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January 20th, 2006

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Luo takes Samsung; China takes Jeongganjang; Gu wins NEC Cup

International:

28-year-old Chinese 9-dan Luo Xihe, playing in his lucky tracksuit, claimed the 10th Samsung Cup and China’s 5th international go title by winning the third game of the final against suit-clad Korean Yi Ch’ang-ho by 5.5 points, for a 2-1 victory in Seoul, Korea, last Friday. The 360-move game is one of the longest title games on record, due to an extended ko-fight (the 2 longest I know of feature Nie Weiping at 368 and 363 moves each). Luo started his Samsung Cup campaign in the preliminary rounds, and fought his way through them and then Korea’s cream-of-the-crop in the final stage of the tournament to claim victory: he was only paired against Koreans in this stage, and besides Yi Ch’ang-ho, Korea’s number 2, he had to overcome Ch’oe Ch’eol-han (#1), Yi Se-tol (#3), Cho Han-seung (#4) and Song T’ae-kon (#11). This was also the first time Yi was beaten in a title match by a non-Korean. What a way to take your first international title!

Luo, who is said to have a genius-level IQ, is considered to be one of the few pro go players whose success comes more from talent then from hard work. He was an avid internet gamer, but apparently he has settled down and started working harder on his go since he settled down after marrying 2-dan pro Liang Yadi in 2003. The other thing that played to Luo’s advantage in the Samsung Cup are the new, shorter time limits than in previous years, since he is generally a fast player, rarely entering byo-yomi. In both his victories in the final, Yi was in serious time trouble during a complex ko fight, whie Luo had ample time left. Luo got his big break in go as a young teenager, when 7-dan pro Luo Jianwen recognised his talent and decided to allow him to live in his home in Beijing. (pictures and more details available on go4go.net

In last weekend’s American Oza, Feng Yun won the New York Division and Jiang Mingjiu the Las Vegas Division of the 3rd North American Toyota Denso Oza Championship to win berths in the final stage of the Toyota-Denso Cup. Both players finished the six round tournament with perfect 6-0 scores. The Oceanian Oza to decide a representative for the Africa/Oceania/rest of Asia playoff, will be held this weekend. The favourite for this tournament is the winner of the previous 2 Oceanian Oza’s, 8-dan Guo Yiming.

This week saw Rui Naiwei (9p) facing her nemesis, and arguably the top female go player in the world, Pak Chi-eun, in the first game of the final stage of the Jeongganjang Cup in Shanghai, China, on Monday. Pak, the last remaining team member of Team Korea, managed to claim a 1.5 point victory to keep Team Korea in with a chance. The next day, Team Japan was disposed of, when their last team member, Female Meijin Koyama Terumi (5p), went down to Pak by 4.5 points. Unfortunately, Pak was not up to the challenge of defeating both remaining Chinese players to reclaim the Cup for Team Korea, being narrowly defeated by Ye Gui (5p) in the next round on Wednesday. The game was decided by a half-point, and means that China retains the Cup and wins the prize money of 75 million won (about $75 000).

Japan:

Yuki Satoshi won a berth to represent Japan in the Fujitsu Cup by winning one of the 4 final preliminary pools. Yuki, taking White, defeated Rin Kaiho by resignation in the final game of the pool.

Yamashita Keigo (9p) got off to a good start in his campaign to reclaim the title Hane Naoki narrowly snatched from him 4-3 two years ago, the Kisei. In the first game of this year’s title match, held in Berlin, Germany, Yamashita forced Hane to resign.

In the NHK Cup, So Yokoku (8p) managed to produce the goods against Kobayashi Satoru (9p) in their game broadcast on Sunday. So won by resignation.

In the Ryusei, Kim Sujun (7p) and Kono Rin (8p) continued their winning streaks in the preliminaries, Kim defeating Arakaki Shun (8p), and Kono eliminating Omori Yasushi (8p). Since the players with the most wins in the paramus format preliminaries qualify for the knockout final stage, Kim and Kono must be very happy with their progress. Next week sees 1-dan Ando Kazushige facing Matsuoka Hideki (8p): Ando already has a winning streak of 3 games, one against a 5-dan, and the other 2 against 7-dans, so he may be someone to keep an eye out for in the future.

Korea:

This Sunday will decide who will be the first holder of the Korean Siptan title. This title, the equivalent of the Japanese Judan (10-dan) title, is being contested by Pak Yeong-hun and Yi Ch’ang-ho in the final. Pak, playing White, forced Yi to resign in the second game of the final on Sunday, levelling the score at 1-1.

Yi is also beginning his challenge for the 49th Kuksu title this week. The first game against title-holder Ch’oe Ch’eol-han takes place on Wednesday.

And on Thursday, challenger Cho Hye-yeon will face Rui Naiwei in the third and final game of the 7th Korean Women’s Myeongin title match.

China:

According to the latest issue of the Chinese pro ratings, updated till the end of 2005, the top 10 Chinese go pros are, 1. Gu Li, 2. Kong Jie, 3. Zhou Heyang, 4. Hu Yaoyu, 5. Xie He, 6. Luo Xihe, 7. Wang Lei, 8. Qiu Jun, 9. Chang Hao and 10. Wang Xi.

With Gu Li’s achievement of 3 domestic titles in 5 days, no-one disputes his place at the top of the pile: Gu wrapped up the 11th NEC Cup and its 200, 000 RMB(about $25, 000) prize last Saturday, defeating Liu Shizhen (6p) by resignation. This means that Gu has 5 domestic titles, and he has defeated his counterpart in another country in 3 playoffs in the past year: he won the China-Korea Tengen playoff, the Japan-China Agon Cup playoff, and the China-Korea New Star Match.

The 2006 CCTV Cup got underway this week, with the first round of the 64-player knockout final stage being played on Tuesday. The defending champion, Liu Xing (7p) won his first game. The biggest upset was that China #8, Qiu Jun (7p) was defeated by Zhang Wei (4p). Wang Xiangyun, the talk of the first phase of the Jeongganjang Cup, was defeated by 9-dan Zheng Hong, while Nie Weiping continued to struggle, losing to Chen Yaoye (5p).

And on Wednesday, the challenger decision tournament for Gu Li’s Tianyuan title kicked off. This is a 48-player knockout tournament, with 16 players seeded into the second round. The first round, held on Wednesday, again saw the elimination of Wang Xiangyun, this time by 6-dan Yang Yi, who in turn provided the largest upset in the second round when he beat Chinese #4, Hu Yaoyu. The other upset was the elimination of Ma Xiaochun by 5-dan Li Jie. Nie Weiping scored a victory in the first round against female 8-dan Zhang Xiang, but was not up to the challenge of defeating China’s #2, Kong Jie, in the second round. The third round is on Sunday, with the quarterfinals on Monday.

Tang Weixing, an amateur 7-dan, claimed victory in the Wanbao Cup for a second consecutive year. The Wanbao Cup is the largest amateur tournament in China. Tang would have represented China last year at the World Amateur Go Championship, but missed the opportunity due to a managerial mistake. However, he is expected to represent China at the tournament this year.

Taiwan:

The only noteworthy news on the Taiwanese go scene the past week was Chen Shien’s defeat at the hands of Xia Daming (4p) in the first preliminary pool of the 5th Tianyuan. This means that Chen Shien is relegated from pool 1 to pool 3, which consists of the first-round losers in pools 1 and 2.

Posted by Steve in Pro News

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