Pair Competition Begins

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Sarah Jin Yu (left) and Daniel Daehyuk Ko

At 9:30 a.m. on December 17th deputy chief referee Michael Redmond greeted the sixteen contestants taking part in the pair go competition, reviewed the time control and other details, and gave the instruction to start the first round. On board one the draw had matched the Korean pair (Park Jieun and Kim Jiseok), who had already won medals in men’s and women’s competition, against the North American pair (Canada’s Sarah Jin Yu and California’s Daniel Daehyuk Ko).

‘Tomorrow it’s my turn to win,’ Daniel had said the day before, after seeing Yongfei Ge (Canada) defeat Lin Chun-yen (Chinese Taipei) in the men’s team event. For a moment it looked as if these words might come true. He and Sarah Jin swallowed up two white stones in the bottom left corner, putting the medal winners at a disadvantage early in the opening. Some black overplays in the bottom right let the Koreans catch up, however, and get ahead, then further ahead, and still further ahead–the North American pair was about ten stones behind (20 points behind) when they resigned.

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Dina Burdakova (left) and Pavol Lisy

On board two the pair from Chinese Taipei (Joanne Missingham and Wang Yuan-jyun) was matched against the first European pair (Russia’s Dina Burdakova and Slovakia’s Pavol Lisy). Gone were yesterday’s red jackets; Ms Missingham was dressed in black and Mr Wang was sporting a purple T-shirt. The dapper duo from Chinese Taipei began the middle game by forcing a black group to live in ko, and used their ko threats to invade a framework that Black had built in the bottom right. Their position then looked quite good until Mr Lisy found a knight’s move that both threatened the invaders and broke a ladder. Mr Wang took twenty minutes to consider his reply. Unfortunately for the European pair, a mistake by Ms Burdakova soon allowed White to reach a favorable exchange. Eventually the Europeans, behind in territory and burdened by two weak groups, took one risk too many, lost one of the weak groups, and resigned.

On board three, the Japanese pair (Fujisawa Rina and Fujita Akihiko) and the second European pair (Svetlana Shikshina and Ilya Shikshin) both held steady to the end. The Russian brother-sister pair played well, but the Japanese pair played a little better. Shortly before noon, with the game almost over and the Japanese pair comfortably ahead, the Russians resigned.

The game on board four ended more quickly. The Chinese pair (Wang Chenxing and Zhou Ruiyang) constructed a large black framework. Their European opponents (Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva and France’s Fan Hui) tried a surprisingly deep invasion, initiated by Ms Kovaleva. This lead to a ko exchange, and already the Chinese side had the lead. Abandoning all thoughts of a peaceful territorial victory, the European pair plotted a comeback in a double attack, but the Chinese refuted it in another ko and won by resignation.

In the second round, played in the afternoon, the Chinese pair played the Japanese. An adventurous move by Ms Wang in the opening led to a fight that turned out well for the Japanese, and Ms Fujisawa and Mr Fujita seized the lead. Their one worry was a large baseless ‘dragon’ group in the center. Big groups are hard to kill, but by harrying the dragon the Chinese pair gradually diminished their opponents’ lead, and then reversed it. The Japanese pair staged an honorable resignation by sacrificing the dragon.

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Chinese Taipei (left) playing Korea

While this drama was unfolding, the pairs from Korea and Chinese Taipei were engaged in an even more dramatic running battle that eventually morphed into a ko fight. Korean players are noted for their prowess in fights and battles, but players from Chinese Taipei like them too, and when the ko stage was reached the lead was unclear. The remaining endgame was not simple, but Ms Missingham and Mr Wang came out clearly ahead, whereupon Ms Park and Mr Kim resigned.

While the second round was in progress, a first playoff round was being held to determine which pairs would advance into tomorrow’s playoff for fifth and sixth places. The game between North America (Ms Yu and Mr Ko) and Europe (Ms Burdakova and Mr Lisy) was televised. The North Americans started out very badly, but they recovered in the middle game and may have even led briefly. At the end, however, the soft-spoken Europeans were ahead by 1-1/4 stone (2.5 points).

The all-European game between Ms Kovaleva and Mr Fan (black) and Ms Shikshina and Mr Shikshin (white) was won by Ms Shikshina and Mr Shikshin. By capturing a scattered assortment of black stones they gained enough territory to make the game even on the board, and won by size of the compensation.

The entire Russian contingent then gathered around one of the monitor screens outside the playing room to watch the outcome of the second-round games, but the keynote remark of the day had already been uttered by Dina Burdakova after her pair’s loss to Chinese Taipei. ‘I enjoyed the game,’ she said. ‘Pavol Lisy played good moves.’

- James Davies

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