After coasting through the first two days of the World Amateur Go Championship, on the third day the big four, the contestants from China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Korea, were paired against each other. In the morning round, in the northwest corner of the playing hall, Japan’s Murakami Fukashi faced Korea’s Kim Sangcheon. In the northeast corner, China’s Wang Chen faced Chinese Taipei’s Chan Yi-Tien. Between them, Poland’s Stanislaw Frejlak was playing Serbia’s Dusan Mitic, and Romania’s Christian Pop was playing the USA’s Aaron Ye.
Of these four games, the ones among the Europeans and Americian finished first, victory going to Poland and Romania. Describing his game against Christian Pop, Aaron Ye said, ‘I lost by three and a half points. I felt that in the middle game I was a little ahead, but I lost in the endgame. His endgame is quite strong, and because his positions were very strong too, it was easy for him to pick up points there.’
The Japan-Korea and China-Chinese-Taipei games started with two versions of the 3-3-point invasion joseki popularized by AlphaGo. The Korea-Japan game ended shortly before noon, victory going to Korea. Mr. Murakami had this to say: ‘I good off to a good start in the opening, but then the fighting started and my opponent is very strong, so the game got difficult for me. There was one brief moment in the endgame when I thought I could see my way to victory, but then I played a nearly worthless move and fell behind. One problem was that I went into overtime before Mr. Kim.’
Asked for further elaboration, Mr. Murakami said, ‘I had gone over all of Kim’s games in the previous rounds. I could see that he had a strong, sharp attacking style, so I tried to construct strong positions that he could not destroy. If I can win my remaining games I think I might still win the championship, but I’ve heard that the player from Chinese Taipei has very good SOS points, which might make that difficult.’
To make it even more difficult, just at noon the game between China and Chinese Taipei ended in a half-point win for Chinese Taipei. Chan Yi-Tien described his victory this way: ‘In the beginning I felt the game was even, but my position became unfavorable in the middle game. But then my opponent overlooked a key move, and I grabbed the chance to play it myself. That gave me a small advantage. In the endgame I was short of time and I may not have played the most efficient moves, and near the end my opponent set up a very difficult situation, but I managed to solve it and win. This was a very lucky win for me.’
All the other fifth-round games finished before noon. The players from Canada, Hungary, and Singapore matched Poland and Romania by scoring their fourth wins, and Sweden’s Kim Johansson scored his first win by downing South Africa’s Andre Connell.
In the sixth round in the afternoon, attention centered on the southeast corner of the hall, where the showdown between Korea and Chinese Taipei took place. Playing the white stones, Chan Yi-Tien conceded territory in the opening to launch an all-out attack on one of Kim Sangcheon’s groups. With the investment of considerable thought, Kim found a playable way to save part of it. Only five black stones were left definitely dead, but White had kept the initiative and the number of dead black stones kept growing — to eight, then sixteen, then eighteen — and White also seized territory in two corners. Kim, who had been the picture of dapper deportment so far in the tournament, had taken off his black sport coat and was now playing in his shirtsleeves, but to no avail. Unable to give the 6.5-point compensation, he resigned a little after three o’clock. Both players had about ten minutes of time left.
Asked about this victory the next morning, Chan said, ‘The Korean was probably very anxious and nervous during the game. He made two major mistakes. In the beginning of the game he thought one of his moves was sente but it really wasn’t. The second mistake was in the middle game, when he didn’t see that one of his groups was going to die.’
While Chan was winning his game, China’s Wang was playing with the white stones against Japan’s Murakami. After an unusual diagonal opening in which Black took opposite star points and White took opposite three-three points, Mr. Wang opted for a ko exchange and worked his way into a double-digit lead, forcing Murakami to resign. Later, Mr. Murakami had this to say about his loss: ‘When Wang and I went over the game, we agreed that there was a point, around the 90th move, where Black was ahead. That is, I was ahead. But when I went home and checked this out with the AI on my computer, the AI disagreed. It thought White was ahead. Apparently we humans were judging the position incorrectly. If the AI’s judgement is right, then I was behind from beginning to end, a complete wipe-out.’
Elsewhere in the sixth round, Singapore’s Kwa Jie-Hui, who aside from losing to Mr. Wang had been beating a succession increasingly strong opponents (4 dan, 5 dan, 6 dan, 6 dan), now added a 7 dan — Canada’s Yongfei Ge — to his list of conquests. This put him even with China and Korea in the one-loss group. Also joining this group were Stanislaw Frejlak, who defeated Australia’s Xin Lei, and Hungary’s Csaba Mero,who had beaten Vietnam’s Manh Linh Nguyen in the morning and now beat Hong Kong’s Lo Cheuk-Tung. Further down, Andre Connell and Armenia’s Ashot Margaryan, whose only wins so far had been byes, got their first taste of victory on the board by beating Azerbaijan’s Eichin Aliyev and the Philippines’ Celeste Abat.
– James Davies