This week we’re presenting extended coverage of the Korean World Amateur Championships (KPMC; click here for our winner’s report on December 8 and here for Eric Lui on Camaraderie and Pure Joy). Here’s Keith Arnold’s interview with Lui, which took place at last Sunday’s meeting of the Baltimore Go Club. The longtime local organizer has known Lui since he first began playing go.
photo: Lui reviewing his Round 5 KPMC game with Hong Kong (watch for the review in tomorrow’s EJ); photo by Keith Arnold.
KA: First of all, Congratulations on the achievement (5-1; played for championship in final round); were you happy with your play overall?
EL: Thank you. There were some good moments in my games, and I played about as well as I expected to, so on the whole I’m not dissatisfied.
KA: Can you give us a brief description of the tournament format and venue?
EL: The tournament was a 6-round Swiss, with 40 minutes basic time per player and 3 periods of 30 seconds byo yomi. Initially, the players were split into two groups by strength and then paired within the group. The tournament was held at Riverside Hotel in Seoul’s Gangnam district, a seemingly high-class place with fancy, luxurious dining halls, and a long, spacious hall that led to a separate large room for the playing area.
KA: You are known as a slow player, but is it possible that your experience in byo yomi helps you in a quicker game like this?
EL: I’d prefer to think of others as quick players. There is no room for slow players these days, especially in amateur go where time limits are very short. Speed is key and can be a major weapon. My play in byo yomi is far from ideal, but it seems that my opponents also felt the time pressure.
KA: How was the competition? Other than China, who was your toughest opponent?
EL: The player from Hong Kong was strong, and I also had a tough game against Ukraine.
KA: Do you get a chance to look at some of your opponents games’ to prepare for these events, or do you focus on making sure your own game is sharp?
EL: I didn’t know who would be coming, so I just tried to stay in good physical condition.
KA: How did you feel going into a championship game?
EL: I thought of Ben (Lockhart) last year and wondered if history was going to repeat itself (he went 5-0 before losing to Korea in the final). In fact, scarcely 90 minutes before the game, the Chinese player and I were seated at the same table, having lunch together. It felt a bit odd that we would soon be playing for the championship.
KA: In the final game you played mirror go for the first 14 moves, was that an effort to save time, or was it a particular strategy you worked on?
EL: I’ve been interested in mirror go for a while, yet I know little about it from limited practical experience. Actually, I think mirror go is a poor strategy for saving time, since you can’t just blindly copy your opponent’s moves. There is so much reading and strategic planning involved.
KA: Being 5-0 and dropping to 4th seems harsh; can you explain what hurt your SOS?
EL: It’s fair. This year, the Chinese and Korean players were a class above everyone else, although the young kid from Taiwan had very good chances to win against the Chinese player. My first two rounds were against Serbia and Slovakia, and they both ended up with (only) two wins. Those are the breaks, and there’s nothing to do about it.
KA: How does this compare to your 3rd place in the World Amateur Go Championships?
EL: Finishing third in the WAGC is by far my best achievement, yet my KPMC result is no less satisfying.
KA: You have really done well representing the U.S. Go is such a personal game; does representing your country put additional pressure on you, or is your internal competitive will all the motivation you need?
EL: My major goal for this tournament was to have a good time. In the U.S., we are always fighting for prizes, rating points, etc. and the stakes are much higher. Here, I just felt content to play games face-to-face. I wasn’t too concerned about my results.
KA: What do you feel are the strengths of your game right now? What are you most trying to work on?
EL: I feel confident in games with lots of direct fighting. The opening is probably my weakest part, so I’m concentrating on improving it by studying pro games.
KA: We have played together since you first began playing and I often brag that I taught you everything you know. Can you think of anything you actually learned from me?
EL: That it’s always possible to win against stronger players.
KA: Aside from winning games, what was your favorite part of the trip?
EL: Meeting the other players and organizers was by far the best part. Winning games was just a bonus.
Tomorrow: Eric Lui’s commentary on his KPMC Round 5 game with Hong Kong.