Day One

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Andrei Kravets (left) playing Chi Hin Chan

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.

Benjamin Lockhart

Benjamin Lockhart

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

Interview with Andrew Davies, South Africa

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Andrew Davies

I live in Capetown, South Africa, which is a very beautiful part of the world. I first represented South Africa in the WAGC in 2009. Since then, besides playing go, I’ve been working as an electronics engineer, designing phased array antennas that enable airplanes to communicate with earth satellites so they can provide Internet service for their passengers. It’s fascinating work. Airbus and Boeing are two of our customers.

I’ve also been busy with family life. My two children have grown up and are on the point of leaving home. My daughter, who recently graduated from university, has been heavily involved in YWAM: Youth With A Mission. She’s gotten married to a Brazilian man she met in that organization. My son is now in his second year at university, so it won’t be long before he’ll be finished and leaving home as well. My wife loves the sea, so she tries to get me to the beach often. I’m more keen on hiking, however, and there are plenty of good hikes around Table Mountain near Capetown.

Getting back to go, South Africa only has about fifty go players. It’s a rotating population, but we hold the South African Championship every year, and we have one very strong player. That’s Victor Chow, who is 7 or 8 dan. He’s not tightly involved with South African go because we’re so much weaker than him, but with his help we’ve recently started a new scheme. We play games and do commentaries on them, then pass our comments on to him and he comments on our comments. Two years ago we also joined the European Go Federation, as observing members. This is something we’re very grateful for because it gives us international exposure. Being down on the southern tip of Africa, aside from the WAGC and Korea Prime Minister Cup we don’t get to see much international go, except for Victor, who plays a lot on the Internet. I played in the KPMC in 2012 and in the WAGC in Thailand last year, where I was seeded 39th and finished 39th. I didn’t feel satisfied with that result, but here I am to try again.

Interview with Lukas Kraemer, Germany

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Lukas Kraemer

I grew up in Bonn, the former capital of Germany. That’s very close to Cologne. Cologne is much bigger than Bonn and most people know Cologne better than Bonn, but Bonn is better at producing young go players. I think I first learned of the game of go in a chess book that belonged to my grandfather. He gave the book to me because he wanted me to study chess, but the book was so boring that I didn’t. I just played occasionally with a chess computer. My next contact with go is when I was about twelve. I was very interested in Japanese manga. There was a manga site that had a go corner where you could play go online. The first game I played was against Christoph Gerlach, who was German champion at the time. I played on a 9 x 9 board against him without even knowing the rules. That was my first experience with go. I then became very interested in testing my own skill, so I moved to the KGS website and continued to play there, nonstop. After a week I was 11 kyu, and after half a year I was shodan. Then I began to search out local go tournaments and slowly became integrated into the go community. In this way I found more opportunities to improve; playing offline really helped my game. Once I got started, I never quit. It’s hard to say why, but perhaps it was because of my admiration for the game and perhaps because of my desire to test myself, to see how far I could go.

This has caused some problems in my life, however, because once you put so much time and effort into one thing, there’s an opportunity cost: you have to sacrifice something else. For me, when I was in middle school I was just studying go all day, more than twelve hours a day, I think, so my marks dropped from best in my class to medium level, and my parents weren’t very amused by that. So I had some problems at home, but because of the people I met I got integrated into a great community of players and friends, who became like a family to me. I think that has been the most important part of my go career, that and the game itself, which I still love after playing it for nine years. It’s given me the chance to visit many countries and make many friends. It’s just been great. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. I’ve met so many interesting people through go. It’s hard to single out just one, but I think that when I was in Japan the most interesting person I met was Cho Chikun. When I was sixteen, I think, the Nihon Kiin gave some young European players a chance to visit them for two weeks. I went, I played on television, and I got to see one of the big title games. At one point we were in a room where we were observing the game on a television monitor, and I had to go to the toilet. I couldn’t find the toilet, but instead I found the room where the professional commentary was being held. It looked interesting, so I went into the room, and Cho Chikun gestured to me to come and sit down. I did, and started asking him some questions by gestures, and he very kindly replied. This was a great experience. It lasted only a few minutes — I wasn’t allowed to stay longer — but I still remember it, right down to this day. I’ve also met lots of very strong and kind players in China: Gu Li, Meng Tailing, Wang Yao, Liu Xing, and many others, players and non-players alike. And I’ve met many very interesting people in the European go world too.

35th General Meeting of the International Go Federation

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35th General Meeting of the IGF

For most of the competing players, the 2016 World Amateur Go Championship began with a three-hour bus ride from Shanghai Pudong Airport to Wuxi on June 3, a sumptuous dinner, breakfast, and lunch at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, and then the 35th Annual General Meeting of the International Go Federation. Presided over by outgoing IGF Secretary General Hajin Lee, the meeting went exceptionally smoothly. After an opening greeting by acting IGF President Chimoon Park, Vanthanee Namasonthi reported on last year’s WAGC by showing a video, which featured Thai dancing and boxing as well as go. ‘Thailand is a small country in one corner of the world, but we’re proud of what we accomplished with your support,’ she said. IGF Director Hiroko Taki then reported on the 2015 International Amateur Pair Go Championship, the 2015 World Student Pair Go Championship, and the 2016 World Students Go Oza tournament. IGF vice-president Thomas Hsiang reported on the first World Mind Games sponsored by the International Mind Sports Association, noting that go was now considered one of the big three world mind sports, along with contract bridge and chess, and giving the welcome news that a second IMSA World Mind Games will take place in China in January 2016. All this was followed by the financial report, with the further good news that thanks to special contributions from China, Japan, and Korea, the IGF is in excellent financial shape. Hajin Lee also drew attention to a database that has been set up on the IGF website, giving the results of IGF events for the past ten years, together with an IGF code of ethics and much other information.

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IGF President Zhenming Chang

Moving from the past to the present, Mr Wang Yi spoke for everyone in thanking the city of Wuxi and the extraordinarily hard-working and helpful staff they provided for the 2016 WAGC. Future IGF events were also announced, including an International Amateur Pair Go Championship and World Student Pair Go Championship scheduled for December and a professional Pair Go World Cup scheduled for July, both in Tokyo, with participation of top pros such as Iyama Yuta, Ke Jie, and Park Jeonghwan in the World Cup event. The next World Amateur Go Championship and World Students Go Oza Championship will be held in 2017, although the specific dates and locations have yet to be decided. A third World Mind Sports Games, originally planned to follow the 2016 Olympics in Brazil as the first and second WMSGs followed the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London, has been postponed due to financial uncertainty; negotiations are proceeding with with at least two alternative locations. The Icelandic Go Association’s application to join the IGF was accepted, bringing the number of member countries and territories to seventy-six.

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Hajin Lee (left) and Thomas Hsiang

The meeting also approved a new board of IGF directors, largely identical to the existing board but headed by Mr Zhenming Chang as president, with Wang Yi replacing Hajin Lee as Secretary General. Mr Chang closed the meeting by pledging to work for the increased popularity and development of go and further improvement of the IGF website. He also thanked AlphaGo for attracting worldwide attention to our game, mentioned a unified set of rules, a point-based international ranking system, and raising the level of play in Europe and the Americas as future goals, and concluded by wishing everyone a happy stay in Wuxi.

But the meeting was not quite over. Thomas Hsiang brought it to a truly happy end by presenting a surprise bouquet to Hajin Lee, who recently married and will soon move to Switzerland to study international organization management.

37th World Amateur Go Championship

The 37th World Amateur Go Championship will take place in June 2016 in Wuxi, a city of six million located slightly northwest of Shanghai. Ranka will be on hand to cover the entire event.

During its 3000-year history, Wuxi has produced many famous statesmen, writers, and artists. A recent addition to its honor roll is Yu Zhiying, who now tops the world in women’s professionial go. Last year Wuxi ventured into the international amateur go arena when a local trading company sponsored a match between a team of Chinese players and a mixed Japanese-Korean team. This year Wuxi has moved straight to the center of the arena by holding the WAGC.

The 37th world amateur champion will be decided in eight rounds played June 5-8, preceded by meetings on the 4th and followed by friendship games and sightseeing on the 9th. In the competition for the award-winning places, WAGC newcomers from Canada, Czechia, Chinese Taipei, France, Germany, Korea, the Ukraine, and the USA will challenge a strong lineup of WAGC veterans from Europe and the Far East. Also worth watching will be a trio of thirteen-year-olds from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, all ranked 4 or 5 dan. The full list of players can be viewed here. For everyone it will be a great chance to meet old friends, make new friends, and take on opponents from the four corners of the earth.

37th WAGC – Contestants

54 Countries and Territories

Asia (14) – Middle and Near East (2) – Europe (28) – Africa (1) – Americas (7) – Oceania (2)

Asia
Brunei China Chinese Taipei Hong Kong India
Sin Voon CHIN Baoxiang BAI Chia Cheng HSU Chi Hin CHAN Supravat PAL
Age: 28 Age: 23 Age: 22 Age: 16 Age: 37
3 Dan 8 Dan 7 Dan 6 Dan 1 Kyu
Indonesia Japan Korea Macau Malaysia
Raffia Shidqi FITRAH Satoshi HIRAOKA Kibaek KIM Kei Chon WAN Fu Kang CHANG
Age: 13 Age: 45 Age: 20 Age: 22 Age: 13
5 Dan 8 Dan 6 Dan  5 Dan  5 Dan
Mongolia Singapore Thailand Vietnam
Battulga BYAMBAAKHUU Yi Fei YUE Vorawat TANAPATSOPOL Nhat Minh VO
Age: 31 Age: 18 Age: 27 Age: 13
2 Kyu 5 Dan 5 Dan 4 Dan
Middle and Near East
Israel Turkey
Tal MICHAELI Emre POLAT
Age: 19 Age: 22
3 Dan 4 Dan

Asia     –    Middle and Near East    –    Europe    –    Africa    –    Americas    –    Oceania     ↑TOP

Europe
Austria Azerbaijan Belarus Belgium Croatia
Jürgen SUNTINGER Elchin Hasanxan ALIYEV Anastasiya ILKEVICH Nelis VETS Zoran MUTABZIJA
Age: 29 Age: 43 Age: 25 Age: 35 Age: 71
3 Dan 1 Dan 5 Kyu 2 Dan 2 Dan
Czech Republic Denmark Finland France Germany
Jan PROKOP Absent Matti SIIVOLA Junfu DAI Lukas KRAEMER
Age: 25 Age: 55 Age: 32 Age: 23
6 Dan 5 Dan 8 Dan 6 Dan
Hungary Ireland Italy Lithuania Luxembourg
Csaba MERO John GIBSON Filippo GORLERO Andrius PETRAUSKAS Laurent HEISER
Age: 36 Age: 67 Age: 32 Age: 41 Age: 48
6 Dan 5 Kyu 2 Kyu 3 Dan 6 Dan
Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Romania
Merlijn KUIN Pål Harald SANNES Stanislaw FREJLAK Vasco PIMENTA Cristian POP
Age: 34 Age: 55 Age: 19 Age: 38 Age: 41
6 Dan 3 Dan 5 Dan 5 Kyu 7 Dan
Russia Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain
Dmitry SURIN Dusan MITIC Miroslav POLIAK Gregor BUTALA Joan ALEMANY FLOS
Age: 44 Age: 25 Age: 59 Age: 41 Age: 33
6 Dan 6 Dan 2 Dan 5 Dan 3 Dan
Sweden Switzerland UK Ukraine
Leif ALMROT Armel-David  WOLFF Andrew SIMONS Andrii KRAVETS
Age: 31 Age: 42 Age: 30 Age: 25
3 Dan 4 Dan 4 Dan 6 Dan

Asia     –    Middle and Near East    –    Europe    –    Africa    –    Americas    –    Oceania     ↑TOP

Africa
Madagascar South Africa
Absent Andrew Lewis DAVIES
Age: Age: 57
3 Dan
Americas
Argentina Brazil Canada Colombia Mexico
David POLLITZER Gabriel Hissao MAKIO Manuel VELASCO Santiago ESPINOSA URIBE Emil GARCIA
Age: 39 Age: 24 Age: 25 Age: 29 Age: 29
3 Dan 1 Dan 5 Dan 4 Dan 5 Dan
Peru USA
Leon RIOS Benjamin LOCKHART
Age: 31 Age: 22
1 Dan 7 Dan
Oceania
Australia New Zealand
Amy Yimei SONG Chahine KOLEEJAN
Age: 15 Age: 23
4 Dan 5 Dan

Asia     –    Middle and Near East    –    Europe    –    Africa    –    Americas    –    Oceania     ↑TOP

37 WAGC – Schedule

37th WAGC: Schedule
JUNE 2016 Time  Event Place
Fri 3 Arrival
Sat 4 9:30 ~ 11:30 IGF Board of Directors Meeting Ramada Plaza Wuxi
13:30 ~ 15:00  IGF Annual General Meeting
15:30 ~ 17:00 Players Meeting
17:30 ~ 18:15 (TBC) Press Conference
18:30 ~ 20:30  Opening Ceremony
Sun 5 ~ Tue 7 9:00 ~ 12:00 Rounds (1,3,5)
14:30 ~ 17:30 Rounds (2,4,6)
Wed 8 9:00 ~ 12:00 Round 7
14:30 ~ 17:30 Round 8
17:30 ~ 18:30 Doping Test
19:00 ~ 21:00 Closing Ceremony
Thu 9 Morning Friendship Match
Afternoon Sightseeing
Fri 10 Departure