Hiraoka Returns to WAGC

Top finishers in the Japan's WAGC selection tournament (photo courtesy of the Nihon Kiin). Left to right: Mori Hironobu (3rd place), Hiraoka Satoshi (1st), Osawa Shinichiro (2nd), Ono Shingo (4th)Top finishers in the Japan's WAGC selection tournament (photo courtesy of the Nihon Kiin). Left to right: Mori Hironobu (3rd place), Hiraoka Satoshi (1st), Osawa Shinichiro (2nd), Ono Shingo (4th)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



SportAccord unveils World Mind Games 2014 ambassadors


SportAccord is proud to present the 10 ambassadors for the 2014 edition of the World Mind Games to be held in Beijing in China from the 11th to the 17th of December. Representing the best practices in their respective sports discipline, the following ambassadors would be the faces of their respective sports at the World Mind Games this year.


International ambassador- Alexandra Kosteniuk
Chinese ambassador- Wenjun Ju 


International ambassador- Fulvio Fantoni
Chinese ambassador- Wang Wenfei


International ambassador- Viktoriya Motrichiko
Chinese ambassador- Ala Tenghua


International ambassador- Hajin Lee
Chinese ambassador- Jiaxi Tuo


International ambassador- Hok Him Wong
Chinese ambassador- Sinan Tang

The SportAccord World Mind Games ambassador programme is a step taken towards increasing the profiles of the constituent member sports at the annual event. Chosen carefully by the international federations, the ambassadors are the representatives of their respective sports, tasked with helping reach out to a wider audience of mind sports. Also part of their responsibility is community outreach at the World Mind Games, where they are supposed to conduct sports clinics with young children, inspiring them to consider the pursuit of mind sports through informal and formal means.

Each sport has 2 ambassadors, one international and the other Chinese. The purpose of this classification is to ensure that the appeal of each sports does not remain restricted to either the international or the domestic audience.

Full details of the SportAccord World Mind Games ambassadors can be found here.

- Source: media.sportaccord.com


Korean Pair Keeps International Amateur Pair Go Cup

The 25th International Amateur Pair Go (IAPG) Championship was held at the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont in Tokyo on October 25-26, 2014. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of pair go, two professional exhibition games were also held on the 25th, a World Students Pair Go Championship was held on the 26th, and numerous Pair Go Association officials and supporters and pair go promotion partners (PGPPs) were invited from Japan and overseas. Many of these guests took part in the parallel handicap tournament, also held on the 26th, in which nearly 150 pairs competed for the Araki Cup.

Kim Sooyoung (left) and Jeon Junhak in national costume (photo courtesy of the Nihon Kiin)Kim Sooyoung (left) and Jeon Junhak in national costume (photo courtesy of the Nihon Kiin)After a kickoff party on the 24th, the 32 pairs competing for the IAPG Cup got right down to business by playing the first round of their five-round Swiss System on the morning of the 25th. The Korean pair (Kim Sooyoung and Jeon Junhak) were favored because (1) they are respectively the highest-rated Korean amateur female and male players, and (2) they won this event last year. They made a good start by beating the pair from Germany. The pairs from China and Chinese Taipei and eight of the eleven Japanese pairs also won their first games, but the pair from Hong Kong (Vanessa Wong and Chan Naisan) lost to the Japanese pair from Hokkaido.

In the field of contestants for the IAPG Cup, by far the largest contingent had scholastic occupations: they were students or teachers, from the middle-school level to the university level. But the field also represented many other walks of life, ranging from company president to manicurist, so Ranka decided to ask some of them about their work, starting with six of the winners in the first round.

Dong Qin (China) 'I'm in charge of the weiqi (go) department of the Hangzhou branch of the China Chess Institute, which is the second largest branch in China. This involves managing the Hangzhou Weiqi Association and Hangzhou's pro team -- that's my main job.'

Yao Jun (China) 'I'm chief editor at the Shanxi Shuhai Publishing House. We publish a wide range of books, including textbooks that use go for educational purposes.'

Pau Carles (Spain) 'I work at a book and game store. We sell mainly science fiction and things like that, but we also have a small go section with books and equipment.'

Isabel Barros (Spain) 'I work for a game company. We produce board games -- not go, but eurogames such as Catan and Carcassonne, and role-playing games.'

Dragan Dubaković (Serbia) 'I'm a go player and a cook. I like everything about go: the people, the philosophy behind the game, getting away from home and going to tournaments -- and maybe it has something to do with China, because I also like to cook Chinese food.'

After lunch there was a huge goodwill pair go match, to which many of the pairs came dressed in national costume. The Germans came in football uniforms and brought a ball. Including players, officials, and PGPPs, they had nearly a complete football team.

After the goodwill games, some of the players watched the professional exhibition games, or listened to the public commentaries given by 9-dan pros Ishida Yoshio and Michael Redmond. In one game Japan's top men's and women's title-holders Iyama Yuta and Hsieh (Xie) Yi-min defeated Korea's Cho Hunhyun and Lee Hajin; in the other game, which pitted two married couples against each other, China's Chang Hao and Zhang Xuan defeated Japan's Chang Hsu (Cho U) and Kobayashi Izumi. Chinese Taipei was also represented, for although Hsieh Yi-min and Chang Hsu live and play in Japan, by birth and citizenship they belong to Chinese Taipei.

The exhibition games were followed by a lavish party that featured the rousing performance of a new pair go song, penned by screenwriter Koyama Kundo (Iron Chef, Departures). His song is quite different from the go songs traditionally sung at American and European go congresses.

In the second round next morning, the Korean pair beat the Japanese pair from Shikoku, while the young pair from Chinese Taipei (Lin Hsiao-tung and Lai Yu-cheng, both students) defeated the pair from China. Ranka continued its occupational survey by speaking with some of the other second-round winners.

Ito Akio (Hokkaido) 'I have a waterproofing company in Hakodate, with about ten employees. We waterproof the roofs and outer walls of buildings.'

Gyorgy Csizmadia (Hungary) 'I'm a mathematician. I work as a quant for the Budapest branch of Morgan Stanley, doing mathematical modeling of financial instruments.'

Wembris Isral (Indonesia) 'I have my own automobile service workshop. I do body repair on European and Asian cars.'

Lie Diana (Indonesia) 'I'm working for an export-import service, doing network business development. We help our clients ship goods overseas and bring goods from overseas into Indonesia.'

Greatbodin Buranarachada (Thailand) 'I'm an electrical engineer. I design and check electrical systems for mass transport facilities, such as subways and elevators. And my partner Yanakorn Anusiri is an engineering student at Chulalongkorn University, from which I graduated.'

In the third round, Ito Akio and his partner ran up against the pair from Chinese Taipei, to whom they lost, and the Korean pair overcame the pair from Singapore. Other winners included pairs from Australia and Germany, a pair from the Kinki district of Japan (the area around Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara), and the European champion pair. Five of them offered the following information about themselves.

Wei Xu (Australia) 'I'm a machinist. I operate a CNC machine -- a computer-numerically-controlled machine tool -- that makes parts for automobiles and trucks.'

Jana Hollmann (Germany) 'I studied mathematics and have worked for fifteen years as an actuarial consultant for a worldwide consulting company. My specialty is pensions and benefits.'

Fukuda Satoru (Kinki district, Japan) 'I work as a photographer for a company that installs utility poles for a power company. I take pictures of the poles to confirm that they have been properly installed.'

Manuela Marz (European champion pair) 'I'm now a professor of bioinformatics at Friedrich-Schiller University. I do teaching and research -- we have a system in Germany where you have to do both simultaneously -- but my main activity is research and I love it.'

Benjamin Teuber (European champion pair) 'I'm a student of life.'

After lunch, in the fourth round, the pairs from Korea and Chinese Taipei faced Japanese opponents and continued to win. The pairs from France, Russia, and the United Kingdom were also among the winners in this round, and they turned out to include a programmer, an economist, an accountant, and an inventor.

Ngoc-Trang Cao (France) 'Although I'm French and am playing for France, I moved six months ago to work in the United Kingdom. So now I am a game programmer at a British company. We create video games for consoles and PCs.'

Vladimir Gorzhaltsan (Russia) 'I divide my time fifty-fifty between two jobs. I work as an economist for a financial company, and I'm an executive officer in the Russian Go Federation.'

Alison Bexfield (UK) 'I'm a chartered accountant. I work for the BBC, in the audit department. I make sure the BBC spends its money wisely.'

Simon Bexfield (UK) 'I've just invented a very nice puzzle called the Perplexing Pyramid. It's a 3D printed object, made in one piece but with printed hinges, so it's a fantastic shape that folds into something interesting. Recently I've also been making 3D printers and developing various small technical advances in them, which are being used in the Threedy printers that go into schools, and around the world.'

While the second to fourth rounds were being played, the World Students Pair Go Championship was unfolding on four tables at the side of the playing room. The competitors were all university students: two pairs each from China, Japan, and Korea, and one pair each from Chinese Taipei and Thailand. The champion pair was Kim Hyunah and Park Moonkyu from Korea, who beat Hu Shih-yun and Chan Yi-tien from Chinese Taipei to end undefeated. Full results are here.  

Then it was the turn of Korea's Kim Sooyoung and Heon Junhak and Chinese Taipei's Lin Hsiao-tung and Lai Yu-cheng to play the deciding game for the IAPG Cup, in a special quiet playing room with extended time limits, while the rest of the IAPG field continued with the fifth round. Ranka concluded its occupational survey with four of the fifth-round winners, including the Japanese pair that took sixth place, an American accountant, and an aspiring Swiss novelist, the daughter of the Swiss physicist Marcel Golay.

Kuramoto Minoru (Kinki district, Japan) 'I'm a freelance go instructor. I play teaching games and give classroom instruction.'

Saito Naoko (Kinki district, Japan) 'I have my own nail salon.'

Daehyuk Ko (USA) 'I do accounting and financial analysis for Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.'

Monique Golay (Switzerland) 'My novels are addressed to young people. The names of my characters are Japanese names from the game of go. For example, I have a Dark Lord whose name is Moyo. He's a five-billion-year-old elf, and he is fed up with life but unfortunately he is indestructible. The only way for him to destroy himself is to time-travel all the way back to the Big Bang and destroy the entire universe. The other characters try to stop him. I'm trying to make young people laugh, and also to bring them to the game of go.'

Best-dresser prize-winners and chief judge Koshino Junko (photo courtesy of the Nihon Kiin)Best-dresser prize-winners and chief judge Koshino Junko (photo courtesy of the Nihon Kiin)To time-travel back to reality, the pairs from Korea and Chinese Taipei had gotten into a corner ko fight. At his public commentary, Michael Redmond said he thought the Korean pair came out of the fight slightly ahead, and in fact they went on to win by resignation. At the ceremony that followed, they received numerous cups, trophies, and other awards, as well as a best-dresser prize, which they accepted in national costume. The pairs from Mexico, Serbia, and the United Kingdom also received best-dresser prizes, likewise in national costume. The chief judge was fashion designer Koshino Junko, and the dress she wore for the awards ceremony was stunning too.

In the final standings, the Korean pair won their second straight IAPG Cup, Chinese Taipei took a second straight second place, Hong Kong took fourth place, Singapore was ninth, Czechia was thirteenth, the European champion pair was fifteenth, and the U.S. pair was sixteenth. Nine Japanese pairs filled out the rest of the top sixteen, led by former insei Tsuji Moeka and Tsunoda Daisuke; their third place earned them a cup as the Japanese amateur champion pair. Complete results and pictures of all the players are here.

And as pair go founder Taki Hisao pointed out, while the Japanese go population has been gradually decreasing during the past quarter century, the pair go population has exploded in Japan and throughout the world. The International Pair Go Association now has 70 member countries and territories. One looks forward to the next twenty-five years.

- James Davies


Interview with Peter Smolárik

Peter Smolárik, Slovakia's representative at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup, is a university student who has been an active go player for more than half his life. His extensive tournament career in Slovakia includes 2nd place in the Košice City Championship last November, 5th place in the Slovak Championship last May, and 9th place at the Slovak Go Festival last June. In the KPMC he scored one win, over a young opponent from Australia. Ranka talked to him during the lunch break on the second day.

Peter Smolárik playing in round fivePeter Smolárik playing in round fiveRanka: How do you like being in Korea?
Peter: This is my first time in Korea and it's been very good.

Ranka: Do you see any similarities between Korea and Slovakia?
Peter: Both have lots of natural beauty, lots of mountains and hills, and very good skiing.

Ranka: Do you ski?
Peter: No, but the mountains and hills are also good for bicycle riding, which I enjoy.

Ranka: Please tell us how you learned to play go?
Peter: I learned from my father, more than ten years ago, and after that, I went to go clubs. We have a couple of clubs in Košice, where I live, and some more in Bratislava. Mostly I play at the Košice go club, but when I have time I'll go to other clubs for tournaments and competitions.

Ranka: How many tournaments does Slovakia have per year?
Peter: About ten.

Ranka: We understand that Pavol Lisy, who recently became the first European go player to qualify as a pro in Europe, also lives in Košice. Has his becoming a pro made any big changes?
Peter: It didn't draw a big reaction from the news media, but one change it made was that he couldn't come here to the KPMC. So I came instead. But Pavol can still compete in other amateur tournaments in Slovakia.

Ranka: Thank you and good luck this afternoon.

Photo: Ito Toshiko



SportAccord launches photo contest on Instagram for World Mind Games 2014.



22nd October, 2014: A picture is worth a thousand words. Or in your case, worth a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3!

SportAccord presents the World Mind Games 2014 photo contest and a chance for you to win neat prizes for your interest in mind games. All you need to enter are an Instagram account and decent photography skills.The rules of entry are simple and consist of the following easy steps-1. Click a photograph showcasing your interpretation of any of the 5 mind games at the World Mind Games 2014- chess, bridge, Go, Xiangqi and draughts.2. Upload the photograph on Instagram using the hashtag #SAWMG14.The 3 best photographs would be chose on ‘vision, originality and creativity’. The prizes awaiting the winner are as follows:

1st prize- 1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 3
2nd prize- 1 World Mind Games watch
3rd prize- $100 gift cardThe contest opens from the 22nd of October to the 4th of December, 2014.

So, pick up that camera, get clicking and get winning!