How did the six teams prepare for the World Mind Games? Three years ago the Chinese team had put great effort into readying their players for the World Mind Sports Games, and they were rewarded with gold medals in the women’s team and individual competitions and the pair competition. Last year China, Korea, and Japan had all conducted special training for the Asian Games, in which the Koreans monopolized the gold medals. This year, however, the preparations were more modest.
“We didn’t have time for any special training,” explained the Chinese executive chief referee Wang Yi. “On December 5, 6, and 7, the three days before the World Mind Games started, Gu Li was in Shanghai playing the three-game final of the Samsung Cup (he lost 2-1 to Korea’s Won Seongjin). But our players are always practicing anyway, and China stresses international competition.”
Gu Li was not the only Chinese player who was busy before the World Mind Games. Kong Jie had just made an unsuccessful 5-game challenge for the Chinese Mingren title held by the sensational twenty-year-old Jiang Weijie, and Piao Wenyao had just won the Agon Cup and the China-Japan Agon playoff. Considering Gu Li’s perfect 5-0 result and Piao’s near perfect 4-1, playing another title match may not be a bad way to prepare for Mind Games.
With Korea it was a similar story. “The Korean players were aware of the importance of this tournament,” said Mok Jinseuk, their deputy chief referee, “but the Korean players practice every day, so they did not have to make any special preparation.” For the Korean lead player Lee Saedol, everyday practice had included playing the first two games of the Olleh-KT Cup match against his arch-rival Lee Changho in early December. For three other players (Park Jeonghwan, Lee Younggu, and Kim Hyemin), everyday practice had included a special selection tournament to compete for the three open positions on the team (Lee Saedol and Choi Chulhan were seeded in). It should also be noted that the Koreans rearranged their regular professional game schedule to enable the five team members to participate in the World Mind Games.
The Japanese team, spread among Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, forwent any special training for the team event, but the Tokyo pair, Yamashita Keigo and Mukai Chiaki, did practice together for the mixed doubles competition. The even more widely scattered American and European teams likewise found it impossible to conduct any team training. “No time,” said America’s Jie Li. The three Romanians followed their normal schedule in Bucharest, and Catalin Taranu and Vanessa Wong got in some mixed doubles practice at the tournament in Prague where the team members were selected, but nothing more organized took place.
The one team that did make an effort to prepare was the team from Chinese Taipei. Mr Chin Shihmin, Secretary General of the Chinese Taipei Weiqi Association, gave this account.
“The team found out only in July that they would be coming, so we did not have enough time to train thoroughly, but we did train a little. Our goal was to finish third. As it turned out we finished fourth. There is room for improvement over what we did this year. We need to try harder and do better in the future. We did manage to win two games against the Koreans, but the outcome of individual games is just a matter of how well the two players play in those particular games. Our lead player Chen Shih-iuan [who beat Lee Saedol] was trained in Korea, so he was familiar with the Korean style of play.”
– James Davies