The European Go Championship (hence, ‘EC’) ended two weeks ago. The winner this year was Ilya Shikshin 3p from Russia. You can find more details in the article on the results of the EC2020.
This year, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the EC had to be played online. This brought up a special format that was used, and of course a special organisation experience.
Below you will find an interview with Jean-Yves Papazoglou from France, the Vice-President of the European Go Federation. This year, as usual, he took care of organising the EC. Let’s see what he tells us about this new experience of organising the online EC.
1. How do you feel after the tournament is over? Was it a hard job to organise the European Championship online?
It was a big relief once the European Championship finished on November 2nd with an ultimate and decisive game between Ali Jabarin 2p (Israel) and Ilya Shikshin 3p (Russia). Traditionally this championship is organised during our annual European Go Congress with money prizes offered by the congress organisation. Hence, as it was not possible to run it live in Ukraine, we awaited better times to organise it later in the year which finally was not possible due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 virus in Europe. Early September, we decided to run it online without prizes. After a few days, no EGF pros registered and protested that no money prizes were available. We had the idea to suggest our go fan lovers support this championship via crowdfunding. And it worked very well beyond our expectations and all EGF pros (except for one) decided to participate.
2. How many people worked in a team for the EC organisation?
Basically, it was myself supported by the EGF Executive Board, Lorenz Trippel, our secretary, and Ali Jabarin (or the EGF pros) for any decision we had to take. For example, we hesitated how to ensure the live commentaries via our EGF Youtube channel with a preliminary subscription or via the EGF Twitch channel with free access to all. The final choice was to offer free access and to expect additional donations thanks to the promotion we did during the commentaries. It worked thanks to many enthusiastic donors who appreciated the games and the several-hours-long live commentaries from our top EGF players.
3. Please describe briefly the tournament system that was used this year.
This year we changed the system, as it was an online tournament and the period to run it was an extended one (from September 21 to November 2). We started with 32 players selected out of the 8 from the previous European Championship and the best rated EGF players. Like in tennis at the Roland Garros tournament, we organised two qualification rounds for the players beyond rank 8. The top 8 qualified to play against the players ranked 1-8. After two single-elimination rounds, the top 4 entered the final phase with a best of three games. All games were played with Fischer time: 60mn + 30 s/ move which means an average of 4-hour games.
4. How did the organising process go?
As the time to organise it was very short (only 2 weeks), we are happy that we had 32 players motivated to play it, and nearly all the strongest EGF players applied. One difficulty with online games was the video recording system we suggested to the players to avoid cheating. It was new for us and inspiration came from a similar experience in Asia. We implemented a video call via Skype with the recording of each player and their screen. It worked pretty well without any claim or suspicion of cheating. The commission we put in place, consisting of Antti Törmänen 1p, Yoon Young-sun 8p, and Zhao Balong 2p had nearly no work all along the championship.
During the final phase, we had to take into account an unexpected but happy event on Artem Kachanovskyi’s side with the birth of his second child. To avoid pronouncing a forfeit, all other players very kindly accepted to postpone the semi-final against Ali by one week.
Another potential issue during online games is the misclick that can happen with a very sensitive PC’s mouse. It happened once, and the other player accepted the request for undo. All along the Championship, we could feel the trust and respect between all players for each other which made it a real pleasure for me to organise such a competition.
Initially, we planned to have proctors for the top 4 players, but they mutually agreed that was not necessary as there is a high level of trust between them.
5. Please tell us about the crowdfunding campaign.
The most difficult part was to select the right crowdfunding platform (OkPal) and get our EGF bank account certified by them. Our EGF treasurer, Harry van der Kroegt will remember how many emails and exchanges were necessary. We established a system with Gold and Silver donors who would benefit from specific goodies and rewards: advertising, pictures with the EC winner, commentaries by EGF pros of the best 5 games, simultaneous games against an EGF pro, t-shirts, and copies of the 2016 EGF yearbook.
As the crowdfunding worked well (3,950€ for a target of 3,000€), we were able to secure enough funding for the commentaries of all games played during the final phase.
6. Did you enjoy observing the games?
Indeed, it was a unique opportunity for the first time to follow all games as they were not played all at the same time as in the live championship. Also, we benefitted from the kibitz of top players who were watching, and commented on the ongoing games on the OGS server.
The final games with the best of three were very spectacular to observe as we could feel the stakes were high for all finalists, and especially for Ilya Shishkin who was searching for his 7th European championship title, thus equaling his compatriot Alexander Dinerstein. Our EGF top players helped us to better follow the games and appreciate how powerful they are. We reached a peak of more than 500 observers on the OGS server which is a kind of record for such an EGF championship.
I would like to thank all those who supported this championship: the 32 players for their impressive games and the EGF pro team led by Ali Jabarin who organised the live Twitch commentaries (nearly 40 hours in total).
You can see the following links for more details:
European Championship 2020 webpage
EGF crowdfunding campaign
Interview with Ilya Shikshin, European Champion 2020
Report by Artem