1999 turned out to be a year for professional visits. The HITACHI London Open had two: Liu Yajie from China was in the middle of her three month stay and Nam Chihyoung from Korea was at the start of a quick tour of Europe. Lucky players were able to get a game analysed or even to play the ladies. Yajie analysed the final game to a packed room awaiting prize giving.
150 amateur players were there, 68 of whom were from overseas and claiming 15 nationalities. As usual after six rounds, Fujitsu European Grand Prix points were awarded, to Lee Hyuk Guo Juan, Felix von Arnim, Victor Chow, Jonas Finke, Matthew Cocke, Emil Nijhuis, Zhang Shutai, Matthew Macfadyen and John Rickard. The top three and one at random from the next group (Zhang) then played knockout to determine the winner. This was Guo Juan from the Netherlands who got her revenge on Lee Hyuk from Moscow after losing their first encounter. So the prize money went to Guo, Lee, von Arnim, Nijhuis and Chow.
Best of the other prize winners with 7 out of 8 were Theo Elliott 24-kyu from the UK and P-E. Martin 3-kyu from Sweden. Victor Chow, the 5-dan from South Africa, beat the Dutch 5-dan Emil Nijhuis to win the Lightning Tournament.
This was the 25th London Open; Francis Roads and Matthew Macfadyen claimed to been at them all. The 26th would not be a Grand Prix nor sponsored, but as it would mark the calendar change from 19 to 20 it should not be one to miss.
Koreans dominated the regional events in 1999. Kim Seong-June, a 6-dan living in Cambridge, won the Wanstead and his local, the Trigantius. Charlie (C.S.) Park, during a stay in London, won the Furze Platt Tournament at Hitachi in Maidenhead. Kim Young, a 5-dan resident in London, won Bracknell, Milton Keynes and the Wessex.
Matthew Macfadyen won a few of course, taking Oxford, his seventh straight Welsh and Coventry for 9 times out of 10. This left a few events for the 4-dans. Francis Roads won the Northern, John Rickard the Three Peaks, Simon Shiu the Scottish, Alistair Wall the first Portsmouth and Des Cann at Leicester, Shrewsbury and Swindon. Tony Atkins 2-dan won Devon, Dan Micsa 2-dan the National Small Board, Chris Dawson 1-dan the West Surrey Handicap and Jonathan Chin 1-kyu won his third Barlow (for kyus only).
The 32nd British Go Congress was held at Abingdon School in the pretty river- side Oxfordshire town. In common with Steve Bailey's regular West Surrey event he organised many side competitions and quizzes to amuse the players between games. The Friday evening Lightning was won by Kim Seong-June, ahead of Piers Shepperson. Seong-June also proved to be the best of the 80 players in the British Open. Second was Matthew Macfadyen, third T.Mark Hall and fourth Kim Young. The Nippon Club Cup went to Cambridge.
All the prizes were presented by Dr Evan Harris MP, who is a leader in the campaign to get board games recognised as sports in the UK. For the first time Matthew Macfadyen received the Stacey Trophy for winning the most games during the previous 12 months. Another first was the election of Alison Jones as President of the BGA after Alex Rix stepped down after eight and a half years.
The first stage of the 1999 Championship was a four round event for low-dans and top kyus held in March at London's Daiwa House. Toby Manning 3-dan and John Rickard 4-dan remained unbeaten and with the best of those on three joined the top dans for the second stage.
The Challenger's was held at the Nippon Club over six rounds the first May Bank Holiday weekend. Three of the 24 players ended tied on 5/6. In a play-off Des Cann lost to John Rickard who lost to Matthew Cocke 5-dan. So the title match was a battle of the Matthews, Cocke's first time.
Matthew Macfadyen 6-dan won the first game in Cambridge in July, came back from behind to win the second game at Milton Keynes in September and won the third game in London in October to retain his title. We were lucky to have professional commentary of the last game by Shigeno Yuki 2-dan and of the second by Umezawa Yukari 3-dan and Inori Yoko 4-dan. These last two Japanese ladies were in England during a four week tour of Europe, which also involved a publicity visit to the Nippon Club in London.
Stokenchurch in Buckinghamshire was the venue for the 9th British Pair Go Championships. 31 pairs played in three sections and of course competed for the best dressed pairs and best dressed feet. Champions for the third time running were Kirsty Healey and Matthew Macfadyen, beating Alison Jones and Tony Atkins in the final. Jini Williams and Fred Holroyd won the handicap section and youth winners were Nicola Hurden and Shawn Hearn.
The 1999 top school was again Brakenhale School, Bracknell, but things may change as teacher France Ellul has moved jobs. Brakenhale were hosts for the Youth Championships and, as well as 35 children, the Chinese professional Liu Yajie was there to give her advice. Youth and under-16 champion was Tom Blockley 4-kyu from Worcester. Epsom's Philip Tedder 6-kyu won under-18 and Brakenhale's Theo Elliott 20 kyu won under-14. Cambridge players Tom Eckersley-Waites and William Brooks won under-12 and under-10 and London's Luise Wolf won under-8.
It is normal in England to have children at most tournaments, playing with the adults, but a special small board event was run alongside Wanstead in October, so that Shigeno Yuki could get to meet the children during her visit. Yuki's main activity during her ten day stay was teaching go by the Yasuda method to schools new to go and she visited such in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, London and Cambridge. She also visited the newly formed Berkshire Youth Go Club started by Simon Goss, the new Youth Coordinator, and also visited Cambridge Junior Chess and Go Club with Paul Smith the former Youth Coordinator.
The third Mind Sports Olympiad was held in London at Olympia Conference Centre during the last week of August, the same time as the Isle of Man Go Week. Whilst serious players went to London, those who like a good time went to the small Manx resort of Port Erin for go, scenery, fun and friendship. For those who have never been to the small island between Britain and Ireland, it really is as beautiful as in its pictures, so you must be there in 2002. This time Francis Roads won the main tournament and Uno Shigehiko won the afternoon event.
Meanwhile back in London go players were collecting medals in non-go events, especially Paul Smith, Harold Lee, John McLeod and Piers Shepperson. There were 26 players in the main go tournament including a lot of players from Korea and Europe. The medals went to Zhang Shutai, Jang Si-Yong, Guo Juan; for 13x13 to Zhang Shutai, Matthew Macfadyen, Vladimir Danek; for 9x9 to Kin Seong-June, Zhang Shutai, Gert Schnider; Rapid to Jang Si-Yong, Guo Juan, Zhang Shutai and Yoon Sa-Ryun. Winners in a beginners event were F. Prager, T. Nicoli and Natasha Regan.
A big feature this year was the visit of Korea's great Cho Hun-Hyun who made a lecture and played simultaneous, with the translation help of Nam Chihyoung. In 2000 the MSO will be the biggest and best yet and will feature an International Open Pair Go Championships.
Highlight of the teaching year, that started with the last month of Liu Yajie's visit, must surely have been Shigeno Yuki's week visiting schools. She also attended go clubs and a Teach the Teachers day. Umezawa Yukari and Inori Yoko also attended clubs and the Milton Keynes Tournament; we discovered Pro-Am Pair Go is a great teaching method. Guo Juan came over twice - once to teach the women and once to teach the mid-dan players - both very successful weekend sessions. Again the West Surrey teaching day went well with 5 teachers and 31 pupils. Matthew Macfadyen continued his seminars and postal tuition.
In 2000 the BGA will be putting together a teaching plan to ensure no section of players is left out, and to try and raise the UK a little on the European Rating List.
As usual British players attended events around Europe, such as Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Darmstadt. The Irish Open was won by Matthew Macfadyen, who with Kirsty Healey was second at the European Pair Go in Cannes. Matthew Cocke was 23rd in the Ing Cup. A small group of players attended the European in Slovakia, without much success, and two players attended the US Open.
At the World Amateur in Oita Japan, Matthew Macfadyen was placed 16th on 5/8. The UK pair of Alison Jones and Tony Atkins should have been 16th in the International Amateur Pair Go, but lost to France in the last round to end 24th.