Monday the 23rd of May, the day before the 26th world amateur
championship is about to get going. After three days of
continues drizzle it finally stopped raining in Nagoya. By now
all the participants are comfortably lodged at the KKR Hotel
in the vicinity of the Aichi prefectural Gymnasium where the 8
rounds to determine the world's strongest amateur will be held.
Yesterday, the 22nd a friendships match new-style between
free-for-everybody lottery winners and the representatives
from all over the world was a big success and everybody had a
wonderful time. Although the language barrier sometimes made it
a little difficult to communicate the common language of go made
up for this.
Today the 23rd a second and a bit more official friendships
match took place. This time the match was not at the 2005 expo
site but at the actual tournament venue, the Nagoya Gymnasium.
This, by the way, is the same place were once a year a two-week
sumo tournament is held.
The KKR hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the tournament venue
and walking from the hotel to it the contestants could enjoy the
nice weather as well as the beautiful view of the Nagoya castle.
For the 2nd match the Japanese team consisted of local high-dan
players of some social standing. Among them was Mr. Hanamura
who is the strongest go playing lawyer in central Japan. The
representative from Korea, however, was too much for him and he
lost by 10.5 points. In the end the 2nd friendship's match was
a walk over for the guests, as it is every year. It perhaps can
be best described as an event held to, once more, welcome the
foreign go players to Japan. At the same time it of course is a
nice change to get to know each other and relax a bit too.
In the afternoon it was time for I.G.F. general meeting. When
this was finished everybody had to go the Meitetsu New Grand
Hotel which is 15 minutes by bus from the gymnasium. There was
however still some time to kill and in a company like this it
goes without saying that numerous games spontaneously started.
A big group of spectators soon could be found around the board
where Yuki Shigeno 2p was playing a teaching game. Originally
from central Japan the currently Italy located pro was being her
charming self and that's all what it takes to gather a group of
go stone wielding "gajin" foreigners.
All in all the day's schedule went pretty much as expected,
until the press conference, that is...
The evening before the start of the main tournament brought an
unexpected bombshell. I had to rush a bit but afterwards was
very happy to not have missed it. The representative from Korea,
the very kind and soft spoken Jung-Hwi Seo, introduce himself to
the gathered press like this:
"This is my first time in Japan and I'm very happy to be here.
All Japanese people I met are very friendly and since I made pro
and this is my last tournament as an amateur I really want to
The words of the mildly mannered Korean had a stunning effect,
it was as if nobody present could believe what they had just
heard. The press conference continued for a couple of more
minutes after which it was time for the questions. At first
nobody said a thing and after introducing myself as belonging
to the Dutch Go Association I felt pressured to ask something,
anything. "When exactly does the representative from Korean hope to
launch his career as pro?" Through the young interpreter the
answer came readily "First when back in Korea I will do extensive
study for half a year before starting my professional career".
It was that moment that the reporter from the Asahi newspaper
jumped in "Isn't it a bit strange to have a player taking part
in the World Amateur Championship of whom already is decided
that he is a professional? What is this? What do the rules say
on this point?"
The representative of the nihon ki-in answered that the moment
Jung-Hwi Seo Korean registered for participating in the
tournament he was not yet a pro and thus eligible to represent
his country and take part in the WAGC.
Be that as it may, the press only seemed to be half satisfied
with this answer and it seems safe to say that there will be a
follow up to this problem in the next few days.
Chatting with the gathered interpreters everybody was in
agreement that this was a first and altogether unexpected
development. "Will he be kicked out?" said one. "Well, we do
have an uneven number of participants..." was the other's dry but
somewhat cold-hearted comment. (One can trust interpreters as
far as one can throw them)
Matched in the first round to play Jia Cheng from Singapore
hopefully the Korean player can participate without any further
trouble. The level of at least the top three of each WAGC always
has been semi-pro or pro. For winners of the WAGC it is nothing
uncommon to turn into a highly successful pro right after
winning the tournament. The timing of the representative from
Korea is unfortunate, however, as he might be caught in rules
which could possibly hamper his participation. All the same,
the staff of the ki-in seemed to be extremely reluctant to go
further into the matter and it seems not likely that they will
bar him from playing.
The only thing to do now is to see and wait. In the mean time
here are a few selected match ups for tomorrow:
Andreas Aguilar from Ecuador is free due to the uneven number
of participants (a suggestion for future tournaments to make
the number even using a dummy participant?). Mai Duy Le from
Vietnam plays Hector Paiz from Guatemala, Ruslan Dmitriev from
the Russian Federation plays Andrius Pertauskas from Lithuania
and Yiming Guo from Australia plays Hatime Araki from Morocco.
Good Luck to you all!