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.



China Locks Up Mlily Cup

The last three non-Chinese survivors in the Mlily cup were eliminated in the third round on August 9 in Shanghai. The eight Chinese players who won included three teenage 4-dans: Mi Yuting, who added Kong Jie to his list of noted 9-dan victims; Dang Yifei, who beat 3-dan Tang Weixing; and Lian Xiao, who overcame World Mind Games champion Choi Chulhan. The other five winners were Wu Guangya (6 dan), Wang Lei (8 dan), Zhou Ruiyang (9 dan), Wang Xi (9 dan), and Gu Li (9 dan).
In the fourth round, played on August 11, the three 9-dans cracked down: Gu Li beat Wang Lei by resignation; Wang Xi edged out Wu Guangya by 1-3/4 stones (3-1/2 points); and Zhou Ruiyang beat Lian Xiao by resignation. In the fourth game Mi Yuting beat Dang Yifei by resignation. Next Mi will take on Wang Xi in the two-out-of-three semifinal round, schedule to be determined.

Game records are available at the go4go website.


Shanghai Kids Rule in Toto Cup

Among the many summer go events for Japanese kids, the Toto Cup is a west-end special. It's for kids aged 3 to 18 in Kyushu (westernmost of the four large Japanese islands), in the adjoining prefectures of Okinawa (farther west) and Yamaguchi (the west end of Honshu, the largest island), and from overseas (still farther west). This year the overseas participants made up about 30% of the field: 55 came from five cities in China and 15 came from Taipei. Although no three-year-old took part, one of the contestants was five, and she won a third-place award -- but we're getting ahead of our story.

Niu Zebing (left) and Ding Yuexiang (photo: Ito Toshiko)Niu Zebing (left) and Ding Yuexiang (photo: Ito Toshiko)The 251 young hopefuls assembled at the Asia-Pacific Import Mart in Kitakyushu City on August 5th. They were watched, supervised, and taught by a roughly equal number of organizers, officials, volunteer assistants, parents, teachers, and guests, including four professional go players. The competition was divided into five classes and the venue was partitioned into two rooms. In one room, the kids in the unlimited class (where ranks went as high as 7 dan) played four rounds of even games and the kids in class A (1-5 dan) played four rounds of handicap go. In the other room, the kids in classes B (1-5 kyu), C (6-10 kyu), and D (11-20 kyu) played five rounds of handicap go, and a dozen beginners (class E) got their first taste of go. Overseas players were paired against Japanese opponents as far as possible.

Last year three Japanese middle-schoolers (Hashimoto Junpei, Nasu Haruki, and Nishimura Ryotaro) finished 1-2-3 in the unlimited class. This year all three tried their luck again, but each lost once in the first three rounds. At the end of those rounds there were five undefeated unlimiteds and four of them were Chinese. The fifth was Sasaki Shuma, an 11-year-old primary-school boy from Nakama, right next to Kitakyushu, but in the final round he bowed to Ding Yuexiang, a 13-year-old middle-school student from Shanghai. That made Ding unlimited champion. Niu Zebing, a classmate of Ding's, took second place by winning his final game against Luo Ruichen, a 12-year-old from Guangzhou. Cao Weilong, the fifth undefeated player, lost his final game to Nishimura to join the group of eleven who ended with three wins. Luo Ruichen had the best SOS in this group, so the first three unlimited places all went to players from China, and the top two places both went to players from Shanghai.

Usui Makoto (photo: Ito Toshiko)Usui Makoto (photo: Ito Toshiko)Since Shanghai has a population of over 20 million and a strong go organization, it was not a complete surprise to see youngsters from that city also triumph in three of the four handicap tournaments: Wu Zijie (age 12) won class A, Wen Zehai (age 12) won class B, and Wang Kaichen (age 10) won class C. In class D, however, the Japanese side finally came through: Eto Kotaro won all five of his games to finish first, while Usui Makoto, who is still in kindergarten, won four games and took third place.

None of the participants questioned by Ranka mentioned any ambition to play go professionally. 'I started too late' said Eto Kotaro. Niu Zebing hopes to run his own business, like his restaurateur father. Ding Yuexiang has no career plans yet, but named English as his favorite subject at school.

In addition to the class competition, selected kids had chances to play pair go with or play 13 x 13 instructional games against former Meijin Otake Hideo, who was born in Kitakyushu, former women's Honinbo Yashiro Kumiko, former winner of the TV-Osaka Lady's Cup Izawa Akino, and Takemiya Yoko, the son of former Honinbo Takemiya Masaki. The kids found their professional partners and opponents 'amazingly strong.' The pros also held a beginners' instructional session. One of the attendees was four years old.

Notwithstanding the youngster who burst into tears after losing to two opponents from Taipei, it was a cheerful crowd that departed from the Import Mart in the late afternoon, looking forward to a day of sightseeing on August 6. And Toto Ltd., a company that has consistently improved the world (they manufacture toilets), had just made it even better.

The game between Ding (white) and Sasaki can be viewed here.


2013 Amateur Meijin: Three for Hong

Hong Suk-euiHong Suk-euiThis year Japan's Amateur Meijin title match had a new twist: the challenger, Wu Poyi, was a native of Taiwan. He learned to play go there in kindergarten. Inspired by the feats of Taiwan-born Chang Hsu (Cho U), Wu dreamed of becoming a pro in Japan, but he remained in Taiwan until 2009, when Miaoli County, where he had entered junior high school, granted him financial assistance to study as an insei in Tokyo. Over the next four years he worked his way up from class F to the top of class A in the insei rankings, but was never able to take one of the top two places in the Tokyo round robin that annually qualifies two new pro shodans. In March 2013, being 17 years old, he had to retire as an insei, but he has not abandoned his dream. He now lives and studies at Hong Mal-geun-saem's dojo in Tokyo, and will attempt to win his way into the round robin as a non-insei, the age limit for doing which is 22.

Since Japanese insei do not compete for Japanese amateur titles, the Amateur Meijin was Wu's first major amateur tournament in Japan. To become challenger, he had to start by earning one of the two places reserved for Tokyo residents. His start was promising: he won the Tokyo Amateur Meijin preliminary in April. Then he had to win a six-round challenger knockout held July 14-15. His six straight victories in the knockout began with a resignation win over a 14-year old opponent from Nagasaki prefecture, and ended with a 3.5-point ko-powered win over an opponent his own age from Tomiyama prefecture. In between, he defeated the oldest player in the knockout, Nishimura Osamu, winner of the Asahi Amateur Best Ten tournament (the forerunner of the Amateur Meijin) in 1972.

And then Wu faced his toughest opponent, the defending Korean-born Amateur Meijin Hong Suk-eui (Japanese reading: Hon Soggi). While Wu had been working his way toward the challenger's spot, Hong had been competing with remarkable success in the Agon Kiriyama Cup, defeating seven pro opponents, culminating in a victory over a 9-dan that put him into the best-16 stage (where he finally lost). In 2009, while still living in Korea, Hong had accomplished a similar feat in the BC Card Cup. He had also won about half a dozen Korean amateur titles. 'If I lose to him, it will be only natural,' Wu said.

The best-of-three Amateur Meijin title match was held at the Sekitei inn in Yugawara. Since Hong now lives in Osaka and Wu in Tokyo, the match was an east-west confrontation, something that Japan revels in. Drawing white in the first game on July 27, Wu played aggressively in the opening and middle game, but Hong found a successful counterattack that forced Wu to resign. In the second game on July 28, Hong took an early lead but relaxed in the middle game and then had to fight hard to recover. In the end he out-read Wu and won again by resignation. Hong is the first player to win the Amateur Meijin title three times, and he hopes to make it four next year.


U.S. Go Congress Coming Up in Early August

The 2013 U.S. Go Congress, to be held in Tacoma, Washington August 3-11, will include 18 separate tournaments. In addition to the U.S. Open, there will be open tournaments on 13 x 13 and 9 x 9 boards, open tournaments for women and pairs, an open lightning tournament, a teachers' workshop, and an open song and poetry contest. No less than five youth tournaments are scheduled, plus a youth-adult pair tournament. At the high end of the competition, there will be the annual masters'tournament and a strong players' tournament, each restricted to 16 invited professional and amateur players, and the final match of the Pandanet-AGA City League. Pros from China, Japan, and Korea will be in attendance to teach and comment.

Tacoma is located on the Puget Sound and is within easy reach of Seattle. For further details of the Congress and the many local attractions, visit the congress website.

The registration deadline is July 31.