America's Benjamin Lockhart, 7-dan, was paired against Hungary's Alexandra Urbán, 1-dan, in the first round of the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup. After winning that game, Benjamin beat a series of steadily stronger opponents -- Tomas Hjartnes (2-dan, Norway), Alvin Han (3-dan, Singapore), Dejan Stanković (5-dan, Serbia), and Dmitry Surin (6-dan, Russia) -- until his victory streak was finally stopped by Wei Taewoong (7-dan, Korea) in the final round. Both the American Go Association and the Choongam Baduk Dojang, where Benjamin is currently training, can take pride in his fifth place finish.
Ranka: Where are you from?
Benjamin: New York. I grew up in Brooklyn.
Ranka: And where did you learn to play go?
Benjamin: My father is a mathematician and so he knew about it; computer and math people usually know about go. He taught me and my brother when I was maybe nine years old. I then studied and played on and off until I was about sixteen and started taking it pretty seriously. For the past five years I've been studying it pretty much every day. For the last three years it's really been my whole life.
Ranka: How did you get into the Choongam Baduk Dojang?
Benjamin: When I was eighteen I went to Budapest. Lee Youngshin, who is a professional player, was living and teaching there, and I became very good friends with her. When I came to Korea a year later, she and Yang Geun, a 9-dan pro, helped me get into Choongam. They recognized that I needed a dojang to study at, and Choongam had just been recreated by merging three dojangs, so it all fit together. They told Choongam who I was and that I wanted to study, and Choi Gyubyung, the 9-dan pro who runs Choongam, let me in. I've been studying there for three years.
Ranka: What made you decide to do this?
Benjamin: Anyone who wants to study go seriously has to move to Asia.
Ranka: Do you want to become a professional player in Korea?
Benjamin: I don't think that I can become a professional in Korea unless I become a Korean citizen, but I can become a professional in America through the American system. I hope to play in the next American pro qualifying tournament, whenever they have it. It's still very unclear, but as I placed in the top division of the US Open I think I can get a spot. That's why I came to the KPMC.
Ranka: Please tell us about your game against the Russian player in the fifth round of the KPMC.
Benjamin: He died immediately in the opening, and so the game was kind of easy. I played very carefully, very solid. I won by a point and a half in the end, which was pretty tight, but I was just being very careful. Maybe I was lucky that he didn't play so well in the beginning.
Ranka: How was your game against the Korean player in the last round?
Benjamin: I'm not happy about it, because I didn't play very well, but I at least played with some fighting spirit. I kind of went for an all-out victory, got too excited about it, and started misreading. It was over after I misread. I got drunk on my own thoughts of victory, which is a mark of inexperience.
Ranka: Thank you and more power to you.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki is a youthful-looking 41, but he is a veteran of numerous national and international tournaments. He represented Japan at the 2008 World Amateur Go Championship, taking fifth place, and at the 2010 Korea Prime Minister Cup, where he finished second. In 2008 he also beat two pros in the Agon Cup, and last year he captained the TIS Alliance, a three-man team that won the 13th Japanese Prime Minister's Cup Amateur Team Go Championship. Ranka interviewed him during and after the 2014 KPMC, in which he finished fourth.
Ranka: Please tell us how you were chosen to come to the KPMC this year.
Tsuchimune: This year the KPMC conflicted with the big national tournament to select the Japanese player for the next World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand. The strong players -- Emura, Hiraoka, Mori, and the rest -- all wanted to play in the WAGC qualifier. In the end someone had to decide to pass up the chance to compete for a trip to Thailand, and that person was me.
Ranka: How often have you been to Korea?
Tsuchimune: Once four years ago for the KPMC, of course, and several other times in connection with my work.
Ranka: What differences did you note between the KPMC this year and four years ago?
Tsuchimune: The main difference was that four years ago it was held in Changwon, in the southeast part of Korea, and this year it's in Seoul in the northwest. Another difference is that this year the field was smaller and I was one of the 'old men' in it: one of the ten oldest. But in terms of tournament organization, the number of interpreters, and so on, the KPMC was just as good this year as in 2010. Both times it was a very interesting and enjoyable tournament.
Ranka: Please tell us about your games on the first day.
Tsuchimune: Even though I won the first two games, the Belgian player I met in round one was strong, and the Israeli player I met in round two was stronger. And then in the third round I was simply outplayed by that boy from Chinese Taipei. He had better ideas than me. At some point the flow of the game went wrong. It didn't develop into the sort of game I like. The position was still difficult, but I lost without being able to accomplish much of anything.
Ranka: And how about your three games against the players from Hong Kong, Serbia, and Czechia on the second day.
Tsuchimune: Those games were also difficult, but they turned out well. I was able to play the kind of go I'm good at. Still, although I won all three, the Czech player I faced in round six was very strong: strong enough to get the best of me in one part of the game. If I had lost to him it wouldn't have been at all surprising. My general impression is that the competition from the European players is a lot stiffer than it used to be.
Ranka: Are you satisfied with your performance?
Tsuchimune: I guess I got the results I was worth, and did about what was expected of me, but I can't say that I'm satisfied. I wanted to win the tournament. If I get the chance to compete again, I'll try to do better.
Ranka: Thank you.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Vorawat Tanapatsopol (formerly Charoensitthisathien) is no stranger to Seoul. He studied at Blackie's International Baduk Academy for a month in 2011, and last August he took part in the international preliminaries for the Samsung Cup, losing to American 7-dan Eric Lui. Ranka caught him for a brief interview during the 9th KPMC closing banquet at the Olympic ParkTel on September 21.
Ranka: First, please tell us how you were chosen to represent Thailand.
Vorawat: I qualified for the KPMC by playing in an eight-man knockout tournament in Thailand. We had to play three rounds to decide the winner.
Ranka: Can you tell us something about other tournaments in Thailand?
Vorawat: In the past few years there have been many tournaments in Thailand. First prize is generally about two thousand dollars. Three rounds is typical but each tournament has a different system: some use the knockout system and some use the Swiss system. Now we have three big tournaments in Thailand. One is the King of Kings tournament, another is the Coke Cup, sponsored by Coca-Cola, and the third is sponsored by the Bank of China.
Ranka: And what international tournaments have you taken part in, besides this one?
Vorawat: I played in the KPMC three years ago, and last year I played in the World Amateur Go Championship in Japan. I also took part in the Asian Games in Guangzhou four years ago. Those have been my main international tournaments.
Ranka: Your third place finish at the KPMC this year is very impressive.
Vorawat: I think my pairings were a bit lucky. The strongest player I played was Emil Garcia, from Mexico. He took fifth place. That was my hardest game. But my other opponents were very strong too, like the players from Singapore, Vietnam, and Germany: they all won four games.
Ranka: What tournament are you looking forward to next?
Vorawat: I hope to take part in the World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand next year. I’ll do my best to win the qualifying tournament and represent Thailand again.
Ranka: And we hope to see you there. Thank you very much.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Last year a new force appeared in Korean amateur go. Wei Taewoong, who had just turned twenty, came out of essentially nowhere to finish as runner-up in the Lee Changho Cup and the Nosacho Cup. Then at the end of the year he won the Guksu, Korea's top amateur tournament, and earned the right to represent Korea in the 2014 World Amateur Go Championship. Shortly after taking second place in the WAGC, he competed in an eight-player knockout to decide who would represent Korea in the upcoming Korea Prime Minister Cup, and he won that too, beating last year's KPMC champion Park Jaegeun.
Ranka interviewed Wei shortly after he won the 2014 KPMC.
Ranka: Please tell us how you got started and about your playing career up to now.
Wei: There was a baduk academy in my neighborhood and I started going there when I was seven years old. That's how I learned to play, although I don't remember the name of my first teacher. Later I went to another baduk academy for ten years, but I wasn't making very good progress there, so a year and a half ago I switched over to the Choongam Baduk Academy. I now train at Choongam from morning to evening five days a week, preparing for what I hope will be a professional career. Often I don't get home until midnight. On weekends I study at home or take part in other tournaments.
Ranka: How have your parents reacted to your decision to try to make pro?
Wei: They haven't come out clearly for or against it. They've just said, 'If you think you can keep it up then go ahead.'
Ranka: Had you played in other international tournaments before the World Amateur Go Championship in Gyeongju this summer?
Wei: No, that was my first international tournament.
Ranka: Did it make a deep impression on you?
Wei: Yes it did, because I lost to the player from Chinese Taipei and ended up in second place by one SOS point. That loss left a deeper impression on me than anything else in my career so far.
Ranka: How would you compare Chan Yi-tien, the player who beat you in Gyeongju, with Juang Cheng-jiun, the player from Chinese Taipei you beat here?
Wei: After losing to Chan, I was worried about Juang because he was so young, but he turned out to be a little weaker than Chan.
Ranka: Had you played Benjamin Lockhart, the American player, at Choongam?
Wei: No, but I had heard that he was at about the same level as a few other trainees I knew there, so I had some idea of what to expect.
Ranka: Does that mean you were able to relax when you played him in the last round?
Wei: Actually I relaxed too much.
Ranka: How would you describe your style of play?
Wei: I seem to have a reputation for liking to fight.
Ranka: But your game against the Chinese player in the fifth round appeared rather peaceful.
Wei: It may have looked that way, but there was a lot of invisible fighting going on.
Ranka: Is there any professional player that you particularly admire?
Wei: Lee Changho.
Ranka: How do you feel about winning the KPMC?
Wei: After finishing a sad second in Gyeongju I was pretty uneasy about how I might end up here, but now that it's over and I've managed to come in first, I feel very happy.
Ranka: What will your next tournament be?
Wei: I'm not sure whether it will be my next or not, but I plan to compete in the new Jeongseon Arirang Cup in early October.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.- Photo: Ito Toshiko
The 9th Korea Prime Minister Cup International Amateur Baduk Championship was held on September 19 and 20 at the headquarters of the Korean Baduk Association in Seoul (baduk is the Korean word for go). Korean players had won six of the eight preceding KPMCs, but this year Korean fans had cause for apprehension: just two months before, at the World Amateur Go Championship in Gyeongju, Korea, their player Wei Taewoong had lost to a player from Chinese Taipei and finished only second. In the KPMC, however, Wei came through magnificently. He dispatched opponents from the Ukraine, South Africa, and Hong Kong on the first day, and added three more victories on the second day to score a perfect 6-0 result.
Wei's opponent in the fourth round was Chinese Taipei's Juang Cheng-jiun, a fourteen-year-old who had defeated Japan's Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki in round three and will start playing professionally next year. Juang seems never to stop smiling -- except when he sits down to play. Then his eyes bore into the board and his friendly grin is replaced by a look of hyper-intense concentration. As his game with Wei progressed, however, hyper-concentration morphed into hyper-agitation, followed by resignation after only an hour and fifteen minutes of play.
Wei's fifth-round opponent was China's Hu Yuqing, two-time world amateur champion and by far China's top-ranked amateur player. Now it was Wei who showed signs of agitation while Hu wore an expression of calm confidence -- until the endgame began. That was when Wei seized on some small mistakes by Hu to surge into the lead. By the end of the game he was more than ten points ahead.
Wei's last opponent was the USA's Benjamin Lockhart who, like Wei, is training at the prestigious Choongam Baduk Academy in Seoul. Had the American taken this game he would have finished in first place, but as it turned out, the tournament had already climaxed in round five. Wei now won decisively again to become undisputed champion.
Meanwhile, Hu was beating Juang in what turned out to be the game that settled second place, and the other forty-seven contestants were fighting pitched battles for the remaining places. A list of final standings is given below.
A complete tournament record is available here.
The tournament was run on the Swiss System with a pairing algorithm that attempted to match players with the closest scores (wins, SOS, SOSOS) in each round. This algorithm is known not to produce the ideal order of finish, Chinese Taipei's 7th place being a case in point, but it generates maximum excitement and tension, and that is important too. The lack of precision in the final standings, which is inevitable with any version of the Swiss system, was largely compensated for at the awards ceremony. Certificates and prize goods were presented to no less than eighteen players, including the top sixteen in the tournament as a whole and the top four in each of three continental zones (ten players got double awards). For the record, let it be said that although Serbia's Dejan Stanković, the oldest contestant, was not among these award-winners, in terms of the players he beat and lost to, he also turned in an award-worthy performance.
Before, during, and after the tournament there were numerous extra activities: a visit to the Choongam Baduk Academy, an opening ceremony with Korean traditional and popular music, an evening excursion to the Seoul Tower, a visit to the Changdeuk Palace and Secret Garden, and two opportunities to participate in simultaneous games against Korean professional opponents. The second opportunity came in a massive car-free street festival in which a team of some hundred pros took on all comers, hoping to break a 1000-game record set in Japan. Whether because of overcast skies or the competing attractions of the Asian games in Incheon, the hoped-for 1004-game mark was not reached, but all fifty-one KPMC players joined in the attempt.
The referees (Korean pros Seo Bongsoo, Cho Hyeyeon, and Kim Sungrae), the interpreters (Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), and the staff did an outstanding job of assisting the players and keeping everything running smoothly. Particularly impressive was the tactful way they dissuaded players whose games had finished from crowding around the China-Korea board in round five, giving the two players in that critical match ample space in which to concentrate without distraction. Except for the absence of the Brazilian contestant, the whole tournament went without a hitch. Already one looks forward to the 10th KPMC in 2015.
- James Davies (photos by Ito Toshiko)
Final standings in 9th Korea Prime Minister Cup
1 Wei Taewoong (6-0, Korea)
2 Hu Yuqing (5-1, China)
3 Vorawat Tanapatsopol (5-1, Thailand)
4 Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki (5-1, Japan)
5 Benjamin Lockhart (5-1, USA)
6 Emil Garcia (5-1, Mexico)
7 Juang Cheng-jiun (4-2, Chinese Taipei)
8 Dmitry Surin (4-2, Russia)
9 Lukas Podpera (4-2, Czechia)
10 Zhao Jiarui (4-2, Hong Kong)
10 Alvin Han (4-2, Singapore)
12 Thomas Debarre (4-2, France)
13 Trần Quang-tuệ (4-2, Vietnam)
14 Özgür Değirmenci (4-2, Turkey)
15 Stefan Kaitschick (4-2, Germany)
16 Thomas Heshe (4-2, Denmark)
17 Lou Wankao (4-2, Macau)
18 Jimmy Cheng (3-3, Malaysia)
19 Dmytro Yatsenko (3-3, Ukraine)
20 Doyoung Kim (3-3, New Zealand)
21 James Sedgwick (3-3, Canada)
22 Dejan Stanković (3-3, Serbia)
23 Mihai Serban (3-3, Romania)
24 Vesa Laatikainen (3-3, Finland)
25 Kim Ouweleen (3-3, Netherlands)
26 Miguel Castellano (3-3, Spain)
27 Amir Fragman (3-3, Israel)
28 Jakob Bing (3-3, Sweden)
29 Bram Vandenbon (3-3, Belgium)
30 Marcin Majka (3-3, Poland)
31 Aliaksandr Chakur (3-3, Belarus)
32 Sebastian Mualim (3-3, Indonesia)
33 Andrew Kay (3-3, UK)
34 Daniel Tomé (3-3, Portugal)
35 Lorenz Trippel (2-4, Switzerland)
36 Andre Connell (2-4, South Africa)
37 Stefano You (2-4, Italy)
38 Tomas Hjartnes (2-4, Norway)
39 Albertas Petrauskas (2-4, Lithuania)
40 Gregor Butala (2-4, Slovenia)
40 Thomas Shanahan (2-4, Ireland)
42 Alexandra Urbán (2-4, Hungary)
43 Kinyi Kina (2-4, Peru)
44 Dolgorsuren Batmunkh (2-4, Mongolia)
45 Daniel Bosze (2-4, Austria)
46 Aaron Chen (2-4, Australia)
47 Jeremie Hertz (2-4, Luxembourg)
48 Peter Smolarik (1-5, Slovakia)
49 David Pollitzer (1-5, Argentina)
50 Demetrios Katsouris (1-5, Cyprus)
51 Sung Hui-yee (1-5, Brunei)
52 --- (0-6, Brazil, absent)
Zonal Awards: America and Oceania
1 Benjamin Lockhart (USA)
2 Emil Garcia (Mexico)
3 Doyoung Kim (New Zealand)
4 James Sedgwick (Canada)
Zonal Awards: Europe and Africa
1 Dmitry Surin (Russia)
2 Lukas Podpera (Czechia)
3 Thomas Debarre (France)
4 Özgür Değirmenci (Turkey)
Zonal Awards: Asia (excluding China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Macau)
1 Vorawat Tanapatsopol (Thailand)
2 Alvin Han (Singapore )
3 Trần Quang-tuệ (Vietnam)
4 Jimmy Cheng (Malaysia)
The wait is almost over for online gaming enthusiasts! SportAccord begins the countdown to the launch of the 4th edition of the World Mind Games Online Tournament on the 15th of September. The tournament, featuring bridge, chess and go, is being organized by SportAccord in partnership with RSportz, the community-based global sports network and online platforms BridgeBase Online, Chess.com and Pandanet.
The online tournament also marks the countdown to the 4th SportAccord World Mind Games to be held in Beijing from December 11-17 this year. Last year’s online tournament attracted over 700,000 players from all across the globe and SportAccord expects to comfortably attract a higher number of participants through the tournament online portal, www.onlinewmg.com. The portal will be the gateway for participants and enthusiasts for game rules, registration and all further information surrounding the SportAccord 2014 World Mind Games Online Tournament. Open for a period of 2 months, registration for the online tournament is open to players from beginner to advanced levels. All participants stand a chance to win attractive prizes such as Formula 1 grand prix tickets sponsored by presenting partner Alliance Renault-Nissan and watches from World Mind Games official partner Rado. Additional prizes include Samsung TVs, tablets and gift cards. A total cash prize purse of $12,000 will be shared between the winners of the different tournaments. SportAccord 2014 World Mind Games Online Tournament partners, Bridgebase Online, Chess.com and Pandanet will operate the online hosting of the disciplines of bridge, chess and go, respectively.
SportAccord, the Union of International Sports Federations, operates the Multi-Sports Games, the World Combat Games, the World Beach Games, the World Urban Games and the World Mind Games. The 4th edition of the SportAccord World Mind Games will be organized in Beijing from December 11-17, 2014, featuring bridge, chess, draughts, go and Xiangqi in cooperation with the respective international sports federations. The SportAccord World Mind Games unite the world’s best players in a quest for glory and prize money. SportAccord is constantly looking to engage more people in mind sports in a fun and exciting way through cultural programs and online games.
Tournament dates: September 15– November 15 (for GO the registration ends on September 30).
Official hashtag: #mindgames2014