The 2016 World Amateur Go Championship began promptly at 9 o’clock in a large carpeted room on the fourth floor of the Ramada Plaza Hotel. The pairings had been determined according to the well established Chinese system: the top four countries from the previous year were seeded into slots 1, 15, 29, and 43 to ensure that they would not meet each other in the early rounds; the rest of the numbers were drawn entirely at random. This scheme never fails to produce some close matches right from the start. This year two of Eastern Europe’s strongest players, Christian Pop (Romania, 7 dan) and Andrii Kravets (Ukraine, 6 dan) faced off against each other in the first round. So did two strong Western Europeans, Merlijn Kuin (Netherlands, 6 dan) and Matti Siivola (Finland, 5 dan). Another strong European, Serbia’s Dusan Mitic (6 dan), tackled Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Cheng Hsu (7 dan, listed as Jia Cheng Sheu in the official program). Lukas Kraemer (Germany) played Yi Fei Yue (Singapore) in an even 5-dan match-up; Tal Michaeli (Israel, 3 dan) took on 13-year-old Nhat Minh Vo (Vietnam, 4 dan); and Macau’s hopeful Kei Chon Wan (5 dan) tangled with many-time WAGC veteran Laurent Heiser (Luxembourg, 6 dan).
When the smoke cleared, the winners of these matches were Andrii, Matti, Chia-Cheng, Yi Fei, Tal, and Laurent. As a result, in round two Andrii was awarded Hong Kong’s Chi Hin Chan, a young (age 16) and formidable opponent who finished fourth in his two previous WAGC appearances. Chia-Cheng earned a match against Japan’s Satoshi Hiraoka, the formidable winner of two world amateur go championships in decades past. Matti and Tal were paired against each other, as were Laurent and Yi Fei, and about five of the other second-round games were also closely matched, a pleasantly surprising result of the random draw of player numbers that dictated the pairings.
The results of the second round proved that formidable opponents need not be unbeatable. the Ukraine’s 6-dan Kravets downed Hong Kong’s 7-dan Chan, and Chinese Taipei’s 7-dan Hsu downed Japan’s 8-dan Hiraoka. These early losses may turn out to be damaging to Hong Kong’s and Japan’s SOS points. Higher-ranked players also fell to lower-ranked opponents when Vietnam’s Vo (4 dan) defeated the Netherlands’ Kuin (6 dan), Israel’s Michaeli (3 dan) defeated Finland’s Siivola (5 dan), Norway’s Pal Sannes (3 dan) defeated Mexico’s Emil Garcia (5 dan), Indonesia’s Rafif Shidqi Fitrah (5 dan, age 13) defeated Russian veteran Dmitry Surin (6 dan), and Singapore’s Yue (5 dan) defeated Luxembourg’s Heiser (6 dan). Ranks held true, however, when Serbia’s 6-dan Dusan Mitic avenged his agonizing loss of the morning by beating Australia’s teenaged 4-dan Amy Song, Czechia’s 6-dan Jan Prokop defeated Malaysia’s 13-year-old 5-dan Fu Kang Chang, the USA’s 7-dan Benjamin Lockhart defeated Thailand’s 5-dan Vorawat Tanapatsopol, and Turkey’s 4-dan Emre Polat defeated South Africa’s 3-dan Andrew Davies. In all fourteen players ended the first day undefeated, and after dinner, most of the players celebrated by watching a Chinese historical pageant staged by the hotel.
Full results here.
– James Davies