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Chinese Taipei Wins WAGC 2014

Yitien Chan (left) awarded by Cho HunyunYitien Chan (left) awarded by Cho HunyunYitien Chan (Chinese Taipei) snatched victory in the 35th World Amateur Go Championship, overtaking Korea by a single tie-break point. Chinese Taipei take home the trophy for the first time ever, and this is also the first time since 1986 (when Hong Kong won) that the winner was not one of the Big Three (China, Japan and Korea).

In a tie-break lottery of sum of opponents’ scores, Chinese Taipei scored 46 taking first place, followed by 45 points for Korea and 43 points for China. The top 10 comprised of Chinese Taipei (1st), Korea (2nd), China (3rd), Hong Kong (4th), the Ukraine (5th), the Czech Republic (6th), Russia (7th), Sweden (8th), Japan (9th) and the USA (10th).

Full results here

 

 

Europe Qualifies Its First Home-Grown Pros

In the late 20th century several European go players earned professional rankings in the Far East, but now Europe has its first home-grown pros: Pavol Lisy (Slovakia) and Ali Jabarin (Israel). And they are young -- 19 and 20 -- which is a good sign for the future of European go.

Pavol and Ali won their professional spurs in a three-stage 16-player qualification tournament held in Strasbourg on May 23, Amsterdam on May 24, and Vienna on June 20. In the first two stages, Pavol beat opponents from Germany, Czechia, France, and Romania to finish with a perfect 4-0 record and earn the first European professional ranking. Ali lost to Sweden's Fredrik Blombak in the first round, but came back with three straight wins in the next rounds to qualify for the final in Vienna, where he defeated Czechia's Lukas Podpera to gain the second professional ranking. Complete results and information about all sixteen players can be round here. Pictures and further details are here.

The qualification tournament was organized and sponsored by the European Go Federation and the Beijing Zong Yi Yuan Cheng Culture Communication Co. Ltd., better known as CEGO. CEGO is a group of Chinese go players with the will and the financial resources to invest in the future of go -- in Europe. Next September, Pavol, Ali, and four other young European players will journey to China under CEGO sponsorship to begin five and a half months of training there, followed by three more months of online training after they return to Europe next year.

They will be the second such group of Europeans brought to China by CEGO, and CEGO is committed, in a contract with the EGF, to continue the training program in future years. But CEGO's and the EGF's plans do not stop there. Next year they will organize a Grand Slam Tournament in Europe with substantial prizes, open to the new European pros and a few more players who qualify by earning bonus points in other European tournaments.

CEGO's training program also includes a pair of Chinese player-coaches, Zhao Baolong and Li Ting, who take part in the on-line training leagues. Mr Zhao is a young 2-dan Chinese pro. Ms Li is a Chinese-born player who earned a 1-dan pro rank in Japan, and is now working toward a PhD in 'comparative go' at the University of Vienna. Ms Li is a diminutive and quiet person, but she was instrumental in putting CEGO together.

All this recalls the Big Dragon Project that got chess rolling in China in 1975 and turned China into a major chess power, particularly in women's chess, by the end of the century. So far, several Europeans have devoted most of their lives to playing and teaching go -- the UK's Matthew MacFadyen and Romania's Cornel Burzo (Pavol Lisy's final opponent) come to mind. Nor is there any lack of young players who dream of making this game their life. With a European pro system in place, more of these dreams can become reality. Europe still has a long way to go before challenging Far Eastern domination, but the fuse has been lit.

- James Davies

 

Here Comes the 35th WAGC -- in Korea

Wang RuorangWang RuorangWith the start of the 35th World Amateur Go Championship now less than two weeks away, it is time to take a look at the field. Fifty-seven players from a like number of countries and territories are scheduled to make the trip to Gyeongju, Korea to compete in the four-day, eight-round Swiss system. Many will be veterans of previous tournaments held in Japan and China, some drawn back to WAGC competition after a long absence, perhaps by the chance to be part of the first WAGC held in Korea. As usual, the largest contingent will come from Europe (30 players) and the youngest from the Far East (15 players, including an 11-year-old from Indonesia). 

China, whose players have won this championship seven times so far during the current century, will be represented by Wang Ruorang, a 16-year-old from Nanjing who took third place in the Chinese Evening News Cup in January. Normally the winner of the Evening News Cup represents China at the WAGC, but the winner also has the option of turning pro any time during the ensuing year, and this year's winner, 13-year-old Yi Lingtao, took that option immediately. In the meantime, Mr Wang has been doing famously, beating a pro opponent right after the Evening News Cup, beating last year's WAGC runner-up in March, and leading an eight-man Chinese amateur team to victory over a Korean team in April. One recalls that Qiao Zhijian, the Chinese player who won the WAGC two years ago (and then turned pro) was also 16. 

Tae-woong WiTae-woong Wi Korea, which has won the WAGC four times this century, will be represented by Tae-woong Wi. Mr Wi (age 20) qualified by winning the Korean amateur Guksu title last December, beating the 2010 world amateur champion in the final match. That feat, added to second-place finishes in the Lee Changho Cup and the Nosacho Cup and a 9-3 performance in National League competition, boosted him to second place in the U40 division of the Korean amateur rating system. The Wang-Wi game should be a highlight of the tournament.

 Japan, which won the WAGC in 2000 and 2004, will send in Kiko Emura, who represented Japan at the WAGC and the Korea Prime Minister Cup in 2013. Last February Mr Emura also represented all human go players when he trounced Zen, Japan's and perhaps the world's strongest go-playing computer program, in consecutive games on 13 x 13 boards.

 

Cho HunhyunCho HunhyunOther players to watch include Naisan Chan (Hong Kong), who took 3rd place in the 2009 WAGC; Yongfei Ge (Canada), who defeated a professional opponent at the SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing last December; 16-year-old Yi-Tien Chan, youngest of the 22 amateur 7-dans in Chinese Taipei; Sang-Dae Hahn (Australia) and Liang Jie (USA), who also have 7-dan ranks; Czech champion Lukas Podpera; Dutch champion Merlijn Kuin; Finnish champion Juuso Nyyssönen; Hungarian champion Pál Balogh; and Serbian champion Nikola Mitic. Competition for the top ten places should be fierce.

For those who miss out, there will also be two prizes awarded for fair play and fighting spirit. And for everyone there will be a warm week of Korean hospitality. A particular attraction will be the Gyeongju Baduk Festival, July 5, 10:00-12:30 at the tournament hotel (the Hyundai Hotel), where local players will play friendship games with the contestants, Korean pros Lee Hyunwook and Bae Yunjin will play simultaneous games, and former pro world champion Cho Hunhyun will give autographs.

Starting July 5th,  Ranka online together with the American Go E-Journal will provide full coverage of the championship.

- James Davies

 

Cuban and Mexican Kids Get Together for Go in Havana

Cuba and Mexico held their first primary school go exchange this April at the Cuban Go Academy in the Eduardo Saborit Sports Complex in Havana. Five Mexican and seven Cuban primary shool students competed in a four-round Swiss System on the 14th and 15th (Monday and Tuesday), also finding time for a game of soccer on Monday and a beach house visit on Tuesday. Then after an instructional class, game commentaries, and a social event, the exchange concluded with a 13 x 13 pair go tournament on April 18 (Friday) in which the Mexicans took Cuban partners. The individual Swiss System, which made the Tuesday sports news on Cuban TV, was won by Carlos Manuel Alfonso Basabe (Cuba, age 9) while Diego Armando Luciano Cortes (Mexico, age 7) finished second. In the pair competition, Carlos teamed up with Daniela Luciano Cortes (Mexico, age 9) to take first place. The entire event appeared on Cuban TV again when sports commentator Yimmy Castillo covered it in his Sunday Pulso Deportivo (Sports Pulse) program.

Participants at the 2014 Cuba-Mexico primary school go exchange.Participants at the 2014 Cuba-Mexico primary school go exchange.

 The Mexican players were accompanied by parents and by Siddhartha Avila, who teaches go to primary school children in Mexico. During the five days, these grown-ups and their Cuban counterparts discussed topics of mutual interest, such as the educational systems in the two countries and methods of teaching go. The exchange grew out of a 2013 visit to Cuba by go players from the United States, who then met Siddhartha at the 2013 U.S. Go Congress and told him about the Cuban Go Academy's program for children of primary-school age. Siddhartha contacted the Cubans, and the idea of an exchange was born. In organizing the exchange, the Cuban Go Academy obtained support from the Mexican 'Pipiolo' Center for Primary School Educational and Artistic Research, as well as from Cuba's National Institute for Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) and from Cubadeportes (Cuba Sports).

This go exchange was the first of its kind in Latin America, and the organizers described it as a great success. In future years the Cuban Go Academy hopes to expand it to include more Latin American countries where go is taught to children. In the more immediate future, they are preparing for a ten-day visit in May by twenty Spanish-speaking Japanese players representing Japan's Sociedad de Intercambio Internacional de Go (Society for International Go Exchange), and in the more distant future, they dream of holding a World Amateur Go Championship in Havana.

 

Distaff Duel in Bailing Cup

The full name is the Bailing Cup World Go Open Tournament. Held under the auspices of the International Go Federation, the People's Government of Guizhou Province, the Guizhou Sports Bureau, and the professional go associations of China, Japan, and Korea, this biennial event is backed by the Guizhou Bailing Group, a Chinese pharmaceutical company. It began in 2012, the year in which the Bailing Group launched a collagen skincare product under the name of Aitou (the Chinese name of the tournament that year was the Bailing Aitou Cup). The inaugural cup was won in 2013 by Zhou Ruiyang, who went on to earn a gold medal in pair go at the 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games. The competition for the second cup began on March 16, 2014 in Beijing.

In the four preliminary rounds, a special bracket was set aside for women, ensuring that four of them would reach the main knockout tournament. One of the winners in this bracket was a young Chinese pro who had recently won the Shanghai Jianqiao Xinren Wang tournament. This U16(male)/U18(female) event is known as the Rookie King tournament, but this year's king was Yu Zhiying, a girl. There was no women's bracket: she had to beat five opponents of the opposite sex. It is extremely rare for a go tournament that is open to both men and women to be won by a woman. In the entire history of professional go it has happened perhaps five times. The past Rookie Kings have all been male, and many of them are now among China's top stars, such as the above Zhou Ruiyang.

After her Rookie King victory, Ms Yu was asked who she considered to be the strongest woman go player in China. Her reply was, 'Rui Naiwei. When I play her I usually lose.' Not surprisingly, Ms Rui also won one of the four women's places in the Bailing knockout. She is something of a living legend, the equivalent in go of Judit Polgár in chess. In a career spanning China, Japan, the USA, and Korea, she has accomplished the rare feat of winning major tournaments open to men three times: the Chinese Hutang Cup in 1989, the Korean Guksu title in 1999, and the Korean Maxim Cup in 2004. She has also won well over thirty women's professional tournaments and was the first woman anywhere to earn a 9-dan ranking in go. Now she and her husband Jiang Zhujiu, likewise a 9-dan pro, operate a go school in Shanghai, but she continues to compete and do well, winning Chinese women's tournaments in 2012 and 2013 and capturing the women's silver medal at the 2012 SportAccord World Mind Games.

The other two women who survived the Bailing preliminaries were a pair of young Koreans, Choi Jeong and Park Jiyeon, who were taking time out from a Korean women's title match in which they were tied neck-and-neck. In the men's division, one of the survivors was the Chinese amateur Ma Tianfang, and another was from Chinese Taipei, but the rest were all Chinese and Korean pros. The survivors, 48 in all, joined 16 seeded players from China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Korea in the main tournament.

The first round of the main tournament was held on March 18. The two Korean women, Choi and Park, found themselves matched against Korean men, to whom they lost. Ma Tianfang, though ranked among the 'Four Heavenly Kings' of Chinese amateur go, bowed to a Chinese 9-dan. The players from Japan and Chinese Taipei all lost to Chinese and Korean opponents. And what of Yu Zhiying and Rui Naiwei, the two women with proven records of triumph over men? As luck would have it they were matched against each other.

After the game a Sports-Sina reporter asked Ms Rui whether she had felt apprehensive about facing the Rookie King, or confident that her greater experience would give her the advantage.

Rui NaiweiRui NaiweiRui: 'I did not feel very confident. Aside from winning the Rookie King title, Yu has been making progress on all fronts. I was expecting a good, tough game.'

And how did it turn out?

Rui: 'For quite some time the lead remained unclear. Then I lost patience and invaded the top right corner. My opponent didn't have much time to consider her reply, and decided to let me live there so that she could rescue two stones in another part of the board. After living in the corner, I finally found myself in a comfortable position.'

The exchange Rui is describing took place between moves 68 and 77. It was a prelude to all-out war, but after parrying the attacks Yu staged in the center of the board and doing some effective counterattacking herself, Rui won by resignation at move 162. The game record can be viewed here (Rui is white).

In the second round, which has yet to be scheduled, Rui will face Korea's top-rated Park Jyeonghwan. The ultimate winner of the second Bailing Cup is due to be decided next year.

- James Davies

 

Wang Chen Wins 2014 World Students Go Oza

Wang Chen (photo: the Nihon Ki-in)Wang Chen (photo: the Nihon Ki-in)Not long ago, on February 24 to be exact, sixteen globetrotting, go-playing university students gathered at the Hotel Monterey La Soeur Ginza in Tokyo for a reception to kick off the 12th World Students Go Oza (throne) Championship. Half of them, four young men and four young women, came from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, where go is a major intellectual sport. Another six young men and two young women came from Brazil, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Russia, Thailand, the Ukraine, and the USA. Ahead of them were two days of competition to determine the champion and put the others in their places.

If you imagine a typical go-playing university student to be slight of build, serious, studious, and quiet, then there was one who looked the part perfectly. That was the young man from China: Wang Chen. But for the past few years Mr Wang has also been one of the 'Four Heavenly Kings' who rule China's amateur rating list.

A native of Dalian, Mr Wang learned go at age seven and started taking part in the annual Chinese professional qualification tournament at age ten. After nine straight failures to make pro, he gave up and enrolled at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, where he studies economic reporting and captains the university's go team. In the meantime, he had begun winning major amateur tournaments in China, at least one each year since 2009.

(Photo: the Nihon Ki-in)(Photo: the Nihon Ki-in)Chinese amateur tournaments have significant monetary prizes. When he won the Chenyi Cup in 2011, Mr Wang earned as much as a white-collar worker in China might make in two years. Essentially he was putting himself through college by playing go. Last July he won the first Chinese International University Weiqi (go) Tournament, and this year in January, after taking fourth place in the Evening News Cup, he beat one of China's top pros in the Evening News pro-amateur team match, so this unassuming economist-to-be landed in Tokyo with excellent prospects of winning yet another championship.

And that's what he did. In the first round on the morning of February 25 he downed Ken (Kai Kun) Xie, who had been New Zealand champion at age twelve in 2006. Playing black, Wang killed two groups of white stones and won by resignation in 175 moves. (When played out to the end, a typical game of go lasts nearly 300 moves.)

In the second round Wang faced Yamikumo Tsubasa, an Osaka University student who has consistently done well in the Japanese Students Top Ten Tournament. Playing white, Wang killed a black group at the 120th move. Mr Yamikumo conceded the game 44 moves later. Next morning Wang defeated the other Japanese player, Ritsumei University coed Go Risa. She came out of the opening badly and resigned after only 90 moves. Wang's last opponent, Chung Chen-En, a student at Taiwan's National Central University, put up more resistance than the other three, but in the end he too resigned, following a futile last-ditch attack on one of Wang's groups.

Yamikumo, Go, and Chung did not lose to anyone else, so they finished as part of the four-way tie for runner-up. Tie-breaking points put Yamikumo second, Chung third, and Go fourth. Taiwan's Hu Shih-Yun also lost only one game and came in fifth. The opponent she lost to was the USA's Maojie Xia, who had played the two Japanese and finished a highly commendable sixth.

In his championship interview Mr Wang said that all of his games had gone well. None of his opponents would argue with that. He added that after graduating he hopes to continue his amateur career and is particularly interested in coaching talented young players.

And what about the rest of the world? Viktor Ivanov (Russia, 9th place) and Kwan King-Man (Hong Kong, 10th place) matched Maojie Xia by winning two games apiece, and although Yanqi Zhang (France, 12th place) won only once, the opponent she beat was Zhou Shiying, the Chinese female player. At both the reception and the awards ceremony, officials in the All Japan Students Go Association, which handled all the organizational work (drinking party included), remarked on the rising level of play in countries outside the Far East.

Complete results and clickable game records can be found here.

 

35th World Amateur Go Championship — Gyeongju

GyeongjuGyeongjuThe 35th World Amateur Go Championship will be held in Gyeongju, Korea during the week from July 4 (arrival day) to July 11 (departure day). The tournament itself (July 6-9) will be an eight-round Swiss system.

 

Also scheduled are a general meeting of the International Go Federation, an opening ceremony, and a reception (all on July 5), an awards and closing ceremony (July 9), and a sightseeing tour of Gyeongju (July 10).

 

The tournament venue will be the Hyundai Hotel in the Bomun Lake resort area of Gyeongju. Players from 74 countries and territories are being invited.

Hyundai HotelHyundai Hotel

The WAGC is organized by the IGF. This year the preparatory work is being done at the Korea Baduk Association in Seoul, Korea.

Gyeongju, a former capital of Korea, was once famed far and wide for its architectural and other riches. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist destination. Participants will find much to see, both on and off the go board.

 

 

 

 

The 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games in Retrospect

Wang Chenxing (left) and Zhou RuiyangWang Chenxing (left) and Zhou RuiyangThe 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games in Retrospect The short story of the 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games is that Beijing treated the 150 competing mind athletes to a week of good food, good weather, and warm accommodations, and China took the lion's share of the medals. There was no mistaking the look of joy on the faces of China's Wang Chenxing and Zhou Ruiyang when they won the pair go tournament, adding gold medals to the silver medals they had already won in women's individual and men's team competition. China's bridge, chess, and xiangqi players also did well, so China can be very happy with the outcome of the Games. But so can many other countries: Korea for the gold medal won by its men's go team; Chinese Taipei for its silver and bronze medals in go; Russia for the numerous medals won by its chess and draughts players; even countries such as the Ivory Coast, Latvia, and Vietnam, whose players captured medals in draughts and xiangqi. The grand tally can be found here.

Team KoreaTeam KoreaIt was encouraging that although the North American go contingent finished nearly winless, it took evident satisfaction in having played well against professional opponents--and having beaten one of them. Europe's performance was also encouraging. European players finished only fifth in men's team, women's individual, and pair competition, but they trounced the North Americans, they nearly beat the spirited team from Chinese Taipei, and in that match Ilya Shikshin overcame a strong Asian pro, after defeating some strong Asian amateurs earlier this year. European go may now be near the level of go in Chinese Taipei one generation ago. It has a group of strong and dedicated young players, and its future looks bright.

Coming at the end of a year dominated by Chinese professional go players, the Korean men's team's gold medal was particularly exciting. The Koreans carried the momentum of that triumph into the new World Team Championship held in Guangzhou the week afterward. Fielding a team consisting of top medalists at the SportAccord World Mind Games this year and last year, they triumphed once again, beating Chinese teams three times. An interesting year lies ahead, and its climax will come at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing.

- James Davies

 

Mi Yuting beats Gu Li to Win Mlily Cup

Mi Yuting started the month of December by winning the best-of-five title match for the Mlily Cup, defeating Gu Li. He lost the first game on November 30 by the narrow margin of 3/4 stone, but then won the second, third, and fourth games on December 2, 4, and 6, all by resignation. The games were played in Nantong in Jiangsu Province, China. Mi's victory earned him 1,800,000 yuan (over €200,000, nearly $300,000) and an immediate promotion from 4-dan to 9-dan. Wang Xi and Zhou Ruiyang, the two players that Mi and Gu beat in the best-of three semi-final matches in October, will seek consolation in the upcoming SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing.

Born in 1996 in the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu Province, about 400 kilometres northwest of Shanghai, Mi qualified as pro shodan when he was only eleven years old, becoming, at the time, China's youngest professional go player. In 2010 he joined the Jiangsu team, which was currently playing in the B League of China's National Team Tournament (sometimes called the City League). The team took first place and moved up to the A League in 2011. There Mi promptly reeled off nine straight wins, including victories over Chinese stars Gu Li and Kong Jie, which propelled Jiangsu to a sixth place finish among twelve teams competing in the A league. With Mi in their lineup the team has continued to advance, finishing fifth in 2012 and third in 2013. In the meantime, Mi won China's individual men's championship in 2012 and began to make his mark on the international scene as well, reaching the rounds of sixteen in both the BC Card Cup and the Samsung Cup, beating Korea's Park Jeonghwan and Lee Changho along the way. The opponents he defeated in 2013 to win the Mlily Cup included, in addition to Wang Xi, Korea's Kang Dongyoon and Lee Sedol and China's Kong Jie, all of whom are multiple title-winners, and Chinese teenager Dang Yifei. Game records of the Mi-Gu match are available at the go4go website

 

3rd SportAccord World Mind Games

The 3rd SportAccord World Mind Games will be held in Beijing December 12-18. Contestants will compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals in five disciplines: chess, contract bridge, draughts, go, and xianqi. This year the go competition will include a round-robin men's team tournament, a double-knockout women's individual tournament, and a single-knockout pair-go tournament. China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Korea are each sending three men and two women. North America is sending three men and one woman, and Europe is sending three pairs, who will also compete in the men's and women's events.

The all-new Chinese contingent includes this year's winners of three major international tournaments (the Ing, Bailing, and Bingsheng Cups), plus the Bingsheng runner-up. The two Koreans who missed winning medals last year will return to try again, accompanied by three Korean players making their first SportAccord appearances. Among the players from Chinese Taipei and Japan are six teenagers, including the granddaughter of the legendary Fujisawa Shuko.

Europe and North America are fielding mixed pro-amateur teams. The European contingent is primarily Russian, but also includes this year's European champion (from France) and runner-up (from Slovakia). They will be seeking in particular to avenge Europe's various losses to the North Americans in the first two SportAccord World Mind Games. Three veteran players on the North American men's team and one young Canadian woman will try to stop them.

Kovaleva (left) And YuKovaleva (left) And YuRepresenting these thirty go players to the world at large will be Russia's Natalia Kovaleva and China's Yu Zhiying, the Go Ambassadors of the 2013 World Mind Games. Besides playing in the women's and pair-go competitions, they will join some of the world's top stars in the other disciplines in a program of social and publicity events.

Live coverage of the go competition will be provided to a worldwide audience via the SAWMG YouTube channel and other media, with a running commentary by the popular duo of Chris Garlock and Michael Redmond. In addition, daily reports and commentaries will be posted on the Ranka website.

 

A complete listing of the competing players, with photos, is available here.
The competition schedule is available here.

 

24th International Pair Go Championship: Interview with Ian Davis

Several of the pairs competing at the 2013 International Amateur Pair-Go Championship were married, but the Romanian pair, Lucretiu Calota and Irina Davis (ne Suciu), went them one better: they are married and both came accompanied by their spouses. While the Romanians were playing (and defeating) the Japanese pair from the Kyushu-Okinawa region in round four, Ranka took the opportunity to talk with Irina's husband Ian Davis, who is himself a pair go player.

Ian DavisIan DavisRanka: How did you become interested in go, and in pair go?
Ian: I started playing go back in university. There was someone I knew in the chess club who introduced me to the game. That would have been in 1999 or 2000, when I was nineteen or twenty years old. There are not many people to play with when I was at university, so it was not until I had finished university that I started playing seriously. I didn't start playing pair go until I was about twenty-three, when I was working at my first job in Cambridge. My first game was actually a game of rengo at the club, and then I started playing pair go on the Internet, I started because there was a very big go club in Cambridge and I wanted to learn the game properly.

Ranka: Why on the Internet?
Ian: There weren't that many pair go tournaments back then. It was quite difficult to get a game.

Ranka: How did it work out?
Ian: Many of the first pair go games I had were quite disastrous. Sometimes you play with someone who's very serious, and if you make a joseki mistake because you're about 20 kyu, they get very angry--they just resign--so it wasn't always a harmonious introduction to the game. It had its ups and downs, but I kept at it, and I still like playing pair go.

Ranka: Do you compete in pair go tournaments?
Ian: I think my first pair go tournament was the London Open in 2007 or 2008, where pair go was a side event. My partner was my teacher Guo Juan, and we won the event. We won it twice, in two different years. After that I played with some other partners, including Irina, but on the Internet I played pair go quite frequently, because I enjoy it.

Ranka: Why is that?
Ian: It's more relaxing to play pair go. There's not as much pressure on you, and it's more sociable, so it's nice.

Ranka: When you play pair go on the Internet, where is your partner usually located?
Ian: Normally in a different country. After university, I lived in Cambridge for about one year, then moved back to Northern Ireland, where I'm originally from. I had some friends in France I used to play with, and I also played sometimes with people I knew in Cambridge. But last year I moved to France, to work as a software tester for Reuters, and now I play pair go quite regularly with my wife. We were married six months ago, but we still play as a pair on the Internet.

Ranka: Do you prefer pair go to ordinary go?
Ian: I don't know if I could say which way I prefer. It depends on which mood I'm in. Ultimately I like them both. After all, it's just different ways of playing the same game.

Ranka: Thank you.

 

International Amateur Pair Go: a 10th Championship for Korea

Best Dressers Awards ceremonyBest Dressers Awards ceremonyAfter a stretch of fine weather and Halloween hijinks, Tokyo hunkered down under gray skys and intermittent rain for the weekend of November 2-3, but inside the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont, the atmosphere was warm and festive: thirty-two pairs from twenty-two countries and territories were there to compete in the 24th International Amateur Pair Go Championship. China returned to the competition by sending an editor (Zhou Gang) and reporter (Wang Rui) from Weiqi Tiandi, China's leading go magazine. Korea sent its top-rated junior amateur Jeon Junhak, who recently won the Incheon Mayor's Cup for the second consecutive year. (In the Korean amateur rating system, junior means under 40 and not an insei). His partner was Kim Soo-young, a student at Myongji University who is an active player on the Korean pair-go scene, who won this year's Women's Amateur Kuksu title, making her the reigning queen of Korean amateur go, and who hopes to help spread go internationally in the future. Chinese Taipei sent Lo Sheng-chieh and Lin Hung-ping, who also competed in the World Students Go Oza Championship in Tokyo in February. Russia sent Dmitry Surin and Natalia Kovaleva, who finished tenth in the 23rd IAPG Championship last year. Japan entered eleven pairs who had won their way in through regional qualifying tournaments.

In the first round, played right after lunch on November 2, the Japanese pair from the Tokai-Hokuriku region (central Japan) defeated the Chinese pair. The winners of this game were Shinichi Torii, a local government worker, and Chie Kato, a cheery primary-school student who played from a wheelchair. Three Japanese pairs lost their first games, to the pairs from Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Russia.

The first round was followed by goodwill games that partnered the championship competitors with a variety of non-competing pair-go players, including a dozen pros. Before the games began, the pros were introduced and asked to give some advice. Always think of your partner, said one. Don't keep thinking of your partner, said another. The weaker partner should relax, play his or her own game, and let the stronger partner worry about teamwork, said a third. After a mistake, take a deep breath and look over the whole board, said a fourth. One of the more perspicuous comments came from 4-dan pro Sachiko Hara, who said she found pair go very effective in teaching children because it forced them to behave well and think realistically, which made them stronger.

Most of the overseas players donned national costume for the goodwill games. The British pair were decked out as a helmeted knight and his lady. The Australian pair wore koala suits. The Swedish pair sported midsummer wreaths, and treated the crowd at the welcoming party that followed the goodwill games to a midsummer frog song and dance.

Next day the remaining four rounds were played in parallel with a huge (138-pair) handicap tournament. Chie Kato and Shinichi Torii gave the contestants' pledge in Japanese, and Wang Rui and Zhou Gang repeated it in Chinese. The Russian pair lost to a Japanese pair in round two, but the pairs from Chinese Taipei, Germany, and Korea remained undefeated in this round and the next, as did Ayako Oda and Kazumori Nagayo, a married pair of former insei who operate a go school in Yokohama.

In round four, the Korean pair defeated the German pair in less than an hour. "We never had a chance," said law student Olga Silber. "They didn't make a single mistake," added Benjamin Teuber, who is currently training at a go school in Beijing.

In a much longer game, the Oda-Nagayo pair defeated the pair from Chinese Taipei. "Our opening strategy worked, we got a territorial advantage, and we kept it," Kazumori Nagayo said. "Last time we competed we lost to the Korean pair, so we'll be looking for revenge in the final round."

And they very nearly got it. They matched their Korean opponents in the opening and came out of the middle game with a sizeable lead. The Koreans managed to reduce the lead by setting up a ko, but the ko was too indirect for them to win, and the Japanese pair simplified things by connecting it, after which they were still ahead. Near the end, however, they made a slip that cost them four points, and the Koreans won by 2.5.

This is the tenth Korean victory in IAPG championship competition, as compared with seven for Japan, four for China, two for DPR Korea, and one for Chinese Taipei. Korean pairs have triumphed every year since 2009, and this year (2013) Korean players made clean sweep by also winning the World Students Oza Championship, the World Amateur Go Chamionship, the Korea Prime Minister Cup, and Thailand's 15-dan team tournament.

The final game was followed by the traditional gala award ceremony and party. Jeon Junhak and Kim Soo-young came away loaded down with prizes. Kazumori Nagayo and Ayako Oda received a prize for the best result by a Japanese pair: their SOS score placed them third, behind the pair from Chinese Taipei. The 4th-place prize went to Dmitry Surin and Natalia Kovaleva, whose four victories included a second win over a Japanese pair in the final round. Japanese pairs took the prizes for 5th to 8th places, but the pairs from Germany (9th), Romania (11th), Sweden (13th), Vietnam (14th), and Czechia (16th) scored three wins apiece to join three more Japanese pairs in the top sixteen, and the pair from the Netherlands (Merijn de Jong and Els Buntsma) won a best-dressed prize. In all, European and Vietnamese pairs won a total of five games against Chinese and Japanese opposition, another sign of the rising level and popularity of pair go worldwide.

Full results and players' pictures are here.

 

8th KPMC: Interviews with Emura Kikou (Japan) and Ilya Shikshin (Russia)

Ilya Shikshin (photo: Toshiko Ito)Ilya Shikshin (photo: Toshiko Ito)Ilya Shikshin faced his toughest opposition in the first and last rounds of the Korea Prime Minister Cup. Emura Kikou faced his toughest opponent in round four. Both ended with five wins, and SOS points put the Japanese player fifth and the Russian sixth in the final standings. Before the standings were announced, Ranka asked the two for their opinions about their crucial games and about the entire tournament.

Ilya Shikshin: The game I just played against the player from Taiwan was exciting, because it was the last round and the winner would get a high finish, but we both made many mistakes, so I can't say it was a good game. I won, but I don't feel satisfied about the tournament. I didn't play as well as I played in Japan a month ago. When I was playing the player from Hong Kong in the first round, my feeling was that he was not stronger than me, maybe even weaker than me, but I lost because I made too many mistakes. Then because of the pairings in the next few rounds, for me it became more like a festival than a sporting competition. Of course it was fun, but I also felt disappointed. I came here intending to play for the championship.

Emura Kikou: Aside from the Chinese player, all my opponents were European, except for the Thai opponent in the last round. The Thai and European players were strong. Their level is high, and after three straight wins on the first day I felt happy with the way I was playing. Going on to lose to the Chinese player in the crucial game the next morning, in the fourth round, was a bitter pill. I was trying to play calmly. My opponent made some mistakes; I had plenty of chances; but I didn't have the strength to take advantage them, and I made one big mistake myself. There was a move I just didn't see. At least I was able to put it behind me in the last two rounds. Taking the tournament overall, I guess I played up to my usual standard, but I still feel terrible about the game I lost. I'll be returning to Korea for the World Amateur Go Championship next July--I'll try for a better result then.

 

8th KPMC: Interview with Gyorgy Csizmadia (Hungary) and Yifei Yue (Singapore)

/Gyorgy Csizmadia (right) and Yifei Yue (photo Toshiko Ito)/Gyorgy Csizmadia (right) and Yifei Yue (photo Toshiko Ito)The game with the widest generation gap in the last round of the Korea Prime Minister Cup was played between Hungarian mathematician and financier Dr Gyorgy Csizmadia and Singapore schoolboy Yifei Yue. Both had been seeded into the upper McMahon group and were looking for their third win. When the game ended, Ranka asked them for their thoughts about it and about the tournament as a whole.

Gyorgy Csizmadia: In this game I started out by trying to build some big walls and make a big moyo. But then he came inside the moyo and actually managed to cut off one of my groups, and from that point on I think he was clearly ahead. As for the tournament in general, it was very nice: nice accommodation, nice playing site, good food, and very good organization. Some people complained about the pairing system--this usually happens at tournaments--but for me it was all right. I enjoyed the tournament very much.

Yifei Yue: I didn't play well in this game. I made some mistakes in the center. I made a lot of mistakes there. My opponent also made mistakes, so I won, but I didn't play well. I had exams right before the tournament, so I wasn't in good playing condition. But it was a great experience, my first time in Korea. Korea is really a nice place, with nice food. Now I'm hoping for a good result in the final standings.

Postscript: By winning this game, Yifei Yue captured 25th place.