Chinese Chess League
European variant of chess (国际象棋 in Chinese
) has never been as popular in China as xiangqi
, the chess-related game derived from ancient chaturanga. Even though Chinese players had international contacts as early as in 1950s (see "Four unknown international matches China-USSR"
for details), the game was banned during the first eight years of the Cultural Revolution. The political thaw allowed chess be played freely in late 1970s. China participated in the 1978 Olympiad and finished in impressive 20th. A memorable Chinese immortal
was played then, when obscure Chinese player Liu Wenzhe steamrolled over GM Donner in 20 moves. Chess in China became more and more popular since then, a lot of extremely players appeared, and China women's team won gold Olympic medal as much as four times, while men's selection took silver in 2006. Four Chinese became women's World Champions: Xie Jun, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua and Hou Yifan. Ye Rongguang became China's first grandmaster in 1990, and Bu Xiangzhi became World's youngest GM at 13 years back in 1999.
The all-China team competition was established in 2005 and is played on yearly basis. It is called the National Chess League (中国国际象棋联赛) administered by Chinese Chess Association. The format is simple yet powerful: 12 (formerly 10) city/province teams compete in the double round robin tournament. Each match is played on five boards, of which two are women's duels. One selected game per match is rapid. The league usually takes off in late March and lasts until December. Teams are usually named after their primary commercial sponsors.
Though little attention is paid to the ChCL in Europe, it is actually extremely strong and fascinating event. It features many 2700+ grandmasters on regular basis including domestic stars Wang Hao, Wang Yue, Ding Liren, Bu Xiangzhi as well as a bunch of foreign players: Ivanchuk, Ponomariov, Malakhov, Short, Jobava, Motylev, Humpy, Yakovenko, Bologan and many, many more. Strongest teams come from Beijing, Shanghai and Shandong. ChCL is broadly covered live by its governing body, unfortunately only in Chinese: http://www.qipai.org.cn
Winners 2005-2013: 3x Beijing, 3x, Shanghai, 2x Shandong, 1x Tianjin