The 26th Evening News Cup was held on January 6-12 in Xian, once the starting point of the silk road, now a center of China’s software industry. The tournament is sponsored by the Chinese Weiqi Association and the China Evening News Journalists’ Association. Although its financial rewards are modest (10,000 yuan — about 1600 dollars or 1200 euros — for 1st place) it is China’s foremost amateur tournament because since 1992 the winner (or runner-up in 2002-2005) has represented China at the World Amateur Go Championship. The winner also receives a promotion to 7 dan and has the option of turning pro, as Qiao Zhijian did last year. This year the field included four former world champions who remained amateur: Sun Yiguo (1993), Li Daichun (2001), Hu Yuqing (2005, 2009), and Bai Baoxiang (2011). It also included 2010 WAGC runner-up Wang Chen, winner of the 120,000-yuan Chenyi Cup in 2011 and the Amateur Tianyuan in 2012 and ranked, along with Hu and Bai, among China’s top four amateur players.
The Evening News Cup is both an individual and a team competition. Most of the players participate as members of three-person teams representing evening newspapers from all over China, their aggregate score determining their team’s standing. The field (166 players this year) was divided into A and B blocks. An 11-round Swiss system in each block was followed by a two-round combined play-off for 1st to 8th places. The players played two games per day (one on January 8), with 85-minute time limits followed by 10-second-per-move overtime.
For the first five days block A was dominated by Wang Chen and block B by Hu Yuqing. Nobody could beat them. Wang downed Bai Baoxiang in round 7, and Hu defeated Qian Liuru, a rising teenaged star who contested the 2012 Chenyi Cup with Bai (Bai won), in round 6. On day six Hu remained invincible, winning block B with a perfect 11-0 score, but Wang lost twice, throwing block A into confusion: three players ended up with nine wins apiece and two had eight. SOS points sorted out the top three, putting Wang first, Jinglong Cup winner Li Ziqi second, and teenaged Cheng Honghao, master (mingren) of Anhui and Anqing in 2010 and 2011, third. Bai, who had lost to Cheng in round 10, squeaked into fourth place on a third-level tie-break.
In the semi-final round the next morning block B’s No. 1 Hu defeated block A’s No. 2 Li, but Block A’s Wang, Cheng, and Bai prevailed over, respectively, the 2nd-, 4th-, and 3rd-place finishers in block B: Qian Liuru, eleven-year-old Wang Bo, and teenager Dai Zhitian. In the final round in the afternoon, Hu Yuqing won by resignation over Wang Chen to capture the cup, completing a remarkable week of thirteen straight victories against tough opponents, most of them about half his age. Li Ziqi beat out Qian Liuru for third place, Cheng Honghao beat Bai Baoxiang again to take fifth, and Wang Bo beat Dai Zhitian to take seventh.
On January 13 the top six finishers challenged strong professional opponents (Piao Wenyao, Jiang Weijie, Shi Yue, Tan Xiao, Nie Weiping, Xie He). Historically the amateurs, playing at handicaps ranging from even to two stones, have won more than half of these games. This year the amateurs took black with no compensation and the pros beat them on all six boards.
The team competition was won by a team representing the Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News, no suprise since the team members were Hu Yuqing, Wang Chen, and 2003 World Student Oza Champion Ye Lingyun. Best woman was Zhao Guanru, who finished 35th in block A. Veteran world amateur champions Li Daichun and Sun Yiguo turned in good results by finishing 7th and 12th in block B.