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8th KPMC: Interview with Vedran Vasiljevic (Croatia)

Vedran Vasiljev (photo: Toshiko Ito)Vedran Vasiljev (photo: Toshiko Ito)Ranka spoke with Vedran Vasiljevic after the second round.

Ranka: Please tell us about your go career.
Vedran: I've been playing for about ten years. A high-school friend taught me, in Rijeka. In the beginning I made very quick progress, but then I didn't have enough time to play constantly or enough money to go to tournaments. Rijeka is the world's third biggest carnival town, and one of the activities at the Rijeka carnival is playing go, so I used to go there. I've also been to two European Go Congresses: in Villach in Austria, and Groningen in the Netherlands.

Ranka: What other tournaments have you played in?
Vedran: I've played in various smaller tournaments: Trieste in Italy, Bled in Slovenia, Belgrade in Serbia, Zelenkovac in Bosnia. Compared with them, there are a lot of stronger players here at the Korean Prime Minister Cup, and the organization is better. I needed some time to get used to Korean food, but now I like it. I also like Korean culture. Korean people are always very open and very ready to help strangers. They're always smiling. And in Korea, compared with Croatia, everything is so big!

Ranka: What is your goal for this tournament?
Vedran: I would like to get at least two wins.

Ranka: Thank you.

Note: Vedran got his two wins in the next two rounds against opponents from Chile and Azerbaijan, and then added a third win in the last round against the player from Morocco. Well done!


8th KPMC: Interview with Juan Samper (Colombia)

Juan Samper (photo: Toshiko Ito)Juan Samper (photo: Toshiko Ito)Ranka talked with translator and interpreter Juan Samper after his victory over Natasa Malinic of Bosnia and Herzegoviina, one of three games he won in the KPMC. Here's what he said.

I learned to play seven years ago, in Bogota, after watching the movie Pi. The main character played go with his mentor, and they talked a lot about how the ancient Japanese thought of the go board as a microcosm of the universe. In fact go was one of the main themes in the movie. The characters were very smart, and I thought that if smart people play go it must be a difficult game, so I'll learn it and show everyone that I'm smart too. That's not exactly how it turned out, but I made shodan in about three years. and recently made 3 dan playing online.

The main go club in Bogota is the Salto del Mico, the 'Monkey Jump.' Its location is the Casa de la Historia--House of History. This is an establishment run by a well known radio personality who is also a historian and talks a lot about Colombian history. Her idea was that it should be a place for promoting many different cultural projects, and Salto de Mico became one of them. We meet every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Typically five to twenty players show up. We also hold national national tournaments there and sell go boards and stones that are made in Colombia. Because of the high cost of importing boards and stones from the Far East, two of our members invested some money, talked to some local manufacturers, and gave them the specifications for a go board, and now they manufacture the boards and make inexpensive plastic stones. I think the two investors have already recovered their investment.

Now there is also a go club at the National University in Bogota, which is the biggest university in Colombia. In the last few months that club has really taken off, attracting a lot of young people. There's also a club in Cali that is teaching young people, and there's another club in Medellin. All told I'd say Colombia has about 100 go players, of whom about 50 are active, at least from time to time. The big news is that a 12-yead old kid has just won the Colombian National Championship. His name is Juan Ramirez; he's our secret weapon for the future.

You can find out more about Colombian go here.


8th KPMC - Interview with Lucretiu Calota (Romania)

Lucretiu Calota dressed like a Korean king (photo: Toshiko Ito)Lucretiu Calota dressed like a Korean king (photo: Toshiko Ito)Ranka spoke with Lucretiu Calota just after his 5th-round game with the Korean player.

Ranka: Could you describe the game for us?
Lucretiu: I lost by resignation. I had some ideas, but he kept denying me. I found the game so boring--he just kept taking territory. I tried playing more open, but in the end his position was more solid. I couldn't attack, and then I didn't see that he could cut off some stones of mine. They died, and it was over.

Ranka: How about your other games?
Lucretiu: I'm more satisfied with them. I lost to Japan, but only by ten points. I won against Australia, Chile, and Denmark. The game with Australia in the first round was a big fight that became random after we both got into overtime.

Ranka: Please tell us something about go in Romania.
Lucretiu: There was a special situation in Romania back when it still had a communist government. There were no computer games, no dancing, and young people didn't have other things to do, so they went to culture clubs. They had chess clubs, contract bridge clubs, science fiction clubs, and when go came along, they started playing go. Most of the go players were in Bucharest. A lot of them were students at the same university. They would get together at the same campus, drink beer and vodka, and play go. That's how you get stronger. And we also had Radu Baciu. He was the first strong Romanian player--he got to 3 dan back in the 1970s. He was always ready to play go with anyone who wanted to. In the mid 1980s, when I was living in Braşov, I would come to his house in Bucharest and play go with him every day. I don't know what else he did. Now we are all forty years old. Well, Lucian Corlan and Cornel Burzo, the former children in the group, are thirty, but we all have other things to do. And Romanian young people are like young people in other countries, they play computer games. We had one promising young player until recently, but now he's a serious university student and doesn't have much time for go.

Ranka: Thank you and good luck in the next round.

Note: Lucretiu drew Jerome Salignon, the French player, in the next round and won to finish 8th.


8th KPMC - Interview with Nurman Aylanç (Cyprus)

Nurman Aylanc (photo: Toshiko Ito)Nurman Aylanc (photo: Toshiko Ito)Ranka spoke with Nurman Aylanç on the morning of the first day at the Korea Prime Minister Cup. He gave Ranka this account of his go career.

I learned to play go in 2003, the year they reopened the borders between North and South Cyprus. I live in the northern part, the Turkish part, where I teach music. There was a big joint concert to celebrate the reopening, through which I made contact with Dimitris Regginos, a music teacher from the southern part of Cyprus, the Greek part. We were both guitarists. He asked me if I knew about go. I was a chess player, but I had not heard of go, so he immediately taught me how to play. I liked the freedom of the game. It's different from chess, where all the pieces have to move in set ways. I studied hard in my first year and got to about 7 kyu, maybe 5 kyu. In 2004 I opened a go club. At first several people came to learn, but now we're down to just five. Two or them are Korean, and two are from Turkey, so I'm the only native-born Cypriot. There are more go players in the southern part of the island, about 15 to 20.

I've played in a couple of Korea Prime Minister Cups before. Every time I come I'm impressed by the improvements in the program and organization. They really make an effort, and it's been a good tournament every year. The only problem is the short schedule, playing six games in two days and then departing the next day, but I think most players understand that this is for economic reasons. My goals this year are to win half of my games and to become stronger.


Park Wins 2013 Korea Prime Minister Cup

In brief, the 8th Korea Prime Minister Cup International Amateur Baduk Championship went the same way as the 35th World Amateur Championship in Sendai last month and the 7th KPMC last year. The Chinese and Korean players were unscathed in the first five rounds and the Korean player won the decisive game between them in the sixth round, which is the final KPMC round. The players were different, however, and there was plenty of drama in the rounds preceding the sixth.

Park Jaegeun receiving cupPark Jaegeun receiving cupFor most of the 61 contestants, this year's KPMC began with a flight into Incheon on October 10, an overnight stay at a hotel near the airport, and a bus ride the next day to Gumi, a formerly rural town that has grown into a major manufacturing city. The buses took them to an orientation meeting at GumiCo, a convention center on the outskirts of the city, then to the Gumi Century Hotel. After checking in, they collected in the Century's banquet hall, where they were greeted in Korean by the mayor of Gumi, the president of the Korean Amateur Baduk Association, the chairman of the Korean Olympic Committee, and members of Korea's National Assembly and Gumi's City Council. They were also greeted by Suh Daewon, a former Korean amabassador to the United Nations and to several European countries, who is now president of the Asian Go Federation. Speaking in both Korean and English, Mr Suh pointed out that the Asian contestants at the KPMC were outnumbered by the Europeans, and explained that the AGF's mission was to spread baduk all over the Asian continent. Martin Stiassny, president of the European Go Federation, and Andrew Okun, president of the American Go Association, offered greetings and thanks in return, in English. All this was preceded by a magic show and followed by a lavish buffet feast.

GumiCo entrance seen from withinGumiCo entrance seen from withinNext morning the players were bused back to GumiCo, where chief referee Yoo Changhyuk gave the signal to start round one at 10:00. In 1993 Mr Yoo won the Fujitsu Cup, starting a quarter century of international dominance of the game by Korean pros. While still competing professionally, he now also operates one of Korea's largest baduk schools. His instructions were interpreted by Lee Hajin, a younger Korean pro, who served as MC throughout the tournament. Her cheerfulness, charm, organizing abilities, and excellent English did much to make the tournament a success.

The KPMC is run under a simplified McMahon system, with the field divided into two halves. In the first round players are paired against random opponents from the same half. This year, the random draw matched Russia's three-time European champion Ilya Shikshin, who finished 4th at Sendai, against Hong Kong's Chan Chihin, who took 4th place in the 2012 WAGC at Guangzhou. The teenager from Hong Kong got his Russian opponent into trouble in the early middle game and won convincingly. On another board, Taiwanese insei Lin Shinwei, who finished 10th at Sendai, bested the Ukraine's Dmytro Bogatskyy. The players from China, Japan, and Korea defeated opponents from Vietnam, Denmark, and Indonesia. After their games, winners and losers alike headed downstairs to the GumiCo lunchroom to fortify themselves for the afternoon rounds.

Jostein FloodJostein FloodThe second round was paired at random across the entire field, without regard to McMahon groupings or the results of the first round. This allowed the showdown between the last two undefeated players in the top MacMahon group to occur in the final round instead of round five. It also produced a clash between two insei: Taiwan's Lin and Korea's Park Jaegeun. Park proved the stronger of the two. In all, twenty contestants finished the second round undefeated, including Park and the contestants from China, Hong Kong, and Japan, who defeated opponents from Lithuania, Malaysia, and South Africa. In the tragedy of the round, the UK's Jonathan Diamond outplayed Norway's Jostein Flood but committed an oversight in the final filling of the neutral points. Both players were distraught. 'I won but I feel as if I had lost,' said Jostein. 'Of course my opponent probably feels even worse.'

For the third round the pairing scheme reverted to the McMahon system, and a major upset occurred. Swiss 2-dan Sebastien Ott beat Austrian 5-dan Schayan Hamrah, who tied for 6th place at the KPMC last year. Ott thus ended the first day undefeated, as did seven other contestants: China's Fu Li, who beat Thailand's Nuttakrit Taechaamnuayvit ('Krit' for short); Czechia's Ondrej Silt, who beat Spain's Pau Carles; Finland's Juri Kuronen, who beat the Netherlands' Alexander Eerbeek; Hong Kong's Chan, who beat New Zealand's Kaikun Xie; Japan's Emura Kikou, who beat Romania's Lucretiu Calota; Korea's Park Jaegeun, who beat Canada's Bill Lin; and the USA's Hugh Zhang, who beat France's Jerome Salignon. Ott and Zhang had been seeded into the lower half of the field, so they now found themselves in the second-highest McMahon group, the other six undefeated players forming the top group.

In the fourth round the next morning, interest focused on the game between the Chinese and Japanese players. Japan's Emura was seeking revenge for a loss to China's top amateur player in Sendai, but China's Fu, world amateur champion in 2002 and currently China's 50th-ranked amateur, took advantage of a mistake to gain an early lead, which he then kept to win by resignation. Emura was visibly shaken by this loss. In the other two top group games Juri Kuronen and Ondrej Silt fell to Chan Chihin and Park Jaegeun. In the next McMahon group Sebastian Ott lost quickly to Taiwan's Lin Shinwei, but in a two-and-a-half hour struggle that delayed the start of the next round by 45 minutes, the USA's Hugh Zhang recovered from a massive capture to defeat Israel's Jonathan Lidor.

In the fifth round Korea's Park was drawn down against Romania's Lucretiu Calota, whom he disposed of by killing a group of stones. The smiling Romanian then strolled out to have his picture taken in royal Korean robes in the lobby in front of the playing room. Meanwhile, China's Fu Li played Hong Kong's Chan Chihin in a David-and-Goliath game to see which of them would meet Park in the final round. Chan, cast in the role of David, managed to draw some signs of agitation from Fu, but counter to the Biblical outcome, the Chinese veteran prevailed in the end. The USA's Hugh Zhang, drawn down against Poland's Koichiro Habu, won to stay undefeated and earn a pairing against Chan in the final round.

Park JaegunPark JaegunAfter lunch, the deciding game between Fu and Park was played on a board set up on the stage at the front of the playing room. The action was relayed down to the first floor for a public commentary, where some two dozen spectators took time out from other tournaments being held in the same building to witness Park's triumph. In his post-game interview, Park said he had found the final game unexpectedly easy to win--the players from Taiwan (Lin Shinwei), Canada (Bill Lin), and Czechia (Ondrej Silt) had given him stiffer competition.

Despite his chastening loss to Park, Fu finished a strong 2nd, three SOS points ahead of Bill Lin and Chan Chihin, who tied for 3rd and 4th places. Since Chan won his final game against the USA's Zhang, Park emerged as the tournament's sole undefeated player. In two other last-round games Japan's Emura downed Thailand's Krit and Russia's Ilya Shikshin beat Lin Shinwei, proving again that he is a dangerous opponent for some of the best Far Eastern amateurs. The result of these games was that Emura finished 5th, Ilya Shikshin 6th, Lin Shinwei 7th, and Krit 9th, while Romania's Lucretiu Calota took 8th place.

At the awards ceremony following the final round, Park received a bound testimonial, a large cup, and much applause. Runner-up Fu received a bound testimonial, a smaller cup, and equal applause. The contestants who finished 3rd to 9th received bound testimonials and further applause, as did the rest of the top sixteen (the Ukraine's Dmytro Bogatskyy, Czechia's Ondrej Silt, Germany's Michael Palant, Austria's Schayan Hamrah, Vietnam's Khanhbinh Do, Finland's Juri Kuronen, and the USA's Hugh Zhang).

For the players who did not place in the top sixteen, there were zonal awards. The winners in the Asian zone were (1) Edwin Halim (Indonesia), (2) Yifei Yue (Singapore), (3) Sansar Tsolmon (Mongolia), and (4) Zhefan Mah (Brunei). The European/African winners were (1) Alexander Eerbeek (Netherlands), (2) Pau Carles (Spain), (3) Jonathan Lidor (Israel), and (4) Jannik Rasmussen (Denmark). The American/Oceanian winners were (1) Kaikun Xie (New Zealand), (2) Wen Qian (Australia), (3) Augustin Antonissen (Chile), and (4) Santiago Tabares (Argentina). In all, nearly half the participants went home with awards and there were gifts for all, including framed photos and hand-drawn artwork.

As in any McMahon tournament or Swiss system, the final standings were to some extent determined by the luck of the draw. If the players who finished 11th and 15th had drawn average opponents in the randomly paired second round and earned three or four SOS points apiece instead of just one, they might have ended as high as 9th and 10th--unless Krit had also earned four SOS points instead of just two in the second round, in which case he would have retained 9th place. But such speculations lead nowhere and aside from the Ott-Hamrah upset, the top sixteen standings told a consistent story. There was also a picture-perfect finish in the middle of the field: in the final round the players from Turkey, Serbia, the UK, and Sweden captured 28th to 31st places by beating opponents from Switzerland, Norway, Poland, and Malaysia, who finished right behind them in 35th to 32nd places. The entire tournament staff deserve credit for a job well done.

And for the city of Gumi, the sound of stone hitting board now gave way to the strains of Beethoven and Saint-Saëns, marking the beginning of a five-day international music festival.

Complete results can be found here.

More tournament pictures can be found on Cyberoro's website here, here, and here.

- James Davies (photos: Toshiko Ito)


Emura to Represent Japan Again at 2014 WAGC

Emura KikouEmura KikouJust two and a half weeks after the 2013 World Amateur Go Championship ended, the knockout tournament to select the Japanese player for the 2014 WAGC was held at the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo. Emura Kikou, who was highly dissatisfied with his 8th place at the 2013 WAGC, came determined to win another try, but he was competing against four higher-finishing WAGC contestants of years past, including former world amateur champions Hiraoka Satoshi and Hironari Hirata. In the first round, played on the morning of September 21, Emura had a tough game against a highschool lad from Aichi prefecture, but managed to win by 1.5 points.

In the next round he faced a gentleman from Mie prefecture whose white beard set off a fierce-looking black mustache and black eyebrows. Emura won this game by resignation, and then defeated a former Student Meijin from Tokyo by 23.5 points to complete a successful first day. In the meantime, Hirata lost in the first round and Hiraoka lost, to another highschooler, in the third round.

Emura (left) and Wakabayashi discussing a variation after the final gameEmura (left) and Wakabayashi discussing a variation after the final gameOn the morning of September 22 Emura was paired against an opponent who had been all-Japan Student Oza in 2003. Emura won by 4.5 points, and then beat the 1987 Student Honinbo Iwai Shinichi by 1.5 points in the semifinal round. His final opponent was Wakabayashi Daisuke, a university student from Tokyo who was having the tournament of his life: he had overcome the highschool genius who overcame Hiraoka.

Playing white in the final game, Wakabayashi went for a large area in the center. Emura reduced it by setting up a ladder, then playing a ladder break. White fought back by cutting off the ladder breaking stone, but black won the ensuing capturing race. Emura was over 20 points ahead when Wakabayashi resigned. In the playoff for third place Iwai beat Sakamoto Shusaku, Japanese Student Champion in 1994 and 1995.

At the awards ceremony Emura said, 'I played terribly in the World Amateur and felt terrible afterwards, but after getting past the first round here yesterday, I regained confidence and was able to concentrate. I hope to take this attitude into the World Amateur next year. I want revenge.' His chance for revenge may come even sooner, since he will also represent Japan in the upcoming Korea Prime Minister Cup on October 12-13.


Hyunjae Choi of Korea wins the 34th WAGC

Words from the new world champion Hyunjae Choi:

Hyunjae ChoiHyunjae Choi

“Naturally I am delighted to have won the World Amateur Go Championship this year in Sendai. My game with the Chinese representative Hu Yuqing was the tightest battle and this turned out to be a decisive victory. To be honest, I did not think the European players were of a comparable strength, however I still felt a responsibility as the Korean representative to show my best game.

My first encounter with go was from an early age. Rather than playing with my classmates at elementary school, I preferred to absorb myself in ‘gomoku’ – five-in-a-row on a go board. My mother saw how much I enjoyed playing and suggested that I might be interested in go. It went from there. Winning the championship means I gain 40 rating points in the Korean professional qualification system to add to my existing 90. This brings me over the 100 required to be guaranteed a place in the professional world.

At the moment I am still a student at Myongji University, where I am enrolled on the only course in the world for go, although I am currently taking leave from study. There I study go theory and issues in the cultural, historical and educational aspects of the game. My actual practice playing go is not done at college but rather at a famous go club, which I attend from six in the morning until nine at night almost every day.

More than the game itself, I love just sitting down and concentrating on playing. If you were to ask me what kind of a professional I am striving to become, it would be one who works very hard and can inject every last ounce of energy into the game.”

Visit Ranka online to find out more about the 34th WAGC.



Hong Wins Amateur Honinbo Too

The final field of 65 that assembled at the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo to play for the Amateur Honinbo Title ranged from the current primary school Meijin (age 11) to octogenarians Hirata Hironori (87) and Kikuchi Yasuro (84), two of the outstanding Japanese amateurs of the 20th century. In between were the three outstanding amateurs of the current decade in Japan: the two Amateur Honinbos Hiraoka Satoshi (2010, 2012) and Nakazono Seizo (2011), and the Amateur Meijin Hong Seok-ui (2011-2013).

Hong won his way in by taking first place in the Osaka regional Honinbo tournament. Not being seeded, he had to enter at the preliminary round played on August 23, where he defeated the regional Honinbo from Aichi Prefecture by 19.5 points. This earned him a bye in the preliminary repechage, after which he won his second game of the day by forcing the regional Honinbo from Mie Prefecture to resign in the first knockout round.

From the left; Sato Koya, Hong Seok-ui  and Iyama Yuta (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)From the left; Sato Koya, Hong Seok-ui and Iyama Yuta (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)Nakazono and Hiraoka were seeded into the second knockout round, which began at 9:30 on August 24. Together with Hong they breezed through that round and the next, defeating opponents from Nara, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Iwate prefectures and two opponents from Tokyo. In the fourth round, for the second year in a row Hiraoka was paired against Hong. Last year Hiraoka had won by half a point in the endgame. This year it was a different story. Both players made mistakes, but Hiraoka's mistake was bigger and came later, and Hong won by 5.5 points. Meanwhile, Nakazono lost to Katayama Hiroyuki, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo making a strong comeback in Amateur Honinbo competition after a 17-year absence.

With his two most dangerous opponents both knocked out, Hong now found himself in a very promising position, but he still had to win two more games. In the semifinal round, played in the morning of August 25, he defeated former Student Honinbo Taniguchi Yohei by 15.5 points, while Katayama lost to Sato Koya, the 20-year old regional Honinbo from Shizuoka Prefecture. Sato turned out to be the surprise of the tournament. Although he has never been an insei, he is diligently training on his own with the aim of becoming a professional player at the Nagoya Branch of the Nihon Kiin.

Iyama Yuta (left) and Hong Seok-ui (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)Iyama Yuta (left) and Hong Seok-ui (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)The final round was played in a closed room next to a large hall, where pro Honinbo Iyama Yuta gave a public commentary on the clincher between Hong and Sato. Early in this game, Sato let Hong make a pon-nuki that Iyama rated as easily worth the proverbial 30 points, and from there on Hong was in control. Ultimately Sato was faced with the loss of half of a large group and resigned to finish second, while Taniguchi beat Katayama in the playoff for third place. The top four all received silver cups and crystal clocks from the sponsors, the Mainichi Newspaper and Sagawa Express.

Hong, who works as an instructor at the Ranka go club in Osaka, is the first player to hold both the amateur Honinbo and Meijin titles in Japan. Asked about future plans, he said he would like to work to spread the game of go, but for the time being he intends to work on what he called his many remaining go-playing weaknesses. Both Hong and Iyama said they were looking forward to the upcoming pro-amateur Honinbo match, which will be their first meeting across the go board.


57th European Go Congress: Hurray for Europe!

Venue of 57th the European Go CongressVenue of 57th the European Go CongressFar Eastern players have been outperforming Europeans at the European Go Congress for the past decade, so it was a welcome change to see almost all the prizes go to European players at the 2013 Congress held July 27 to August 11 in Olsztyn, Poland. Also encouraging was the whole-hearted way in which the Polish media, the European go community, and even non-European organizations such as BadukMovies, KGS, Pandanet, and the World Pair Go Association lent their support to the Congress as sponsors or patrons. Here's a rundown of the results.

The ten-round main tournament was won by Hui Fan, the former Chinese pro who emigrated to France in 2000, quickly became Europe's top-rated player, has been making substantial contributions to the growing French go literature, and became a naturalized Frenchman this year. The last three rounds of this tournament included an eight-player playoff for the title of European Champion. This meant that Hui had to face two of his youngest and strongest opponents--Mateusz Surma of Poland and Pavol Lisy of Slovakia--twice each, but it seemed to make no difference who Hui played: he won all ten of his games. Mateusz and Pavol each lost one other game and finished 4th and 3rd, respectively. Hui FanHui FanFinland's Antti Tormanen beat Pavol, lost to Hui and Mateusz, and finished 2nd. In the playoff section Pavol came 2nd, Mateusz came 3rd, and France's Thomas Debarre took 4th place. A grand total of 594 players participated, with European players capturing the top 23 places.

In the nine-round rapid tournament, Cornel Burzo (Romania) and Mateusz Surma (Poland) won eight games apiece, but Cornel took 1st place by one SOS point. Andrii Kravets (Ukraine), Alexei Lazarev (Russia), and Stanislaw Frejlak (Poland) scored six wins to take 3rd to 5th places. Tomasz Sek (6 kyu, Poland) and Josef Moudrik (10 kyu, Czechia) scored eight wins and finished 167th and 216th in the field of 276.

In the five-round weekend tournament (August 3-4) Ilya Shikshin (Russia) beat Jun-won Choi (Korea) and then Pavol Lisy, Cornel Burzo, Hui Fan, and Alexander Dinerchtein (Russia) to earn undisputed 1st place. His opponents finished 19th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, and 5th. Ali Jabarin (Israel) came in 3rd. Besides Ilya, there were eleven other five-game winners in the field of 378: Krzysztof Urtnowski (1 kyu, Poland), Sylvain Praz (2 kyu, Switzerland), David Vennink (3 kyu, France), Pawel and Jan Fraczak (both 4 kyu, Poland), Jakub Jansky (5 kyu, Czechia), Vojtech Vasa (9 kyu, Czechia), Krzysztof Kurzawa (10 kyu, Poland), Michael Thao (10 kyu, France), Josef Moudrik (10 kyu, Czechia), Mikulas Kubita (13 kyu, Czechia), and Sandra Freiburghaus (15 kyu, Switzerland). Ilya Shikshin also won the 20-player blitz knockout, beating Mero Csaba (Hungary), Zeno van Ditzhuijzen (Netherlands), and Cornel Burzo, and then defeating Ondrej Silt (Czechia) in the final game. On small boards,

Ilya Shikshin won the 9 x 9 tournament and Andrii Kravets won the 13 x 13 tournament. Stanislaw Frejlak (4 dan, Poland) won the eight-player phantom knockout, downing Gabor Albrecht (7 kyu, Hungary) in the final game.

Two Russian youths won 1st place prizes in the U18 competition: Alexander Vashurov (5 dan) topped the A group while Andrej Mramorov (4 kyu) topped the B group. Both were undefeated. Finishing 2nd were Jonas Welticke (5 dan, Germany) and Yuki de Groot (3 kyu, Netherlands).

Tournament roomTournament roomThe European Team Championship, held July 26-27, was won by a Czech team consisting of Ondrej Silt, Jan Hora, Lukas Podpera, Jan Prokop, and Vladimir Danek. The Czechs drew against Russia and defeated the Ukraine and Hungary. Russia drew against the Ukraine, and both Russia and the Ukraine beat Hungary. In a separate five-round team tournament, the Polish Wampiry team (Mateusz Surma, Stanislaw Frejlak, Majka Marcin) and the French Bogoss team (Benjamin Drean-Guenaizia, Pierre Paga, Cesar Lextrait) were both undefeated, so they held a playoff, won by Wampiry. The Polish Habu-Mos-Rzepnikowski trio beat the international Sexy Honte trio to take first place in the rengo tournament.

Pair go was organized into A and B groups. In the A group (all even games), 32 pairs competed for three full rounds in four blocks, then the best 16 competed in a final knockout. Korean pro Hajin Lee and Polish amateur Cezary Czernecki (3 dan) triumphed over Polish amateur Agnieszka Kacprzyk (1 dan) and Korean pro Young-Long Park in the final game of the knockout. The B group was a four-round Swiss system handicap tournament that ended with three pairs undefeated. Placed in SOS order, they were: (1) Dita Vasova and Lukas Podpera (Czechia) (2) Daria Kwietniewska (Poland) and Vit Brunner (Czechia) (3) Josefa Kubitova and Michal Timko (Czechia). Full results can be found at the congress website.


Amateurs and Former Amateurs Compete for Professional Promotion in China

He Yuhan, who captured three major Chinese amateur titles this year (the amateur Tianyuan in February, the Fengcheng Cup in May, and the 3rd Qingdao Publishing Cup in June), ended his rampage by winning his way to profession shodan in the 2013 Chinese Go Ranking Promotion Competition, held July 20-25 in Yangzhou. In all, twenty men and five women qualified as pro shodan. The other men included Dai Zhitian, who beat He to win the Yellow River Cup in June, Li Weiqing, who took third in the Yellow River Cup, and Huang Jingyuan, runner-up in the Yellow River Cup last year. The qualification tournament is limited to players under 25 years old. He, Li, and Huang are still 13.

Meanwhile, the promotion competition for players who were already professional was being held July 17-30 at the Tongli Lake Resort. Two of the contestants played in the World Amateur Go Championship last year: Qiao Zhijiang (1st place, China), and Chen Cheng-Hsu (3rd place, Chinese Taipei).

Qiao Zhijiang turned pro shortly after the 2012 WAGC and won a promotion to 2 dan with a 9-3 score in the 2012 Promotion Competition. Overall, his pro record was 21-13 in 2012, and stands at 24-21 so far in 2013, including a strong 7-3 performance in the new HTC Cup. Qiao broke even (6-6) in the 2013 Promotion Competition, and remains 2-dan.

Chen Cheng-Hsu, who turned pro at age 13 in China to challenge himself, started off his professional career by scoring 4-6 at the Chinese Individual Championships in September 2012. Since then he has been continuing to meet his self-imposed challenge head-on; his cumulative professional record after 11 months is a level 29-29. His result in the 2013 Promotion Competition was 7-5, so he remains shodan.


34th World Amateur Go Championship

Poster of the 34th WAGCPoster of the 34th WAGCThe 34th World Amateur Go Championship will open on August 31 and be held on September 1-4 at the Sendai City Information & Industry Plaza in the AER building in Sendai, Japan. Located next to Sendai Station, AER is a popular commercial complex with many shops and restaurants.

The field of 62 players will range in age from 14 to 57 and in official rank from 7 kyu to 8 dan. The field is headed by the contestants from China and Korea (Yuqing Hu and Hyunjae Choi); those two countries have not dropped a single game to any other country in this event since 2006. The players from perennially strong Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Hong Kong (Wei-shin Lin, Kikou Emura, and King-man Kwan) will also bear watching, particularly 14-year-old Lin, who will move on from the World Amateur to a pro career in Taiwan.

These Asians will be challenged, however, by a strong European contingent, led by Slovakian prodigy Pavol Lisy, who finished runner-up to former Chinese pro Fan Hui in this year's European Championship. Joining Pavol will be four other young finalists from the European Championship: Thomas Debarre (France), Ilya Shikshin (Russia), Artem Kachanovskyi (Ukraine), and Nikola Mitic (Serbia). Also competing will be such established European stars as Ondrej Silt (Czechia), Csaba Mero (Hungary), Cornel Burzo (Romania), Merlijn Kuin (Netherlands), and Franz-Josef Dickhut (Germany).

Venue of the 34th WAGCVenue of the 34th WAGCChallenging the Asians and Europeans will be a pair of North American high school students: Curtis Tang (USA), who trained for a year at a go academy in China, and Bill Lin (Canada), who played in the World Mind Games last December and is coming off a 3-1 defense of his Canadian Dragon title.

The Southern hemisphere will be represented by Hao-Song Sun (Australia, 11th place at the 2008 World Mind Sports Games), Xuqi Wu (New Zealand, 12th place at the 2009 Korea Prime Minister Cup), and a pack of hopeful new players from South America and South Africa.

In the past the World Amateur Go Championship has been held in the spring, but this year the schedule was moved back because of the effects of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

Thanks to support from all over the world during the past two years, most of the regions hit by the earthquake are now recovering. It is hoped that through the game of go this tournament will give the world proof of the recovery and encourage the local people to press ahead with the long recovery process.

Starting September 1st,  Ranka online together with the American Go E-Journal will provide full coverage of the championship.



China Locks Up Mlily Cup

The last three non-Chinese survivors in the Mlily cup were eliminated in the third round on August 9 in Shanghai. The eight Chinese players who won included three teenage 4-dans: Mi Yuting, who added Kong Jie to his list of noted 9-dan victims; Dang Yifei, who beat 3-dan Tang Weixing; and Lian Xiao, who overcame World Mind Games champion Choi Chulhan. The other five winners were Wu Guangya (6 dan), Wang Lei (8 dan), Zhou Ruiyang (9 dan), Wang Xi (9 dan), and Gu Li (9 dan).
In the fourth round, played on August 11, the three 9-dans cracked down: Gu Li beat Wang Lei by resignation; Wang Xi edged out Wu Guangya by 1-3/4 stones (3-1/2 points); and Zhou Ruiyang beat Lian Xiao by resignation. In the fourth game Mi Yuting beat Dang Yifei by resignation. Next Mi will take on Wang Xi in the two-out-of-three semifinal round, schedule to be determined.

Game records are available at the go4go website.


Shanghai Kids Rule in Toto Cup

Among the many summer go events for Japanese kids, the Toto Cup is a west-end special. It's for kids aged 3 to 18 in Kyushu (westernmost of the four large Japanese islands), in the adjoining prefectures of Okinawa (farther west) and Yamaguchi (the west end of Honshu, the largest island), and from overseas (still farther west). This year the overseas participants made up about 30% of the field: 55 came from five cities in China and 15 came from Taipei. Although no three-year-old took part, one of the contestants was five, and she won a third-place award -- but we're getting ahead of our story.

Niu Zebing (left) and Ding Yuexiang (photo: Ito Toshiko)Niu Zebing (left) and Ding Yuexiang (photo: Ito Toshiko)The 251 young hopefuls assembled at the Asia-Pacific Import Mart in Kitakyushu City on August 5th. They were watched, supervised, and taught by a roughly equal number of organizers, officials, volunteer assistants, parents, teachers, and guests, including four professional go players. The competition was divided into five classes and the venue was partitioned into two rooms. In one room, the kids in the unlimited class (where ranks went as high as 7 dan) played four rounds of even games and the kids in class A (1-5 dan) played four rounds of handicap go. In the other room, the kids in classes B (1-5 kyu), C (6-10 kyu), and D (11-20 kyu) played five rounds of handicap go, and a dozen beginners (class E) got their first taste of go. Overseas players were paired against Japanese opponents as far as possible.

Last year three Japanese middle-schoolers (Hashimoto Junpei, Nasu Haruki, and Nishimura Ryotaro) finished 1-2-3 in the unlimited class. This year all three tried their luck again, but each lost once in the first three rounds. At the end of those rounds there were five undefeated unlimiteds and four of them were Chinese. The fifth was Sasaki Shuma, an 11-year-old primary-school boy from Nakama, right next to Kitakyushu, but in the final round he bowed to Ding Yuexiang, a 13-year-old middle-school student from Shanghai. That made Ding unlimited champion. Niu Zebing, a classmate of Ding's, took second place by winning his final game against Luo Ruichen, a 12-year-old from Guangzhou. Cao Weilong, the fifth undefeated player, lost his final game to Nishimura to join the group of eleven who ended with three wins. Luo Ruichen had the best SOS in this group, so the first three unlimited places all went to players from China, and the top two places both went to players from Shanghai.

Usui Makoto (photo: Ito Toshiko)Usui Makoto (photo: Ito Toshiko)Since Shanghai has a population of over 20 million and a strong go organization, it was not a complete surprise to see youngsters from that city also triumph in three of the four handicap tournaments: Wu Zijie (age 12) won class A, Wen Zehai (age 12) won class B, and Wang Kaichen (age 10) won class C. In class D, however, the Japanese side finally came through: Eto Kotaro won all five of his games to finish first, while Usui Makoto, who is still in kindergarten, won four games and took third place.

None of the participants questioned by Ranka mentioned any ambition to play go professionally. 'I started too late' said Eto Kotaro. Niu Zebing hopes to run his own business, like his restaurateur father. Ding Yuexiang has no career plans yet, but named English as his favorite subject at school.

In addition to the class competition, selected kids had chances to play pair go with or play 13 x 13 instructional games against former Meijin Otake Hideo, who was born in Kitakyushu, former women's Honinbo Yashiro Kumiko, former winner of the TV-Osaka Lady's Cup Izawa Akino, and Takemiya Yoko, the son of former Honinbo Takemiya Masaki. The kids found their professional partners and opponents 'amazingly strong.' The pros also held a beginners' instructional session. One of the attendees was four years old.

Notwithstanding the youngster who burst into tears after losing to two opponents from Taipei, it was a cheerful crowd that departed from the Import Mart in the late afternoon, looking forward to a day of sightseeing on August 6. And Toto Ltd., a company that has consistently improved the world (they manufacture toilets), had just made it even better.

The game between Ding (white) and Sasaki can be viewed here.


2013 Amateur Meijin: Three for Hong

Hong Suk-euiHong Suk-euiThis year Japan's Amateur Meijin title match had a new twist: the challenger, Wu Poyi, was a native of Taiwan. He learned to play go there in kindergarten. Inspired by the feats of Taiwan-born Chang Hsu (Cho U), Wu dreamed of becoming a pro in Japan, but he remained in Taiwan until 2009, when Miaoli County, where he had entered junior high school, granted him financial assistance to study as an insei in Tokyo. Over the next four years he worked his way up from class F to the top of class A in the insei rankings, but was never able to take one of the top two places in the Tokyo round robin that annually qualifies two new pro shodans. In March 2013, being 17 years old, he had to retire as an insei, but he has not abandoned his dream. He now lives and studies at Hong Mal-geun-saem's dojo in Tokyo, and will attempt to win his way into the round robin as a non-insei, the age limit for doing which is 22.

Since Japanese insei do not compete for Japanese amateur titles, the Amateur Meijin was Wu's first major amateur tournament in Japan. To become challenger, he had to start by earning one of the two places reserved for Tokyo residents. His start was promising: he won the Tokyo Amateur Meijin preliminary in April. Then he had to win a six-round challenger knockout held July 14-15. His six straight victories in the knockout began with a resignation win over a 14-year old opponent from Nagasaki prefecture, and ended with a 3.5-point ko-powered win over an opponent his own age from Tomiyama prefecture. In between, he defeated the oldest player in the knockout, Nishimura Osamu, winner of the Asahi Amateur Best Ten tournament (the forerunner of the Amateur Meijin) in 1972.

And then Wu faced his toughest opponent, the defending Korean-born Amateur Meijin Hong Suk-eui (Japanese reading: Hon Soggi). While Wu had been working his way toward the challenger's spot, Hong had been competing with remarkable success in the Agon Kiriyama Cup, defeating seven pro opponents, culminating in a victory over a 9-dan that put him into the best-16 stage (where he finally lost). In 2009, while still living in Korea, Hong had accomplished a similar feat in the BC Card Cup. He had also won about half a dozen Korean amateur titles. 'If I lose to him, it will be only natural,' Wu said.

The best-of-three Amateur Meijin title match was held at the Sekitei inn in Yugawara. Since Hong now lives in Osaka and Wu in Tokyo, the match was an east-west confrontation, something that Japan revels in. Drawing white in the first game on July 27, Wu played aggressively in the opening and middle game, but Hong found a successful counterattack that forced Wu to resign. In the second game on July 28, Hong took an early lead but relaxed in the middle game and then had to fight hard to recover. In the end he out-read Wu and won again by resignation. Hong is the first player to win the Amateur Meijin title three times, and he hopes to make it four next year.