This year's tournament was special. In a change from previous years, it included one more round (six games over three days) and a new overtime system (the Fischer time: 45 minutes of base time, plus 15 seconds per move played). Moreover, the tournament venue changed each day. In short, it was a historic tournament in a historical city! Friday at the winery
Trier is nicknamed the "Rome of the North" as it was a Roman colony from the 1st century AD. The well-preserved Roman monuments (Porta Nigra, the bridge, the baths, amphitheatre, storehouses), the Cathedral of St Peter and Church of Our Lady belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The rich history of Trier does not end with the architecture. It is believed that the Romans have started the viticulture (winemaking) in this area, as producing wines locally was cheaper than importing them all the way from the South. The especially famous grape is Riesling, from which somewhat acidic white wine is made. The participants had a chance to learn about it first hand, as the tournament commenced at Winery Schleimer outside of the city. The organizing team had put a lot of thought into making this tournament special. The names of the players were written in Chinese characters. Next to the boards were Chinese fortune cookies. (I could not wait and had to open mine before the game. Although "Believe that you can make it" was a very encouraging message, I went on to lose that round.) After the games, the owner of the winery gave us a tour, explained the winemaking process and its biggest challenges (which were climate change and... wild boars). Afterwards we were treated with the welcome dinner consisting of local specialties and an optional winetasting. Although the leisurely atmosphere contributed to a very friendly start to the tournament, we knew that the competition was going to be tough. There were sixteen dan players participating in the tournament.Before the end of the meal we learned what the pairing for Saturday morning’s round would be.
Saturday at the palace
Usually the tight schedule of go tournaments does not leave much time for sightseeing. Luckily, this time we could play in one of the most breathtaking attractions of Trier - the Electoral Palace, the residence of the Archbishops and Electors of Trier. The Rococo staircase led us to a richly decorated hall. There, in the first round of the day, two European Women Go Champions faced each other: Natalia Kovaleva (5 dan, Russia, winner of EWGC 2018) and Manja Marz (3 dan, Germany, winner of EWGC 2017). Early in the game, a fight emerged on the right side of the board, and Manja launched an attack on Natalia's two groups. However, later, Natalia secured many points on the left, and played strongly on the bottom right corner. In the end, Natalia has won by 20,5 points although she told me later that it was not such a good quality game from her side.
In the meantime, the tourists peeked through the doors to see the wall paintings, enormous chandeliers and... focused female faces. Downstairs they could watch the exposition of Chinese paintings, learn more about go, play their first game and witness game reviews by Guo Juan (5 pro), Lukas Krämer (6 dan) and Laurent Heizer (6 dan).After a short lunch break, the third round commenced. Ariane played with Virzhinia Shalneva (4 dan, Russia). Virzhinia is another young rising star – she is the European Youth Go Champion Under 16. The ladies played last year at EWGC in Helsinki and Ariane won that game.
The highlight of this year’s match was the fight on the bottom side. It emerged within the first 100 moves and the resulting capturing race (semeai) would be decisive for the game. When it became clear that Virzhinia could neither save her group nor find compensation for the loss, she resigned. https://www.twitch.tv/videos/478172335.
At the end of the day, Ariane was the only dan player who remained unbeaten. She was followed by five players who had just one loss: Dina Burdakova (5 dan, Russia), Natalia Kovaleva (5 dan, Russia), Elvina Kalsberg (3 dan, Russia), Barbara Knauf (3 dan, Germany) and Marika Dubiel (2 dan, the Netherlands).
Although Ariane has already beaten both 5 dan players, the game she actually found the most interesting was played on the next day.
Sunday at the university
The championship was organized by the Confucius Institute of the University of Trier. The institute aims to promote Chinese language and culture, which we could really feel today. First of all, there were side activities for the quicker players and the spectators: a Chinese dumpling-making class in the morning and a Chinese painting class in the afternoon. Additionally, between the rounds the participants were all invited to a nearby Chinese restaurant (note to the future organizers: all-you-can-eat buffet is a great lunch solution for any tournament!). And lastly, we have found some fortune cookies next to our boards again. In the fifth round Ariane faced her last Russian opponent - Elvina Kalsberg (3 dan, Russia). Elvina has a long playing history - she participated in the very first European Women’s Go Championship in 1996 and played over 700 tournament games in 142 European tournaments since then.
Elvina chose quite an unusual variation in the lower left corner. According to Cornel Burzo (7 dan) and Li Yue (5 dan), the result was not so good for her. As she felt she was leading, Ariane played solidly. It was difficult for Elvina to catch up. Towards the end, Ariane was leading by about 20 points, which is why Elvina resigned at move 224. https://www.twitch.tv/videos/478612807.
This was the first time in history for a French player to win the European Women Go Championship. When asked during the prize-giving how she managed to become so strong so quickly, Arianne modestly said that she was simply trying to do her best. The final results are:
1. Ariane Ougier (6 points)
2. Dina Burdakova (5 points)
3. Natalia Kovaleva (4 points)
4. Virzhinia Shalneva (4 points)
5. Elvina Kalsberg (4 points)
6. Barbara Knauf (4 points)
Apart from the new European Women’s Go Champion, Marianna Szychowiak (7 kyu, Poland) has also finished the tournament unbeaten. Amongst the kyu players, great performances were also made by Angelika Rieger (8 kyu, Germany) who won 5 out of 6 games as well as by Julia Bednarska (10 kyu, Poland) and Iris Ramacher (16 kyu, Germany) who scored 4 points each. There was also a special prize for the youngest player - Lea Gerhards (20k, Germany). The full results can be found here:
Thank you to the Confucius Institute for hosting and organizing the championship and for permission to use the photos in this article. Also thank you to everyone who has contributed to turning it into such a successful and enjoyable event!
PS: They say early bird catches the worm, but the ladies who stayed the longest after the closing ceremony received additional fortune cookies. Here are some messages which we collected for you:
- "Believe that you can make it"
- "Habits start like cobwebs and turn into chains"
- "Patience in the moment of anger will spare you lots of sorrow"
- "Your efforts will be successful"
- "Tomorrow might be the best day of your life"
- "You cannot blame the river if you stumble and fall into it"
Pick your favorite one for your next big challenge, and if you are a woman, we hope you will participate in the EWGC next year in London!