A soft-spoken champion

Published : Sep 08, 2001 00:00 IST


WINNING the Asian title in back to back championships ought to be considered a tremendous achievement. And Grandmaster Xu Jun of China did it with confidence, thoroughly dominating the nine-day 11-round Swiss league third Asian individual chess championship in Kolkata.

Not many had given this unassuming, soft-spoken Chinese, who will turn 39 on September 17, much of a chance. Yet, he proved his worth in no uncertain manner, winning six games and drawing the rest, the last four in a row to emerge the champion. Such was the power and planning of this gentle GM.

Jun, last of four siblings of a headmaster father and accountant mother in Su Zhou area of China, began to play chess like most do: learning from books. The one titled 'The primary steps in chess' helped him in the initial stages and he began to take the game seriously when he was 18. He became an International Master in 1986 at the Dubai International where he earned his final IM norm and a GM norm which expired later. The same year he won a team bronze medal in the Chess Olympiad. His marriage in 1989 gave him new impetus and he started to work seriously on his game. He became a GM in 1994.

Jun, who failed to complete graduation in the normal course and is now busy studying for a law degree, has a 10-year-old son, also into chess following in his father's footsteps of learning the game through books. "My son knows the game but is not very good at it," says Jun.

The Chinese GM, winner of the second edition held at Udaipur in Rajasthan last year, was also a member of the Chinese squad which won the Asian team crown four times. He admires Garry Kasparov for his skilful play and Viswanathan Anand for his personality. He is extremely happy and thankful to the chess set-up in his country that had helped him reach where he is now.

A serious table tennis player, Jun calls himself a professional and refuses to talk about his views on the game. "I am not a great player to express my views on the game." He feels his playing style is nothing special. "I always try to find the good move but not always the best." He is one of the active coaches back home and imparts training whenever necessary.

He is paid a salary of 2,500 Yen per month (roughly $300) and plans to take up active coaching after his playing days are over. Jun, who won the first prize of $12,000 in Kolkata, will get only 35 per cent of it, the rest going to the State. The Grandmaster says China has taken to chess in a systematic way since the 1980s. "Our country will be a force to reckon with in the world in the near future." He feels Asia is emerging as the strongest chess playing continent.

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