"I Am Not A Professional"
 
 

Xie Jun brought sensational news for Asia and China in 1991 when she won the World Women's title. In the middle, this friendly girl from Beijing had lost the title to Zsuzsa Polgar in 1996 and won it back in 1999 beating Alisa Galliamova for her second term as champion. Strangely, she has never been No.1 ranked in the women's list, a place Judit Polgar is holding securely since 1989.

Xie Jun was born on October 30, 1970. She was the first player from outside the Soviet Union to become world women's champion. She is a men's grandmaster by playing strength and has beaten many fancied names. She also helped China to a maiden gold medal triumph at Elista 1998 ending Georgian supremacy. Xie Jun enjoys playing chess. Her achievement in women's chess has been the best by a woman player outside Europe. She placed Asia in the world chess map on October 29, 1991 by defeating Maya Chiburdanidze, the world women's champion from 1978-91 by a 8.5-6.5 margin.

She is one of China's famous sporting personalities. Kind and soft spoken Xie is also friendly and is still a student and is a non-professional. When she was due to have her revenge match against Zsuzsa Polgar, the Hungarian became pregnant and a big political storm arose in 1998. Xie manages to defeat Chinese women players easily but some of her colleagues have great promise that an all-Chinese match for the title is not far off.Despite not qualifying for the knock out stage for the World Cup held at Shenyang, Xie Jun kept her promise and spoke to Arvind Aaron in a long chat. Experts:
 

Q: You are the world women's champion. You helped China win the Olympiad. What ambition is left inside you now?
A: I just enjoy playing chess so much. China was never the place for chess let's say ten years ago. I worked hard and became world champion. Somehow I never consider myself as a professional chess player. I love the game. I love my country. As far as I can play I play.

Q: You have reached the highest level. Do you have what they say `motivation problems'?
A: I started to play chess in 1980. I had no Elo rating. I played my first zonal in 1990 and in 1991 I became world champion. Everything happened quickly. I never think about the future. I never consider myself as a professional chess player. Also, in China we have a different system from other countries. Here, everything is under the control. So every time I make a trip to Europe it is very tiring. I enjoy playing. I enjoy the atmosphere of the people around me, like my team-mates, some officials from sports committee and I love them.

Q: How did you get interested in chess and in the chess world?
A: Here we have a game called Chinese Chess. It is very similar to this chess. I started to play Chinese Chess at the age of six. At the age of ten I became junior champion for Chinese Chess in the city Beijing. One trainer came up and said okay we have enough people to play Chinese Chess and why don't you go to play chess because the two games are very similar. I didn't understand this change.

Q: Was it similar? You have a river in the middle of that Chinese Chess board, yes?
A: Yes, yes. The idea is similar. It is to attack the king. To win the queen. To activate your pieces. The rules and manoeuvring are not the same. The rules are different.

Q: The Chinese have overtaken the Georgians in women's chess. How did this happen?
A: I think our culture helps us. Chinese women have a low level and had no income at historic times. Thay rely on their husband. Then, in liberation in new China they have to work to support the family. Already the women's position was going up. I live in China and visit many countries also. In other countries they are equal or atleast equal. If you consider men and women as equal, China is one of the best countries. Because of that, we Chinese women, when we have to study, we study hard. If we work, we work hard. Because we have to fight it against men.

Q: Did this strength happen suddenly or was it a process or was it because of you?
A: No, no. For the team championship it is impossible because of one player. You see we have all these women players (pointing to the playing hall) and we have so many youngsters. For India also, I think they should do well as a nation in a thinking game. India, China or Jews are all good in these thinking games. Chinese women are just good in sports. If we win some gold medal, it is always women!

Q: Did your success and the success of your women players help popularise chess in China?
A: May be little bit. When I started playing this game at 10, nobody knew this game. When at the time I became world champion in 1991 something like 100,000 people know this game. Now we have millions of people. Because people love their country. They want to play chess. Now they want their children to play chess. The attitude, especially of youngsters is that if she can do it I can do it too. I think it is the same case of Anand to India.

Q: You played in the conventional matches - the zonals, candidates and world women's title matches - to become champion. How do you look at the knock out cycle now?
A: Let's say very new for me. Because I come from China and don't consider myself as a professional chess player, so I play very few tournaments a year. Normally I play individual tournaments which are invitational tournaments with men's grandmasters, world championship, Olympiad. Just because I become world champion I hardly play in Open tournaments. That's why for me, this new system is first time in my life. Just play knock out! What is that? One day you lose, then you are gone. (laughs)

Q: Does it terrify you or do you say `Ok, I can prove it here too'?
A: Yes, I am still young (laughs). I can prove it. You have to adjust your motivation. You have to play one after the other. You can't consider it as one tournament as a whole. You can't say I will play harder against this guy, draw against this one and this guy is tough I will try to defend. You can't make this plan because you only play very few players. It can be different.

Q: In team competitions the Chinese are very good and if you look at the individual competitions it is different. Would you say there is more team spirit in China?
A: I think the other Chinese players have the same problems as me. The mainland for chess is Europe. We have so many tournaments there. In China chess is considered sport. As sportsman you want to do something for your country. The Olympiad is an opportunity to do something. In some period of the year before the important
tournaments we have training.

Q: There is lot of hostility between you and Zsuzsa Polgar. How is the relationship now after you both traded letters on the Internet?
A: I think the relationship between us was never good never bad. We are two chess players. We played one match. After that she almost retired. Right? Everybody understands it. But she wants to be the world champion forever. That's impossible. This makes me angry. If you don't play you have to allow another player to be world champion also. Or, accept the challenge. You can't say I have this business I can't play. You can't wait. That's impossible. We have no private connection to each other. She won the world championship. She makes so much noise. I became the challenger and I wanted to take my revenge. Any where, any place, country, any conditions I wanted to play against her. She says I will not play, I will find one million dollars, two million dollars and I will not come to China. It is not fair for me. But where is the sponsor? If you don't play you have to accept that. Because of the world championship she managed her private life to get pregnant during the period of the world championship.
 

Q: Are you saying she became pregnant on purpose to avoid playing the world championship?
A: She wrote a letter to FIDE. FIDE send a copy to me. Not that she did it on purpose. If you are pregnant who cares. One day I may get pregnant. That's my private life. I can't say you wait. If you occupy this place (world women's champion) you must do something. I didn't say anything against her. I said I am ready to play her. She also writes to FIDE and my association that the merican Government suggests that they (Americans) don't go to China. What's that? She can't find a sponsor and said that 200,000 dollars (offered by China) is too little. But privately I have nothing against her. That's not the way to do things. World champion is one day you become world champion. If you don't play you are not world champion, you are ex-world champion. That's all.

Q: Do you follow her court case and Anatoly Karpov's court case hearings against FIDE in Lausanne?
A: I don't care so much. Karpov is a different case. He had some agreement with FIDE on paper. His is a different matter but I am not so sure about Zsuzsa. For some reason I was involved partly in the Zsuzsa case. I don't think FIDE did anything wrong in Zsuzsa's case. Because of her FIDE and I waited for many months. I was the one who waited. You can't say I got pregnant for ten months and then I can't play for another half year after delivery. What happens if you get pregnant again? You can say I am againt human rights or women's rights. If you want a baby, have your baby, let others play and don't make any noise. She has not played for many years already. And she is thinking that she is the world champion. I will be happy to sue her for what she did. (laughs)

Q: Can we say that you are a little bit lucky that Judit Polgar although being number one for a very long time doesn't like to play in women's only tournaments?
A: How to say that?

Q: Are you saying women versus women could be different?
A: I like to play chess. If you ask me personally I don't want to play for the world championship because of too much pressure. What is that world champion? One day you would become ex-world champion. You work so hard for the world championship. But somehow I do that for my country let's say. I think it is my duty. Judit doesn't care whatever. She can make more money in men's tournaments. That's her choice. But I do not know if I am lucky or not. I am not so sure if this title brings me happiness.

Q: More pressure?
A: Not pressure. It is double-edged. You get something you lose something. If you think she doesn't play she is always the best. But it is impossible to be there all the time. One day some girl will beat her. And that is for sure. She will be ex-top player. If you don't play you are always good. I am never thinking if I am happy or lucky.

Q: You had been in India in Sanghinagar 1994. You will be coming to India later this year for the World Women's championship. How do you prepare to go there?
A: First I will be happy to be there because I have been to Sanghi Nagar which is not typical India. That was not a city and near Hyderabad. I was sick there somehow. On my future trip to India, I am looking forward to it because it is another challenge. I have to play. There is no choice. When you are world champion, people expect and expect a lot more from you. Somehow I was world champion, then ex-world champion and now again world champion and one day I will become ex-world champion again for sure. This doesn't mean much to me. I hope to enjoy the time
there.

Q: There are many promising Chinese women's players like Zhu Chen and others. Do you see the competition closing on you or do you feel the pressure?
A: If you don't think you are a professional it is always good. Then I can leave a job to her (Zhu Chen). Somehow I enjoy playing chess and also we have a very good relationship. We travel together, we play the Olympiad. If she becomes stronger or not is not your business.

Q: Have you worked with any chess personality on a long term basis?
A: Yes, it is Ye Jiangchuan.

Q: Did you have a role-model player in your career?
A: At the beginning when I started to play chess, there was only one book. It is the Games Collection of Karpov. Somehow I studied his game and looked at him like God. He was my hero let's say. I managed to play him and beat him also. I usually have very good relationship with people. By chance we stay together, by working together we meet each other and it is really nice. Life is very short. Why not use it to be friendly. My trainer Ye, is a long term trainer for 12 years already almost.

Q: Has your family been supportive to your chess. Like your parents at the beginning and later your fiancee or husband?
A: They all made me feel very happy. Also I have to spend time studying. I study English for the under graduate and education for post-graduate. I am going to study for the doctor degree. I have to prolong my study period little bit. In China it is not easy to study another language. You can see television here, not so many channels. Not many opportunities.

Q: Do you have this social standing in China. Where do you stand in comparison to the best football player or table-tennis player, etc?
A: Once you bring honour to your country, people love you. Of course we have big difference in income. If you do this you have more income or if you are that you have less income. I think the people know me here. The people see with no difference if you area football player or a table-tennis player. You are a hero if you win.

Q: I was told by the Secretary of the Chinese Chess Association that players give 50% of their prize money to the Government. Are people happy to do this?
A: China is different. It is not a problem if people are happy to do this or not. This is what exists. This is what is happening. Time is changing little bit. I am a happy person. I don't think about things which cannot change. It is not my business. If you want to play for China, if you want to stay in China and be a Chinese you have to abide by this. If WGM Peng ran away (to Holland) it is her choice. But I will not do the same. If the system doesn't change you accept it or you just go. I accept this. I am not talking about right or wrong. For me to be in China is very nice to be with my family.

Q: Any favourite venues?
A: To be honest I lived in Beijing since I was born. It is a big city. I didn't like it so much. Once you are in a big city it is difficult to move to a little one. You feel the inconvenience. It is very difficult to move to another city. I like smaller cities along the sea coast. In Beijing we don't even have a river.

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