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.
The 2nd SportAccord World Mind Games will be held in Beijing, China, December 12-19, 2012. The go competition will include an individual men's tournament (16 players), an individual women's tournmant (16 players), and a mixed doubles tournament.
The European Go Federation has already selected its three players, Ilya Shikshin (Russia), Csaba Mero (Hungary), and Jan Hora (Czechia), who took top places in the qualifier held during the 2nd World Mind Sports Games in Lille, France.
The 2nd SportAccord World Mind Games will be preceded by the 2nd SportAccord World Mind Games Online Tournament, which will be played on the Internet Go Server (IGS, aka Pandanet). This tournament is open to amateur players in all countries and territories belonging to the International Go Federation. The winner will receive an expenses-paid trip to Beijing to watch the Mind Games and meet the players, and other prizes will be given out as well. Registration closes on September 10, 2012, and play starts on September 16. Full details are available here.
The European Go Congress was held at Bonn, Germany from July 21 to August 5. Among the over 600 participating players, three 7-dan visitors from Korea stood out. In the 10-round main tournament, Song Jun-Hyup finished first (undefeated), Kim Young-Sam second (losing only to Song), and Ryu Seung-Hee fourth (she lost only to Song, Kim, and Germany's Zhao Pei). In the five-round weekend tournament, Song finished first (again undefeated), Kim second, and Ryu fifth. Song also won the six-round rapid tournament and the 13 x 13 tournament, and Kim won the lightning tournament, while Ryu took third place in the rapid and second place in the lightning event. In addition, Song and Ryu teamed with Korean 5-dan Choi Woon-Sub to win the rengo tournament.
But that is not the whole story. There were two team tournaments: the Pandanet team tournament, which the Russian team of Ilya Shikshin, Alexander Dinerchstein, Dimitri Surin, Oleg Mezhov, and Alexei Lazarev won by edging out the Czech team of Ondrej Silt, Jan Simara, Jan Prokop, Jan Hora, and Lukas Podpera on tie-breaking points; and the Itemis team tournament, won by a Polish team led by Mateusz Surma. And there were two pair tournaments: an open tournament won by German 4-dan Manja Marz and Chang Huai-Yi, a 3-dan pro from Taipei; and a handicap tournament won by Russians Marina Popova and Alexey Kholomkin.
Returning to individual competition, German 4-dan Jonas Welticke won the handicap tournament and the Sanjang Baduk tournament (go with traditional Korean rules), and German-Canadian 4-dan Oliver Wolf (age 13) won the youth and children's tournament.
In man-machine competition, Romanian 5-dan pro Catalin Taranu gave Crazy Stone a four-stone handicap on a 19 x 19 board, winning one game and losing another, while Japanese 6-dan amateur Noguchi Motoki, playing even against Zen, split two games on a 13 x 13 board and lost twice on a 9 x 9 board.
Throughout the congress, Catalin and a host of professional attendees from the Far East, including the legendary Chinese star Nie Weiping, were busy giving lessons and lectures and commenting on games. But that is still not the whole story.
For top European players, the most important event of all was the European Championship, a three-round playoff among the eight European players with the best scores at the end of the seventh round of the main tournament. The eight qualifiers were Ilya Shikshin (Russia), Cornel Burzo (Romania), Ondrej Silt (Czechia), Thomas Debarre (France), Antti Tormanen (Finland), Pavol Lisy (Slovakia), Jan Simara (Czechia), and Mateusz Surma (Poland). Thomas, Pavol, and Mateusz are still in their teens, and Ilya and Antti are in their early twenties, but youth did not prevail. The winner was Jan Simara, who defeated last year's champion Ilya Shikshin in the final game after having lost to him in the seventh round of the main tournament. Pavol Lisy beat Thomas Debarre in the playoff for third place.
Young power, Korean power, and professional-caliber play have marked Japan's Amateur Meijin tournament since its beginning in 2006. So far, all four Amateur Meijins have been in their teens (Tsuneishi Takashi) or twenties (Yoon Chun-ho, Hon Seisen, Hong Suk-eui). For three of them the Amateur Meijin title has been a stepping stone to a professional career: Yoon and Hon went on to qualify as pro shodan with the Kansai Kiin, and last year Tsuneishi made pro shodan with the Nihon Kiin. Yoon, Hon (formerly Hong Mal-geun-saem), and Hong Suk-eui are Korean players who now reside in Japan. Hon operates a highly successful go dojo in Tokyo, while the current title-holder Hong, who majored in Japanese literature in his unversity days in Korea, is pursuring his studies and working as a go instructor in Osaka.
The Amateur Meijin tournament, which is run on the challenger-defender system, starts with a regional knockout in each of Japan's 47 prefectures to determine a prefectural representative. These representatives and a number of seeded players then meet at the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo for a grand knockout to determine the challenger. This year the grand knockout field was exceptionally young; it included six high-school and seven university students. In one of the key games on the first day of play (July 15), Ito Kenryo, an 18-year-old pro aspirant from Shizuoka, forced Amateur Honinbo Nakazono Seizo to resign. Another key game was a clash between former world amateur champions Hiraoka Satoshi (1994 and 2006) and Ha Sung-bong (2008). Ha, who works as an instructor at Hon Seisen's dojo, won by 9.5 points. Considering that before immigrating to Japan in 2009 Ha had also won some 28 Korean amateur tournaments, that he had contested the Amateur Meijin title with Tsuneishi in 2010, and that in the Agon Cup last year he had defeated eight straight professional opponents, he was now a strong favorite.
Ha continued his winning ways the next day, beating Komazawa University senior Kanesaka Shuhei by 17.5 points in the fourth round and former Amateur Honinbo Tanaka Masato by 14.5 points in the fifth round. His last opponent was high-shool senior Yokozuka Riki, a recent insei and pupil of the chief referee, Kamimura Haruo. Michael Redmond gave a public commentary on this game, which Ha won by resignation. Ito defeated Tanaka in the third-place playoff, and the top four all received silver cups and gift certificates from the sponsoring Asahi Newspaper.
The three-game title match between Ha and Hong was played in high style at the Sekitei inn in Yugawara, a go-friendly hot spring resort south of Tokyo. Ha had beaten Hong many times in Korea, but last year Hong had defeated Ha by resignation in the quarter-final round of the Amateur Meijin knockout. In this year's title match Hong prevailed again, by 3.5 points in the first game on July 28 and by resignation in the second game on July 29. Hong, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Yoon, Hon, and Tsuneishi, rated his performance at 80%. Ha vowed to get stronger and challenge again, for the sake of the children he instructs in Tokyo.
The third Fair of Good Treatment took place at the end of June 2012. This event is sponsored by CECODAP, an organization that ensures the protection of the rights of children and adolescents. The purpose of the Fair is to present different schools' initiatives in promoting respect and eradicating violence.
The event was held at the E.U. Jesus Maestro, which is part of the network of the Fe y Alegría Catholic schools. These schools are located in areas with high rates of poverty, violence and crime.
Since 2008, Sister Marisela Mujica of Fe y Alegría, who is a wonderful advocate of Go, has been voluntarily teaching the game precisely in this school, in a pilot project called Gakko-no-Go. This project, which is also supported by the Venezuelan Go Association, was chosen to represent the school this year.
The school's experience was presented to many groups of students and teachers from other schools. Each group received a short talk about the game of Go and its educational benefits, and then an explanation of its rules from the Gakko-no-Go students, who were more than willing to show their peers, teachers and community the progress they had made through the game.
The Fair was attended by representatives of the Mayor of Sucre and the Mayor himself, Carlos Ocariz. They were very interested in bringing the project into some public schools. The Fair's success is another step in the consolidation of Go as an educational tool in Venezuela.
- Report: Loli Puerta/Julio Melchert (Asociacion Venezolana de Go)
A go symposium sponsored by the International Go Federation will be held on the opening weekend of the U.S. Go Congress at Black Mountain, North Carolina on August 4-5. The keynote address will be given by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. The program includes panel discussions on go in China and how to start a go program in your community, a question and answer session with Hikaru no Go author Hotta Yumi, presentations on topics ranging from the ancient history of go through rules, mathematics, Chinese poetry, and supercomputers, and a children's go art contest. Speakers are coming from Africa, Asia, and Europe as well as North America.
The Qingdao Publishing Cup is one of the many new tournaments that have sprung up in the 21st century to accommodate the flood of strong amateur (and professional) players emerging from China's go schools. The sponsor is a large state-owned publishing house located in Qingdao, facing the Yellow Sea. First held last year, the tournament is organized as a ten-round Swiss system divided into upper and lower sections. The 178 contestants in the upper section included China's three top rated amateurs: Ma Tianfang, age 19, who had just scored an undefeated triumph in the inaugural China Software Cup; last year's world amateur champion Bai Baoxiang, likewise 19, who was coming off a first-place finish in the Fengcheng Cup in May and a second-place finish in the China Software Cup; and China's highest-rated amateur Hu Yuqing, age 30, world amateur champion in 2005 and 2009 and a well known go commentator on Chinese television.
Bai Baoxiang stormed through the first two days of play (June 22 and 23) with seven straight wins to take an undisputed lead. In the morning rounds on June 24, however, he lost twice: first to Hu Yuqing and then to Cao Jundi, a pupil of Nie Weiping. That left four players in contention, and they were paired against each other on the top two boards in the final round in the afternoon. The winners of these crucial games were Hu Yuqing and 12-year old Huang Jingyuan. Both ended with nine wins and one loss, but Hu had better SOS points and took the cup, while Huang took second. Third to sixth places fell, in order, to teenagers Bai Baoxiang, Ma Qiao (14), Wang Zejin (13), and Sui Zexiang (19). Seventh place went to 2009 World Student Oza winner Zhao Wei. Cao Jundi came tenth and Ma Tianfang ended in a tie for twentieth.
Runner-up Huang Jingyuan had already created a double sensation by winning the first Spaceflight Cup at age 11 last September and then beating eight straight opponents in the first eight rounds of the prestigious Evening News Cup in January. But while earning a degree from the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and working at China Mobile, Hu Yuqin has been winning major amateur go tournaments for nearly a decade and has just proved that he can still hold his own against the rising generation.
The Finnish word 'takapotku', which means a 'sudden backward motion', may have seemed like a bad omen for the faculty of the online Nordic Go Academy, who took the top three spots at this tournament in 2011. No such backlash occurred, however; they finished in the same three spots again. Here's the story.
This year the tournament schedule was moved back from its traditional February slot to June 16-17 (perhaps that was the backward motion). It was held at the New Student House at Helsinki University. Fifty-five Finns, nine Russians, and four players from Sweden, France, and Estonia took part, and over half of these 68 contestants had dan rankings. They played five McMahon rounds, the 4-6 dans being placed in the top group and starting out with 35 McMahon points.
Just one player got through the five rounds undefeated. That was Mikko Nevala, a 3-dan who hails from Oulu, the gateway to Lapland. Since he started with only 33 McMahon points he did not win the tournament, but he finished a highly respectable 8th, ahead of ten higher ranked players, three of whom he beat in direct competition.
So who won? The top McMahon score of 39 was shared by four players, each of whom had won four games and lost one. Three of them were the NGA faculty who, as they had last year, tied themselves up in a trefoil knot, Juri Kuronen beating Antti Tormanen in round 3, Su (Jeff) Yang beating Juri in round 4, Antti beating Su in round 5. The fourth player in the MM-39 quartet was the veteran Russian Alexei Lazarev, who lost to Su in round 3 and was not paired against Antti and Juri. The tie was broken by SOS points, of which Su had 192, Antti had 191, Juri had 188, and Alexei had 187. Su also won this tournament in 2008 and 2011 and Antti won it in 2010. Full results are here.
A recent interview with the winner Su Yang can be read here.
Antti's side of the story, with photos, can be viewed on his blog here.
There are more photos and comments in an article entitled 'The winner was decided by a toss' on the Petrozavodsk State University news and events page here.
This year the annual Bulgarian Go Championship was held outside the Bulgarian capital for the first time ever. Bulgaria's second largest city of Varna, also known as its maritime capital during the summer months, hosted the 9th edition of the event on the 9th and 10th of June. Twenty-seven players gathered from all over Bulgaria and one special guest came from Romania, the first player from outside Bulgaria ever to participate in the Bulgarian championship. This was the greatest number of players in a single event in the history of organized go tournaments in Bulgaria so far.
The games were played at a four-star hotel in the Sunshine, Magnolia & Spa complex, a short walk from a beach on the Black Sea. Boyan Alexandrov 1k, winner of the 2009 championship, managed to cling to the top after a very fierce battle with a couple of dan-level players, in which everyone lost at least one closely contested game to a closely matched opponent. Boyan beat Alexander Savchovsky 1d, Bogdan Sburlea 1k -- the guest from Romania -- and Svilen Pavlov 1k. Runner-up Magdalena Mladenova 1d, winner of the last two championships, lost only to 5th place finisher and former champion Nikolaj Aleksandrov 1d, and Milena Metodieva 7k took a surprising third place.
A brief history of go in Bulgaria can be found here.
Report and photos courtesy of Tsvetomir Varbanov