently, improving greatly and challenged Dong again in 1952, finally defeating Dong in a best of ten matches with a two-win margin. Some say that it was this loss that ended his era of dominance by Dong Wenyuan, and marked the beginning of the Yang Guanlin era. Yang would later become National Champion in 1956 and repeat the feat three times.
Oblivious of the implications, Dong kept on returning to his old lifestyle, going from bad to worse. In 1955, he was sentenced to Heilongjiang for womanizing (details of the exact incident were unknown) for five years. In 1960, Dong went back to Zhejiang after serving his sentence. Even though he had not played chess for over five years, his talent was unmistakable, and he even represented Zhejiang to come in fourth place in the National Weiqi Individual's Championships. However, he had returned to his old ways and was blacklisted and eventually expelled from the government body overseeing Xiangqi, Weiqi, and other chess matters. It was said that a Japanese Weiqi player was baffled at why there was no name for the fourth place on the result score sheet. Since then Dong had been reduced to making money by wagering in Xiangqi. Dong was said to have passed away in 1996.
First created: 6th, Dec 2017
Last updated:6th, Dec 2017
Acknowledgements: None yet
Xu Qingxiang 徐清祥, The Games of National Players of a Recent Era, 近代象棋國手名局 p159-164,
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