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A glimpse of the go-playing students of China during the MLily Cup day off

Friday August 25, 2017

fullsizeoutput_bedby Karoline Li

On Friday 8/25, the day off between the top 16 and top eight MLily Cup games, Jeff Shaevel and I were invited to accompany a delegation of professionals and tournament organizers on a student-centric trip around the city of Tongling. Members of the group included President of the Chinese Weiqi Association Wang Runan 8P, Vice President Nie Weiping 9P, captain of Chinese national Go team Hua Xueming 7P, and coach of the Chinese national Go team Yu Bing 9P. Our first stop was a hotel in the city where Anhui province’s student tournament was held. We were ushered upstairs to a tournament room filled with hundreds of young students sitting at Go boards (photo top right), who applauded enthusiastically at the entrance of the professional players. Wang Runan spoke to open the event, and amid more thunderous applause and the start of games, the pros and their entourage exited.

fullsizeoutput_beeOur second stop was at Ruilong Primary School, where Hua Xueming (photo top left), Wang Runan, and Yu Bing played simultaneous games with the students. The organizer of the event first introduced the professionals to the room, and welcomed Jeff and I as representatives of the AGA; a translator told me afterwards that Wang Runan had spoken of his pleasure that we were there and the positive communication happening between China and America through Go evidenced by our presence. Then the children sat down at prepared Go boards, and each of the three pros took their places. I spoke with one of the teachers in attendance, who let me know that most of the students were between six and eight years old, and all beginner level go players. There were two empty boards on a table in the corner of the room, and when two students who had just come to observe asked Jeff for a simul, he happily obliged. Their table was soon surrounded with the students’ friends watching them play, and parents taking pictures.

fullsizeoutput_bf2The enjoyment in the room, on the part of both the students and the professionals, was palpable at both events of the day. Seeing the way Go is treated by teachers and students in schools as an important and worthy activity was truly wonderful to witness. It made me feel grateful for the teachers in America who spend the time and effort to introduce Go programs in school and bring students into the game. With the continued hard work of our Teachers of the Year, and all those who have not yet received the honor – but put in so many hours to teach Go to children and promote Go programs in Schools like the one Stephanie Yin 1P is introducing in New York City this year – perhaps one day we can have a student community of Go players in the US like the one that Jeff and I witnessed here in Tongling City.
IMG_0912photo (bottom right): Wang Runan 8P, President of Chinese Weiqi Association, reviews a simultaneous game with a student
-photo (bottom left): Jeff Shaevel, AGA National Tournament Coordinator, plays a simultaneous game with two students while friends look on.
-report/photos by Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief



MLily Cup: Pairings decided for top eight match Saturday 8/26

Friday August 25, 2017

Eight players, six from China and two from Korea, will face off in the next round of the MLily Cup on Saturday afternoon 8/26 at 12:30pm. The strength of the young generation of Chinese professionals is evident in the results of the tournament so far; all of the Chinese players in the top eight were born after 1995.

Top eight round pairings:
Chen Zijian 4P of China vs. Park Jungwhan 9P of Korea
Li Xuanhao 6P of China vs. Huang Xin 4P of China
Liao Yuanhe 5P of China vs. Xie Ke 3P of China
Fan Yunruo 6P of China vs. Park Yonghun 9P of Korea



Stephanie Yin 1P on MLily and the importance of promoting Go to kids

Thursday August 24, 2017

fullsizeoutput_beaby Karoline Li

After the beginning of Ryan Li’s top 16 game on Thursday 8/24 here in Tongling, Stephanie Yin 1P and I got a chance to sit down to chat about her Go career and her experience here at the MLily Cup. “I think I’m more nervous than Ryan is,” she laughed. “I am so proud that he has achieved this all on his own, without a teacher.” She is also happy that there are AGA representatives here to support Ryan, and not just her. “We think that last time, we were like individual soldiers, but this time we’re a troupe.” She and Ryan have been together since just after the 2016 US Go Congress in Boston. Since they are both professional go players, I wondered whether or not they ever play against each other; Stephanie says they have played a total of four games, and they each won two of them. “We haven’t played since his top 64 MLily Cup game,” she explains with a smile. “I think that after that tournament experience and his match with Chen Yaoye 9P he has improved a lot.”

Stephanie’s own Go journey began at the age of seven. Her father is a go player and big fan of the game. “He and Ryan are the same,” she laughs. “If they don’t touch go at least once a day they feel like something is wrong.” She started studying under her father’s teacher, and after only a year she won first place in the student city tournament, winning against older students who had been studying longer. She started studying at a professional Go school in Beijing at age nine, and became a professional Go player at age 16 in 2007. “I only competed for one or two years before moving to the states,” she says of her competitive career. After moving the US, she attended Fordham University in the Bronx studying finance. After graduation, she worked as a stock broker and taught go for a year before quitting her finance job to found the New York Institute of Go in August of 2016. “Teaching go full time makes me more proud of myself,” she explains, her passionate about teaching evident. “When I see a beginner who didn’t know about go begin to like it and improve, even after just one lesson, that makes me happy.” She has about 50 students now in group lessons, school programs, and after-school programs, and her Go program has just been approved by the parent teachers association of a network of schools in Manhattan; they will be starting Go clubs in September. “A new way to promote Go in the US is through rating competitions,” she suggests. She held just such a competition recently for her students in New York. These competitions are held with the purpose of assigning a rating to a beginner who hasn’t played in tournaments yet; they can use their new rating to compete in other tournaments, and work towards promotion. One of the things she’d like to see in the US is an organized system of rating and promotional competitions to get more beginners interested in learning and improving their Go skills. One of the most important things we need, she says, is to encourage teachers to put in the effort to promote Go in schools and community places like libraries to reach out and introduce new people to the game. “I think the market for Go in the US is large,” she says after her first year of full-time teaching experience. “We need to find sponsors like MLily for our events so we can reach more potential players and really work to promote Go.”
report/photo by Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief


Moments from the MLily Cup: Days one and two

Thursday August 24, 2017

fullsizeoutput_be4It never stops
During the welcome dinner, many of the professional players including Ke Jie 9P (at right in photo left) reviewed games on their smartphones while the tournament and local officials kicked off the festivities with remarks and toasts.IMG_0753

MLily sponsor gets a game in
Ni Zhanggen (bottom left in photo at top right), CEO of MLily Furniture and sponsor of the MLily Cup, got a game in with Hua Xueming 7P (right), the head of China’s national go team, in the discussion room during the top 16 MLily Cup match. MLily Cup tournament director Liu Jing 8P looks on from the end of the table.

VIPs host the public game review
Hua Xueming 7P and Wang Runan 8P, President of the Chinese Weiqi Association, hosted the public commentary of board one, Park Jungwhan 9p vs Ke Jie 9p (photo bottom right).

report/photos by Karoline Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief



MLily Cup: Ryan Li 1P loses to a friend, encourages enjoyment of go

Thursday August 24, 2017

fullsizeoutput_be2Li Xuanhao 6P prevailed in Thursday afternoon’s top 16 match against Ryan Li 1P, who lost by resignation. “Li Xuanhao has been on a winning streak,” Stephanie Yin 1P says. “He has momentum.” It was a match between friends; Yin and Li Xuanhao grew up together, and he and Ryan Li spent time quite a bit of time together during the previous MLily Cup rounds. However, Ryan Li says it didn’t affect the match, and that when friends face off in tournament games they play the board and not each other. Despite his loss, Li feels good about the match. “One thing I can say after playing this game is that I don’t feel that he’s much stronger than me,” Li explains. “He’s definitely stronger and he won today, but I feel like the gap between us is not big; I think I definitely need more tournament experience.” Li looks forward to future competitions, and would like to continue to represent North American in international tournaments with the full support of the AGA. “I’m excited to see Ryan test himself against the best players in the world.” AGA President Andy Okun says. “He is a great inspiration to folks working to promote go at every level outside of Asia.” Li isn’t only interested in high level competition; he’d like to see more people play go at all strengths. “One thing I want people to know is that go isn’t hard,” Li says. “There is so much to learn and enjoy at every level, and beginners should not be intimidated.” He emphasizes that players think too much about the set theory and too many unnecessary rules, and he thinks that a big takeaway from the recent successes of AI programs is that nothing in go is set. There are no joseki. You don’t have to save all your groups. “It really should be enjoyed,” Li concludes. “Go is not hard. Just play.”
photo: Ryan Li 1P during the opening of his top 16 game against Li Xuanhao 6P
report/photo by Karoline Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief


MLily Cup: The curtain rises and matches begin

Thursday August 24, 2017

IMG_0742Ryan Li 1P has begun his match against Li Xuanhao 6P (photo) in the top 16 of the MLily Cup in Tongling City. Check out live coverage and commentary on Twitch and Youtube to follow his game.
report by Karoline Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief


MLily Cup: Setting the Stage

Wednesday August 23, 2017


by Karoline LiIMG_0602

The 3rd MLily Cup tournament venue is the beautiful Tong Que Tai New Century Hotel International (photo top left) in Tongling City, located in Anhui province, on the Yangtze River just a few hours south-east of Hefei, the provincial capital. One block away, and visible from the hotel, is a large lake called Tianjinghu surrounded by walking paths and parks. A few tree studded walking paths cut across the center of the lake (photo right), joining the banks with several islands and peninsulas. In some areas of the park, it was easy to forget that I was walking in the middle of a city as I climbed stone paths surrounded by forest. I was able to explore the park in the early morning light, before the heat of the day set in – which made the temperature comfortable despite sky-high humidity – and found it to be a popular place for locals to jog, swim, practice martial arts, and warm up their vocal chords to get ready for the day.

fullsizeoutput_bccThe city is filled with copper and bronze statues (bottom left) that provide evidence of the city’s industry. Tongling City is named for it’s copper history, which stretches back 3500 years; Tongling was the site of the first industrial production of copper in China. As a result, it was an early center of industry and wealth in the region. Tongling’s copper continues to serve as the base of industrial copper production in China (historical information from the MLily Game Guide).
report/photos by Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief


Ryan Li’s journey to the top 16 of the MLily Cup

Wednesday August 23, 2017

IMG_0616by Karoline Li

Official MLily Cup tournament festivities kicked off Tuesday (local time) in Tongling City with a welcome dinner attended by players and association officials. Ryan Li 1P and his partner Stephanie Yin 1P (photo at right) sat down to talk with AGA National Tournament Coordinator Jeff Shaevel (photo at left on the right) and I after dinner to discuss the upcoming match and Li’s journey to reach this moment. He was born in Beijing, and began playing go with his father around the age of five. He attended a go school a few times a week, and by the time his family moved to Canada at age eight, he had achieved amateur 4 dan status. After the move to Canada, he played mostly online. “He didn’t have a teacher,” Stephanie explained. “He practiced and learned on his own.” When I asked when he started competing seriously, he explained that for a while he only played in a few local tournaments in Ottawa, and his first big competition was the 2010 Canadian Open. “I took second to Matthew Hu,” Ryan says. “That was the year he became a professional.” He represented Canada in the Korean Prime Ministers Cup that year. “I didn’t do much between 2010 and 2012,” Ryan laughs. Then he joined the Pandanet AGA City League team captained by Cathy Li 1P, and was a North American representative to the first MLily Cup. He lost in the preliminaries of the MLily, but his City League team has won the championship three times out of five. He played in the second pro qualification tournament, then won the third tournament in 2015 becoming the fourth North American professional go player. Both tournaments were directed by Jeff Shaevel. “The tournament venue was in Boston right by the ocean, and it was beautiful,” Ryan remembered. “ “It was freezing!” Jeff laughed, and though Ryan agreed he viewed that as a positive. “Well I’m Canadian, so I like the cold.”

The last few years, Li has also been busy studying. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Toronto, and became interested in atIMG_0662mospheric sciences after an internship with a professor who worked in the field. After earning his degree he went straight into a PhD program in the field at Yale University in New Haven, CT. “Does the logic for that fit with the logic of go?” Jeff asked. “I knew you were going to ask that,” Ryan laughed. “No, they don’t really go together.” Ryan explained that atmospheric sciences involves a lot of programming, data science, and theory. “Which is easier?” Jeff pressed. “Definitely go,” Ryan answered right away. “I really enjoy playing go,” he continued, his love of the game evident. “It started as a hobby, but after all these tournaments and becoming pro, it’s beyond a hobby, but it’s still fun. It’s one of the things I enjoy most.”

Li will face Li Xuanhao 6P on August 24th (local time), at 12:30pm in the top 16 match. He has prepared for this game for months by reviewing games and competing at the US Go Congress — where he went 8-1 and took second place in the Masters — in San Diego, and is excited for the match. “I have no secret weapon,” he said with a smile. “I’m just going to play my best and try to play move by move. At this point, I’m trying to relax.” He gives a lot of credit to Stephanie Yin, who has been helping him prepare for his matches and acting as his coach. Jeff smiled as Ryan talked about his preparations and his attitude towards tomorrow’s match. “This is such a proud moment for me,” Jeff beamed. “The pro qualifiers are a big deal for us, but we’re never sure what our pros will be doing after they qualify, and to see you playing in this tournament and doing so well is the most exciting thing. Whatever happens, I’m very, very proud.”
report/photos by Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief


Ryan Li 1P ready to face next opponent in the MLily top 16

Saturday August 19, 2017

IMG_4795Ryan Li 1P is gearing up for his next match in the  MLily Meng Baihe Cup World Go Open Tournament (MLily Cup), achieving his place in the top 16 after a stunning upset win against Chen Yaoye 9P (photo at right) in the last round on June 21st; see the story and game record here“My goal going into the match was to not let him win too easily,” Li (right) said of preparing for the June match with Chen. In an interview at the recent U.S. Go Congress, Li said that he was excited for the match against Chen as a learning opportunity since Chen is a world champion who had previously beaten Ke Jie 9P. During the match, there was a moment at the beginning of the endgame, after all the groups had been settled, when Li realized he could actually win. “He told me that it felt like his heart would pop out of his chest,” Stephanie Yin 1P said with a smile. Li remembers that his first professional go tournament was as an amateur player invited to participate in the MLily preliminaries in 2012 where he lost in the first round, and he characterizes his place in the top 16 of this year’s MLily as a life achievement. “I’ve always wanted to be in the top 16 in a professional go tournament,” he says. “I set that goal right before this tournament started, and it immediately happened. It’s just amazing.” Ryan Li is only the fourth professional go player to be certified by the AGA, winning the January 2015 pro certification tournament, and when not playing go, he is pursuing a PhD in atmospheric sciences at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Li will face Li Xuanhao 6P in Tongling, Anhui on August 24th, and he used the 33rd US Go Congress as training to prepare for the match. He won eight of nine games in the US Open Masters Division, taking second place and losing only to tournament champion Wu Hao 2P of China. On top of his Go Congress training, he has been studying his opponents’ game records for the past year, and says Li Xuanhao’s style is calm; he expects playing against Li to be difficult, and not just because of his calm, solid style. “I know him pretty well,” Ryan says. “If I were playing someone else, I could review games with him and discuss strategy, but since he’s my opponent of course that would be awkward.” What is he most looking forward to? “I’m really looking forward to all the time before the match, because I’m still in the top 16 right now,” Ryan laughs. Stay tuned for our on-site coverage of the top 16 of the MLily Cup this week.

-report by Karoline Li, EJ Tournaments Bureau Chief; photo by Stephanie Yin 1P


Tang Zhenbokang Wins 11th Greg Lefler Memorial Tournament in Rochester

Monday November 2, 2015

IMG_3175The Empty Sky Go Club was host to 24 players for the 11th Greg Lefler Memorial IMG_3178Tournament on October 24th. Players from 8d to 28k competed in four rounds.

There were three divisions of winners. Dan Section: 1) Tang Zhenbokang; 2) Thomas Hsiang. Single Digit Kyu Section: 1) Jim Gonnella; 2) Luk Yan-Yeung. Double Digit Kyu Section: 1) Nakaya Hiroaki; 2) Joe Bauser. All first place winners went 4-0 and second place were 3-1.

Full tournament crosstabs have been rated on the AGAGD. Photos: (left) 24 players from Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Utica play a morning round. (Right) Tang Zhenbokang (white shirt) and others watch on as Thomas Hsiang plays one of his games.


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