The first day of pair go at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games began at 9:30 on December 16 under the direction of chief referee Hua Yigang. In the previous three years Chinese and Korean pairs had taken turns winning the gold medal, China prevailing in 2011 and 2013, Korea in 2012, but this year, all eight pairs came out fighting.

Yu Zhiying_(left) and Mi Yuting

Yu Zhiying_(left) and Mi Yuting

In the first game to end in the morning round, China’s Yu Zhiying and Mi Yuting killed a black group and beat North America’s Irene Sha and Daniel Daehyuk Ko by resignation. ‘Of course they are much stronger than us,’ said Daniel, ‘but at least we made them fight for their win.’

The three European pairs also lost by resignation. Playing Korea’s Choi Jeong and Na Hyun, Europe’s Dina Burdakova and Alexandr Dinershteyn gave up quickly when they found themselves with ten dead stones on the right side and a very weak group on the lower side.

The game between Chinese Taipei’s Cathy Chang and Lin Li-Hsiang and Europe’s Natalia Kovaleva and Fan Hui looked hopeful for the Europeans at one point, when they killed a black group on the right side, but they had weak stones elsewhere. A large fight developed in the center, and they surrendered when it became clear that to save a beleaguered white dragon they would have to give up some white stones and bring the dead black group back to life.

Svetlana Shikshina and Ilya Shikshin played out their game against Japan’s Fujisawa Rina and Ida Atsushi nearly to the end, but early in the middle game they had lost a big fight that they should have been able to win. They were over thirty points behind when they finally admitted defeat.

Natalia Kovaleva (left) and Fan Hui

Natalia Kovaleva (left) and Fan Hui

In the afternoon round, winners played winners and losers played losers. The loser’s bracket included an all-European game between the Kovaleva-Fan pair and the Burdakova-Dinershteyn pair. Alexandr Dinershteyn played his first move (black 3) on the 7-7 point, and the table was engulfed in mirth as Dina followed suit with black 5 and Natalia did likewise with white 6. After that, however, the fighting became serious, and it turned out better for white. After less than two hours of play, Dina and Aleksandr agreed to resign.

Svetlana Shikshina (left) and Ilya Shikshin

Svetlana Shikshina (left) and Ilya Shikshin

In the other losers’ game, the brother-sister pair, Svetlana and Ilya, gained a measure of revenge for the European men’s team’s loss to North America by defeating Irene Sha and Daniel Daehyuk Ko in another fighting game, featuring a nifty throw-in that set up a ko at the bottom. This in turn set up an all-European contest for fifth place in the final round on December 17.

In the winner’s bracket, the Chinese pair (Yu and Mi) tried the avalanche against the Japanese pair (Fujisawa and Ida), choosing a somewhat unusual variation of this complex joseki. They handled it perfectly and their opponents did not. This gave the Chinese side an initial advantage, and they added to it as the game progressed. Although the Japanese pair managed to keep the game fairly close throughout the middle game and endgame, they could not catch up, and eventually resigned.

The game between the Korean pair and the pair from Chinese Taipei was also close. The climax came when the Korean pair invaded the upper side and started a ko. They had more ko threats and the invading stones lived in grand style, giving the Koreans a clear lead. Their opponents played on, trying to kill another group instead, but this could not be done, so they resigned. In the final round, China and Korea will play for the gold medal, while Japan and Chinese Taipei play for the bronze.

– James Davies

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