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.
After losing to the tournament winner-to-be Park Jaegeun in the second round, Taiwan's Lin Shinwei was paired against unbeaten opponents from the lower McMahon group (from Luxembourg and Switzerland) in rounds three and four. Ranka talked with him shortly afterward.
Ranka: Please tell us about your game against the Korean player in round two.
Lin: I had a poor opening and fell behind by quite a bit. In the middle game I had a few chances to catch up and in fact I did catch up, but then I lost ground again just before the endgame started. I had no chances after that.
Ranka: And what about your other three games so far?
Lin: I had better luck in them. My opponents were pretty strong, but they all made major mistakes in the opening--played below their ranks--so it wasn't too hard to win.
Ranka: You live in Kaohsiung in Taiwan, you went to Sendai in Japan for the World Amateur Championship last month, and here you are in Gumi for the Korea Prime Minister Cup. How would you compare these three cities?
Lin: Sendai was an exciting city. Here in Gumi the setting is more bucolic. But inside the playing room, the atmosphere is the same. Kaohsiung is a big city, like Sendai, and the food is good.
Ranka: We understand that you tied for first place in Taiwan's insei league this year and are set to become one of Taiwan's next professional players. When will that be?
Lin: Next year, on January 1st.
Ranka: Most of the professional players in Taiwan seem to be based in Taipei. Can you tell us a little more about the professional organization in Kaohsiung?
Lin: Counting both male and female, there are six pros from Kaohsiung. The top ranked is Liao Wen (5 dan). You could say that we are trying to catch up with Taipei.
Ranka: How do you study the game?
Lin: I study professional games, play online on Tygem, review my own games and other people's games, and participate in professional study groups where we analyze professional matches.
Ranka: How do you find time to do all this and keep up with your school studies as well?
Lin: I concentrate and study hard at school during school hours, but after school, I devote most of my time to go. Well, go and baseball.
Ranka: How are you hoping to do in the next two rounds and in the final standings?
Lin: I'm hoping to win my next two games and finish 5-1. I'm less concerned with standings, because you have no control over your SOS points. I would like to play the Chinese player--he would be a tough opponent.
Ranka: Thank you.
Postscript: Lin won his next game against Juri Kuronen (Finland), but then lost to Ilya Shikshin (Russia) in the last round.
Ranka: To start with, please tell us how you got here.
Giedrius: By winning first place in the Lithuanian Go Championship in 2012, but it began with three other tournaments in three cities: Vilnius, Moletai, and Kaunas. Players hoping to take part in the championship must first collect points in those tournaments. Then the top eight proceed to the championship, which is a round robin, and from the round robin they receive points that are used to select the players for the World Amateur Go Championship and the Korea Prime Minister Cup. These points accumulate over a period of up to maybe five years. When you go to the WAGC or KPMC your points are reset to zero.
Ranka: And how often have you been reset so far?
Giedrius: Twice. I played in the Korea Prime Minister Cup six years ago and in the World Amateur Go Championship three years ago in China. In both I finished around 30-somethingth.
Ranka: Please tell us more about go in Lithuania.
Giedrius: There's a small club in Kaunas, where I live. Usually about six players come each week. Vilnius is bigger; they have about twenty every week. In Moletai there is a go teacher who teaches mathematics in a school and runs a go club for children after classes. Perhaps he gets about twenty students per year. Moletai is a small town, so some of the players come to Vilnius or Kaunas to study and play at the clubs there.
Ranka: Since you've been to China and Korea, how would you compare them with Lithuania?
Giedrius: I like Korea very much. They have very nice people. In both Korea Prime Minister Cups that I have attended the organization has been excellent. It's always good to come to Korea--like a holiday. China also had a fine tournament, but the smog was a problem. It wasn't healthy to walk around outside in Hangzhou. As for Lithuania, the air is good, and that's where my friends and family are, but it's really cold. Korea in October is like Lithuania in August. When I get home it will be about five degrees. I like nice weather, which we don't have in Lithuania. Instead, we have lots of rain.
Ranka: How would you compare the food in these three countries?
Giedrius: I didn't like the food in China: it was too aristocratic. I guess they treated the tournament competitors to some very good meals, but they were too good for me. The one meal that I liked in China was a cheap meal, a poor man's meal, that I had at a Chinese temple in Hangzhou. I went in and tried it and it was very good. Korean food is very good too. When I left Korea the last time I felt healthier, better than at home. Perhaps it's the low salt content and low fat content of Korean food. In Lithuania fatty food is considered good.
Ranka: Thank you.
Ranka: How does it feel to be here at the Korea Prime Minister Cup?
Jonathan: Quite good, actually. It's more of an experience than a sporting competition or an athletic event. I've met some good people and some familiar faces that I haven't seen for a long time. It's a world that I was really connected to a few years ago--I used to live in Korea--so it's nice to see how things have changed and to see that everyone is doing fine and the game is still going on.
Ranka: Please tell us more about your go-playing career.
Jonathan: I started playing when I was fourteen. I liked the game and became quite good. When I was seventeen I went to Japan with the intention to study go, and became an insei under Kobayashi Chizu sensei. After half a year as an insei I was not quite satisfied with my improvement, so I moved to Korea in order to continue studying there. I studied go in Korea for one and a half years, but then, unfortunately, I had an accident when I went to the European Go Congress in Bordeaux, France. My passport was stolen in the airport, along with basically all my belongings--my computer, my phones, my money, everything. I could not keep flying and return to Korea. The only next destination I could choose was to go back home. Once I went home I was still not allowed to return to Korea because of army rules. I was supposed to go into the army at a certain age but they didn't allow me to, so I had to stay put for a while. That was basically why I stopped studying go.
Ranka: Please tell us about your career as a diving instructor.
Jonathan: Diving has always been a hobby of mine. For anyone who hasn't tried it, it's an indescribable feeling. I had to choose something for a temporary profession, something other than waitering, so I sacrificed my hobby and turned it into a profession. That is not something I'm sorry about; I still enjoy diving a lot. About five months ago I started working in a unique diving reef, called Dolphin Reef, in Eilat, the southernmost city in Israel. The area is famous for its good diving conditions. It's an open sea area. The reef is closed with a net so that the dolphins stay inside, but the water is open sea water. Now I get to dive with dolphins every day and introduce people to the wonders of diving and the underwater world, and I get to play with some intelligent creatures too, so it's a pretty good job.
Ranka: Is there anything you'd like to add?
Jonathan: Yes. I owe a very deep debt of gratitude to Kim Seung-jin. He is the owner and master of Blackie's International Baduk Academy. As far as I'm concerned, and from my previous experience, his school and his system of studying are the most efficient way to improve--while having a lot of fun. So if anyone is thinking of improving his go skills in Asia, he should talk to me, because I would like to put in a good word for BIBA.
Ranka: Thank you.
Following his victories in rounds one and two of the Korea Prime Minister Cup, Norway's Jostein Flood took time out to give Ranka the following account of his recent game-playing activities.
This is my first visit to Korea. I came almost a week ago. I was selected as one of the BIBA group of players who were invited by Blackie--that's 9-dan pro Kim Seung-jun--to visit his go club and then watch the round of sixteen in the Samsung Cup. I saw a lot of very strong professional players from China and Korea, and a lot of difficult games.
I haven't been playing much go recently or studying the game very much. I've been spending too much time playing and studying backgammon. I'm one of the stronger players in Norway, and I've played in a lot of tournaments in Norway and some abroad, including the Nordic Open in Copenhagen and the World Championship in Monte Carlo. A friend of mine was the developer of Jellyfish, the first commercial backgammon computer program. Go is definitely the more interesting and fascinating game, but backgammon is a more social game, and it has a money element. Money is not the motivation for playing go--the game itself is so interesting that it isn't necessary to play for money. For backgammon there has to be some money component; otherwise the game is not interesting enough. Sometimes I play a little poker too.
Basically I don't think what place I end up in here is so important and how many games I win is not too important either. The important thing is to play interesting games, to enjoy the games, to meet many new people, and to have a good time. Although of course I would like to win as many games as possible.
Note: BIBA stands for Blackie's International Baduk Academy, and Jostein won one more game afterward to end with the fourth-highest finish among the players who started out in the lower McMahon group.
Wei Qian lost to opponents from Romania and Czechia in the first and last rounds of the Korea Prime Minister Cup, but in between he ran off four straight wins to score the second highest finish in the lower McMahon group. He was in the middle of his winning streak when he consented to an interview with Ranka. Here's his story:
I was born in Shanghai, and I learned to play go because my mother thought it would be good for my mind. She arranged to have me coached. This was during the cultural revolution, when we weren't able to study normal school subjects, and I found go quite interesting. It was the one interesting thing I could do at the time.
After the cultural revolution ended, I stopped playing go and studied hard to get a university education: first a bachelor's degree in China and then a masters degree in electrical engineering in Australia. In Australia I played in local go clubs, and then when Pandanet started up I started playing on the net. Back in those days you had to buy the software, not like today when everything is free. But I bought it because go had become part of my life, something that was always with me.
I think go has helped me in my life. I work for a company that makes commercial refrigerating systems. I have to solve many problems in my work, and the go approach has helped me out. It teaches you to look for another way of doing something.
I played once for Australia in the World Amateur Go Championship, and also in the first Korea Prime Minister Cup. I've played in some Australian tournaments too, but mainly I teach kids. I live in Sydney. I have a small group of five or six kids who come to my home every Sunday, including my son, who is now ten. They're still kyu-level players. The strongest is about three or four kyu.
Go is looking up in Austrialia. Compared with ten years ago, there are more tournaments, and a lot more young people are starting to play. I'm really too old to come here--now I just play for fun--but I came this time so that I could also visit my family in China. I'd like to encourage other people to come in the future.
Ranka spoke with Vedran Vasiljevic after the second round.
Ranka: Please tell us about your go career.
Vedran: I've been playing for about ten years. A high-school friend taught me, in Rijeka. In the beginning I made very quick progress, but then I didn't have enough time to play constantly or enough money to go to tournaments. Rijeka is the world's third biggest carnival town, and one of the activities at the Rijeka carnival is playing go, so I used to go there. I've also been to two European Go Congresses: in Villach in Austria, and Groningen in the Netherlands.
Ranka: What other tournaments have you played in?
Vedran: I've played in various smaller tournaments: Trieste in Italy, Bled in Slovenia, Belgrade in Serbia, Zelenkovac in Bosnia. Compared with them, there are a lot of stronger players here at the Korean Prime Minister Cup, and the organization is better. I needed some time to get used to Korean food, but now I like it. I also like Korean culture. Korean people are always very open and very ready to help strangers. They're always smiling. And in Korea, compared with Croatia, everything is so big!
Ranka: What is your goal for this tournament?
Vedran: I would like to get at least two wins.
Ranka: Thank you.
Note: Vedran got his two wins in the next two rounds against opponents from Chile and Azerbaijan, and then added a third win in the last round against the player from Morocco. Well done!
Ranka talked with translator and interpreter Juan Samper after his victory over Natasa Malinic of Bosnia and Herzegoviina, one of three games he won in the KPMC. Here's what he said.
I learned to play seven years ago, in Bogota, after watching the movie Pi. The main character played go with his mentor, and they talked a lot about how the ancient Japanese thought of the go board as a microcosm of the universe. In fact go was one of the main themes in the movie. The characters were very smart, and I thought that if smart people play go it must be a difficult game, so I'll learn it and show everyone that I'm smart too. That's not exactly how it turned out, but I made shodan in about three years. and recently made 3 dan playing online.
The main go club in Bogota is the Salto del Mico, the 'Monkey Jump.' Its location is the Casa de la Historia--House of History. This is an establishment run by a well known radio personality who is also a historian and talks a lot about Colombian history. Her idea was that it should be a place for promoting many different cultural projects, and Salto de Mico became one of them. We meet every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Typically five to twenty players show up. We also hold national national tournaments there and sell go boards and stones that are made in Colombia. Because of the high cost of importing boards and stones from the Far East, two of our members invested some money, talked to some local manufacturers, and gave them the specifications for a go board, and now they manufacture the boards and make inexpensive plastic stones. I think the two investors have already recovered their investment.
Now there is also a go club at the National University in Bogota, which is the biggest university in Colombia. In the last few months that club has really taken off, attracting a lot of young people. There's also a club in Cali that is teaching young people, and there's another club in Medellin. All told I'd say Colombia has about 100 go players, of whom about 50 are active, at least from time to time. The big news is that a 12-yead old kid has just won the Colombian National Championship. His name is Juan Ramirez; he's our secret weapon for the future.
You can find out more about Colombian go here.
Ranka spoke with Lucretiu Calota just after his 5th-round game with the Korean player.
Ranka: Could you describe the game for us?
Lucretiu: I lost by resignation. I had some ideas, but he kept denying me. I found the game so boring--he just kept taking territory. I tried playing more open, but in the end his position was more solid. I couldn't attack, and then I didn't see that he could cut off some stones of mine. They died, and it was over.
Ranka: How about your other games?
Lucretiu: I'm more satisfied with them. I lost to Japan, but only by ten points. I won against Australia, Chile, and Denmark. The game with Australia in the first round was a big fight that became random after we both got into overtime.
Ranka: Please tell us something about go in Romania.
Lucretiu: There was a special situation in Romania back when it still had a communist government. There were no computer games, no dancing, and young people didn't have other things to do, so they went to culture clubs. They had chess clubs, contract bridge clubs, science fiction clubs, and when go came along, they started playing go. Most of the go players were in Bucharest. A lot of them were students at the same university. They would get together at the same campus, drink beer and vodka, and play go. That's how you get stronger. And we also had Radu Baciu. He was the first strong Romanian player--he got to 3 dan back in the 1970s. He was always ready to play go with anyone who wanted to. In the mid 1980s, when I was living in Braşov, I would come to his house in Bucharest and play go with him every day. I don't know what else he did. Now we are all forty years old. Well, Lucian Corlan and Cornel Burzo, the former children in the group, are thirty, but we all have other things to do. And Romanian young people are like young people in other countries, they play computer games. We had one promising young player until recently, but now he's a serious university student and doesn't have much time for go.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck in the next round.
Note: Lucretiu drew Jerome Salignon, the French player, in the next round and won to finish 8th.
Ranka spoke with Nurman Aylanç on the morning of the first day at the Korea Prime Minister Cup. He gave Ranka this account of his go career.
I learned to play go in 2003, the year they reopened the borders between North and South Cyprus. I live in the northern part, the Turkish part, where I teach music. There was a big joint concert to celebrate the reopening, through which I made contact with Dimitris Regginos, a music teacher from the southern part of Cyprus, the Greek part. We were both guitarists. He asked me if I knew about go. I was a chess player, but I had not heard of go, so he immediately taught me how to play. I liked the freedom of the game. It's different from chess, where all the pieces have to move in set ways. I studied hard in my first year and got to about 7 kyu, maybe 5 kyu. In 2004 I opened a go club. At first several people came to learn, but now we're down to just five. Two or them are Korean, and two are from Turkey, so I'm the only native-born Cypriot. There are more go players in the southern part of the island, about 15 to 20.
I've played in a couple of Korea Prime Minister Cups before. Every time I come I'm impressed by the improvements in the program and organization. They really make an effort, and it's been a good tournament every year. The only problem is the short schedule, playing six games in two days and then departing the next day, but I think most players understand that this is for economic reasons. My goals this year are to win half of my games and to become stronger.
In brief, the 8th Korea Prime Minister Cup International Amateur Baduk Championship went the same way as the 35th World Amateur Championship in Sendai last month and the 7th KPMC last year. The Chinese and Korean players were unscathed in the first five rounds and the Korean player won the decisive game between them in the sixth round, which is the final KPMC round. The players were different, however, and there was plenty of drama in the rounds preceding the sixth.
For most of the 61 contestants, this year's KPMC began with a flight into Incheon on October 10, an overnight stay at a hotel near the airport, and a bus ride the next day to Gumi, a formerly rural town that has grown into a major manufacturing city. The buses took them to an orientation meeting at GumiCo, a convention center on the outskirts of the city, then to the Gumi Century Hotel. After checking in, they collected in the Century's banquet hall, where they were greeted in Korean by the mayor of Gumi, the president of the Korean Amateur Baduk Association, the chairman of the Korean Olympic Committee, and members of Korea's National Assembly and Gumi's City Council. They were also greeted by Suh Daewon, a former Korean amabassador to the United Nations and to several European countries, who is now president of the Asian Go Federation. Speaking in both Korean and English, Mr Suh pointed out that the Asian contestants at the KPMC were outnumbered by the Europeans, and explained that the AGF's mission was to spread baduk all over the Asian continent. Martin Stiassny, president of the European Go Federation, and Andrew Okun, president of the American Go Association, offered greetings and thanks in return, in English. All this was preceded by a magic show and followed by a lavish buffet feast.
Next morning the players were bused back to GumiCo, where chief referee Yoo Changhyuk gave the signal to start round one at 10:00. In 1993 Mr Yoo won the Fujitsu Cup, starting a quarter century of international dominance of the game by Korean pros. While still competing professionally, he now also operates one of Korea's largest baduk schools. His instructions were interpreted by Lee Hajin, a younger Korean pro, who served as MC throughout the tournament. Her cheerfulness, charm, organizing abilities, and excellent English did much to make the tournament a success.
The KPMC is run under a simplified McMahon system, with the field divided into two halves. In the first round players are paired against random opponents from the same half. This year, the random draw matched Russia's three-time European champion Ilya Shikshin, who finished 4th at Sendai, against Hong Kong's Chan Chihin, who took 4th place in the 2012 WAGC at Guangzhou. The teenager from Hong Kong got his Russian opponent into trouble in the early middle game and won convincingly. On another board, Taiwanese insei Lin Shinwei, who finished 10th at Sendai, bested the Ukraine's Dmytro Bogatskyy. The players from China, Japan, and Korea defeated opponents from Vietnam, Denmark, and Indonesia. After their games, winners and losers alike headed downstairs to the GumiCo lunchroom to fortify themselves for the afternoon rounds.
The second round was paired at random across the entire field, without regard to McMahon groupings or the results of the first round. This allowed the showdown between the last two undefeated players in the top MacMahon group to occur in the final round instead of round five. It also produced a clash between two insei: Taiwan's Lin and Korea's Park Jaegeun. Park proved the stronger of the two. In all, twenty contestants finished the second round undefeated, including Park and the contestants from China, Hong Kong, and Japan, who defeated opponents from Lithuania, Malaysia, and South Africa. In the tragedy of the round, the UK's Jonathan Diamond outplayed Norway's Jostein Flood but committed an oversight in the final filling of the neutral points. Both players were distraught. 'I won but I feel as if I had lost,' said Jostein. 'Of course my opponent probably feels even worse.'
For the third round the pairing scheme reverted to the McMahon system, and a major upset occurred. Swiss 2-dan Sebastien Ott beat Austrian 5-dan Schayan Hamrah, who tied for 6th place at the KPMC last year. Ott thus ended the first day undefeated, as did seven other contestants: China's Fu Li, who beat Thailand's Nuttakrit Taechaamnuayvit ('Krit' for short); Czechia's Ondrej Silt, who beat Spain's Pau Carles; Finland's Juri Kuronen, who beat the Netherlands' Alexander Eerbeek; Hong Kong's Chan, who beat New Zealand's Kaikun Xie; Japan's Emura Kikou, who beat Romania's Lucretiu Calota; Korea's Park Jaegeun, who beat Canada's Bill Lin; and the USA's Hugh Zhang, who beat France's Jerome Salignon. Ott and Zhang had been seeded into the lower half of the field, so they now found themselves in the second-highest McMahon group, the other six undefeated players forming the top group.
In the fourth round the next morning, interest focused on the game between the Chinese and Japanese players. Japan's Emura was seeking revenge for a loss to China's top amateur player in Sendai, but China's Fu, world amateur champion in 2002 and currently China's 50th-ranked amateur, took advantage of a mistake to gain an early lead, which he then kept to win by resignation. Emura was visibly shaken by this loss. In the other two top group games Juri Kuronen and Ondrej Silt fell to Chan Chihin and Park Jaegeun. In the next McMahon group Sebastian Ott lost quickly to Taiwan's Lin Shinwei, but in a two-and-a-half hour struggle that delayed the start of the next round by 45 minutes, the USA's Hugh Zhang recovered from a massive capture to defeat Israel's Jonathan Lidor.
In the fifth round Korea's Park was drawn down against Romania's Lucretiu Calota, whom he disposed of by killing a group of stones. The smiling Romanian then strolled out to have his picture taken in royal Korean robes in the lobby in front of the playing room. Meanwhile, China's Fu Li played Hong Kong's Chan Chihin in a David-and-Goliath game to see which of them would meet Park in the final round. Chan, cast in the role of David, managed to draw some signs of agitation from Fu, but counter to the Biblical outcome, the Chinese veteran prevailed in the end. The USA's Hugh Zhang, drawn down against Poland's Koichiro Habu, won to stay undefeated and earn a pairing against Chan in the final round.
After lunch, the deciding game between Fu and Park was played on a board set up on the stage at the front of the playing room. The action was relayed down to the first floor for a public commentary, where some two dozen spectators took time out from other tournaments being held in the same building to witness Park's triumph. In his post-game interview, Park said he had found the final game unexpectedly easy to win--the players from Taiwan (Lin Shinwei), Canada (Bill Lin), and Czechia (Ondrej Silt) had given him stiffer competition.
Despite his chastening loss to Park, Fu finished a strong 2nd, three SOS points ahead of Bill Lin and Chan Chihin, who tied for 3rd and 4th places. Since Chan won his final game against the USA's Zhang, Park emerged as the tournament's sole undefeated player. In two other last-round games Japan's Emura downed Thailand's Krit and Russia's Ilya Shikshin beat Lin Shinwei, proving again that he is a dangerous opponent for some of the best Far Eastern amateurs. The result of these games was that Emura finished 5th, Ilya Shikshin 6th, Lin Shinwei 7th, and Krit 9th, while Romania's Lucretiu Calota took 8th place.
At the awards ceremony following the final round, Park received a bound testimonial, a large cup, and much applause. Runner-up Fu received a bound testimonial, a smaller cup, and equal applause. The contestants who finished 3rd to 9th received bound testimonials and further applause, as did the rest of the top sixteen (the Ukraine's Dmytro Bogatskyy, Czechia's Ondrej Silt, Germany's Michael Palant, Austria's Schayan Hamrah, Vietnam's Khanhbinh Do, Finland's Juri Kuronen, and the USA's Hugh Zhang).
For the players who did not place in the top sixteen, there were zonal awards. The winners in the Asian zone were (1) Edwin Halim (Indonesia), (2) Yifei Yue (Singapore), (3) Sansar Tsolmon (Mongolia), and (4) Zhefan Mah (Brunei). The European/African winners were (1) Alexander Eerbeek (Netherlands), (2) Pau Carles (Spain), (3) Jonathan Lidor (Israel), and (4) Jannik Rasmussen (Denmark). The American/Oceanian winners were (1) Kaikun Xie (New Zealand), (2) Wen Qian (Australia), (3) Augustin Antonissen (Chile), and (4) Santiago Tabares (Argentina). In all, nearly half the participants went home with awards and there were gifts for all, including framed photos and hand-drawn artwork.
As in any McMahon tournament or Swiss system, the final standings were to some extent determined by the luck of the draw. If the players who finished 11th and 15th had drawn average opponents in the randomly paired second round and earned three or four SOS points apiece instead of just one, they might have ended as high as 9th and 10th--unless Krit had also earned four SOS points instead of just two in the second round, in which case he would have retained 9th place. But such speculations lead nowhere and aside from the Ott-Hamrah upset, the top sixteen standings told a consistent story. There was also a picture-perfect finish in the middle of the field: in the final round the players from Turkey, Serbia, the UK, and Sweden captured 28th to 31st places by beating opponents from Switzerland, Norway, Poland, and Malaysia, who finished right behind them in 35th to 32nd places. The entire tournament staff deserve credit for a job well done.
And for the city of Gumi, the sound of stone hitting board now gave way to the strains of Beethoven and Saint-Saëns, marking the beginning of a five-day international music festival.
Complete results can be found here.
- James Davies (photos: Toshiko Ito)