Ryan Li, Eric Lui and Ben Lockhart won their first- and second-round games Sunday at the AGA Pro Qualification Tournament to take an early lead in the 7-round round-robin section of the two-part tournament. Click here for complete tournament results and game records. The tournament is being held at the Nantasket Beach Resort in Hull, MA, January 4-10. The games are being broadcast live on KGS by the E-Journal at 9:30a and 4:30p (EST).
Temperatures had risen overnight, melting the snow that had fallen Saturday night, and a few hardy surfers could be glimpsed in the waves just across the beach from the resort. The players posed for a group photo (right) before the first round and the tournament commenced shortly afterwards.
The seaside town is quiet this time of year, matching the silence in the playing room as the top-ranked players grappled on the boards. Hundreds watched online as fierce battles unfolded; three of the first-round games were decided by resignation. Jeremy Chiu was the first to fall, resigning his Board 1 game after just 89 moves after a bad start when he misplayed a joseki that allowed Ryan Li to capture a group in the corner and get outside thickness. Chiu mounted a creditable attack on one of Li’s groups but Li played calmly and when he settled his group Chiu gracefully gave up. On Board 2, Matthew Burrall started a complicated middle-board fight because he was behind on points against Eric Lui, but came up a couple of liberties short and had to resign. And on Board 4 Daniel Gourdeau and Ricky Zhao’s even bigger and more complicated fight ended when Gourdeau used an attack on Zhao’s center group to cut off and kill another group. The Board 3 game between Ben Lockhart and Yuan Zhou was the last to finish and the only one to be counted. Observers thought Zhou had a small lead coming out of the middle game but he was short on time and Lockhart played a very sharp endgame to win by a comfortable 10.5 points.
The town was completely fogged in by the time the players reconvened at 4:30p for the second round. What few sounds there were over the next few hours were distant and muffled as the players focused even more intently than they had in the morning round. At one point a loud argument between two hotel patrons erupted just outside the playing room but the players were so engrossed that no-one seemed to even notice. The Board 1 game between Matthew Burrall and Ryan Li was a classic territory vs. influence game involving some very fluid positions and deep reading. Though Burrall did manage to establish a fairly substantial central moyo in the end it wasn’t enough to compensate for Li’s bankable territory. On Board 2 Daniel Gourdeau’s slight joseki mistake gave Eric Lui an early cash lead; unable to recover, Gourdeau was the first to resign in the second round. Ben Lockhart and Ricky Zhao met on Board 3 in an exciting game that saw a number of daring trades but in the end Zhao came up short and had to resign as well. On Board 4, the youngest and the eldest player in the field faced off: Yuan Zhou, 40, has won many US titles and is an experienced teacher and author of go books, while 12-year-old Jeremy Chiu is one of the US’ strong youth players. Neither player made any blunders and the game stayed knife-edge close right through the end. It was the last to finish — fortunately, AGA President Andy Okun teamed up with Brian Lee to record the 4-hour game — and Chiu edged Zhou by just 1.5 points.
- report/photos by Chris Garlock; more photos on the AGA’s Facebook page