“I think it’s great that so many countries are getting together for an international competition!” were the words of Chai Hui Lim, the second President of the Brunei Darussalam Go Association, on her first visit to the World Amateur Go Championship.
“Go is hardly known at all in Brunei. It’s a real challenge to get people interested in Go but like many other countries we are striving hard to popularise the game,” she continued, with a glimmer in her eye. Miss Lim wants to be a schoolteacher in the future.
Korea and Japan, two of the favourites to top the tournament, both lost by half a point to their respective opponents from Chinese Taipei and China in this morning’s play. To heighten the drama, a broken clock disrupts the Japan-China face-off.
The clocks began to tick at 9.31am this morning, marking the start the crucial second day of the World Amateur Go Championship in Gyeongju, Korea. The pairings included two decisive match-ups whose results will play a large part in deciding the top places in this year’s tournament. Korea versus Chinese Taipei and China versus Japan. Neither game was a disappointment; we were treated to two half-point wins, both gathering large crowds of players, press and officials.
The first result in was a shock to the locals. The young Yitien Chan from Chinese Taipei pushed ahead of Korean star Taewoong Wei to place in great stead for the remainder of the tournament. Wei had been the clear favourite and this could be seen from his dominating posture, but his shoulders began to sink as he realised that victory had slipped between his fingers.
Japan’s Emura, hoping for victory after a disappointing 8th place in last year’s tournament, had his hopes crushed by China’s Ruoran Wang, who snatched a half-point win in this morning’s battle. Both players flailed their fans from side to side as they tussled over an intense endgame where Emura was constantly under time trouble.
But the drama did not stop there. The Japan-China game turned into Whack-A-Mole as Emura slammed his clock button into submission, eventually rendering it unusable. When finally the clock ceased to respond and Emura’s time ran to zero, a crowd gathered around the board awaiting the referees’ decision as to how to continue the game. It was decided to keep playing with a new clock, giving the Japanese player one final byoyomi period. After the game, chief referee Cho Hunhyun had some stern words with Emura but it is unclear whether it was the clock or the Japanese’s enthusiasm that was to blame.
I was happy with how things were going, but before I knew it I wound up half a point behind. I’m used to fast time limits but this clock business added to the stress of this important game.
This turn of events leaves China and Chinese Taipei as clear favourites for the overall winner. Other countries with three wins are the Ukraine, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
- John Richardson
After a lunch of fish and assorted kimchi, the players returned to the underground playing area, where they would continue to the second round of this year’s World Amateur Go Championship.
Within fifteen minutes Hungary’s Pal Balogh’s game had yet again finished in a flurry, but this time with victory over Khatanbaatar Tsend-Ayush, a hotel manager from Mongolia. Also quick to finish was the US-India game, both players playing very rapidly until the end. Soon after, South African John William Leuner was defeated by Danish postman Arne Steen Ohlenbuch when his group became entangled in a web of black stones.
This was not the only spectacular game this afternoon. A large crowd gathered around the Indonesia-Luxembourg match-up as semeais erupted and dead stones littered the board. The Malaysian representative Suzanne D’Bel launched a fierce attack on Brazilian representative Csaba Deak and, although he managed to avert this assault, another group came under fire, leading in decisive victory for D’Bel.
But the bloodshed didn’t stop there. An audible groan was let out by Francis Roads of the UK as he tried to find a way to save his group from Australian Sangdae Hahn’s onslaught. Not finding a solution, the stone in Roads’ hand was slammed back into the pot, followed shortly by resignation. The candidates from Costa Rica and Portugal joined the list of casualties as large groups were swallowed up by their Belarusian and Lithuanian counterparts.
No suprises again at the top. Korea, China, Japan and Chinese Taipei all won their games. A highlight was Korea-Canada, with Canada’s Yongfei Ge, back again from last year, putting up strong resistance in a relatively peaceful game. His 45-point lower side was not quite enough to overcome Taewoong Wei. Japan vs Singapore took the longest to finish but in the end Kiko Emura’s lead in territory sealed another Japanese victory.
- John Richardson
White: Merlijn Kuin (Netherlands) 6D
Black: Naisan Chan (Hong Kong) 6D
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Transcribed by Chris Garlock. Variations and comments by Kuin & Chan.
This morning at 9.30am representatives from fifty-four countries and territories placed their bets on odd or even and kicked off the 35th World Amateur Go Championship.
Unlike last year, where the first round pairings were announced at the Opening Ceremony, this year no preparation was possible for the competitors, who discovered their opponents only minutes before the clocks were started. The pairings for the first round avoid clashes between the top four seeds but otherwise are drawn at random, with players matched within two subclasses to avoid large rating differences.
The first game to finish was Korea-Denmark, with the local favourite Taewoong Wei off to an impressive start. There were no surprises for the other top seeds as China, Japan and Chinese Taipei all scored convincing victories.
In particular note was the Japan-Hungary match, the game reaching an essentially lost position with only three minutes used on Pal Balogh’s clock. After a twenty minute deliberation, the Hungarian left the playing room but returned minutes later to chose the only possible continuation and struggle through a futile battle to the bitter end.
The next game to finish saw Hong Kong’s Naisan Chan enclosing the Dutch envoy’s central-right stones. No amount of tsumego wizardry could save Merlijn Kuin’s group from inevitable demise. As the sound of byoyomi counting began to echo across the room, a flurry of games reached their conclusion, with more to follow in dribs and drabs until around midday.
Other interesting games included Costa Rica versus Belgium, this year seeing a new player, the Costa Rican system engineer Luis Enrique Boza Araya, attempt a tengen-based strategy. He was unable to use the stone and suffered a crushing defeat to the Belgian accountant Dominique Versyck. Suzanne D’Bel, known by the Japanese press as ‘Tengen Girl’, was White in her game against Andreas Götzfried of Luxembourg, so we are yet to see if she too will employ this unusual opening strategy.
The second round begins at 1.30pm Korean time.
- John Richardson
Why top players love go is as varied as the players themselves, but they all pretty much agree that in order to get stronger, “you must love the game.” So said Japan’s Emura Kiko at a brief press conference on the opening day of this year’s World Amateur Go Championship, echoed by Malaysia’s Suzanne D’Bel Low, Korea’s Taewoong Wei, China’s Ruoran Wang, Vietnam’s Nhat Minh Vo and the Czech Republic’s Lukas Podpera, who were selected to answer questions at the press conference.
“Go enables me to meet a lot of new friends, who become part of my family,” said Low. “Each game reveals my opponent’s style and personality,” added Podpera. At just 13, Vo is the youngest player at the WAGC, but already the game has enabled him to “meet a lot of interesting new people and travel around the world to share the go spirit,” he said.
And while all the selected players said that lots of play and study is necessary to improve, Podpera was the most specific, noting that “In Europe we are failing at life and death (tsume-go) so that’s what we must study to improve.” Wei was even more succinct, saying that the three things necessary to get better at go are “Will, confidence and concentration.”
- Chris Garlock
The International Go Federation Annual General Meeting was held this afternoon at the site of this year’s World Amateur Go Championship, the Hyundai Hotel in Gyeongju, Korea. The lush green grounds of the hotel overlook the beautiful Bomun Lake, a scenic backdrop for the main highlight of the amateur Go calendar.
To begin, some big news: Bangkok has been selected as the location for next year’s World Amateur Go Championship. Thailand’s selection marks the first time this important event will be held outside the Go stronghold of Japan, China and Korea. A promising move towards the internationalisation of the game.
The meeting continued with a roundup of the year’s Go events and report of the IGF finances, all the healthier from the recent slump of the Japanese yen. The main events of last year were the World Amateur Go Championship in Sendai, Japan; the Amateur Pair Go Championship in Tokyo, Japan; and the SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing, China.
The SAWMG will be held again this year in Beijing (December 11th-17th), and Ranka will provide full coverage of the event. The format will be similar to previous years, combining Go, Chess, Bridge, Draughts and Xiangqi events. Poker applied again this year to join, but was denied for the second time. This year’s WAGC will see the continuation of anti-doping tests in order to keep the game of Go in line with sporting regulations, a step on the path towards Olympic recognition, a common goal for the mind games at the SAWMG.
Another exciting piece of news is the birth of the Student Pair Go Championship, which is to take place for the first time this October in Tokyo. This new event will be held together with the standard Pair Go Championship, which itself will be particularly special marking the 25th anniversary of Pair Go. The student championship is planned to be run as a separate event from next year.
We conclude with an announcement of changes to the IGF Board of Executives. This year will see a rotation of roles from Japan to Korea. The new IGF President will be Seokhyun Hong, previously the Korean Ambassador to the US, taking the reins from Koichiro Matsuura. “I will try my best but my work alone is not enough. We need everyone’s input and initiative to bring our plans to a successful creation.” Jae-ho Yang, the Secretary General of the Korean Baduk Association, takes up the role of Office Director, resuming the hard work of Hiroshi Yamashiro. Yuki Shigeno, the long serving Secretary General, gave a tearful farewell, passing the post on to Hajin Lee, the main organiser of this year’s WAGC. Norio Wada, the chairman of the Nihon Kiin, will also join the Board of Directors.
- John Richardson