Several of the pairs competing at the 2013 International Amateur Pair-Go Championship were married, but the Romanian pair, Lucretiu Calota and Irina Davis (ne Suciu), went them one better: they are married and both came accompanied by their spouses. While the Romanians were playing (and defeating) the Japanese pair from the Kyushu-Okinawa region in round four, Ranka took the opportunity to talk with Irina's husband Ian Davis, who is himself a pair go player.
Ranka: How did you become interested in go, and in pair go?
Ian: I started playing go back in university. There was someone I knew in the chess club who introduced me to the game. That would have been in 1999 or 2000, when I was nineteen or twenty years old. There are not many people to play with when I was at university, so it was not until I had finished university that I started playing seriously. I didn't start playing pair go until I was about twenty-three, when I was working at my first job in Cambridge. My first game was actually a game of rengo at the club, and then I started playing pair go on the Internet, I started because there was a very big go club in Cambridge and I wanted to learn the game properly.
Ranka: Why on the Internet?
Ian: There weren't that many pair go tournaments back then. It was quite difficult to get a game.
Ranka: How did it work out?
Ian: Many of the first pair go games I had were quite disastrous. Sometimes you play with someone who's very serious, and if you make a joseki mistake because you're about 20 kyu, they get very angry--they just resign--so it wasn't always a harmonious introduction to the game. It had its ups and downs, but I kept at it, and I still like playing pair go.
Ranka: Do you compete in pair go tournaments?
Ian: I think my first pair go tournament was the London Open in 2007 or 2008, where pair go was a side event. My partner was my teacher Guo Juan, and we won the event. We won it twice, in two different years. After that I played with some other partners, including Irina, but on the Internet I played pair go quite frequently, because I enjoy it.
Ranka: Why is that?
Ian: It's more relaxing to play pair go. There's not as much pressure on you, and it's more sociable, so it's nice.
Ranka: When you play pair go on the Internet, where is your partner usually located?
Ian: Normally in a different country. After university, I lived in Cambridge for about one year, then moved back to Northern Ireland, where I'm originally from. I had some friends in France I used to play with, and I also played sometimes with people I knew in Cambridge. But last year I moved to France, to work as a software tester for Reuters, and now I play pair go quite regularly with my wife. We were married six months ago, but we still play as a pair on the Internet.
Ranka: Do you prefer pair go to ordinary go?
Ian: I don't know if I could say which way I prefer. It depends on which mood I'm in. Ultimately I like them both. After all, it's just different ways of playing the same game.
Ranka: Thank you.
After a stretch of fine weather and Halloween hijinks, Tokyo hunkered down under gray skys and intermittent rain for the weekend of November 2-3, but inside the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont, the atmosphere was warm and festive: thirty-two pairs from twenty-two countries and territories were there to compete in the 24th International Amateur Pair Go Championship. China returned to the competition by sending an editor (Zhou Gang) and reporter (Wang Rui) from Weiqi Tiandi, China's leading go magazine. Korea sent its top-rated junior amateur Jeon Junhak, who recently won the Incheon Mayor's Cup for the second consecutive year. (In the Korean amateur rating system, junior means under 40 and not an insei). His partner was Kim Soo-young, a student at Myongji University who is an active player on the Korean pair-go scene, who won this year's Women's Amateur Kuksu title, making her the reigning queen of Korean amateur go, and who hopes to help spread go internationally in the future. Chinese Taipei sent Lo Sheng-chieh and Lin Hung-ping, who also competed in the World Students Go Oza Championship in Tokyo in February. Russia sent Dmitry Surin and Natalia Kovaleva, who finished tenth in the 23rd IAPG Championship last year. Japan entered eleven pairs who had won their way in through regional qualifying tournaments.
In the first round, played right after lunch on November 2, the Japanese pair from the Tokai-Hokuriku region (central Japan) defeated the Chinese pair. The winners of this game were Shinichi Torii, a local government worker, and Chie Kato, a cheery primary-school student who played from a wheelchair. Three Japanese pairs lost their first games, to the pairs from Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Russia.
The first round was followed by goodwill games that partnered the championship competitors with a variety of non-competing pair-go players, including a dozen pros. Before the games began, the pros were introduced and asked to give some advice. Always think of your partner, said one. Don't keep thinking of your partner, said another. The weaker partner should relax, play his or her own game, and let the stronger partner worry about teamwork, said a third. After a mistake, take a deep breath and look over the whole board, said a fourth. One of the more perspicuous comments came from 4-dan pro Sachiko Hara, who said she found pair go very effective in teaching children because it forced them to behave well and think realistically, which made them stronger.
Most of the overseas players donned national costume for the goodwill games. The British pair were decked out as a helmeted knight and his lady. The Australian pair wore koala suits. The Swedish pair sported midsummer wreaths, and treated the crowd at the welcoming party that followed the goodwill games to a midsummer frog song and dance.
Next day the remaining four rounds were played in parallel with a huge (138-pair) handicap tournament. Chie Kato and Shinichi Torii gave the contestants' pledge in Japanese, and Wang Rui and Zhou Gang repeated it in Chinese. The Russian pair lost to a Japanese pair in round two, but the pairs from Chinese Taipei, Germany, and Korea remained undefeated in this round and the next, as did Ayako Oda and Kazumori Nagayo, a married pair of former insei who operate a go school in Yokohama.
In round four, the Korean pair defeated the German pair in less than an hour. "We never had a chance," said law student Olga Silber. "They didn't make a single mistake," added Benjamin Teuber, who is currently training at a go school in Beijing.
In a much longer game, the Oda-Nagayo pair defeated the pair from Chinese Taipei. "Our opening strategy worked, we got a territorial advantage, and we kept it," Kazumori Nagayo said. "Last time we competed we lost to the Korean pair, so we'll be looking for revenge in the final round."
And they very nearly got it. They matched their Korean opponents in the opening and came out of the middle game with a sizeable lead. The Koreans managed to reduce the lead by setting up a ko, but the ko was too indirect for them to win, and the Japanese pair simplified things by connecting it, after which they were still ahead. Near the end, however, they made a slip that cost them four points, and the Koreans won by 2.5.
This is the tenth Korean victory in IAPG championship competition, as compared with seven for Japan, four for China, two for DPR Korea, and one for Chinese Taipei. Korean pairs have triumphed every year since 2009, and this year (2013) Korean players made clean sweep by also winning the World Students Oza Championship, the World Amateur Go Chamionship, the Korea Prime Minister Cup, and Thailand's 15-dan team tournament.
The final game was followed by the traditional gala award ceremony and party. Jeon Junhak and Kim Soo-young came away loaded down with prizes. Kazumori Nagayo and Ayako Oda received a prize for the best result by a Japanese pair: their SOS score placed them third, behind the pair from Chinese Taipei. The 4th-place prize went to Dmitry Surin and Natalia Kovaleva, whose four victories included a second win over a Japanese pair in the final round. Japanese pairs took the prizes for 5th to 8th places, but the pairs from Germany (9th), Romania (11th), Sweden (13th), Vietnam (14th), and Czechia (16th) scored three wins apiece to join three more Japanese pairs in the top sixteen, and the pair from the Netherlands (Merijn de Jong and Els Buntsma) won a best-dressed prize. In all, European and Vietnamese pairs won a total of five games against Chinese and Japanese opposition, another sign of the rising level and popularity of pair go worldwide.
Full results and players' pictures are here.
Ilya Shikshin faced his toughest opposition in the first and last rounds of the Korea Prime Minister Cup. Emura Kikou faced his toughest opponent in round four. Both ended with five wins, and SOS points put the Japanese player fifth and the Russian sixth in the final standings. Before the standings were announced, Ranka asked the two for their opinions about their crucial games and about the entire tournament.
Ilya Shikshin: The game I just played against the player from Taiwan was exciting, because it was the last round and the winner would get a high finish, but we both made many mistakes, so I can't say it was a good game. I won, but I don't feel satisfied about the tournament. I didn't play as well as I played in Japan a month ago. When I was playing the player from Hong Kong in the first round, my feeling was that he was not stronger than me, maybe even weaker than me, but I lost because I made too many mistakes. Then because of the pairings in the next few rounds, for me it became more like a festival than a sporting competition. Of course it was fun, but I also felt disappointed. I came here intending to play for the championship.
Emura Kikou: Aside from the Chinese player, all my opponents were European, except for the Thai opponent in the last round. The Thai and European players were strong. Their level is high, and after three straight wins on the first day I felt happy with the way I was playing. Going on to lose to the Chinese player in the crucial game the next morning, in the fourth round, was a bitter pill. I was trying to play calmly. My opponent made some mistakes; I had plenty of chances; but I didn't have the strength to take advantage them, and I made one big mistake myself. There was a move I just didn't see. At least I was able to put it behind me in the last two rounds. Taking the tournament overall, I guess I played up to my usual standard, but I still feel terrible about the game I lost. I'll be returning to Korea for the World Amateur Go Championship next July--I'll try for a better result then.
The game with the widest generation gap in the last round of the Korea Prime Minister Cup was played between Hungarian mathematician and financier Dr Gyorgy Csizmadia and Singapore schoolboy Yifei Yue. Both had been seeded into the upper McMahon group and were looking for their third win. When the game ended, Ranka asked them for their thoughts about it and about the tournament as a whole.
Gyorgy Csizmadia: In this game I started out by trying to build some big walls and make a big moyo. But then he came inside the moyo and actually managed to cut off one of my groups, and from that point on I think he was clearly ahead. As for the tournament in general, it was very nice: nice accommodation, nice playing site, good food, and very good organization. Some people complained about the pairing system--this usually happens at tournaments--but for me it was all right. I enjoyed the tournament very much.
Yifei Yue: I didn't play well in this game. I made some mistakes in the center. I made a lot of mistakes there. My opponent also made mistakes, so I won, but I didn't play well. I had exams right before the tournament, so I wasn't in good playing condition. But it was a great experience, my first time in Korea. Korea is really a nice place, with nice food. Now I'm hoping for a good result in the final standings.
Postscript: By winning this game, Yifei Yue captured 25th place.
Nuttakrit (Krit) Taechaamnuayvit and Alexander Eerbeek played one of the longest games in round four of the Korea Prime Minister Cup. As soon as it was over, Ranka asked both of them to describe what happened.
Krit: I thought I had a very good game, but then I made a terrible mistake and a corner that I had already killed came back to life. The situation was now very difficult for me, but at the end I was lucky. Alexander made an even worse mistake and a big group died, so I won.
Alexander: Well, first of all he got a big moyo. I'm very bad at reducing moyos in general, so I made a deep invasion and got some weak groups, right in the beginning of the game. He attacked me and I managed to live. Then he attacked another group, and another group, and I managed to live with all of them. At a certain point I made a ko in a corner and managed to win the ko fight, and then I was winning the game, but because of time pressure at the end I couldn't read out a life-and-death situation, and a group died. So that was it. I'm good at screwing up games, but it was exciting: first he was winning, and then I was winning, and then he won. As for Krit's playing strength, it's hard to say after just one game, but perhaps he's a little stronger than me.
Postscript: Krit went on to beat Czechia's Ondrej Silt in the next round and ultimately finished ninth. His only losses were to Korea's Park Jaegeun and Japan's Emura Kikou. Alexander lost the battle for tenth place to the Ukraine's Dmytro Bogatskyy in the last round and finished seventeenth, best among the players with three wins.