Now it is time to talk about the art of Chinese chess in the Xian city. Xi’an Chinese chess is always more valued and popular than before. As northerners love gold and southerners like jewelry, Chinese chess fits the character of the people from Xi’an fir its straight forwardness, intense conflict and simplicity. Players can play games at home and on the street. But the best place for playing is always at the tea house. The well known chess-playing tea houses in the old Xi’an are the Mao’s Tea Houses at the Fair of Horse and Mule, the tea Hall of Good and Loyalty at the People’s Market in the southeast of the city, and the Zhang’s Te Hall and the Zhen’s Tea House in the northeast of the city. In the years between the end of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of the new China, capable players of the cityraised challenge, over a wooden chess board of jujube tree that was usually all over the city. Players signed up for games and spectators came in flocks. When a major competition was held, a large master chess board had to be hung up, and deck chairs and long benches were all occupied, hundreds of people were content with standing and watching the game, the tea pot supported in hand. The running of the competitons in those years gave rise of many good players . Only in the MAo’s Tea House alone, five top players were selected by polls. The top one of then was a man called Zhao Shuanzhu, who made a living by selling cigarettes and melon seeds and was well known fore his quick, fierce and devastating style of playing.
In the early spring 1949, after may years of disappearing, Zhao suddenly emerged in the Mao’s Tea House, humpbacked and completely gray-haired. Word got around quickly throughout the town： the top player has been back again! On the day that he played games of challenge to others, the tea house was packed to the ceiling. Spectators
standing in the outer rings of the crowds could not see the chess board, when outcries of surprise, praise and acclaim kept rising from inside. His oppenents admitted defeat one after another until the evening when no one dared to take up the gauntlet. Sitting cross-legged on the rush cushion, Zhao Shuanzhu stroked the wooden pieces of jujube tree, tears rolling down his year-seasoned cheeks. The following day when chess funs came back to the tea house, with a long horizontal inscribed board, to give him the title of Chang’an Chess Master, they found the old man gone at midnight. He was never heard again.
Several decades has past, the chess still be the most popular entertainment among the Xian people, especially the older ones. When you walking in the Xian streets, you can see a scene: many crowds on the road side, two people ae play the chess and many others are watching. From time to time you cold hear the crowd acclaim for the winner or for the one who plays very well even his does not win.