Go in Britain: 1995

As usual the new year started with the Hitachi London Open at Highbury roundhouse. A third of the 129 players at the 21st tournament were from overseas; 13 countries were represented. The tournament was very successful thanks to the had work of Harold Lee as organiser and thanks to the generous sponsorship. The Managing Director of Hitachi Leasing Europe Ltd, Dr Motoki Shirasuka, was pleased to be able to present the prizes including one to his son who is a keen go player.

The main battles were to see in anyone could beat the two strong Chinese lady players: Guo Juan from the Netherlands and Zhao Pei from Germany. In the end nobody could, Guo beating Zhao to win the tournament with a perfect score of 8. Third was Britain's Matthew Macfadyen (on six) and fourth equal were Mark Boon (Netherlands) and Matthew Cocke (Britain) on five.

In a youth tournament six youngsters fought for the right to challenge David King (2kyu) in the final. Guo Wang-zi (only 7 years old and 15 kyu) played but lost, allowing David's Brakenhale School to claim the Hitachi television. Miss Zhao won the lightning beating Eric Warkentin of France in the final. There was also a hastily organised rengo tournament before the New Year's Eve Chinese restaurant trip; the list of prize winners had an international feel to match the feel of what is Britain's top international go event.

In Britain in 1994 the regional tournament titles were shared around the top players, largely due to Matthew Macfadyen's spell in Japan. In 1995 however Matthew dominated the prize list. He won at Wanstead in February, Coventry in March, Leicester in June, Barmouth in July, Milton Keynes in September and Shrewsbury in October. He failed to win at January's Hitachi sponsored Furze Platt tournament, losing to T. Mark Hall. T. Mark's good year continued with wins at Bracknell in May, at the Northern in September and the Wessex in October. John Rickard was second on tie-break at the Northern, but was clear first at the Three Peaks Tournament in November. This event went ahead in memory of founder Tim Hazelden (2dan) who was tragically killed in a car crash at the end of September. Tim was Landlord at the Marton Arms in the Yorkshire Dales, the location of the tournament and a place where go players were always welcome.

The Wanstead four dans picked up wins at some of the smaller competitions. Alistair wall won South London in March and the new Devon Tournament at Totnes in July. Francis Roads won the Scottish Open in May, at Swindon in November and at the resurrected Small Board Championships at Cambridge in June. The other title winners were Matthew Cocke at the Cambridge Trigantius in February, Simon Shiu at his own North-East Tournament at Darlington in April and Jay Rastall (2dan) at the West Surrey Handicap in December.

The 28th British Go Congress was hosted by Wanstead Club at Felsted School in rural Essex. 75 players attended to enjoy the go, the company, the annual general meeting of the British Go Association and the delightful setting. Despite problems over the stones arriving late, the lightning tournament started on the Friday evening. In the final on the Saturday Mark Harrod (12 kyu) beat Chris Dawson (1 dan) to become the weakest and youngest ever winner, possible because of a change in tournament system. In the Open a visitor was declared the winner on 5/6: Ulf Olsson from Sweden. Equal second were Harold Lee and John Rickard. David Bennett (15 kyu) was the only player to win all six games. Daniel Cox won the continuous small board event. At the prize giving Alistair Wall was awarded the Stacey Trophy for the most wins 1994-1995 and David King won the Youth equivalent.

In the 1994 British Championship final, played early in 1995, Zhang Shutai, the Chinese doctor from London, saw off the challenge from Matthew Macfadyen 3-0. The first stage of the 1995 championship was held during the VE Week End in London. A record 36 players played. Despite disturbances from the fire bell, a parade of human insects and aircraft fly-pasts, the survivors were Des Cann, T. Mark Hall, Alex Rix, Piers Shepperson and Jonathan Chetwynd. These joined Matthew Macfadyen, Matthew Cocke and Nick Webber for the all-play-all Challenger's League, the May Bank Holiday weekend. Britain's other top player, Edmund Shaw, was away coming 23rd at the World Amateur in Tokyo. In the League Macfadyen lost only to Cocke; Cocke lost to Shepperson and Cann; Cann lost to Macfadyen and Shepperson but had a jigo with Alex Rix; Hall and Shepperson both lost three. So it was a rematch of the 1994 final. This time Shutai made it more exciting by losing game two through ko recapture, by losing game three by defending an already alive group and by playing an exciting fifth game at Swindon. It looked like Matthew would win, but the lead slipped away and Shutai was the Champion for the third time.

The big event of the summer of 1995 was the third Isle of Man Go Week in August. 48 players assembled on this delightful island in the Irish Sea to play go and enjoy the atmosphere and sights. They were privileged to have along Saijo Masataki, the 8 dan professional from Japan, to give advice for the first few days. It was sad when his summer tour came to an end and he had to return to Japan.

The main event at Man covers the mornings of five days. Previous champion, Francis Roads lost to club-mate Andrew Jones and was placed second; Andrew went on to win the event despite losing to Tony Atkins in the last round. Francis did hang on to the afternoon event title by beating Alison Jones in the last round. This prevented her from winning her first tournament two days before her husband. Alison did win her first five games in the handicap, but the weakest player tie-break saw her placed behind Paul Donnelly, Mark Harrod and winner Francis Weaver (22 kyu). A team event was won by the Wall of Paul 2 (Margetts, Donnelly, Hankin and Barnard). Pair go champions were Paul and Andrea Smith ahead of Colin Adams and Paul Hankin. Jo Hampton lost the 13x13 to Mike Charles and lost the continuous lightning play-off to Mark Harrod. The other events such as the music night, the various outings and the dinner with prize giving made the week very enjoyable as usual.

Another big event was the British Pair Go Championships in September. The event was held at the well renowned Compleat Angler Hotel by the Thames in Marlow thanks to sponsorship by the International Amateur Pair Go Committee. A record 36 male-female pairs attended some of whom learnt go especially to play. There were three sections: novice, handicap and top. Kirsty Healey and Matthew Macfadyen won the latter group and hence went to the World Championships in Japan. Runners up were Jackie Chai and Francis Roads. In the handicap section the strong team of Zhang Shutai and Niu Fei-Fei were expected to win, but lost their last game. Hence weaker teams won: Debbie Jones and Francis Weaver, Hannah and John Ellul. In the best Pair Go tradition there were prizes for the best dressed couples and also a prize for the most reluctant partner. In Japan, our pair lost narrowly to a strong couple from Osaka, but won a couple of games in the handicap section.

Other events in 1995 included Wanstead playing as the Royal Standard Beaconsfield to win the Thames Valley Team Tournament, a Teaching Day in Surrey run by National Trainer Matthew Macfadyen, an Anglo-Japanese match won by the Japanese and two London International Team Matches (both won by the Central London Go Club). In February Yun Feng, the well-known woman professional 8 dan, brought a delegation from the Pingding Mountain Coal Bureau Go Team that included Wang Dongliang, professional 4 dan. The team visited London, Edinburgh and Plymouth. The 1994 Schools Champions were Brakenhale from Bracknell, who were also 1995 Champions unchallenged. Youth Champion for 1995 was David King (1 kyu). Under 14 champion was Emma Marchant, Under 12 was Thomas Blockley and Under 10 was Sophia Ellul.

Our top players were active around Europe. Matthew Macfadyen was the strongest of the large British team to attend the Irish Open in Dublin. For the first time it was a Grand Prix event and Matthew made sure he came away with 15 points. Des Cann was second and Tony Goddard was third. Matthew also took 15 points for winning Prague for the fifth time and won a share of the Ing Cup prize money. He was seventh in the European Championships in Poland, to come sixth in the Grand Prix rankings. Zhang Shutai was first in Paris, second in Brussels and lost the final of the Obayashi Cup to Guo Juan.

Dr. Michael Reiss of London University was second in the FOST World Computer Go Championships in Japan with his program Go4++. He had a similar result in another computer event in Korea, both times losing to the program Handtalk.

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