Tianyaun “Tian” Zhang emerged as the Central Iowa State Championship champion last Saturday, March 11, 2023, after a three-year hiatus from go. “I play whatever I feel like just works,” Zhang told the E-Journal. “My playing style used to be quite aggressive, but now I play wherever necessary. A more logical way to play.” He described his win as “pretty easy” due to the few high-Dan players. “The tough opponent was in the last round, but I got a head start, and I killed a group of his," Zhang said.
His parents suggested that he compete in the Central Iowa Go Tournament to mark “Iowa’s return to home competition since Covid-19 started” as described by Jacob Upland, the tournament director and primary organizer. Upland would also like to thank Annelise and Tony Tandeski, the owners of a local pop-up board game shop, Rook Room, for supporting the tournament. “We want to be an established, regular, well-functioning Go presence in Iowa and the greater Midwest by doing anything we can to spread and grow the game and the regional scene,” Upland said.
Zhang started learning go at age five while living in Hebei Province, China. His teachers noticed that he struggled to stay still, so they suggested Zhang learn go to help him sit longer. Zhang says he prefers in-person games, where he can “play in the moment” and “see what’s going to happen.” Now living in Iowa, where the number of go players is limited, he lost interest in go during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Zhang got back into the game after attending the 2022 U.S. Go Congress in Estes Park, Colo., and since then, he has won numerous tournaments. Last February, the AGA promoted him to 6-Dan.
“If you don’t play in a while, you won’t get worse, but you’re not as sensitive to the board,” Zhang said. “It takes one or two games to play like normal again.”
His favorite memory is from the 2016 U.S. Go Congress in Boston, when he registered as a 7-Dan instead of a 5-Dan in the Blitz Tournament without realizing. “I had to give a 5-Dan two stones. I was having fun — I didn’t know I was 7-Dan — and somehow, I won all my games.” Zhang also enjoys spending time with his go friends, like working out with his friend Jack. “I do like going to the gym better,” Zhang said, chuckling.
Zhang hopes to attend more in-person go tournaments, including the 2023 Chicago Open, where he looks forward to reuniting with his go friends. “No nothin’, no practice,” Zhang said. “Go tournaments are almost like a vacation where I can go and play and hang out with friends.”
- Jamie Tang
photos: (top right) Tian Zhang, center, competes in the 2022 Chicago Rapid in Evanston, Illinois. (bottom left) Tian Zhang eats out with his friends in Koreatown NYC, after competing in the 1st New York State Championship. From left to right: Sam Soo, Jamie Tang, Jack Zhang, Tian Zhang, Alex Qi, Jerry Ju, and Eddie. Photos courtesy Jamie Tang (top right); Jack Zhang (bottom left).