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Elite Mind Games wrap-up

Sunday December 17, 2017

The go activities during last two days of the IMSA Elite Mind Games included three medal competitions: pair go, men’s  blitz and2017.12.17_pair go last round - Canada vs EU women’s blitz.  The format for these tournaments were new: the six teams were divided into three tiers, China and Korea, Japan and Taiwan, Europe and America.  Then one team from each tier is drawn to form a group of three teams.  In the first day, each group play within the group to determine the three teams’ position. Then in the second day, the top 2017.12.17_pair-go medalistsfour teams from the two groups play two rounds to determine the top four finishers, while the two third place teams play to decide the 5th and 6th places.  In the end, Ke Jie from China won the men’s blitz, while Korea took the two other gold. Japan won all four bronze medals, a surprisingly good result.  Canadian pair Sarah Yu and Ziyang Hu (at left in photo above right) played hard to narrowly defeat Manja Marz and Mateusz Surma (above right) and took a valuable, lone, 5th place for the American team. Wan Chen lost to Manja Marz of Germany, and Mingjiu Jiang forfeited his game with Ilya Shikshin. For the whole event, Ziyang Hu was the top performer from America’s team, winning two games – one against Surma in team play and one in pair go.
During the closing ceremony, medals were awarded in all five mind sports represented by IMSA. China and Russia were the big winners, followed by Ukraine and Korea.  It was announced that the next chapter of this event will likely be held in mid-November, 2018. It is expected that the final details will be announced in February next year.
- Thomas Hsiang; photo above left: Pair Go finalists
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Elite Mind Games Day 3 report

Tuesday December 12, 2017

On Day 3 of the IMSA Elite Mind Games, China and Taipei met in men’s team play.  China’s number 1, Ke Jie, had no problem2017.12.12_iemg-Joanne Missingham vs Sarah Yu with Wang Yuan-Jyun; but the 2016 Ing Cup winner Tang Weixing lost to veteran Chen Shih-Yuan to make the team score 1-1. This result leaves the suspense of championship to the last round tomorrow - the winner between Taipei and Korea will be the champion.  But if they are tied, the three teams will have the same team scores and a complicated tie-breaker will be used to determine the winner.  In the other matches, Europe tied North America when Ilya Shikshin defeated Mingjiu Jiang while the young Canadian Ziyang Hu won a complicated fighting game against Mateusz Surma. Korea defeated Japan 2-0.
On the women’s side, China and Korea met for the top match of the day.  China’s Yu Zhiying played a beautiful territory game to win over Choi Jeong. In the second game, which was also the latest to finish for the day, Korea’s Oh Yu-Jin won against Lu Minquan to tie the team score at 1-1.  Japan beat Europe and Taipei beat North America, both at 2-0.  In tomorrow’s fourth and last round, on the men’s side, China will play vs Europe, Taipei vs Korea, and Japan vs North America; on the women’s side, North America will play vs Korea, Europe vs Taipei, and China vs Japan.
- Thomas Hsiang; photo shows the matches between Taipei and North America. In the front are Joanne Missingham and Sarah Yu; in the back are Yang Tzu-Hsuan and Wan Chen.
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Elite Mind Games Day 2 report

Monday December 11, 2017

In today’s IMSA Elite Mind Games team competitions for both men and women, China drew North America, Korea drew Europe,2017.12.11_Mingjiu-KeJie and Taipei drew Japan.  China and Korea easily defeated their opponents to win 4-0; the suspense was with the closely matched games between Taipei and Japan.  For men, the top two Taiwanese players Wang Yuan-Jyun and Chen Shih-Yuan defeated Japan’s new stars Shibano Toramaru and Mutsuura Yuta.  For women, much attention was focused on the match between Joanne Missingham (Hei Jia-Jia) and the multiple title winner Fujisawa Rina (granddaughter of Fujisawa Shuko).  The game lasted over five hours, with Rina finally prevailing over the seemingly rusty Joanne.  The other game featured two shodans, the 15-year old Yang Tzu-Hsuan and the 17-year old Nyu Eiko, both having reached major title challenges this year in their countries.  Eiko, daughter of multi-time world xiangqi champion Zhao Guorong and Go 5p Niu Lili who is famous for 2017.12.11-IEMG logohave written Go Seigen’s books for the past 20+ years, calmly won over Tzu-Hsuan in their first of many anticipated matches to come.

For readers who are not familiar with the IMSA Elite Mind Games, this event is a replacement of the previous SportAccord World Mind Games held from 2011 to 2014.  A unique feature of these events is their strong involvement of Western players.  Not only is the prize fund spread out to all players, the format of play, which does not use simple knock-outs, also allows the Western players to play many games with the top pros from Asia, thus allowing valuable training experience for the former.  In today’s IMSA Executive Meeting, it was announced that IEMG will be continued for at least another two years.  In addition, new events are being developed, aiming to hopefully reach three IMSA events per year by 2019.

-   Thomas Hsiang; photo: Mingjiu Jiang (left) vs. Ke Jie

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IGF meetings kick off 38th World Amateur Go Championship in Guiyang, China

Saturday June 3, 2017

by Thomas Hsiang, special correspondent to the E-JournalThe 38th World Amateur Go Championship is being held at the five-star Guiyang Sheraton Hotel in downtown Guiyang, China.  On June 3, the first day, the International Go Federation held its annual Board and General Assembly meetings.  A number of important announcements were made by Chairman Chang Zhenming, president and chairman of CITIC 2017.06.03_wahc-igc-mtgSecurities, Inc:
  • The next three WAGC’s will be held in Tokyo May 2-9, 2018; in Matsue City of the Shimane Perfecture in 2019; and in Vladevostok, Russia, in 2020.  Maxim Volkov, president of Russian Go Federation, was on hand to celebrate the announcement.
  • IGF will host the “CITIC Securities Cup” – the First International Artificial Intelligence Go Open – on August 16-17, 2017, in the City of Ordos of Inner Mongolia, China.  16 programs will be entered into the competition from over the world.  Generous prizes will be provided.
  • IGF offers a $20,000 grant to support the First Latin America Go Congress, to be held October 12-16, 2017 in Cancun, Mexico.
  • The Second IMSA Elite Mind Games, participated by IGF, will be held December 8-16, 2017 in Huai’an City, China.  This event will continue at least through 2019.
  • The 2017 Pair Go World Cup will be held August 7-10, 2017 in Tokyo.
  • A new member, the Republic of Georgia, was admitted and is now the 77th member of IGF.
Mr. Hiroaki Dan, chairman of Nihon Kiin and vice president of IGF, made the proposal for IGF to take on surveying and building up go instructional materials for schools.  The proposal was approved unanimously by the Board and will become a priority for IGF in the next few years.  Chairman Chang made the following declaration on behalf of IGF: “In recognition of the benefit of Go in the development of intelligence and character of youths, IGF will promote Go education in schools by surveying its members for existing Go educational materials worldwide, followed by sponsoring studies that consolidate these materials to build systematic educational content and pedagogy.  We welcome active participation from IGF members.”
Mr. Chang also called on IGF to take up studies to work toward a universal ruleset and to establish a universal rating system.
After the General Assembly, the traditional ceremony to draw pairing was held.  In the evening, a lavish dinner banquet concluded the busy day.  Tomorrow the first two rounds of competition will be held.
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Feast of “food for thought” at recent Conference on Mind Sports

Sunday May 21, 2017

by Dr. Roy Laird2017.05.21_CIDEMgroupphoto-laird

A fabulous feast of “food for thought,” the International Conference on Mind Sports in Camaguey, Cuba came to a successful close on May 5 after affording some 70 participants a chance to get to know enthusiasts of other sports. Mornings were devoted to lectures and presentations, with various events , friendship matches and exhibitions in the afternoon. In an indicator of the level of interest Cubans have in mind sports, the first day of the conference was televised.

Here’s a rundown of some of the interesting presentations.
ARE MIND SPORTS REALLY SPORTS? If you’ve ever told a sports fan about mind sports, you’ve probably heard a version of this question. International Mind Sports Association Secretary General Thomas Hsiang took on this question head-on in his opening remarks, reviewing the rigorous requirements for admission to IMSA. Noting that “there is no doubt that mind sports have a beneficial impact on players, especially children,” Hsiang concluded by saying “with educational benefits for the young and health benefits for the old, promotion of mind sports is a social responsibility.”
PROMOTING WEIQI IN CUBA: Dr. Zhang Wei, Director of the Confucius Institute in Havana, musing on why weiqi is not more widely known throughout the world, theorized that the lack of economic development and constant warfare in western Asia had interfered with cultural exchanges throughout history. He also expressed the hope that weiqi would grow in Cuba throughout the world because it is good for the moral fabric of society since “no bad person plays weiqi.”
THE FUTURE OF MIND SPORTS IN CUBA: Dr. Lazaro Bueno said that notables from Simon Bolivar to Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez have all spoken of the importance of mental competition and chess in particular. Dr. Bueno 2017.05.21_Pitarra-lairdalso unveiled plans for a large Mind Sports Complex to be built soon in Camaguey.
TEACHING CHESS IN PRESCHOOL: Columbus introduced chess to Cuba in 1492, and the subsequent history of chess in Cuba is filled with distinction. The Cuban school system has included chess in its curriculum since 1989, and at present chess is taught in more than 9000 primary schools and over 1000 high schools. Luis Enrique Perez Pena said chess is now being introduced to preschool children. With Cuban children starting at such a young age, the world may see another Capablanca before long.
PITARRA – INDIGENOUS OR UBIQUITOUS? Maria Cristina Quintanar Miranda from the Universidad Queretaro in Mexico gave an intriguing presentation, describing the evolution of Pitarra (right). Played only by indigenous Mexican tribes, she theorized that it had developed as an ancient folk tradition. However, it turns out that “Pitarra” is identical to Nine Men’s Morris, a game dating back to the Roman Empire and still played in Europe. Not only that, another attendee recognized the game from his childhood in Taiwan as “The Watermelon Game,” and it is played in Cuba as “Tres,” named after the central principle of lining up three pips in a row. Ms. Quintanar came to the conference with an interesting finding and left with an even more interesting question.
SPANISH SCRABBLE: A2017.05.21_play at cide conf Spanish version of Scrabble is a big seller in Latin America, and Mexico in particular, where it is so widely played that some Mexicans call it “Lexico.” Javier Guerrero, the head of the International Spanish Scrabble Federation (FISE), said that FISE aspires to IMSA membership, but since IMSA does not admit sports that involve any amount of luck Scrabble advocates have proposed a form of “duplicate Scrabble” in which each player would play against a computer programmed to assure randomization of moves. However, Scrabble faces an even bigger hurdle — IMSA does not admit mind sports that are copyrighted or trademarked.
UNDERSTANDING ASIAN THINKING THROUGH GO: Fernando Aguilar of Argentina is one of the strongest Latino go players and certainly among the best known, having scored upset victories against two Japanese 9Ps in the 2002 Toyota Denso Cup and having played in many international tournaments. Aguilar was not able to attend the conference, but submitted a paper entitled “Go As A Way to Understand Oriental Thinking” in which he identified five sets of contrasting concepts that are spelled out in detail in Sun Tzu’s classic “The Art of War,” noting that their meaning can be more deeply understood through the study of go. The strong player maintains a balance between Attack and Defense; Efficiency and Concentration of Forces; Transparency vs. Deception; Emptiness and Solidity; and “Chi” (potential) vs. “Li” (material gain).

Other speakers held forth on the importance of physical exercise and fitness if one is to play one’s best, the superiority of in-person game play over video and computer game, the social and cultural significance of dominos, and draughts (10×10 checkers) as a metaphor for life. The overarching theme that emerged, and with which participants surely agreed, was well stated by the Scrabble representative: “The family that plays together is a happy family.”

Dr. Laird, former president of the American Go Association, attended the conference, presenting on “Play Go and Grow.”

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Categories: Latin America
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Cuban Mind Sports Conference gets underway

Wednesday May 3, 2017

by Roy Laird
The first Cuban Mind Sports Conference got underway today (Wednesday) in Camaguey, the island’s second largest city, at the Santa Cecilia Conference Center in the Plaza de los Trabadores under the auspices of the University of Camaguey. Under the watchful gaze of several images of Che Guevara, seventy or so participants assembled for the kickoff. Dr. 2017.05.04_cuba-lairdLazaro Bueno, the principal organizer, introduced Thomas Hsiang, the Executive Director of the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA), which helped to sponsor the event. Dr. Hsiang explained the rigorous criteria for admission to IMSA, and reviewed recent developments such as the University-Industry Cooperative Program, through which anyone who achieves dan level in go is guaranteed a job. The university, where the program began, now partners with more than 30 local businesses. After a brief discussion of Chinese go, Dr. Hugo Beltre spoke about various orthopedic injuries he has treated in many mind sports competitors, possibly the first such presentation at a mind sports conference. After a lunch break, the afternoon was devoted to a Cuban – American informal friendship matchup, and a demonstration of contract bridge.
To this observer, Cuba seems to be a remarkably friendly and welcoming place. I am staying at a “Casa Familiar,” a very picturesque small hotel with seven rooms, a rooftop bar, and its own restaurant. Prices are almost embarrassingly low. My lovely room is only $40 per night, and I found a decent slice of pizza for about $.25. At the same time, there are surprising challenges. No Internet, and some wireless phone plans do not work here. You have to purchase a card and be in the right place to use it. But that adds to the charm – no Internet dishes, no cell towers, and forget about any chain restaurant you have ever heard of. There are two separate currencies, with similar denominations, but one is worth 25 times the other, so keeping them straight is important. Fortunately, the unfailingly honest and helpful Camagueyans were always eager to help. The streets, often barely wide enough for one car, twist and wind through the city, but the downtown area is small and easy to learn. Street traffic includes bicycles, pedicabs, horse-drawn carts, and a few cars now and then, many of them vintage autos from the 1950s. On a nighttime walk, I felt quite safe. Many buildings that seemed abandoned during the day turned out to be occupied, and the residents had thrown their doors and windows wide open. In many cases they could have reached out and shaken my hand as I passed without getting up. A group of perhaps 50 people had gathered in a side street, listening quietly as a middle-aged woman spoke passionately to them. When I passed by later on my way home, they were still there.
The conference continues tomorrow and Friday, and appears to be a harbinger of great things to come, in Camaguey and perhaps throughout Cuba. Dr. Bueno told us that the university plans to begin a serious program of research into the benefits of competitive games. Considering Cuba’s prominence in the world of chess, it seems likely that we can expect great things from our neighbor to the south. The next time there’s an event in Cuba, sign up if you can!

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Categories: Latin America
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Korea Tops IEMG Pair Go

Thursday March 3, 2016

Koreans Park Jeonghwan 9p and Choi Jeong 6p defeated the Chinese team of Tang Weixing 9p and Yu Zhiying 5p to take first place in the three 2016.03.04_mind-games-pair-goround pair go competition at the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian.  

Playing for North America, the Canadian team off Ryan Li 1p and Sarah Yu 6d, took sixth place overall, losing to Ilya Shikshin 1p and Natalya Kovaleva 5d.  Li and Yu lost in round one to the Taiwanese team of Joanne Missingham 7p and Lin-li Hsiang 6p, but scored a win in round two against Ali Jabarin 1p of Israel and Elvina Kalsberg 5d of Russia.  

Japan secured third place with Tomoya Hirata 7P and Hoshiai Shiho 1P defeating Missingham and Hsiang.
- Andy Okun, Special Correspondent for the E-Journal, with reporting by Hajin Lee
photo: Pair go top medalists with Pair Go founder Mrs Taki and local CP official

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Korea, China Win at IEMG, with NA Players in 5th Place; Li Scores Against Japan Pro

Tuesday March 1, 2016

Two of the three go events at the IMSA Elite Mind Games ended Monday with Korean and Chinese victories, while the North American Men’s2016.03.02_1st_IEMG_team_korea team and lone woman contender Sarah Yu 6d each took 5th place.  In the course of the match, each of the three men players defeated a pro with Ryan Li 1p scoring a final round win against the young Japanese talent Mutsuura Yuta 2p.

The men’s team, comprising Li, Jiang Mingjiu 7p and Eric Lui 1p, were winless in the first three matches of the five match round robin, losing to Korea (see team photo at right), Taiwan and China.  Round four was against the European Go Federation team of Fan Hui 2p, Ali Jabarin 1p and Ilya Shikshin 1p, expected to be the main competition for North America.  On board three, Lui beat Shikshin while on board two, after falling behind early on, Li scrapped hard and fought gallantly, but was unable to catch up with Jabarin.  The match turned then on board one, where Jiang beat Hui, recently in the news for his October match against AlphaGo, in a hard fought half-point game.

North America’s final day match against Japan could not have moved North America out of 5th but was the deciding factor in Japan or Taiwan taking 3rd place in the match.  Japan, needing the win to stay on the medal stand, won by 2-1.  Although Li beat the strong 16-year-old Mutsuura, Lui lost to Toramaru Shibano 2p, another 16-year-old with a strong record in his two years of pro play.  Jiang meanwhile, lost to Hirata Tomoya 7p, although both a disappointed Jiang and some observers in the room thought he had a chance to win.

Li’s win was in line with the opinion expressed by the Asian team captains present, that the young AGA and EGF pros had improved significantly, approaching in strength a new Chinese pro and matching weaker Japanese pros. They mainly need more  opportunities for serious tournament play in order to improve.

Korea effectively won the tournament by beating main rival China by 2-1 in round two.  Both were undefeated against the other teams.  Japan staked its claim on third place against main rival Taiwan in round one when Mutsuura and Shibano prevailed in their games.

In the women’s individual tournament, a 12-player double elimination, Sarah Yu lost in round one to Korea’s Oh Yujin 2p, but then won against Rita Pocsai 4d of Hungary and then Elvina Kalsberg 5d to guarantee at least a fifth place finish.  Her round four match against Yu Zhiying 5p went beautifully until the players were in byo yomi and the Chinese pro took control of the game. Yu Zhiying went on to win the tournament.  Yu’s last game was against Cao Youyin 3p.  Cao won, taking fourth.  Joanne Missingham 7p of Taiwan was third and Choi Jeong 6p of Korea took second.

A three-round pair go event started Tuesday, with Yu and Li facing off against Taiwanese teammates Missingham and Lin Li-Hsiang 6p.

- reported by Andy Okun from Huaian, Jiangsu Province, China; photo courtesy Ranka Online

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Chess Players Counsel Calm As Computers Close in on Go

Monday February 29, 2016

by Special Correspondent Andy Okun, with reporting by Natalya Kovaleva

In the run-up to AlphaGo’s challenge match with Lee Sedol 9p in Seoul in a little over a week, go players have been worrying about the new age whose beginning might be marked by an AlphaGo victory.  What will the go world be like when computers are so good?  Will people still want to play go?  What will change?  Taking advantage of the collegiality of the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian, we sought counsel from a community that has been through this before.  We asked chess players how the game was affected by Garry Kasparov’s historic loss to IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, the steady growth in strength of computer chess since, and how go players should greet the news.  The general view was that go players should not be afraid of the new age, but that things will be different.  There may even be some new and interesting problems to handle, as there have in chess.

“So many cheats!” said KwaiKeong Chan (right), a long time chess player, arbiter and organizer from Hong Kong. Chan is helping run the chess 2016.02.29_Kwai Keong Chansection of the IEMG as deputy chief arbiter.  The software is so strong that it has become very easy to find new ways to cheat, Chan said.  “Hiding in the toilet is primitive,” he said dismissively of a toilet-based chess scandal last year in Dubai, although he refused to detail some of the more subtle methods people use.  Strong computers also are how officials crack down on cheats, he said.  Chess software is so good that given a board position and an ELO rating, you can predict the exact set of moves a player of that strength will likely draw from.  If a player consistently picks better moves than are likely for his or her rating, officials know to pay close attention.  “You cannot play beyond yourself.   It’s not humanly possible,” said Chan, who himself had designed some very early chess-playing software.

Beyond that, chess players don’t really care about computers’ strength and said go players shouldn’t either, he said.  Rather, the advent of strong computer go will bring publicity to the game, as Deep Blue did for chess, Chan said.  “That is always a good thing, publicity, good or bad.  Publicity is what you need.”  Chess is being played more than ever before, and while Deep Blue is not the main reason for that – he cited years of community effort in presenting chess well – it did produce a second surge of new players after the Bobby Fischer surge of the 1970s.

2016.02.29_Alexandra KosteniukThe presence of such strong computers has had other effects on how chess is played and the nature of chess expertise, players suggested.  Since strong computers can provide weak and middling players with solid and accurate analysis, the role of the chess master is different than it was, said Russian player Alexandra Kosteniuk (left), a grandmaster, former Women’s World Chess Champion and author of “Diary of a Chess Queen.”  The strength of players has gone up, but the best players don’t command the same respect they might have in years past because the best critique is available to everyone.  “Maybe in a few years, there will be no go masters,” she said.

Shahriyar Mamedyarov, a 31-year-old Azerbaijani grandmaster and former rapid chess World Champion, said it used to be that when he was in world championship tournaments, he might have seven or eight fellow players with him helping him prepare for the games.  He doesn’t need to do that now, since any questions he has or analysis he needs done can be done by computer. Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina, a three-time Russian women’s champion, said computers had raised the standard of training and that “we need to memorize much more than we did before.”

Kirsan ILyumzhinov, the controversial president of both the Federation Internationale des Echecs and the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, as2016.02.29_ponomariov03 well as the head of IMSA and a long time sponsor of computer go competitions, said in the early days of the computer go project, human players and human programmers would work hard to develop the computer player and make it stronger.  “Now the computer develops and trains the human.”

Perhaps the bluntest argument against fear of computers learning to play our games well came from Ruslan Ponomariov (right), a Ukrainian grandmaster and FIDE World Champion from 2002 to 2004.

“What we can do?” he asked with a shrug.

photos credits: Kirill Merkurev (Chan); chessqueen.com (Kosteniuk); en.chessbase.com (Ponomariov)

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Korea, Japan Ahead in Elite Mind Games Men’s Tourney, N.A.’s Sarah Yu Scores Win

Sunday February 28, 2016

After two rounds, the Korean and Japanese men’s teams are undefeated in the first International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) Elite Mind Games in Huaian, China, while North America’s sole woman player scored a win to stay alive in the women’s Individual event.

After losing to a Korean pro in round one, Sarah Yu 6d (right) of Canada beat the European team’s Rita Pocsai 4d of Hungary in round two, moving 2016.02.28_Jin_Yu-imsaon in the double elimination tournament. Yu said she and Pocsai were well matched and that she had benefited from a few mistakes in her opponent’s endgame play. On the other hand, playing against Oh Yujin 2p in round one was daunting, the strong amateur said. “When you are playing against a pro, you just have to try to make the game last longer,” Yu said. “It forces you to play better.” In the game against Oh, “there were never any chances.”

2016.02.28_Eric_LUI-iemgOn the men’s side, the North American men were winless against Korea and Taiwan, though Eric Lui 1p believes he had an opportunity against Lin Shih-Hsun 5p of Taiwan. Lin and Lui, who are friends, reviewed for two hours after the game. Lin made left a major group vulnerable late in the game and Lui (left) attacked but was unable to bring off the kill. “Unfortunately, I went for a small part of the group instead of trying to kill the whole group, which clearly would have been the right thing to do,” Lui said in an interview in the bright white marble lobby of the New Century Grand Hotel Huaian. While the game wasn’t over then, Lin didn’t let down his guard again and won by resignation. His game on day one against Kim Jiseok 9p was not so suspenseful. “The thing about active young pro players today is their game is so well-rounded,” Lui said. “Their game has no real weaknesses.”

On board one, Jiang Mingjiu 7p lost to Lee Donghoon 5p on the first day and Taiwan’s Chen Shih-Yuan 9p on the second. Ryan Li 1p of Canada lost to Park Jeonghwan 9p of Korea and Lin Li-Hsiang 6p. The Korean and Chinese teams are thought to be the strongest, so Korea, in addition to defeating North America, may have effectively taken the lead in the round robin tournament when it defeated China by 2-1 in the second round. Japan’s very young team, including two 16-year-old 2 dans, is also undefeated, having beaten Europe in a clean sweep and Taiwan by 2-1.
- Andy Okun, reporting from Huaian, China. For more IEMG reports, game records and the tournament contestants, go to Ranka Online’s website.

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