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March 14th, 2006

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Yoda breaks Korean stranglehold

Welcome to my last comprehensive pro news update for the foreseeable future. At the bottom of this pro news article, I tell you what sites I typically visit to get my information.

International

After a 12-year domination of the Nong Shim Cup and its predecessors, the SBS Cup, and the Jinro Cup, Korea was finally pushed from the top of the heap. And to the surprise of the critics, they didn’t lose their place to China, who has been showing good form in international competitions, but by Japan. More specifically by Yoda Norimoto Gosei. Yoda, Japan’s last representative going into the final phase of the Nong Shim Cup in Shanghai in late February, pulled off 3 consecutive victories including a win against Yi Ch’ang-ho in the last game to clinch the title (and prize money of 150 million Won) for Japan. This was Yi’s first loss in this tournament after 6-years and 14 games.

The final phase started on 21 February when Cho Han-seung eliminated China’s Chang Hao, after Chang was leading comfortably in the first half of the game. The next day Cho faced Yoda, but was not so lucky. The next day, Yoda was lucky to eliminate China’s last hope, 7-dan Kong Jie, after Kong missed a tesuji allowing a large group of Yoda’s to escape easily. Finally, on Friday, Yoda faced Yi. Their career record was 8 victories each, but Yoda took the initiative, chasing one of Yi’s groups from early in the game, and claimed the victory. All four games in the final stage were decided by resignation, and both Cho Han-seung and Yoda Norimoto were awarded prize money of 10 million Won for three consecutive victories.

Gu Li (7p) defeated Chen Yaoye (5p) by resignation twice to cruise to a 2-0 lead in the all-Chinese best-of-five finals of the international 10th LG Cup. The title will be decided in April, when the next 3 games of the final are scheduled for.

The Chunlan Cup is a 24-player international tournament, with 20 berths allocated to the hosts China (10), Japan (5) and Korea (5). Taiwan has 2 representatives, while Europe and North America each have one representative. This year’s tournament kicked off in Beijing on Saturday, with Michael Redmond representing America, Catalin Taranu representing Europe. Neither had any luck in their first round games, though, with Michael Redmond going down to Korean 5-dan Ko Keun-t’ae. Catalin had the misfortune to be paired against Yi Se-tol in the first round, and was forced to resign. The Taiwanese representatives were also eliminated in the first round, by Yuki Satoshi and Kono Rin, respectively.

The second round was played today, and China was very successful to claim 6 of the 8 quarterfinal berths. The Japanese were again entirely eliminated, with the only Koreans reaching the quarter-finals being Yi Ch’ang-ho (who faces China’s #1 Gu Li next) and Yi Se-tol (whose next opponent is Xie He).
There’s a long wait before the next round – the tournament continues in September in Guanzhou.

Interestingly of China’s 10 berths in the tournament, 8 were seeded, while 2 were selected by means of a 4-player league. After these 2 rounds, both of the players qualifying from the league (Hu Yaoyu and Xie He) are still remaining in the tournament.

The 1st Korea-China League Champions’ Playoff was held in late February this year in Shanghai. The Playoff featured Team Shanghai, the winner of the 2005 Chinese City League, and Team Holy Construction, the winner of the 2005 Korean Baduk League. After the teams drawed 2-2 , Pak Yeong-hun went on to win the fast-game tie-breaker against Chang Hao, claiming the victory for Team Holy Construction.

The World Student Go Oza was held two weeks ago in Tokyo, and the American representative, Jie Li, made waves by pulling off second place in the tournament with 3 wins in 4 games. The tournament was won by Japanese Emura Kiko, while Taiwan’s Chang Yuan-Jung came third.

And I thought I might mention that the International Go Federation now has a new website, at http://www.intgofed.org/. The link in our sidebar has been updated.

Japan

On the 23rd of February, Yamashita Keigo reclaimed the title of Kisei, winning the 30th title with a convincing 4-0 victory against defender Hane Naoki. After winning the third game due to Hane missing two corner ko threats in an end-game ko fight due to time trouble, Yamashita clinched the most prestigious Japanese title and 42 million yen by claiming an early lead in the fourth game by attacking a weak group, and holding on to the lead until the end of the game to win by 2.5 points.

Last Wednesday, however, Cho Chikun showed Yamashita that not everything will go his way, with the defender defeating him by resignation in the first game of the best-of-5 44th Judan title match.

In the meantime, the battle for who will replace the demoted players in the next Kisei Leagues is underway. O Meien will definitely not reclaim his place – he has been defeated by Cho Chikun. The other 3 demoted players, Cho U, Imamura Toshiya and Honda Kunihisa are all still in with a shot, as are Iyama Yuta, Yamada Kimio, Sato Masaharu (9p), Morita Michihiro (9p), Hoshino Masaki (8p), Takano Hideki (6p), and Imamura Yoshiaki (8p).

Similarly, competition for berths in the Judan double elimination challenger decision tournament is underway. Mannami Kana, who defeated Chinen Kaori to claim a 2-1 victory in the Female Kisei title match in February, is the only female still in contention for a berth in the final tournament, and she will claim a spot if she can pull off one more win, against either Otake Hideo or Ryu Shikun. Mannami did well in her last game to eliminate a qualifier from last year, 9-dan Yamada Noriyoshi. Other noteworthy results in these preliminary matches are Kono Rin Tengen’s victory over Honda Kunihisa, and Michael Redmond beating Ogata Masaki. An interesting match to keep an eye out for will be Yoda Norimoto Gosei’s match against 7-dan Sakai Hideyuki.

In the 25th NEC Tournament final, Kobayashi Satoru won his semi-final match against Yamada Kimio, to qualify to face 35-year-old Cho Sonjin in the final. However, Kobayashi was defeated by a comfortable 5.5 point margin, giving Cho Sonjin his first NEC Cup title and 15 million yen. Kobayashi Satoru took home 7.5 million Yen for second-place.

The Japanese preliminaries for the Toyota-Denso World Go Oza also started this month. Three players, Hane Naoki (last year’s Kisei), Cho U Meijin and Takao Shinji Honinbo are seeded into the tournament, but the other 7 Japanese berths are up for grabs in qualifying pools. Only a few games in these pools have been completed, with the most well-known player eliminated so far being Ogata Masaki.

In the 31st Meijin League, Takao Shinji Honinbo and Kobayashi Satoru were the only undefeated players in the league after just two games. Takao Shinji then won his 3rd round game against Yamashita Keigo, getting a small measure of revenge for his loss against him in the challenger decision match of the 44th Judan. Kobayashi was not so lucky, going down to Imamura Toshiya, leaving Takao in a commanding position in the league. However, Takao’s next game is against Yoda Norimoto, who can easily upset any apple-cart, as he amply demonstrated in the Nong Shim Cup, and as reported in the last major pro news update, in Round 5 of this year’s Honinbo league.

Yoda’s upset win over Cho U in round 5 of the Honinbo league not only made Cho U’s path to the title match much more difficult, and made Yoda’s chance of demotion from the league much slimmer. It also has put Yoda in with a chance of challenging for the title. Since then, Cho U’s fate has been taken out of his own hands and put in Hane Naoki’s hands, after he lost to Yamada Kimio. Hane now has a 5-1 record with one more game to play, also against Yamada Kimio. Cho, Yoda and Yamada are just behind him, with 4-2 records, before the 4 final games are played on the 30th of March. Yoda’s final round opponent is O Meien, who has lost all 6 of his previous games in the Honinbo league this year, and is already assured of demotion, as are Cho Sonjin and O Rissei.

The 16-player knockout challenger decision tournament for the Oza title gets underway this Thursday, now that all the berths have been allocated. Sakai Hideyuki, Ryu Shikun, and Kiyonari Tetsuya claimed the last 3 available berths in the past 3 weeks. One of the matches kicking off the tournament is likely to be a cracker: Takao Shinji Honinbo faces Sakai Hideyuki.

3 of the 4 quarter-finals to decide who will challenge Yoda Norimoto for the Gosei title have now been completed. In the first one, Yuki Satoshi was eliminated by Ryu Shikun. Ryu will face Cho U in the semi-final – Cho eliminated Otake Hideo in the previous round. Cho Chikun is the 3rd semi-finalist, and will know his opponent there after Thursday, when Yamashita Keigo Kisei faces Takemiya Masaki.

In the Ryusei Cup, Michael Redmond pulled off a good victory against Mimura Tomoyasu (9p) on Friday. Two weeks before Oya Koichi (9p) also attracted attention when he disrupted Yamada Kimio’s run of 3 successive victories, and on Saturday, Kono Rin was prevented from reaching 5 successive victories when he lost to Moriyama Naoki (9p).

The semi-finalists in the NHK Cup were also determined in February, with Hane Naoki defeating Awaji Shuzo in one quarter-final, and Imamura Toshiya (9p) defeating 8-dan So Yokoku to claim the last two semi-final spots. Imamura continued by defeating Moriyama Naoki (9p) in one semi-final, and Hane beat Imamura Yoshiaki (8p) in the other semi-final. The final, which was played on 27 February, will be broadcast this Sunday night.

The 43rd Shusai Prize was awarded last month. This prize is awarded to the player considered most outstanding in the previous year, and is usually awarded to a winner of one of the top 3 Japanese titles. This year was no exception, with the prize going to the Honinbo title winner, Takao Shinji.

Finally, another two players have achieved promotions: Kubo Hideo, has been promoted to 6-dan for achieving 90 wins, while Ms. Nakamura Kuniko has been awarded to 2-dan for scoring 30 wins.

Korea

The decisive fifth game of the 49th Kuksu title match was held on 2 March, and Yi Ch’ang-ho, playing Black, defeated Ch’oe Ch’eolhan by resignation to claim his 5th current domestic title and a winner’s purse of 40 million Won. This is the first best-of-5 series loss by Ch’oe in the last 3 years. All the games in the title match were won by Black, with White resigning.

Ch’oe hasn’t had much luck against the other Big Yi in Korean Go, Yi Se-tol, either. They are facing each other in the best-of-3 Maxim Cup final, but title-holder Yi, playing White, forced Ch’oe to resign in the first game on 22 February. This is the first time these two top players have faced each other in a multiple game series.

Rui Naiwei got off to a good start in her challenge for the 11th Women’s Kuksu title. In the first game of the best-of-3 match, she defeated title holder Cho Hye-yeon.

An Cho-yeong was the winner in the decisive third game of the best-of-3 challenger decision match against Song T’ae-kon, to decide who would face current Gisung title-holder Pak Yeong-hun. The best-of-5 title match begins on 20 March.

2 of the 4 players seeded into the second round of the KBS Cup, Maxim Cup finalists Yi Se-tol and Ch’oe Ch’eol-han, played their second round games last month and both secured wins by resignation.

The 40th Wangwi tournament got underway in the last month. First, there were 28 pools of players competing for unseeded berths in the 32 player knockout challenger decision tournament. The 4 seeded players were quite unusual, to my mind, and I cannot explain their choice: Ok Deukjin (3p), Won Sungjin (6p), Yun Junsang (4p), and Lee Yeongku (4p). Among the qualifiers were such names as Pak Yeong-hun, An Cho-yeong, Song T’ae-kon, Yi Se-tol, Ko Keun-t’ae, and Ch’oe Ch’eol-han. Ko went down to Yi Se-tol in the first round, and 3 of the other 4 proceeded to the second round. However, An lost his first round game to one of the seeded players, Won Sungjin.

Meanwhile, the last game of the qualifying stage for the Ch’eon-weon tournament was played on 21 February, and Ch’oe Ch’eol-han must have been terribly disappointed to miss out on the main tournament by losing to 3-dan Jin Donggyu. No results from the main tournament are yet available.

China

The new teenage star on the Chinese go scene, 15-year-old 3-dan, Zhou Ruiyang continued astounding observers in mid-February, following up his early victories against Wang Lei and Xie He in the 20th Tianyuan challenger decision tournament, by a semi-final win over Chen Yaoye, and 2 days later, winning the final by defeating Kong Jie. Kong qualified for the final by beating Luo Xihe. Zhou will now face China’s undisputed number 1, Gu Li, in the best-of-3 title match and Zhou’s first major title challenge.

Gu began this year with 9 straight wins, claiming 3 titles in just 5 days. His record now is 12-1, after he suffered his first loss of the year in March. Wang Xi (5p) was the player to claim the victory, in a Ricoh Cup semi-final. Wang’s opponent in the final on 2 April, will be Chang Hao, who won the other semi-final against Kong Jie.

The other notable activity on the Chinese Go scene has been the selection of the 5-player team to represent China in the 5th CSK Cup. 5 pools of 4 players were identified, and a knock-out was played in each pool. In 4 of the 5 pools, events went mostly as suspected, with the representatives emerging being Gu Li, Kong Jie, Chang Hao, and Xie He. In the other pool, though, Chen Yaoye, was eliminated by pool-winner 8-dan Ding Wei.

Taiwan

Taiwan is in the process of selecting their representative for the Toyota-Denso World Go Oza. Ziao Zhenghao Guoshou (5p) has already reached the final of the qualifying tournament, but his opponent is a long way off from being determined. A preliminary tournament has been underway to identify a qualifer for the final berth in the main qualifying tournament, and this was only completed on 3 March. Favourites for this berth, Yang Zhude (5p) and Zhou Keping (4p), both did not make it, with 2-dan Yang Mengyun finally claiming the last berth. Yang next faces Chen Shien, and the winner of that game will play 9-dan Zhou Junxun to determine Xiao’s challenger.

7-dan Lin Zhihan claimed a national title on Sunday, when his second consecutive victory in the final of the CMC TV Cup was broadcast. Lin qualified for the final by defeating 2-dan Yang Mengyun in the semi-final, while his opponent, Xiao Zhenghao Guoshou reached the final by eliminating Chen Yida. Lin won the first game by a 7.5 point margin as Black, while Xiao resigned the second game as Black.

The first of the 5 open league berths in the Tianyuan has been decided, with 3-dan Lin Shuyang defeating Chen Yida to claim the spot.

Meanwhile 7-dan Lin Shengxian claimed the third of the 4 league berths in the Wangjia league last Tuesday. Currently Lin Zhihan and Chen Shien are leading with 3-1 scores in this league to decide who will challenge 9-dan title-holder Zhou Junxun.

How do I do it?

OK, you want to get pro news? But where do you go?

Your first major sources of information are Go4Go.net’s Go News Abstracts and GoGameWorld. These provide you with an overview of the major goings-on on the pro circuits in China, Japan and Korea.

For more details and full results, the only real choice you have if you can’t read an Oriental script is Mr Kin’s Go News.

The Nihon Ki-in’s English web page has periodic reports by John Power discussing the Japanese go scene, and sometimes the international events. These are a valuable source of background information.

Otherwise, I make use of the headlines on Gobase, the AGA e-Journals, the IGF, EGF, and BGA news pages, and updates on Sensei’s library, and of course, my old friend Google. Happy pro news hunting, and please share your spoils if you find out anything interesting 😉

Posted by Steve in Pro News

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