Mixed Chess Tournaments: A Tournament for Chess Polymaths

Author: Jim Png

Note: This article first appeared on Xiangqi.com  

Xiangqi tournaments are exciting. But imagine a tournament where more than one form of chess is played simultaneously where all participants have to play in one or more chess forms. It would be analogous to the triathlon, whereby competitors have to run, cycle and swim.

Now imagine a mixed chess tournament exclusively for chess polymaths. As mentioned in Such a tournament would be similar to Mixed Martial Arts Tournaments that are the craze in the world of martial arts today. There have been at least two major tournaments in China where Xiangqi Grandmasters, International Chess Grandmasters, and Weiqi players of the highest dan have competed against each other. All the invited participants had to play all three different forms of chess against each other.

In this article, the author will discuss mixed chess tournaments in the following manner.

Note: The term 'Chess' would be used in a generic sense in this article. Specific forms of chess would be mentioned directly.

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The Huayuan Cup in 1990

To the author's knowledge, the first-ever such tournament was held in 1990. It was called Hua Yuan Cup (华远杯三棋全能超级大赛 huá yuǎn bēi sān qí quán néng chāo jí dà sài ). It was a tournament for the chess polymaths.

Selected competitors skilled in their respective disciplines took part in a competition whereby they competed in Xiangqi, Weiqi, and International Chess. There were only six competitors, and Weiqi player Jian Huaisui from Hong Kong won that tournament. From the second to six places were Nie Weiping (legendary Weiqi player), Hu Ronghua (Xiangqi legend), Liu Wenzhe (International Master for International Chess), Chen Zude (Weiqi legend and first president of the Chinese Chess Association), and Li Laiqun (Xiangqi grandmaster).

There were upsets in the game, like GM Li Laiqun's (Xiangqi) loss to Liu Wenzhe (International Chess) in Xiangqi. (1 pp. 35,49-50)  (2)

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2008 Patriot's Cup

In October of 2008, there was an invitational tournament called the Patriots' Cup. The full translated name of the tournament was called the Patriot's Cup Queen of Chess, Chess Grandmaster and King of Chess Rivalry Tournament (爱国者杯棋后·棋圣·棋王超级对抗赛 ài guó zhě bēi qí hòu qí shèng qí wáng chāo jí duì kàngsài).

This invitational tournament consisted of only three people, IGM Hu Ronghua (Xiangqi legend), Nie Weiping (Weiqi legend), and Xie Jun (ex-Women's International Champion for International Chess). All three players were invited to play three different forms of chess against each other, and finally, Grandmaster Hu Ronghua won the event to collect prize money of 30000 Yuan.

All three legends had met each other before. Xie Jun was also to have played Weiqi and Xiangqi against the two older men. Nie Weiping and Hu Ronghua were also familiar with each other, having rendered their services to promote their respective forms of chess in China for decades.

The tournament was interesting, especially when players played chess that was not their forte. Even when playing their own game, there were near incidences of slip-ups. In the end, all the players won their respective disciplines with ease but struggled in the other two forms of chess. There was also some 'trash-talking' by the legends, poking fun at their opponents when playing their disciplines, especially when invited to comment on the other two players' games. Overall, it was an amicable tournament. There were many photos of the event that can be accessed with the URLs given in the reference section. (3) (4)

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The Lü Di Wan Xi Tournament in 2016

To the author's knowledge, there was another tournament that was held in 2016. It was called the Lü Di Wan Xi Tournament for Chess Polymaths (绿地万锡杯三棋全能赛 lǜ dì wàn xī bēi sān qí quán néng sài). Notable names included IGM Liu Dahua (Xiangqi), IGM Xu Yinchuan (Xiangqi), Women GM Shan Xiali (Xiangqi), Weiqi legend Nie Weiping, IGM Ye Jiangchuan (葉江川, International Chess), Women's ex-World Champion Xie Jun (谢军, International Chess) et cetera.

The final standings were:



Area of Expertise and notes


Ye Jiangchuan叶江川 (5)

International Chess Master and sifu to Xie Jun, Hou Yifan et cetera. He is also the head coach of the Chinese International Chess team.

2nd Place

Xu Yinchuan许银川  (6)

Xiangqi. An autobiography written by the author can be found here:


3rd Place

Liu Dahua柳大华  (7)

Xiangqi. An autobiography written by the author can be found here:


4th Place

Xie Jun谢军  (8)

International Chess.

5th Place

Nie Weiping聂卫平  (9)

Weiqi (Go)

Nie has been the face of Weiqi for China for a long time. In 2018, there was a picture of him on times square. Please search for Nie Weiping and New York Institute of Go on Facebook.

6th Place

Shan Xiali单霞丽  (10)

Xiangqi. 2nd Women's GM

Current Head of Shanghai Chess Academy

7th Place

Liu Xiaoguang刘小光  (11)

Weiqi (Go)

8th Place

Xu Ying徐莹  

Weiqi (Go)

The author has tried his best to provide additional information for the participants in the match.  (12) (13)

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How a mixed tournament might be organized

The author was only able to find out how mixed tournaments were organized from the Lü Di Wan Xi Tournament for Chess Polymaths.

According to the organizing committee of the Lü Di Wan Xi Tournament, there were eight invited players:

  • 3 Weiqi Players,
  • 3 Xiangqi Players, and
  • 2 International Chess players.

The eight people were equally divided into two groups of four, whereby each player in the same group would have to play against the other people in the same group in a round-robin. The winner of the first group would then be eligible for the championship match against the second group's winner. The second-placed competitor for each group would face their counterpart to decide who would be placed third. The rest of the players would all be put in 5th place.

Tiebreaks were decided with rapid chess depending on what the game was. In the event that the tie could not be broken, lots would be drawn.

Each competitor would have to play Xiangqi, Weiqi, and International Chess SIMULTANEOUSLY against their opponent. The colors would be decided beforehand, but the author does not know how it would be resolved.

The time control was 90 mins for each player with the sudden death format. There were no time increments or delay. The author does not know if one clock or three clocks were used, but it should be the latter.

A win was worth 2 points, a Draw was worth 1 point, and a Loss resulted in 0 points. (14)

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Notable points

Old habits die hard. Many of the experts playing in mixed tournaments admitted that they often thought from their 'accustomed' ways of analysis. For example, IGM Xie Jun (International Chess and ex World's Women Champion) admitted that she had tried to apply International Chess tactics to Xiangqi and failed miserably. (15) (14)

In a game of Xiangqi that was played by Xie Jun against Weiqi legend Nie Weiping, there was a commentary by Xiangqi Grandmaster Hu Ronghua. Hu commentated that Xie Jun could have gained an immense advantage if she had not been overly concerned with protecting the pawns. Hu commented that it was because of the emphasis placed on the number of pawns and pawn structure in International Chess.

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Benefits of Playing more than one forms of Chess

Now comes the most crucial question: would it be beneficial or detrimental for a player to play for more than one form of chess?

Forcing a player to think out of the box

To the author, one of the most essential 'benefits' of playing in this type of mixed tournament would seem that playing different forms of chess would improve your game. This 'benefit' was voiced on more than one occasion by different grandmasters. Perhaps playing other games forced the player to think about the same problem with a different set of rules or perspective. It would be akin to 'out-of-the-box' thinking. The same players would later apply these new 'concepts' back to their area of expertise. (16)

Grandmaster Hu Ronghua was known to have said that there were similar principles in one form of chess that could be applied to other forms. He has been known to apply the principles of Weiqi and International to Xiangqi openings, and his Elephant Opening and Sandwiched Horse Defense have revolutionized the way the Xiangqi opening was played. (2)

Davide Nastasio has expressed a similar concept in his article, where Davide noted that the emphasis on tactical play would improve the way International Chess players played article. Interestingly, there was also a tweet by IGM Fabiano Caruana (International Chess) in the article. The IGM stated:

"After a long month of chess, time to relax with some Xiangqi." (17)

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Benefits of Mixed Chess Tournaments

It would seem that such tournaments had several benefits.

Creating a conducive environment for interaction between different disciplines

As mentioned above, mixed chess tournaments provide a natural environment for players to interact with their counterparts in other disciplines. It was a conducive environment where information could be exchanged.

Such tournaments can be compared to mixed martial arts competition whereby Judo exponents can learn to punch and kick better. Boxers are forced to learn grappling techniques from Jujitsu or wrestling.

Experts in one form of chess would also give pointers in their area of expertise to the other experts. Perhaps the sparks created in these forms of 'cross-chess 'interactions would inspire these players and their fans

In the tournaments, as mentioned above, there was much humor in the proceedings. Weiqi legend Nie Weiping was known to have jokingly commented on his improvements in both Xiangqi and International Chess after participating in the tournaments. (18)

In the news coverage of the 2016 Lü Di Wan Xi Tournament for Chess Polymaths, there was mention of the different experts in their forms of chess doing post-mortem analyses of their games that were not their discipline. For example, Nie Weiping (Weiqi) discussed International Chess with IGM Xu Yinchuan (Xiangqi), and he went over a game of Xiangqi with IGM Xie Jun (International Chess).

Gaining recognition for different forms of chess to different audiences

Mixed tournaments would be a great idea to gain attention and promote different forms of chess.  

Again, the analogy of mixed martial arts tournaments can be used. Boxing fans get to see an array of grappling techniques and chokes. Traditional Judo/Jujitsu/wrestling fans get to see how professional boxers throw punches or how kickboxing exponents kick to knock out the opponent.

The television ratings for mixed martial arts tournaments seem to validate the idea that it could be successful.

Better and more efficient promotion of various forms of chess

When the 2008 Patriots Cup ended, it caused an uproar in China. Indeed, there was mention of organizing similar tournaments in the future. Xiangqi International Grandmaster Hu Ronghua, who won the event, also encouraged more such tournaments to be organized, believing that it could help promote different forms of chess. (19)

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Some thoughts

The author hopes that he would be to see an international tournament for chess polymaths in his lifetime. It would be an excellent experience for chess lovers everywhere. Other than the inspiration that would be seen from the game's technical aspects, the philosophical interaction would be most enjoyable.

The author believes that chess at its most innermost core is the same. The philosophy behind the different forms of chess is universal, although they may be expressed differently.  

During the Tang Dynasty, there was a story of a Buddhist Zen Master called Qingyuan Weixin (青原惟信 Qīngyuán wéi xìn) from the 9th century AD who asked his disciples an open question where he did not answer.

From the Compendium of the Five Lamps (Wudeng huiyuan 《五燈會元》)

The monk Qingyuan Weixin said (translation by Alan Watts in 1951):

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance, I am at rest. For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters. (20)

Perhaps the different forms of chess are but the mountain and water at different times in a person's life. Maybe, through seeing how other forms of chess can be played, we can have a deeper understanding of what chess is.

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