Durham Held Online
After cancelling the 2020 Durham Go Tournament, we were keen to run a tournament this year, reports Andrew Ambrose-Thurman, and the only way to do this safely was to take it online.
We weren't expecting huge numbers, but were quite pleased with the numbers a few days before. Then someone helpfully - without us knowing - advertised it with a banner on OGS, and numbers went up by 50% overnight. On the morning of the tournament we had 90 people registered, of whom 70 actually played (around 50 per round, with some people only playing certain rounds due to their timezone). We'd expected most of the entrants to be from the UK, but people played from 20 countries - including places as far afield as America, China, Russia, Finland and Syria. Some of the players were staying up late at night to finish their games, while others were getting up at 4am to play. We even had some people who registered thinking this was their local tournament in Durham, North Carolina. There was a good number of youth players entering the tournament - including eight from the Tonbridge School Go Club. It was also good to see several people at the tournament who had been joining the Durham Go Club's twice weekly online sessions over the past year - club members, alumni, and others, from various parts of the world.
We'd set up a tournament management system that would set up the OGS games automatically. Even though we'd tested it at a club session the week before, Round 1 still had a few technical issues to iron out - these were resolved, and the games started pretty much on time. After this, the tournament mostly ran smoothly. We asked all the entrants to confirm before each round if they were planning to play - similar to an in-person tournament, where we'd have checked who was in the room. In many ways this made things easier, but (just like at an in-person tournament where people arrive and ask to play just as the draw's being made) we had several people forget to confirm until the last minute. It was working sufficiently well that we had lots of positive feedback at the end of the tournament - we're thinking of tidying it up and tweaking it to run another online tournament in the future.
It was interesting to see how the lockdown had been affecting people's ranks. Some people had played very little since 2019, while others had been playing a lot online and had outgrown their tournament rank. This wasn't helped by people who hadn't played in a European tournament before, as OGS and EGD ranks aren't always well aligned.
The Durham Tournament normally has an all you can eat BBQ on the Saturday evening - a chance for everyone, whether or not they played in the tournament, to get together, eating, drinking, chatting, and occasionally even playing Go, late into the evening. That wasn't possible this year, so instead we planned some alternative, online activities. The first was a lecture from Sandy Taylor (3d), on "Mistakes that matter (and why most of them don't)". This was an interesting and accessible look at some of the tournament games from earlier that day, showing how if you have the wrong overall game plan then it can cause you problems even if all the individual moves you're making are good.
This was followed by a party over Zoom - which gave an opportunity to see people face to face, even if everyone had to provide their own food and drink. There had been going to be a second lecture as well on the cultural and historical side of Go, but sadly every one of the museums we asked for a speaker had been too busy preparing their post-Covid reopening - perhaps one for next year instead.
The Sunday continued pretty much the same, with another three rounds. No one managed to win all 6 of their games, but Leo Kai Mei (5d, also winning the tournament), Mani Sanford (4d), Emmanuel Faubry (3k), Matthew Frye (6k), Franziska Kern (13k) and Christina Schramm (19k) all won 5/6, and Jan Novotny (8k), Kamil Banul (8k) and Pavel Maljugin (10k) won all the rounds they entered.
It was great to have so many people along. Hopefully, all being well, this time next year we'll be able to run an in-person tournament again - assuming so, you're all welcome to come to Durham for a fun weekend in June 2022 (although some of this year's entrants may find it a little far to travel!)