The final round started on time at 1:30 at the call of chief referee Masaki Takemiya. Throughout the tournament the players, almost without exception, had kept the pledge of punctuality called for by Alexander Selby of the U.K. at the opening ceremony, as well as the pledges for courtesy, respect, and good grace in victory and defeat.
The attention of the thirty or so spectators centered on the game between China and Japan at the front of the main playing room. For the fourth round in a row China’s Baoxiang Bai got the black stones. Further back in the room, Canada’s Jun Fan drew black against Poland’s Kamil Chwedyna. Following black’s first move the Pole left his seat for a moment, returned, meditated with closed eyes and then, with eyes open, played his first stone on the 2-4 point and his second stone at 12-10.
As the round progressed the weather outside the Shimane Prefectural Assembly hall improved markedly. The temperature rose and for the first time during the tournament, blue sky appeared.
Inside, in the Bai-Hirata game black had constructed a gigantic framework in the upper right and white had constructed an even larger one in the center and on the left and lower sides. White was the first to invade, but black attacked the invading group in earnest and white was forced to abandon it. Next it was Black’s turn to invade and his invasion was more successful; he lived by taking over nearly twenty points of territory from white, who resigned shortly thereafter. China’s Baoxiang Bai had won the world championship with a perfect 8-0 record. Japan’s Hironori Hirata, world champion in 1995, would now have to await the results of other games to see what place his 6-2 finish bring him.
On the two adjacent boards Korea’s Woo-soo Choi overpowered Romania’s Cornel Burzo to score his seventh win and take undisputed possession of second place, and France’s Thomas Debarre scored his sixth win by defeating Thailand’s Choltit Rattanasetyut. The Canada-Poland game was won by Canada’s Jun Fan after a protracted ko fight, and Germany’s Franz-Josef Dickhut defeated Mykhailo Halchenko of the Ukraine, the Canadian and German players also scoring their sixth victories. In another key game Merlijn Kuin of the Netherlands defeated Finland’s Mikko Suikola by capturing a large group for his fifth win.
Meanwhile Tsung-han Wu of Chinese Taipei and Eric Lui of the U.S.A. were fighting a tense battle for third place. Wu, trailing by a couple of points late in the endgame, desperately left one of this groups open to a ko attack, then ran out of ko threats and resigned. Eric Lui, who had lost only to the Chinese and Korean players, recorded a sixth victory and the highest finish ever for a player from the U.S.A.
When the tournament computer tallied the scores France and Japan were tied behind the U.S.A. on SOS points, but SOSOS broke the tie in favor of France, Thomas Debarre taking fourth place, Hironari Hirata finishing fifth. Sixth place went to Canada’s Jun Fan, seventh place to Germany’s Franz-Josef Dickhut, and eighth place to Chinese Taipei’s Tsung-han Wu. Ninth place was awarded on SOSOS points to Romania’s Cornel Burzo, while Merlijn Kuin of the Netherlands finished tenth.
Three players from Southeast Asia failed to make the top ten but turned in a very creditable five wins: Choltit Rattanasetyut from Thailand finished 11th, Kanh Binh Do from Vietnam beat Radek Nechanicky of Czechia in the last round to finish 12th, and Sebastian Mualim (age 14) from Indonesia beat Miroslav Smid of Slovakia in the last round to finish 21st.
At the closing ceremony the new world champion Baoxiang Bai received the championship certificate and a large silver championship cup, presented by the chief referee Masaki Takemiya, a large gold cup presented by the tournament committee vice-chaiman Hiroyuki Wakasa, a prize from the Governor of Shimane Prefecture, presented bygovernor Zenbei Mizoguchi himself, and the Prime Minister’s Cup, a ka ya go board from the Kurogi go equipment shop, and an 8-dan diploma from the Nihon Kiin, all of which were presented by Nihon Kiin director and tournament committee chairwoman Chizu Kobayashi. The other top-ten finishers received smaller silver cups presented by the referees, and the second and third place finishers received additional Governor’s Prizes. The Asada Fighting Spirit Prize, which included a set of slate and shell stones from the Kurogi shop, was awarded to Manitra Razafindrabe of Madagascar in recognition of his sportsmanship throughout the tournament and his victory over Sandeep Dave of India in round 4.
In addition, this year there was a special prize from the chief referee Masaki Takemiya, awarded to 13th place finisher Kamil Chwedyna of Poland for his unique and free-wheeling style of play in the opening. Mr Takemiya summed up the tournament by congratulating the champion and the other top ten finishers and then saying, ‘The real winners are the ones who enjoyed the tournament. You’re all winners.’
In the meantime the weather had changed again. The players leaving the closing ceremony were greeted by a thunderstorm and downpour. After dinner, many of them headed for the playing room at the hotel to continue the day’s competition.
– James Davies