The fourth SportAccord World Mind Games was officially opened at an evening ceremony held on December 10 in the banquet hall of the V-Continent Beijing Parkview Wuzhou hotel near the Beijing International Conference Center, which will be the competition venue. The ceremony itself was comparatively simple. Some of the tournament officials were introduced, representative players from each of the five disciplines were marched onto the stage, and everyone stood for the playing of the Chinese national anthem and the SportAccord anthem. Vlad Marinescu, Director General of SportAccord, then gave a short speech, ending succinctly with the words ‘May the best mind win.’ Mr Li Yingchuan, Director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports, welcomed the contestants to Beijing, thanked the sponsors and organizers, and wished everyone a good time and a successful Games. This was followed by an excellent buffet dinner, giving the contestants a good chance to socialize with the opponents they will face during the week ahead.
For a group of go players and officials, dinner was followed by a technical meeting presided over by chief referee Hua Yigang, with assistance from technical delegate Shigeno Yuki and interpretation by Zhang Wei. The meeting began with greetings from Mr Hua and Ms Shigeno, proceeded through a summary of the rules, and then moved on to the main order of business: the drawing of the team, pair, and player numbers, which were incorporated into a prearranged schedule in each event.
In the drawing for the round robin men’s team event, Korea, China, and Chinese Taipei, which finished 1-2-3 last year, drew numbers 1, 2, and 3, while Japan drew 6, Europe drew 5, and North America drew 4. This means that in the first round on December 11 Korea will play Japan, China will play Europe, and Chinese Taipei will play North America. In three other matches of note, China and Korea will lock horns in the second round on December 12, Europe will play North America in the third round on December 13, and Japan will tackle Chinese Taipei in the fifth round on December 15.
The draw for the women’s double knockout individual event began with the drawing of numbers for the four players who had been given byes in the first round: Rui Naiwei (China), Choi Jeong (Korea), Fujisawa Rina (Japan), and Joanne Missingham (Chinese Taipei). First Ms Rui and Ms Choi drew for numbers 1 and 12, Ms Rui drawing number 1. This draw also determined the numbers of their teammates Yu Zhiying (9) and Kim Chaeyoung (4). A similar procedure determined the numbers of the players from Chinese Taipei and Japan, after which the players from Europe and North America drew for the remaining numbers. As a result of this drawing protocol, no two players from the same country, territory, or region will meet in the first two rounds. In the first round on December 11, Russia’s Svetlana Shikshina (2) will play Japan’s Okuda Aya (3), Korea’s Kim Chaeyoung will play Russia’s Dina Burdakova (5), Canada’s Irene Sha (8) will play China’s Yu Zhiying, and Chinese Taipei’s Cathy Chang (10) will play Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva (10).
The pair drawing protocol was like the women’s protocol without byes. The four pairs from the Far East drew for numbers 1, 4, 5, and 8; then the pairs from Europe and North America drew for the remaining numbers, so that the pairs from Europe and North America drew Far Eastern opponents in the first round. Since the pair competition will include play-offs for third to sixth places, all pairs will play at least two games.
- James Davies
Thirty go players representing the best of China, Chinese Taipei, Europe, North America, Japan, and Korea are preparing to compete with each other and rub shoulders with some of the world’s best bridge, chess, draughts, and xiangqi players at the fourth SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing. Counting all five disciplines, there will be 150 contestants, drawn from nearly forty countries and territories on six continents. The action will start on December 11 and end on December 17.
In go at the past three SportAccord World Mind Games, Korean players dominated the men’s competition, Chinese players dominated the women’s competition, and Chinese and Korean pairs and teams divided the top honors in mixed competition. This year the Chinese men’s team will be thirsting to add a gold medal to the gold won by China’s mixed team in 2011, which was largely a men’s event. Their chances appear good; the Korean team will be handicapped by the absence of their leading player Park Jeonghwan, who was injured in a traffic accident shortly before his scheduled departure for Beijing.
Turning to the other disciplines, not surprisingly, Chinese players have also dominated the xiangqi competition in previous years, and Chinese women have demonstrated considerable prowess at bridge and chess. What is surprising is that Chinese women have been making striking progress in draughts as well, and are currently approaching the top level in that game. Just how close they are will be seen during a week of rapid, blitz, and super-blitz competition on the international standard 10 x 10 board. In men’s draughts competition, two of the players to watch will be from Africa: Cameroon’s Jean Marc Ndjofang, who will challenge Aleksandr Georgiev for the world championship next month, and the Ivory Coast’s N’cho Joel Atse, last year’s blitz sensation. Devotees of the 8 x 8 game will also get a chance to see several world champions in action as this form of draughts returns to the men’s competition.
At a press conference held on December 10, no one ventured to predict the outcome of this year’s mind games, but go ambassador Lee Hajin reminisced about her bronze medal at the World Mind Sports Games in 2008, and her subsequent university career. ‘The concentration and discipline I gained from go worked for my other studies,’ she said, ‘and I graduated at the head of my class.’
Viktoriia Motrichko, a draughts player and ambassador from the Ukraine, said ‘I consider myself an emotional person, and the emotions I feel here are all good.’
Women’s chess champion Hou Yifan said, ‘This fast-paced tournament is interesting for the spectators and it favors my style of play.’
Tang Sinan, a young Chinese xiangqi player said, ‘The SportAccord World Mind games are a super-platform for us to demonstrate our xiangqi skills. I hope all the publicity will encourage more people to get interested in the game.’
Bridge ambassador Fulvio Fantoni, a member of the crack Monaco team, said ‘When I visited the schools in Beijing during this event last year I was touched by the students’ passion and enthusiasm. It took me back to my own youth, when I felt that way too.’
Gianarrigo Rona, president of the World Bridge Federation, echoed his sentiments by saying ‘In my opinion, the enthusiasm that Beijing schoolchildren are showing for mind games is the real measure of the SportAccord’s success.’
- James Davies