While five outstanding Korean professional go players were competing for medals at the World Mind Games in Beijing last month, 136 outstanding Korean amateurs competed in Seoul for the Amateur Guksu (or Kuksu) title, and the right to represent Korea at the next World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand. The competitors included some who are training in hopes of winning professional credentials in Korea's tough insei league, so the Guksu tournament was also viewed as a contest between this elite group and Korea's large general amateur population.
A double-elimination preliminary qualifier held on December 13 reduced the field from 136 to 64, who then competed in a six-round knockout on December 14 and 15. After four of the six rounds, three of the four survivors were insei: Kim Changhoon, Park Jaegeun (winner of the 2013 Korea Prime Minister Cup), and Song Jihoon. Song also won one of the two semifinal games, greatly improving on his performance the year before, when he had been retired in the first knockout round. But insei dominance was not complete. The winner of the other semifinal game was Hong Moojin, who ranked No. 2 in the junior (U40) tier of Korean amateurs, second only to 2013 Guksu and 2014 KPMC winner Wei Taewoong. Song, for his part, ranked No. 3 among the insei.
Could the third best insei beat the second best general amateur? The answer to that question, after a 247 move thriller in the final round, was yes -- by half a point. In a post-game interview Song Jihoon described his Guksu triumph as follows:
'I was lucky to win. All my games were tough, especially my second-round game against Song Hongsuk [who was 2009 amateur Guksu and 2010 world amateur champion] and the final game against Hong Moojin. The final game was a struggle all the way, with the lead constantly shifting back and forth, but Hong made the last mistake.'
Aged seventeen, Song Jihoon is regarded as a rising star among the insei. In October he and Kim Changhoon competed alongside pros in the Samsung Cup. His style of play is often compared to that of Lee Sedol, whom he hopes to emulate. To quote him again, 'I'm now preparing for the professional qualifying tournament by working on my opening, which is my weak point. Now that I've won the Guksu, I'm determined to win the world amateur championship and get the 40 professional qualification points that will be worth. Then I'll try to win a professional world title within five years of making pro.'
In the meantime, to further his training he has the ₩2-million Guksu first prize (roughly $1800 or €1500). Hong Moojin, who has already amassed 90 of the 100 points needed to qualify as a pro, received ₩700,000 as runner-up, and took over the No. 1 amateur rank, pushing Wei Taewoong down to No. 2. Last year Wei narrowly missed being world amateur champion. Can a different Korean do better this year? That question will be answered in Bangkok next June.
Postscript: Song Jihoon made pro in February 2015. The Korean player at the next World Amateur Go Championship will be someone else, currently undecided.
- James Davies
In two dramatic cliffhangers, Ryan Li beat Eric Lui in back-to-back games Friday to sweep the AGA Pro Qualification Tournament finals, becoming the American Go Association’s fourth professional. Li had won their game in the round-robin section earlier in the week, so Friday’s wins gave him a 3-0 sweep of the best-of-five finals (he only dropped one game in the entire tournament, against Matthew Burrall). Click here for results and game records and check out the AGA Facebook page for photos.
“Eric was a really tough opponent,” Li told the E-Journal after the final round. “I definitely felt a lot of pressure from him and just wanted to try my hardest, do my best and see what happens. It’s still all sinking in.” Li is in his third year at the University of Toronto, where he’s studying physics. He’s also an avid soccer player. His future go plans are a bit up in the air at the moment. “I had planned to play in the World Amateur Go Championships this year but of course now I can’t do that,” he said, laughing.
“I am tremendously impressed with Ryan’s progress since last year’s pro tournament,” said AGA President Andy Okun. “His poise and seriousness all week were a real inspiration, as was his steadiness during some truly grueling games.” Okun also said that he was “pleased with the overall strength of the field; clearly we’re onto something here.”
Lui took a solid cash lead early in the morning game and hundreds of viewers on KGS thought he seemed to be in a good position after deftly surviving Li’s splitting attack. But Li kept up the pressure and as Lui went into byo-yomi, the game kept getting more and more complicated. Eventually, with the life and death of multiple groups at stake, several huge kos and even a seki, both players were battling the clock as well and in the end, Lui, behind on the board, lost on time as well. In the other two morning games, Jeremy Chiu’s kill of Ben Lockhart’s large central group evened the score at 1-1 in their battle for third place in the tournament, while Matthew Burrall’s win against Daniel Gourdeau put him within one game of clinching fifth place (Gourdeau lost their match in the round-robin section earlier in the week). The afternoon game between Li and Lui was another no-holds-barred contest, closely followed by hundreds on KGS, who were also treated to a live commentary by Myungwan Kim 9P, with Andrew Jackson. The other two afternoon games were each decided by half a point, Lockhart defeating Chiu to take a 2-1 lead, and Matthew Burrall beating Gourdeau to claim fifth place. Lockhart and Chiu will continue their struggle for third place — and seed in the next pro tournament — in a game Saturday at 9:30a that will be broadcast on KGS; if a fifth game is needed it’ll be played and broadcast at 4p (EST).
- report/photos by Chris Garlock
Xinming Simon Guo, a licensed Math teacher in Illinois and founder of Go and Math Academy, will organize an educational workshop at the 2015 Conference of MMC (Metropolitan Mathematics Club) of Chicago. The workshop will be Saturday, January 24, at Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, IL. Guo has been advocating go and math in the educational world for many years. Math teachers, math educators, school administrators and even go amateurs are welcome to attend. Details are available at http://mmc2015conference.com.
Though frigid temperatures on Thursday closed schools around Boston and coated the Nantasket Beach with frozen surf, the action was hot on the boards at the AGA pro qualification championship. Ryan Li returned to form Thursday morning in the deciding AGA pro qualification championship top-bracket match against Matthew Burrall, taking just 120 moves to win the game, another crowd-pleaser with plenty of complicated fighting. Li advances to play Jeremy Chiu in the next round, which will be broadcast live at 4p Thursday on KGS. Click here for latest results and game records.
Eric Lui awaits the winner of the Li-Chiu match, having defeated Ben Lockhart Thursday morning to assure his berth in the semi-finals. In the other morning match, Daniel Gourdeau, still battling a nasty cold, needed just 118 moves against Ricky Zhao to advance to the next match, which will be played on Friday against Matthew Burrall. Zhao placed 7th, as Yuan Zhou had to withdraw due a family emergency.
- report/photos by Chris Garlock
Ryan Li 7d defeated Eric Lui 7d by 7.5 points in the final round of the round-robin section of the ongoing AGA professional qualification tournament. In other Round 7 action, Ben Lockhart beat Jeremy Chiu, Ricky Zhao defeated Matthew Burrall and Yuan Zhou – in his second consecutive half-pointer – beat Daniel Gourdeau. Click here for results, game records and the grid for the championship section of the tournament.
In the first round of the championship section on Wednesday afternoon, Matthew Burrall bounced back from his disappointing performance in the round robin to upset Ryan Li in a thrilling game that had hundreds of viewers guessing until the final moments, when Li’s resignation surprised the crowd, which had been hotly debating the close score. The two are now 1-1 (the first meeting in the round robin counts as the first game) and will meet again in the next round. Ricky Zhao only lasted 125 moves against Eric Lui and Ben Lockhart beat Daniel Gourdeau by 7.5 points, so Lui and Lockhart will play Thursday morning, as will Gourdeau and Zhao. As usual, Yuan Zhou’s game was the last of the day’s to finish; this time, however, despite his best endgame efforts, he came up 2.5 points short and he and Chiu will await their opponents in Thursday’s afternoon round.
- report/photo by Chris Garlock
The American Go Yearbook 2014 Member’s Edition Collection has just been released. The annual compilation is one of the benefits of membership in the American Go Association, collecting the content of the Member’s Edition of the American Go E-Journal, the largest English language go publication in the world. “We appreciate member support of the AGA and hope that our members will find this collection a valuable and useful resource,” said EJ Managing Editor Chris Garlock. Click here for details on AGA membership. New this year (just added): all 2014 sgf files in a handy downloadable zip file.
Each week the E-Journal delivers original content from a team of contributors that now includes Michael Redmond 9P, Myung-wan Kim 9P, Yilun Yang 7P, Guo Juan 5P, longtime teacher Yuan Zhou 7D, the inimitable Kazunari Furuyama, as well as new US professionals Gansheng Shi 1P and Calvin Sun 1P.
The Yearbook also includes the EJ’s special reports on the 2014 U.S. Go Congress, the 2014 World Amateur Go Championship and the 2014 Cotsen Open. The handy online resource gathers links to this wealth of material, enabling members to quickly find what they’re looking for on a month-by-month list. Once selected, game records or PDFs open up quickly and easily for review or download. Click here for details on AGA membership.