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The year of unfinished business

Posté par northlecale le 2 mai 2015

We all know that feeling. Suddenly you notice that your eyes are sore, the primal energy seems to have gone from your body, tiredness is the only thing left, and you realise that, despite all your best intentions, you just didn’t get a thing done today. Somehow, 2014 seemed to go that way for the Irish Go Championship. It is not for me to guess as to why it happened, but it just never seemed to finish. To begin with, only 6 players actually turned up for the Top 8 that year. It was something along the lines of that one slept in, while the other just forgot about it. So, what with a quarter of the games out of the way, you’d imagine that it might motor along to a quick completion. Far from it! It is true the championship league was, whilst not strictly speaking finished within the period the rules allowed, completed well before Christmas. The 3-game final just simply didn’t appear. There was one game that was played, but months passed, 2014 turned to 2015, and as I sit writing here, despite promises to get around to playing it, we are into May 2015, and it just hasn’t happened. Both players are, strangely enough, still playing in the 2015 championship, which is still in progress, and nearly running to schedule. So we have to imagine that the final will eventually be played, it is just a case of when. For now, the record is a year of 17 months – how long will that run on for?

Postscript – the committee adjudicated the result on the 31st of May. (spoilsports)

Publié dans gossip | Pas de Commentaires »


Posté par northlecale le 16 avril 2014

This section deals with the history of Go in Ireland before the time when I started playing there. That is, somewhere in the 1900′s to the beginning of 2004. The bulk of the information comes from old Go journals, newsletters, and magazines. There are undoubtably more stories waiting to be told, and at present, only a few anecdotes have been added into the contents here. So we can say with certainty that the history told here is incomplete, but I hope that you can enjoy reading it nevertheless. Rest assured that all contributions are greatly welcomed.

So where does our story begin? Here and there we can find evidence of individual Irishmen who have played the game. John Gibson has said he learnt to play from the book Go and Gomoku, which he read somewhere around the year 1976.  A certain Tony Hart entered a Go playing computer program in the very first tournament of its kind, but sadly it got knocked out in the first round. You can see its game here. Eugene Curtin, a former Irish Chess Champion, picked up the game while working in Texas, USA in 1986. These are just three examples of individuals who played.

The first known club was at Trinity College Dublin. There an academic of Polish origins,was responsible for allowing players to gather together within the grounds of TCD to play Go. This was in the late 1960s or early 70s, which was a rather difficult period in Irish history what with the onset of the Troubles. We can but imagine that proceedings at club sessions were somewhat more tranquil. Who exactly played there though, well that is unclear. There are sadly no written records which could document this fledgling club.

By the 1980s the game was played in Collegians Chess Club (Dublin), in Trinity College Dublin, and perhaps elsewhere. For instance, Alec Beckett, an old chess playing friend, informed me  of a chess player he knew who had been very keen on the game, and that once that he had seen a real goban – solid wood, with 4 legs – up for auction. It seems unlikely that you’d acquire an item that could set you back for as much as 500 pounds without learning how to play! This is only evidence of informal meetings or isolated players, and as such we can say that there was not yet any hint of a central structure, for no co-ordinating body yet existed for most of the 1980s.

It was in late 1988 that things changed when a player from Japan came to live in Dublin. This gentleman could very accurately be described as a dedicated fan of Go, eager as he was to take every opportunity to play the game. He, Toshima Isao, reportedly wrote to the British Go Association begging for help in creating a club in Ireland to allow him to play with others, and he was then delighted to learn from them that people were actually already playing in Dublin. With his arrival, the incentive appears to have been created to actually form an Irish Go Association, which was indeed founded in 1989. The core of the organisation at this time included Noel Mitchell, Isao Toshima, John Kenny, and Paul Eustace. Games took place either at Toshima’s house, or at the Trinity College games room. The birth of the association spawned a relative flurry of activity, with exhibitions being made at Gaelcon and Leprecon. After a letter to the British Go Journal, the United Kingdom’s Francis Roads travelled to the former convention to give assistance. It seems that he enjoyed presenting the game there, although he did complain, however, that some members of the association were playing bridge for 4 hours a day. Why couldn’t they devote the same amount of time to Go? (A good question!)

Then, in 1990, we can read in the IGA Newsletter 3, the amusing announcement that a second group of Go players has been found to exist in Dublin! Of course, it is not really so hard to imagine that with a niche game like ours, such a case of parallel existence can happen. It was the Collegians Go club which had been found, and it was headed by John Gibson and Eugene Mallon – both Chess players. According to this same newsletter, subscribers (as of March 1990) were to be found in the following locations:

North Dublin(14), South Dublin(50), Belfast(1), Co Antrim(1), Cork(1), Kildare(4), Portlaois(1), Limerick(2), Waterford(5), Wicklow (3).  

The first Irish Open was held in the centre of Dublin at the Power’s Hotel in March, 1990. The winner was, quite fittingly, Toshima Isao (2-dan) who also had the title of Sensei of the TCD club. Noel Mitchell, whose rank was then placed at 1-kyu, came in second place, which was thus enough to establish himself as the first Irish Champion. Finishing in third place was Paul Eustace (5-kyu). At the same time a small challenge match was played between the Isle of Man and Ireland, which arrived at the drawn result of 2:2. Later in the same year, the second half of the match was played at the Isle of Man club, and this time the IoM team won 3-1, securing an overall victory of 5-3. This competition seems to have been enjoyed by all concerned, for between them the IOM and Dublin club then set up a challenge competition for the KMPG Peat Marwick McLintock shield – which with a name like that was donated by chartered accountants, obviously.

The first inter-club match took place on the 27th of June, 1990 at the White Horse bar – close to the Liffey – making the Collegians team the home side. The match score is given below, but let us also note that there were now also clubs in Trim (contact Justin Wallace) and Bray (organiser unknown).

Dublin Go Club 4 0 Collegians Go Club
Noel Mitchell (1k) 1 0 Mary Mulvihill (5k)
Damien Lynch (3k) 1 0 Eugene Mallon (11k)
John Kenny (4k) 1 0 John Gibson (13k)
Henry Bacik (11k) 1 0 Bernard Palmer (20k)

The same location played host to a summer lightning tournament in the same year, but the name of the winner is not recorded for posterity. Later in the year a match was played between ‘Dublin’ and Dundalk. For a club had been started in Dundalk Regional Technical Institute by Henry Bacik and Maurice O’Reilly – both lecturers. The club apparantly had as many as 30 beginners playing at one point! Sadly the Dubliners gave them a good hiding, Isao Toshima, Yoko Toshima (Isao’s wife), Noel Mitchell and Damien Lynch providing the muscle.

The Irish Go Association joined the International Go Federation in 1990, but were not listed as an official EGF member until 1992. Not, of course that EGF membership is required for joining the IGF, despite what some may try to tell you. As a result of the IGF membership, national champion, Noel Mitchell gained the right to travel to Japan to play in the World Amateur Go Championships(WAGC). For all aspiring players, this has to be something of a dream come true. Nevertheless, this was no fairytale competition, but a tough affair. Indeed, what else would you expect from such an event? His first game saw a loss against Sorin Gherman (3-dan) of Romania. Sorin would go on to become an insei at the Nihon Ki-in in Japan, and reach the rank of 6-dan. In fact, as an illustration of the nation’s still fragile strength, Noel won only 1 game in the whole competition, against the (tragically) terminally ill Jurgen Mattern (6-dan).

The next Irish Championship was held in January 1991, this new competition was presumably created in part to select the next participant to the WAGC. The tournament was open to all those at least at the rank of 6-kyu, which meant that 4 people entered. Noel Mitchell(1-kyu) and Damien Lynch(3-kyu) reached the final, which was won 2-0 by Noel. Isao Toshima, by now almost wearing the title of Father of Irish Go, sadly returned home to Japan at the start of the year. The Irish Open was won by IOM player David Phillips, who blocked any chance of a poetic final victory in Isao Toshima’s final tournament in Ireland. As in the previous year, a match was played between the Dublin club and the Isle of Mann club. Again the first leg, which took place at the Irish Open was a 2:2 draw, but Ireland lost the second half again, this time 2-1, at the Isle of Mann Congress. Adding to Japanese patronage of the game was amateur 5-dan player Mr. Akihiro Kumagai. He visited Dublin for 1 month this year, and played several teaching games with local Irish and Japanese players. This year Noel Mitchell managed to go 1 win further in the WAGC, picking up victory over the Phillipines and Thailand.


1992 was described as « a quiet year for the IGA » in the ranka yearbook, but I am not sure if this was entirely accurate. The first Belfast Open took place, a 3 round affair, which was held in July at Queen’s University. Paul Donnelly, 6-kyu, was the main organiser, but Tony Goddard, playing at 3-dan (!), was the winner. Liming Wang, 1 dan, made his first recorded tournament appearance in Ireland as this event.  The tournament report claims that mortar fire was heard, but this is not supported by press reports from that day. Besides those listed in the tournament report, it is not clear who exactly was playing in the city of Belfast at that time. Paul Donnelly was working on a PhD at QUB under the title « Evolving Go Playing Strategy In Neural Networks », hence by association at the very least, computer science academics like Danny Crookes and Patrick Corr at least learnt about the game. From a brief conversation I had with one of the system administrators of said department, he remembers people playing in the department. Chess playing friends of Tony Goddard may also have learnt to play – for instance I know that a certain James O’Fee played the game, but I believe that he learnt of it independently.


In November the first Irish (Open) Handicap tournament was held at the Royal Dublin Hotel, and was won by John Gibson, who was then playing at 5-kyu. Unfortunately the turnout was relatively low, with only 7 players choosing to take part. Possibly this is a natural hazard with handicap Go tournaments, which somewhat pale in terms of prestige beside their regular fellows. There was an Irish Women’s title match as a result of an invitation to the Women’s World Amateur. This was won by Naomi Gibson, daughter to John, against Tara Mitchell. But she either had no interest, or no availability, to play in the tournament in Japan itself. Noel Mitchell was again the country’s representative at the World Amateur Go Championship, but he had an off year, scoring only 1 victory against Venezuela. The Irish Open was won by Taro Matsumoto, 3-dan, (yet) another Japanese player who helped to promote the game here. 1992 also saw a very important event indeed, in that the first rating list was published in September. Of course, as we all know, a rating list is second only to a crosstable in terms of importance.

Trinity Collegians Others
Noel Mitchell 1d Bernard Palmer 3k Mr Matsumoto 3d
Paul Atling 4k John Gibson 5k Mr Sasada 1d
Sean Mitchell 5k Mary Mulvihill 5k Aidan Murphy 3k
Paul Eustace 6k Chris Maguire 6k Padraig O’Hannelly 10k
Kevin Mitchell 6k Brian Gallagher 6k Henry Bacik 10k
Sam Freed 6k Chris Rafferty 7k Justin Wallace 12k
Tom Murphy 7k Eugene Mallon 11k  
Chris Mosurski 7k Mike Lyons 12k  
Montserrat Enrach 8k Inge Fischle 13k  
Paul Brennan 15k Tom Molloy 13k  
  Ger Whelan 17k  
  Eamonn Keogh 20k  

Here, we can make a slight pause to reveal the current location of some of these players. Mary Mulvihill is now running Ingenious Ireland. Henry Bacik , who is originally from Czechoslovakia, has now retired from Dundalk Tech were he was active in running a club. He no longer seems to play Go, but is quite active in other ways – sometimes politically. Eugene Mallon was a bookseller in Dublin  - shop now closed -and a cousin of the SDLP politician Seamus Mallon. This is not a great claim to fame, but it is noteworthy that Ira Einhorn, who was known to the authorities in the USA as the Unicorn Killer, has appropriated Eugene’s name by 1992. Around about 1985 Ira Einhorn had played Go in Ireland with John Gibson, Eugene Mallon, and the like, under the assumed name of Ben Moore. Attending the fledgling Go Club was actually partly what gave him away, and he had to flee Ireland after the feds caught on to his whereabouts. Ira was later arrested in rural France, and with some considerable amount of difficulty extradited back to the USA. Bernard Palmer and Eamonn Keogh are both still active in Irish Chess politics, an area which I would recommend others stay well clear of. John Kenny is now working in London at McAfee, and doesn’t play on the tournament scene any longer. Also happening in September was the Annual General Meeting of the Irish Go Association. Bernard Palmer was elected as Chairman, Noel Mitchell was elected as Secretary (he was formerly Public Relations Officer), Eugene Mallon was Treasurer and responsible for the Newsletter, and finally John Gibson took on the PRO post, with added responsibility for ratings and sponsorship.


By now, the national championship had been beefed up. Starting in November 1992, and running until January 1993, there was an 8 player championship league, to decide who would play (Noel) for the title. Bernard Palmer finished 6-1, ahead of Aidan Murphy 4-1, and Brian Gallagher on 5-2, and though not all games were finished, he was declared the winner and given the go ahead to start his final against Noel. Noel was too strong however, and won the final comfortably, by 2 games to nil during the month of February 1993. You can see one of their games here. At this stage he was now sporting the rank of 1-dan, thus claiming a place in history as the first Irish dan player.


The fourth Irish Open took place at the Royal Dublin Hotel in March 1993, where just 10 players fought over 3 rounds. Gerry Mills, a great supporter of the game in the UK and Ireland, came first on tiebreak. Second were C.Klawe (1d) and Noel Mitchell (1d). Sad news came in the form of the departure of Mr Sasada, who was involved in JETRO, and Mr T.Iwanami of the Japanese embassy – a long term friend of the IGA. This did not stop the publication of the next rating list, which looked slightly larger than before.

T.Matsumoto 3d A.Murphy 3k A.Walsh 8k G.Whelan 17k
J.Kim 1d J.Gibson 4k T.Molloy 10k E.Keogh 17k
C.Klawe 1d P.Atling 4k P O’Hannelly 10k D.MacBrien 17k
N.Mitchell 1d B.Gallagher 5k H.Bacik 10k N.Gray 17k
Dong-Dong Jia 1d C.Rafferty 5k E.Mallon 11k C.Dalton 17k
G.Mills 1d C.Maguire 5k M.Lyons 12k D.Foster 20k
B.Palmer 3k T.Murphy 7k J.Wallace 12k P.Brennan 20k

As we can see, there were now a growing number of dan level players; although Gerry Mills was not resident in Ireland of course. This led to the proposal of a top player round robin for the summer of 1993, but no details about such an event survive. Inter-club matches were also planned, but again, no records of these survive. What is recorded are the visit of Japanese professional player Hirano Masaaki 6-dan, who played simultaneous games with the locals in the Pembroke Inn. Mr Masaaki was accompanied by amateur 6-dan Dr  Satoshi Masaoka. Also visiting once again in July was Akihiro Kumagi 5-dan. Noel Mitchell again travelled to Japan for the World Amateur, where this year he made a better showing, picking up 3 wins this time.


In a less far flung location, Port Erin on the Isle of Man, John and Noel failed to win back the challenge shield at the Isle of Man Congress. Back in Dublin the Irish Open Handicap took place in November, but sadly only 8 players took part in this 6 round swiss. This sort of poor turnout was very sadly just the first of many in Dublin competitions. The winner, on tiebreak, was David Wickham. Stephen Flinter, who was playing his first tournament, was the man he edged out. John Gibson, the organiser, managed to gain third place. Also taking place in November was the next edition of the Irish Championship (93/94) for which a certain Stephen Flinter qualified. Noel Mitchell whitewashed the opposition, whilst John Gibson picked up 2nd place. Exactly who came third is not clear, since 1 game is missing from the last published table of results. Two games are available from the competition, Bernard -v John, and John -v- Noel in the final. Here is the rating list from February 1994, not that I like tables of information or anything.

T.Goddard 5d C.Rafferty 3k A.Walsh 5k T.Molloy 10k C.Dalton 17k
T.Matsumoto 3d A.Murphy 3k C.Maguire 7k M.Lyons 12k D.McBrien 17k
N.Mitchell 2d B.Palmer 3k T.Murphy 7k K.Maher 12k G.Whelan 17k
Mr Oh 1d S.Flinter 4k A.Brabazon 8k J.Wallace 12k D.Foster 19k
Dong-Dong Jia 1d P.Atling 5k R.Delhammeau 8k P.MacDonnell 14k J.McGrath 20k
G.Mills 1d B.Debains 5k P.O’Hannelly 8k N.Gray 16k N.Gibson 24k
J.Gibson 2k S.Mitchell 6k P.Brennan 10k E.Keogh 16k T.Mitchell 25k

The Irish Open saw a much stronger field than in previous years. A total of 25 players were participating in the competition. Tony Goddard came in first place, ahead of Cheng Gong (2-dan), T.Matsumoto (3-dan), Noel Mitchell (2-dan), Tony Atkins (2-dan), then Gerry Mills (1-dan). You can view the game between Tony and Noel here. August 94 saw a quick visit from 2 Chinese professionals (Wang Guanjun 8-pro and Chen Zhi Gang 6-pro) who were on a tour of Britain and Ireland. They played a series of teaching games with the local players in the Pembroke Inn, before going on a tour of Dublin. It appears that both were quite thirsty during their visit, as Bernard Palmer offered to be their guide. Chen Zhi Gang is from the Guang Dong province and is now the coach of the professional team Guang Zhong. Wang Guanjun is from the Henan province, and is chief coach of their professional team. It is sadly somewhat unlikely that their visit to Ireland helped them acquire these positions. October saw promotions to upcoming players for Stephen Flinter to 1-kyu, with Paul Donnelly and John Gibson reaching 2-kyu. Visiting player Mark Ivey won the Irish Open Handicap tournament. John Gibson was the nation’s representative at the WAGC, where he performed well to pick up 3 wins amongst the opposition. John qualified to play in the WAGC after the introduction of a rule to disallow the same player travelling to the WAGC twice in a row. In 1994, after John represented the nation, a new rule was introduced, the creation of the points system that still survives in its essential form today. This was to make sure that the strongest player wasn’t the only one to benefit from the formative experience of the WAGC, but rather that it was shared around more equally between the top players. Finally in 1994 there was a Collegians Club tournament. Although it is documented in newsletter 11, it is not really clear ( to me) what the result was.


In 1995 Ireland entered into the Grand Prix circuit of Europe, with the Irish Open being nominated as one of the events which would count towards Grand Prix points. The Irish Open had 34 players, which we can describe as a modest increase on the previous year. The calibre of player had certainly rachetted up a notch though. Matthew Macfadyen 6-dan came away with the title, ahead of Janusz Kraszek 5-dan – both former European Champions. Tony Goddard 5-dan, who was only a former runner-up in the European Championships, came third. There was also a shock as Stephen Flinter toppled the champion Noel Mitchell from his perch in this year’s championship, taking the final 2-0. The newsletter of the time reports that in the second game Noel buckled under the pressure of the Ing Timer beeps during yose. As we all know, the more Ing Timers you can hear in the endgame, the harder it is to concentrate. Paul Donnelly put in a good showing in the championship to come third.  In October there was also a 2 round handicap club tournament, which took place in the Pembroke Inn. This was kindly sponsored by Mr Oh, who treated the 6 attendees to a little feast there before the rounds. Winning the event was Chris Rafferty, with Bernard Palmer in second place. The Irish Open Handicap, in November, was won by Tony Goddard. It is likely that Tony Goddard left Northern Ireland shortly after this tournament as his contract at QUB had come to an end. Steve Flinter had the chance to make his first trip to the WAGC this year, and performed well to pick up 3 wins for Ireland. You can view one of his games on the IGA website (link to appear !)
The Irish Open was won in 1996 by Zhang Shutai 7-dan, a very strong chinese optician who was living in London. Stefan Budig won the 5 way tiebreak to come second, ahead of Liu Si Feng, Tony Atkins, then Noel Mitchell. Attendance sank somewhat to 28, despite this again being included in the European Grand Prix. Noel was Ireland’s representative in WAGC, and he picked up 4 wins – a record – which earned him 27th place. He played a teaching with the professional ‘referee’ Kobayashi Satoru, you can find this commented game in Go Weekly. Noel also regained the Irish Championship this year. 1996 saw a break in the Irish Open Handicap tournament, which now became part of the Irish Go Congress instead. The break was caused by a combination of problems with the venue, and continued low turnout. A handicap tournament, despite being pretty much unique in the British Isles, wasn’t proving to be a draw for the crowds.
There were no super strong players taking part in the 1997 Irish Open. Alistair Wall 4d picked up the title this year. He came ahead of David Ward, Des Cann, Tony Atkins, Steve Flinter, Baron Allday, John Gibson and Bernard Palmer. In the die hards Handicap tournament, which was played on Monday, Noel Mitchell won with 3/3, 1 point behind were John Gibson, Des Cann, Colin Adams, and Paul O’Gradaigh. In the Irish Championship Noel triumphed again, beating Steve Flinter in the final. Paul Donnelly came third, and travelled to the WAGC that year, were he picked up 3 wins, and took up residence in Japan for a while.
The Teachers’ Club in Parnell Square became the venue of the Irish Open in 1998. That year saw the tournament welcome 22 players, including Yuki Shigeno 2p, which combining the fact that it was in the European tour again, must be considered slightly low. Matthew Macfadyen 6d picked up the title again, edging out Christoph Gerlach 5d. Emil Nijhius 4d pushed Des Can aside on tiebreak to take third place. Scott Hopkins, who was a citizen of the USA, but living in Dublin, took home the Handicap title, which was again played on the Monday during the Congress. This was also the year in which the Collegians Go Club website was born on geocities, and its opening message reflected a truth of the day. « The Dublin Go Club Ireland’s premier (only?!) club  », for the sad truth was that by 1998 there were no other go clubs were meeting. Go had become resident only in Dublin city centre. Gone where the fledgling clubs in Belfast, Dundalk, and Trim. Let us hope that this is not a state of affairs that is returned to. On a brighter note, 1998 is also noteable for being the year in which the European Go Congress was awarded to Ireland for 2001. You can read more about that on the Special Events page.
So we move to the next year, 1999. The Irish Go Congress took place again at the Teachers’ Club, which was now to become its regular home, and was again part of the European Grand Prix. From a field of 34 players from 14 different nations, Matthew Macfadyen was again the winner, taking his third title. This time the next best in the field was the argentinian player Eduardo Lopez Hernandez. Andrew Grant picked up 3rd place on tiebreak. Dutchman Ruud Stoelmann took home the Handicap tournament crown. In the Irish championship, Noel Mitchell came out on top again, for the fourth year in a row. Stephen Flinter was the unlucky loser in second place. Brian Gallagher (1-kyu) finished in third place, with the new face of Aidan Egan (4-kyu) appearing in fourth spot. Noel Mitchell travelled to the WAGC in Oita, Japan, where he took 44th place with 3 wins from 8 games.
Matthew Macfadyen elected not to defend the Irish Open title in 2000, laying the field open. Richard Hunter (4-dan) who was then a resident of Japan, and of Cross-cut Workshop fame, won the event on tiebreak from Des Cann (4-dan). Noel Mitchell finished in 11th place, meaning that for the first time no locals placed in the top 10. The turnout was a respectable 31 players. In the Irish Championship, Steven Flinter finally picked up his second title, besting Noel in the final – proving that it isn’t only musicians who suffer from the difficult second album syndrome. Brian Gallagher finished in third again. Steve also travelled to the WAGC, where he managed 3 wins in all to pick up 46th place.
The 2001 Irish Open was a small scale affair, undoubtably because most people decided to visit Ireland for the European Go Congress in July and August rather than the Irish Open in March. Gerry Mills took first place in a field of 16 players, thus picking up his second Irish Open title. Noel Mitchell lost out to Gerry on tiebreak, but must have been pleased to finish in second, having not reached such a high position since 1990. In the Irish Championship Noel took back his title, beating Steve Flinter in the final. Chris Rafferty gained the third place. The European Go Congress was a great success for Irish Go, although inevitably some people whined about various things. Andrei Kulkov, a 6-dan from Russia, was the surprise winner of the event. My former classmate Brian Kelly, who happens to be an Irish Chess Champion and an International Chess Master, entered his first Go tournament in 2001. (I sometimes wonder who else I might know from school who went on to play the game.) He sported the rank of 15-kyu, and seems to have picked up the game from his time near Epsom when he worked as an actuary. After two more tournaments he seems to have quit the game, before ever having played in Ireland – indeed, he did not respond to an invitation to the Top 8 qualifiers. On the international scene, Brian Gallagher made his first trip overseas to represent us at the WAGC, picking up a decent 3 wins to take 47th place.
Of course, after the highpoint of the European Go Congress, it is somewhat inevitable that there will a lull in activity. The 2002 Irish Open then saw the modest figure of 24 players taking part. Winner was Toby Manning (3-dan), a full point clear of Michael Marz (3-dan) in second place, who although a German, was probably still living in the UK at that point. In third place was Stephen Flinter, who gathered more SOS than his fellow tied competitors, including last year’s winner Gerry Mills. Gerry Mills, after winning the event twice very charitably bought a cup for the winner of the Irish Open. The Irish national title was again won by Noel Mitchell, who again beat Stephen Flinter in the final. John Gibson travelled to Japan for the WAGC, where he netted 2 wins for 57th place. I am not sure who was responsible for the following statistics, but they offer up some insight into the activity of the Association for the period of 2001 and 2002. Note that the figures exclude the European go Congress. Irish Go was played primarily in the pub of an evening. Venues such as the Teachers’and Engineers’ Clubs allowed for teaching and outreach sessions to be given. The support from the Japanese embassy is clearly marked by his invitation towards the club to play at his residence. What a creditable asset a playing diplomat is to the game! We can also see that the composition of players was very international. In Ireland, a very large minority of players were not Irish, they were immigrants. Whether or not they were there in the short term, or in the long term, they were welcomed into the small community we had. In terms of the addicts, John Gibson was clearly at the top, tirelessly promoting and playing the game. Arthur Cater and Olivier Deme emerge in 2002, who were also to be very committed players and organisers. Tom McNally I only know of through Dragon Go Server, I simply haven’t seen him playing in real life whilst I have been active.
Sessions 2001 2002
Collegians Chess and Go Club (Pembroke) 93 96
(Col) Maguires (on Bank Holiday) 4 4
Teachers Club 2 4
Japanese Ambassador’s Residence 1 1
Engineers’ Club (Irish Chinese Cultural Society) 0 1
Provost House 1 0
30 Lakelands Park 1 0
Total 102 106
Player Visits 2001 2002
Total 79(708) 87(886)
Top Eight 8(305) 8(281)
Non-Irish Residents 26(268) 29(434)
Other Irish 27(101) 28(131)
Non-Irish Visitors 18(34) 20(40)
Top 10 Attenders 2001 2002
1 John Gibson 88 John Gibson 94
2 Tom McAnally 61 Olivier Deme 62
3 Joerg Abendroth 59 Artur Cater 58
4 Noel Mitchell 44 Tom McAnally 54
5 Aidan Walsh 43 Matthew Bentot 50
6 Stephen Flinter 42 John Leuner 45
7 Frederic Mircovic 38 Aidan Walsh 44
8 Brian Gallagher 35 Bernard Palmer 36
9 Kiriyama Koji 31 Noel Mitchell 35
10 Bernard Palmer 21 Stephen Flinter 32
In 2003 Ireland had the good fortune to receive an invitation to the International Amateur Pair Go Championships. Of course, Pair Go didn’t exist in our country, but according to the points system devised by the European Go Federation, we got an invite to the championships anyway. The good luck stopped there. Bernard Palmer and Margaret McGaley were the representatives chosen to travel to the IAPGC. I believe that they may have won a play-off game to get the ticket. Calamity followed as Mags lost her passport in Frankfurt Airport in deepest Germany. Bernard continued on alone, and ended up being provided with a male partner from Germany. This seems a little odd to me, given the number of Japanese women at the event. Funnily enough though, the partner was Guido Tautorat, whose game against Andrei Kulkov is presented in the EGC report.
Meanwhile, the regular events were all still happening. The Irish Championship was won again by Noel Mitchell, who in a repeat of last year, beat Stephen Flinter in the final. The Irish Open was won by Marco Firnhaber, a 5-dan who travelled from Germany for the event. 1 point behind him was Vladimir Danek 6-dan from the Czech Republic. Manchester’s Dan Gilder shared third place with Chen Mingyou. Roger Daniel took the Irish Handicap title. Chris Rafferty represented Ireland internationally at the International World Amateur Baduk Championship, which replaced the WAGC that year due to the SARS epidemic. Chris is a man that I think is always good conversation, which is how I know he landed the following choice phrase on one of the participants (quite probably deservedly – but who knows!?) « you’re a gobshite, and if you don’t know what that is, you can look it up in the dictionary. » I’ll buy a pint for whoever can guess who was the recipient of that one. :) Results wise, Chris picked up 2 wins for 49th place.
So ends our account of 2003, and so thus must we also end this section covering the ancient history of Go on the island of Ireland. As a summary, we note a few little key pieces of information.
  • To date, the following locations in Ireland are known to have had a club: Belfast, Bray, Cobh, Cork, Drogheda, Dublin, Limerick, Maynooth, Trim
  • Trinity College Dublin housed the first Go Club
  • The Irish Go Association was founded in 1989
  • Isao Toshima won the first tournament held in Ireland in 1990
  • The Irish Championship has been run since 1990
  • The first Irish player to claim the dan rank was Noel Mitchell, claiming said title in late 1992, early 1993
  • First European Grand Prix event in 1995

Page last updated on 1st of September 2015

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Personal History

Posté par northlecale le 13 avril 2014

I learnt to play Go somewhere around 1998, while studying physics at university. That is not to say that the game was on the curriculum, but rather that I happened across it there during the course of everyday life. My initial level of skill at the game was really rather poor indeed, although I imagine that this is the case for most beginners. In my case however, I probably persisted in remaining between 30-25-kyu for about 4 years; although as you will see, there were some mitigating factors there. Turning up at the Go club in Durham meant emailing a postgrad to ask which lunchtime would suit him. I was given a date and advised to learn how to play before attending. In order to learn the rules, I remember reading the basic tutorial on the britgo website. That website was quite the veritable gold mine of information, containing amongst other things, the rules, a list of downloadable opponents, and a list of all the clubs in the British Isles. From the latter, it is quite possible that I learnt that a club existed in Dublin at this time, but I can’t be 100% certain of that. Even if I had learnt of it, I certainly had no real desire or inclination to travel to the birthplace of Irish Go. Firstly I was very much focused on Chess at that time, and secondly to visit Dublin wasn’t so easy when you were a poor little student. After a fair few months of playing, I quit Go, obstensibly to concentrate on my studies. The highlight of this first foray into Go had been a trip to the Newcastle club, which met in John Hall’s flat. It was stuffed full of piles of old computer magazines, and had over 6 people playing the game, one of whom taught me something useful.

The next time I played any Go was at home in Northern Ireland, in the summer between universities – Durham and Queens. This short spell lasted a week at most, and solely consisted of a few little games on Yahoo! Go , all of which confirmed that I was at most about 25 kyu and still had very little skill at the game after a year long break. It was not until I arrived at Cambridge University, over a year later, that I actually started to learn the game properly. At some point there, I remember looking at the IGA’s website and competition records and actually selecting a target of 2-kyu as an ambition. According to my research, the level of 2-kyu would have been good enough to allow me to compete for 3rd place in the nation, and thus seemed to me to be a respectable goal. Here there was an echo back to my days as a Chess player at Methody (Methodist College Belfast), where I had never risen above board 3 on the first team. By the way, I should mention that that reaching the level of 15-kyu had been my initial target. It seems funny now, but I chose that because it seemed to be a level that would mark a general understanding of the game. I slipped past the rank of 15-kyu too easily though, and chose the aforementioned marker as a replacement. I suppose that it is true to say that the selection of 2-kyu was truly the first genuine connection I ever made with Irish Go. For at that moment the dream of playing in the Irish Championship slipped into my imagination for just the shortest of moments.

Some names of players from that period, in a list which is by no means exhaustive, but whom I especially remember for some particular reason

After the  relatively short period in Cambridge, I then returned to live in Northern Ireland, entering into what was a somewhat difficult period in my life. Being unemployed and without a Go club to visit, I played only online on KGS, with the diversification of Chess at Fisherwick. Actually I combined both one night, when a tourist from Belgium passed through the city. In 2004 I took part in my first Irish Go Congress, which takes place at the Teachers’ Club in Dublin. My debut in the rapid was pretty disasterous, for I arrived late, and then I managed to spill my beer in the time scramble. In my defence this wasn’t a skill I was familiar with yet. The placement of the pint glass is very important when playing, especially with blitz given the sharper movements that it requires. Better still is not to take a pint at all when you’re playing blitz, but I was young and headstrong then. The main tournament saw me scoring a reasonable 3 wins out of 5 from my entry grade of 5-kyu. In the first round I lost to Olivier Deme (4-kyu), I think this was my first and final loss to him. Then I lost to Ralf Neitzke (5-kyu), a german living in Dublin, who was very impressed at how I tried to win, despite it being impossible. In round 3 I recovered to beat another German living in Dublin – yes, there are a lot of them – Joerg Abendroth (5-kyu). My last two games were handicapped, against Rory Wales (9-kyu) and Arthur Cater (11-kyu). This 3/5 result appeared to be good enough for me to compete in the qualifying heats for the Irish Championship League, for I was informed that I would be able to do just that the following year. The winner of that year’s Irish Open was Toshio Nishimura, who was a fairly quiet man from Japan, and was clearly on holiday in Ireland. He celebrated his victory with a pint, his first pint that is, of Guinness after the final round. There was a big tie for second place, on top of which was Stephen Flinter. The turnout was a modest 26 players. Later that year, Noel Mitchell again won the national championship, beating Stephen Flinter in the final. Noel also travelled to Japan for the World Amateur Go Championship, he scored 4 wins from 8 to finish in 36th place. The tally of 4 wins is still the highest achieved by an Irish player in the WAGC.

As part of the 2005 qualifying cycle then, I was drawn against Paul Brennan, who I believe does something around medicine in Cardiff. I am not sure if he is playing Go anymore, but he certainly was then. Paul was around 2-kyu, and had a lot more experience than myself. So given that I was weaker on paper, I certainly expected to lose my qualifying match that year; but in fact I won by a very small margin. Possibly this is because the game was played through computers, which I always feel brings out the blunders in older players. If you manage to download that game from the archives, you can see that Paul drops one or two computer clangers in the course of the game. Still, I certainly couldn’t help that. Fresh from this victory, I then started out in the league  proper, with the stated aim of avoiding being outright last by winning at least 1 game from the 7. This I did, for over the course of about 6 trips to Dublin, I managed to pick up 4 wins in all. I suppose it helped that at this time I was improving quite quickly, was probably more motivated than my opposition, and was very active. An active player is normally tactically sharper than an inactive one, so being sharp probably allowed me to exploit some slackness brought on by rust and overconfidence. Against Noel and Steve, I was effectively badly crushed, the gap in our ability was very evident at that time. Nevertheless, I was overjoyed by managing to emerge in 3rd place in such an event. Actually, in terms of surprises, you can probably say that I repeated the result of Olivier Deme, who also gained the same placing the previous year on his first run in the Top 8. Playing in the Top 8 (inevitably) involved several trips down to Dublin to play of a night in the Pembroke Inn. The interior of the bar was designed by John Gibson, and gave quite a nice atmosphere for your games. The room had several levels. In 2 corners, on either side of the bar itself, there were raised decks which were illuminated in green lamplight. I had always wanted to play one of my games in this setting, but nobody else was ever interested in playing up there. All the games were played on the other side of the room, at the tables on either side of the long wooden rail, which practically ran the whole way from the doorway to the far end of the room. Sadly, the Pembroke Inn is no longer in use, having closed its doors during the depression of the tobacco famine, so I will never realise this little ambition to play under a green light.

The Irish Open of 2005 was quite a success for me. As I had mentioned, I had been improving quite a bit (although not astronomically you understand), and thus entered at 3-kyu, two ranks higher than the previous year. I managed to win all my games, including two against dan players: Gerry Mills(1-dan), and Jens Andersch (1-dan). At the time that really felt like quite a scalp. To obtain victory over not just 1 dan player, but 2 dan players, means that you begin to dream about reaching that mythical dan rank. The tournament included what is termed as a double header – which is an Irish Open game which was also a Top 8 game. It was against Brian Gallagher, who wasn’t sure if I was from Ireland or not, but I was able to reassure him on that matter. It was a fairly tight game, but I managed to battle through to victory. Knowing what to do in the endgame assured me of a good few wins in those days. The winner of the event was Yung Chen, a strong 1-kyu from China who was studying somewhere in Dublin. Stephen Flinter was again the top placed local, managing fifth place. Yung Chen managed to beat me in the last round of the rapid tournament, which caused me to lose out on SOS in a 3-way tie at the top. I was a bit bitter about that at the time, having been in the lead right up to the final round, but you just have to accept the fate that the great tiebreaker-goat in the sky deals down to you.

Around late 2005  a gentleman from Galati, Romania arrived to work in Belfast at the very same company as myself. He was a Go player too, which made the whole thing an insanely improbable coincidence. My first thought on reading the email announcing his arrival was that this was a wind up, but it wasn’t a joke, it was completely real. I think at around this time I started to take some lessons from Cristian Pop. So this created something of an educational greenhouse for us both. We moved up the ranks, and even began teaching new players in the club in-house in work. I could list out various names from the club whom I played with during the period in Belfast, but most of their names are recorded in the EGD‘s tournament records. One thing I do remember, is playing a guy from Greenland, who was over on holiday in the province. I think that this may have been a first, as Go is not yet really established in their country.

In 2006 I got exactly the same result as before in the Top 8, beating all the fellow kyu players, but losing to the dan players. That was the year that Ka Chun Leung stopped playing, one of the few compatriots I would see playing on KGS in those days. I seem to remember that he had tallied up the number of games he had played on the internet, and decided that it was best to be doing something else with his life now. The Irish Open, which took place in March, was won by InSeong Hwang, who having once been a trainee pro, was simply head and shoulders above everyone else in the tournament. He found the fact that I lost against Kate (Zhong Nam) Yu pretty funny. I was reviewing the game, and had gotten up to about move 70 or so. On seeing the position, he asked me pointedly « How can you lose this? » – of course the answer is that I was still weak. Kate Yu has studied in a Go School as a child, whilst she may have forgotten most of her fuseki, once she started the combat, I just crumbled. I took home a 3/5 score at an entry grade of 2-kyu, a reasonable result. Noel Mitchell, who generally says he finds a 5 round weekender pretty tiring, was the best local, edging himself into 5th place. 2006 was the first year with Olivier Deme as congress organiser.


In the summer, Belfast Go Club took part in the BGA’s Go Week – you can see above a few pictures of us playing in somebody’s communal garden in work. Most of the players here are from Poland, and I believe that one of them was one of the early drivers in their association, he told us that he was partly responsible for making one of the first available commercial Go sets there. I think that I also took part in the Q-Con that summer, with a little stand for the Go club. It is one of those enormous conventions that gamers, cosplayers, and the ilk go to – very little interest for Go there though. After the summer had passed, I was  lucky enough to trot off to Korea to play in their version of the World Amateur Go Championships. The Korea Prime Minister’s Cup is played at faster time limits than the World Amateur Go Championship. At that time there were the separate domains of KABA (Korean Amateur Baduk Association) and the IGF (which was pretty much controlled by the Nihon Kiin), things have changed in the international domain now though. This competition was playing in Jeonju, which is the hometown of Lee Chang Hao. It was a remote enough place in the countryside, which had 1 sole bar about 5 minutes walk from the hotel. Geoff Kaniuk and Tony Atkins, two players I knew from the UK, had been invited there, basically to run the draw. Cristian Pop was also playing in the competition, he being my teacher at that time. I also ran into players like Hatime Araki and Farid Ben Malek, who I now have the chance to see if I visit my local club. I had a decent enough showing there, beating Columbia, Madagascar and Cyprus, although I was pretty gutted to lose to South Africa in the last round. A win would have given me my ambition/target of a 50:50 performance. It was an instructive introduction to the demands of international competition. I learnt that it really does pay to be prepared for the event, and it is important to remain focused during the tournament. Some of my fellow competitors spent time running round the hotel at 3:00am knocking on doors, or dripping soju all night – enjoyable, but not perhaps so productive. All in all it was a great experience. Back home in Ireland, I had also begun trying to organise more Go events. This year I launched the first online competition on Dragon: a 9 by 9 knock-out tournament. It took almost 2 years to complete! I believe that I also joined the IGA committee in 2006, such was their hunger for organisers.

2007 was the year I first won the title. In retrospect the victory could be considered slightly sour due to not playing the final against Noel, and Terrence not finishing all his games properly. Well that was something I couldn’t help happening, but it did spur me on to  improve the Top 8 rules. The matchplay final was against two-times champion Steve Flinter, and included an amusing illegal move take-back on his part during game 1. If you’ve never had somebody take a stone off the board that still has liberties, just trust me on this, it’s quite an experience, and the ticking clock and dumbfounded spectators really add to the moment. Of course, this was nothing malicious on the part of Steve, who was obviously a bit gobsmacked at the mistake he’d made. The Irish Open also went well for me, I entered at 1-kyu and scored my highest ever position of 5th place, more than anything this was due to the lack of strong opposition. D.K.Kim, a Korean player living in Dublin took home the title; he is one of those few players who are known only by their initials rather than their full name. 2007 was also the year of the first Belfast Tournament, for which Tibi secured the services of Catalin Taranu (professional 5 dan). It was held in the Catalyst Arts Centre, before its extensive renovation took place. 22 players took part, which was a great success for our club. I actually managed to win the tournament, but basically only because it was a rapid. With more time, Noel Mitchell would probably have destroyed me in the final round. Gerry Mills, who was a great supporter of Go in Ireland, came with a huge bookstall to the Belfast Tournament. Catalin Taranu was giving simultaneous games whilst the main rounds were in progress, and then also a commentary on the final game (what a piece of work this game was!) It was a very happy moment for me, and I hope for others. The only sad note there was that it marked the last appearance of Eamon Sloan, hailing from somewhere around Castlewellan. I’d first come across him  playing on KGS, and being already at 3-kyu, he was clearly a talent. I have no idea why he suddenly decided to quit after his first and only tournament. Possibly having arrived at university, he decided that he had no more time for the game. You can see Eamon in the picture below, watching Catalin playing a move against Olivier Deme.

Catalin giving a simul

Scene from Belfast Tournament

An ambition can be a great motivation for a player. After winning the title in 2007, I experienced a terrible emotion I had first felt in 1995. That year, I was part of a team which just won everything that was going in the School Chess circuit. We started with victory in the Ulster Schools Cup, then followed that with the Irish Schools and Colleges championship, which involved a mammoth trek down to Cork in the school minibus. Then the jewel in the crown was the Times School’s Cup – which sadly I don’t think even exists anymore. After a regional qualifier, this then involved a series of telephone matches, then a trip over to London by plane for the finals. Victory brought a sum total of 3 celebratory receptions, and a silly little piece on Ulster TV. The whole euphoria around it just triggered something in me, and I remember standing in my bedroom thinking to myself, « Well that’s it, I don’t have anything else to do, I don’t want to play anymore. » It was a pretty dark thought, but it returned to me in 2008 – which all in all, I would characterise as a pretty dark year for my Go. I guess I am not alone in suffering from this emotion. Once you realise your ambition, however small it is in reality, you sometimes have trouble seeing exactly what is next.
  IrishOpen IrishRapid Irish.Title Belfast Online 9×9
2004 Toshio Nishimura Dan Gilder Noel Mitchell    
2005 Yung Chen Tony Atkins Noel Mitchell    
2006 In Seong Hwang Ian Davis Noel Mitchell    
2007 DK Kim Roman Pszonka Ian Davis Ian Davis Claas Roever
Strangely enough, in contrast, Go in Ireland was looking very healthy in 2008. By this time I was now President of the Irish Go Association, although this is no indication that I was somehow responsible for this state of affairs. We have already mentioned that Belfast was blooming, but we were also seeing green shoots in Galway and Cork, with student filled clubs. You may have noticed, just above this text, a small table, giving the list of tournament winners in our country. Bearing in mind that the Irish Rapid is only a side event, you can see that up until 2007, there was a distinct lack of a real tournament scene in our island. In 2008 that changed completely.
In 2008 we had tournaments at UCC/Cork, Galway, and Belfast; then in  addition there was the KGS-online tournament, together with the standard Irish Go Congress and National Championship packages. It was something of a sea change in activity for the game here. That year I played a mixture of arrogant and negative Go, and had depressingly bad results as a direct consequence. I was nonetheless very enthusiastic about the game in our country. Everything looked to be in great shape. In Cork we had Lukasz Blek, Terrence McSweeney, Justyna Kleczar, Wei Wang, Cao Tongyu, Wenzhi Liang- then in Galway Daniel and Claas, the usual crowd in Dublin, and in Belfast we had James Hutchinson now, who was clearly working his way up through the ranks.  The year started with the University Rapid in Cork, won by Wei Wang, who beat probably his only potential rival in the field of 18 players, Cao Tong Yu, in the first round. Sadly, neither myself, nor anyone else from Belfast made it down to that one, but James Hutchinson did drive his brother and I to the Galway tournament. There  I learned that Terrence was clearly stronger than me now, although not invincible, as his local rival, Lukasz Blek, upended him in the finish. In Dublin, at the Irish Open, Cho Seokbin (7-dan), another former Korean trainee professional took the title. His main rival there was Ondrej Silt (6-dan), a former trainee professional from the Czech Republic, but Seokbin dispatched him in the first round and went on to win the Open. Wenzhi Liang (1-kyu) from Cork was a surprising 3rd place with 4 wins from 5,  finishing just behind Ondrej on SOS. Having lost against Wei Wang in the first round, he had a combination of a good draw and good play to take third place, gaining victory over former champion D.K. Kim in the third round, and then over Terrence McSweeney in the final round. Terrence and Wei took places 4 and 5 respectively, with Noel Mitchell back in 6th, in a SOS staircase that traced all the way back to 10th place, which I took for myself. Back home at the Belfast tournament, the numbers were down, but the competition was fierce. This year we had moved inland, to Belfast Boat Club, which was the home of the Belfast Go club at that stage, on the edge of the university quarter. The studious australian student Yohei Negi was brutally, and I mean brutally, run out of time by Daniel Paraschiv; so that they ended up sharing the laurels. I have to admit that this was possibly my fault, as I set the time limits for the event. Of course this behaviour is completely standard in a lot of other games, it seems to be only in Go that we developed a fledgling sense of morality about this. Leaving these musings aside, the table below should let you see the increase in activity we had over this period – the number in brackets represents the number of competitors. We can probably name this period as a celtic tiger, when compared to the years before.
Year UCC Galway Dublin Belfast Internet/Interpro
2008 Wei Wang (18) Lukasz Blek (18) Seokbin Cho (56) Yohei Negi , Daniel Paraschiv (14) Claas Roever (16)
2009 Wei Wang (18) not held In Seong Hwang (44) Matt Crosby(17) Connaught
2009 Wei Wang (18) - - - -
2008 was also my first, and so far only, trip to the World Amateur in Japan, where I recorded basically the exact same result as I had made in Korea. Again, a bitter loss in the final round haunted me somewhat, as I overdosed on cups of green tea, and became progressively more furious at seeing myself inevitably lose by 1.5 points. The first World Mind Sports Games also took place this year in China, only John Gibson was able to go over to represent us - some countries got a bit carried away and sent teams of about 30 people to the event. I’m not sure why they felt it was so important to go in such numbers, but by all accounts the event was very enjoyable. The year 2008 ended with two championship events. The traditional end of year final saw Claas Roever keeping the Irish title out of the hands of Noel Mitchell, in a close fought 2-1 match. Meanwhile, the Irish Ladder, which was instituted by Olivier Deme to replace the qualifier matches, saw its to become traditional end of year scramble for position, which saw Tongyu Cao taking top spot.
In 2009 I started my project of an IGA newsletter, which I managed to keep going until the middle of 2011. It was a modest venture featuring news/tournament reports, game reviews, book/software reviews, and (of course)an obligatory tsumego. All but a few of the articles there were written by myself. So the project was almost a 1 man show at some points, which makes me wonder in retrospect if it generated that much appreciation or interest amongst the community. The tournament calendar started with the UCC tournament, which by now had gained a reputation as a harbinger of natural disasters. (See Cork floods of 2008.) This time we had severe gales, which saw us basically ejected from the tournament venue due to safety concerns. This led to a frankly beautiful round by candlelight in a nearby bar. I mean honestly, how many of you have ever played round 3 in a bar by candlelight? By the way, the bar in question was called the Thirsty Scholar.
Wei Wang by Candlelight

UCC tournament by Candlelight


I caught the flu before the 2009 Irish Open, but like a trooper, or probably more accurately, like a right banana, I went down and played the tournament anyway. I like to believe that the 1 aspro-clear per round I ingested showed my  professional dedication to the game, but my actual results seemed to disagree somewhat.The tournament was basically a duel between the two korean insei, InSeong Hwang and Chimin Oh, the former proving the stronger. My form recovered a little in the Top 8, where I managed to squeeze my way into the final. Since Claas was on a sabatical in New Zealand at the time, quite unusually the entire final was played over the internet. Around this time I quit my job in Belfast and moved to another one in the wilds of Letterkenny. A fond memory of this final has to be sitting in the internet room of the NW snooker club, freezing my ass off, my only company 3 old boys playing poker, and playing out the last game in the final there against Claas Roever. On winning I triumphantly went out to buy a bag of chips to celebrate. Seriously, what else? This was a true representation of the glamour of the game in our country! (To be fair there isn’t that much to eat in Letterkenny after midnight.) 2009 was also the year that Karl Irwin turned up at Belfast, usually with his mate Bobby. He was a strong chess player at MCB, a little like myself. For a while we had an enlivened atmosphere at the club, as we approached a decent number of players on Monday nights.

What else happened in 2009? I took the decision to replace the Irish Online Knockout title, with an interprovincials title. It seemed like a reasonable idea to me, because all sports in Ireland have a club > interprovincial > national hierarchy. Indeed, in its first year it was quite  a little success. John Gibson, with some dubious claim about an aunt, worked his way into the Connaught side, who edged out my own Ulster team in the finals. We had a second tournament in UCC Cork, which Wei Wang won again. This tournament marked the first appearance of Gavin Rooney, then 4-kyu, who gained 1/3, missing the final 2 rounds. In the Belfast Open Matt ‘KyuT’ Crosby beat Andrew Simons to take the winner’s purse. The sad note of this year was the loss of two players. Olivier Deme stopped playing and organising this year.As legend has it, he stormed out of the Pembroke after John Gibson ripped him off. His legacy was the Irish Ladder tournament ‚ which by now was working well as a replacement to the old challenge match qualifying system for the Top 8. Tongyu Cao won the ladder again this year, defending his roost with acclaim on KGS. Brian Gallagher, after representing us in Japan, basically just stopped playing completely. The reason, so I gathered, was a spot of domestic turbulence. Organisationally, we had yet another shambolic sort of Top 8. Yet again, the competition dragged on for ever, and a large part of the games were left unplayed. We should be clear that this disorganisation was certainly nothing new, which probably allows us to say that it made the situation all the worse. So one of the final acts of the year was to introduce a kick-off weekend for the Top 8. This introduced a face to face event where 4 matches would be played by each player. This wasn’t a new idea of course, some of the first championships had been organised in exactly that same way.

2010 was then something of a fresh start for the Irish Championship. Noel Mitchell, who is a star at this kind of thing, organised a conference room for us at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin. This was a great venue to play the event in: good lighting, stable tables, plenty of space, no background noise. I think everyone really enjoyed it. Ungratefully, I tricked Noel in a ko fight, to exit the weekend in a 4/4 triumph, along with James Hutchinson. Then, after a quick finish to the remaining games in the Top 8, we waited about 6 months to finally play the final, which I won, thus claiming my 3rd and so far final Irish title. Elsewhere, the Irish Open was won by Ondrej Silt; Wei Wang being again unable to dislodge him from the top spot. David Phillips won the Belfast Open, despite dropping his final round game to Colin MacSweeny. James Hutchinson took home second place on SOS. Willem Koen-Pomstra won the UCC tournament, beginning a reign of Dutch dominance in the event. He proved too strong for Tong-Yu, who picked up yet another second place finish in the event. There was sadly no Galway tournament this year. King of the Irish Ladder in 2010 was Colin MacSweeny. Internationally, I trained very hard for my second appearance in the KPMC, playing a series of 25 minute absolute time limit games on KGS in preparation. It paid off for me, as despite terrible jetlag again, I managed to get a 4/8 result, which saw me in 25th place, and 1st place from the second group. Interestingly enough, or worryingly enough depending on how you look at it, I experienced first hand here the medical condition of fatigue memory loss. At one point, sat in the playing room next to Piers (Poker) Shepperson, we were discussing something about the previous evening, neither of us could remember exactly what had happened such was our zombie like state. Where had we gone to eat last night? Absolutely no idea. Of course, being woken up at 3:00am in the morning by fire alarms and prank calls on previous nights didn’t exactly help. John Gibson represented Ireland at the World Amateur Go Championship, picking up 2 wins from 8. As a final note for the year, 2010 was the start of the European Team Championships. Ireland entered a team into this, at times torturous, event. So far we have been stuck in Division C. Personally, and this is a personal history, since I have never really rated this competition, I don’t intend to document it here. If you want to know the details, you can look here or here to find the information you are looking for.

2011 started with the kick-off weekend for the Top 8, which was again held at the Burlington Hotel courtesy of Noel Mitchell’s organisational abilities. James Hutchinson and myself dominated the event, taking 4 wins apiece. I seem to remember that James actually lost to Claas on time, whilst about 100 points ahead on the board, but Claas resigned post result. Imagine the fuss that would cause in some events. Somewhat naughtily, John Gibson didn’t appear on the first day, spending the day at work instead. After the remainder of the games were played, the final turned out to be a repeat of last year’s – James against myself. The next event played was the Irish Go Congress, which was again a Pandanet European Cup event. Antii Tormanen (6-dan) and Wei Wang (7-dan) tied for first place, in what was a very competitive field. Pavol Lisy (5-dan), edged out Ondrej Silt (6-dan) on tiebreak for 3rd place. Gavin Rooney (2-dan) was best of the locals, taking 8th place on tiebreak. I managed an unremarkable 2/4 result, for 14th place, taking time out in round 1 to broadcast one of the games on IGS. The Galway tournament was popular, with 24 players taking part. Justyna Kleczar proved too strong for the field, picking up 4/4, Rory Wales finished in second place. Two novices from the Belfast club took part – the Crossthwaites, a father and son combination. Both picked up a 50% score, suggesting 15k and 20k were suitable ranks and thus that sometimes I can guess people’s ranks correctly. I didn’t make it that year, going to a stag party instead in England. From England came the winner of the Belfast Open that same year. Out of a field of 23 players Andrew Simons (3-dan) took first place, ahead of Matthew Crosby (3-dan). I again sat out the tournament as I made the draw by hand, eschewing the labours of technology. UCC was disaster free this year, and won by a player from the Netherlands again. Kim Ouweleen (3-dan) took first place with 5/5. He is currently running the website badukmovies with Peter Brouwer. I managed to take second place on SOS from a certain Matei Garcia (4-kyu) who had 5 wins compared to my 3, underlining the evil nature of ranks in Spain. Then the final event of the year was the Irish Final, despite taking a lead, I ended up losing to James 2-1. I seem to have a problem playing against his style these days, maybe playing about 100 handicap games against him over the years has something to do with it!? It is nice to see a clubmate you played on 9 stones taking the national title though, the Japanese call that repaying a debt. In the Irish Ladder, whose popularity was waning, the year ended with Roman Pszonka climbing to the highest rung. Internationally, James Hutchinson travelled to the WAGC, taking 4/8 in Japan for a strong 36th place. At the other major international event, in Korea, the KPMC, Rory Wales scored 3/6 for 49th place, rather good for a debut.

2012 was to be the last year in which I was actually resident in Ireland. The year began with the kick-off weekend for the Top 8, for which we had some new entrants. Firstly we had Justyna Kleczar, who became the first woman to qualify for the championship cycle. Then we had Tiberiu Gociu, giving Belfast 3 players out of 8. Lastly we had Roman Pszonka, who had been a 4-dan at his peak. He had been living in Ireland for 5 years, and was thus now eligible to enter the competition. James Hutchinson beat him after Roman Pszonka basically fell asleep in the game. For those of us who don’t resign when behind, these gifts happen from time to time, a simple tactic you noted 100 moves ago slips out of the amateur mind, and bang go 50 points. I finished the weekend with just 2 points, which was frankly disappointing. Despite recovering somewhat to end with 5/7, I still lost the tiebreaker with James Hutchinson, who would go on to play Roman Pszonka in the final, which would now habitually take place at the very last moment possible in the year, perhaps out of some hidden sense of snideness toward the ruthless efficiency now present in the Top 8. The Irish Open found a new sponsor in the shape of the Confucius Institute of Ireland, which is headed by Dr Liming Wang. Champion of the 48 player field was the thoroughly nice guy Csaba Mero (6-dan), who held off Guochen Xie (6-dan) to take the title. Kim Ouweleen (3-dan) edged out student Chu Lu (4-dan) to take 3rd place. Gavin Rooney (2-dan) finished in 6th place. After their game, Csaba remarked to him that he must be the Irish Champion/strongest player in Ireland, to which Gavin agreed, although I did interject to point out that he never turned up to play in the Championship. There was to be more truth in that than I thought. My open performance in the tournament was a fairly mediocre 2/5 for 10th spot, to be honest, I think I missed out on something in my game with Gavin. Next up was Galway, for which I was sadly not present. The main reason being that I had moved to France to start working there instead. Notably this year it was a handicap swiss, something that hadn’t been seen in Ireland since the days of the Irish Handicap in 199?. Kim Ouweleen (3-dan) won the tournament, beating his girlfriend, Justyna Kleczar, into second place. At the Belfast Open, Laurens Spijker (2-dan) from the Netherlands was the champion, establishing an almost complete dominance of our local tournaments by the orange land. I popped back from France to play on the first day only, allowing me the time to make a narrow loss to Laurens. Claas Roever took second place in the end, on tiebreak. The Ladder, which was fairly lifeless, was won by James Hutchinson, but Roman Pszonka won the Championship proper, although somewhat disappointingly it was all played out over the internet, on KGS. Internationally we had a pretty vibrant year. After a difficult search for a workable location, the second World Mind Sports Games took place in Lille, Ireland had a 3 man team there of myself,  James Hutchinson, and Rory Wales. Sometimes your tournament is all about the draw, and the WMSG was a fine example of this for me. Round 1 was against the UK (their first team to be precise) and on Board 1 I was facing Matthew Cocke (5-dan). If I had played board 2 against Vanessa Wong, I am quite sure she would have annihilated me. Somehow I managed to beat Matthew by 1.5 points, mostly after some insipid play on his part. Round 2 was against Romania, where I was drawn against Iulian Toma (3-dan) – well this was much the same story, except that the winning margin was bigger. He called me a coward during the game, a little joke on his part, but never a good idea against me. Anyway, although we lost to the UK, Romania, and Australia, the team ended up in 10th place, with wins over Italy and Brazil. That wasn’t enough to push us into the final stages, but it was a good performance in our group. In a rare personal triumph, I collected enough GoR to push me over the 2-dan mark, becoming the third Irish player to obtain that title. Colin MacSweeny represented us at the WAGC, which took place in China for a change. He scored 3 wins to take 48th place, which was exactly the same number of wins, and the same placing that James Hutchinson picked up at the KPMC that year. A strange co-incidence if ever there was one! Kenneth Savage and Sheena Walsh took up the invitation to the International Amateur Pair Go Championship in Tokyo, Japan. They scored 1 win out of 5 to take 29th place. Impressively that win came against China. Less impressively, it was a walkover caused by political machinations. In what must be a depressing trend for the organisers of international events, some political scandal sometimes occurs in the months prior to the competition, leading to the exclusion of some state such as North Korea or China. The Irish Ladder was devoid of scandal and participation, with scarcely a game played all year in it. James Hutchinson managed to pick up first place in the competition.

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