Cambodia’s Heng Chamnan was celebrated by the kingdom’s sporting officials after claiming first prize at the recently concluded 2018 Sichuan Airlines Cup Global Xiangqi tournament in Chengdu, China.
The invitational tournament for the board game also known as Chinese Chess was held between September 8th-12th with players from over 20 countries including Malaysia, the Netherlands, Germany, and Cambodia taking part.
Chamnan, speaking at the welcome ceremony on his return on Saturday, said he had become an overnight fan of the game after initially not taking any interest.
“I never thought I liked the game, he said. ‘It was because of chance. I would go to an old café where my friend introduced me to it. They always made fun of me when I lost and I would get angry with myself and try to improve.”
Xiangqi is believed to be played by more people than any other board game in the world — including the more familiar western-style chess.
Guo Liping, secretary-general of the Chinese Xiangqi Association, said that unlike the conventional format, the doubles form needs the cooperation of the partner players. The teammates can’t communicate with each other during the game.
“It is not only a game, but also a cultural exchange, said Liping. “Xiangqi doubles not only providing a new way of competition but also provides a platform for domestic and foreign players to create friendships.”
On route to his medal, he defeated Germans, Malaysians, and players from Finland.
While Cambodians who bring back sporting awards from the international competition are generally rewarded from a special sporting fund set aside from the Government, Chamnan is ineligible as Xiangqi lacks a federation in Cambodia. It is therefore not a recognised and registered sport here.
“[Unfortunately] winning the championship is not rewarded by the Royal Government of Cambodia because sports must register with the [relevant] ministries and not through a private federation, said Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia.
However, the secretary general encouraged Cambodia’s Xiangqi players saying the committee would look to increase awareness in Cambodia of the popular board game.
“This achievement is not just a personal honour but a national honour,” said Mr. Chamroeun. “I pledge to try to encourage Xiangqi Chess in the 2023 SEA Games if possible.”