As a member of the three times national team champions, Yan Wenqing who is known far and wide as master of opening theory, has done his own best for the team. Now as a chief coach player, he is once again shouldering the high responsibility of rebuilding the Hebei Xiangqi team. His great dream is when can he take his team to the national champion's throne again.
Misery and joy of the chess world
Yan Wenqing was born in Tangshan city, of Hebei province, in year 1967, influenced by his family and neighbours, he loved the game since his childhood, he was clever and quick in learning, at the age of 5 or 6 he already knew how to play, when a little bit older, at about 10, he was able to play with grown up persons. Talking about his childhood, Yan Wenqing would happily give a laugh, he said from primary school to his middle school days, he was very much attracted by Xiangqi, whether he was having a meal, walking along a street or in the class, he was always thinking of the game.
One day on his way to school, he watched people playing the game by the roadside, the school satchel over his back, the school bell had rung for a long long time, he was so absorbed that he forgot about his class, until the teacher together with the whole class found him out. Yan recalled vividly, the teacher clutching my ear, I was asked whether I was playing chess or attending school. I knew that it was wrong for me to run away from classes, I also knew that the teacher was caring for me, however deep down in my heart I couldn't shake away Xiangqi. Strange to say it, though I ditched my class a lot, every time when there was final examination, I opened my books just before the test, my result would be in the top list.
Later, introduced by a local player Cao Xiaobao, Yan Wenqing was placed under the guidance of Chen Chunjiang, a famous coach of Tangshan, and also of Cheng Fuyin of Kailuan city, and made tremendous progress. In 1982, the 15 year old Yan Wenqing competed for the first time in the youth division of the provincial Xiangqi tournament and won second place.
In 1983 he was accepted into the provincial Xiangqi team, and under able and tight guidance of the two nationally renown Masters Liu Dianzhong and Li Laiqun, Yan made great progress in his game technique, his psychology preparedness and many other aspects of the game. In 1985, the 18 year old Yan Wenqing successfully teamed up with Liu Dianzhong and Li Laiqun and won title of the national team championships. Thereafter he competed in several important tournaments, at home and abroad, and in 1999 he teamed up with Xu Yinchuan to represent China in the 6th World Xiangqi Championships, and won top honour.
In recent years, following the withdrawal of the "leading command" of Li Laiqun from competition, and coupled with the advancing age and increasing works of Liu Dianzhong, the Hebei Xiangqi team is facing a difficult time, the main problem is how to build a team that can keep the momentum of the glorious pass going. Yan Wenqing courageously takes the responsibility of the rebuilding process.
Talking about his role change, Yan frankly admitted that his responsibility is heavier nowadays, previously when his role was only a player, he needed concerned himself on playing to the best of his ability, now he needs to help other players in their analysis, that forced him to exert a higher effort. At the same time, raising the playing standard of our team members, the training of our reserves all are matters which need time and attention.
For many years, Hebei Xiangqi team is one of the leaders in China, with quite good results achievement. Yan Wenqing has let us know that for him, the greatest pressure is when he is able to lead the team to the peak again in national competitions. He said: "Previously our results in competition were too good, now though our team is still strong, the top performance period has gone, and in the pass two years the team is making big change over, it is paramount to have new players into the team, if selection is wrongly done, this not only hindered a player's development badly, it will also hindered the development of the whole team. At the moment, we are having an eye on the provincial players, when good players appear, we will try to get them into the team. At the same time, Hebei needs a leading command of the Li Laiqun calibre, however among the players right now (that also including myself) we still have not discovered this person, this is a matter you can by chance come across, but impossible to obtain on demand."
No regret we are still young
As a famous Xiangqi Master in China, Yan Wenqing's tournament performances in recent years were not ideal. He said: "My style of playing is different from others, I always pursue sort of creation of novelty moves, always wanted to show all the attractiveness of the game in every facets, in this way, my game in a way suffered as I was not able to steadily develop what I wanted to. However getting into the top 6 does not present a problem. For example in 1993 and 1996, I can manage easily into the top 6 position, When I saw I have a chance to lay a claim to the top honour, I would put on all my effort, if there was no chance for the top spot, I would not care what will be my ranking."
Yan does not believe his game level is going down. Compared to the Grandmasters, technically I do not see there is any difference, Grandmasters and Xiangqi Masters are only titles, not representing true level of the players. In the mind of Yan Wenqing, only Hu Ronghua, Li Laiqun, Zhao Guorong, Lu Qin and Xu Yinchuan who have several times won the national individual championships, are the truely super top class players.
Having competed in tournaments for more than 20 years, what Yan Wenqing regretted most is that he had not won the individual championships title. In 1998 he played Xu Yinchuan in the very last round, had he drew that game, he would be the national champion, however, even at that crucial moment, he did not abandon his pursuit of pure beauty, he tried to produce exciting colourful play, in the end he lost the match with Xu Yinchuan, thereby throwing away his championship crown.
On this matter, Yan Wenqing is of the view that, if you did not have the opportunity of winning the title, you do not have a regret for it. However, at that time the opportunity was in front of you, and you have not treasured it, you have not cherished it, this is the greatest regret. Around these years were also my peak performance years. Though nowadays I do not possess the great urge like before to win the individual championship title, not to mention the difficulty of winning the title is harder with each passing year, as long as I remain in the front line competing, I will continue to make effort to try winning the championships.
A happy life
In ordinary life Yan Wenqing prefers to live quietly, when he has the leisure, sometimes he likes to listen to music, for the choice of music, he is more appreciative of renown music from many part of the world, and from time to time he will enjoy popular music. He used to play basket-ball when he was young, in recently years he only plays occasionally.
Yan Wenqing has indicated that he would like to write some Xiangqi books in his spare time. Five or six years ago together with Zhang Qiang of Beijing, we have published 3 books, when the series of books first appeared in the market, it created an instant impact, with great influence. In recent time, there are many chess enthusiats who asked me to write again. However, I would not like to be just writing books for the sake of writing books, as some Xiangqi Masters do. If I cannot write it well, I would not go for publication, I prefer to wait for a longer time.
Yan Wenqing does not want to talk about his family life too much, however, he has already formed a happy family with Ms Hu Ming, our Hebei's renown Grandmaster. The couple are good companions in life, supporting each other in their chosen careers, one is a chief coach, the other is deputy head of Hebei ' s Chess Academy (Qiyuan), they are forging ahead hand in hand for the revival of Hebei 's Xiangqi.
Good luck Wenqing
I (the reporter) met and made friend with Yan Wenqing for about a year now, Yan sporting a smart moustache, he is enthusiastic and good in conversation. In the space of one hour interview, I very much felt that Yan Wenqing has a great love for the future of Hebei ' s Xiangqi, and the high sense of responsibility as its chief coach.
Yan Wenching's motto is "The temporary victory is through force, the eternal victory is through justice". Because he himself likes to pursue purity and perfection in his game, he has already paid a very heavy price. Looking at this matter, Yan Wenqing has his own reflection and feeling: the happiness which victory can bring to him cannot be compared to the joy of the creation of a new move, whether it is a game won or a game lost, it will always feel good, always feel true. This is the Xiangqi truth which he pursued. Now, as a chief coach, in the competitions of the Xiangqi League, he is forced to assess the importance of winning and losing. But Yan Wenqing indicated that in invididual tournaments, he much prefers to play a beautiful and content-rich game, and to dedicate the game to the many lovers of Xiangqi.
Source: Shijiazhuang Daily
Author: Liu Zhe
~ a XIANGQI EN BLOG translation ~