Every round of the mixed teams event begins with a new set of questions. For round five, now that the gold medals were 99% within China’s grasp, the main question was who would win the silver medals: Japan or Korea? A second question was whether the four unbeaten players, China’s Gu Li and Xie He, Korea’s Lee Younggu, and Japan’s Mukai Chiaki, would stay unbeaten. A third question was whether any of the five winless American and European players would be able to earn an upset victory against a far eastern opponent. A fourth question was whether the team from Chinese Taipei could score a second straight shutout, in which case they would at least take home an overall 13-12 winning record in their 25 games.
Yesterday’s overcast had lifted, so once again the young team of school students who would enter the game records into the computers arrived under sunny skies. Nothing brightens up the playing room better than having this bunch of kids in it. They were in their seats, ready and waiting, when the team from Chinese Taipei assembled at 12:20 to pose with their team captain for a group photograph. Five minutes later the American team and their captain arrived and they also posed for a team photo. The other four teams then walked in and play started on time at 12:30, at the direction of Hua Yigang, who reminded the medalists to be sure to come to the awards ceremony that would follow.
For the second consecutive day Japan’s Yamashita Keigo found himself seated under the television cameras. He treated the Chinese television audience to another low Chinese opening. Both he and his Korean opponent Lee Saedol were playing deliberately, spending time even on their very first moves. At almost all of the tables, the pace of play was slow, the players seemingly intent on getting the most out of their last game of the team event.
It did not take long for China, however, to nail down the gold medals. Their five American opponents all lost, either by resignation or by very wide margins. The five Europeans had no better luck, their games being a similar story of resignation or loss by a wide margin to opponents from Chinese Taipei. There were no upsets and Chinese Taipei, after a rough time in rounds two and three, finished with a perfect ten wins in rounds four and five. China’s Gu Li and Xie He ended with perfect 5-0 personal records. Feng Yun, highest-ranked (9p) of the American and European players, voiced the feelings of the vanquished American team and her own feelings. “When we came here our goal was not to finish last, so we’ve accomplished our goal. We didn’t expect to beat the far eastern professional teams. After all, their players train every day. Before the World Mind Games I played just one tournament game this year, in a women’s professional tournament. Once I moved to America my life style had to change. Now instead of playing go I spend my time teaching it. I teach all ages of students, but especially children. “I thought I played well in the first round, and when I went over the game afterward with some top Japanese pros they agreed that I had been leading, but I overlooked a move in a life and death situation and lost. My other rounds were not as good. It’s too hard to compete with these young girls who are playing and training every day.”
Now that the questions concerning America, China, Chinese Taipei, and Europe had been answered, there remained the question of the silver and bronze medals. Sakai Hideyuki got the Japanese team off to a good start by defeating Park Jeonghwan at table 3, but then Choi Chulhan and Lee Younggu, the Korean players at tables 2 and 4, defeated Japan’s Yamashiro Hiroshi and Ogata Masaki. Lee Younggu had defended his unbeaten record and Japan was down to its last chance for the silver. The games at tables 1 and 5 of the Japan-Korea match, Yamashita Keigo against Lee Saedol and Mukai Chiaki against Kim Hyemin, were the last of the day to finish. The Lee-Yamashita game was close, but after more than five hours of play it ended in a 1/4-stone (half-point win) by Lee Saedol. The Korean team would take home silver medals instead of the gold medals they had won at the 2010 Asian Games last year. The Japanese team would take the bronze medals, as they had at the World Mind Sports Games in 2008. The game between the Japanese and Korean women lasted nearly six hours. Black (Mukai) captured eighteen white stones while White (Kim) countered by framing a pair of large territories. In the end, after more capturing of stones and whittling down of territories, White won by 3-1/4 stones (6.5 points). Mukai Chiaki’s unbeaten streak had ended and the Korean team had won the match by a 4-1 score.
Incidentally, the gold, silver, and bronze medals are accompanied by team prizes of 80 thousand, 40 thousand, and 20 thousand U.S. dollars respectively. The teams that finished in fourth through sixth places receive 10 thousand U.S. dollars apiece. The awards ceremony was held on the first floor of the Beijing International Conference Center after dinner. Bronze medals were draped around the necks of the black-suited Japanese team, silver medals around the necks of the black-uniformed Korean team, and then gold medals around the necks of the Chinese team, whose garb included a beautifully embroidered white sweater worn by their female player Li He. The audience then stood as the Chinese national anthem was played and the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese flags were raised. Certificates were given out. Photos were taken. Li He was interviewed. And then the ceremony was over.
Tomorrow morning the mixed doubles competition begins, with America paired against Chinese Taipei and Europe paired against Japan.
– James Davies