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Round 1: an Epic Encounter and a Historic Victory

IGF Ranka - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 04:43

Yuki Satoshi

The first round of go competition at the 4th SportAccord World Mind Games started at 12:30 p.m. on December 11 under the direction of chief referee Hua Yigang. It was to feature an epic encounter between the Korean and Japanese men’s teams, and a historic victory for a Russian woman.

The Japan-Korea men’s match was close on all three boards. After shutting out the Japanese team last year, the Koreans had not expected to have any trouble with the older team that Japan fielded this year, but Japan’s Yuki Satoshi (age 42) set them straight by defeating Park Younghun in a prolonged struggle on board one. Park Younghun was a last-minute replacement for last year’s standout Park Jeonghwan. Compared with Yuki he is both younger and has the better overall record in international competition, but as referee Michael Redmond said, when Yuki is in good form he can beat anyone. Park resigned during a ko fight late in the endgame. ‘I don’t know how far ahead I was,’ Yuki remarked nonchalantly afterward, ‘but I could tell from the way he was playing that he was on the verge of giving up.’

While Yuki was winning on board one, it appeared that Japan would also win the battle between two young players that was taking place on board two. Japan’s Ida Atsushi (age 20) is a fighter who is good at killing stones, and that is what he did to a white group at the bottom of the board in this game. Facing what looked like certain defeat, Korea’s Na Hyun (age 19) temporarily abandoned his stricken group, and this turned out to be the right decision. Later in the middle game Ida overplayed his advantage by starting an unnecessary ko fight, in the course of which Na was able to revive his dead group. Pressing on through a further exchange of groups, Na evened the score in the match at 1-1.

Kang Dongyoon (left) and Seto Taiki

All now depended on the outcome of the game between Seto Taiki (Japan) and Kang Dongyoon (Korea) on board three. Kang, winner of the individual gold medal at the 2008 World Mind Sports Games, the Fujitsu Cup in 2009, and a SportAccord silver medal in 2012, brought the better credentials to the game, but Seto kept it close from beginning to end. The people following the action on the monitor screens in the adjoining room were held in suspense down to practically the last move, but after a grueling five and a half hours, at about six o’clock, the referee counted Kang the winner by 2-1/4 stones (equivalent to 4-1/2 points by Japanese counting).

Ilya Shikshin

Meanwhile, the Chinese team of Shi Yue, Mi Yuting, and Tuo Jiaxi was dealing unmercifully with the European team of Fan Hui, Aleksandr Dinershteyn, and Ilya Shikshin. European stones died en masse on all three boards. The team from Chinese Taipei also blanked the North American team 3-0, although the game between Chen Shih-Iuan and Jiang Mingjiu on board one was quite close. None of the losing players appeared upset by their losses, however, and one Russian player looked positively joyful about his defeat. That was Ilya Shikshin, who had held the lead for awhile against Tuo Jiaxi, as the latter admitted after the game. This was a gratifying contrast the complete thrashing Ilya had suffered at the hands of the same opponent in 2012.

Natalia Kovaleva

Even happier was Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva, who defeated Chinese Taipei’s Cathy Chang in the women’s individual competition. The game was unusual for its lack of fighting. Natalia won this exercise in harmony by the same margin by which Kang had beaten Seto. This was not the first time she had defeated a professional opponent – she had also done that in Beijing in 2008 – but it was the first time any European woman had beaten a player from the Far East at the SportAccord World Mind Games. Her reward will be a game against a stronger Far Eastern opponent in round two: Choi Jeong, the bronze medalist in 2012 and more recently the victor in the Bingsheng Cup.

- James Davies

 

 

Categories: World news

Opening Ceremony and Draw

IGF Ranka - Thu, 11/12/2014 - 07:51

Vlad Marinescu, Director General of SportAccord, speaking at the 2014 WMG Opening Ceremony

The fourth SportAccord World Mind Games was officially opened at an evening ceremony held on December 10 in the banquet hall of the  V-Continent Beijing Parkview Wuzhou hotel near the Beijing International Conference Center, which will be the competition venue. The ceremony itself was comparatively simple. Some of the tournament officials were introduced, representative players from each of the five disciplines were marched onto the stage, and everyone stood for the playing of the Chinese national anthem and the SportAccord anthem. Vlad Marinescu, Director General of SportAccord, then gave a short speech, ending succinctly with the words ‘May the best mind win.’ Mr Li Yingchuan, Director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports, welcomed the contestants to Beijing, thanked the sponsors and organizers, and wished everyone a good time and a successful Games. This was followed by an excellent buffet dinner, giving the contestants a good chance to socialize with the opponents they will face during the week ahead.

For a group of go players and officials, dinner was followed by a technical meeting presided over by chief referee Hua Yigang, with assistance from technical delegate Shigeno Yuki and interpretation by Zhang Wei. The meeting began with greetings from Mr Hua and Ms Shigeno, proceeded through a summary of the rules, and then moved on to the main order of business: the drawing of the team, pair, and player numbers, which were incorporated into a prearranged schedule in each event.

EGF President Martin Stiassny (right) drawing for the European team

In the drawing for the round robin men’s team event, Korea, China, and Chinese Taipei, which finished 1-2-3 last year, drew numbers 1, 2, and 3, while Japan drew 6, Europe drew 5, and North America drew 4. This means that in the first round on December 11 Korea will play Japan, China will play Europe, and Chinese Taipei will play North America. In three other matches of note, China and Korea will lock horns in the second round on December 12, Europe will play North America in the third round on December 13, and Japan will tackle Chinese Taipei in the fifth round on December 15.

The draw for the women’s double knockout individual event began with the drawing of numbers for the four players who had been given byes in the first round: Rui Naiwei (China), Choi Jeong (Korea), Fujisawa Rina (Japan), and Joanne Missingham (Chinese Taipei). First Ms Rui and Ms Choi drew for numbers 1 and 12, Ms Rui drawing number 1. This draw also determined the numbers of their teammates Yu Zhiying (9) and Kim Chaeyoung (4). A similar procedure determined the numbers of the players from Chinese Taipei and Japan, after which the players from Europe and North America drew for the remaining numbers. As a result of this drawing protocol, no two players from the same country, territory, or region will meet in the first two rounds. In the first round on December 11, Russia’s Svetlana Shikshina (2) will play Japan’s Okuda Aya (3), Korea’s Kim Chaeyoung will play Russia’s Dina Burdakova (5), Canada’s Irene Sha (8) will play China’s Yu Zhiying, and Chinese Taipei’s Cathy Chang (10) will play Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva (10).

The pair drawing protocol was like the women’s protocol without byes. The four pairs from the Far East drew for numbers 1, 4, 5, and 8; then the pairs from Europe and North America drew for the remaining numbers, so that the pairs from Europe and North America drew Far Eastern opponents in the first round. Since the pair competition will include play-offs for third to sixth places, all pairs will play at least two games.

- James Davies

Categories: World news

Players Converge on Beijing for the 4th SportAccord WorldMind Games

IGF Ranka - Thu, 11/12/2014 - 04:06

Thirty go players representing the best of China, Chinese Taipei, Europe, North America, Japan, and Korea are preparing to compete with each other and rub shoulders with some of the world’s best bridge, chess, draughts, and xiangqi players at the fourth SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing. Counting all five disciplines, there will be 150 contestants, drawn from nearly forty countries and territories on six continents. The action will start on December 11 and end on December 17.

Opening Press Conference at the 2014 SAWMG

In go at the past three SportAccord World Mind Games, Korean players dominated the men’s competition, Chinese players dominated the women’s competition, and Chinese and Korean pairs and teams divided the top honors in mixed competition. This year the Chinese men’s team will be thirsting to add a gold medal to the gold won by China’s mixed team in 2011, which was largely a men’s event. Their chances appear good; the Korean team will be handicapped by the absence of their leading player Park Jeonghwan, who was injured in a traffic accident shortly before his scheduled departure for Beijing.

Turning to the other disciplines, not surprisingly, Chinese players have also dominated the xiangqi competition in previous years, and Chinese women have demonstrated considerable prowess at bridge and chess. What is surprising is that Chinese women have been making striking progress in draughts as well, and are currently approaching the top level in that game. Just how close they are will be seen during a week of rapid, blitz, and super-blitz competition on the international standard 10 x 10 board. In men’s draughts competition, two of the players to watch will be from Africa: Cameroon’s Jean Marc Ndjofang, who will challenge Aleksandr Georgiev for the world championship next month, and the Ivory Coast’s N’cho Joel Atse, last year’s blitz sensation. Devotees of the 8 x 8 game will also get a chance to see several world champions in action as this form of draughts returns to the men’s competition.

At a press conference held on December 10, no one ventured to predict the outcome of this year’s mind games, but go ambassador Lee Hajin reminisced about her bronze medal at the World Mind Sports Games in 2008, and her subsequent university career. ‘The concentration and discipline I gained from go worked for my other studies,’ she said, ‘and I graduated at the head of my class.’

Viktoriia Motrichko, a draughts player and ambassador from the Ukraine, said ‘I consider myself an emotional person, and the emotions I feel here are all good.’

Women’s chess champion Hou Yifan said, ‘This fast-paced tournament is interesting for the spectators and it favors my style of play.’

Tang Sinan, a young Chinese xiangqi player said, ‘The SportAccord World Mind games are a super-platform for us to demonstrate our xiangqi skills. I hope all the publicity will encourage more people to get interested in the game.’

Bridge ambassador Fulvio Fantoni, a member of the crack Monaco team, said ‘When I visited the schools in Beijing during this event last year I was touched by the students’ passion and enthusiasm. It took me back to my own youth, when I felt that way too.’

Gianarrigo Rona, president of the World Bridge Federation, echoed his sentiments by saying ‘In my opinion, the enthusiasm that Beijing schoolchildren are showing for mind games is the real measure of the SportAccord’s success.’

- James Davies

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