The 4th SportAccord World Mind Games (chess, contract bridge, draughts, go, xiangqi) will be held in Beijing December 11-17. The go competition will follow the same format as last year: 18 men representing China, Chinese Taipei, Europe, Japan, Korea, and North America will vie in a three-man team round-robin; 12 women from the same areas will compete as individuals in a double knockout; and 16 of these players will also compete in a single knockout mixed pair tournament. Click here for player lists and photos.
Last year the Chinese and Korean men's teams staged a riveting fight for the gold medal, which went to the Korean team when their third player beat his Chinese opponent by a fraction of a point. China will try to even the score this year with a team of three young world title-holders. Korea will counter with a team consisting of two of its medalists from 2012 and 2013 and a young player named Na who recently won the Korean Prices Information Cup. Japan, after going home empty-handed last year, will field an all new team drawn from Nagoya and Osaka. Their first assignment will be to avenge last year's defeat at the hands of Chinese Taipei.
The fight for the women's medals will be very tough. Judging from recent international competition, the field includes the world's current top three women, or at least three of the top four, all Chinese or Korean. Players from the other areas will be trying to break the Chinese-Korean medal monopoly of previous years.
In pair competition, China, Japan, and Korea will enter five teenaged players and one (Na) who is just twenty. Chinese Taipei, whose teenaged pair took the silver medal last year, will let a new and older pair to try to match or better that feat. Europe is entering three pairs and North America one; it should be a lively three rounds.
Tuo Jiaxi from the Chinese men's team and Lee Hajin, secretary general of the International Go Federation, will also act as go ambassadors. They and the ambassadors from the other four disciplines will take part in various social and publicity events.
Ranka will once again provide daily reports and commentaries.
Chimin Oh Wins Go to Innovation Was it the lure of the thousand-euro first prize or the chance to play some serious handicap go? Whatever it was, on November 14-16, 2014 the annual Go to Innovation tournament drew fifty-five players from far and wide to Berlin. An eight-round Hahn system was used, which meant that starting scores were assigned according to the players' EGF ratings. Additional points were earned in amounts that depended not only on who won or lost each game but also on how much he or she won or lost by and whether he or she had won in the previous round. All games were played with appropriate handicaps or komi according to the players' current scores.
The highest-rated contestant was former Korean go instructor Chimin Oh, 7-dan, who currently resides in England. His starting score immediately put him in the lead. In his first game he beat German champion Lukas Krämer (6-dan), but then he lost a two-stone handicap game to Austrian champion Viktor Lin (5-dan). Next day he lost to Hungarian champion Pal Balogh (6-dan) and then to Lluis Oh (6-dan, Spain). Following these defeats, however, he rebounded with a string of victories over Nordic champion Yaqi Fu (6-dan, Sweden), Zebin Du (6-dan, China), Jan Hora (6-dan, Czechia, with a two-stone handicap), and Jan Prokop (5-dan, Czechia, with a three-stone handicap). His final Hahn score put him far ahead of Viktor Lin, whose four wins were good enough for the 500-euro second place prize. Zebin Du won six games and finished third (250 euros). The best performance by a female player was turned in by by Rita Pocsai (4-dan, Hungary), who earned a 500-euro prize from Omikron Data Quality in addition to her 100-euro tenth-place prize. Complete results are here.
There was also a jackpot prize for winning eight games, but nobody claimed it. In fact, no one managed to win even seven games. The Hahn system does not give anyone an easy time in any round, and in some sense it rewards the players according to how well they played, regardless of how many games they won. Jan Hora, for example, won only three games, but all his opponents ended among the top ten and he finished seventh. Perhaps next year more 7-dans will try this system out.
- James Davies
Go to Innovation is the name of a go tournament that will be held at the Wuhldeheide Innovation Park in southeast Berlin, November 14-16. True to its name, the tournament will feature an innovative eight-round Hahn system, which adds some new twists to the usual McMahon system. There will also be prizes ranging up to a thousand euros for first place, a jackpot for winning eight games, and free draught beer on the 15th.
The list of registered players so far includes over twenty dan-level players (up to 7-dan) and over twenty kyu-level players (down to 18-kyu) with strong representation from Germany and Czechia. Some very strong players are also coming from Great Britain, Sweden, Austria, and Spain.
Further information is available in English here and here.
On the afternoon of September 21, 2014, Hiraoka Satoshi, three times amateur Honinbo and twice world amateur go champion, found himself facing a neurosurgeon. More precisely, he was facing Osawa Shinichiro, a member of the faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery in the Graduate School of Medicine at Tohoku University. Between them was a go board, and they were about to play the game that would decide which of them would represent Japan at the 2015 World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand.
Hiraoka had been seeded into the 60-player selection knockout and given a bye in the first round, so he reached the final game by defeating only four opponents: a veteran from Chiba, a middle-school student from Fukuoka, an insei from the Kansai Kiin, and Mori Hironobu, another seeded player, who had played in the WAGC in 2007. Dr. Osawa, the amateur meijin of Miyagi, had entered at the first round and downed five opponents, including a former amateur Honinbo and an insei from Nagoya. Those were in addition to the opponents he had beaten in the Miyagi qualifying tournament. His appearance in the final game was no surprise; he has beaten professional opponents in the Agon Cup. The presence of insei among Hiraoka's and Osawa's opponents was a little unusual -- Japanese insei rarely take part in amateur tournaments -- but in any case, none of the insei reached even the semifinal round.
Instead, all four of the semi-finalists were in their thirties or forties, far past insei age. In contrast, the last eight world amateur go champions have all been in their teens or twenties. And none of them have been Japanese. Japan did rather well in the WAGC in the last decade of the 20th century, taking five championships against three for China and two for Korea, but since 2001 Japan has won the WAGC only once, and after Mori's third place in 2007, no Japanese player has finished higher than fifth.
The job of lifting Japan's sagging fortunes will fall to Hiraoka, for he beat Dr. Osawa by 9.5 points. Hiraoka was in his mid-twenties when he first won the WAGC in 1994, and in his mid-thirties when he won it again in 2006. Can the JR freight railwayman win another world championship in his mid-forties, or can he at least restore Japan to a place among the top four? We'll find out next summer.
- James Davies