Hyunjae Choi of Korea wins the 34th WAGC

Words from the new world champion Hyunjae Choi:

Hyunjae ChoiHyunjae Choi

“Naturally I am delighted to have won the World Amateur Go Championship this year in Sendai. My game with the Chinese representative Hu Yuqing was the tightest battle and this turned out to be a decisive victory. To be honest, I did not think the European players were of a comparable strength, however I still felt a responsibility as the Korean representative to show my best game.

My first encounter with go was from an early age. Rather than playing with my classmates at elementary school, I preferred to absorb myself in ‘gomoku’ – five-in-a-row on a go board. My mother saw how much I enjoyed playing and suggested that I might be interested in go. It went from there. Winning the championship means I gain 40 rating points in the Korean professional qualification system to add to my existing 90. This brings me over the 100 required to be guaranteed a place in the professional world.

At the moment I am still a student at Myongji University, where I am enrolled on the only course in the world for go, although I am currently taking leave from study. There I study go theory and issues in the cultural, historical and educational aspects of the game. My actual practice playing go is not done at college but rather at a famous go club, which I attend from six in the morning until nine at night almost every day.

More than the game itself, I love just sitting down and concentrating on playing. If you were to ask me what kind of a professional I am striving to become, it would be one who works very hard and can inject every last ounce of energy into the game.”

Visit Ranka online to find out more about the 34th WAGC.



Hong Wins Amateur Honinbo Too

The final field of 65 that assembled at the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo to play for the Amateur Honinbo Title ranged from the current primary school Meijin (age 11) to octogenarians Hirata Hironori (87) and Kikuchi Yasuro (84), two of the outstanding Japanese amateurs of the 20th century. In between were the three outstanding amateurs of the current decade in Japan: the two Amateur Honinbos Hiraoka Satoshi (2010, 2012) and Nakazono Seizo (2011), and the Amateur Meijin Hong Seok-ui (2011-2013).

Hong won his way in by taking first place in the Osaka regional Honinbo tournament. Not being seeded, he had to enter at the preliminary round played on August 23, where he defeated the regional Honinbo from Aichi Prefecture by 19.5 points. This earned him a bye in the preliminary repechage, after which he won his second game of the day by forcing the regional Honinbo from Mie Prefecture to resign in the first knockout round.

From the left; Sato Koya, Hong Seok-ui  and Iyama Yuta (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)From the left; Sato Koya, Hong Seok-ui and Iyama Yuta (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)Nakazono and Hiraoka were seeded into the second knockout round, which began at 9:30 on August 24. Together with Hong they breezed through that round and the next, defeating opponents from Nara, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Iwate prefectures and two opponents from Tokyo. In the fourth round, for the second year in a row Hiraoka was paired against Hong. Last year Hiraoka had won by half a point in the endgame. This year it was a different story. Both players made mistakes, but Hiraoka's mistake was bigger and came later, and Hong won by 5.5 points. Meanwhile, Nakazono lost to Katayama Hiroyuki, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo making a strong comeback in Amateur Honinbo competition after a 17-year absence.

With his two most dangerous opponents both knocked out, Hong now found himself in a very promising position, but he still had to win two more games. In the semifinal round, played in the morning of August 25, he defeated former Student Honinbo Taniguchi Yohei by 15.5 points, while Katayama lost to Sato Koya, the 20-year old regional Honinbo from Shizuoka Prefecture. Sato turned out to be the surprise of the tournament. Although he has never been an insei, he is diligently training on his own with the aim of becoming a professional player at the Nagoya Branch of the Nihon Kiin.

Iyama Yuta (left) and Hong Seok-ui (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)Iyama Yuta (left) and Hong Seok-ui (photo: Sangtiean Rattanaseriwong)The final round was played in a closed room next to a large hall, where pro Honinbo Iyama Yuta gave a public commentary on the clincher between Hong and Sato. Early in this game, Sato let Hong make a pon-nuki that Iyama rated as easily worth the proverbial 30 points, and from there on Hong was in control. Ultimately Sato was faced with the loss of half of a large group and resigned to finish second, while Taniguchi beat Katayama in the playoff for third place. The top four all received silver cups and crystal clocks from the sponsors, the Mainichi Newspaper and Sagawa Express.

Hong, who works as an instructor at the Ranka go club in Osaka, is the first player to hold both the amateur Honinbo and Meijin titles in Japan. Asked about future plans, he said he would like to work to spread the game of go, but for the time being he intends to work on what he called his many remaining go-playing weaknesses. Both Hong and Iyama said they were looking forward to the upcoming pro-amateur Honinbo match, which will be their first meeting across the go board.


57th European Go Congress: Hurray for Europe!

Venue of 57th the European Go CongressVenue of 57th the European Go CongressFar Eastern players have been outperforming Europeans at the European Go Congress for the past decade, so it was a welcome change to see almost all the prizes go to European players at the 2013 Congress held July 27 to August 11 in Olsztyn, Poland. Also encouraging was the whole-hearted way in which the Polish media, the European go community, and even non-European organizations such as BadukMovies, KGS, Pandanet, and the World Pair Go Association lent their support to the Congress as sponsors or patrons. Here's a rundown of the results.

The ten-round main tournament was won by Hui Fan, the former Chinese pro who emigrated to France in 2000, quickly became Europe's top-rated player, has been making substantial contributions to the growing French go literature, and became a naturalized Frenchman this year. The last three rounds of this tournament included an eight-player playoff for the title of European Champion. This meant that Hui had to face two of his youngest and strongest opponents--Mateusz Surma of Poland and Pavol Lisy of Slovakia--twice each, but it seemed to make no difference who Hui played: he won all ten of his games. Mateusz and Pavol each lost one other game and finished 4th and 3rd, respectively. Hui FanHui FanFinland's Antti Tormanen beat Pavol, lost to Hui and Mateusz, and finished 2nd. In the playoff section Pavol came 2nd, Mateusz came 3rd, and France's Thomas Debarre took 4th place. A grand total of 594 players participated, with European players capturing the top 23 places.

In the nine-round rapid tournament, Cornel Burzo (Romania) and Mateusz Surma (Poland) won eight games apiece, but Cornel took 1st place by one SOS point. Andrii Kravets (Ukraine), Alexei Lazarev (Russia), and Stanislaw Frejlak (Poland) scored six wins to take 3rd to 5th places. Tomasz Sek (6 kyu, Poland) and Josef Moudrik (10 kyu, Czechia) scored eight wins and finished 167th and 216th in the field of 276.

In the five-round weekend tournament (August 3-4) Ilya Shikshin (Russia) beat Jun-won Choi (Korea) and then Pavol Lisy, Cornel Burzo, Hui Fan, and Alexander Dinerchtein (Russia) to earn undisputed 1st place. His opponents finished 19th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, and 5th. Ali Jabarin (Israel) came in 3rd. Besides Ilya, there were eleven other five-game winners in the field of 378: Krzysztof Urtnowski (1 kyu, Poland), Sylvain Praz (2 kyu, Switzerland), David Vennink (3 kyu, France), Pawel and Jan Fraczak (both 4 kyu, Poland), Jakub Jansky (5 kyu, Czechia), Vojtech Vasa (9 kyu, Czechia), Krzysztof Kurzawa (10 kyu, Poland), Michael Thao (10 kyu, France), Josef Moudrik (10 kyu, Czechia), Mikulas Kubita (13 kyu, Czechia), and Sandra Freiburghaus (15 kyu, Switzerland). Ilya Shikshin also won the 20-player blitz knockout, beating Mero Csaba (Hungary), Zeno van Ditzhuijzen (Netherlands), and Cornel Burzo, and then defeating Ondrej Silt (Czechia) in the final game. On small boards,

Ilya Shikshin won the 9 x 9 tournament and Andrii Kravets won the 13 x 13 tournament. Stanislaw Frejlak (4 dan, Poland) won the eight-player phantom knockout, downing Gabor Albrecht (7 kyu, Hungary) in the final game.

Two Russian youths won 1st place prizes in the U18 competition: Alexander Vashurov (5 dan) topped the A group while Andrej Mramorov (4 kyu) topped the B group. Both were undefeated. Finishing 2nd were Jonas Welticke (5 dan, Germany) and Yuki de Groot (3 kyu, Netherlands).

Tournament roomTournament roomThe European Team Championship, held July 26-27, was won by a Czech team consisting of Ondrej Silt, Jan Hora, Lukas Podpera, Jan Prokop, and Vladimir Danek. The Czechs drew against Russia and defeated the Ukraine and Hungary. Russia drew against the Ukraine, and both Russia and the Ukraine beat Hungary. In a separate five-round team tournament, the Polish Wampiry team (Mateusz Surma, Stanislaw Frejlak, Majka Marcin) and the French Bogoss team (Benjamin Drean-Guenaizia, Pierre Paga, Cesar Lextrait) were both undefeated, so they held a playoff, won by Wampiry. The Polish Habu-Mos-Rzepnikowski trio beat the international Sexy Honte trio to take first place in the rengo tournament.

Pair go was organized into A and B groups. In the A group (all even games), 32 pairs competed for three full rounds in four blocks, then the best 16 competed in a final knockout. Korean pro Hajin Lee and Polish amateur Cezary Czernecki (3 dan) triumphed over Polish amateur Agnieszka Kacprzyk (1 dan) and Korean pro Young-Long Park in the final game of the knockout. The B group was a four-round Swiss system handicap tournament that ended with three pairs undefeated. Placed in SOS order, they were: (1) Dita Vasova and Lukas Podpera (Czechia) (2) Daria Kwietniewska (Poland) and Vit Brunner (Czechia) (3) Josefa Kubitova and Michal Timko (Czechia). Full results can be found at the congress website.


Amateurs and Former Amateurs Compete for Professional Promotion in China

He Yuhan, who captured three major Chinese amateur titles this year (the amateur Tianyuan in February, the Fengcheng Cup in May, and the 3rd Qingdao Publishing Cup in June), ended his rampage by winning his way to profession shodan in the 2013 Chinese Go Ranking Promotion Competition, held July 20-25 in Yangzhou. In all, twenty men and five women qualified as pro shodan. The other men included Dai Zhitian, who beat He to win the Yellow River Cup in June, Li Weiqing, who took third in the Yellow River Cup, and Huang Jingyuan, runner-up in the Yellow River Cup last year. The qualification tournament is limited to players under 25 years old. He, Li, and Huang are still 13.

Meanwhile, the promotion competition for players who were already professional was being held July 17-30 at the Tongli Lake Resort. Two of the contestants played in the World Amateur Go Championship last year: Qiao Zhijiang (1st place, China), and Chen Cheng-Hsu (3rd place, Chinese Taipei).

Qiao Zhijiang turned pro shortly after the 2012 WAGC and won a promotion to 2 dan with a 9-3 score in the 2012 Promotion Competition. Overall, his pro record was 21-13 in 2012, and stands at 24-21 so far in 2013, including a strong 7-3 performance in the new HTC Cup. Qiao broke even (6-6) in the 2013 Promotion Competition, and remains 2-dan.

Chen Cheng-Hsu, who turned pro at age 13 in China to challenge himself, started off his professional career by scoring 4-6 at the Chinese Individual Championships in September 2012. Since then he has been continuing to meet his self-imposed challenge head-on; his cumulative professional record after 11 months is a level 29-29. His result in the 2013 Promotion Competition was 7-5, so he remains shodan.


34th World Amateur Go Championship

Poster of the 34th WAGCPoster of the 34th WAGCThe 34th World Amateur Go Championship will open on August 31 and be held on September 1-4 at the Sendai City Information & Industry Plaza in the AER building in Sendai, Japan. Located next to Sendai Station, AER is a popular commercial complex with many shops and restaurants.

The field of 62 players will range in age from 14 to 57 and in official rank from 7 kyu to 8 dan. The field is headed by the contestants from China and Korea (Yuqing Hu and Hyunjae Choi); those two countries have not dropped a single game to any other country in this event since 2006. The players from perennially strong Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Hong Kong (Wei-shin Lin, Kikou Emura, and King-man Kwan) will also bear watching, particularly 14-year-old Lin, who will move on from the World Amateur to a pro career in Taiwan.

These Asians will be challenged, however, by a strong European contingent, led by Slovakian prodigy Pavol Lisy, who finished runner-up to former Chinese pro Fan Hui in this year's European Championship. Joining Pavol will be four other young finalists from the European Championship: Thomas Debarre (France), Ilya Shikshin (Russia), Artem Kachanovskyi (Ukraine), and Nikola Mitic (Serbia). Also competing will be such established European stars as Ondrej Silt (Czechia), Csaba Mero (Hungary), Cornel Burzo (Romania), Merlijn Kuin (Netherlands), and Franz-Josef Dickhut (Germany).

Venue of the 34th WAGCVenue of the 34th WAGCChallenging the Asians and Europeans will be a pair of North American high school students: Curtis Tang (USA), who trained for a year at a go academy in China, and Bill Lin (Canada), who played in the World Mind Games last December and is coming off a 3-1 defense of his Canadian Dragon title.

The Southern hemisphere will be represented by Hao-Song Sun (Australia, 11th place at the 2008 World Mind Sports Games), Xuqi Wu (New Zealand, 12th place at the 2009 Korea Prime Minister Cup), and a pack of hopeful new players from South America and South Africa.

In the past the World Amateur Go Championship has been held in the spring, but this year the schedule was moved back because of the effects of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

Thanks to support from all over the world during the past two years, most of the regions hit by the earthquake are now recovering. It is hoped that through the game of go this tournament will give the world proof of the recovery and encourage the local people to press ahead with the long recovery process.

Starting September 1st,  Ranka online together with the American Go E-Journal will provide full coverage of the championship.