American Go E-Journal

Kevin Yang and Alexander Qi top 2022 NAGF professional tournament

Friday July 1, 2022

Kevin Yang and Alexander Qi

A pair of precocious 14-year-olds are North America’s newest professional go players.

Kevin Yang and Alexander Qi topped a competitive field at the North American Go Federation’s (NAGF) 2022 Pro Qualification tournament this week. Click here for final standings, game records and links to video commentaries.

Held at the National Go Center in Washington D.C., the pro qualifier featured eleven top North American amateurs facing off in two rounds a day over five grueling days starting last Monday. Yang swept Group A, defeating Eric Yoder, Qiyou Wu, Eric Lee, Yuan Zhou and Val Lewis. Qi was also undefeated in Group B, beating Remi Campagnie, Edward Zhang, Nate Morse and Tyler Oyakawa.

Yang and Qi then faced off in a best-of-three match, splitting the first two games, with Yang winning the third game on Thursday morning to clinch the first pro spot. Qi then took on Eric Yoder for the second pro slot, going 2-0.

American Go Association president Andy Okun congratulated all the players for their “extremely high level of play,” and said that it was a “special pleasure” to award Yang and Qi the 2022 NAGF professional certificates after their impressive performances this week. Okun thanked the NAGF for organizing the qualification tournament, I-Han Lui for directing, and the National Go Center for hosting. The qualification tournament was partly sponsored by the Iwamoto North American Foundation for Go (INAF).

Yang, who hails from California, started playing go when he was nine years old and in addition to his mother, who got him started, credits professional instruction for improving his game. His favorite part of the game, he told the EJ, “is probably the fighting in the middle game. It really gets your adrenaline flowing, you know?” His advice to amateurs who want to improve is “study life and death and don’t get too caught up in AI game analysis” because the AI moves are so high level they can be confusing “until you get up around 6-dan.”

Qi, who’s from New Jersey, started playing go when he was eight years old, learning from his father. He credits studying life and death with helping improve his game, along with reviewing pro games. Although he says he doesn’t have a lot of time for other hobbies, he does enjoy playing table tennis.

Special thanks to all the game recorders at the NGC this week, and to the amazing team at Baduk Club – led by Devin Fraze – who provided the online game commentary for the NAGF Pro Qualification tournament.
– report by Chris Garlock
NOTE: (7/6) Post updated to reflect INAF’s sponsorship.

Clockwise from top left: Postgame analysis of the final Qi-Yoder game; Rene Campagnie ponders Yoder’s broken ladder magic; postgame analysis of the final Yang-Qi game; Yang (standing in yellow) and Qi at the 2018 Cotsen Open; Yang-Qi final round game; AGA president Andy Okun, TD I-Han Lui, Yang and Qi with their pro certificates and winner’s checks. photos by Chris Garlock except the 2018 Yang-Qi photo by Robert Qi.