The 32nd World Amateur Go Championship, which will begin in Matsue, Japan on May 29, was preceded on May 28 by the 30th annual General Meeting of the International Go Federation, attended by IGF officials and staff and the players, who had arrived in Matsue the day before. The meeting was held in the Shimane Prefectural Assembly Hall, where the tournament will be played. Incidentaly, Shimane Prefecture gave birth to Honinbo Dosaku in 1645 and Kaoru Iwamoto in 1902, Matsue hosted the first game of the current Honinbo title match less than two weeks ago, and the Shimane Prefectural Assembly Hall is situated next door to Matsue Castle, where IGF Vice President Hideo Otake and a local schoolgirl played a modern Castle Game while the General Meeting was in progress.
The General Meeting was chaired by Director-at-Large Eduardo Lopez Herrero, acting in place of IGF Chief Director Zhenming Chang, who was in South Africa on Chinese official business. Mr Lopez began by calling for a minute of silence for the victems of the recent earthquake in northeast Japan. (Matsue is in the southwest of Japan, far enough away that it was not directly affected.) This was followed by approval of the minutes of the previous meeting and the election of three new IGF directors: Mr Martin Finke (The Netherlands), Mr Jae-Ho Yang (Korea), and Ms Hiroko Taki, of pair go fame, who becomes a new Director-at-Large, while Eduardo Lopez becomes Director for Central and South America.
This was followed by reports on IGF activities and plans given by Mr Lopez, Mr Siming Liu (director of the IGF office in China), Ms Yuki Shigeno (IGF Secretary General, Japan), and Mr Thomas Hsiang (IGF Vice President, U.S.A.). Mr Liu thanked the city of Matsue for organizing the tournament and the players for attending it, and reported that the IGF had a bright future with growing opportunities to participate in major international events, such as the World Mind Sports Games (first held in 2008 in Beijing, China), the Asian Games (where go was a featured event in 2010 in Guangzhou, China), and the SportAccord Mind Sports Games, (a one-off event to be held in Beijing in December 2011). Ms Shigeno noted that go was gaining increasing recognition as a mind sport from the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) and SportAccord and promised to work for improved coordination between the IGF offices in China and Japan. A list of recent events in which the IGF has had a hand was read. The list also included the 8th World Student Go Oza Championship held earlier this year in Tokyo, the 21st International Amateur Pair-Go Championship held last October in Tokyo, and of course the World Amateur Go Championship held last year in Hangzhou, China. The Chinese Weiqi Association received particular commendation for its organization of the go events at the Asian Games. Upcoming events include this year’s World Amateur Go Championship, another International Amateur Pair-Go Championship in Tokyo in November, the SportAccord Mind Games, and the 33rd World Amateur Go Championship, which will be held at the end of March 2012 in Guangzhou. China. Japan will host the World Amateur Go Championship in 2013, although the site and date have yet to be determined.
The Sports Accord Mind Sports Games will include a 4-man+1-woman team competition and a pair-go competition. Although participation will be limited to six teams and six or seven pairs, there will be a substantial prize fund in which all participants will have a share. The teams and pairs will represent China, Japan, Korea, an American zone, a European zone, and an Asian-Pacific zone. A requirement that each team must have a flag and an anthem made it necessary to choose the U.S.A. to represent the Americas and Chinese Taipei to represent the Asian-Pacific zone, but since Europe actually has a flag and anthem, its players will be multi-national. A seventh pair representing Guanzhou is a possibility.
It was also reported that with the Chinese Weiqi Association, the Korean Baduk Association, and the Nihon Kiin all lending substantial financial support, the IGF’s financial position has improved markedly, giving it more resources to use for the spread of go, and that further progress is imminent. The International Mind Sports Association (IMSA), of which the IGF is a member, has made a contract with Mind Sports Partners, an offshoot of the West Nally organization that has done so much to put football (soccer) on a sound financial basis. This contract should lead to the development of additional sponsorship for mind sports, which will generate additional income for IMSA and the IGF.
The topic of doping tests was discussed. Although these tests went smoothly at the World Amateur Go Championship in Hangzhou last year, the Japanese Anti-Doping Agency has strict requirements regarding medical standards and organization which could not be met in time for the World Amateur Go Championship this year, so the planned tests were scrapped. This announcement was met wth mild applause. The IGF will set up a committee of doctors and anti-doping experts from China, Europe, Japan, and Korea, with new IGF director Martin Finke participating, so that it can comply with requirements of the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA). The question of just what substances a paerson could use to improve his performance on the go board was raised from the floor. The answer was that the same question had been put to WADA, with a request for exemption of go events from anti-doping tests. Pending a decision to be handed down in 2013, WADA had advised the IGF to follow the example of chess, in which anti-doping tests are carried out just before a tournament starts but are not required further in advance.
These reports were followed by a plea from Mr Kyung-Moo Heo of the Korean Baduk Association for signatures on a petition to have go included in the list of events in the Incheon Asian Games next year. The Korean delegation is hoping to collect a million signatures from Korean go players and fans. The meeting ended with an address by Chizu Kobayashi (Nihon Kiin director in charge of overseas affairs), who praised the local organizers in Matsue for their unprecedented level of support, thanked the particiapnts for their cooperation, and gave them a brief introduction to some local tales from Japanese mythology.
– James Davies