Ranka talked with Belarusian 1-dan Aliaksandr Chakur shortly after his victory over a like-ranked player from Brunei in the first round of the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup.
Ranka: How long have you been playing go?
Aliaksandr: I've played go for about ten years. I started to learn in my university days. Then I found a go club in our city, Minsk, where there were other players and also a teacher, Alexandr Suponev. He began to teach me and I started to progress. I played a lot every week.
Ranka: Is there a lot of go activity in Belarus?
Aliaksandr: We have around eighty players, and we sometimes have tournaments.
Ranka: Are you currently the strongest of the eighty?
Aliaksandr: The three strongest players now all play as 1-dan, and then there are three to five 3-kyu players, so I may not be the strongest, but I am one of the strongest.
Ranka: What happened in the game that you just finished this morning?
Aliaksandr: In that game I was stronger. Her opening was much weaker and I killed most of her groups.
Ranka: And what are your hopes for the coming rounds?
Aliaksandr: It's mostly communication -- to communicate with people from other countries -- also to play and review games, maybe become stronger, and maybe find some new ways to progress.
Ranka: How often have you been to the Far East before?
Aliaksandr: One time to China, one time to Japan, and this is my third time in Korea, always to play in a go tournament. I've played in the KPMC twice before, in 2008 and 2012.
Ranka: How did you do those two years?
Aliaksandr: I won about half my games and lost about half. That's my usual result, so I hope that this year I will do the same, or maybe better.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.
Postscript: This year Aliaksandr broke even again. In his next five games he faced opponents from New Zealand, Turkey, South Africa, Portugal, and Peru, with ranks from 1-dan to 6-dan, and defeated two of them to take 31st place.
Sweden's new go champion Jakob Bing has played in two Korea Prime Minister Cups, both times winning three games and finishing near the middle of the field. In 2012, playing as a 2-dan and assisted by a McMahon point, he came in 33rd out of 70. In 2014, now ranked 3-dan, he finished 28th out of 51 without McMahon assistance, the tournament having reverted to the normal Swiss system. Ranka interviewed him shortly after his last game.
Jakob: Well, sadly, it seems that go in Sweden has been shrinking. It was more active seven years ago when I started playing. There were more tournaments, with more players. We still have one very big tournament, the Gothenburg open, which gets up to sixty or more participants, but a normal tournament can be like twenty to twenty-five people. The number of tournaments has been shrinking as well. How many do we have left now? I think maybe five or six a year. But a new thing that has started is that we have a summer go camp near Gothenburg, arranged by the Gothenburg go club. This has been very successful for three years in a row. It's very nice, very relaxed, in a nice natural setting near a lake. Quite a lot of people come. Ranka: Can you bring us up to date on the go scene in Sweden?
Ranka: To learn how to play better?
Jacob: Yes, to learn, but in a more relaxed atmophere than at a tournament. It's good for people who don't like the competitive atmosphere in tournaments, but they want to meet others and play a lot of go. I think it's a very good thing to have, because it's a different way of playing go together, and some people prefer it.
Ranka: And now please tell us how you feel about your performance here at the KPMC.
Jakob: For some reason, I have been playing much too aggressively. In fact, I've been playing very badly for the past few months, though I've played a bit better in the tournament here. I lost all three games on the first day, but I kind of had strong opponents. Then today I won all three games, for the opposite reason. I guess that if you lose all your games on the first day you can expect to meet weaker people.
Ranka: Which do you think was your best game of the six?
Jakob: Either my first game against the player from Malaysia or my third game against Vesa Laatikainen, from Finland. I think I played best in those games. The third game ended with me dying a lot. I thought I was going to kill my opponent and I tried too hard and everything died. But it was fun.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Photo: Ito Toshiko
James Sedgwick is president of the Canadian Go Association, but was competing in the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup as a player. Ranka interviewed him at breakfast at the Olympic ParkTel, before the bus ride to the Korea Baduk Association building for the first round.
James: Canada is a big country, so it can be hard to get an overall picture of how the community is doing. You notice how one region can have a mini-go-boom for a few years while there's another region where the organizers have fallen away. A lot of Chinese organizations are very active now. There are two or three schools in Toronto that teach kids, mostly Chinese kids from second-generation families, and that's having a big impact. A lot of strong young players are coming in. There was a youth tournament this spring which had forty children under twelve, mostly from these schools. Ranka: Please tell us about the go community in Canada.
Ranka: What are the names of these schools?
James: One of them is called the Golden Key Go School, because it operates at the Golden Key Culture Center. They ran the last Toronto Open. Another is just called, in English, the Toronto Go School.
Ranka: And what about the rest of Canada?
James: I think the rest of the community is growing slowly, but when I look at players around my level, about European five dan, there are five to ten of us from a Western background. I don't think there were that many ten or twenty years ago. So it's hard to perceive, but the growth is there.
Ranka: What is it like, trying to organize go in a country as big as Canada?
James: Recently I think we've had a more active executive in the Canadian go organization than we had five or ten years previously, which is a good sign, but it's always a struggle to figure out how you've made a difference at the end of the day. You need the local go communities to do a lot. Well, they're trying, and we're trying too.
Ranka: How was your visit to the Choongam Baduk Academy yesterday?
James: They were very strong, generally stronger than the field here. It was impressive to see. It's always a shock the first time, but I've been to go camps in Shanghai and Beijing -- my wife is originally from Beijing -- so I've had similar experiences elsewhere. It was about what I'd expect at a strong go school here. The intensity of the training the kids go through to get as strong as they are, we're nowhere near that yet in the West.
Ranka: Was it a good warm-up for the KPMC?
James: Oh yes, it got my brain into gear. I'm still thinking through some of the positions in my head. During the tournament I hope I won't make the same mistakes, although I'm sure I'll make make different mistakes.
Ranka: What other hopes and expectations do you have for the KPMC?
James: My hopes are mainly to avoid embarrassment. I'm a little weaker than the last few Canadian representatives. Last year the Canadian representative in the KPMC finished third. I think it's unlikely I'll be able to match that, but my goal is to finish in the top ten.
Ranka: Last year's Canadian representative was Bill Lin. Have you played him very much in Canada?
James: Yes, quite often, in the Canadian Go Association's online Dragon League. That league was created and named by Chuck Elliot, a long-time go organizer in the Canadian prairies who is now in his seventies but doesn't seem able to sit still. I think he's currently involved in setting up some sort of school in China where they teach go and English. I've played Bill maybe five games in the past two years. I don't know that I've been able to win any of them, but I've had chances at fairly late stages in some of the games.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.
Postscript: After beating Jerusalem Open winner Amir Fragman in round three but losing to the players from China and Chinese Taipei in rounds two and five, James found himself matched against one of Europe's strongest players, Thomas Debarre of France, in round six. The winner of this game would earn an award for placing in the top sixteen. James lost, but still earned an award by placing in the top four in the America and Oceania zone.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Malaysia was represented at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup by the secretary of its weiqi association, Jimmy Cheng (Cheng Khai-yong in Chinese), who also works as a weiqi (baduk, go) teacher. Ranka interviewed Jimmy after his first-round victory over an opponent from Sweden.
Ranka: How did you learn to play go?
Jimmy: I learned because I watched the Hikaru no Go animations. I started when I was fifteen years old, about eleven years ago. At the time, there were hardly any go players in Malaysia, so at first I was just playing by myself, but afterward I managed to find the Malaysian Go Association, which we now call the Malaysia Weiqi Association, so I joined them and started playing competitively.
Ranka: And when did you start teaching?
Jimmy: Teaching? I started teaching in 2010, only four years ago. Before 2010 there was no weiqi teaching in Malaysia. All of the weiqi players were playing on their own. Actually, there was no institute teaching any game like chess or weiqi in Malaysia. Then, suddenly, a chess academy where they taught Chinese chess and international chess appeared, so I approached them and told them I was good at weiqi, and started teaching there. After that, I started recruiting students, and it all grew to the point where now we have three or four weiqi institutes promoting the game, and I'm also going into primary and secondary schools to teach.
Ranka: Are you based in Kuala Lampur?
Jimmy: Yes, I'm based in Kuala Lampur, and most of our main events are held in Kuala Lampur, but the game has started growing in other places too. One place is a chess academy in Ipoh, which is up north of Kuala Lampur. There's someone trying to promote weiqi in every part of Malaysia.
Ranka: How old are your students?
Jimmy: The yougest I've taught is about six years old, but I've also taught a lot of adults. Normally I teach groups of students, mostly in primary and secondary schools. When adults come, often they want to learn so that they can get their sons or daughters to learn. About half the population of Malaysia is Chinese. They migrated into the country from China a long time ago, but they still relate to Chinese culture, so I'm sure they are potentially interested in weiqi. There is just a lack of information about the game, and how to learn it. So to promote our game to them, what I am doing now is to create places for them where they can learn to play.
Ranka: Do you make a good living at this?
Jimmy: For me, it's actually quite good. I don't belong to any one institute. If there's any place where they need someone to teach, I go there. I've been sort of a pioneer. It was quite hard in the beginning, but now, after these few years, I think I earn about the same as a university graduate. I still don't own my own institute, however. I think that if I had my own institute I could do even better. But I just hope I can spread weiqi all around Malaysia, so wherever they need help, I'll go there and provide them with material assistance, with the teaching materials and equipment that they need.
Ranka: And now, can you tell us about the game you just finished in round one?
Jimmy: Well, first of all, my objective here is to beat the players who are ranked at the same strength as me or below. When I play someone above my strength, it may be kind of hard to win. Before the game I checked my opponent's rank and saw that it was 3 dan, the same as me, so I hoped to win and fortunately, I did. I can't say it was a hard game. I'd call it a comfortable win, although he fought a lot.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: In his next game Jimmy outdid himself: he upset Thai 5-dan Vorawat Tanapatsopol. Then after losing to two 6-dans and a 4-dan, he won his last game against another 3-dan opponent, Portugal's Daniel Tome. This earned him a well-deserved award as one of the top four players in the Asian zone excluding China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
European youth go champion Lukas Podpera, who was Czech champion in 2013 and came in sixth in the World Amateur Go Championship in 2014, started the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup by beating Lou Mankao, a 5-dan from Macau. The game ended well before lunch, so Ranka took the opportunity to ask him about his experiences at the Choongam Baduk Academy, where he had studied in the past.
Ranka: When did you first attend the Choongam Baduk Academy?
Lukas: I first attended the Choongam Baduk Dojang two years ago when I told Mr Kim Sungrae, who is now one of our referees, that I would like to study baduk seriously somewhere in Korea. He recommended Choongam as the best, the biggest, and the most famous dojang in Korea, so I went there for one month, and then I returned a year later, last year, again for one month.
Ranka: How much do you think those two months improved your game?
Lukas: Both times, after I studied at Choongam there was a European Go Congress and I played really badly in it. I had learned a lot of new stuff, my head was thoroughly confused, and I didn't know what to do. But now, two years after first going to Choongam, I believe I've improved by at least one stone, from average European 5-dan to strong European 6-dan. So I had to be patient a bit and wait for the results, but the results came.
Ranka: How did you study there?
Lukas: I remember that in the morning there was always almost no one there. Some of the kids went to school, because they were generally about five years younger than me. So in the morning I would do life and death problems and replay games. They way they replay games is not like the European way, where we replay from books very slowly, reading the commentaries. They would replay the game really fast. Sometimes it would take them only fifteen minutes to replay a game. So sometimes I replayed ten or fifteen games a day. And also we played some kind of league games, usually with fast time limits, like at most half an hour of basic time.
Ranka: Do you think you learned a lot by replaying all those games very fast?
Lukas: Yes. At least my reading became much better than before. Before I was like all Europeans, much slower than the Asians, because they're reading by shapes and we're only reading by moves. Although I was much better than them at positional judgement, they would always exploit some of my aji, or kill me somewhere, That didn't happen in Europe. So my reading improved a lot, I think.
Ranka: What other foreign students did you meet there?
Lukas: I guess the most well known European student there was Mateusz Surma, a 5-dan from Poland. He stayed there for two years, I think, so he had been there the longest, but there was also Rémi Campagnie from France, another 5-dan; he was studying there for three months. There were no other European students, but from the USA there was Benjamin Lockhart, who is studying there still, and from Canada there was Gansheng Shi, who stayed for two months.
Ranka: How do you hope to do in the KPMC this year?
Lukas: Two months ago I played in the World Amateur Go Championship and did really well, so I would like to get a similar result. I would like to win five games, which is probably what is needed to finish at least in sixth place.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: After lunch, Lukas lost to Juang Cheng-jiun (Chinese Taipei) in the second round, but he won his next three games, beating Kim Ouweleen (Netherlands), Thomas Debarre (France), and Doyoung Kim (New Zealand). In his last game he fought valiantly but unsuccessfully with Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki (Japan) for a place in the top six. Tie-breaking points put him ninth.
After losing to Thailand's Vorawat Tanapatsopol in the first round, Mexico's ebullient Emil Garcia reeled off five straight wins to capture sixth place in the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup. In his last two games he downed a pair of veteran Nordic players, Vesa Laatikainen (Finland) and Thomas Heshe (Denmark), who have a long history of winning their respective national championships and competing with considerable success in past World Amateur Go Championships and KPMCs. Emil talked with Ranka the day after the 2014 KPMC ended.
Ranka: How did you start playing go?
Emil: The first time I saw go was in a movie called Pi (Faith in Chaos). It was a movie about a guy that had started in the stock market. He plays go with his neighbor and they find a lot of patterns, sacred geometric things. I got really intrigued with this game. I thought, 'Oh, I want to know what this game is.' Luckily, two days after that, I found a neighbor who had a go board, so it was like 'Oh a go board, that's it -- the game I saw in the movie! I want to learn.' At that very moment I became a go addict. I started playing every day with that guy until I beat him two months later. So that's how I started playing go.
Ranka: How old were you at that time?
Emil: I was fifteen years old. Now I'm almost thirty, so I've been playing go for more than half my life.
Ranka: Could you tell us something about go in Mexico?
Emil: Well, actually I am now the president of the Mexican Go Association. We are working very hard to promote and develop go in our country. There are clubs in each state. We have several places in Mexico City where you can play. What I am doing now is mainly for people in the capital, but there are also clubs in cities like Puebla, Guadalajara, and so on. As for tournaments, we do one national Internet tournament. Our fifth Internet go tournament is taking place right now. We also have what we call the Torneo Mexicano Presencial. You can call it the Mexican Open in English; it's going to be held in November. And this year we are going to have our first Mexican Go Congress. This is going to be our very first go congress and we are getting a professional player to come from Korea. They are sending one professional player to Mexico, so he can teach us and we can learn their techniques.
Ranka: Have you enjoyed yourself here in Korea?
Emil: Oh, I've had one of the most wonderful times ever at a go tournament. This year I managed to finish in sixth place, out of fifty-two. This is the best result in the entire history of Mexican go. It's also one of the best results for any Latin American person except Fernando Aguilar. Besides that, the organizers have been very kind, their attention has been really great, the interpreters have been wonderful, everything has been wonderful. I've really loved it. I want to bring the mood of the tournament, and its events, back to Mexico so that people who do not have a chance to come here can experience it in their own homeland. That is one of the purposes of the Congress, actually: to be able to bring this wonderful Asian environment back to America.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
America's Benjamin Lockhart, 7-dan, was paired against Hungary's Alexandra Urbán, 1-dan, in the first round of the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup. After winning that game, Benjamin beat a series of steadily stronger opponents -- Tomas Hjartnes (2-dan, Norway), Alvin Han (3-dan, Singapore), Dejan Stanković (5-dan, Serbia), and Dmitry Surin (6-dan, Russia) -- until his victory streak was finally stopped by Wei Taewoong (7-dan, Korea) in the final round. Both the American Go Association and the Choongam Baduk Dojang, where Benjamin is currently training, can take pride in his fifth place finish.
Ranka: Where are you from?
Benjamin: New York. I grew up in Brooklyn.
Benjamin: My father is a mathematician and so he knew about it; computer and math people usually know about go. He taught me and my brother when I was maybe nine years old. I then studied and played on and off until I was about sixteen and started taking it pretty seriously. For the past five years I've been studying it pretty much every day. For the last three years it's really been my whole life.Ranka: And where did you learn to play go?
Ranka: How did you get into the Choongam Baduk Dojang?
Benjamin: When I was eighteen I went to Budapest. Lee Youngshin, who is a professional player, was living and teaching there, and I became very good friends with her. When I came to Korea a year later, she and Yang Geun, a 9-dan pro, helped me get into Choongam. They recognized that I needed a dojang to study at, and Choongam had just been recreated by merging three dojangs, so it all fit together. They told Choongam who I was and that I wanted to study, and Choi Gyubyung, the 9-dan pro who runs Choongam, let me in. I've been studying there for three years.
Ranka: What made you decide to do this?
Benjamin: Anyone who wants to study go seriously has to move to Asia.
Ranka: Do you want to become a professional player in Korea?
Benjamin: I don't think that I can become a professional in Korea unless I become a Korean citizen, but I can become a professional in America through the American system. I hope to play in the next American pro qualifying tournament, whenever they have it. It's still very unclear, but as I placed in the top division of the US Open I think I can get a spot. That's why I came to the KPMC.
Ranka: Please tell us about your game against the Russian player in the fifth round of the KPMC.
Benjamin: He died immediately in the opening, and so the game was kind of easy. I played very carefully, very solid. I won by a point and a half in the end, which was pretty tight, but I was just being very careful. Maybe I was lucky that he didn't play so well in the beginning.
Ranka: How was your game against the Korean player in the last round?
Benjamin: I'm not happy about it, because I didn't play very well, but I at least played with some fighting spirit. I kind of went for an all-out victory, got too excited about it, and started misreading. It was over after I misread. I got drunk on my own thoughts of victory, which is a mark of inexperience.
Ranka: Thank you and more power to you.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki is a youthful-looking 41, but he is a veteran of numerous national and international tournaments. He represented Japan at the 2008 World Amateur Go Championship, taking fifth place, and at the 2010 Korea Prime Minister Cup, where he finished second. In 2008 he also beat two pros in the Agon Cup, and last year he captained the TIS Alliance, a three-man team that won the 13th Japanese Prime Minister's Cup Amateur Team Go Championship. Ranka interviewed him during and after the 2014 KPMC, in which he finished fourth.
Tsuchimune: This year the KPMC conflicted with the big national tournament to select the Japanese player for the next World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand. The strong players -- Emura, Hiraoka, Mori, and the rest -- all wanted to play in the WAGC qualifier. In the end someone had to decide to pass up the chance to compete for a trip to Thailand, and that person was me. Ranka: Please tell us how you were chosen to come to the KPMC this year.
Ranka: How often have you been to Korea?
Tsuchimune: Once four years ago for the KPMC, of course, and several other times in connection with my work.
Ranka: What differences did you note between the KPMC this year and four years ago?
Tsuchimune: The main difference was that four years ago it was held in Changwon, in the southeast part of Korea, and this year it's in Seoul in the northwest. Another difference is that this year the field was smaller and I was one of the 'old men' in it: one of the ten oldest. But in terms of tournament organization, the number of interpreters, and so on, the KPMC was just as good this year as in 2010. Both times it was a very interesting and enjoyable tournament.
Ranka: Please tell us about your games on the first day.
Tsuchimune: Even though I won the first two games, the Belgian player I met in round one was strong, and the Israeli player I met in round two was stronger. And then in the third round I was simply outplayed by that boy from Chinese Taipei. He had better ideas than me. At some point the flow of the game went wrong. It didn't develop into the sort of game I like. The position was still difficult, but I lost without being able to accomplish much of anything.
Ranka: And how about your three games against the players from Hong Kong, Serbia, and Czechia on the second day.
Tsuchimune: Those games were also difficult, but they turned out well. I was able to play the kind of go I'm good at. Still, although I won all three, the Czech player I faced in round six was very strong: strong enough to get the best of me in one part of the game. If I had lost to him it wouldn't have been at all surprising. My general impression is that the competition from the European players is a lot stiffer than it used to be.
Ranka: Are you satisfied with your performance?
Tsuchimune: I guess I got the results I was worth, and did about what was expected of me, but I can't say that I'm satisfied. I wanted to win the tournament. If I get the chance to compete again, I'll try to do better.
Ranka: Thank you.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Vorawat Tanapatsopol (formerly Charoensitthisathien) is no stranger to Seoul. He studied at Blackie's International Baduk Academy for a month in 2011, and last August he took part in the international preliminaries for the Samsung Cup, losing to American 7-dan Eric Lui. Ranka caught him for a brief interview during the 9th KPMC closing banquet at the Olympic ParkTel on September 21.
Ranka: First, please tell us how you were chosen to represent Thailand.
Vorawat: I qualified for the KPMC by playing in an eight-man knockout tournament in Thailand. We had to play three rounds to decide the winner.
Ranka: Can you tell us something about other tournaments in Thailand?
Vorawat: In the past few years there have been many tournaments in Thailand. First prize is generally about two thousand dollars. Three rounds is typical but each tournament has a different system: some use the knockout system and some use the Swiss system. Now we have three big tournaments in Thailand. One is the King of Kings tournament, another is the Coke Cup, sponsored by Coca-Cola, and the third is sponsored by the Bank of China.
Ranka: And what international tournaments have you taken part in, besides this one?
Vorawat: I played in the KPMC three years ago, and last year I played in the World Amateur Go Championship in Japan. I also took part in the Asian Games in Guangzhou four years ago. Those have been my main international tournaments.
Ranka: Your third place finish at the KPMC this year is very impressive.
Vorawat: I think my pairings were a bit lucky. The strongest player I played was Emil Garcia, from Mexico. He took fifth place. That was my hardest game. But my other opponents were very strong too, like the players from Singapore, Vietnam, and Germany: they all won four games.
Ranka: What tournament are you looking forward to next?
Vorawat: I hope to take part in the World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand next year. I’ll do my best to win the qualifying tournament and represent Thailand again.
Ranka: And we hope to see you there. Thank you very much.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Last year a new force appeared in Korean amateur go. Wei Taewoong, who had just turned twenty, came out of essentially nowhere to finish as runner-up in the Lee Changho Cup and the Nosacho Cup. Then at the end of the year he won the Guksu, Korea's top amateur tournament, and earned the right to represent Korea in the 2014 World Amateur Go Championship. Shortly after taking second place in the WAGC, he competed in an eight-player knockout to decide who would represent Korea in the upcoming Korea Prime Minister Cup, and he won that too, beating last year's KPMC champion Park Jaegeun.
Ranka interviewed Wei shortly after he won the 2014 KPMC.
Ranka: Please tell us how you got started and about your playing career up to now.
Wei: There was a baduk academy in my neighborhood and I started going there when I was seven years old. That's how I learned to play, although I don't remember the name of my first teacher. Later I went to another baduk academy for ten years, but I wasn't making very good progress there, so a year and a half ago I switched over to the Choongam Baduk Academy. I now train at Choongam from morning to evening five days a week, preparing for what I hope will be a professional career. Often I don't get home until midnight. On weekends I study at home or take part in other tournaments.
Ranka: How have your parents reacted to your decision to try to make pro?
Wei: They haven't come out clearly for or against it. They've just said, 'If you think you can keep it up then go ahead.'
Ranka: Had you played in other international tournaments before the World Amateur Go Championship in Gyeongju this summer?
Wei: No, that was my first international tournament.
Ranka: Did it make a deep impression on you?
Wei: Yes it did, because I lost to the player from Chinese Taipei and ended up in second place by one SOS point. That loss left a deeper impression on me than anything else in my career so far.
Ranka: How would you compare Chan Yi-tien, the player who beat you in Gyeongju, with Juang Cheng-jiun, the player from Chinese Taipei you beat here?
Wei: After losing to Chan, I was worried about Juang because he was so young, but he turned out to be a little weaker than Chan.
Ranka: Had you played Benjamin Lockhart, the American player, at Choongam?
Wei: No, but I had heard that he was at about the same level as a few other trainees I knew there, so I had some idea of what to expect.
Ranka: Does that mean you were able to relax when you played him in the last round?
Wei: Actually I relaxed too much.
Ranka: How would you describe your style of play?
Wei: I seem to have a reputation for liking to fight.
Ranka: But your game against the Chinese player in the fifth round appeared rather peaceful.
Wei: It may have looked that way, but there was a lot of invisible fighting going on.
Ranka: Is there any professional player that you particularly admire?
Wei: Lee Changho.
Ranka: How do you feel about winning the KPMC?
Wei: After finishing a sad second in Gyeongju I was pretty uneasy about how I might end up here, but now that it's over and I've managed to come in first, I feel very happy.
Ranka: What will your next tournament be?
Wei: I'm not sure whether it will be my next or not, but I plan to compete in the new Jeongseon Arirang Cup in early October.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.
The 9th Korea Prime Minister Cup International Amateur Baduk Championship was held on September 19 and 20 at the headquarters of the Korean Baduk Association in Seoul (baduk is the Korean word for go). Korean players had won six of the eight preceding KPMCs, but this year Korean fans had cause for apprehension: just two months before, at the World Amateur Go Championship in Gyeongju, Korea, their player Wei Taewoong had lost to a player from Chinese Taipei and finished only second. In the KPMC, however, Wei came through magnificently. He dispatched opponents from the Ukraine, South Africa, and Hong Kong on the first day, and added three more victories on the second day to score a perfect 6-0 result.
Wei's opponent in the fourth round was Chinese Taipei's Juang Cheng-jiun, a fourteen-year-old who had defeated Japan's Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki in round three and will start playing professionally next year. Juang seems never to stop smiling -- except when he sits down to play. Then his eyes bore into the board and his friendly grin is replaced by a look of hyper-intense concentration. As his game with Wei progressed, however, hyper-concentration morphed into hyper-agitation, followed by resignation after only an hour and fifteen minutes of play.
Wei's fifth-round opponent was China's Hu Yuqing, two-time world amateur champion and by far China's top-ranked amateur player. Now it was Wei who showed signs of agitation while Hu wore an expression of calm confidence -- until the endgame began. That was when Wei seized on some small mistakes by Hu to surge into the lead. By the end of the game he was more than ten points ahead.
Wei's last opponent was the USA's Benjamin Lockhart who, like Wei, is training at the prestigious Choongam Baduk Academy in Seoul. Had the American taken this game he would have finished in first place, but as it turned out, the tournament had already climaxed in round five. Wei now won decisively again to become undisputed champion.
Meanwhile, Hu was beating Juang in what turned out to be the game that settled second place, and the other forty-seven contestants were fighting pitched battles for the remaining places. A list of final standings is given below.
A complete tournament record is available here.
The tournament was run on the Swiss System with a pairing algorithm that attempted to match players with the closest scores (wins, SOS, SOSOS) in each round. This algorithm is known not to produce the ideal order of finish, Chinese Taipei's 7th place being a case in point, but it generates maximum excitement and tension, and that is important too. The lack of precision in the final standings, which is inevitable with any version of the Swiss system, was largely compensated for at the awards ceremony. Certificates and prize goods were presented to no less than eighteen players, including the top sixteen in the tournament as a whole and the top four in each of three continental zones (ten players got double awards). For the record, let it be said that although Serbia's Dejan Stanković, the oldest contestant, was not among these award-winners, in terms of the players he beat and lost to, he also turned in an award-worthy performance.
Before, during, and after the tournament there were numerous extra activities: a visit to the Choongam Baduk Academy, an opening ceremony with Korean traditional and popular music, an evening excursion to the Seoul Tower, a visit to the Changdeuk Palace and Secret Garden, and two opportunities to participate in simultaneous games against Korean professional opponents. The second opportunity came in a massive car-free street festival in which a team of some hundred pros took on all comers, hoping to break a 1000-game record set in Japan. Whether because of overcast skies or the competing attractions of the Asian games in Incheon, the hoped-for 1004-game mark was not reached, but all fifty-one KPMC players joined in the attempt.
The referees (Korean pros Seo Bongsoo, Cho Hyeyeon, and Kim Sungrae), the interpreters (Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), and the staff did an outstanding job of assisting the players and keeping everything running smoothly. Particularly impressive was the tactful way they dissuaded players whose games had finished from crowding around the China-Korea board in round five, giving the two players in that critical match ample space in which to concentrate without distraction. Except for the absence of the Brazilian contestant, the whole tournament went without a hitch. Already one looks forward to the 10th KPMC in 2015.
- James Davies (photos by Ito Toshiko)
Final standings in 9th Korea Prime Minister Cup
1 Wei Taewoong (6-0, Korea)
2 Hu Yuqing (5-1, China)
3 Vorawat Tanapatsopol (5-1, Thailand)
4 Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki (5-1, Japan)
5 Benjamin Lockhart (5-1, USA)
6 Emil Garcia (5-1, Mexico)
7 Juang Cheng-jiun (4-2, Chinese Taipei)
8 Dmitry Surin (4-2, Russia)
9 Lukas Podpera (4-2, Czechia)
10 Zhao Jiarui (4-2, Hong Kong)
10 Alvin Han (4-2, Singapore)
12 Thomas Debarre (4-2, France)
13 Trần Quang-tuệ (4-2, Vietnam)
14 Özgür Değirmenci (4-2, Turkey)
15 Stefan Kaitschick (4-2, Germany)
16 Thomas Heshe (4-2, Denmark)
17 Lou Wankao (4-2, Macau)
18 Jimmy Cheng (3-3, Malaysia)
19 Dmytro Yatsenko (3-3, Ukraine)
20 Doyoung Kim (3-3, New Zealand)
21 James Sedgwick (3-3, Canada)
22 Dejan Stanković (3-3, Serbia)
23 Mihai Serban (3-3, Romania)
24 Vesa Laatikainen (3-3, Finland)
25 Kim Ouweleen (3-3, Netherlands)
26 Miguel Castellano (3-3, Spain)
27 Amir Fragman (3-3, Israel)
28 Jakob Bing (3-3, Sweden)
29 Bram Vandenbon (3-3, Belgium)
30 Marcin Majka (3-3, Poland)
31 Aliaksandr Chakur (3-3, Belarus)
32 Sebastian Mualim (3-3, Indonesia)
33 Andrew Kay (3-3, UK)
34 Daniel Tomé (3-3, Portugal)
35 Lorenz Trippel (2-4, Switzerland)
36 Andre Connell (2-4, South Africa)
37 Stefano You (2-4, Italy)
38 Tomas Hjartnes (2-4, Norway)
39 Albertas Petrauskas (2-4, Lithuania)
40 Gregor Butala (2-4, Slovenia)
40 Thomas Shanahan (2-4, Ireland)
42 Alexandra Urbán (2-4, Hungary)
43 Kinyi Kina (2-4, Peru)
44 Dolgorsuren Batmunkh (2-4, Mongolia)
45 Daniel Bosze (2-4, Austria)
46 Aaron Chen (2-4, Australia)
47 Jeremie Hertz (2-4, Luxembourg)
48 Peter Smolarik (1-5, Slovakia)
49 David Pollitzer (1-5, Argentina)
50 Demetrios Katsouris (1-5, Cyprus)
51 Sung Hui-yee (1-5, Brunei)
52 --- (0-6, Brazil, absent)
Zonal Awards: America and Oceania
1 Benjamin Lockhart (USA)
2 Emil Garcia (Mexico)
3 Doyoung Kim (New Zealand)
4 James Sedgwick (Canada)
Zonal Awards: Europe and Africa
1 Dmitry Surin (Russia)
2 Lukas Podpera (Czechia)
3 Thomas Debarre (France)
4 Özgür Değirmenci (Turkey)
Zonal Awards: Asia (excluding China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Macau)
1 Vorawat Tanapatsopol (Thailand)
2 Alvin Han (Singapore )
3 Trần Quang-tuệ (Vietnam)
4 Jimmy Cheng (Malaysia)
The wait is almost over for online gaming enthusiasts! SportAccord begins the countdown to the launch of the 4th edition of the World Mind Games Online Tournament on the 15th of September. The tournament, featuring bridge, chess and go, is being organized by SportAccord in partnership with RSportz, the community-based global sports network and online platforms BridgeBase Online, Chess.com and Pandanet.
The online tournament also marks the countdown to the 4th SportAccord World Mind Games to be held in Beijing from December 11-17 this year. Last year’s online tournament attracted over 700,000 players from all across the globe and SportAccord expects to comfortably attract a higher number of participants through the tournament online portal, www.onlinewmg.com. The portal will be the gateway for participants and enthusiasts for game rules, registration and all further information surrounding the SportAccord 2014 World Mind Games Online Tournament. Open for a period of 2 months, registration for the online tournament is open to players from beginner to advanced levels. All participants stand a chance to win attractive prizes such as Formula 1 grand prix tickets sponsored by presenting partner Alliance Renault-Nissan and watches from World Mind Games official partner Rado. Additional prizes include Samsung TVs, tablets and gift cards. A total cash prize purse of $12,000 will be shared between the winners of the different tournaments. SportAccord 2014 World Mind Games Online Tournament partners, Bridgebase Online, Chess.com and Pandanet will operate the online hosting of the disciplines of bridge, chess and go, respectively.
SportAccord, the Union of International Sports Federations, operates the Multi-Sports Games, the World Combat Games, the World Beach Games, the World Urban Games and the World Mind Games. The 4th edition of the SportAccord World Mind Games will be organized in Beijing from December 11-17, 2014, featuring bridge, chess, draughts, go and Xiangqi in cooperation with the respective international sports federations. The SportAccord World Mind Games unite the world’s best players in a quest for glory and prize money. SportAccord is constantly looking to engage more people in mind sports in a fun and exciting way through cultural programs and online games.
Tournament dates: September 15– November 15 (for GO the registration ends on September 30).
Official hashtag: #mindgames2014
Hong Seok-ui, the Korean-born go player who moved to Japan in 2011 and promptly won the Japanese Amateur Meijin tournament, has now won his fourth straight Amateur Meijin title and his second straight Amateur Honinbo title. For good measure he also owns the Amateur Dragon Star title, making him a triple title-holder.
The Amateur Meijin was held in July. Since it is run on the challenger-defender system, Hong has lately been able to relax while the rest of the Japanese amateur go world competes for the right to challenge him. This year the challenger tournament came down to a game between two 21-year-olds: Ka Hyo and Tsunoda Daisuke, both of whom had formerly trained for pro careers. The game between them was a thriller that Tsunoda won by half a point on July 21.
Tsunoda, who is now studying for his university entrance exams, thus got to take on Hong in a best-of-three title match, played in high style at a hot-spring resort southwest of Tokyo. Hong, who has never dropped a game in Amateur Meijin competition, won the match 2-0. He took the first game on July 26 by killing a large group, and the second game on July 27 by outfighting Tsunoda in the opening. 'I tried to play aggressively, but it didn't work,' Tsunoda said after losing. 'I have no regrets. I just wasn't strong enough.'
Four weeks later Hong journeyed to Tokyo to compete in the Amateur Honinbo tournament at the Nihon Kiin. This is not a defender-challenger affair; Hong was seeded into the round of thirty-two, and would have to win five straight games to keep his title.
In his first game he defeated Tanaka Masato, who won the Amateur Honinbo twice in the 1990s. Beaten by resignation on the board but unconquered in spirit, Tanaka immediately starting a lengthy and vociferous post-mortem discussion.
In his second game Hong defeated Iba Yuji by resignation. Hong and Iba both work as instructors at first-class go clubs, Hong at the Ranka club in Osaka, Iba at the Shusaku club in Tokyo.
Hong's quarter-final opponent was Ka Hyo, the challenger he just missed facing in the Amateur Meijin. Again Hong won by resignation.
In the semifinal round Hong was paired against Emura Kiko, who represented Japan in the last two World Amateur Go Championships. Emura played tenaciously and the game was close, but Hong won by a point and a half.
In the final round, Hong faced Hiraoka Satoshi, World Amateur Champion in 1994 and 2006 and Amateur Honinbo in 2005, 2009, and 2012. Chang Hsu (Cho U), who was professional Honinbo and Meijin ten years ago, gave a public commentary on the game. Chang mentioned that he had recently played Hong in the Agon-Kiriyama tournament, which is open to amateurs as well as pros. Before encountering Chang, Hong had beaten seven straight professional opponents, including two nine-dans. 'The amateur go world is no place for him,' Chang said.
Although Hong lost to Chang, he justified Chang's praise in his game with Hiraoka. The pace of play was fast, both players avoiding pitched life-and-death struggles. After fifty moves Chang thought that white (Hong) had a commanding position, and the rest of the game bore him out. Hong managed his stones expertly and won by 12.5 points (here is the game record in sgf format).
In a smiling post-victory interview, Hong said, 'It was just luck that I came out on top, because I played badly in most of my games. In the final it wasn't until the endgame that I realized that I was ahead. I'm still working every day to improve my skills in go, and my language skills.'
The third-place playoff was won by six-time Amateur Honinbo Nakazono Seizo, who defeated Emura Kiko by 3.5 points.
This fall, viewers of Japan's Go/Shogi TV channel will get to see how Hong does against further professional opposition in the Dragon Star Open. Already, he has beaten four pros in the preliminary rounds.
- James Davies
Next month, starting on World First Aid Day (September 13) and running through International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), the planet has a whole week in which to encourage more of its inhabitants to play go.
Inspired by David Ormerod of Go Game Guru, Learn Go Week has already attracted support from players in Australia, France, Luxembourg, Mexico, the UK, and the USA. All it takes is the willingness to organize an event at which beginners can learn the game. Look out, world: one event is scheduled for September 13 at Ajaccio in Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon.