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Pieter Mioch, Go journalist from the Netherlands, is living in Nagoya, Japan, the very same city which hosts the 2005 World Amateur Go Championships. Pieter will cover the tournament with a series of articles, especially but not only focussing on the Western participants from Europe and America.


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The Party is over

In a nutshell: "That's all folks, get your prices, find a restaurant to get something to eat, no, there is no Sayonara party, and don't forget to pack in time tomorrow because you have to be out by 8:30".
All things have to end and this 26th time world amateur championship had its finale Friday May the 27th about 7 o'clock in the evening when China got about 3 trophies, a few diplomas and a JAL stewardess thrown in for good measure. Seated in the front row the top ten contestants each were called to the stage to get their hard-fought reward. Mr. Sakai, the director of the Nihon ki-in of Nagoya, handed out the top price. This is the same man who lobbied successfully at the Toyota group to get the Toyota-Denso cup going. If I were to spill secrets easily I'd tell that this caused his pro rank to go from 5 to 7 dan. Quite a feat if you realize that Sakai sensei's retired in 1977 and has not participated in pro competition 28 years.
After Sakai sensei the Kisei title holder Hane "pastel" (suit/ tie color) Naoki followed and after him referee Hikosaka Naoto, winner of the 1998 Judan title helped handing hand out the remaining prices. Pieter and Hu

I managed, just barely, to get a hold of Winner Yu Qing Hu who was quit busy doing interviews with several TV stations but otherwise seemed to have the time of his life. Hu is a very gently spoken handsome man with pianist' like hands who reminds us of the immense popular Korean soap drama's stars which nowadays can be found on Japanese TV everyday.

How old were you when you picked up go?
I started to play at six.
If you could freely chose any player, pro or amateur, to play who would you like to have at the other side of the board best right now?
I cannot answer that question, there are so many fantastic players. I'd play anyone, if it is a good and enjoyable game, that is all what counts
I have been talking with a lot of the participants here and during the conversations go was often referred to as an art. What do you think is a good way to describe go?
Hum, good question. (Don't mention it) In my opinion go is culture and competition blended into one.

And off the TV crew went again pulling Hu from behind to the next interview, the cable TV program "Igo Shogi Channel". The answer to the last question, by the way, I found quite intriguing, Through the interpreter he said in Japanese "go wa bunka to shoubu". If any of you have an idea what he said in Chinese and how to put that best in English please tell me or Jan. Yasuro Kikuchi

Right at the start of the tournament, just after the opening ceremony I spoke with the Japanese representative Kikuchi. For everybody who has no idea who Kikuchi is here a brief introduction. Yasuro Kikuchi started to play from age 3 in 1932. He reached a level he could compete with the local talent by the age of 7. After moving to Yokohama he studied under Koizumi 5-dan, Morikawa 1-dan and Fujisawa Hosai 7-dan. He worked for Nippon Steel Cooperation, but never turned his back on go. Winning close to 30 amateur titles Kikuchi has on a few occasions beaten top pro's on even. His previous results at the WAGC were third place at the 7th and 24th tournament, second at the 8th and winner of the 14th tournament

Now Kikuchi is still a top level amateur and proved this once again by winning the WAGC preliminaries to earn the right to represent Japan at the 26th WAGC. Instead of his games, however, these days he is better known for running his go-dojo called "the Ryokusei Academy ". Among many others Yamashita Keigo, currently Tengen titleholder, is a pupil of this dojo.
Kikuchi is also famous for his efforts to foster tighter cooperation between the go playing nations especially China, Korea and Japan.

Here's what Kikuchi said 23 May 2005.


"I'm from 1929 and when people here look at me they will probably think "does that old man still have it?" or "Is he going to be alright?" Be that as it may, I intend to do my utmost best, also to give courage to the elderly go fans.
Players from all around the world are gathered here to compete. They or young and quite strong and doing well is in this tournament is going to be far from easy. Anyway, I am glad to be here and like I said, I'll give it my best and we'll have to see how far I get."


"You were really looking tired last time I saw you play in the 24th WAGC. It was right after your game against South Africa's representative that you looked exhausted. Are you going to be ok here?
Well, who can tell. I don't know about that myself but we'll have to try and see what happens, don't we?
Mr. Kikuchi, why is it that you never became a pro (although you have proven time and again that your level is more than sufficient to do so)?
Well, that is probably, mind you probably I say, because of the times we were living in back then. In my youth, right about the age talented people have to become serious and make up their mind if they really want to be pro or not, Japan was right in the middle of the Second World War. So, that for one thing made it hard to chose a (none essential occupation) career as a pro. Also, you have to keep in mind that go was not at all as popular as it is nowadays.
My last question, what should people be doing in order to get ahead at go?
Getting stronger at go is all about being surprised I think. (!)
Do you mean that moves in a game should resonate in your heart as well as your mind?
Yes, that's about it. Being surprised, the ability to be surprised, emotionally being involved is what is necessary to improve I think.
So let me recapitulate this, dealing with go, matters like curiosity, surprise and "feeling" something when looking at moves is what you say is the essence of becoming a better go player?

Yes, that is more or less what I want to say. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with just "play" play. Rapidly putting moves on the board without feeling much put just having a good time, nothing wrong with that. But, I strongly feel that this kind of approach has its limits. You'll get somewhere to sho-dan perhaps but that's it. If you on the other hand start thinking like "what is it exactly that surprises me here" (after feeling thrilled by the surprise in the first place) and put some energy into that line of thought, from that very moment you'll start to grow. Once you start growing like that, wow, there is no end to it, growth keeps going on and on. This is in my opinion true no matter what age but especially for children, who have the ability I am talking about naturally. For adults it has become more difficult to get in the right state of mind, perhaps. That is by the way also the reason why adults should look at their children for hints of how to get ahead. (this is a Japanese proverb "children raise their parents")

But, Kikuchi sensei, isn't it all but impossible for the average grown-up to get back in that child like open state of mind?
Well, just be honest to yourself, it is not such a hard thing to do, try and see."

Let's rephrase Kikuchi sensei's words a bit and put it like this:

No matter how strong you think you are, the moment you start reacting to moves which take you by surprise (a move I don't know? ridiculous!) but are too proud to admit it you are cutting yourself off, rejecting the gift of genuine surprise and the wisdom it points to.

Here is the last game Kikuchi played in this WAGC, it is not unlikely that this at the same time will become the last game he played at an international go tournament ever. Figure 1: 1-32
Event 26th WAGC, round 8
Date 2005 May 27
Place Nagoya, Japan
Black Yasuro Kikuchi, Japan
White Frank Janssen, the Netherlands
Commentary Hikosaka Naoto, 9p
Game record

Figure 1: 1-32
Hikosaka 9p did the game commentary, he wondered if Kikuchi would show up as he promised/ Kikuchi had obviously enjoyed the whole tournament but at the same time must have been glad it was over.
The opening is flawless, Hikosaka and Kikuchi both nodded in agreement when white 12-14 appeared on the board. Yes, that is the correct idea, white has a good grasp of where the stones have to go.
When analyzing white wondered if instead of his move at 23 playing at 1 as shown in diagram 1 is possible too.
Diagram 1

Diagram 1
Kikuchi put 2 on the board and white lost confidence. "What now, here?" The Dutch representative said while playing elsewhere. "Tenuki, wow, that is a bit too much I think" was Kikuchi's reaction.

Hikosaka joined in, "White 1 is a normal move, has been around for some time too. Next white can chose where to play, both A and B are playable.

"This is the point where black started to do strange things." Kikuchi said when black 25 came on the board. In answer to 25 white 26 is perfect. It is as good a move as they come according to the professional. The distance between the white stones is not too narrow neither is it too wide. Because white can make such a schoolbook example of a good position black shouldn't have played at 25 to start with. Analyzing Kikuchi probingly played as shown in diagram 2 and Janssen answers at 2.
Diagram 2

Diagram 2
"Nah, this also is not too good for black," Kikuchi said. He next moves black 1 to the left at A. Hikosaka 9p, however, stopped the search for a move at the bottom. "There is no clear good move for black at the bottom. He should leave the situation as it is and instead answer the white move in the upper right (24). A simple one-space-jump seems the way to play here.
Figure 2: 33-71

Figure 2: 33-71
After the game Frank explained that he wasn't happy with the position of white 24 (in the previous figure). He asked Hikosaka sensei "shouldn't this move better have been here (black 33)?" To which Hikosaka replied, no, there is nothing wrong with white 24, a normal move. When the pro saw what happened after black 35 he said "Aha, that's why you didn't like white 24, now I can understand. If you play like this it is no good.
Diagram 3

Diagram 3
"Something like this is better for white. White can handle the fighting because he has a strong position at the left. By the way, the diagonal move at 1 is a well-known move the representative from the Netherlands of course knew about but he was surprised at diagram 3. I thought black would counter like this and he showed diagram 4, a joseki.
Diagram 4

Diagram 4
"I do not like this with black, he has an ugly shape, a real dango" Hikosaka sensei didn't seem to mind that this variation is given in books as playable for black. For him the shape is most important, and to be sure black does not look elegant or light.

White 68 came as a surprise Kikuchi "Yes, that is the aim, eventually, but right now feels a bit fast, don't you think?" The pro did not take sides in this argument but if forced it looked as if he would back up Kikuchi and say that white perhaps should have waited a bit longer before playing at 68. Figure 3: 72-95

Figure 3: 72-95
White's move at 72 and 74 show a very good feel for the game, Kikuchi was visibly impressed and even said so outloud. Hikosaka wholeheartedly agreed. Now we have come to the highlight of the game.
Starting at 90 white is preparing for 92 which effectively cuts black in two and if he resists he will sustain heavy damage to the right side. Hikosaka saw this while analyzing and said "naru hodo" (= I see) meaning that the moves white plays make sense and he can understand what white is aiming for. However, in spite of the high-tech white moves this is not the part of the board to be concerned with. "The white stones at the right can fend for themselves, if black is going to cut them off and tries to get some profit he'll find that there is too much bad aji in the right-side black stones to make this happen" explained Hikosaka 9p.
If white would go with diagram 5 he still would have had a good game.
Diagram 5 Diagram 5
When Hikosaka showed this variation it all looked so simple but in order to come up with this during your own game is not easy at all. White 1 is very nice because it eliminates nasty aji and white 3 defends as much territory as possible.

Once black jumps to 95 white is behind. Janssen did not manage to stage an upset and in the end lots by 12.5 (?) points

Commentary after move 95 omitted, moves from black 125 are not recorded yet but Frank Janssen was thinking about completing the record the moment he gets back in Holland Figure 4: 96-125

Figure 4: 96-125

As last I would like to thank Jan, Dave and Cameron for helping me with the articles, pictures and HTML and the organizers for having me over, pulling up a desk without permission and acted as if I owned the place. Further I want to thank all the professionals who helped me out when asked and lastly I very much want to thank all the participants of the 26th world amateur championship for your time and friendly cooperation,


Kasugai 28 May, 2005 The participants

The final scoreboard (after 8 rounds)
  1. China (perfect score)
  2. D.P.R. Korea (1 loss)
  3. Taiwan (2 losses)
  4. Korea
  5. Germany
  6. Japan
  7. U.S.
  8. Hong Kong
  9. Canada
  10. Australia

So Franz-Josef Dickhut from Germany is the only non-asian player reaching the top-ten this year.

Copyright © Pieter Mioch May 2005

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