The first round was paired by the traditional WAGC method, which matches the middle half of the field (28 players this year) at random against the first and fourth quarters (14 players each). The field was so strong that the contestants from Canada and the USA, two countries that have frequently finished in the top eight in the past, found themselves placed in the middle group. Both of them won their first games, along with all 14 players in the top quarter of the field.
On paper the closest first-round match was between a pair of 3-dan’s: Malaysia’s Suzanne D’Bel and Colombia’s Santiago Quijano. Suzanne opened on the tengen point, framed a huge area in the center, and won by resignation. The closest games on the board were the half-point wins by Xuqi Wu (4 dan) of New Zealand against Alberto Zingoni (2 kyu) of Italy and Artem Kachanovskyi (6 dan) of the Ukraine against Krysztof Giedrojc (4 dan) of Poland. The New Zealand-Italy game was very nearly an upset. ‘I got an easy game when my opponent made a mistake in the opening,’ said Alberto, ‘but I made a one-point mistake near the end.’ The Ukraine-Poland game was the last to finish. While Artem and Krysztof were painstakingly playing out the endgame, Kikou Emura (7 dan) of Japan and Javier Savolainen (5 dan) of Finland were engaged in a lengthy, serious, and mostly silent post-mortem analysis of their game, which was won by the Japanese player.
– James Davies