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.
The Japanese selection tournament for the next World Amateur Go Championship was held at the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo on September 15 and 16. Like the Amateur Honinbo and Amateur Meijin, it is a knockout among representatives from each of Japan's prefectures and a group of seeded players. This year the seeded players were former world amateur champions Imamura Fumiaki (1980, 1987, 1991), Hiraoka Satoshi (1994, 2006), and Hirata Hironori (1995), plus two more recent WAGC contestants: Mori Hironobu (2007) and Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki (2008). Several other past WAGC players declined to participate. This year's player Nakazono Seizo explained why when he said, 'I really want someone younger to get the experience of competing in this world event.'
And so it happened. Imamura, Hirata, and Tsuchimune fell in the second round. Hirata (age 86) lost to ex-insei Yokozuka Riki (age 17), a Tokyoite now studying for his unversity entrance exams. In the third round Hiraoka, heavily favored after winning the Amateur Honinbo in August, blundered fatally against 16-year-old Togino Kazuki, a high-school student representing Ishikawa prefecture. Togino then beat Mori, the last surviving seed, to reach the semifinals, where he was paired against Yokozuka.
The other semifinalists were Hyogo representative Emura Kiko (age 32) and Kanagawa representative Nagayo Kazumori (age 28), the latter a former insei who opened his own go academy last year. Nagayo has competed with considerable success against professional opponents in the Agon Cup, but he had less success against Emura, who won by resignation. Emura then went over to watch the other game and see which teenager would be his last opponent. Here insei experience proved its value: Yokozuka came from behind to reach the final round, as he had done in the Amateur Meijin knockout in July.
The final game devolved into an endgame struggle in the center of the board. Yokozuka, playing black, thought he was slightly ahead, but did a double-take when he filled the last neutral point and realized he had lost by half a point. Emura attributed his victory in part to the teachings of Kansai Kiin 9-dan Sonoda Yuichi and in part to a prayer offered at a Shinto shrine in the middle of the night before the tournament began. Although Emura is currently studying for his law exams, he was World Student Oza in 2006 and is keen on making up for Japan's indifferent showing in the past six WAGCs.
The field is set for the 2nd SportAccord World Mind Games, to be held in Beijing in mid-December. Sixteen men and twelve women representing the best of Asia, Europe, and the Americas have been selected to participate. Men and women will compete separately on an individual basis, instead of as teams and pairs.
The surprise is that nearly 80% of the field is new: the only returnees from last year are Li He (China), Choi Chulhan and Park Jeonghwan (Korea), Mukai Chiaki (Japan), Joanne Missingham (Taipei), and Vanessa Wong (Great Britain). This reflects the astounding rate at which young players have been rising to the top all over the world during the past year or so. Nearly one-third of the contestants are under 20, and all but five of the rest are under 30.
In the Asian zone, China used its internal rating system to select its two best women and two best men, and added LG Cup-winner and world meijin Jiang Weijie as its third man. Korea and Chinese Taipei held qualifying tournaments in which young players did conspicuously well. Japan followed their lead by entering five of its best young players. In the European zone, three men selected in a special qualifier held in Lille in August are joined by the top three finishers in the recent European Women's Championship. In the North American zone, two young Canadians won the men's and women's qualifiers, shutting out the United States. Only in South America was youth denied: Argentina's famed veteran Fernando Aguilar rebuffed five rivals from Argentina, Mexico, and Chile to become the first South American go player to compete in the SportAccord World Mind Games.
List of contestants Men China: Chen Yaoye, Jiang Weijie, Tuo Jiaxi Korea: Choi Chulhan, Kang Dongyoon, Park Jeonghwan Japan: Fujita Akihiko, Murakawa Daisuke, Uchida Shuhei Taipei: Lin Chi-han, Lin Chun-yen Canada: Tianyu (Bill) Lin Czechia: Jan Hora Hungary: Csaba Mero Russia: Ilya Shikshin Argentina: Fernando Aguilar Women China: Li He, Rui Naiwei Korea: Choi Jeong, Park Jieun Japan: Mukai Chiaki, Okuda Aya Taipei: Joanne Missingham (Hei Jia-jia), Su Sheng-fang Canada: Irene Sha Great Britain: Vanessa (Lok Ying) Wong Hungary: Rita Pocsai Russia: Natalia Kovaleva
The 2012 Italian Championship was played in five rounds on September 8-9 in Pisa, Italy, with 75 players participating. The undefeated winner was Francesco Marigo (4 dan), pride of the Milan Go Club. He was followed by Carlo Metta (3 dan), who lost only to Francesco, Alessandro Pace (2 dan), who lost only to Francesco and Carlo, and Andriy Zakharzhevskyy (2 dan), who lost to Francesco, Carlo, and Alessandro. Alberto Zingoni (2 kyu) lost to Carlo and Alessandro and finished fifth.
Francesco started competing in the Italian championship in 1998, when he was in his mid-teens. He has now won it ten times since 2001, and has also won ten straight Italian tournaments since last December.
A recent and beautifully illustrated interview with him (in Italian) can be read here.
Photos of the championship are avilable here.
Japan's annual Amateur Honinbo tournament starts with regional Honinbo tournaments in each of Japan's prefectures and ends in a showdown at the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo. This year the 64 players who gathered in Tokyo included the Prefectural Honinbos, five Student Honinbos (primary, middle, and high school, university man and woman), women's amateur champion Arai Miyu, and other seeded players, notably the reigning Amateur Honinbo Nakazono Seizo and Amateur Meijin Hong Suk-eui. They ranged in age from 11 (Takahashi Keisuke, Prefectural Honinbo from Iwate) to 86 (1995 World Amateur Champion Hironari Hirata).
The showdown began with two preliminary rounds played on August 24. Among the thirteen players who lost both games and were eliminated were Takahashi Keisuke and former Amateur Honinbo Tanaka Masato. The first of the six main rounds was also played on August 24, eliminating 19 more players, leaving 32 to compete in the second round the next morning.
The second and third rounds saw the departure of the two women and four more former Amateur Honinbos: Harada Minoru, Miura Hiroshi, Hirata Hironari, and Samejima Ichiro, who in total have won the title 17 times. Mr Samejima's defeat came at the hands of Hiraoka Satoshi, World Amateur Champion in 1994 and 2006 and Amateur Honinbo in 2005 and 2009. By the end of the day the field had been reduced to four: Hiraoka, Hong, Nakazono, and Student Honinbo Tanaka Nobuyuki, a senior at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. In the semifinal round, played in the morning on August 26, Hiraoka beat Hong by half a point and Nakazono recovered from a lost position to defeat Tanaka by 5.5 points.
The final game took place in the afternoon of the 26th, with a public commentary by former pro Honinbo Wang Mingwan (O Meien). Mr Nakazono, playing white, produced an imaginative opening and led for most of the first half of the game, according to Mr Wang. Mr Hiraoka remained calm, however, and won by 2.5 points. His steady and extremely accurate endgame play drew high praise from Mr Wang, who said, 'I thought white was ahead, but Mr Hiraoka may have known all along that he was going to win.' In the third-place playoff, Mr Tanaka defeated Mr Hong.
At the awards ceremony Hiraoka, Nakazono, Tanaka, and Hong received silver cups and gifts from the sponsors (Sagawa Express and the Mainichi Newspaper). Chief referee Takanashi Seiken (7p) lavished further praise on Mr Hiraoka's endgame play, especially in his half-point win over Mr Hong. Mr Hiraoka, his voice finally betraying his excitement, said he was particularly happy to have some progress to show after losing to Mr Nakazono in the final round last year, and Nihon Kiin Managing Director Hirano Norikazu expressed gratification at the large number of young players in the field of 64, a good sign for the future of Japanese go.