National xiangqi (Chinese chess) champion Chao Yi-fan, 33, holds a seventh dan rank and has been given the honorable epithet “xiangqi master of Asia.” He once played nine opponents at the same time while wearing a blindfold (also known as “blind chess”). Last week in Taoyuan County Chao played 10 opponents while wearing a blindfold. After playing for five hours, Chao had five wins, two losses and three draws, exhibiting his superior chess skills and his amazing memory, and even outshining the nine-against-one match played by Tony Leung Ka Fai in the film King of Chess.
The R.I.D. 3500 Rotaract Club held a national xiangqi championship for students in Taoyuan County’s Jhongli City last week, during which a simultaneous exhibition between Chao and 10 opponents took place. His xiangqi opponents were all formidable players who rank between the second and fourth dan.
While the 10 opponents played against Chao, an intermediary communicated verbally the positions of the pieces for Chao, who accomplished the incredibly difficult feat of putting to memory the positions of all the pieces on the tables.
After five intense hours of chess play, Chao finished the match with five wins, two losses and three draws. Although he successfully challenged the record of holding a simultaneous exhibition against 10 opponents while wearing a blindfold, compared to the seven wins and two draws during last year’s nine-against-one exhibition, and the six wins and two draws in the eight-against-one exhibition the year before, Chao’s result this year was by no means exceptional. The audience, however, was still amazed by his incredible performance.
After graduating from Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, Chao was accepted into National Taiwan University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, but eventually transferred to the Department of Philosophy. He frequently plays xiangqi and studies philosophy because he says it helps one think and is a great way to test your attention span, critical thinking skills and physical strength, which makes for a veritable “brain marathon,” Chao says.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)