Gold Medals for China and Korea

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Wang Yuan-jyun (left) playing Ilya Shikshin

The fifth and final round of the men’s team event at the 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games began at 12:30 on December 16th, with chief referee Wang Runan presiding. Excitement was in store in all three matches. In the match between Chinese Taipei and Europe, for example, after Chinese Taipei’s Lin Chun-yen had beaten Slovakia’s Pavol Lisy by resignation on board three, Russia’s Ilya Shikshin struck back for Europe by defeating Wang Yuan-jyun on board two. Ilya’s summary:

‘The opening was even. I got a little behind later, but after I invaded his main territory and captured some of his stones inside it, I was far ahead. Then I played a very bad endgame, so I only won by half a point.’

On board one France’s Fan Hui also seemed to be winning, but he made a few small mistakes in the final stages of the endgame and Chou Chun-hsun eked out victory by the narrowest possible margin. Both players came out of the playing room in states of high agitation. This result secured the match and the bronze medal for Chinese Taipei, but it had been an awfully close call.

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Tsuruta Kazushi (left) playing Yongfei Ge

Not to be outdone, the North American team also scored a win, its first of the tournament, in a game against Japan. The winner was Canada’s Yongfei Ge, who defeated Tsuruta Kazushi, likewise by the narrowest possible margin, on board three. Yongfei’s summary:

‘I actually played well in the opening, and I got a chance to take a big lead in the middle game, but I missed it. The fighting after that was very close. We traded the lead back and forth, and I was the lucky one in the end. Thank goodness, because this is the only game I’ve won here!’

The other two North American players both lost, so Japan won that match. As a result, Japan finished fourth, Europe fifth, and North America sixth.

In the meantime, the fight between China and Korea for the gold medal was looking promising for the Chinese team. Zhou Ruiyang had defeated Kim Jiseok by resignation on board two, and Fan Tingyu and Wang Xi also seemed to be winning their games. On board one, however, Park Jeonghwan found a wedging tesuji (diagram below) that no one else had seen, gaining a ko for a black group that Fan thought he had killed. Park had plenty of ko ammunition, and when the ko fight ended with the black group alive, Fan could only resign.

Wang Xi’s opponent on board three was Cho Hanseung, who had won a place on the Korean team by beating last year’s gold and silver medalists (Choi Chulhan and Kang Dongyoon), but had then lost his first game to Chinese Taipei’s Lin. Cho now constructed a large framework that enveloped the right side and much of the center. Wang invaded and lived inside it. Advantage–Wang, but there followed a lengthy endgame in which Cho came from behind to win, once again by the narrowest possible margin. Match and gold medals to Korea; silver medals to China. Overall lesson: the endgame may be the least exciting part of the game, but it is the most important part.

Here’s the tesuji that Park Jeonghwan found. The complete game record, with Michael Redmond’s commentary, is here.

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Park’s gold-medal tesuji

Still to be determined was the fate of the gold and silver medals in the women’s individual competition. China’s Wang Chenxing and Yu Zhiying began playing the deciding game at three o’clock. Ms Yu, with black, took the initiative from the outset, constructing a large framework and grabbing territory as well. Ms Wang spent much of the opening reducing Ms Yu’s framework from above, without gaining much territory for herself. Ms Yu’s lead held up through the middle game and endgame, and when she won a late-endgame ko fight, Ms Wang resigned.

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Go, Chess and Bridge medallists at the awarding ceremony

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Team Korea

An awards ceremony was held in the evening. Following the awarding of medals for pair bridge and blitz chess, the men’s go teams from Korea, China, and Chinese Taipei took the dais to receive their medals and witness the raising of their flags, accompanied by the playing of the Korean national anthem. The Korean team placed their hands on their hearts. The team from Chinese Taipei added color to the pageant with the bright red jackets that they had also worn throughout their matches. Next three women took the stage to receive their medals: the gold for Yu Zhiying, the silver for Wang Chenxing, and the bronze for Park Jieun. Two Chinese flags and one Korean flag were raised and the Chinese national anthem was played. Ms Wang adds the silver medal to the Bingsheng women’s world championship cup she won in September; Ms Yu adds the gold medal to the Bingsheng runner-up cup. These two would seem to have displaced last year’s gold and silver medalists (Li He and Rui Naiwei) as the leading ladies of the go world.

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Yu Zhiying

The medals carry with them substantial monetary prizes, ranging from $120,000 for the gold-medal men’s team to $10,000 for the women’s individual bronze. There are also monetary prizes, in gradually diminishing amounts, for the teams and individuals who finished fourth and below. Everyone gets at least something.

And what if Europe had won that game on board one against Chinese Taipei? It would have made no difference to the final results. Chinese Taipei, Europe, and Japan would have been tied with identical 2-3 match scores, but the tie would have been broken on the basis of total games won. Thanks to the victories by Lin Chun-yen in the first round and Yongfei Ge in the last round, and to Japan’s shutout of Europe in the first round, Chinese Taipei would still have finished third, Japan fourth, and Europe fifth. But in any case, the last-round heroics by North American and European players give the North American and European pairs tremendous encouragement in the pair competition that starts on December 17th.

- James Davies

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