Most of the players in the 31st World Amateur Go Championship arrived at the Tian Yuan Tower in Hangzhou on a warm Sunday, May 23, where they were registered by a well prepared hotel staff assisted, by a friendly and capable team of volunteers. Many of the players had spent a long day in the air, but that did not prevent some from heading straight for the room where they could play go, and that it turn did not prevent a few from getting up for breakfast at 6:30 the next morning. After breakfast, many players again sought out the sunny playing room, while others went shopping or explored the area round the hotel. At 10:00 the directors of the International Go Federation (IGF) held a meeting.
Lunch on the 25th was served in a restaurant shaped like a giant go bowl on the 34th floor of the Tian Yuan Tower, with a panoramic view of the Qiantang River. The players then descended to the fifth floor for an orientation meeting, where Runan Wang, president of the Chinese Weiqi Association, delivered a warm welcome, expertly translated into English by Wei Zhang. Then Lingkai Chen, the Executive Chief Referee, speaking faultless English himself, explained the pairing system, the awards, the tie breaking and time control rules, and the anti-doping tests, and the players drew the numbers used to arrange the pairings.
In a major change from the pairing system used in past World Amateur Go Championships, first the players from the countries that took the top four spots last year (China, Korea, Hong Kong China, and Chinese Taipei) drew for numbers 1, 17, 33, and 49, and then the remaining players drew for the remaining numbers. In the first round, the odd-numbers would take black against the even numbered players, No. 1 playing No. 2, No. 3 playing No. 4, and so on. In subsequent rounds, the pairings would arranged so that as far as possible, each player would get black about half the time. This system was adopted because the Chinese already had the necessary software, and did not have time to develop and debug new software to implement the previous system. In the first round, the new system produced an expectable mixture of closely matched games, such as Yongfei Ge (7-dan) of Canada vs. Alexei Lazarev (6-dan) of the Russian Federation, and not-so-close matches, such as Chen Wang (7-dan) of China against Rodrigo Edmundo Carpio Cordero (7-kyu) of Ecuador.
In a return to previous practice, awards will be given only to the top eight finishers, instead of ten, and trophies will be given to the top three finishers. The tie-breaking system will be the system used in the World Mind Sports Games in 2008, basically just the sum of opponents’ scores (SOS), but if a second-level tie break is needed to assign the awards, the first-round opponents’ scores are subtracted from the SOS scores. If a third-level tie break is needed, the second-round opponents’ scores are subtracted, and further tie-break levels can be calculated, if necessary, in the same way. Ties for places lower than eighth place will not be broken.
The new time control system allows each player a reduced basic time of one hour, followed by thirty seconds per move, extensible twice. That is, after the initial hour is gone, a player has three 30-second periods to use. Each period is renewed if the player plays within 30 seconds and disappears if the 30-second limit is reached. If the third 30-second limit is reached, the player loses on time. The forfeit deadline for lateness has also been reduced to 15 minutes.
The anti-doping test will be carried out after the final round. The tested players will be five players selected at the end of the preceding day as being likely to finish in the top spots, and one more player selected at random.
Who will be the main contenders for the eight awards? One will certainly be China’s Chen Wang, only 17 years old but winner of the Chinese Evening News Cup. Another will be Taewon Jo of DPR Korea, a veteran at age 21, having won the individual amateur event in the World Mind Sports Games in 2008. A third will be Hongsuk Song, a year older at 22, who has been doing well in the Republic of Korea, winning the international Korean Prime Minister’s Cup last October and more recently taking the amateur Kuksoo title and the Korean Sports Cup. Two more 17-year-olds who bear watching are Naisan Chan of Hong Kong, China, and Thomas Debarre of France, who finished third and eighth, respectively, in the World Amateur Go Championship last year.
Also hoping to place in the top eight are newcomers Cheng-hsun Chen (age 11) of Chinese Taipei and Yohei Sato (29) of Japan, but they will be vying with a group of twenty other players ranked 5 dan and above, including established stars such as Ondrej Silt (23) of Czechia.
– James Davies