The online adjunct to the upcoming SportAccord World Mind Games attracted 688 go players from 48 countries, ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe. More than half were from Japan, which produced last year's online winner, but this year the recipient of a free trip to Beijing is Chinese: Sun Naijing, who hails from Hefei in Anhui Province.
Mr Sun started playing go at age nine and kept it up through university studies and subsequent employment. 'Go never leaves me,' he says. In a go career spanning nearly four decades he has won numerous provincial amateur tournaments in Anhui and has thrice finished among the top ten in the massive Evening News Cup, China's premier amateur event. In 1996 he defeated Chen Linxin (9p) in the pro-amateur part of that event. 'I learn a lot by playing go,' Mr Sun adds. 'I like it.'
Mr Sun will join winners of similar online tournmants in bridge, chess, draughts, and xiangqi in observing the world's best players in action in Beijing next month.
On a Saturday afternoon, November 3, thirty-one pairs representing twenty-one countries/territories/continents sat down at the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont in Tokyo to play the first round of the 23rd International Amateur Pair-Go Championship. It was overall a young group, including two middle-school students, six high-school students, and nineteen university students. Ninety minutes later the round was over. The pairs from Korea and Chinese Taipei had defeated the pairs from Ireland and the Kyushu-Okinawa region of Japan, and the husband-wife Hiraoka pair, arguably the leading Japanese entry, had defeated the Japanese pair from Hokkaido. The Chinese pair did not participate this year.
And then the festivities began. The 62 players were partnered with 62 pair-go dignitaries, supporters, and volunteers, including a dozen or so professional players, for a pair-go friendship match.
National costumes were much in evidence, including the Irish leine, Japanese kimono, Japanese archers' outfits, Peruvian woolen ponchos, aboriginal costumes from Taiwan, dazzling Thai jackets, and striking traditional garments from Czechia, France, Germany, Norway, Russia, and the Ukraine. The friendship games were followed by a buffet dinner party with speeches, an award for the Japanese pair that won the gold medal at the World Mind Sports Games in Lille last August, and a toast to the continued success of pair go.
The next day play continued in earnest, without national costumes, but with fashion designer Koshino Junko heading a panel that judged the players' attire. On the go board, the pair from Chinese Taipei lost to a Japanese pair in the third round, but the Korean pair and the Hiraoka pair sailed undefeated into the fifth round, where they played the game that decided the championship. Nine-dan pros Ishida Yoshio and Michael Redmond gave simultaneous commentaries on the game in Japanese and English. Both commentators agreed that two forcing moves made by white (the Hiraoka pair) in the bottom right corner had been a mistake, giving up the opportunity to harass the black corner group. The Korean pair (Jang Yunjeong and Lee Hoseung) went on to attack and kill the adjacent white group, winning by resignation. This was the ninth championship for Korea in this event, including the last four in a row.
Japanese pairs monopolized second to seventh places, but the Russian pair (Natalia Kovaleva and Dmitriy Surin) and the European champion pair (Klara Zaloudkova and Jan Hora of Czechia) won their final games against Japanese opponents to finish tenth and seventeenth, respectively. The pair from Chinese Taipei (Lu Yu-hua and Tsai Tong-yu) dropped into eighth place by losing in the last round to the Japanese pair that finished third (Arai Naoko and Kuramoto Minoru).
And then the festivities resumed. There were prizes for the new Korean champions, including air tickets to Hawaii; prizes for the second and third place finishers; prizes for nine Japanese pairs who finished first, second, and third in each of the A, B, and C blocks in the huge parallel handicap tournament (130 pairs), and then the best dresser prizes, guessing game prizes, fellowship prizes, and lottery prizes, plus another sumptuous buffet dinner, all demonstrating once again that the Japan Pair Go Association not only know how to organize a good tournament; they also know how to throw a smashing party.
Full results and players' pictures are here.
Artem Kachanovskyi is the Ukraine's answer to Russia's Ilya Shikshin: a young player who is already a major threat to win every amateur tournament he enters. He spoke at length with Ranka before the awards ceremony for the 7th Korea Prime Minister Cup.
Ranka: When did you start playing go?
Artem: I started when I was seven years old. A couple of years before that, my father read a newspaper article that explained the rules. At the time, he thought I was still too young for intellectual games, so he waited for two years and then started teaching me. At first we -- my father, my older brother, and me -- learned together from books, by solving problems, and by playing. Rivne, which is my native city, also had, and still has, a go club and a go school for kids. There was a teacher there who liked go a lot and had many go books, and there were some stronger players, I guess you could call them a whole generation of keen players, who were studying go actively, so I had a chance to play with them and learn from them. Later my father became a go teacher for kids, but my brother stopped studying seriously and only played for fun.
Ranka: What big tournaments have you competed in?
Artem: I played in the European U12 Championship in Praha, Czechia when I was nine years old. As a 6-kyu, I didn't expect to accomplish much of anything, but I was surprised to take third place. That was my first serious tournament. I was studying go a lot around then. I liked it. I used to spend evenings with a go board and books, one of my favorite ways of spending time. Sometimes I would wake up at six o'clock to watch pro games or play go on the Internet. I first played in the European Go Congress in 2010. Although I still did not expect to win any prizes, I took second place among European players. After that people started to expect great things of me -- especially my parents. At the 2011 Congress I finished second again. Both times it was Ilya Shikshin who took first place. In 2010 I was one up going into the last round but lost by half a point to a Korean player and lost out to Ilya on SOS. In 2011 I played Ilya in the semifinal. I was winning for part of the time but I couldn't keep the game stable and lost.
Ranka: Have you been to Korea before?
Artem: I came to Korea in 2008 to study go for two months. After that, I've come for tournaments, but not to study.
Ranka: Do you find Korea much different from Europe?
Artem: Well, for one thing, Korean food is interesting but I'm not sure I could survive on a steady diet of it. Anyway, it's always very interesting to come to Korea, China, or Japan and try the food. As for the people, there are definitely some differences between Korean people and Ukrainian or European people. Perhaps Koreans are more emotional. Or perhaps they show their emotions differently, although the emotions are basically the same.
Ranka: Are you satisfied with your performance in this tournament?
Artem: No. I'm not satisfied with my play. I lost to the player from Canada, and in the other games, even though I won, I'm aware of mistakes that I made. I thought I could have played much better.
Ranka: Have you competed in the Korea Prime Minister Cup before?
Artem: Yes, I took fifth place two years ago. But it was an easier field then than this year. To me it seems that the European players on the whole were more successful in this tournament than they have been in the past. European players are getting better, especially young European players.
Ranka: What are your current activities, besides playing go?
Artem: I'm studying computer science at the Ukranian National University, and I'm now also working as a computer programmer. It's an interesting job, somewhat similar to go.
Ranka: What are your future plans?
Artem: I'd like to study go in Asia, and I'm hoping there will be a professional league in Europe soon, but all this may be just wishful thinking. The Ukranian Go Federation has to rely on Asiatic people. We get no financial assistance for popularizing go. At the big go school for kids in Rivne the teachers do get some remuneration but it's very small. The school still has more than a hundred students, but lately, go does not seem to be getting as much attention as it used to.
Ranka: Thank you, and we hope to hear more of you and the Ukranian Go Federation in the future.
One of the participants at the 7th Korea Prime Minister Cup was Shirin Mohammadi, a magazine designer and vice president of the Iran Go Association. Ranka spoke with her the evening before the tournament began.
Ranka: What are you doing at the tournament?
Shirin: I'm playing in it, but I'm also here to get more information about the game and make contact with overseas players on the behalf of the Iran Go Association.
Ranka: Please tell us more about this.
Shirin: People in Iran are very interested in mind sports in general. Lots of people play games like bridge and chess. Mind games are games that everyone can enjoy. I belong to an organization that is working to import and export games, and baduk is a game that we are trying to import. A year or so ago I was given the job of finding out everything I could about baduk.I wrote over a hundred letters to organizations all over the world. We have also been promoting the game by ourselves. When we hold sports and games events in Iran, and in other countries as well, we take those opportunities to introduce the attendants to the game of baduk. Quite a few of them become interested.
Ranka: That sounds promising.
Shirin: Yes, we now have an enthusiastic group of young people who are playing the game, but we lack someone to teach them. They can only learn from printed matter and the Internet.
Ranka: Do you play on the Internet yourself?
Shirin: Yes, I've been playing on the Internet for the past year. One of my best opponents is Jonathan Fisher, who is very kind in going over the games I play with him and showing me better moves. But you can't improve rapidly just by playing on the Internet.
Ranka: What do you need to do?
Shirin: What we really need is for some professional player to come to Iran to teach. It should be someone who is good at teaching and can communicate in English. It would also be a good opportunity for a professional baduk player to see Iran and experience Iranian culture and civilization.
Ranka: Have you found such a person?
Shirin: The Korea Baduk Association has been extremely helpful, donating sixty baduk sets, for example, and making it possible for me to come here, but we're still looking for a teacher.
Ranka: Thank you, and we wish you success.
Shortly after finishing his game in round six, Poland's mid-teen star Mateusz Surma spoke with Ranka.
Ranka: Have you enjoyed the tournament?
Mateusz: Yes, it's been a very nice tournament. I won four games, losing to Japan and the Ukraine.
Ranka: What happened in those two games?
Mateusz: I think I had a chance against at one point in my game with the Japanese player, but he is stronger. Against Artem Kachanovskyi from the Ukraine, I felt that we were playing at about the same level. The came was close for most of the way, but then he survived inside my territory and it was finished.
Ranka: When did you start playing go?
Mateusz: I learned how to play from my father when I was six or seven years old. I started competing in tournaments one or two months after learning. In the first tournament I played in I won all my games. Next I won the U12 division of the Polish championship, at age seven, which was considered sensational.
Ranka: What has been your best tournament so far?
Mateusz: The European Youth Championship last year. I won with a 6-0 score.
Ranka: Have you been in Korea before?
Mateusz: Quite often. I first came in 2009, studied for five months at King's Baduk School, and then returned to Poland. Since then I've been back to Korea several times, staying three months at a time, partly for visa reasons and partly because I have school exams in Poland that I have to pass.
Ranka: What are you doing now?
Mateusz: In Poland I'm in my second year in high school, and in Korea I'm studying at the Choong-am Baduk Dojang. I'm one of only three foreigners there. The other two are from America and France.
Ranka: How are you taught?
Mateusz: We play games and our instructors comment on them.
Ranka: What are your future plans?
Mateusz: I want to be a pro. In Korea or in Europe, it doesn't matter which. Playing go as a profession is my dream.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.
After losing to Russia's Alexey Lazarev in the morning of the first day at the Korean Prime Minister Cup, Matthew Burral won two games in the afternoon. Ranka spoke with him between these two victories.
Ranka: First tell us a little about yourself.
Matthew: I'm studying civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.
Ranka: And please tell us about your game against Alexey Lazarev in the first round.
Matthew: It started with a complex fight that lasted most of the game. I felt he had the upper hand through much of the fight, particularly when I made a reading error that let him kill a group. After that, there there was a moment when if I had had more time to think I might have resigned, but I had no time, so I played a move, and then he made a move which made me happy not to have resigned. The fighting then continued, but just when I had a chance to take advantage of a mistake he made, I played a really idiotic move instead, and then I did resign.
Ranka: And what about your game in the second round?
Matthew: I played one of the Korea women (Ki Young-suk). They are supposed to be 7 to 10 kyu. It was not a hard game, but her opening was certainly better than 7-kyu level. I pulled ahead in the middle game, but a lot of her moves showed good shape. She was calm and confident and played as if there were nothing wrong.
Ranka: How many games do you hope to win?
Matthew: I'm out of practice, so I'll be happy to avoid any embarrassing losses. I don't have any plan of attack. I'll just try to survive.
Ranka: It's become unusual for the United States to be represented by a player who is not of oriental ancestry. How did you qualify?
Matthew: The qualifying tournament was the U.S. Open. I finished about fifteenth overall and fifth among U.S. citizens, so there were four players who had higher priority than me for representing the U.S., but they all turned it down. I was surprised when I got the call.
Ranka: How do you rate yourself against the players who finished above you?
Matthew: I won three games and lost three in top group at the U.S. Open. I'd say I'm within striking distance of the top U.S. players.
Ranka: Have you been in Korea before?
Matthew: Yes, twice. The first time was six years ago, when I spent three months at the Yang Jaeho Dojang. The second time was the summer between high school and university, when I studied with Kim Myungwan.
Ranka: How much did those experiences help your game?
Matthew: They were a big help, They made me much stronger.
Ranka: Are you glad you started playing go?
Matthew: Yes! Glad I started playing and glad I started studying the game. I guess I'd attribute much of my academic success to the problem-solving skills I acquired through playing go.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Ranka spoke with the Japanese player, Kinoshita Nagatoki, aftr his victories over Mexico's Emilio Gutierrez and Turkey's Fatih Sulak in the first two rounds.
Ranka: Please tell us something about yourself.
Kinoshita: I'm a microbiologist at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research. My field of research is bioluminescence.
Ranka: Isn't that the field in which a Nobel Prize was awarded last year?
Kinoshita: Yes, to three researchers, one of them Japanese.
Ranka: Do you have many go-playing colleagues at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research?
Kinoshita: About ten.
Ranka: Please tell us about your go career.
Kinoshita: I started playing at age 11, learning the game from my father. Then I started going to go clubs. I won Japanese National High School Championship once the University Student Championship once, and a qualifying tournament for the Asahi Amateur Meijin once, but this is my first big international tournament.
Ranka: How were you selected to come?
Kinoshita: I took second place in the WAGC selection tournament last year, losing to Nakazono Seizo. As a result, he played in the World Amateur Go Championship in May, and ceded the opportunity to play in the Korea Prime Minister Cup to me.
Ranka: Is this your first trip to Korea?
Kinoshita: No, I've been in Korea before as part of university alumni go team that Mr Nakazono organizes.
Ranka: What is your general impression of Korea?
Kinoshita: Korea is rather like Japan. It would be an easy country to live in.
Ranka: And what are your hopes for this tournament?
Kinoshita: Last year Japan took third place, so I'd like to do as well this year. But what I'd really like to do is beat the Chinese or Korean player. Not necessarily both of them, but one of them.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: After this interview Mr Kinoshita took a step toward realizing his hopes by beating Hong Kong's Chan Nai-san, but the next day he lost to the Korean player and then he lost the race for third place to Canada's Yongfei Ge by one SOSOS point. One can only speculate on what the result of a Ge-Kinoshita game would have been: both players had an outstandingly good tournament.
Ranka interviewed Geert Groenen after his loss to Hu Yuqing of China in round two of the Korea Prime Minister Cup.
Ranka: First of all, we note you are listed as Gerardus in the tournament program.
Geert: Yes, and my passport says I am Gerardus Petrus Groenen, but I prefer to be known by the name my mother called me -- Geert.
Ranka: All right, Geert, how did you qualify for the Korea Prime Minister Cup?
Geert: We had a qualifying tournament in the Netherlands and I won it.
Ranka: Please tell us about the game you just finished with the Chinese player.
Geert: I felt I was playing well, not so much in regard to the game itself but in regard to my attitude. I was playing very open-mindedly, trying to play flexibly, and it worked out quite well. Even Hu said I was playing strongly. But then I tried to stretch it a little. I resigned after trying to kill one of his groups.
Ranka: And in the first round?
Geert: That was a pretty easy game, against the player from Venezuela. My opponent (Javier Gonzalez, 2 dan) had to resign.
Ranka: How are you hoping to do in the coming rounds?
Geert: I'm hoping to be among the best Europeans. I'll be very happy if I can get four wins. I didn't prepare much, so five wins will be pretty difficult. Mostly, I'll be happy if I play well.
Ranka: The last time we spoke with you was at the World Amateur Go Championship in 2010. Then you also said that you didn't have time to prepare, because you were studying for an examination to change positions at your bank. How did that turn out?
Geert: I passed the exam and switched positions, but I didn't get the position I had been hoping. Still, the position I did get suited me better than the one I had before, so it turned out all right.
Ranka: Is this your first visit to Korea?
Geert: This is my fourth time in Korea. The first was at the 1994 Tong Yang Cup. Michael Redmond and I were the only two Western players, and guess who I met in the first round. After losing that game I went right back home. Then I played in a team tournament in Korea in 2005. The team format made for a very good tournament. I think there were four or five European teams. I also played in the Korea Prime Minister Cup in 2006, and now again in 2012.
Ranka: What impression of Korea have you gained from these tournaments?
Geert: I wish I could spend more time in Korea. Except for the team tournament, the tournaments themselves have been too short! This time, before coming down to Gwangju, I spent three days sightseeing in Seoul. I stayed in Itaewon, a rather international area near the American base. It had a very vibrant atmosphere, very nice.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck in the coming rounds.
Postscript: Geert got his hoped-for win fourth win in the fifth round by beating Chen Chi-jui of Chinese Taipei, but then lost in the sixth round to Schayan Hamrah from Austria and finished tenth, fifth best among the Europeans.
On the second day of the Korea Prime Minister Cup the leaves of the ginko trees surrounding the Yeomju Gymnasium were sparkling yellow in the sunlight. Inside the gymnasium, the arena was again divided into two halves: one for the KPMC, the other for a local tournament. The fourth KPMC round began at 9:00 a.m.
At the top boards, the eight undefeated players were playing each other. Canada's Yongfei Ge found himself facing China's Hu Yuqing. On paper it was a close match, 7-dan against 8-dan, but the game ended quickly. 'He's too strong' was Yongfei's comment.
At the adjacent boards Poland's Mateusz Surma and Russia's Alexey Lazarev put up more prolonged resistance against Japan's Kinoshita Nagatoki and Korea's Han Seung-joo, but they too succumbed to their far eastern opponents. The close game was the one between Austria's Schayan Hamrah (4 dan) and Finland's Juri Kuronen (5 dan). Juri, a university student, has been scoring impressive results recently, including seventh place in this year's World Amateur Go Championship, while Schayan, still in high school, arrived in Gwangju as something of an unknown. Their game came down to an endgame ko fight, and with both players in their last 30-second overtime periods, Juri lost on time.
Schayan's victory in the fourth round earned him a pairing against Hu Yuqing in the fifth round. Once again, the Chinese 8-dan won without difficulty. Nearby, Kinoshita Nagatoki and Han Seung-joo were slowly and carefully playing the crucial game to decide which of them would challenge Hu in the final round. To the delight of the Korean spectators, the winner was Korea's Han Seung-joo. On other boards, Mateusz Surma and Juri Kuronen put their fourth-round losses behind them by beating Alexey Lazarev and Hungary's Rita Pocsai, and the Netherlands' Geert Groenen scored a signal victory over Chen Chi-jui of Chinese Taipei. This was the only game lost by one of the Asian big five to anyone from outside the big-five zone.
The final round began at 2:00, following lunch. As the players finished their games, they congregated around the front board where Hu Yuqing and Han Seung-joo were playing for the championship. Han may be no match Hu in age and experience, but as the afternoon progressed it gradually became clear that the Korean high-school student was ahead. Hu did not give up easily, but Han held onto his lead to and won, bringing the cup back into Korean hands after a Chinese victory in 2011.
In two other crucial games, the Ukraine's Artem Kachanovskyi beat Mateusz Surma
and Schayan Hamrah beat Geert Groenen. Artem and Schayan thereby joined Hu Yuqing in the five-win group, along with Yongfei Ge, Kinoshita Nagatoki, and Chan Nai-san (Hong Kong), who won their last games against Lukas Podpera (Czechia), Cheng Khai-yong (Malaysia), and Juri Kuronen. Lukas and Juri ended up with four wins, as did Mateusz, Geert, and nearly a dozen other players who won in the final round: Jorge Sasaki (Brazil, by beating Mexico's Emil Gutierrez), Chen Chi-jui (by beating Indonesia's Sebastian Mualim), Rita Pocsai (by beating Germany's Jonas Welticke), Ali Jabarin (Israel, by beating Uruguay's Martin Benenati), Andrius Pertrauskas (Lithuania, by beating Argentina's Andres Tabares), Alexey Lazarev (by beating Belgium's Kwinten Missiaen), Lucian Corlan (Romania, by beating New Zealand's Doyoung Kim), Zhang Xiang (Singapore, by beating Thailand's Apidet Jirasophin), Mai-duy Le (Vietnam, by beating France's Tanguy le Calve), Matthew Burrall (USA, by beating Australia's Xiao-chun Chen), and Oscar Anguila Caner (Spain, by beating Slovienian champion Gregor Butala, who also finished with four wins).
At the awards ceremony at the Prado Hotel, a smiling Han Seung-joo received the 7th Korea Prime Minister trophy cup, plus a gift and a handsomely bound testimonial to his championship. Hu Yuqing, who had the best SOS score in the 5-1 group, received a well-deserved runner-up trophy, gift, and testimonial. Yongfei Ge and Kinoshita Nagatoki were tied with the next best SOS scores, but Yongfei was one up on SOSOS points and took third place while the Japanese player finished fourth, both receiving testimonials to their highly creditable performance.
Testimonials were next presented to the four players from Hong Kong, the Ukraine, Austria, and Finland, who finished fifth to eighth in that order (six and seventh places being tied). Then testimonials were presented to the eight players who finished ninth to sixteenth, representing Russia, the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei, Poland, Singapore, Czechia, Hungary, and Romania. Next, the top four Asian players from outside the big-five zone received testimonials; the recipients were from Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. The top four from Europe (from the Ukraine, Austria, Finland, and Russia) also received testimonials, as did the top four from the rest of the world (Canada, New Zealand, the USA, Brazil).
And with this the 7th Korea Prime Minister Cup International Amateur Baduk Championship had come to a close and the contestants, sponsors, and organizers settled down to an excellent dinner prepared by the hotel staff.
Full results here.
- James Davies
Ang Ho-soon, 7 kyu, the contestant from Brunei, found himself strikingly overmatched against Finland's 5-dan Juri Kuronen in the first round. After losing, he kindly consented to give Ranka an interview.
Ranka: First please straighten us out about your names. Which is the family name and which is the given name?
Ho-soon: Ang is my family name and Ho-soon is my given name. It's a Chinese name, but I'm told it also sounds like a Korean name.
Ranka: When did you start playing go?
Ho-soon: I learned of the game from Hikaru no Go when I was 14 years old. I started playing when I was 16, at a club created by Ignatius Chin Sin Voon, which later became the Brunei Go Association. Now I'm 22.
Ranka: So you've been playing for six years.
Ho-soon: Actually, I played for three years and then stopped in order to concentrate on my university studies, in mechanical engineering, so I'm out of practice. I would have liked to take time to prepare for this tournament, but I wasn't able to.
Ranka: Why is that?
Ho-soon: I was called on as a last-minute replacement for the player who was supposed to come but couldn't.
Ranka: Please tell us something about go in Brunei. How many regular tournaments are there, how many clubs, and how many players?
Ho-soon: We used to hold four tournamnents a year, but now there's only one. There's only one go club in Brunei, at the university. There used to be about sixty active players, but that figure is now down to about twenty. The reason is that Brunei is not like Korea, where a go player can look forward to a busy future. People play for a while, and then stop because of studies, or they leave to go somewhere else. For example, Ignatius is now studying architecture at the University of Nottingham.
Ranka: Did you have books to study from?
Ho-soon: Yes, Ignatius had a library of English-language go books. He also maintained a go/baduk/weiqi website.
Ranka: Are your players mostly of Chinese extraction?
Ho-soon: No, we're a mixture of Chinese and Malay.
Ranka: Is this your first visit to Korea? What is your impression so far?
Ho-soon: I've been to China, for a different tournament, but this is my first trip to Korea. It's been a good experience. The food is good, the hotel is good, and everything is clean.
Ranka: Thank you very much, and good luck in the coming rounds.
Postscript: Ho-soon went on to win three of his next five games.
Schayan Hamrah, the Austrian player at the KPMC, found himself facing China's Hu Yuqing in the fifth round. Ranka interviewed him just after the game ended.
Ranka: How did it go?
Schayan: I was crushed. He was too strong.
Ranka: Well then, tell us about your games yesterday.
Schayan: In the first round I had an easy win against the player from Iran. In the second round I played Milan Jadron from Slovakia. I had played him before. Slovakia is not far from Vienna, so I often go to Slovakian tournaments, and Czech tournaments. I like his fighting spirit. Games with him are always full of action, and this time I won. Then my game against Kwinten Missiaen from Belgium went very smoothly for me, and I won by a safe margin of about 15 points.
Ranka: Tell us something about yourself.
Schayan: I was born in Vienna, but I come from a Persian background. My parents are Iranian. They settled in Vienna in 1990, where my father was a university student. I'm now 17 years old, attending high school. I've been playing go for three and a half years. I have dual citizenship, so I might be able to represent Iran at some future tournament.
Ranka: How did you get started?
Shayan: I encountered the game by coincidence on the Internet. Then I saw the movie 'The Beautiful Mind', about a mathematician, in which there is a scene with a go board and they get very emotional about it. That was when I decided to learn to play, so I went to a go club in Vienna.
Ranka: Are you glad you started playing?
Schayan: Of course. What a question!
Ranka: Do you play on the Internet?
Schayan: I like to play lightning games on KGS, but I don't like to play long games on the computer. It's a bad atmosphere. I made an exception to play in the Pandanet team tournament, however, for the sake of Austria.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
The 7th Korea Prime Minister Cup International Amateur Baduk Championship is being held October 27-28 in Gwangju. The tournament is hosted by the Korea Amateur Baduk Association (KABA) and the Gwangju Amateur Baduk Association, and is sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation, the Korean Olympic Committee, Guangju Metropolitan City, Korean Air, and the Hana Bank. Also cooperating are the Korean Baduk Association and the Asian Go Federation (AGF).
The tournament is organized as a simplified MacMahon system. On the basis of declared ranks, the field is divided into two halves, the top half starting out with one extra point for pairing purposes. This year the top-ranked player is China's Hu Yuqing, 8-dan, twice former world amateur champion and recent winner of the Qingdao Cup in China. Next in rank are three 7-dan players from Canada, Chinese Taipei, and the USA, followed by 6-dans from Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, and five European countries (Azerbaijan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia,and the Ukraine). Notable among the 5-dans is the hometown favorite, Korea's Han Seung-Joo. Also competing are includes four Korean extras, ranked 7-10 kyu, who were added to fill out the bottom half of the full field of 72.
The tournament was preceded by an orientation meeting on October 26 at the players' hotel, where the pairings for the first round were announced. Loud cheers went up when it was revealed that Russia would play the USA.
The tournament itself is being held at the huge Yeomju Gymnasium, located next to a world cup soccer stadium. At 9:30 a.m. on October 27 the constestants were seated at their boards in half of the gymnasium arena, awaiting the start of the opening ceremony. The other half of the arena was being prepared for a children's team tournament. The opening ceremony consisted of a rapid succession of speeches by the sponsors, starting with a rousing welcome from the Gwangju's mayor Kang Un-Tae and ending with a rousing command to start playing, given by KABA's president Cho Kun-Ho. The players fell to with a will.
In the first round, the 6-dan-7-dan confrontation between Russia and the USA turned into a long and determined battle that lasted more than two hours and ended in victory for Russia's Alexei Lazarev. In other first-round games, the Asian big powers (China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea) defeated opponents from Luxembourg, Australia, Madagascar, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Singapore and Thailand also won, against Belarus and Brazil, getting the Asian zone off to a good start. Meanwhile, the rain that had been falling since early morning had turned into a downpour, and most of the players were content to remain inside the gymnasium complex for lunch.
In the second round, the Asian players began to encounter each other. Another 6-dan-7-dan confrontation took place between Chinese Taipei, represented by 12-year-old middle-schooler Chen Chi-jui, and Hong Kong, represented by 19-year old Chan Nai-san, a freshman at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Although Chen outranked Chan, age and experience proved their value: victory went to Hong Kong. Chan Nai-san's comment: 'I was lucky.' In a greater upset, Vietnam's Mai-duy Le (2-dan) beat Singapore's Xiang Zhang (6-dan). Meanwhile New Zealand's Doyoung Kim defeated Czechia's teenaged hope Lukas Podpera, and in a match between two more European teenagers, Poland's Mateusz Surma defeated Germany's Jonas Welticke.
Mateusz continued his winning ways in the third round, at the expense of Hungary's Rita Pocsai. Canada's veteran 7-dan Yongfei Ge defeated Ukraine's Artem Kachanovskyi, generally regarded as one of the best two or three players in Europe. Wearing what he described as a lucky jacket borrowed from one of the interpreters in defense against the falling temperature in the gymnasium, brought on by the rain, Finland's Juri Kuronen handed Doyoung Kim his first loss. Alexei Lazarev scored a third straight win by beating Mai-duy Le. Also remaining undefeated were Hu Yuqing, Han Seung-joo, and Austria's Schayan Hamrah, who defeated France's Danguy le Calve, Thailand's Apidet Jirasophin, and Belgium's Kwinten Messiaen, respectively.
The big game in the third round, however, was between Hong Kong and Japan. Chan Nai-san took the lead by capturing a group in the opening, but Japan's Kinoshita Nagatoki fought back gallantly and the middle game became close. The two players struggled through a nerve-wracking endgame that stretched well beyond the scheduled 6:00 p.m. closing time and ended in victory for Japan. The players then all went out for a traditional Korean dinner at a nearby restaurant.
- James Davies
For the past decade, each autumn has brought Slovenian go players to the Gulf of Trieste to compete for the Slovenian Championship. This year the field of ten included five members of the Slovenian Pandanet team: Janez Janza, Leon Matoh, Andrej Kralj, Gregor Butala, and Timotej Suc; mechanical engineer, computer programmer, economist, editor, and doctor, a good cross-section of Slovenia's white-collar workforce. The games were played in six rounds October 5-7 at the Hotel Barbara Fiesa in Piran, right by the sea.
After two rounds only two players were undefeated: Gregor Butala, Slovenian champion in 2009 and 2006, who bested Andrej Kralj in round 1; and Timotej Suc, who upset Leon Matoh, champion in 2011 and 2010 and ten times before that, in round 2. This set up a match between Gregor and Timotej in round 3.
Last December the relatively young (under 30) Dr. Suc had beaten Gregor to win the Peter Gaspari Memorial tournament. This time, however, victory went to Gregor, and he followed it with a victory over Leon in round 4.
In the last two rounds Gregor defeated two veteran players, Radovan Golja and Janez Janza to finish with a perfect 6-0 score and his third Slovenian championship. Timotej won his last three games to finish second, Leon won his last two games to finish third, and Andrej edged out Janez on SOS points to finish fourth. Complete results are here.
A parallel five-round, mainly kyu-level tournament (the Tenuki Tournament) was won by Dusan Milavec.
In 2010 Chang Hsu, owner of four of the top seven go titles in Japan (where he is known as Cho U), began teaching his four-year-old daughter to play--on a four-by-four board. To make the game interesting, instead of black and white stones he used red and green discs resembling apples, with a board designed to look like an apple tree. His daughter was quite pleased.
In January 2012 the results of his experience with his daughter appeared in the form of a book entitled Yonro no Go no Hon (Four-Line Go Book). The book takes the reader through the basic rules, techniques for capturing stones, territory, double life, and ko, and has a final challenge section. Mainly it is a collection of 100 puzzle-like problems, red to play and win, each with the answer shown in diagrams on the next page. The text is in Japanese, but the diagrams are self-explanatory.
As the author says, the problems are not particularly hard, but they are not trivial either. They take you through snapbacks and eyes and then into ko timing and under-the-stones tricks. You soon realize that they come from a clever and creative mind. In one problem, for example, red wins by sacrificing seven stones--on a four-by-four board (see image at the bottom)! The problems do not teach much about standard life and death shapes or tesuji--the board is too small for that--but they are an excellent way to practise reading a situation out, move by move, until you see it completely and arrive at a definite conclusion. For learning that all-important skill, the four-by-four board may be just the right place to start.
The publisher (Gentosha) also sells a boxed set including the board, the apples, and a booklet with an earlier set of elementary problems. For those interested in go visibility, this is an excellent tool. The board does not take up much space at a cafe or bar, a game does not take more than a few minutes to finish, and the apple tree is a good eye-catcher. It will not be hard to get someone interested, and then you can use the puzzle problems, or you can just play a few games (the interesting challenge is to make sure your novice opponent wins most of them).
Better yet, there are now i-phone/i-pad app versions available in three languages, with the apples replaced by animal characters in a story mode and by normal black and white stones in a serious mode. Easier to obtain than the book or boxed set, these apps are a bargain for players at all levels, including dan levels. Highly recommended.