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Pair Go Begins

IGF Ranka - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 12:01

The first day of pair go at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games began at 9:30 on December 16 under the direction of chief referee Hua Yigang. In the previous three years Chinese and Korean pairs had taken turns winning the gold medal, China prevailing in 2011 and 2013, Korea in 2012, but this year, all eight pairs came out fighting.

Yu Zhiying_(left) and Mi Yuting

In the first game to end in the morning round, China’s Yu Zhiying and Mi Yuting killed a black group and beat North America’s Irene Sha and Daniel Daehyuk Ko by resignation. ‘Of course they are much stronger than us,’ said Daniel, ‘but at least we made them fight for their win.’

The three European pairs also lost by resignation. Playing Korea’s Choi Jeong and Na Hyun, Europe’s Dina Burdakova and Alexandr Dinershteyn gave up quickly when they found themselves with ten dead stones on the right side and a very weak group on the lower side.

The game between Chinese Taipei’s Cathy Chang and Lin Li-Hsiang and Europe’s Natalia Kovaleva and Fan Hui looked hopeful for the Europeans at one point, when they killed a black group on the right side, but they had weak stones elsewhere. A large fight developed in the center, and they surrendered when it became clear that to save a beleaguered white dragon they would have to give up some white stones and bring the dead black group back to life.

Svetlana Shikshina and Ilya Shikshin played out their game against Japan’s Fujisawa Rina and Ida Atsushi nearly to the end, but early in the middle game they had lost a big fight that they should have been able to win. They were over thirty points behind when they finally admitted defeat.

Natalia Kovaleva (left) and Fan Hui

In the afternoon round, winners played winners and losers played losers. The loser’s bracket included an all-European game between the Kovaleva-Fan pair and the Burdakova-Dinershteyn pair. Alexandr Dinershteyn played his first move (black 3) on the 7-7 point, and the table was engulfed in mirth as Dina followed suit with black 5 and Natalia did likewise with white 6. After that, however, the fighting became serious, and it turned out better for white. After less than two hours of play, Dina and Aleksandr agreed to resign.

Svetlana Shikshina (left) and Ilya Shikshin

In the other losers’ game, the brother-sister pair, Svetlana and Ilya, gained a measure of revenge for the European men’s team’s loss to North America by defeating Irene Sha and Daniel Daehyuk Ko in another fighting game, featuring a nifty throw-in that set up a ko at the bottom. This in turn set up an all-European contest for fifth place in the final round on December 17.

In the winner’s bracket, the Chinese pair (Yu and Mi) tried the avalanche against the Japanese pair (Fujisawa and Ida), choosing a somewhat unusual variation of this complex joseki. They handled it perfectly and their opponents did not. This gave the Chinese side an initial advantage, and they added to it as the game progressed. Although the Japanese pair managed to keep the game fairly close throughout the middle game and endgame, they could not catch up, and eventually resigned.

The game between the Korean pair and the pair from Chinese Taipei was also close. The climax came when the Korean pair invaded the upper side and started a ko. They had more ko threats and the invading stones lived in grand style, giving the Koreans a clear lead. Their opponents played on, trying to kill another group instead, but this could not be done, so they resigned. In the final round, China and Korea will play for the gold medal, while Japan and Chinese Taipei play for the bronze.

- James Davies

Categories: World news

Women’s Final: Yu Zhiying vs Kim Chaeyoung

IGF Ranka - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 07:03

Diagram 1: Full game record

Gold for China in the Women’s Individual Go as Yu Zhiying 5p defeats Korea’s Kim Chaeyoung 2p. Ranka takes a look at their exciting game. Check the game record for detailed comments by Michael Redmond 9p.

The action began with Kim Chaeyoung making a very active extension on the lower side of the board (move 30). Compared to the usual three-space extension, this turned out to be an overplay that would decide the course of the game. In the trade that followed up to move 77, Yu allowed Kim to move out but took ample profit both on the right side and also at the top, giving her a territorial lead.

Kim continued her active play by ignoring her weakness in the centre and shifting to the left side to build a moyo with move 78. This gave Black the opportunity to fight back and begin to surround White’s group on the right side. Up to move 99, White was in a bit of trouble, however Black missed a severe clamp and this gave White some chances to make the position more complicated.

A difficult fight ensued, with both sides having to deal with their many weak groups under the pressure of byoyomi. Move 137 was an inaccuracy for Yu as this move does not give enough eyespace to her central group.

Diagram 3: White has a good position

White suddenly went for the kill with move 158 (Diagram 2). But the ensuing semeai was impossible to win and we can call this the losing move. Instead of this all-out strike, the sequence shown in Diagram 3 is how Kim should have played and would have given White a promising position.

Congratulations to Yu Zhiying, who remains undefeated in this year’s World Mind Games. She will be teaming up with Mi Yuting 9p for the Pair Go tournament, hoping for another gold for China.


- John Richardson, based on commentary by Michael Redmond 9p

Categories: World news

Interview with Okuda Aya and Fujisawa Rina

IGF Ranka - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 07:02

The Japanese contestants in the women’s individual and mixed pairs events at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games had a tough time. They consistently lost to opponents from the other Far Eastern countries. On the other hand, they consistently beat opponents from North America and Russia. Ranka spoke afterward with the two women, Fujisawa Rina and Okuda Aya. They are rivals who, earlier in the year, had played the final game for the Aizu Central Hospital Cup, and the final game that decided which of them would become women’s Honinbo challenger. (Fujisawa won both games, and also won the women’s Honinbo title match.)

Ranka: Okuda-sensei, this is your second SportAccord World Mind games. What impressed you this time?
Okuda: Getting a chance to play Rui Naiwei. She’s had such a fantastic career!

Ranka: Do you have any general comments about the games themselves?
Okuda: Well, the one hour of basic clock time was a lot shorter than the three hours we’re used to in Japan. The main issue becomes how much accurate reading you can do in that limited time. The Chinese and Korean players are very good at this. Particularly in the opening, with only one hour you can’t afford to take time to think things out. You have to rely on prior research, and theirs is more advanced.

Ranka: So was time a major factor in your losses?
Okuda: No, it wasn’t. I actually managed my one hour pretty well, saving some of it for the endgame when I knew I would need it. I lost because of mistakes in the middle game and thereafter. I need to work on my reading skills.

Ranka: How did you prepare for the Mind Games?
Okuda: I had already played most of my prospective opponents in other international tournaments, so I went over my games with them, trying to find better moves.

Ranka: Please tell us about your first game, in which you defeated Russia’s Svetlana Shikshina. Was she one of the players you had played before?
Okuda: No, I don’t think so, but I knew she had a professional ranking from Korea, so I expected her to put up a strong fight. I didn’t expect to be demolished, however.

Ranka: Surely that’s not what happened.
Okuda: It was. I had a terrible opening, and for a long time after that I was in a losing position. I won in the end, but not by playing winning go.

Ranka: If not by playing winning go then how?
Okuda: I guess my opponent was too relentless. She never let up. If she had restrained herself and compromised a bit, on the left side, for example, she could have won easily. The game would have been utterly hopeless for me. But she kept choosing the strongest possible moves, and that gave me some chances.

Ranka: Did you ever consider resigning?
Okuda: Many times! The reason I didn’t was that I couldn’t bear to lose in such a humiliating way. This was my worst game of the tournament.

Ranka: Fujisawa-sensei, how was your game with Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva?
Fujisawa: She had beaten a player from Taiwan, so I expected her to be strong, but I was surprised at how strong she was.

Ranka: Still, you won.
Fujisawa: I guess I played fairly well, for me.

Ranka: How were your other games in the women’s tournament?
Fujisawa: My first opponent, Yu Zhiying, is one I wanted to meet because she’s about the same age as me but she’s so strong. I was badly beaten. I’m going to have to work hard to reach her level.

Ranka: Well, she won the gold medal. How was your game against the silver medalist, Kim Chaeyoung?
Fujisawa: Beaten again, but not as badly.

Ranka: Aside from those losses, you’ve had a very successful year in 2014. What do you think is the reason?
Fujisawa: I haven’t changed the way I study and practice, but I’ve been getting more opportunities to play in international tournaments, and that’s been a real stimulus. Maybe that’s why my results have improved.

Categories: World news

Interview with Seto Taiki

IGF Ranka - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 02:52

After a bad year in the Japanese tournaments (‘My worst yet!’) Seto Taiki scored four wins against only one loss for the Japanese men’s team at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing, but as he put it, all of his games were tight: he had chances to beat the Korean opponent he lost to in the first round, and the opponents he beat from North America, China, Europe, and Chinese Taipei in the remaining rounds all managed to put him in danger of losing. He described receiving the bronze medal as a memorable experience, the first time he had won any kind of medal for playing go. But he has some medals in other sports, and two years ago he also had a fling at recording a popular song.

Ranka: Please tell us something about Monotone, the song you recorded.
Seto: I recorded it with two players from the Nihon Kiin: Takanashi Seiken, 8-dan, and Hsieh Yimin, women’s meijin. It was Takanashi Seiken who came up with the idea, and when he put it to me I decided to give it a try. The whole project, including making a promotional video, took almost a year. I had some professional coaching in recording an acting. We released one thousand copies of the CD, and got some favorable reactions from within the go community, but sales in general were not very good. We’re not planning a second release.

Ranka: What are your feelings about the project in retrospect?
Seto: It was a good experience, but I think we could have done some things better. I should have rehearsed more, and we could have looked for some more imaginative ways to boost sales. But since we’re professional go players, perhaps we couldn’t have expected any great success in this area.

Ranka: Getting back to go, how did you feel in Beijing?
Seto: This was my first chance to play on a team representing all of Japan in an international tournament, and considering my poor record this year I figured it might be my last chance, so I felt more pressure than I’ve ever felt before. That may have done me some good. I think I played reasonably well. I hope I can keep this momentum going into next year.

Ranka: Aside from the pressure, did playing as part of a team make a difference in your approach to the games?
Seto: Yes, especially in the last game, against the player from Chinese Taipei. The opening went well and later I was moving toward killing a large group of stones. If it had been an individual tournament, I would have gone for that kill, but here I thought about the team. If I won, we might take third place and get the bronze medal. If I went after the group, failed to capture it, and lost, we’d be fourth and get no medal. So since I was ahead anyway, I decided to let the group live and play to win conservatively.

Ranka: Finally, how would you evaluate the European and North American opponents you faced during the World Mind Games?
Seto: They were both strong. There was a point during my game with the North American player (Daniel Dae-hyuk Ko) when he had the upper hand, and my European opponent (Ilya Shikshin) really knew how to put the pressure on in the clinch. For him to defeat a pro would not be surprising.

Ranka: Thank you very much.

Categories: World news

Final Rounds: Gold Medals for China

IGF Ranka - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 02:48

Men’s Team at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games

After the first four days of go competition in the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games, the main issues waiting to be settled were who would win the gold medal in the women’s individual event, and who would win the bronze medals in the men’s team event. Last year the answers had been China’s Yu Zhiying and the men’s team from Chinese Taipei. Could Korea’s Kim Chaeyoung or the Japanese men’s team provide a different answer this year?

The men’s teams matches began at 12:30. The team from Chinese Taipei was in their seats early, all in their chipper blue and white uniforms. The black-suited Japanese team arrived just a minute or two before deputy chief referee Michael Redmond began reciting the daily litany: two hours of time per player with five renewable 60-second overtime periods; Chinese rules with 3-3/4 stone compensation; mobile phones off or silenced; the round starts!

An hour and a half later, the women’s gold medal game began. Kim Chaeyoung, sole survivor of the losers’ bracket, drew white against undefeated Yu Zhiying.

From the left: Tuo Jiaxi, Shi Yue and Mi Yuting

In the team event, the Chinese men clinched their gold medals at about three o’clock, when North America’s Huiren Yang and Daniel Daehyuk Ko resigned against Mi Yuting and Tuo Jiaxi. Later Shi Yue defeated Mingjiu Jiang by 5-3/4 stones (11-1/2 points) to complete a shutout victory.

The Korean men clinched their silver medals in similar shutout fashion. First Fan Hui resigned to Park Younghun, then Aleksandr Dinershtein resigned to Na Hyun, and then, after fighting desperately, Ilya Shikshin resigned to Kang Dongyoon. Dead European groups were much in evidence on all three boards.

Yu Zhiying (right) playing Kim Chaeyoung

The next match to end was the women’s. Yu Zhiying remained undefeated. She had attacked a weak white group on the right side of the board, starting a huge, confusing struggle that spread through most of the center. There was a point at which white had a chance to win, but she went after the wrong black group and it was the attacking white group that lost the capturing race. The position was still confused, but it was hopeless for white and Kim Chaeyoung resigned. Losing is always bitter. Nevertheless, her silver medal is the best result yet achieved by any non-Chinese go player in three years of SportAccord women’s individual competition. Yu Zhiying’s two consecutive gold medals would seem to establish her as top in the women’s go world, and she is still only seventeen.

Yuki Satoshi (left) overcomes Chen Shih-Iuan

And what of the men’s team match between Japan and Chinese Taipei? As he had yesterday, Lin Li-Hsiang got Chinese Taipei off to a good start, winning by resignation on board two, but then Seto Taiki evened the score for Japan by defeating Chang Che-Hao by resignation on board three. All now depended on the result on board one, where Japan’s Yuki Satoshi was playing Chinese Taipei’s Chen Shih-Iuan. Chen (black) had taken the lead by attacking in the center in the opening, but during a difficult middle game Yuki had gradually caught up, and in the endgame it appeared that he might be ahead. When the final score was counted, it turned out that he was indeed ahead. He had won by exactly a quarter of a stone, or half a point. The two players spent considerable time afterward reviewing the endgame, with assistance from Seto Taiki, who interpreted between Chinese and Japanese.

Both Yuki and Seto are from the Kansai Kiin, in Osaka. After the failure of Japan’s Tokyo-Nagoya based men’s team in the 2013, Osaka had come to the rescue.

Women’s Individual at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games

At the evening awards ceremony, following the presentation of medals for blitz chess and pairs bridge, Mr Park Chimoon, acting president of the International Go Federation, presented the bronze medals to the Japanese men’s team, the silver medals to the Korean team, and the gold medals to the Chinese team. Bridge ambassador Fulvio Fantoni gave them their medal certificates; then their national flags were raised and the Chinese national anthem was played. Next the medals for women’s individual go were awarded by chief referee Hua Yigang: bronze to Rui Naiwei, silver to Kim Chaeyoung, and gold to Yu Zhiying, who triumphantly mounted the dais as a woman transformed, attired in a long and strikingly attractive flowered skirt. This time it was Ms Wang Wenfei, the other bridge ambassador, who gave out the certificates.

Counting chess and bridge, Chinese mental athletes had had a good day. Their total haul was ten medals: five gold, including one in women’s chess; two silver, both won in women’s bridge; and three bronze, including two more in women’s bridge. The games are not over, but China has already shown that it leads the world in go, and leads the Far East in bridge and chess as well.

- James Davies

Categories: World news

Mind Sports at Beijing Schools

IGF Ranka - Mon, 15/12/2014 - 11:35

At half past four on December 13, a group of players, ambassadors, and other representatives of the mind sports included in the SportAccord World Mind Games paid a one-hour visit to another mind sports tournament, this one for students at Beijing’s primary and middle schools. The venue was the gymnasium of Huilongguan Primary School No. 2, near Beijing University. All five mind sports were being played, but go players were the most numerous. For them, this was the final stage of a grand tournament that had begun with preliminary team qualifiers in Beijing’s various school districts. The teams that had won the qualifiers had been playing since morning, and the last round of games was still in progress. The unheated gymnasium was filled with warmly clad schoolchildren, whose high level of enthusiasm generated additional warmth.

The visitors’ first activity was to play simultaneous games of go, chess, and draughts against young opponents who were not engaged in tournament games. Representing the go contingent, Irene Sha, Natalia Kovaleva, Dina Burdakova, her husband Igor Burnaevsky, and ambassador Lee Hajin took on two or three opponents each. The kids were strong, but there was only thirty minutes in which to play, which was not enough time to complete most of the games.

IGF Vice-President Thomas Hsiang (right) at the award ceremony

By the end of the simuls, the tournament itself was over, and the visitors now became the bestowers of the awards. International Go Federation vice president Thomas Hsiang draped medals around the necks of the winners at go, and Lee Hajin gave them trophies. The award winners also received SportAccord canteens.

And then the visit was over and the visitors returned to the Beijing International Conference Center to rejoin their comrades at the World Mind Games.

- photo: Yoshitaka Morimoto 

Categories: World news

Rounds 4 (Men), 6 & 7 (Women): China and Korea Prove Stronger

IGF Ranka - Sun, 14/12/2014 - 16:32

Chaeyoung Kim

The fourth day of go competition in the 4th SportAccord World Mind Games started at 9:30 on December 14 with two games that would draw the line between the medal winners and non-winners in the women’s section. On one board Joanne Missingham (Chinese Taipei) was playing Kim Chaeyoung (Korea), to whom she had narrowly lost two days before. On the other board Cathy Chang (Chinese Taipei) was challenging the famed veteran Rui Naiwei (China). Chinese Taipei had two chances to upset the Chinese-Korean monopoly on women’s medals in years past.

But monopolies are not easy to break. The Missingham-Kim game was over in only 111 moves. Playing black, Ms Kim took a territorial lead in the opening, some white groups got into trouble, and Ms Missingham resigned.

Cathy Chang held out longer. In fact, her game was played out to the end, and if there had been no compensation, she would have won. Unfortunately for Chinese Taipei, Cathy was playing black, and after the 3-3/4 stone compensation had been subtracted from her score, she lost by 2-3/4 stones, or 5-1/2 points.

The medals, accordingly, would go to Yu Zhiying, Rui Naiwei, and Kim Chaeyoung. Ms Rui and Ms Kim would play in the afternoon round for a chance at the gold. Ms Missingham and Ms Chang would play for fourth and fifth places.

Shortly after the end of the Rui-Chang game, the fourth round of the mens team event began, with Europe playing Japan, Korea playing North America, and China playing Chinese Taipei. Once again China Taipei had a chance to upset the medal-cart; a victory over China would give any one of four teams a fair chance at winning the gold.

Mi Yuting (left) playing Lin Li-Hsiang

Chinese Taipei got off to a good start on board two when Lin Li-Hsiang, playing black, defeated Mi Yuting. Lin lost five stones early on, but turned the loss to his advantage, and then enlarged his lead in a late ko fight and won by resignation. Lin had lost three title matches in Chinese Taipei this year, but the stocky twenty-one-year-old looked impressive in defeating his eighteen-year old superstar opponent.

Chinese Taipei’s upset hopes were dampened, however, when their leading player Chen Shih-Iuan lost a tightly fought game to China’s leading player Shi Yue on board one, and were then dashed when Tuo Jiaxi convincingly defeated Chang Che-Hao on board three. China now has four straight wins, and their remaining match is against North America. While China was struggling past Chinese Taipei, the North American team lost to the Korean team 0-3, so China’s chances of completing a clean sweep of all their matches when they play North America tomorrow appear quite good.

From the left: Fan Hui, Yuki Satoshi, Ida Atsushi and tournament referee Son En

Europe had no better luck against Japan than North America had against Korea. The Europeans fought hard, but Yuki Satoshi beat Fan Hui by a comfortable 7-1/2 points, Ida Atsushi beat Aleksandr Dinershteyn by 14.5 points, and Seto Taiki beat Ilya Shikshin by resignation.

While the men’s games were ending, the two women’s games, which had started at three o’clock, were still in progress, and both looked very close. Rui Naiwei had been behind in the medal game, but she had caught up and now seemed to be half a point ahead of Kim Chaeyoung. Unfortunately, in the final stage of the endgame she failed to play a one-point sente move in time, allowing her opponent to play it instead. This tilted the outcome to half a point in favor of Kim Chaeyoung, who will play Yu Zhiying for the gold medal tomorrow, while Ms Rui, who won the silver medal two years ago, now takes the bronze. This will be the first time that both the gold and silver medals have not gone to Chinese players.

In the contest for fourth and fifth places, Cathy Chang prevailed over Joanne Missingham by 1-3/4 stones (3-1/2 points). In this game she had never seemed to be behind. Although no medals were at stake, there is a substantial prize differential (5000 USD for fifth place, 8000 USD for fourth place), and perhaps it is fitting that the larger prize will go to the senior player.

- James Davies

Categories: World news

Women’s Quarter-Final: Chang Kai-Hsin vs Rui Naiwei

IGF Ranka - Sun, 14/12/2014 - 11:25

Chang Kai-Hsin 4p vs Rui Naiwei 9p: Full game record

Full comments are included in the attached game record.

The Women’s Individual Go event is heating up, as we enter the second half of the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing. We take a look at how Rui Naiwei 9p secured her place in the semi-final, which is to take place this afternoon.

Rui Naiwei is widely considered to be one of the strongest female players in the world. She has lived and worked in many countries, including Korea, the United States and Japan, where she studied under Go Seigen. Rui has won countless titles and just missed out on first place here in Beijing two years ago, losing to Li He in the final.

Her opponent Chang Kai-Hsin 4p has seen much success over the last ten years in Chinese Taipei. She says she has a ‘love-hate relationship’ with Go, with her most memorable game being a half-point loss in a title match final.

The game began with Rui Naiwei showing her intention to build a trademark moyo with moves 24 and 26. Chang’s move 37 was a little strange, leaving a weakness that Rui was soon to exploit. A kosumi on the third line would have been more natural. When Rui came in at the top with move 46, Black could not find a good local reply and so moved into the centre. The game is already good for White at this point, as Rui has a potential splitting attack that will ensure that the moyo on the left side is turned into territory.

Moves 75 and 76 were a bad exchange for Black, increasing White’s lead. It was better to cut, allowing Black either to develop eye-shape or to squeeze White. The position should now have been easy for Rui to convert to a win, but now followed a number of unusually slack moves that gave Chang a chance to get back into the game.

Diagram 2: What happened in the game

Diagram 3: A missed chance to keep Black eyeless

After Chang’s move 81, Rui chose a knight’s move (A in Diagram 2) but the sequence in Diagram 3 is better. White has already invested the two marked stones in Diagram 2 to attack Black’s central group, but this slack move allowed Black to easily make two eyes, rendering those stones ineffective. Black perhaps felt she was behind, as she tried the slightly risky hane at move 85, which left the potential for a ko in the top-right corner. But Rui failed to take advantage of this, playing a bad aji-keshi by capturing on move 104 that removed the potential for ko. It seems she was afraid of lacking ko threats, but nonetheless it was too early to make this play.

Defusing the ko allowed Black to pull back with move 107, a strong move that would not have been possible while there was still the possibility of ko. White suddenly became rather thin and it was now difficult to win cleanly, especially after missing the change to start a ko at move 136 (see variation in attached game record) that would have been very dangerous for Black.

In the end Rui was able to connect up all her groups and reach a winning endgame. She will face Kim Chaeyong 2p this afternoon in the semi-final.


John Richardson based on commentary by Michael Redmond 9p

Categories: World news

Interview with Daniel Daehyuk Ko

IGF Ranka - Sun, 14/12/2014 - 07:49

Ranka interviewed Daniel Daehyuk Ko just after he won the decisive game in North America’s match against Europe by defeating Ilya Shikshin.

Daniel Daehyuk Ko

Ranka: How do you feel?
Daniel: Great! We had a really painful loss last year – we lost three-nothing. So I felt that we should win at least one game this time. Even just one game! But luckily one of my teammates won too, so we ended up winning the match.

Ranka: How did your game go?
Daniel: In the opening I was trying to get more territory, while Ilya was trying to make a moyo and start a fight. He tried to attack the invading stones I played to reduce his territory, but he was really too aggressive. Throughout the whole game he was aiming at my weak groups, but every time, they were able to survive successfully. This was my game plan. I was still jet-lagged, so I had decided to take more territory and let him attack my weak stones, but make sure I knew how to save them. Each time I gave him a weak group to attack, I had a plan to save it.

Ranka: You seemed to be winning throughout the game. While you were fighting the final one-point ko, were you aware of how far ahead you were?
Daniel: I wasn’t sure exactly how many points I was winning by, but I thought that I was quite far ahead. I guess the final margin was about seven or eight points. I could have won by ten points or more, but I tried to play safe at the end (click here to download the game record).

Ranka: And now, please tell us how you learned to play go in Korea.
Daniel: I learned to play from my dad, who was like ten kyu. I saw my mom and my dad playing each other when I was five. By watching them, I learned the rules in just one game. After that I was interested in learning more, but there was no go club or dojo in my home town, so mostly I just learned by myself. Then when I was fifteen, one of the stronger amateurs in Korea moved to my town and opened a go club, so I went there and learned from him. I quickly became about six or seven dan – in about one year – but it was already a little too late to try to become a pro, so I decided not to be a pro but to stay an amateur. After graduating from highschool in Korea, I moved to the U.S. to go to college and stopped playing go. There was a period of seven or eight years in which I didn’t go to any tournaments.

Ranka: When did you resume?
Daniel: About eight years ago. After graduating from college and getting a job, I joined the American Go Association and started playing in tournaments again.

Ranka: How many American tournaments have you won?
Daniel: I don’t know, but more than ten. Probably fifteen or twenty, counting small local tournaments.

Ranka: If the American professional system continues to develop, would you consider becoming an American pro?
Daniel: I might think about it, but I’m happy to remain an amateur.

Ranka: Thank you.

Categories: World news

Round 3: North America’s Revenge

IGF Ranka - Sun, 14/12/2014 - 04:54

Round 3 of the men’s team event and round 4 of the women’s individual event were held on the third day of competition at the 4th SportAccord World Mind Games, under the direction of referee Michael Redmond. The men’s event began at half past noon, with the Chinese playing the Japanese, the North Americans playing the Europeans, and the Koreans playing the team from Chinese Taipei. All of these matches were to end with 2-1 scores.

Huiren Yang (left) playing Alexandr Dinershteyn

The North Americans quickly found themselves in a desperate situation. Two of their players, Huiren Yang and Daniel Daehyuk Ko, were part of the team that had had been shut out by the Europeans last year. Their third player, Mingjiu Jiang, outranked his French opponent Fan Hui by five professional dan levels, but he lost. When this game ended at about half past three on board one, North America’s prospects seemed bleak indeed.

An hour or so later on board two, however, North America’s Huiren Yang, who earned a 1-dan professional rank in China before emigrating to Boston, defeated Aleksandr Dinershteyn, who earned a 3-dan professional rank in Korea before returning to his native Russia. Today apparently the lower ranked player had the advantage. The seven-time European champion gave his opponent a territorial lead early in the opening, and Mr Yang held onto it for the rest of the game. This was the dour Yankee’s first SportAccord victory in eight attempts. Suddenly he looked twenty years younger.

Daniel Daehyuk Ko

On board three both North America’s Daniel Daehyuk Ko and Russia’s Ilya Shikshin had amateur 7-dan ranks, so perhaps neither was at any disadvantage, but here too the North American took a territorial lead, after which he successfully parried all his opponent’s attacks on his weak groups and even won the final one-point ko fight. When the score was counted by the Chinese method of first counting surrounded space and then counting stones, Mr Ko (black) was ahead by double the 3-3/4 stone compensation, so he won by a comfortable margin. This was his first victory in ten SportAccord games. North America had avenged its 2013 loss.

Meanwhile, the Chinese had clinched their match by beating Japan on the first two boards, while Chinese Taipei and Korea had divided two games and were nervously watching the close contest on board one, where Korea’s Park Younghoon was playing Chinese Taipei’s Chen Shih-Iuan. North America’s triumphant Mr Ko, who was born in Korea, joined them and had the additional pleasure of seeing Mr Park win by resignation to keep Korea’s slim gold medal hopes alive.

Jeong Choi

Like the Chen-Park game, the game between China’s Tuo Jiaxi and Japan’s Seto Taiki on board three was close, but unlike the games on boards one and two, the Japanese player was slightly ahead. When Mr Tuo tried to reverse the lead in a last-ditch ko fight, some Japanese ninja magic devastated his largest territory, so Mr Seto won by resignation.

In the women’s double knockout, Yu Zhiying won the all-Chinese match in the undefeated bracket to earn a day of rest in the next round, and at least a silver medal. The outcome was decided during the first fight of the middle game. Rui Naiwei made a mistake that cost her two stones and considerable territory, and after that Yu gave her no chance. Ms Rui now joins Joanne Missingham and Cathy Chang (Chinese Taipei) and Kim Chaeyoung (Korea) in the losers’ bracket. While Ms Yu was winning her fourth straight game, these three defeated and thereby knocked out Choi Jeong (Korea), Svetlana Shikshina (Russia), and Fujisawa Rina (Japan).

- James Davies

Categories: World news

Interview with Hua Xueming

IGF Ranka - Sat, 13/12/2014 - 09:39

The Chinese non-playing team captain is Hua Xueming, who won the Chinese women’s individual championship in 1993 and 1995 and the Tombow Cup in 2002, and more recently partnered with Nie Weiping to win the Shenzhen International Pair Go Tournament in 2010. She has also competed in the Fujitsu Cup with some success (beating Otake Hideo in 1994), and in 1985 she became one of the few women to win a tournament open to both women and men when she defeated a large number of male opponents, including Yu Bin, in the Xinxiu (New Star) Cup. She consented to an interview with Ranka during round 1.

Hua Xueming (right) drawing for the Chinese team

Ranka: Please tell us about your coaching career.
Hua: I worked as a coach for the National Youth Team, starting in 1997, then as a coach for the National Women’s Team starting in 2002. In 2005 China became dissatisfied with the results being produced by its national team, and assembled a group of five coaches for its national team. In June 2005 I became their group leader, as well as a coach of the National Men’s Team.

Ranka: What was the reason for the dissatisfaction?
Hua: China still hadn’t reached the top. For the first decade of full-scale international competition, the top country was Japan. Then for next decade, it was Korea. Up until 2005 Chinese players managed to win only three world titles.

Ranka: And after 2005?
Hua: China’s National Team has been doing better. Since 2005 they’ve won 23 world titles and they’ve been competing on equal or superior terms with the Koreans.

Ranka: What was the reason for China’s great leap forward?
Hua: There were four reasons. One was the long years of effort that the Chinese go community has put into the game since the distant past. That laid the foundation. A second reason was the existence of an elite national team in China. That created a sense of purpose. A third reason was the performance of China’s national team in the China-Japan Super-Go Series. The win-and-continue format of that tournament created an environment in which Chinese players could excel, and their success showed that Chinese players could be as good as any in the world. As for the fourth reason, it’s simply China’s large population.

Ranka: Which means that compared with the rest of the world, China has a larger pool of potential world champions to draw on. But what keeps Chinese young people interested in playing go, instead of the electronic games that seem to be displacing traditional games in other countries?
Hua: The situation in China is a little different from the rest of the world, because it is now changing for the better. In the past, go was treated as a sport in China, which created heroes and kept people interested, but now it is also regarded as a cultural pursuit, which makes it worth teaching to children as part of their upbringing. And another big factor, again, is China’s population. Even if go enthusiasts do not make up the majority in China, there are still quite a lot of us.

Ranka: Are you satisfied with China’s results in the SportAccord World Mind Games so far?
Hua: Oh, I guess we’ve done reasonably well, but I think the important thing about the SportAccord World Mind Games is not the individual results or team results. It’s the publicity that’s being generated, not only in China but also in the rest of the world. The televised broadcast of that’s taking place right now is one example.

Ranka: Finally, can you tell us something about the Chinese players and how they were selected for this year’s SportAccord World Mind Games?
Hua: The men are all young and all are winners of world championship titles. The selection process was very simple. We just took the three most recent world title winners from the National Men’s Team. On the women’s side, Yu Zhiying is also young and she was selected because currently she ranks as the strongest woman in China. Rui Naiwei was selected both for her strength as a player and because of her international reputation. And it was as the senior player, incidentally, that she was chosen to get the bye in the first round.

Ranka: Thank you very much.

Categories: World news

Round 2: China Rolls On

IGF Ranka - Sat, 13/12/2014 - 04:38

The second day of go competition at the 4th SportAccord World Mind Games started at 9:30 a.m. on December 12. Outside, Beijing’s skies were clear and relatively smog-free. Inside the go playing room on the second floor of the Beijing International Convention Center, it was to be full steam ahead for China.

Rui Naiwei (left) playing Aya Okuda

The morning event was round 2 of the women’s double knockout. On two of the boards Chinese players were matched against Japanese opponents. On the third board Chinese Taipei’s Joanne Missingham was playing Korea’s Kim Chaeyoung, who recently won the women’s Guksu title in Korea. On the fourth board Natalia Kovaleva, Europe’s heroine of round one, was matched against Korea’s teenaged women’s master (myungin) Choi Jeong, who had won the Bingsheng Cup in September. The four women who lost in round 1 had byes.

Joanne Missingham

The outcome was victory for both Chinese and both Koreans. Choi Jeong needed less than two hours to defeat Natalia Kovaleva by a wide margin. In a somewhat closer game China’s Rookie King Yu Zhiying defeated Japan’s women’s Honinbo Fujisawa Rina. Japan’s Okuda Aya then bowed in resignation to China’s Rui Naiwei after a long ko fight, and at 12:38 p.m. Joanne Missingham, trailing by a fraction of a stone with only two one-point moves left to play, resigned to Kim Chaeyoung.

In the meantime, the men’s team matches had begun. The big one was the confrontation between China, which had rolled over the European team in round 1, and Korea, which had had a close call against Japan. On board three Korea’s Kang Dongyoon faced China’s Tuo Jiaxi, whom he had beaten in the Nongshim Cup in October. Kang tried a relatively new joseki variation in the bottom right corner. It did not turn out well; Tuo established positions on both the lower and right sides. Tuo, who had won the LG Cup in February, continued to dominate the game, and after a while Kang found himself faced with the need to make a humiliating life for a group in the top right. It may be true that while there is life there is hope, and there was still plenty of open space in other parts of the board, but Kang decided that his hopes were too slim to be worth pursuing and resigned. China was off to a good start.

Mi Yuting

On board two, the Korean youngster Na Hyun was playing an even younger opponent: Mi Yuting. Last December Mi had leaped into stardom by winning the first Mlily Cup. This year, playing for Dalian in China’s A League, he had posted a 16-4 won-lost record that carried his team to a smashing league championship. In this game, however, Mi created a weak group on the lower side and Na took the lead. But Na, who had rescued victory from the jaws of defeat in round 1, now saw his lead evaporate in a ko fight that led to a capturing race he could not win, and he too resigned. Suddenly Korea had lost the match.

But it was not yet over. On board one Park Younghoon demonstrated that the endgame skills that had won him the Fujitsu Cup and various other titles some years ago were still intact, and also saved face for Korea, by playing to a narrow but secure victory over China’s top rated Shi Yue. In fact, Park seemed to be slightly ahead almost throughout the game, after Shi made a doubtful joseki choice early in the opening. It was ironical that the only Korean player to lose in round 1 was the only one to win in round 2.

Shi Yue

While the Chinese men’s team was taking a big step toward a gold medal, the Chinese women were doing equally well in round 3 of the women’s competition. Yu Zhiying had surprisingly little trouble in winning a contest of giant territories against Choi Jeong. Rui Naiwei subdued Kim Chaeyoung by the same fractional margin by which Kim had won in the morning. Four games were also played in the losers’ bracket, with good results for Chinese Taipei and mixed results for the rest of the world: Fujisawa Rina defeated Natalia Kovaleva; Joanne Missingham defeated Okuda Aya; Chinese Taipei’s Cathy Chang defeated North America’s Irene Sha; and in an all-Russian game, Svetlana Shikshina defeated Dina Burdakova. The losers of these four games have now been eliminated. Only the two Chinese players remain undefeated, and they will meet each other in round 4.

And what of China’s performance in the other disciplines? Hou Yifan has won a silver model in women’s and Wang Hao has won a bronze medal in men’s rapid chess, but the Chinese teams finished last in the round robin stage of the team-of-four contract bridge competition, which means they will compete for bronze medals in the final stage. In rapid draughts competition, Chinese players took 14th place among the 16 competitors in the men’s division and 8th and 11th places among the 12 competitors in the women’s division. After two rounds of xiangqi competition, Chinese players are tied with American players for first place in the men’s division and second place in the women’s division. So far, China is being led by its go players.

 – James Davies

Categories: World news

Game Commentary: Fujisawa Rina vs Yu Zhiying

IGF Ranka - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 15:14

Fujisawa Rina (left) and Yu Zhiying (right)

This clash of young stars was a highlight of the second round of the Individual Women’s event of the SportAccord World Mind Games 2014. Japan’s 16 year-old Fujisawa Rina took black against China’s Yu Zhiying, also 16 years-old and the winner of this event last year.

Fujisawa Rina is the youngest ever Japanese female player to become a professional and also to take a title. She is the granddaughter of Fujisawa Shuko, one of the best players of his era. Yu Zhiying has been scoring many wins in high-level events, including winning the 21th Xinren Wang this year and taking second in the 2013 Bingsheng Cup.

The game began with an interesting squeeze tesuji by Fujisawa starting from move 11 where White was constricted to the corner while Black took outside influence (click here to download the sgf file). The exchange of Black’s move 15 for White’s move 16 was however good for White, giving Black an uncomfortable empty triangle and making the overall result equal for both players.

After settling their claims to the top-left and lower-right corners in standard fashion, Yu began a surprising manoeuvre. She played atari then pushed (moves 54 and 56) starting a wild attack with bad shape. This is likely to be a mistake, with an extension (move 1 in Diagram 1) being the more natural move. See Diagram 1 for the most likely continuation, where Black plays atari at move 2 of the variation. If Black were to extend instead at 9, White would push at 2, Black hane, then White takes a (good) empty triangle, giving her a better result than in the game.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

The fight continued with Black looking good after the exchange up to move 67. Fujisawa’s move 75 however was too slack, at a point where it was imperative to take profit. Diagram 2 shows a variation starting with Black’s cut at move 1 that is far superior. Black is happy to capture the three stones if White covers the lower-right black group on move 78.

Thanks to Black’s loose play, Yu was able to make life in the lower-right while attacking Fujisawa’s corner. Black cannot keep this corner alive and still save the two stones (moves 47 and 71). White now turned to the top-right, where a dangerous-looking invasion at move 100 is actually a serious threat as White’s lower group is already alive.

After move 118, White had the miai of striking at Black’s right group and pushing through (with move 120). Even though Yu’s group had no eyes on the right side, Black cannot save all of her outside stones. The game is now over.


- John Richardson based on commentary by Michael Redmond 9p

Categories: World news

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

Categories: World news
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