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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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A shocking announcement

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 win".
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!

Copyright © Pieter Mioch May 2005

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