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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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Sitting down with Thomas Hsiang

Round three brought the interesting match between the U.S.A. and D.P.R. Korea. The representative from the US is well known veteran professor Thomas Hsiang. He is an amateur player of very high level indeed. The game Hsiang played as black against the representative from D.P.R. Korea drew a lot of attention, it was the first real test for both of the participants. I showed the game to Ogata 9p who had dropped by unofficially (and nobody recognized him). Ogata sensei often hummed in agreement with the moves appearing on the board. "Wow, these people are studying a lot, that's for sure" Ogata sensei was most impressed by the up to date knowledge of Joseki both players put on display.
Although the game was rather difficult right from the start when watching it from the side lines it seemed a lot as if Tae Won Jo from D.P.R. Korea was not particularly having a hard time. No sweating, grunting or frowning while bending over the board for Tae Won. Loosely holding his fan in one hand, legs crossed, a relaxed Buda image comes to mind to express Tae. Hsiang's posture, on the other hand, was not such a blatant display of lack of pressure.
Although Hsiang was most willingly to cooperate for an gobase-interview actually sitting down to talk with him turned out to be easier said than done. In the 5 minutes we finally could find Hsiang told a little bit about how his go career started out.

"I started to play at 16 during summer break. I was doing a summer job and didn't have much else to do so a friend taught me how to play. I remember that we started out him giving me 25 stones handicap. At the end of summer, however, it was I giving him 9 stones and beating him too.
"As an undergraduate I almost did not play at all and my level stayed about the same I guess but when at Berkeley University I had the opportunity to play with really strong Korean and Chinese players which helped a lot. I remember a Mr. Kim who was enlisted in the army and stationed at Alameda. We would get together in our free time to play a game or two. I think that at that time I grew the most."
Listening to Hsiang explaining about the strength of players of Asian heritage I got the impression that the "homeboy" U.S. players are not yet up to snuff, Michael Redmond being the exception than, of course. When I mentioned this to Hsiang he immediately replied "No, that is not the case. Players like Ron Schneider, Ned Phipps and Don Wiener all have a very high level. I surely cannot say that I am stronger or anything."

Every round 10 games are recorded which you at sometime should be able to download from the Ki-in site. Right now there still are some problems with the new Swiss paring system software. The people who should be busy getting the games up are working around the clock to have to tournament go smoothly.
This game, however, is not one of the officially recorded ones. When the game had finished I asked Tae Won to manually input it for me which he most kindly did. Remember, if you find yourself in a situation like this and you want a game record always ask the *winner* to help you? Figure 1: 1-60
Event 26th WAGC, round 3
Date 2005 May 25
Place Nagoya, Japan
Black Thomas Hsiang, USA
White Jo TaeWon, D.P.R. Korea
Commentary Ogata Naoto, 9p
Game record

Figure 1: 1-60
The upper right corner is an example of "living joseki". Meaning that all possibilities are not yet completely explored in this new variation and that pro's are spending a lot of time studying it. It does appear in recent games quite a bit. Once each and every sidetrack has been explored this big-scale joseki will probably be put back on the shelf again. In the mean time it certainly can be a treat for joseki lovers, understanding exactly what is going on however?..
Black 35 feels a bit risky according to Ogata, jumping to 43 was his first idea but when looking some more he agreed that 35 seems playable too. White only plays at 56 because he can aim at the cut of 60. Strictly speaking in terms of "the direction of play" white 56 is not correct, the upper side holds little attraction for white. "What white really would like to do is to try to make his stones come out nicely is to start the Nadare "avalanche" joseki all over again." Diagram 1 Diagram 2

Diagram 1
Ogata sensei explained, "If things would develop like (dia 1) this white is happy and satisfied. He lets black get the top but in return lays claim on the left side which is much more interesting for him." Ogata studies the board some more and suddenly hurries to continue " But, but, but, black 4 is a bit slack and too cooperative a move to expect from black.

Diagram 2
He'll play like this (dia 2) and hane with 4 starting the small avalanche. Now since black already has some stones at the top this variation might very well turn out to be profitable for him. All in all how to play with game move white 56 is not an easy matter to decide."

The game continues on the laptop in front of Ogata 9p who goes like "He does what, he cuts immediately?" when talking about white 60. Since the justification for white 56 is the threat of this cut it only seems natural to go there right away. Ogata sensei, however, felt that it was a little early but when asked right out "is this way of playing bad?" he answered, "no, that cannot be said, the only thing I can say with certainty is the I'd feel reluctant to play there this soon." Figure 2: 61-100

Figure 2: 61-100
Black 73 at 82 would be more solid. 73 is not impossible but Ogata felt that it was "playing on the edge"
Diagram 3

Diagram 3
Instead of black 73 diagram 3 shows a more steady way of playing.
Diagram 4

Diagram 4
Black 77 and 79 are one correct way of settling the left. Black also could go with diagram 4. If after black 15 white answers at the bottom with A black will play the brilliant squeeze starting from B, white C black D. This would give black a very good game.
Figure 3: 101-113

Figure 3: 101-113
When black gets to play at 113 it becomes clear that his stones are not going to die. The flow of the game, however, for some time has been favorable for white who eventually made this game his (W+11.5).
By beating the representative from the U.S. Tae Won really showed the world that at 17 he is by no means a player to be taken lightly.
When asked about Tea Won, Hsiang had the following to say. "In my opinion the player from D.P.R. Korea certainly has a shot at the title. I estimate that his level is right up there with China, Korea and Japan. Personally I'm routing for Kikuchi, however, he is such a fantastic player but I'm afraid that (at his advanced age of 75) it will be very difficult for him to be victorious here."
There could be no doubt about the Truth of Hsiang's assessment of Tae Won's strength. D.P.R. Korea beat the number one seed and favorite South Korea! As Japan lost to China this year's tournament might very well boil down to a duel between North Korea and China.

Copyright © Pieter Mioch May 2005

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