In the late 20th century several European go players earned professional rankings in the Far East, but now Europe has its first home-grown pros: Pavol Lisy (Slovakia) and Ali Jabarin (Israel). And they are young -- 19 and 20 -- which is a good sign for the future of European go.
Pavol and Ali won their professional spurs in a three-stage 16-player qualification tournament held in Strasbourg on May 23, Amsterdam on May 24, and Vienna on June 20. In the first two stages, Pavol beat opponents from Germany, Czechia, France, and Romania to finish with a perfect 4-0 record and earn the first European professional ranking. Ali lost to Sweden's Fredrik Blombak in the first round, but came back with three straight wins in the next rounds to qualify for the final in Vienna, where he defeated Czechia's Lukas Podpera to gain the second professional ranking. Complete results and information about all sixteen players can be round here. Pictures and further details are here.
The qualification tournament was organized and sponsored by the European Go Federation and the Beijing Zong Yi Yuan Cheng Culture Communication Co. Ltd., better known as CEGO. CEGO is a group of Chinese go players with the will and the financial resources to invest in the future of go -- in Europe. Next September, Pavol, Ali, and four other young European players will journey to China under CEGO sponsorship to begin five and a half months of training there, followed by three more months of online training after they return to Europe next year.
They will be the second such group of Europeans brought to China by CEGO, and CEGO is committed, in a contract with the EGF, to continue the training program in future years. But CEGO's and the EGF's plans do not stop there. Next year they will organize a Grand Slam Tournament in Europe with substantial prizes, open to the new European pros and a few more players who qualify by earning bonus points in other European tournaments.
CEGO's training program also includes a pair of Chinese player-coaches, Zhao Baolong and Li Ting, who take part in the on-line training leagues. Mr Zhao is a young 2-dan Chinese pro. Ms Li is a Chinese-born player who earned a 1-dan pro rank in Japan, and is now working toward a PhD in 'comparative go' at the University of Vienna. Ms Li is a diminutive and quiet person, but she was instrumental in putting CEGO together.
All this recalls the Big Dragon Project that got chess rolling in China in 1975 and turned China into a major chess power, particularly in women's chess, by the end of the century. So far, several Europeans have devoted most of their lives to playing and teaching go -- the UK's Matthew MacFadyen and Romania's Cornel Burzo (Pavol Lisy's final opponent) come to mind. Nor is there any lack of young players who dream of making this game their life. With a European pro system in place, more of these dreams can become reality. Europe still has a long way to go before challenging Far Eastern domination, but the fuse has been lit.
- James Davies
Last of a series of profiles of players in the 35th World Amateur Go Championships, which will be held July 4-11 in Gyeongju, Korea. Fifty-seven players from a like number of countries and territories are scheduled to make the trip to Korea to compete in the four-day, eight-round Swiss system. Many will be veterans of previous tournaments held in Japan and China, some drawn back to WAGC competition after a long absence, perhaps by the chance to be part of the first WAGC held in Korea. As usual, the largest contingent will come from Europe (30 players) and the youngest from the Far East (15 players, including an 11-year-old fromIndonesia). Click here for Ranka’s June 24 WAGC preview.
Argentina: Haroldo Brown 3k (right) is a 54-year-old development consultant from Buenos Aires. Career accomplishments Include “17 years of working with an outstanding humanitarian organisation (Oxfam) and at least 15 years in the theatre world.” His favorite thing about go is “The different paths one goes down in each game and, of course, the chance to meet people from many walks of life.” Hobbies include screenwriting. He’s not married, but says he “’adopted’ three daughters while I lived in Nicaragua.” He adds that “Go keeps my mind thinking strategically and this includes analysing with an open mind the different alternatives paths I can take in the face of whatever challenges come my way… And this has proved most useful in my development work as well as in the screenwriting world.”
Canada: Yongfei Ge 7D is a 45-year-old software architect from Scarborough. He’s been playing for 30 years, winning the Canada Open Championship in 2007, and the US Open Championship in 2001, 2007 and 2011. His favorite thing about go is to “Win after hard fight.” Hobbies include PC games, novels and running. Career highlights include the Horizontal Award, “signed by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.” He’s married, with one daughter.
Costa Rica: Enrique Boza Araya 7k is a 52-year-old systems engineer in San Jose. He’s been playing go for 11 years and says his favorite thing about the game is “The depth of the game despite its simple rules.” His hobbies include strategy games – he’s a 5-time champion at the Banco Central de Costa Rica’s annual tournament — writing fantasy stories, and movies.
Mexico: Ricardo Quintero Zazueta 5D is a 63-year-old mathematician and full time researcher at Cinvestav in México City. He’s been playing go for more than 40 years and has been Mexican champion eight times. His favorite thing about go is “Making lasting friendships through go and the depth of the game itself.” His hobbies include Kendo. He’s married, with three children.
United States: Jie Liang 7D is a 43-year-old software engineer from Nashua, New Hampshire. Working with the same company for over 16 years, he says “I am doing well in the work so I have spare time to play go.” He’s been playing for 30 years, won 4th place in the 2010 KPMC and says his favorite things about go are “comfortable, brain game, concentration, competitive, friendship.” Hobbies include photography and fishing. He’s married, with “one 2-year old lovely boy, full of energy who likes placing stones on board in some patterns.” He adds that “I can still find great interest in playing go. Also I try to improve my games through online resources. There are some strong young players and Europeans are getting better too. I hope I will have better luck this time in the WAGC.”
Missing: Brazil (probably too busy with the World Cup!).
Australia: Sang-Dae Hahn 7D is a retired professor who just turned 73 and lives in Sydney. He’s been playing go for 48 years, and is a 12-time Australian Champion (1978~1993) and won the 2012 Korean Ambassador’s Cup. His favorite thing about go is “creating my own aesthetic world” and his hobbies include “singing, traveling, and people.” Career highlights include teaching at Yon-sei Uni, Sydney Uni, Myongji Uni and 10 times Singing Recital. He’s married, with one child.
Missing: New Zealand
Africa: missing Madagascar & South Africa
Last week’s Quiz was inspired by EJ reader Vernon Leighton who thought he spotted an error in a May 13 Wired article on go. “It said that Michael Redmond (far right) was the first American go professional and that James Kerwin (near right) was the second. I believe that Kerwin was the first.” As the vast majority of respondents knew, Kerwin was indeed the first American pro, but the real answer is a bit more nuanced. The Wired article correctly said that “The charismatic Redmond, an American… remains the only Westerner to ever reach 9-dan, the game’s highest rank” and that “James Kerwin…(became) the second-ever Western professional Go player” which is what created the confusion. Manfred Wimmer 2P (left) of Austria was the first Westerner to achieve professional status in 1978 at the Kansai Kiin; Kerwin 1P, from the United States, became a professional later that year at the Nihon Ki-in, the first westerner to do so there. Redmond was the first Western professional to achieve the rank of 9P, in 2000. Michael Goerss of Scottsdale, AZ is this week’s winner, chosen at random from those answering correctly.
This Week’s Quiz: Most of the registrants for the upcoming US Go Congress are from the United States; which country has the second-highest number of registrants? Click here to submit your answer.
AVE-KONTAKT s.r.o., PromoGo o.s., and the Czech Go Association will host the 13th International Czech Open on July 11 through July 13. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top five players, the top five EGF players, and players with five and six points. Additionally, material prizes (3000 CZK value) will be awarded to those with four points, the best female player, and the best youth players who accumulate at least three points. Starting fee is determined by rank, with the maximum fee as 17 EU. For more information including a full schedule and accommodations, please visit the official Czech Open 2014 website.
Love the Czech Republic? Coming this fall: the 2014 annual international tournament BRNO. An official video trailer (preview below) is currently being featured by our friends at EuroGoTV.
—Annalia Linnan; for complete listings, check out the European Tournament Calendar
Capital One has informed its Card Lab Connect partners that it is ending the program, under which AGA members could apply for go-decorated VISA cards whose fees were shared with AGA, according to AGA President Andy Okun. ”I am quite disappointed, as the program was a nice addition to the AGA budget and the cards a nice conversation piece,” he told the E-Journal. New applications are no longer being accepted, although spending on existing cards will generate revenue through the end of September. After that the cards will be replaced with ordinary Capital One cards, which members may keep or cancel as they please. The AGA will make good on its offer of a $50 cash rebate for New York Congress attendees showing the card. “We promised,” Okun said (U.S. Go Congress Registration Opens with Special Rebate Offer 3/30/2014). Capital One cited declining business in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis as reason for leaving the affinity card business. There are a few similar other programs out there, but Okun said he would like feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org before deciding on whether to go down that path.
United Kingdom: The Welsh Open finished in Barmouth on June 22 with Alistair Wall 2d in first, Toby Manning 2d in second, and Christian Scarff 1d in third. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Also on June 22, Mijodrag Stankovic 5d dominated the 10th Open Zelenkovac. Mihailo Jacimovic 1d came in second and Daniel Zrno 2k in third. Austria: Ali Jabarin 6d (left) took the Wien 2014 Vienna International Tournament on June 22 while Cristian Pop 7d took second and Hui Fan 8d placed third.
– Annalia Linnan, based on reports from EuroGoTV, which include complete result tables and all the latest European go news; photo courtesy of EuroGoTV