LIU, YICI 刘忆慈(liú yì cí, 1916-1982)

Nicknames: Liu the Deity
Title: Xiangqi Master

Master Liu Yici was a native of Hangzhou, Zhejiang. Born in 1916, Liu went to become an apprentice at a local umbrella maker. It so happened that the boss was a famous Xiangqi player by the name of Xu ChunQuan (徐春泉, xú chūn quán). Although Liu was an apprentice, he would often follow Xu on his Xiangqi outings and soon, Liu learned quite a bit about the game himself. The two would discuss the games played and Xu discovered Liu's gift for Xiangqi from his analysis of the situation. The teahouse that he frequented was Xiyu Teahouse (喜雨楼, xǐ yǔ lóu), which was a hotbed for Xiangqi enthusiasts in Zhejiang at that time.

Famous local players Zhang Guanyun (张观云, Hanyu Pinyin zhāng guān yún) and Guan Chunlin (关春林, guān chūn lín) were often found playing there and they soon became Liu's masters. Liu flourished under their guidance and eventually beat Xu Chunquan himself. Xu was so impressed by Liu that he even betrothed his daughter to him and Liu went from being an apprentice to becoming the heir of Xu's business. While taking care of the family business, Liu spent most of his time at XiYu Teahouse whereby his Xiangqi prowess improved by leaps and bounds. In 1936, both Xu Chunquan and Liu Yici were invited to a tournament held in the city of Hangzhou and Liu come in a second place losing only to Dong Wen Yuan. After that achievement, Liu stamped his name on the Xiangqi scene in Zhejiang.

Liu would also start traveling to Shanghai in the 1940's to challenge the local experts. Liu was quite original in the interpretation of various positions. As Red, he loved to use the Angel's Pawn and was nicknamed Liu the Deity. As Black, he preferred to play the Same Direction Cannons or the Opposite Direction Cannons or the Screen Horse Defense. He was quite innovative in the openings of his time and was very alert and sensitive to changes in various situations in midgame. He was also well known for choosing to sacrifice material with precision. His chariot-less endgame skills were also renowned. Liu came in third place in the first and second Chinese National Individual Championships in 1956 and 1957 and came in fifth place in 1958. Because of his achievements, he became one of the first few Xiangqi masters to be inducted when the title was made available in the 1980's. Liu passed away in 1982.

First created: 6th, Dec 2017
Last updated:15th, Dec 2017

Tu Jingming 屠景明 Yang Baiwei 杨柏伟 , Xiangqi Dictionary<<象棋辞典>> , 上海文化出版社 2009 , p179-180,
Xu Qingxiang 徐清祥, The Games of National Players of a Recent Era, 《近代象棋国手名局》 p16-23 , ,

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