Round 7

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Kachanowskyi (left) playing Mitic

Players making the short walk from the hotel were treated to a sudden downpour, but almost all of them were in their seats at the AER complex in time for chief referee Masaki Takemiya’s 9:30 instruction to start playing. Russia’s Ilya Shikshin was in his seat particularly early, waiting quitely for the arrival of his Korean opponent, who looked somewhat relaxed after defeating the Canadian and Chinese players the previous day. Two other early arrivers were Artem Kachanovskyi (Ukraine) and Nikola Mitic (Serbia) who were playing each other for a sixth win that would assure at least an award for finishing in the top eight, plus a chance to challenge Hyunjae in the last round.

A few of the games finished quickly. India’s Soni Shah earned her second win by defeating Kazahkstan’s Alexandr Bukh, Turkey’s Bertan Bilan scored his third win by defeating Ecuador’s Andres Aguilar, and Czechia’s Ondrej Silt got his fourth win by defeating Argentina’s Luciano Salerno. But in most of the games the pace was slow and deliberate as the players strove to make the best of their last day of play.

On board 1, China’s Yuqing Hu was playing Canada’s Bill Lin. The two had chatted amiably in Chinese before the game began, but once the starting signal was given they settled down to serious business. It took the Chinese player an hour and a half to force the Canadian to resign. After Yuqing had a quick look at the games on boards 2-4, the two switched back to casual mode and strolled off together toward the review area.

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Albert Sànchez Escue

On board 2, Korea’s Hyunjae Choi played in his usual silent and expressionless style against Ilya Shikshin. Ilya’s expression betrayed determination tempered by increasing anguish, culminating in resignation at 11:11. The two players reviewed the game for awhile at their seats, then left separately.

On board 4, Hong Kong’s King-man Kwan prevailed over Australia’s Hao-song Sun, who resigned at 11:15. Both players had lost in the second round, but King-man now found himself in possession of five wins and a shot at one of the top eight places.

On board 3, Japan’s Kikou Emura struggled from the opening against Shin-wei Lin of Chinese Taipei. Although he recovered somewhat in the middle game, the result of the protracted endgame was a 2.5-point victory for Shin-wei, who joined King-man in the group of players sitting on five wins. The others who ended the round in this position were from Serbia (Nikola Mitic lost to Artem Kachanovskyi), Slovakia (Pavol Lisy beat Csaba Mero of Hungary), Romania (Cornel Burzo beat Curtis Tang of the USA), Finland (Javier Savolainen beat Ofer Zivony of Israel), and Spain (Albert Sanchez beat Krysztof Giedrojc of Poland). And Artem gets the coveted last chance to defeat Korea’s Hyunjae Choi.

- James Davies

Round 6: Shikshin vs Emura

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Ilya Shikshin (right) playing Emura

White: Ilya Shikshin (Russia) 7d
Black: Kikou Emura (Japan) 7d

 

Kikou punishes an early overplay by Shikshin, but then slowly loses his advantage with slack moves and then falters in the endgame.

 

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Commentary by Michael Redmond 9p, transcribed by Chris Garlock. Photo by John Pinkerton.

Round 5: Emura vs Hu

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Emura (left) playing Hu

White: Yuqing Hu (China) 8d
Black: Kikou Emura (Japan) 7d

 

Black wins every ko fight in this game, but the cost is too high.

 

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Commentary by Michael Redmond 9p, transcribed by Chris Garlock. Photo by John Pinkerton.

Round 6

The seeded players in the 34th World Amateur Championship were the players from China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Korea. Being seeded meant only that these four were not paired against each other in the first four rounds. Since Wei-shin Lin (Chinese Taipei) lost in the third round, and the Japanese player lost to the Chinese player in the fifth round, the two remaining undefeated players in round six were from China and Korea. This situation has become familiar in recent years. In the sixth round China was paired against Korea, Japan against Russia, and Chinese Taipei against Canada. Referee Yuichi Sonoda announced the start of the round at 1:30.

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Kwan (left) playing Akerblom

Korea’s Hyunjae Choi is an extremely quiet person. Drawing the black stones, he played the first move of the China-Korea game on the 3-4 point without making a sound, then pressed the clock button, equally noiselessly. China’s Yuqing Hu followed suit, and the game continued silently in this way. In contrast, on the next board Japan’s Kikou Emura and Russia’s Ilya Shikshin played their moves with authoritative clicks of stone and shell on wood. Wei-shin Lin of Chinese Taipei and Bill Lin of Canada were playing with teenage enthusiasm on the next board. The atmosphere on the other two boards in the front row, where Hong Kong’s King-man Kwan was playing Sweden’s Charlie Akerblom and the Ukraine’s Artem Kachanovskyi was playing and Finland’s Javier Savolainen, was more reserved.

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Fellas (left) playing Siddeq Bin

In the backmost row, Mikhail Savitski of Belarus and Argyris Fellas of Cyprus, who had one win apiece, were playing Suresh Bhakta Kayastha of Nepal and Asmad Muhammad Haziq Siddeq Bin of Brunei Darussualam, who were still winless. The reason for this pairing was that Mikhail and Argyris had already played each other in the fourth round. The Nepalese player, who had lost by some breathtaking margins in previous games, now lost again, but Haziq roused himself against Cyprus and scored his first victory.

Returning to the front of the room, the Lin-Lin game was close but it was won by the Canadian Lin, by a point and a half. The Japan-Russia game was not quite as close: it was won by 6.5 points by Russia’s Ilya Shikshin. And the crucial game between China and Korea was won by 4.5 points by Korea’s Hyunjae Choi. Tomorrow morning Hyunjae will face Ilya Shikshin, while China’s Yuqing Hu meets Canada’s Bill Lin.

The players from Chinese Taipei and Japan, who lost to Ilya and Bill in round six, are paired against each other in round seven, so one of these two seeded players will lose again and end up with no more than five wins. Artem Kachanovskyi, who beat Charlie Akerblom, is paired against Serbia’s rising star Nikola Mitic, who defeated Australia’s Hao-song Sun. Both Artem and Nikola currently stand even with Yuqing Hu, Ilya Shikshin, and Bill Lin (all have five wins and one loss) so the winner of their game will be in the thick of the fight for the championship cups.

- James Davies

Bacon, Eggs and Anti-Doping

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Kikou Emura

The force of Kikou Emura’s first stone of the day touching down squarely on the board could not conceal a slight tremble of the hand. Japan’s hope lost his all-important game this morning to Chinese player Yuqing Hu, a real blow to his chances of taking home the top prize. On the next board, Korean candidate Hyunjae Choi’s hopes of a professional career are hanging on victory tomorrow. As fans and the media gather around the top boards, we wondered how players cope with the intense stress of such an important tournament.

The International Go Federation (IGF) has begun conducting anti-doping tests in line with other mind sports, such as chess, to combat the use of performance enhancing drugs to improve concentration and, above all, to subdue the nerves. We asked the Irish representative James Hutchinson to share his thoughts on go as a sport, and these new measures to prevent cheating.

For me the secret to good performance is threefold: a good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast and nerves of steel. After a refreshing sleep there’s nothing like a large helping of eggs and bacon to stock up on protein for the game ahead. Eat more than you need, then you can cut back for lunch if necessary. I’d also recommend to play some sport to train concentration and to learn to keep your nerves. I play a lot of table tennis, a nervy game that trains you to keep a handle on the pressure. This skill can be transferred to go, and I can tell when my opponents start to lose it during a game, giving me a chance to pounce.

I think it’s great how we can have such an enjoyable amateur tournament without getting too serious, but at the top end of the spectrum the players can be fighting for their livelihood. As has happened in other sports such as cycling, the moment athletes begin substance abuse it becomes necessary for others to follow suit to keep their place at the top. The moment they lose that, they are forced to forfeit their dream profession doing what they love. That’s another reason I think it’s important for us amateurs to seek moderation.

While there may be no substitute for skill and determination (not to forget tsumego!), the introduction of anti-doping tests have secured recognition for go in the sporting world.

- John Richardson

Round 5: Choi vs Lin

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Hyunjae Choi

White: Hyunjae Choi (Korea) 6d
Black: Bill Tianyu Lin (Canada) 7d

Black doesn’t make any major mistakes in this undramatic game, yet White slowly but surely pulls ahead, building up an insurmountable lead.

 

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Commentary by Michael Redmond 9p, transcribed by Chris Garlock. Photo by John Pinkerton.

Round 5: Tang vs Tan

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Curtis Tang

White: Curtis Tang (USA) 6d
Black: Jia Cheng Tan (Singapore) 6d

Black not only misses a chance to take a territorial lead at a key moment in the game, but then overlooks a fatal weakness in his shape that costs him the game…

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Commentary by Michael Redmond 9p, transcribed by Chris Garlock. Photo by John Pinkerton.

Interview with Cornel Burzo

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Burzo (right) playing Pavol Lisy

Cornel Burzo (Romania, 6d) was nowhere to be seen this morning, an empty seat facing his opponent Shin-Wei Lin (Chinese Taipei). That was until we spotted him across the room wrapping tape around a pair of spectacles belonging to an old friend Ondrej Silt (Czech Republic), whose glasses had fallen apart mid-game after being sat on the night before. Rivalry at the go board has not gotten the better of the friendly atmosphere in Sendai, and many players can be found enjoying a drink or a casual game in the evenings.

We caught up with Cornel in the lobby after his fifth game, where he shared his thoughts about the tournament so far.

I felt good about my game with Kikou Emura from Japan, clinching the lead but handing it back a few moves later. The Europeans are out in force this year, and I was pleased to have performed well against top 6 dans such as Franz-Josef Dikhut (Germany) and Pavol Lisy (Slovakia), a young player full of fighting spirit. My goal? Of course I will try for the top 10, ideally 5th or 6th if possible… we’ll see. The tournament itself has been difficult to fault – an exciting battle for the top spot, a great location and an opportunity to meet old friends.

A keen tennis and poker player, Cornel has a lot on his plate. We asked him how he spends the time he devotes to go each day.

Teaching takes a large chunk of my time – I can often spend 6-8 hours with students or otherwise reviewing game records. I love both teaching and playing. The past weeks have seen me preparing for the tournament: checking out the new book of Lee Sedol’s commented games, and getting some practice on Tygem and IGS. 

We look forward to watching Cornel’s progress over the rest of the tournament.

- John Richardson

Round 5

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Krzystof Giedrojć (left) and Hao Song Sun

At 9:20 on September 3 China’s Yuqing Hu and Canada’s Bill Lin took their seats at the two boards on the left end of the front row in the playing area. Their opponents Kikou Emura (Japan) and Hyunjae Choi (Korea) arrived a few minutes later to complete the undefeated quartet. Ilya Shikshin (Russia) and Csaba Mero (Hungary), who had one loss apiece, took their seats at the center of the front row. All 56 players were in their seats when the chief referee Masaki Takemiya gave the starting signal at 9:30.

At 10:15 Bulgaria’s Aleksandar Savchovski collected his second win by beating India’s Soni Shah on a board near the right rear of the room. The two players played the game out to the end, counted the territories, and then recorded it as a win by resignation. Soon after, in the back row, Argyris Fellas (Cyprus) and Alexandr Bukh (Kazakhstan) scored their first wins by defeating the players from Nepal and Brunei Darussalam.

In the first two games to end in the front half of the room, Pavol Lisy (Slovakia) recovered from his two losses the previous day by defeating Martin Unger (Austria), and Shin-wei Lin (Chinese Taipei) recorded his fourth win by defeating Cornel Burzo (Romania). As the morning progressed, the players from Australia, Russia, Serbia and the Ukraine joined Shin-wei in the four-win group by beating opponents from Poland, Hungary, Belgium, and France, and Canada’s Bill Lin joined the group by losing to Korea’s Hyunjae Choi.

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James Hutchinson

On the top board, the question of who Hyunjae would face in the afternoon round was being resolved, with considerable attention from the media and spectators. The game began with a ko fight and proceeded through more ko fights, ladder breaks, and other trades. It all made for an exciting spectacle, but Yuqing Hu (China) handled these exchanges adroitly and with imperturbable aplomb. Although Kikou Emura (Japan) maintained the intensity he had shown the previous two days, he found himself falling increasingly behind, and at about noon, with only a few moves left to be played, he resigned.

In the back half of the room, two other games had dramatic finishes. Merlijn Kuin (Netherlands) misinterpreted an indication on the clock and ran out of time in his last 30-second overtime period, thereby giving Javier Savolainen (Finland) a fourth win. And in a classic tale of tragedy, Francisco Pereira (Portugal) overlooked an atari while filling in the neutral points. ‘Sorry’ said James Hutchinson (Ireland) as he played a move that captured a hefty group of stones. The round then ended with a win by Franz-Josef Dickhut (Germany) over John Walch (Switzerland), and the players went upstairs for lunch.

- James Davies

Round 4: Choi vs Kuin

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Merlijn Kuin

White: Hyungjae Choi (Korea) 6d
Black: Merlijn Kuin (Netherlands) 6d

The outcome of this game turns on the carpenters square, which has many variations and is a bit complicated but well worth the study.

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Commentary by Michael Redmond 9p, transcribed by Chris Garlock. Photo by John Pinkerton.