The first round of the men’s and women’s individual competition at the SportAccord World Mind Games was played in the afternoon of December 12 at the Beijing International Convention Center, conveniently joined to the Beijing Continental Grand hotel by an enclosed passage so that the players did not have to venture out into the snow that had been falling since morning.

Before the drawing for pairings on the 11th, the Japanese players had been studying the tournament chart posted outside the meeting room. ‘Oh-oh — two losses and you’re out,’ one of them had said. Well, they needn’t have worried. In the first round the Japanese went undefeated, as did the Koreans.

Shikshin (left) and Murakawa

In a game broadcast live to a YouTube audience with commentary by Michael Redmond, anchored by Chris Garlock, Japan’s Murakawa Daisuke, a Kansai Kiin player who recently won a place in the Meijin League, took an early lead against Russia’s Ilya Shikshin, but Ilya kept the game lively and complicated. Eventually the fighting came down to an indirect ko. The three-time European champion, currently a history major at Kazan State University, was a move behind and resigned.

The game between Japan’s Fujita Akihiko, runner-up in this year’s Japanese New King (Shinjin-O) tournament, and Lin Chi-Han, winner of some 26 titles in Chinese Taipei during the past decade, was closer. To the spectators watching on the computer monitor screen in the room adjoining the closed playing room, it looked too close to call, but when the score was counted, the Japanese players was a fraction of a stone ahead (1.5 points by Japanese counting).

Pocsai (left) and Okuda

The game between Japan’s Uchida Shuhei and Czechia’s Jan Hora was one of the last to finish, but there was no doubt about this result; the Japanese player was more than 10 stones (20 points) ahead. In the women’s competition, Japan’s Okuda Aya also won decisively against Hungary’s Rita Pocsai after a joseki error by Rita in the opening.

The centerpiece of the first round, however, was the game between Choi Chulhan, who holds the Siptan (10-dan) and Chunwon (Tengen) titles in Korea and the Ing Cup internationally, and Tuo Jiaxi, winner of the Chinese edition of the Ing Cup (the Chang-ki cup) in 2012. Their game finished almost simultaneously with the Fujita-Lin game. Choi captured a corner group and won by the comfortable margin of 2-3/4 stones (5.5 points). The other three Korean victories came at the expense of Hungary’s Csaba Mero (beaten by Park Jeonghwan), Chinese Taipei’s Lin Chun-yen (beaten by Kang Dongyoon), and Great Britain’s Vanessa Wong (beaten by 15-year-old Choi Jeong).

As for the host country, Tuo’s loss to Choi was their only setback. In the men’s competition Chen Yoaye, Tian-yuan (Tengen) since 2009, defeated Argentina’s Fernando Aguilar in just 90 moves, and Jiang Weijie, winner of three Chinese titles in 2012, captured over 30 stones, forcing Canada’s Tianyu (Bill) Lin to resign in 142 moves. In the women’s competition Rui Naiwei, winner of the 2012 Jishou Invitational Cup, defeated Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva in a rapidly-played 159 moves.
For Chinese Taipei, the victory by 16-year-old Su Sheng-fang over Canada’s Irene Sha in the women’s competition was some compensation for their double defeat in the men’s.

And then, having completed their first-round games, the players moved downstairs to the opening ceremony.

– James Davies

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