European youth go champion Lukas Podpera, who was Czech champion in 2013 and came in sixth in the World Amateur Go Championship in 2014, started the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup by beating Lou Mankao, a 5-dan from Macau. The game ended well before lunch, so Ranka took the opportunity to ask him about his experiences at the Choongam Baduk Academy, where he had studied in the past.
Ranka: When did you first attend the Choongam Baduk Academy?
Lukas: I first attended the Choongam Baduk Dojang two years ago when I told Mr Kim Sungrae, who is now one of our referees, that I would like to study baduk seriously somewhere in Korea. He recommended Choongam as the best, the biggest, and the most famous dojang in Korea, so I went there for one month, and then I returned a year later, last year, again for one month.
Ranka: How much do you think those two months improved your game?
Lukas: Both times, after I studied at Choongam there was a European Go Congress and I played really badly in it. I had learned a lot of new stuff, my head was thoroughly confused, and I didn't know what to do. But now, two years after first going to Choongam, I believe I've improved by at least one stone, from average European 5-dan to strong European 6-dan. So I had to be patient a bit and wait for the results, but the results came.
Ranka: How did you study there?
Lukas: I remember that in the morning there was always almost no one there. Some of the kids went to school, because they were generally about five years younger than me. So in the morning I would do life and death problems and replay games. They way they replay games is not like the European way, where we replay from books very slowly, reading the commentaries. They would replay the game really fast. Sometimes it would take them only fifteen minutes to replay a game. So sometimes I replayed ten or fifteen games a day. And also we played some kind of league games, usually with fast time limits, like at most half an hour of basic time.
Ranka: Do you think you learned a lot by replaying all those games very fast?
Lukas: Yes. At least my reading became much better than before. Before I was like all Europeans, much slower than the Asians, because they're reading by shapes and we're only reading by moves. Although I was much better than them at positional judgement, they would always exploit some of my aji, or kill me somewhere, That didn't happen in Europe. So my reading improved a lot, I think.
Ranka: What other foreign students did you meet there?
Lukas: I guess the most well known European student there was Mateusz Surma, a 5-dan from Poland. He stayed there for two years, I think, so he had been there the longest, but there was also Rémi Campagnie from France, another 5-dan; he was studying there for three months. There were no other European students, but from the USA there was Benjamin Lockhart, who is studying there still, and from Canada there was Gansheng Shi, who stayed for two months.
Ranka: How do you hope to do in the KPMC this year?
Lukas: Two months ago I played in the World Amateur Go Championship and did really well, so I would like to get a similar result. I would like to win five games, which is probably what is needed to finish at least in sixth place.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: After lunch, Lukas lost to Juang Cheng-jiun (Chinese Taipei) in the second round, but he won his next three games, beating Kim Ouweleen (Netherlands), Thomas Debarre (France), and Doyoung Kim (New Zealand). In his last game he fought valiantly but unsuccessfully with Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki (Japan) for a place in the top six. Tie-breaking points put him ninth.
The 2014/5 season of the European Team Championships started tonight on Pandanet. Ireland were drawn against newcomers Lithuania, the strongest Baltic nation. They managed a fairly solid 3-1 victory over our team, with only new captain James Hutchinson salvaging a point. Hope is not lost though, as Ireland traditional plan is to start slowly, before tilting the head back for a late surge toward the finish line. Next fixture on the list is Portugal.
The 2014 US Open Masters tournament has now been rated, and the other Congress tournaments are expected to follow suit soon. “We are
cleaning up the last few membership issues and glitches in the data,” said AGA President Andy Okun. “I hope to have the games from the US Open rated within the coming week, with the Die Hard, Self-Paired and Midnight Madness very close behind. I am grateful for everyone’s patience.” Okun said that the kinds of issues that sometimes delay ratings “…errant digits in AGA ids, getting everyone’s renewals and new memberships processed, handling overseas guests and the like…” are amplified in a tournament with more than 300 players like the US Open. Watch the EJ for news about Congress ratings.
photo of the 2014 US Open main playing area by Chris Garlock
Ge “Johnny” Wang took the high-dan first place honors at the fourth annual Emory University Chinese Student/Scholar Go Tournament on September 27 in Atlanta, GA. “Johnny has attended the tournament every year and this was his year to shine,” said TD Jeff Kerlagon. “This is a great event at a wonderful location,” Kerlagon added. “The Atlanta Go Club is very appreciative for Emory University for hosting us for the fourth year.”
Seventeen players attended the Emory tournament. Matthew McCawley took 1st place in the Kyu division. “Matthew has been improving all year and he took control for top honors this year,” said Kerlagon. “The real highlight of the tournament was a fine showing of Atlanta youth in the Children’s Group. These young men are the champions of the future. Brandon Zhou is a strong young player. The rest of the group was attended by Ethan Zhou, Edwin Lin, Alex Lin, and Daniel Luo. Currently they are studying with Frank Luo. We look forward to their progress and wish them luck in next year’s tournament.”
photos: right: Emory children’s group (right; bottom left to right, Alex & Ethan Zhou; top left to right, Edwin Lin & Daniel Luo); left: Emory High Dan Division winners (Front row, left to right, Edwin Lin & Daniel Luo; Top row left to right, Darrell Speck, 2nd Place Feijun “Frank” Luo, 1st Place Ge “Johnny” Wang, 3rd Place Huan Tan, Tony Cha).
by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent
Kisei Leagues: One game was played in the 39th Kisei A League on September 11. Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resignation. Both players are now on 2-2 and will be fighting to keep their places in the league in the final round. Incidentally, this was Takao’s second win against Kono in four days. Kono has gone into a bit of a trough after his winning streak of 19 games came to an end. A game was played in the B League on September 18. Kobayashi Satoru 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 7P (right) by resig. This game has an effect on the standings. Murakawa missed his first chance to win the league and is now tied on 3-1 with Kobayashi and Yoda Norimoto 9P. However, if he wins his final game, Murakawa will still win the league, thanks to his number-one ranking. If he loses, however, Yoda is next in line: if he wins his final game, he will win the league regardless of Kobayashi’s result, as he is ranked number two. If both Murakawa and Yoda lose and Kobayashi wins, he will win the league. Pairings in the final round are: Murakawa vs. Cho Chikun 9P (1-3), Yoda vs. Cho Riyu 8P (1-3), and K
obayashi vs. Yuki Satoshi 9P (1-3).
Kono Takes Lead in Meijin Title Match: Kono Rin has shown that he is going to give Iyama Yuta a real run for his money. After losing the opening game, Kono (left) won the next two to take the lead in the 39th Meijin best-of-seven title match. The second game was played at the Chokoro inn in Hawai Hot Spring in the town of Yurihama in Tottori Prefecture on September 18 & 19. The game featured fierce fighting from the start, with almost no fuseki. In the midst of a center fight, Iyama (B) played a move he regretted, and the game started to tilt in Kono’s favor. He cut off a large black group that couldn’t get two eyes, so Iyama resigned on move 200. Picking up your first win in a two-day game is important for your self-confidence. Perhaps that was reflected in Kono’s play in the third game, which was held in Jozankei Hot Spring, Sapporo City, Hokkaido on September 25 & 26 (the name of the venue has 14 characters in it and I have no idea how to read it).
Playing black, Kono secured a resignation after 169 moves. In the middle game, Iyama seemed to make a miscalculation about the importance of a ko he let Kono set up: he thought he could handle it more easily than turned out to be the case. This turned the game in Kono’s favor. He now has the initiative in the match. The fourth game, scheduled for October 6 and 7, will be very important
for Iyama’s chances of keeping his sextuple crown.
Women’s Meijin League: The 27th Women’s Meijin League is close to the halfway mark, with all but one game in the third round having been played. Two players are undefeated: Mukai Chiaki, Women’s Honinbo, who has played three games, and Mannami Nao 3-dan,
who has played two. Recent results: (Sept. 18) Aoki Kikuyo 8P (W) beat Chinen Kaori 4P by 3.5 points. (Sept. 24) Mukai Chiaki (B) beat Ishii Akane 2P by resig. (Sept. 25) Suzuki Ayumi 6P (B) beat Kato Keiko 6P by resig.
Ichiriki Wins 39th King of the New Stars Title: Ichiriki Ryo 7P (right) has set another record, becoming, at 17 years three months, the youngest player to win the King of the New Stars title. The previous record, 17 years five months, was set by Yoda Norimoto 31 years ago. (If you are wondering about Iyama, he never won this title; he disqualified himself at the age of 16 by winning the Agon Kiriyama Cup and earning promotion to 7-dan). Ichiriki defeated Shida Tatsuya 7P 2-1. Only players under 7-dan qualify for this tournament, so this was the last chance for both players (they were promoted during the current term). Game 1 (Sept. 11). Ichiriki (B) by half a point. Game 2 (Sept. 17 ). Shida (B) by resig. Game 3 (Sept. 25). Ichiriki (B) by resig.
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After losing to Thailand's Vorawat Tanapatsopol in the first round, Mexico's ebullient Emil Garcia reeled off five straight wins to capture sixth place in the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup. In his last two games he downed a pair of veteran Nordic players, Vesa Laatikainen (Finland) and Thomas Heshe (Denmark), who have a long history of winning their respective national championships and competing with considerable success in past World Amateur Go Championships and KPMCs. Emil talked with Ranka the day after the 2014 KPMC ended.
Ranka: How did you start playing go?
Emil: The first time I saw go was in a movie called Pi (Faith in Chaos). It was a movie about a guy that had started in the stock market. He plays go with his neighbor and they find a lot of patterns, sacred geometric things. I got really intrigued with this game. I thought, 'Oh, I want to know what this game is.' Luckily, two days after that, I found a neighbor who had a go board, so it was like 'Oh a go board, that's it -- the game I saw in the movie! I want to learn.' At that very moment I became a go addict. I started playing every day with that guy until I beat him two months later. So that's how I started playing go.
Ranka: How old were you at that time?
Emil: I was fifteen years old. Now I'm almost thirty, so I've been playing go for more than half my life.
Ranka: Could you tell us something about go in Mexico?
Emil: Well, actually I am now the president of the Mexican Go Association. We are working very hard to promote and develop go in our country. There are clubs in each state. We have several places in Mexico City where you can play. What I am doing now is mainly for people in the capital, but there are also clubs in cities like Puebla, Guadalajara, and so on. As for tournaments, we do one national Internet tournament. Our fifth Internet go tournament is taking place right now. We also have what we call the Torneo Mexicano Presencial. You can call it the Mexican Open in English; it's going to be held in November. And this year we are going to have our first Mexican Go Congress. This is going to be our very first go congress and we are getting a professional player to come from Korea. They are sending one professional player to Mexico, so he can teach us and we can learn their techniques.
Ranka: Have you enjoyed yourself here in Korea?
Emil: Oh, I've had one of the most wonderful times ever at a go tournament. This year I managed to finish in sixth place, out of fifty-two. This is the best result in the entire history of Mexican go. It's also one of the best results for any Latin American person except Fernando Aguilar. Besides that, the organizers have been very kind, their attention has been really great, the interpreters have been wonderful, everything has been wonderful. I've really loved it. I want to bring the mood of the tournament, and its events, back to Mexico so that people who do not have a chance to come here can experience it in their own homeland. That is one of the purposes of the Congress, actually: to be able to bring this wonderful Asian environment back to America.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
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