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.
The 4th SportAccord World Mind Games will be held in Beijing, China, December 11-17, 2014.
Like last year, the Mind Games will be preceded by the 4th SportAccord World Mind Games Online Tournament, which will be played on the Internet Go Server (IGS, aka Pandanet).
The tournament is open to amateur players in all countries and territories belonging to the International Go Federation.
Registration closes on September 15, 2014.
Full details are available here.
The 2014 Toto Cup International Junior Go Championship was held on July 28th at the Asia-Pacific Import Mart in Kitakyushu. This is the city where Toto got its start as Toyo Toki (Oriental Ceramics) nearly a century ago. While still mainly a ceramics manufacturer, the firm has expanded into high-tech fields such as photocatalytic coatings, and is also an enthusiastic sponsor of tournaments for young people, in disciplines ranging from basketball through volleyball to go.
At the opening ceremony the contestants and other participants were welcomed in Japanese and Chinese by a group of officials that included Ishimaru Yasuhiko, general manger of the general affairs division of Toto, Kitahashi Kenji, Mayor of Kitakyushu, and some big names in the go world: Otake Hideo, former Japanese Meijin, Luo Jianwen, vice-chairman of the China Weiqi Association, and Chou Chun-Hsun, Taipei's first professional 9-dan go player. Mayor Kitahashi pleased the audience by describing go as the ultimate intellectual game.
Following an explanation of the tournament rules in Japanese and Chinese by referees Takemiya Yoko (son of another former Japanese Meijin) and Jin Qianqian (a Chinese pro), the players limbered up with calisthenics. Such exercises are a regular part of the day for Japanese schoolchildren and much of Japan's work force, blue collar and white collar alike, but they are a bit unusual at go tournaments. But then, this was no ordinary go tournament: the contestants were a peppy group of over two hundred youngsters from Kyushu and neighboring prefectures in Japan, five cities on the Chinese mainland, and one city in Taiwan. A dozen or so of the youngest concluded the opening ceremonies by presenting bouquets to the officials.
And then the competition began. The strongest dan-ranked players faced off in an unlimited class, in which all games were played on even terms. The other dan-ranked players competed in an A class with handicaps given according to rank (1-5 dan). The numerous kyu-level players also played handicap go.
Eighty of the Japanese contestants had been selected through prefectural qualifying tournaments. Among them were Hashimoto Junpei, a highschool junior from Kumamoto Prefecture who won the unlimited class in 2012, and Nishimura Ryotaro, a highschool freshman from Yamaguchi Prefecture, who was unlimited runner-up in 2011 and took third place in 2012. Both of them won their games in the morning round.
When the round ended Ranka spoke with Qi Taozhu, a Chinese schoolgirl who was looking somewhat unnerved after having a large group of stones captured by Hashimoto Junpei. She admitted to taking go lessons at a daochang (go academy) in Guangzhou, but said she had no intention of becoming a professional player. Her school interests include math and English, and as for a career, she said, 'Oh, I'm undecided; my plans keep changing.'
While the dan-ranked players were completing this round, the kyu-evel players completed two rounds, with a break in between for some pair go on 13 x 13 boards. Also participating in the pair go were Otake, Takemiya, and Okinawa native Chinen Kaori, a former holder of several ladies' professional titles. Ms Chinen was taking a break from a beginners' class she had been teaching with Izawa Akino, another female pro.
After lunch, Hashimoto and Nishimura kept on winning. At the end of the third round, four of the five undefeated players in the unlimited class were Japanese. In the deciding fourth-round games among these five, Nishimura defeated Hashimoto by 3.5 points while Ren Yihua, a 13-year-old from Dalian in China, defeated Imamura Daigo, a freshman at the Sasebo National College of Technology in Japan. The fifth undefeated player was drawn down and lost, so the champion was either Nishimura or Ren, but which one? When the tie-breaking points were tallied, they gave first place to Nishimura, second place to Ren, and third place to Hashimoto.
Hashimoto and Nishimura than began an extended analysis of their final game, at the conclusion of which Ranka asked Nishimura for his comments. Echoing the sentiments of countless professional and amateur players before him, he said, 'I played badly; I was lucky to win.' Asked how he studied go, he said he played every day on the Internet. His next major tournament will be the Amateur Honinbo in Tokyo, August 23-24.
Ren Yihua, who came accompanied by his father (a lawyer) and mother (a real estate agent), also considered himself lucky to have won four games, since he has not studied go formally for over a year. He now plays mainly on the Internet, against opponents from China, Japan, and Korea. Like Qi Taozhu, he gave math as a favorite school subject. Hashimoto Junpei, who has been a tournament player since his primary school days, said that these days, he plays go only to prepare for events such as this one.
In the meantime, while the tournament staff calculated the scores to see who had won the other sections, Ms Chinen and Ms Izawa were holding the players enrapt by challenging them to solve a series of go problems. When the awards were presented, it transpired that class A had been won by Xie Le, a nine-year-old from Shanghai who said he had made shodan in six months at a daochang, and then quit formal instruction and carried on by himself. Class B (1-5 kyu) was won by Yeh Che-chun, a twelve-year old from Taipei. Class D (11-20 kyu) was won by Ren Zheming, a diligent third-year middle school student from Shanghai who said he liked math and science and played go only once or twice a month. Class C (6-10 kyu) was won by Ai Xiaoke, a six-year-old from Beijing who started playing go at age four. She said she plays go every day during holidays, but has other interests at school, such as swimming, table tennis, and fencing. Her mother commented that China seems to be trying to make school more interesting for the students, instead of just stuffing knowledge into them as in the past.
And after giving these and the other prize-winners their awards, Mr Ishimaru summed things up for Ranka by saying, 'Toto is glad to sponsor tournaments like this. It's meaningful for us because, after all, the future belongs to these young people.'
- James Davies. Photos by Ito Toshiko.
Yitien 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
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
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).With 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
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.
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.
Other 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.
- James Davies
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.
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.
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: '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
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.
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.
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.The 35th World Amateur Go Championship will be held in
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.
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.