The first players to enter the playing room, about ten minutes early, were from Chinese Taipei, Chou Chun-hsun, Wang Yuan-jun, and Joanne Missingham taking their seats at tables 3, 4, and 5 in the center row. Next to enter were Japan’s Mukai Chiaki, England’s Vanessa Wong and the five Koreans, followed by the Chinese, the rest of the Japanese and Europeans, and finally, exuding good spirits and relaxation, the Americans. The start of the round was announced by the president of the China Weiqi Association, Hua Yigang, as the last American took his seat, and play began on fifteen boards simultaneously.
The first game finished was at table 3 in the match between Chinese Taipei and Japan. Sakai Hideyuki, former world amateur champion and more recently a winner of the Japanese Gosei title, prevailed over Chou Chun-hsun, former world amateur runner-up, former winner of the LG Cup, and winner of numerous professional titles in Chinese Taipei.
Two of the games in the USA-Europe match ended soon after that, Americans Andy Liu and Feng Yun beating Romania’s Cornel Burzo and England’s Vanessa Wong. The next two games to end were also in the USA-Europe match. In one of them Romania’s Catalin Taranu lost another game by failing to kill a large group, this one belonging to America’s Mingjiu Jiang.
This win assured the American team of victory, but it was not to be a clean sweep. Christian Pop, the third Romanian, fought his way through an endgame ko to a 1-1/4-stone (2.5-point) victory over Jie Li, and later in the afternoon Czechia’s Jan Simara came good on his third try by defeating America’s Kevin Huang.
In the meantime Ogata Masaki had added another win to Japan’s score by defeating Chinese Taipei’s Wang Yuan-jun, and then Mukai Chiaki added a third win, defeating Joanne Missingham by resignation in a contest of large territories. “This was the first time I had played my opponent,” said Ms Mukai. “I enjoyed the game.”
The match was now decided, but for good measure, Yamashita Keigo scored a come-from-behind victory over Chen Shih-iuan at table 1. In the last game, however, which ended after a harrowing five and a half hours at 6:00, Hsiao Chen-hao averted a shutout for Chinese Taipei by beating Yamashiro Hiroshi by 1/4 stone (half a point), so the final result was 4-1 in favor of the Japanese.
In the China-Korea match all five games proceeded slowly. A nationwide TV audience was watching Hua Yigang comment on the game between Gu Li and Choi Chulhan on table 2. As the game progressed, it began to seem increasingly likely that the Chinese player would lose and a pall began to settle over the crowd of Chinese who were following the game in the adjacent research room, but in the end Gu Li turned the game around and Choi Chulhan resigned.
In the meantime Lee Saedol (Korea) had beaten Kong Jie (China), Xie He (China) had beaten Park Jeonghwan (Korea), and Lee Younggu (Korea) had beaten Piao Wenyao (China), all by resignation, so the score stood 2-2 and the outcome of the match hinged on the result at table 5, where Li He was playing Kim Hyemin. The result: a victory by 1-3/4 stones (3.5 points) for the demure Li He. As in the mind sport games three years ago, a Chinese woman had come through in the clutch.
Tomorrow is a rest day. In the fourth round on December 13, unbeaten Japan will take on unbeaten China, while Korea tackles the European team and the USA tries its luck against Chinese Taipei.
– James Davies