He started off by taking on ‘uncles’. Now, Singapore’s Chinese chess champion eyes success at SEA Games

SINGAPORE: As a baby, considered one of Alvin Woo’s frequent haunts was a Ghim Moh senior residents’ nook close to his house.

There he would hone his abilities in xiangqi (Chinese chess), take on all comers and construct his confidence.

“I was quite regular. It was not only me, there were quite a lot of other students that would go there,” he advised CNA, forward of the thirty first SEA Games in Hanoi, the place Chinese chess is making its debut.

“They were always open (to us playing). Unless you beat them too many times, if you did that then they wouldn’t want to play with you!” 

More than simply profitable or shedding, these pleasant matches helped him to spice up his self-belief.

He defined: “That grew my passion. Because if you keep losing, you will feel sian (bored) after a while.”

Woo, 38, might be considered one of 4 gamers in motion for Team Singapore ranging from Saturday (May 14) and he’ll function in each the person and speedy occasions at the Games.


Woo’s curiosity in xiangqi started when he was about seven.

“I was influenced by my father. He started playing with my (older) brother, and then I was just observing and subsequently I got interested,” he stated.

“I was always into Chinese culture … Last time we didn’t have all these things like iPhones, you have less things to play with. And it seemed to appeal more to me than computer games, and then my parents thought that it was better than playing (those) games.”

Encouraged by his dad and mom to pursue this curiosity, he would play with anyone and all people.

“Last time there was no reliance on the Internet so … you just have to find someone that is maybe slightly better than you (to challenge),” he stated. 

There have been additionally golf equipment which might host annual competitions. And at the age of 13, Woo would participate in his first one, the place he confronted off in opposition to adults.

“That didn’t work out well, I was nowhere,” he stated. “It just gave me some reality to know that there are actually people that are very good.”

Then a yr later, he would get his second actuality test after collaborating at a nationwide youth stage competitors, the place he completed thirteenth.

“A lot of younger players were much better than me,” he stated. 

“Once you keep winning, you think you are very good. And then you get to play with the much stronger players in Singapore. And then you realise that … those who play competitively are much stronger than those ‘outside’”.

But the aggressive fireplace was lit.

“After you lose, you will try to find somebody you can beat to win again. So that builds your confidence, and you don’t get demoralised,” he defined.


Woo would go on to characterize Singapore for the primary time in 2006. Coincidentally, the Asian Xiangqi Championships – a workforce competitors – was additionally held in Vietnam.

“(During that) first time I was definitely more nervous, but subsequently you get used to it,” he stated.

“I had gone overseas for smaller competitions before but this was a more recognised event.”

Woo would carry out nicely within the occasion, taking part in six video games – profitable 5 and drawing one.

A yr later, he would win his first nationwide title, the primary of eight he has received. 

Preparation for main tournaments means spending hours analysing phases of the sport such because the opening, mid-game and end-game. Woo seems at the place of items on the board after which thinks about what he would do on this explicit state of affairs.

“Basically, it is like a math question. I give you a math question, you look at it for ten minutes. Can you solve the question? If you solve the question, there will be a working,” he stated.

“After that, you refer to the answer to see if it is correct. If it is wrong, why? Or is my answer better?”

YouTube can also be one other useful resource that Woo utilises throughout his match preparation.

“We look at competitors’ recent games, we go through them and we try to spot mistakes they have made … Hopefully during our actual games we are able to capitalise on those mistakes,” he stated.

One of the abilities wanted to be a very good Chinese chess participant is nice judgement, famous Woo.

“That comes with practice with the right people,” he added. 

Given how thorough preparation is, it may be mentally taxing, famous Woo. It has additionally meant giving up time with household and associates. And whereas he has skilled a lot success, there have been instances the place he has felt like calling it a day.

“Xiangqi is just like any other sport, you have to maintain your particular form,” stated Woo who additionally competed at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.

“There were definitely times where I thought I would stop because it is very time-consuming to maintain (my standards) at a certain level.”

But at the identical time, he feels that he additionally sure by responsibility.

“I think people are not aware of this community (of players that play Chinese chess competitively). When you see people playing xiangqi, it’s in the parks (or elsewhere), so you can’t erase off that perception,” added Woo.

“At the end of the day, I feel that I have a duty to try to promote the game because I have played this game for so long.”

It is a sport he believes will be picked up by anybody, so long as they put effort into it.

Said Woo: “Anybody can pick it up. It’s just a matter of the right method of training and whether they want to actually train. I believe anybody can do well in it, it is just about the commitment.”

At the Games, Woo believes {that a} medal isn’t out of the query. While he believes Vietnam are the favourites, Singapore and Malaysia can duke it out for silver and bronze.

He added: “I feel that we have a chance to get into the top three, or even the gold. That’s why I’ve really pushed myself to as much as I can.”

And if Woo and his workforce succeeds, Singaporeans will no longer solely see the game performed in parks, however showcased on the SEA Games podium for the very first time.

Catch the thirty first SEA Games Vietnam 2021 LIVE on meWATCH. Sign in now at www.mewatch.sg/seagames and get into the motion with Mediacorp. Or catch highlights on Mediacorp Entertainment on YouTube.

He started off by taking on 'uncles'. Now, Singapore's Chinese chess champion eyes success at SEA Games

Matthew Mohan

Source : channelnewsasia.com

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