The Iwamoto Norther America Foundation for Go (INAF) today announces in Tokyo the award to establish a Go Center on the east coast in the Washington DC area. To be located in the nation’s capital, this new hub for Go is incorporating as a non-profit to be called the National Go Center. For details, see here.
The 37th World Amateur Go Championship will take place in June 2016 in Wuxi, a city of six million located slightly northwest of Shanghai. Ranka will be on hand to cover the entire event.
During its 3000-year history, Wuxi has produced many famous statesmen, writers, and artists. A recent addition to its honor roll is Yu Zhiying, who now tops the world in women’s professionial go. Last year Wuxi ventured into the international amateur go arena when a local trading company sponsored a match between a team of Chinese players and a mixed Japanese-Korean team. This year Wuxi has moved straight to the center of the arena by holding the WAGC.
The 37th world amateur champion will be decided in eight rounds played June 5-8, preceded by meetings on the 4th and followed by friendship games and sightseeing on the 9th. In the competition for the award-winning places, WAGC newcomers from Canada, Czechia, Chinese Taipei, France, Germany, Korea, the Ukraine, and the USA will challenge a strong lineup of WAGC veterans from Europe and the Far East. Also worth watching will be a trio of thirteen-year-olds from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, all ranked 4 or 5 dan. The full list of players can be viewed here. For everyone it will be a great chance to meet old friends, make new friends, and take on opponents from the four corners of the earth.
Two human vs computer even game matches were played in Europe last October. In one, former German champion Franz-Josef Dickhut disposed of Zen 3-1, apparently reaffirming human superiority. But as reported in the 28 January issue of Nature, in the other match AlphaGo, a new program from Google DeepMind, trounced European Champion Fan Hui 5-0. Fan earned a 2-dan professional ranking in China before emigrating to France, so it appears that go software has reached the level of professional play. The new ingredient responsible for this startling advance is deep learning, a technique also coming into use in fields such as speech recognition and medical diagnosis.
In the first of the five AlphaGo-Fan games, both sides played conservatively and AlphaGo won by 2.5 points. In the rest of the match Fan played aggressively, but AlphaGo outfought him and won four times by resignation. Fan described AlphaGo as “very strong and stable…like a wall.” Game records can be found here.
This March, plans call for AlphaGo to take on a tougher professional opponent, in fact, one of the toughest there is: Korean 9-dan Lee Sedol, winner of numerous world titles since 2002. The outcome of this match is hard to predict, but it is worth noting that the AlphaGo programming team reports that AlphaGo can beat the best rival computer programs with a four-stone handicap. That is something that several other 9-dan pros have had trouble doing in the past few years.
The 1st IMSA Elite Mind Games (IEMG) is being held from February 25 to March 3 at New Century Hotel Huaian, China. IEMG is featuring five mind sports as official disciplines – Go, chess, bridge, draughts, and Xiangqi. In Go, 30 top players around the world will be competing for total prize money of 200,000 EUR in three medal events: Men’s Team, Women’s Individual, and Pair.
IEMG is a re-branded event of SportAccord World Mind Games, which was hosted in Beijing four times annually from 2011 to 2014. As SportAccord goes through restructuring and becomes unable to host World Mind Games, IMSA (the International Mind Sports Association), the co-organizer of the SportAccord World Mind Games, took responsibility and succeeded in bringing the event back under the new title. It is expected that IEMG will continue to be held on an annual basis as a major mind-sport event.
Players from six continents and assorted islands will gather at the Montien Riverside Hotel in Bangkok for eight rounds of Swiss system competition at this year’s World Amateur Go Championship June 7-10. At stake will be a championship cup and second and third place cups donated by the main sponsors (CP All, The Siam Commercial Bank, and Red Bull); plaques and certificates for fourth to tenth places; and two fighting spirit awards.
The Asian contingent will be young, including 12-year-old contestants from Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, and Malaysia and teenagers from China, Hong Kong, Korea, Macau, Singapore, and the host country Thailand. Japan will field a two-time former world champion, and Europe will field several players who have placed high in past years. Video self-introductions by sixteen of the fifty-eight players can be viewed here.
The schedule also includes a Directors’ Meeting and General Meeting of the International Go Federation on June 6, a “Triple Go” side-event likewise on June 6, and sightseeing with a dinner cruise on June 11. Seven games each round will be broadcast on Pandanet. Ranka Online will carry reports of the entire event.
The list of players is here.
Tlatelolco Cultural Center was the hosting venue of the1st Mexican Go Congress held from November 15 to 17, 2014 in Mexico City, Mexico. This 1st Congress counted with the distinguished presence of Hajin Lee 3P and an Kim Sooyong 4P both sent by auspice of the Korean Baduk Association.
The 3 day Congress was the host for several events such as the 1st Mexican Open Tournament, a 13×13 tournament for kids, Go and Origami workshops and of course both Korean Pros shared with the Mexican Go community their skill trough reviews from the Open Tournament games, lectures and simultaneous games exhibitions.
Organized by the Mexican Go Association and sponsored by UNAM, Mexico’s main public university and KABA, this Congress is pioneer in the development of Go in Mexico and Latin America. With a 45 players field for the Open Tournament and more than 300 attendants in total, the event turned out to be a huge success.
“This Congress was a multi-purpose event” reports Mexican Go Association president, Mr. Emil García, “The players not only had the chance to play in an official tournament and feel the seriousness of it, but also had the opportunity to gain insight of how pro players think of the game trough the several activities we had with them. It was also a great chance of sharing and learning for the youngest players, I’m surprised by the amount of youngsters that participated in the 13×13 Tournament and in the workshops, kids are increasingly becoming a main actor in Mexican Go.
“European and American Go are developing really fast, and they are getting a lot of support from International entities, Mexican and LatinAmerican Go shouldn’t lag behind, that’s why we are working really hard to be able to catch up with you guys” says Mr. García. “2015 will be a year full of surprises for Mexican Go, so stay tuned!”
For picture galleries of this Congress check the event website.
While five outstanding Korean professional go players were competing for medals at the World Mind Games in Beijing last month, 136 outstanding Korean amateurs competed in Seoul for the Amateur Guksu (or Kuksu) title, and the right to represent Korea at the next World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand. The competitors included some who are training in hopes of winning professional credentials in Korea’s tough insei league, so the Guksu tournament was also viewed as a contest between this elite group and Korea’s large general amateur population.
A double-elimination preliminary qualifier held on December 13 reduced the field from 136 to 64, who then competed in a six-round knockout on December 14 and 15. After four of the six rounds, three of the four survivors were insei: Kim Changhoon, Park Jaegeun (winner of the 2013 Korea Prime Minister Cup), and Song Jihoon. Song also won one of the two semifinal games, greatly improving on his performance the year before, when he had been retired in the first knockout round. But insei dominance was not complete. The winner of the other semifinal game was Hong Moojin, who ranked No. 2 in the junior (U40) tier of Korean amateurs, second only to 2013 Guksu and 2014 KPMC winner Wei Taewoong. Song, for his part, ranked No. 3 among the insei.
Could the third best insei beat the second best general amateur? The answer to that question, after a 247 move thriller in the final round, was yes — by half a point. In a post-game interview Song Jihoon described his Guksu triumph as follows:
‘I was lucky to win. All my games were tough, especially my second-round game against Song Hongsuk [who was 2009 amateur Guksu and 2010 world amateur champion] and the final game against Hong Moojin. The final game was a struggle all the way, with the lead constantly shifting back and forth, but Hong made the last mistake.’
Aged seventeen, Song Jihoon is regarded as a rising star among the insei. In October he and Kim Changhoon competed alongside pros in the Samsung Cup. His style of play is often compared to that of Lee Sedol, whom he hopes to emulate. To quote him again, ‘I’m now preparing for the professional qualifying tournament by working on my opening, which is my weak point. Now that I’ve won the Guksu, I’m determined to win the world amateur championship and get the 40 professional qualification points that will be worth. Then I’ll try to win a professional world title within five years of making pro.’
In the meantime, to further his training he has the ₩2-million Guksu first prize (roughly $1800 or €1500). Hong Moojin, who has already amassed 90 of the 100 points needed to qualify as a pro, received ₩700,000 as runner-up, and took over the No. 1 amateur rank, pushing Wei Taewoong down to No. 2. Last year Wei narrowly missed being world amateur champion. Can a different Korean do better this year? That question will be answered in Bangkok next June.
Postscript: Song Jihoon made pro in February 2015. The Korean player at the next World Amateur Go Championship will be someone else, currently undecided.
– James Davies
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.
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.
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.
And what of the men’s team match between Japan and Chinese Taipei? As he had the previous day, 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.
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
The 4th SportAccord World Mind Games (chess, contract bridge, draughts, go, xiangqi) will be held in Beijing December 11-17. The go competition will follow the same format as last year: 18 men representing China, Chinese Taipei, Europe, Japan, Korea, and North America will vie in a three-man team round-robin; 12 women from the same areas will compete as individuals in a double knockout; and 16 of these players will also compete in a single knockout mixed pair tournament. Click here for player lists and photos.
Last year the Chinese and Korean men’s teams staged a riveting fight for the gold medal, which went to the Korean team when their third player beat his Chinese opponent by a fraction of a point. China will try to even the score this year with a team of three young world title-holders. Korea will counter with a team consisting of two of its medalists from 2012 and 2013 and a young player named Na who recently won the Korean Prices Information Cup. Japan, after going home empty-handed last year, will field an all new team drawn from Nagoya and Osaka. Their first assignment will be to avenge last year’s defeat at the hands of Chinese Taipei.
The fight for the women’s medals will be very tough. Judging from recent international competition, the field includes the world’s current top three women, or at least three of the top four, all Chinese or Korean. Players from the other areas will be trying to break the Chinese-Korean medal monopoly of previous years.
In pair competition, China, Japan, and Korea will enter five teenaged players and one (Na) who is just twenty. Chinese Taipei, whose teenaged pair took the silver medal last year, will let a new and older pair to try to match or better that feat. Europe is entering three pairs and North America one; it should be a lively three rounds.
Tuo Jiaxi from the Chinese men’s team and Lee Hajin, secretary general of the International Go Federation, will also act as go ambassadors. They and the ambassadors from the other four disciplines will take part in various social and publicity events.
Ranka will once again provide daily reports and commentaries.
Chimin Oh Wins Go to Innovation Was it the lure of the thousand-euro first prize or the chance to play some serious handicap go? Whatever it was, on November 14-16, 2014 the annual Go to Innovation tournament drew fifty-five players from far and wide to Berlin. An eight-round Hahn system was used, which meant that starting scores were assigned according to the players’ EGF ratings. Additional points were earned in amounts that depended not only on who won or lost each game but also on how much he or she won or lost by and whether he or she had won in the previous round. All games were played with appropriate handicaps or komi according to the players’ current scores.
The highest-rated contestant was former Korean go instructor Chimin Oh, 7-dan, who currently resides in England. His starting score immediately put him in the lead. In his first game he beat German champion Lukas Krämer (6-dan), but then he lost a two-stone handicap game to Austrian champion Viktor Lin (5-dan). Next day he lost to Hungarian champion Pal Balogh (6-dan) and then to Lluis Oh (6-dan, Spain). Following these defeats, however, he rebounded with a string of victories over Nordic champion Yaqi Fu (6-dan, Sweden), Zebin Du (6-dan, China), Jan Hora (6-dan, Czechia, with a two-stone handicap), and Jan Prokop (5-dan, Czechia, with a three-stone handicap). His final Hahn score put him far ahead of Viktor Lin, whose four wins were good enough for the 500-euro second place prize. Zebin Du won six games and finished third (250 euros). The best performance by a female player was turned in by by Rita Pocsai (4-dan, Hungary), who earned a 500-euro prize from Omikron Data Quality in addition to her 100-euro tenth-place prize. Complete results are here.
There was also a jackpot prize for winning eight games, but nobody claimed it. In fact, no one managed to win even seven games. The Hahn system does not give anyone an easy time in any round, and in some sense it rewards the players according to how well they played, regardless of how many games they won. Jan Hora, for example, won only three games, but all his opponents ended among the top ten and he finished seventh. Perhaps next year more 7-dans will try this system out.
– James Davies