Traditionally, European players had to go to Asia in order to become pros. Hans Pietsch, Cătălin Ţăranu and Antti Törmänen became pros in Japan, while Svetlana Shikshina, Alexandr Dinerstein, Diana Koszegi and Maria Zakharchenko became professional players by recommendation in Korea. However, the European Go Federation started its own pro system back in 2014. That year Pavol Lisy and Ali Jabarin became the first European players who became pros in the EGF (and not in Asia). One year later Mateusz Surma and Ilya Shikshin followed. In 2016 the rules changed such that only one can become a pro. After some hard-fought matches, the young Ukrainian prodigy Artem Kachanovskyi emerged victorious. What is striking is that all of these new pro players are very young (in their early 20s) compared to the other participants of the qualification tournaments, among whom we can count players who have been dominating the European go scene for quite some years now, like the Romania's veteran titans Cristian Pop, Cornel Burzo and Dragos Bajenaru, as well as Russia's Dimitri Surin and Hungary's Csaba Mero.
One of the biggest surprises when it came to the participants of the tournament was the young prodigy Oscar Vazquez, 4d from Spain, who has been studying go lately in China for 5 months with CEGO. Even though Spain had a decent number of go players a few years ago, the go scene in Spain has been quite dead during the recent years, which makes Oscar's appearance even more of a pleasant surprise. His qualification to the tournament was very unexpected – he received the CEGO wild card by winning a tournament while training with other young promising players (all stronger than him) in China. (You can read, among others, about Jonas Welticke's impression of that tournament here). Rob van Zeijst's appearance at the tournament was the second surprise for many. Solid 7d, ex Japanese insei, winner of the European Go Championships in the 80's and 90's and many years Oscar's senior. However, he has been living outside of Europe during the last many years and who, therefor, hasn't been an active player in Europe. (you can read here an interesting interview about his life in Japan as an insei).
Round 1 - expectations
Round 2 - surprises
The second round was a very difficult one for some. The winners of the first round who would win the 2nd round would qualify directly for the second stage of the tournament in Pardubice (rounds 4-6), while the ones who lost the first round had to win this game in order to have a chance to play one more game and qualify (since it was a double-knock-out tournament, losing 2 games meant the elimination from the tournament). Oscar Vazquez's win against Germany's Lukas Kraemer came as maybe the biggest surprise since Oscar was not only the youngest player, but also the clear underdog. Tanguy had a very dramatic loss against Lukas P., after leading the game in the middle game by a large margin. To the surprise of some (because of his inactivity on the European go scene), Rob was Zeijst swept both rounds, joining Cornel Burzo, Csaba Mero and Lukas Podpera in directly qualifying for the 4th round in Pardubice, earning a bye for round 3. Cristian Pop, considered by many as one of the heavy favorites of this tournament, lost both rounds. He is therefore eliminated together with Lukas Kraemer, Bohdan Zhurakovskji and Timur Sankin from the competition.
Round 3 - questions
Would the underdog Oscar manage to beat the recent champion of the Amsterdam tournament, Tanguy? Who out of Jonas and Stanislaw, who studied together go in China, would move on to the next round? Would Benjamin Teuber manage to win/lose his game against Viktor on time to catch his flight back to Germany? What about Andrii, who had the highest rating out of all the participants in the tournament? Would he prove his strength and manage to make a career out of go?
Again, the big surprise came from someone whom Jonas calls the “little Spanish boy with a shy smile, messy hair and a weird mustache” :-). He managed to beat Tanguy, who was clearly the favorite of the game! Both players had a difficult day because of minor health problems. The game was action packed from the very beginning. The two players were playing meticulously, taking good care of their groups. None of the players made any big mistakes, but Oscar managed to convert his small territorial advantage into a victory.
In the next table you can see the number of players by country.
|Country||Nr. of players playing in the Pro Qualification Tournament|
|Rounds 1-2||Rounds 4-6|
|The Czech Republic||1||1|
The players playing round 4 in Pardubice are: Csaba Mero, Viktor Lin, Rob van Zeijst, Oscar Vazquez, Cornel Burzo, Andrii Kravets, Lukas Podpera and Jonas Welticke. For all results click here.
I would like to thank to the tournament director Daniel Bösze and to the rest of the organizers in the name of the players for their hard work and concern. It's very easy to be a participant in a tournament, but one sometimes doesn't realize the hard work involved and the lack of sleep that the organizers go through. And Daniel and his team did not only find a nice location for the tournament and arranged the place, they also prepared delicious meals for the players so that the only thing they had to worry about was their games.
You can see all the pictures in the official EGF gallery here.
(article by QiYou Wu & Laura Avram)