On a Saturday afternoon, November 3, thirty-one pairs representing twenty-one countries/territories/continents sat down at the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont in Tokyo to play the first round of the 23rd International Amateur Pair-Go Championship. It was overall a young group, including two middle-school students, six high-school students, and nineteen university students. Ninety minutes later the round was over. The pairs from Korea and Chinese Taipei had defeated the pairs from Ireland and the Kyushu-Okinawa region of Japan, and the husband-wife Hiraoka pair, arguably the leading Japanese entry, had defeated the Japanese pair from Hokkaido. The Chinese pair did not participate this year.
And then the festivities began. The 62 players were partnered with 62 pair-go dignitaries, supporters, and volunteers, including a dozen or so professional players, for a pair-go friendship match.
National costumes were much in evidence, including the Irish leine, Japanese kimono, Japanese archers’ outfits, Peruvian woolen ponchos, aboriginal costumes from Taiwan, dazzling Thai jackets, and striking traditional garments from Czechia, France, Germany, Norway, Russia, and the Ukraine. The friendship games were followed by a buffet dinner party with speeches, an award for the Japanese pair that won the gold medal at the World Mind Sports Games in Lille last August, and a toast to the continued success of pair go.
The next day play continued in earnest, without national costumes, but with fashion designer Koshino Junko heading a panel that judged the players’ attire. On the go board, the pair from Chinese Taipei lost to a Japanese pair in the third round, but the Korean pair and the Hiraoka pair sailed undefeated into the fifth round, where they played the game that decided the championship. Nine-dan pros Ishida Yoshio and Michael Redmond gave simultaneous commentaries on the game in Japanese and English. Both commentators agreed that two forcing moves made by white (the Hiraoka pair) in the bottom right corner had been a mistake, giving up the opportunity to harass the black corner group. The Korean pair (Jang Yunjeong and Lee Hoseung) went on to attack and kill the adjacent white group, winning by resignation. This was the ninth championship for Korea in this event, including the last four in a row.
Japanese pairs monopolized second to seventh places, but the Russian pair (Natalia Kovaleva and Dmitriy Surin) and the European champion pair (Klara Zaloudkova and Jan Hora of Czechia) won their final games against Japanese opponents to finish tenth and seventeenth, respectively. The pair from Chinese Taipei (Lu Yu-hua and Tsai Tong-yu) dropped into eighth place by losing in the last round to the Japanese pair that finished third (Arai Naoko and Kuramoto Minoru).
And then the festivities resumed. There were prizes for the new Korean champions, including air tickets to Hawaii; prizes for the second and third place finishers; prizes for nine Japanese pairs who finished first, second, and third in each of the A, B, and C blocks in the huge parallel handicap tournament (130 pairs), and then the best dresser prizes, guessing game prizes, fellowship prizes, and lottery prizes, plus another sumptuous buffet dinner, all demonstrating once again that the Japan Pair Go Association not only know how to organize a good tournament; they also know how to throw a smashing party.
Full results and players’ pictures are here.