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CHINA Spotting: GO amateurs compete in Xiamen (South East China)

Guillaume’s China Spotting #001

Go amateurs compete in Xiamen (South East China)

koreans
(picture source: EGF (09/2016) / Andrew S. + Csaba M. – eurogofed.org)

09/29/2016-Hangzhou (China)The 2016 Gold Cup World Amateur Go Tournament (GCWT) took place in Xiamen during a huge typhoon. The same time was a typhoon in Shanghai (probably due to the same severe weather in Xiamen).

Also we experienced huge rains in my city (Hangzhou) where I live. When I read that despite the typhoon the players of the GCWT decided to continue the tournament anyway because they love Go so much I was moved and decided to brave the rain too and went to the Diamon Tower Go Club located in Hangzhou… Play Go or Die !

Go is not just about playing a board game, it’s also about learning to share; after the Korean players took the seven (7) first places, they offered to donate part of their prizes to Xiamen to help the typhoon damages.

Here a list of the GCWT organizers being involved:

Eweiqi is simply the translated version of Tygem (originally form South Korea: tygem.com)  into Chinese.

One can access Tygem without any problem from anywhere in China. So it is just about the language barrier itself. Also take notice that Tygem has other versions in Japanese (toyo-igo.com), Taiwanese (9star.com) and as International version in English (TYGEMGO.com).

Back to the GCWT: Out of the 20 spots available from the online qualifications, 16 were booked for two countries (ten (10) for China + six (6) for Korea) and only four (4) for the rest of the world ! – We guess from which countries those four (4) spots were taken ? – Did I hear Asia ? – Right ! – Four (4) spots for Taiwan. Western Go is still far behind it seems.

Interestingly, there were no participants from Japan – presumably due to the WAGC qualifiers, which took place on the 17th and 18th September 2016.

Such a big disproportion is very strange for me. China and Korea are the main organizers of this event and they clearly favored their team. In comparison to WAGC: only one (1) representative from each country can be qualified.

China and Korea are the two leading countries in Go worldwide and maybe the intention was not only to setup an international tournament, but a “match” against the top two leading countries for Go supremacy in amateur world.

Twelve more spots were given to the top players of WAGC 2016 and only from there we saw coming seven (7) Western players all from Europe (see picture): Christian Pop (7d, Romania), Andrii Kravets (6d, Ukraine), Dmitry Surin (6d, Russia), Csaba Mero (6d, Hungary), Dusan Mitic (6d, Serbia), Stanislaw Frejlak (5d, Poland) and Andrew Simons (4d, United Kingdom).  – East European Go rules !

Europeans
(picture source: EGF (09/2016) / Andrew S. + Csaba M. – eurogofed.org)

Let’s have a look at ranking strength in China – Now there are around a dozen 7 & 8 Dans and a few hundred 6 Dans. – But what does it mean in term of Go ability ? and is it reliable ? – Let’s take a look at the qualification procedure.

In order to get a dan rank, one has to participate in what I would call “ranking tournaments”, in which a candidate plays only against players of the same rank. Then usually the top 15 % of each ranking groups will be promoted +1 Dan. – Bear in mind that there are no demotions. Once a certified player reaches a rank, he keeps it (for life time) whether he wins or looses in other tournaments as there are almost no game records for amateur competitions…

Such tournaments are organized locally, by areas. Depending on where the players are from, same ranks can vary in strength. A city with a small population would have a weaker 1 Dan than a competitive crowded area (like Shanghai or Beijing).

The ranking system for amateurs in China is very inefficient under 6 Dan, to speak frankly. E.g.: I have seen two 5 Dans playing with three (3) stones handicap and white winning easily. Too many players are unhappy about this situation, hopefully it does not stop them to play with passion like “mad” !

This system of “ranking tournaments” goes up till 5 Dan level. Then for 6 Dan, there are national tournaments and one needs to finish in the top 12 to be promoted. There is a very huge gap between 5 Dan and 6 Dan level. (Rec.: Seven (7) Dan is given by winning certain national tournaments and 8 Dan only by winning the WAGC).

My personal opinion (as French): in AGA and Europe the situation is much better. All games in EGF are recorded and count for one’s rank. Though the worldwide Go community is far from being harmonized despite IGF‘s attempt to use Elo ratings.

Apparently a good ranking system is not enough to compete efficiently ! – Even though the gap is closing from year to year, the results speak for themselves.

During the GCWAT, we have reckoned only a very few wins by the European players against the Asians. In total the East European players counted eight (8) wins against Asians players. Out of seven (7) rounds its not a lot and very far from the top (Rec.: All seven (7) Europeans finished in the second half of the board). At least they are good challengers.

We can mark good performances from Dusan Mitic (6d EGF) who did well by beating Chan Yi Tien (Taiwan 7d). Christian Pop (7d) also won Zheng Shihua (Chinese 6d),  Andrii Kravets (6d) got two (2) wins vs two (2) Taiwanese 6d, Huang Yutang & Lin Keng Ping, and Csaba Mero (6d) one win vs Lin Keng Ping and another one against a Chinese 5d, Li Xinchen, a 10 year old kid (!!).

Conclusion/Summary: As I am living in China now for three (3) years (time flies…) I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I see many Chinese players and institutions are willing to promote the game to outside – but on the other hand the national politics are not yet ready to welcome Westerners.

Obviously there is a conflict somewhere. “China” brings the game of Go to the Western world, and I am very thankful for. But times are changing. Now I think it is time to bring the Western Go back to Asia and let it bloom. New playing styles or theories could even emerge by collaborating internationally.

We can clearly see the willingness to establish cooperative partnerships between China, Taiwan, Korea and the rest of the world (as we saw with the Alphago event by Google Deepmind in Seoul for instance or the ten (10) years sponsorship  of the new European GO professionals with CEGO training in Beijing). Such tendency is positive in my opinion. I have the hope to see Western institutions collaborating in such events in the future more often. It would bring the worldwide Go community closer.

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Guillaume’s China spotting

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The format “China spotting” gives insights about Chinese culture in general and especially around the Game of Go (Weiqi) through the eyes of a Westerner living there.Guillaume-D-2

The author Guillaume Douron (4 Dan CGF), was born in Valence (France) and has been based in Hangzhou (China) since September 2013 – after marrying a Hangzhou woman…

He graduated from the University of Photography and Cinema in Lyon and has worked in stage arts and Go educational projects around the country (France) and abroad (especially in Cambodia and China).

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