The traditional start to the British go year is the London Open, though in 1997 only just so as it ended on New Year's Day. The 23rd such tournament, it was run again at Highbury roundhouse by perennial organiser Harold Lee. It was attended by 150 players, of whom over a third were from mainland Europe. Again Hitachi were major sponsors and the first six rounds counted for the European Grand Prix. The GP placings went to Guo Juan, Lee Hyuk, Zhang Shutai, Danek, S.J. Kim, Macfadyen, Goddard, S. Bae, Cocke and von Arnim. In the semi-finals Guo beat Zhang and Lee beat Danek. In an exciting half-point final game Guo Juan won to claim the 1000 pound first prize. Lee was second, Macfadyen scraped up to third and equal fourth were Danek and von Arnim. Oddly Zhang was unplaced having lost to Lee, Guo twice and Danek. Many prizes were awarded - mainly to the German players (M. Krings (11 kyu) and C. von Arnim (6 kyu) won 7/8) - but also there were special youth prizes. Best British kyu player was Martin Smith (1 kyu) on 6/8. As well as the main event there was a four-a-side rengo competition, continuous 13x13, guess the move competition and even more winners in the lucky prize draw. The Lightning was won by Lee Hyuk from Zhang Shutai and Jim Sadler.
In 1997 there were 19 regional tournaments which were dominated, like in 1996, by one player in the spring and another in the autumn. The top British player, Matthew Macfadyen (6 dan), won four spring tournaments. He won at Coventry, the Scottish in Glasgow, Leicester and the Welsh in Barmouth. Antonio Moreno (3 dan) won at Bracknell and at Devon. Cambridge was won by Matthew Cocke (5 dan), Furze Platt (Maidenhead) by T.Mark Hall (4 dan) and Bournemouth by Alistair Wall (4 dan). Wanstead was won by Park Hyung-Soo (5 dan) a Korean from Cambridge and Oxford was won by Walthar Warnaar (4 dan) from the Netherlands. A new kyu players tournament in Cambridge called the Bar-Low was won by Jonathan Chin (1 kyu). After the summer it was Bristol's Simon Shiu (3 dan) who dominated at the Northern in Manchester, Milton Keynes and Swindon. The first of these went ahead despite being the same weekend as the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales. Shrewsbury was won by Macfadyen, the Wessex by Tony Goddard (5 dan) and the West Surrey Handicap by David Ward (3 dan). The Three Peaks Tournament in Yorkshire was won by Francis Roads (4 dan) on tie-break from its organiser Toby Manning (3 dan). The Small Board Championship was held in Cambridge and won by local Korean Shin Yong Cheol.
The 30th British Go Congress was held at Royal Holloway College in Egham Surrey, part of the University of London. The main college building is very attractive looking like a French chateau, but has a bell that annoyingly strikes the hour all night. Despite this the weekend was much fun with many chances to relax outside of the go playing and the annual meeting of the British Go Association. The British Lightning was run using a playing card draw system; winner with the Ace of Hearts was Des Cann (4 dan). In the British Open Matthew Macfadyen lost to Alex Rix (4 dan), who himself lost to Des Cann. On tie-break it was BGA President Alex Rix who won for the second year running. Hursley club were the best team to win the Nippon Club Cup. 1997 Terry Stacey Grand Prix winner was John Rickard (4 dan) who started his good year with a win at the Scottish in line with tradition, so it is expected Macfadyen will win in 1998.
The Isle of Man Go Week was one of two week-long events starting in the British Isles on 18th August. The Go Week is held every two years and this time moved from Douglas, the island's capital, to Port Erin, a small resort on the southern end of the island and the terminus of the island's Victorian steam railway. This provided an ideal base for a peaceful holiday for walking, swimming or just playing go. The day before play started, a short walk and a coach trip to Peel were organised. In the evenings there were fun go events, a quiz, a music evening and on the last day the banquet with prize giving and songs afterwards. Top favourite to win was Vesa Laatikainen (5 dan) from Finland. There were also players from Japan, Germany, Netherlands and France. There were 19 females among the 52 players, and nearly as many children who were able to play in their own event. Nobody could beat Vesa and he won with 5/5. The 4 dan players did rather badly and allowed Tony Atkins and Bob Bagot (both 2 dan) to come second and third. John Walsh (4 kyu) and Anne Trinks (18 kyu) won all five games. Vesa did not play in the Afternoon, so Francis Roads (4 dan) could hold on to his Afternoon title, ahead of Bob Bagot and Richard Hunter (4 dan). France Ellul (3 kyu), Bill Rivers (3 kyu) and Leo Phillips (25 kyu) all won 3/3. Side event winners were Ian Marsh (1 kyu) in the Handicap, Gunnar Bertram (3 kyu) in the 13x13 and Richard Hunter in the Lightning. There was also Rengo, Team Go and a kanji competition set by Richard Hunter from Japan.
The second week-long event was the first Mind Sports Olympiad held at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. Hundreds came from all over the world to compete for medals in games such as chess, draughts, Hare and Tortoise, Scrabble and quite a few you have probably never heard of. One of the most popular was crossword puzzle solving and one of the most intriguing was owari (a version of mancala). Indeed some of the go players did well in other events such as bridge, shogi, jigsaw puzzles and IQ tests. Naturally there were go events run on behalf of the organisers by Andrew Grant. The main tournament over five days attracted 20 players of strength 7 dan to 10 kyu. As expected the strong players dominated taking the Skandia-sponsored cash and the medals. Gold went to Guo Juan, Silver to Zhang Shutai and Bronze to Tony Goddard on tie- break from Vladimir Danek. 26 players took part in the six round weekend Fast Play. Guo got her second Gold and Zhang his second Silver. This time Danek won the tie-break from Goddard. Kyu players winning 5/6 were Geoff Kaniuk (2 kyu UK) and Patrick Vicente (6 kyu France). The weekday afternoons featured 13x13 go where 9 players played each other twice. At the first awards ceremony the medals were given to the first three on the list, but this was corrected so that Zhang, Guo and David Ward got their correct Gold, Silver and Bronze. The last event was a 9x9 tournament which gave Guo her third Gold and over 1000 pounds total prize money. David Ward got a Silver this time and a surprised Paul Margetts won Bronze. Next year the event is repeated and larger entries are expected.
Shutai Zhang, the Chinese doctor who has been in London for about ten years, was British Champion for 1993 to 1996. In 1997 he decided not to defend his title as he could not represent Britain at the World Amateur. This meant two players had to be selected to play the best of five title match. The Candidates' Tournament was held in Cambridge over six rounds at the start of May. Des Cann won all six games and Alex Rix five. All the players on four wins and most on three got through to the next stage as well. In that stage, the Challenger's, they joined four strong players from the previous year in a four round seeded Swiss. The top eight in this were: Macfadyen, Matthews, Cann, Shiu, Thornton, Rickard, Roads and Holton. The first two games of the title match were held in July in London and Oxford. Matthew Macfadyen beat Charles Matthews in both. The third and deciding game was played alongside the Milton Keynes Tournament in September. Though only 3 dan, Charles fought hard but lost, thus Matthew Macfadyen is British Champion again.
The competition for women to help selection for the Women's World Amateur was held alongside the Cambridge Trigantius. Although Alison Jones (2 dan) won most points there, it was Kirsty Healey (1 kyu) who retained the points lead and got to play in Korea.
The Pair Go Competition is always a popular event and it was held again in Weedon near Northamptons in April. The previous winners Alison Jones and Tony Atkins managed to lose to Kirsty Healey and Matthew Macfadyen letting them take the title. The trip to Japan to the World Pairs was taken by Alison Cross and John McLeod as a reward for consistent play over several years.
Brakenhale School in Bracknell was again the dominant school. However at the youth championships there was a strong showing from the Isle of Man and the Cambridge junior clubs. Under 18 champion was David King (1 kyu Bracknell). The under 16, 14, 12 and 10 sections were won by Laura Coe (13 kyu), Tom Blockley (5 kyu), Clare Franklin (35 kyu) and Adam Eckersley-Waites (24 kyu). A special award went to Luise Wolf playing for the first time though not yet five years old.
Teaching events in 1997 were the annual teaching day at Guildford, various seminars and couses run by National Trainer Matthew Macfadyen, and outreach at the Daiwa Foundation, in Portsmouth and at the Mind Sports Olympiad. Cambridge won both the London International team matches held at the Nippon Club, and the English side narrowly beat the Japanese at a match in December. Earlier in the year a Korean-Britain match in Surrey was a draw decided three-nil to Britain in a lightning play-off. Reading won the Thames Valley Team Tournament, but lost a play-off against the Sonoyama League winners Cambridge.
As usual British players were active in Europe. At the Irish Open in March, Alistair Wall (4 dan) was the winner ahead of fellow Brits David Ward and Des Cann. Des won the Lightning but let two Irishmen take the top places in the Handicap. Francis Roads was sixth and Alison Jones ninth in Helsinki. Francis was also 13th in Paris where Zhang Shutai was second. At the first European Pairs Kirsty Healey and Matthew Macfadyen were second behind Germany. Matthew Cocke (5 dan) was 26th at the World Amateur in Sapporo, standing in for T.Mark Hall who was unable to go. However later in the year T.Mark was able to travel and was fourth in Brussels. A good number of Brits attended the European in Marseille. Top player was Piers Shepperson at 23rd; Francis Roads returned as the EGF President. At the Obayashi Cup Zhang Shutai proved his strength by winning, beating Miss Pei Zhao in the final. Matthew Macfadyen got to play as a reserve in the Fujitsu Cup, but lost to Cristian Pop in round one. Earlier he had done slightly better at the Ing Cup coming 11th; Zhang Shutai had been placed third.
One final exciting bit of news was the Central London Go Club moving to a new home. They are now very lucky to be allowed to play in the Daiwa Foundation, 13-14 Cornwall Terrace (near Baker Street and Regents Park) on Saturday afternoons.