Introduction to Simultaneous Blindfold Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) Matches

Author: Jim Png of

Note: This article first appeared on

In International Chess, there is one way of playing the game, which is done without looking at the board. Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) can also be played without looking at the board, and it is called Blindfold Xiangqi. It is also one way of enjoying the game. Blindfold Xiangqi has a long tradition in China. The 'upgraded' version of playing Blindfold Xiangqi is playing two or more opponents simultaneously. It is called Simultaneous Blindfold Xiangqi Matches. As most of these performances are used to promote Xiangqi, they are called Simultaneous Blindfold Xiangqi Exhibition Matches. This article would be an introduction to Simultaneous Blindfold Xiangqi Matches.


How Blindfold Xiangqi Matches are carried out

The Chinese terminology and a Short Disclaimer

A Short History of Blindfold Xiangqi

The Current Experts

The Ongoing Race to be King of Blindfold Xiangqi

Honorable Mention:


How Blindfold Xiangqi Matches are carried out

Blindfold Xiangqi is one way of eliminating the difference in skill levels as a stronger player might play blindfolded against a weaker player who could look at the board. For casual games, two players may just recite the moves to each other.

For very strong players, there is an 'upgraded' version of blindfold Xiangqi: Simultaneous Blindfold Xiangqi Matches. The blindfolded player would play several blindfolded matches against competitors. In such exhibition matches, other people will read the moves out loud to the blindfold player and make the moves for him. The time control and color of the challengers are usually decided beforehand and announced.  

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The Chinese terminology and a Short Disclaimer

Blindfold Xiangqi is known as '闭目盲棋' (bì mù máng qí) or simply盲棋 (máng qí) for short. It is also known as '蒙目棋' (méng mù qí) in Chinese. Another occasionally used name would be '口弈' (kǒu yì). (1 页 10-11)

'闭目' would mean to close one's eyes. '盲' would be the Chinese for 'blind,' while '蒙目' would be one way of saying to cover up your eyes. '棋' is chess.

Simultaneous Blindfold Xiangqi Exhibition matches are called 闭目车轮战 (bì mù chē lún zhàn). In blindfold exhibition matches, the act of reading out the moves is called '唱棋' (chàng qí), which if translated directly, would mean 'to sing out the moves.'

While the name contains the word 'blindfold,' the players may or may not necessarily be blindfolded. They can simply sit some distance away or with the backs facing the Xiangqi boards. As long as they do not see the board, it can be considered to be Blindfold Xiangqi.

Disclaimer: There are several Xiangqi variants whereby the game is started with the Xiangqi pieces covered or placed upside down such that it would be impossible to discern them. These variants are NOT considered Blindfold Xiangqi, although there have been instances where similar translations have been used to describe them.

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A Short History of Blindfold Xiangqi

As mentioned in the earlier article on Wen Tianxiang (文天祥1236-1282AD), playing Xiangqi without looking at the board has been recorded since ancient times. The description of Wen Tianxiang playing Xiangqi with his friends while bathing in the river, without using a Xiangqi board, is perhaps the earliest record of playing Blindfold Xiangqi.

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The Current Experts

There have been many accounts of simultaneous Xiangqi competitions in China. Simultaneous Blindfold Xiangqi matches have been around for some time. However, it was only recognized and recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1995.

When speaking of blindfold simultaneous Xiangqi experts, the names of Hu Ronghua (胡荣华 hú rónghuá), Liu Dahua (柳大华 liǔ dà huá), Li Laiqun (李来群 lǐ lái qún), Jiang Chuan (蒋川 Jiǎng chuān) and Dang Fei (党斐 dǎng fěi) have come up.

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Grandmaster Hu Ronghua was also an expert at simultaneous blindfold exhibition matches

While Grandmaster Hu Ronghua is lauded for his various achievements in Xiangqi, he was also a powerful blindfold player. He was also perhaps the first-ever player to play against over ten players simultaneously. In fact, because of his reputation and status, he singlehandedly generated a lot of interest in simultaneous blindfold exhibitions (2)

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Grandmaster Liu Dahua: the Oriental Computer

Grandmaster Liu Dahua (柳大华 liǔ dà huá) has been one of the forces dominating Xiangqi for the past four decades. He was also one of the earliest Xiangqi blindfold specialists having a history of delivering simultaneous blindfold Xiangqi matches for half a century.  (3) 

He has also been abroad and delivered exhibition matches in Europe, where he astounded the local people. One of the events was held in Paris, where he went 1 vs. 10. It took him less than two hours to win nine matches, and he drew the last game. To make sure that the skeptics were convinced, he then proceeded to do a post-mortem analyses of his games right on the spot immediately after the exhibition. (2)

For his astounding memory, he was nicknamed the 'Oriental Computer' (东方电脑 dōng fāng diàn nǎo), a nickname that is now synonymous with him.

Given below is a commentated game of one of his blindfold matches that were played during his heyday. It shows a brilliant kill after sacrificing a chariot. Remember, the Oriental Computer did it blindfolded! (4)

An account of one of his matches from Youtube can be seen here.



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Grandmaster Li Laiqun in Europe and North America

Grandmaster Li Laiqun has been known to have delivered several Xiangqi performances in China. His exploits have been reported many times in the various Xiangqi periodicals back in the 1980s. One of his matches was analyzed in the February edition of the now-defunct magazine Beifang Qiyi (《北方棋艺》běifāng qíyì). (5)



Grandmaster Li Laiqun went on to Germany to promote Xiangqi in 1986. He was part of a team led by Liu Guobin (刘国斌 Liú guó bīn) that included Master Lin Hongmin and Master Sun Zhiwei. It was in West Berlin (before Germany's unification), where he delivered a 1 vs. 8 Xiangqi simultaneous blindfold exhibition match. It was one of the earliest accounts of a simultaneous blindfold Xiangqi exhibition in Europe to the author's knowledge. A short news report of the event is given below. (6)

There was mention of the Berlin Morning Post has written an article reporting the event. Unfortunately, the author has not been able to locate the relevant news cutting from the German newspaper.

 Mention of Li Laiqun giving a Simultaneous Blindfold Exhbition from 1987 periodical Shanghai Xiangqi

Grandmaster Li has also played exhibition matches in North America. It was notable that he played 1 against 4 against local Xiangqi experts in San Francisco but did not fare well as he managed only a 1 W 1L 2D record. The event itself was quite well received as a magazine reported about 500-600 spectators for the three-hour event. (7)

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Master Dang Fei

Grandmaster Liu Dahua's skills were inherited by his protégé, Master Dang Fei. Dang started training under Liu Dahua in 1995 and gradually became an expert in blindfold Xiangqi himself. (3)

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Grandmaster Jiang Chuan

While Liu Dahua and his proteges were well-established blindfold experts, their 'monopoly' was to be destroyed by Jiang Chuan, who is the current Guinness Book of World Records Holder. (8)

According to an interview, Jiang Chuan mentioned that he was inspired by Hu Ronghua, who felt that Jiang Chuan needed to preserve the art of blindfold Xiangqi. It was this mission that kept the young grandmaster going. (9)

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The Ongoing Race to be King of Blindfold Xiangqi

There has been a race to be the top blindfold Xiangqi expert for the past three decades. However, the record only became 'official' and entered in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1988. Before 1988, there were already reports of such exhibition events.

The late Xie Xiaxun (谢侠逊xiè xiá xùn) was known to have played one against two during his trips to South-east Asia. The late Grandmasters Yang Guanlin and Li Yiting were known to have played 1 against 5 in the 1950s. However, in 1975, Hu Ronghua stunned the Chinese world with a 1 vs. 12 simultaneous blindfold exhibition match that lasted for over a decade. Unfortunately, no officials from the Guinness Book of World Records were notified, and the feat has not been recorded. (2)

Liu Dahua's name was recorded in the Guinness World Records in 1988 when he played 1 vs. 15. Liu Dahua did not stop there as it was the first of several times that he left his name in the history books.

He would go 1 vs. 16 on the 1st of March 1992 in Guilin and then top his performance on the 19th of August 1993 with a 1 vs. 17 performance in Beijing. (2)

But Liu Dahua's best performance would yet to come. He would then break his record with a 1 vs. 19 performance in 1995, which was a record that stood for nearly sixteen years. (10)

On the 3rd of January in 2011, young Grandmaster Jiang Chuan (蒋川 Jiǎng chuān) broke Liu Dahua's record of the number of simultaneous blindfold Xiangqi matches. He went 15W5L in a 1 vs. 20 exhibition match. Liu Dahua needed over seven hours for this feat. (10) (11)

By this time, Liu Dahua was over 60 years of age and past his prime. Luckily, his protégé, Dang Fei, would 'take revenge' for his sensei by breaking Jiang Chuan's record. In 2011, which was the same year when Jiang Chuan broke Liu Dahua's record, Dang Fei would go 15W5D1L in a 1 vs. 21 blindfold exhibition match. (3) (12)

Jiang Chuan would then break his own record again on the 22nd of January in 2013. It took him 7 hours and 42 minutes to achieve a 16 W 6D record in a 1 vs. 22 attempt. (13)

But the 'feud' between Jiang Chuan and Liu Dahua was not over. Interestingly, both the young and old grandmasters dueled each other. They played six matches of simultaneous blindfold Xiangqi games on the 27th of May, 2014. The match ended in a draw as both players won three games and lost three games each. Perhaps the competitors' pressure was too great; there was an incident of Jiang Chuan remembering the wrong moves. Nevertheless, it was a happy ending for the two grandmasters. (14)  (15)

Jiang Chuan would reclaim the title as the top blindfold simultaneous expert again in 2013 when it took him 7 hours and 40 minutes to achieve a 1 vs. 22 record. His win-loss record was 16W6D, and Jiang was only 29 years old at that time.

In 2015, Dang Fei would 'take revenge' again for Liu Dahua. He went 17W4D3L in an exhibition in Singapore and entered the Guinness Book of World Records. There was some controversy to the Guinness record as the Guinness officials felt that the game had to be played completely blindfolded and that Dang Fei had to feel the pieces and make the moves himself, instead of listening to the judges call out the moves. It caused quite an uproar, but luckily the situation was rectified, and eventually, Dang Fei would receive his well-deserved honors. (3) (16)

But Jiang would snatch back what was rightfully his. To date, Jiang Chuan is the current record holder at 1 vs. 26. He achieved this feat in 2017 with a record of 21W3D2L. The stunt was completed within 16 hours and 24 minutes. (8) (17)

There was coverage of this event, and a video covering the competition can be found on Youtube. (18)



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Honorable Mention:

Chao Ifan from Taiwan

International Master Chao Ifan from Taiwan is also a blindfold Xiangqi specialist. He had a simultaneous blindfold exhibition match on the 23rd of April in 2017, where he went one against twenty-six. Unfortunately, the event was not official as the Guinness World Records was not invited.

Footage of the event can be seen below. (19)




GM Wang Yang in Houston an early and rare demonstration

In 2013, there was a blindfold exhibition match in Houston, Texas. Grandmaster Wang Yang went against four local Xiangqi experts.

Coverage of the event can be seen from an interview that can be found on Youtube. (20)



GM Liu Dahua and Master Dang Fei in Double Simultaneous Blindfold Exhibition Match

If playing blindfold simultaneous Xiangqi was hard enough, there is another format that would be even tougher! That would be to play a tag team simultaneous blindfold Xiangqi match in a 'tag-team' format! A player makes a move, the challengers make one, and then the 'tag-team' partner makes another. Both players had to guess what their opponents were thinking; they would also have to guess what their 'tag-team' partner was thinking off so that the game's general direction or flow would not be too far apart.

GM Liu Dahua and his protégé had delivered such an exhibition match in Singapore to promote Xiangqi. There is a Youtube video that can be seen covering the event. (21)


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Playing simultaneous blindfold matches is a test of the human body and spirit. It is also fun to see how the brain can function when faced with vast amounts of ever-changing information and possibilities within a short period of time. The effort and concentration required cannot be described.

However, to the author, perhaps the ultimate test would be a blindfold simultaneous exhibition match whereby a chess polymath expert goes and plays two or more different forms of chess! That would be an exciting thing to see!


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