Xiangqi tournament at the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich

by Oliver Breitschädel
9/22/2023 – Nymphenburg Palace was the venue of an international rapid xiangqi tournament on September 9. As part of the festive event, Xiangqi Grandmaster Sun Yongzheng gave a simultaneous exhibition against ten opponents. Oliver Breitschädel reports. | Pictured: Andrea Trombettoni, with his daughter Giulia, observed by Xiangqi Master Dong Xubin. Andrea Trombettoni is a physics professor and travelled from Italy with his daughter especially for this event. | Photos: Oliver Breitschädel

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Chinese chess in Munich!

Chinese chess (xiangqi = elephant chess) is one of the best-known and most popular board games in the world and is mainly native to China and Vietnam. In Europe, however, there are still many chess fans who have never heard of this game, although it is similar to our Western variation in many ways. From the Chinese point of view, it is a sign of good education to master this game, and it is a mental sport that challenges all generations and cultures equally.

Thanks to xiangqi promoter Xue Zhong (Munich, Secretary General of the European Xiangqi Federation EXF), the third Shanghai Masters (the German leg) could now be brought to Munich. The Xiangqi World Championship 2015 and the European Championship 2017 also took place in Munich. Besides the European Xiangqi Federation, a big thank you goes to the Shanghai Chess Academy for making this princely event in Munich possible.

The venue on September 9 was the famous Nymphenburg Palace (at the Johannissaal), which was the summer residence of Bavarian electors and kings from 1715 to 1918.

Consul General Tong Defa (left) and Xue Zhong (right) promote the xiangqi event at Nymphenburg Palace

On September 9, Xue Zhong received a delegation from Shanghai at the Nymphenburg Palace. The Shanghai delegation came especially for this event. It was to be a special event in front of a fantastic backdrop. The programme not only included the Shanghai Masters, an open rapid tournament, but also a Chinese cultural festival. More than 50 fans from all over Europe attended this festival.

Chenn Yuehua (Stuttgart) and Xue Zhong led the programme.

Opening speech

The picture shows the European and Shanghai Xiangqi delegation: Xue Zhong, Rudi Reinders (Vice President EXF), Shan Xiali (Vice President of the Chinese Xiangqi Association and President of the Xiangqi Association Shanghai), Tong Defa (Consul General of the Chinese Consulate in Munich), Yu Haidong (Official of Nanxiang, Shanghai Jiading District) and Feng Dehua (President of the Xiangqi Association Jiading, Shanghai), from left to right

In addition to various speeches in which it was emphasised that xiangqi is able to build a bridge between Chinese and Western culture, there was a piano concert by 17-year-old Nikola Martinovic (Stuttgart) with music by Chopin, as well as the performance of a classical Chinese dance by Min Zhou.

Impressions from the opening event: piano concert by Nikola Martinovic, who also won the bronze medal in the Masters, and Min Zhou with her classical dance performance:

Nikola Martinovic 

Min Zhou

A highlight was a simultaneous performance by the Chinese grandmaster Sun Yongzheng against 10 particularly strong participants. In contrast to simultaneous tournaments in Western chess, the focus in xiangqi is less on the result of the simultaneous player and much more on the joint analysis with the master.

Sun Yongzheng

The simul of Xiangqi Grandmaster Sun Yongzheng against ten strong participants, surrounded by numerous spectators — in the end, the master did not lose a single game!

Numerous amateur photographers “followed” the grandmaster

The joint analysis with spectators and the master is usually more important and more valuable than escaping with a draw against the master

The rapid chess tournament was played with a time control of 10 minutes plus 5 seconds per move. Five rounds were played according to the Swiss system.

Arbiter Wang Ge during the draw for the next round — for the draw, a Chinese alternative to Swiss Chess with a professional graphic interface was used

The 16 participants came from Germany, Italy, Israel and China, including numerous national and international masters. For xiangqi, it was not unusual that there were five women among the 16 participants. 

Pictured here is Yu Na (left) facing Xu Haoyang (right).

Giulia Trombettoni (left) facing Shan Liang (right)

Many women played in the simultaneous as well as in the tournament — in xiangqi, it is not unusual for 30% or more of all participants to be female. Wu Caifang (left) and Yu Na (right).

In the end, the undefeated winner was the Xiangqi European Champion Xue Handi (Stuttgart).

The winners of the Masters: Gold for Xiangqi European Champion Xue Handi (centre), silver for Xu Haoyang (left) and bronze for Nikola Martinovic (right).

Lin Ye (1997 Xiangi World Champion, left) presents Shan Xiali with her “60 memorable games” in several languages, including English. On the right, Lin Ye’s husband, Agostino Guberti, founding president of the Italian Xiangqi Federation and co-author of the book. English-language Xiangqi books are few and far between on the book market. Even rarer are books for advanced students. Lin Ye’s book fills this gap.

The event ended with a joint dinner in a Chinese restaurant.

The secret star of the event was the xiangqi robot SenseRobot. The AI-supported robot was demonstrated for the first time in Germany and delighted all the guests. It works with optical image recognition and can move the pieces automatically using its robot arm.

It automatically corrects illegal moves and sets up the pieces independently at the start of the game. Fun for old and young, especially as the human opponents still have a chance against the likeable silicon monster.

The pieces are picked up and then automatically placed on the target square. It is convenient that in xiangqi the pieces are flat tiles.

Dreamlike backdrop: Nymphenburg Palace at dusk on 9 September 2023.


Oliver Breitschädel has a doctorate in physics and works for one of the world's largest automotive suppliers. In addition to Western chess, he is intensively involved with Asian chess variants.