The last gold medals of the go competition at the World Mind Sports Games went to the men’s team from the Republic of Korea and a mixed pair from China.
In the team event, the Koreans substituted Han Sanghun for Lee Younggu, who had beaten Japan’s Takao Shinji in the morning, and left their star Lee Sedol, who had lost to Japan’s Kono Rin, in the lineup. Lee promptly lost again, to China’s Ding Wei, but the rest of the Korean team won all their games: Won Sungjin beat Chang Hao; Choi Chulhan beat Kong Jie; Han Sanghoon beat Xie He; Kim Jiseok beat Piao Wenyao. Result: Republic of Korea 4, China 1. Lee’s two losses were the only games the Korean team dropped in the entire men’s team event.
In the play-off for third place, the Japanese team triumphed by a 4-1 score over the team from Chinese Taipei. Kimono-clad Yoda Norimoto beat Chen Shih-Yuan, Takao Shinji beat Pan Shan-chi; Hane Naoki lost to Hwang Yih-tzuu; Yamashita Keigo beat Hsiao Cheng-hao; Kono Rin beat Lin Han-chieh.
In the pair go competition, China’s Wang Xiangru and Liu Yirong convincingly defeated Hsieh Yi-min and Chou Chun-hsun of Chinese Taipei to bring China its third gold medal of the Games. The play-off for third place was won by Lee Hajin and On Sojin of the Republic of Korea, who defeated China’s Li He and Yu Bin.
A large crowd attended the awards ceremony, where Ying Ming-hwa of the Ing Chang-ki Weichi Educational Foundaton draped bronze medals around the necks of the Japanese team, silver medals around the necks of the Chinese team, and gold medals around the necks of the team from the Republic of Korea, and Liu Siming, Director General of the Board and Card Games Administrative Center of the State General Administration of Sport of China, handed bouquets to the medal-winners. The Korean team took their victory in stride, standing with their hands on their hearts as the flags were raised and the Korean national anthem was played. This ceremony was followed by the pair go awards ceremony, at which the medals were presented by Hua Yigang of the China Weiqi Association and the bouquets by Ms Taki Hiroko of the Japan Pair Go Association.
By brining China’s total in the go competition to three gold medals, the medal won by the Chinese mixed pair brought earned China the go championship trophy in the Games. The Korean golds in the men’s team competition and men’s individual competition, however, told the same story as the other international tournaments for the past fifteen years: the Republic of Korea is still at the top. They also won the most medals overall (nine to China’s five), and won a medal in each of the six go events.
The Japanese teams were hoping for more than two bronze medals, but they can take some consolation in the gold medal won by their contract bridge seniors team in a dramatic come-from-behind performance against the USA. The DPR Koreans can also take pride in their gold medal in the open amateur event, and Chinese Taipei in its silver medal in the mixed pairs.
At a press conference the next day, Jose Damiani, president of the International Mind Sports Association and the World Bridge Federation, praised the Chinese for their splendid organization of the Games. Estimating the total number of players of the five mind sports at about one billion worldwide, he noted that mind sports have more participants than spectators, the opposite of the situation in physical sports, and stressed the importance of teaching mind sports at schools and universities, not only for the benefit of the young but also for the mental health of the elderly. In response to a question from a British reporter, he urged people to work for Olympic recognition of mind sports, similar to the recognition gained by the paralympics, as a key step toward holding another World Mind Sports Games after the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012. He added that if London decided against this, another city was already fully prepared to host the event. Mr Damiani also noted that mind sports was one of the first activities to make full use of the new technology of the internet, and urged the other media to give mind sports more attention.
At the same press conference, Mrs Xiao Min, Assistant Manager of the General Administration of Sport of China, noted that China had an advantage in mind sports insofar as in China, both board games and card games are administered by the same organization, a fact attested to by their success in chess and bridge as well as go and xiangqi. The Chinese intend to hold a national mind sports games sometime next year.
Shigeno Yuki, Secretary General of the International Go Federation, stressed that this was the first international go tournament to include both professionals and amateurs. In reply to a reporter’s question, she commented that the tournament format could be improved to give the professional participants more serious competition with each other in the later rounds.
For amateur players especially, however, these games have been a dream come true, and an inspiration to organize more types of international competition in the near future.
– James Davies