The snowfall in the morning of December 14 did not deter the SportAccord staff from taking their daily run, setting an inspiring example for us all, but the snow stopped well before the 3:00 p.m. starting time of the fourth round. After lunch, the players began to head for the playing room for the final games of the main men’s and women’s knockouts and six games in the repechage sections. The winners of the two knockout games would be assured of a gold or silver medal. The losers would be assured of at least a fifth-place award, and would have a good shot at a medal, since their next opponents would be players who had lost in the first round. The repechage winners, like the losers of the final knockout games, would get at least an award and would contend for medals in the next rounds tomorrow.
The playing room was set up with the women’s games in the front row and the men’s games in back. Great Britain’s Vanessa Wong and Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva were the first to take their seats, fifteen minutes early, facing each other silently across the board. The television cameras were trained on the game between Korea’s Park Jieun and Chinese Taipei’s Joanne Missingham in the women’s repechage. In the TV commentator’s booth just outside the playing room, Michael Redmond and Chris Garlock were giving a live commentary on this game for a worldwide YouTube audience on 54 platforms in countries from Afghanistan on down. The two players obliged them by playing at a brisk pace in the opening.
For the second straight day China’s unbeaten Chen Yaoye found himself facing a Korean opponent. Today it was Choi Chulhan, also unbeaten in the World Mind Games, but whom Chen had defeated in two straight games in the China-Korea Tianyuan-Chunwon (Tengen) playoff in September. This game started more slowly.
The first game to end was in the all-Chinese women’s knockout. Rui Naiwei played aggressively but resigned before five o’clock when her attempt to kill a large group backfired. Li He, who rescued the group with a classic demonstration of clumping tactics, now gets to rest for the next two rounds before playing for the gold medal in round 7.
The next game to end was in the women’s repechage. Natalia Kovaleva proved that territory around the sides trumps territory in the center to win by 2-1/4 stones (4.5 points). She thereby gained joyful revenge for a loss to Vanessa Wong in this year’s European Championship. Natalia will be Rui Naiwei’s next opponent.
In the all Chinese-Taipei game in the men’s repechage, Lin Chun-yen resigned after a protracted and unsuccessful attempt to overturn a big lead taken by his opponent Lin Chi-han, who moves on into round 5. Korea’s Park Jeonghwan and Kang Dongyoon also advance to round 5; they beat China’s Jiang Weijie by resignation and Japan’s Fujita Akihiko by and 1-3/4 stones (3.5 points). The game between Park and Jiang was another story of an attack that miscarried, with disastrous consequences for the attacker.
In the women’s repechage section, Korea split two games. Choi Jeong beat Japan’s Mukai Chiaki by resignation, but Park Jieun lost the televised match by 3/4 of a stone (1.5 points), in the endgame. Joanne Missingham, go’s ambassador at the World Mind Games, who lost to Choi Jeong in round 2, will get a second chance at her in round 5.
The men’s knockout game ended in much the same way as the women’s knockout game and the Park-Jiang game. China’s Chen Yaoye launched a serious attack on a large white group, only to have Korea’s ‘Viper’ Choi Chulhan turn the tables and capture most of the attacking black stones in a ko fight, leaving Chen no choice but to resign. Chen will next play Lin Chi-han in the repechage, while Choi rests up for the gold-medal final.
Both the men’s and women’s fields have now been reduced to five players: in the men’s section, three are from Korea, one from China, and one from Chinese Taipei; in the women’s section, two are from China, one from Chinese Taipei, and one from Russia.
- James Davies