Three young Chinese players who reached the Tianyuan semi-finals last week — Zhou Hexi 4P, Li Haojie 4P and Shi Yue 4P — are part of a group of rising young professionals that the Chinese media has affectionately dubbed “the tiger cubs generation.” The three cubs were joined in the semi-final by stalwart Yu Bin 9P. Yu, who has been the Chinese National Coach since 2009, is extremely pleased with the progress of the younger players. He says that the time is ripe for some of these younger players to make their breakthrough. According to Yu, these young guns are very adept in the game, especially in the middle game and endgame where they typically make fewer mistakes than their older counterparts. Yu says the young players can sometimes lack experience in direction of play and vision during the opening, and can sometimes have trouble adjusting psychologically to the intense competition. However, he goes on to say that the best way to combat these challenges is to play in more high profile games such as the upcoming semi finals. This year’s Tianyuan – the 25th — has been full of surprises, with some of the favorites, Gu Li, Kong Jie and Chang Hao all eliminated in the first round. The Tianyuan tournament is one of the major go tournaments on the Chinese domestic circuit, similar to the Chunwon tournament in Korea and Tengen tournament in Japan. All three tournaments use the same characters in their name, which can be roughly translated to “the origin of heaven.” Tianyuan is also the Chinese name of the center point of the go board. In the semi final, Zhou Hexi prevailed over Li Haojie. Shi Yue couldn’t overcome old hand Yu Bin, setting up a final between teacher Yu Bin and student Zhou Hexi.
Update 2/21: In the final (r), Zhou Hexi defeated teacher Yu Bin. Yu, playing black, was winning for the first half of the game, but there was a reversal after black made an oversight in the top left corner. Zhou held on to the lead to win by 2.5 points. With this tournament win, Zhou becomes the challenger for the Tianyuan title and will take on Chen Yaoye in a three-game match. Chen, another young Chinese star who just turned 21 in December, has already proven himself in top tournament play. In 2009 he took the Tianyuan title from Gu Li and he held it successfully against Gu in 2010. Can he make it three in a row?
- Jing Ning; adapted from her original report on Go Game Guru