The first player to take his seat for round 7 was Japan’s Hironori Hirata, fifteen minutes early, dressed conservatively as always in a gray knit shirt, gray jacket, and gray slacks, and ready with a small gift for his Thai opponent. He was followed by Israel’s Jonathan Lidor, who was matched against Finland’s Mikko Siukola in quest of a fifth win, and Ireland’s James Hutchinson of Ireland, matched against Brazil’s Celso Siqueira Scaff in quest of a fourth win.
China’s Baoxiang Bai took his seat at the top board ten minutes early, looking sharp today in a white dress shirt, black jacket, black trousers and shoes, and violet necktie. His American opponent took his seat five minutes later, wearing a white shirt and black jacket and trousers, but with tennis shoes and no necktie. At the adjacent board Korea’s Woo-soo Choi was also wearing tennis shoes.
At 9:30 the chief referee Masaki Takemiya gave the players a cheery greeting, followed by the formal call to choose colors and start play. As in round 6 the pace of play was generally slow, but three games in the outer playing area ended quickly. Franz-Josef Dickhut of Germany picked up his fifth win by beating Joan Flos of Spain in less than an hour. Next a nine-stone handicap game between Madagascar’s Manitra Razafindrabe and referee Yasuhiro Nakano ended. Both players won, Nakano on the go board, Razafindrabe by getting a bye in the tournament. Shortly afterward Costa Rica’s Mario Miguel Aguero Obanda scored his second win by beating India’s Sandeep Dave.
The first game finished in the main playing room was the match between Japan and Thailand. Thailand’s Choltit Rattanasetyut resigned at 10:40, giving Japan’s Hironori Hirata a sixth win and an assured pairing against Baoxiang Bai of China in the last round. A minute later, on a different board, Armenia’s Artak Margaryan (3 kyu) resigned against Azerbaijan’s Bahadur Tahirbayov (6 dan), and awhile later Zoran Mutabzja of Croatia lost to Mykhailo Halchenko of the Ukraine, while Andrius Petrauskas saw his hopes of gaining a first-ever top-ten finish for Lithuania dim considerably when he lost to Canada’s Jun Fan.
At 11:20 Israel’s Jonathan Lidor made one last attempt to resurrect a dead group, then resigned to Finland’s Mikko Siukola. Vietnam’s Kanh Binh Do chose to play out a long endgame, including a half-point ko, only to lose by a wide margin to Romania’s Cornel Burzo. Not many people witnessed these defeats, however. The spectators were massed at the front of the room where the games involving China, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and the U.S.A. were proceeding.
In the China-U.S.A. game, Eric Lui had been struggling without success to attack a large group in the center of the board. He was now playing in his last renewable 30-second time period, which he repeatedly used down to the last second or two, eliciting protracted beeps from his tournament clock. At 11:43 he resigned, and China’s Baoxiang Bai took a big stride closer to a world championship.
In the outer area Poland’s Kamil Chwedyna played the endgame from a standing position to win by 4.5 points against Singapore’s Xiang Zhang. At the other end of this area five armed samurai, a ninja, and two kimono-clad girls wearing hats and veils in the style of Matsue’s founding year, 1611, were posing for photographs. When the photography was finished, some of these medieval characters drifted into the main playing room, arriving in time to see Korea’s Woo-soo Choi win his game against Chinese Taipei’s Tsung-han Wu by 3.5 points.
In the last game to finish, France’s Thomas Debarre defeated Czechia’s Radek Nechanicky. In the final round the French and Thai players are paired together, as are the players from China and Japan, from Korea and Romania, and from Chinese Taipei and the U.S.A. And outside, the rain for which Matsue is also famous has let up again.
- James Davies