Hello Tokyo! - The 2024 Senko Cup world Go women's championship
By Milena Boclé | International | 26.03.2024 18:08| Views: 2888 | Comments: 3

Senko Cup - a major go event for women

Senko Cup 2024

On march 7-9, a big international event took place in Tokyo: the 2024 Senko Cup world go women's championship. 

If you follow the women pros a bit, you may be familiar with this tournament, as it brings together the best four professional players of Japan, the top Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese female champions and the winner of a smaller event happening at the same time: the amateur Senko Cup. And in that one, we have European representatives, so this is what this article will mainly be about.

But... first, let's dive into the context of the tournament itself, otherwise you'll be unable to feel compassion for, or enthusiasm with the protagonists of this adventure.

About the Senko Cup. If you look for drama you may skip that part, although it's recommended to read it (and yes it's a title, why not?).

The tournament is organized by the Nihon Ki In, with the sponsorship of Senko Holdings, a big Japanese group which has show great great interest in go and, for several years now, is sponsoring this high class tournament.

For the professional players as well as amateurs, the format of the competition is a direct knockout between eight players (meaning 3 games max!).
Pros have a longer time setting and play over three days, whereas amateurs manage all their games within a single day.

In the pro Senko Cup, the players were:

Nyu Eiko 4p, Ueno Asami 5p, Suzuki Ayumi 7p, Xie Yimin 7p (Japan), Yu Zhiying 8p (China), Choi Jeong 9p (Korea), Lu Yu Hua 4p (Taiwan), Winner of the 2023 amateur Senko cup Amy Song 5d (Australia).

(from left) Australia, Taiwan, China, Korea, Japan. A high ranked line, minutes before tasty starters arrived on the table and a few sleep hours away from critical fights on the boards.

In the amateur Senko Cup:

Quynh Anh Ha (Vietnam), Wu Xinyuan (Singapore), Pinyada Sornarra (Thailand), Seowoo Wang (USA), Qing Yong (Malaysia), Dita Vasova (Czechia), Barbara Knauf (Germany) and Milena Boclé (France) were invited.

Germany, USA, Singapore, Vietnam, Czechia, France and Malaysia (the Thailand representative had to cope with a flight delay due to thunderstorms or something like this, causing some worries in the organisation team.

If you skipped the About with no shame, take it here: The Story

So, dear readers, you'll get the story through the eyes of your European girls Dita 1d, Barbara 3d and
Milena 3d, who, unfortunately, didn't win their first game sand were eliminated straight away (it was a short adventure...! and oops, I spoiled the end a little).

For me it was a dream come true to fly to Japan for the very first time and to represent Germany in the Senko-Cup Women Tournament. Even though we were only the small side tournament for the rest of the world amateur women, it was an awesome event. And the food was amazing!

- Barbara Knauf, accepting to answer questions over the digital EGF microphone.

And indeed, an evening right beside the top of Womens Go, in a splendid hotel with a fantastic dinner awaited us, marking the start of this tournament. Of course, we didn’t understand everything that was said during the opening ceremony, but it was very entertaining, as the professional players had to discover (with a letter written on a fan) their spot in the tournament table and, therefore, who they would face the following morning.

Choi Jeong with her spot
D, the answer D. Who will be the lucky winner facing world women number 1 Choi Jeong? 

I wonder if there is a difference in the quality of sleep of the pro facing the world strongest woman in the first round, and the one facing the winner of the amateur Senko Cup 2023 (which by statistics, stands almost no chance against a pro).

The pro all introduced themselves and said a few words about the tournament.

Lu Yu Hua (Taiwan) and Suzuki Ayumi (Japan). It seems they have known each other for a long time and played countless times, so this new fight was very promising for the audience!

We were also briefly introduced to the evening attendees, but all eyes (including ours, when they were not looking at the amazing dishes) were obviously contemplating the top of the women go. But hey, we got applause from the best women in the world and Michael Redmond 9p, surely nothing to complain about!! :))

It must be said, the organisation, led by the department of overseas of the Nihon Ki-In and Mr. Tom Urasoe, was extraordinary. Everything was meticulously planned: an explanation of the clock and rules beforehand, accommodation and tips on how to reach the tournament place, a visit to the playing rooms to be sure we don’t get lost the following morning, etc.
And by the way, there were even interpreters for Korean and Chinese for the professional players, so, really, everything under control!
And again by the way, small wink at those like Benjamin Dréan-Guénayaïziya 7d top Euro player getting his name bullied so, the host of the evening came to us before, to train pronouncing our names!! And she did it very well, although some names were very tough to pronounce.

Then, it all started, for real.

I was a little sad that I could only play one game, as it was a K.O. system, and even almost blitz with 30 seconds per move. All this effort and cost the organizers imbursed for just one lost game!

- comments for us Barbara, remembering with bitterness her first and only game.

Then, it all ended. For real.

Because we were knocked out in the first round, we could spend the afternoon looking at other games and getting commentaries of our games by Koyama Kuya, a young professional 6p from the Nihon Ki-In.
Michael Redmond 9p was also sharing in passing a few comments on our games although he had to focus on the broadcast of the professional players, which looked emotionaly very intense.

Koyama Kuya 6p commenting the game of Qing Yong (Malaysia). Michael Redmond 9p in the back watching the pro games broadcast on cyberoro and expressing his thoughts about the last moves with gesture rather than speech.

We could even use breaks to try to solve an evil tsumego I had brought from Korean friends.

Waiting for the next game while solving tsumego. (black to play and do something, if you're interested)

Let’s talk about the games now.

As Barbara just stated, it was and short. The time setting is unusual for us: we have 10 periods, when a period starts, it counts 30 seconds, and then each period is 1 minute if we keep thinking. But if we play, then the period is back to 30 seconds. So, in a way, it feels like playing a 30 sec 10 times game, with the bonus of a chaotic and confused background thinking calculation in the brain.

But let’s talk about the real content of the games.

Barbara Knauf from Germany facing Quynh Anh Ha from Vietnam.

In our first (and last, yes, you got it, I’m on duty to shake the knife in the open wound so that readers feel more drama in this and don’t get bored by our story) game, Barbara played with Quynh Anh Ha from Vietnam, who is about 5d+ and already won a few times the Amateur Senko Cup. She is very young and strong, a tough opponent for our German girl!
Barbara lost.

Dita Vasova from Czechia facing Xinyuan Wu from Singapore.

In the meantime, Dita Vasova played with a 9 years old kid from Singapore who later took the 2nd place in the tournament. The little girl was extremely motivated, running around everywhere, asking pros for pictures and she even got them ALL to sign her fan (well done!!). I feel we will see her again in major tournaments like the KPMC one day soon enough.

Dita had chances in the game but unfortunately, the opponent was more solid and took the victory.

Milena Boclé from France facing Pinyada Sornarra from Thailand.

As for my game, I played with Pinyada Sornarra 4d from Thailand (who after lost to the Singapore kid), the game was rather balanced until...a mistake. And lost.

The later round was cute, as the representative of USA (who beat Malaysia on first round) played with Quynh Anh Ha: turned out they knew each other, as they both studied in the same Korean School a few years back!

Seowoo Wang from USA facing Qing Yong from Malaysia.

Eventually, when the pros also all finished their first round and joined our room to respond to the journalists...

Right after the game is over, the winner and loser both have to go through an interview and tell their feelings about the game! Here, Korean champion Choi Jeong relates about the game with Xie Yimin.

...and, for some of them, review their games with Koyama Kuya and other pros...

Ueno Asami 5p discussing the games of the day with other professionals while Amy and Barbara play a game.

...our tournament got a winner – Quynh Anh Ha. She will probably get a new chance to play with the professional players next year if this option is maintained.

Michael Redmond 9p and the winner, Quynh Anh Ha.

Of course, this tournament was short, but very interesting because of the experience it brought us, to play in such a set up.

set up
Such a set up.

By the way, you may wonder how one qualifies for this tournament.

Ok, short note on that: the sponsors is mainly active in Asian countries invited, and has links to France and Germany (and USA, Australia...) therefor usually allocating a spot for these countries, and a third European spot was allocated by the EGF to Czechia based on the results of the EWGC 2023 (as France and Germany were qualified by national championships). The countries invited in the pro Cup are not invited in the amateur one.

Meeting players from Malaysia, Vietnam, USA, Singapore and Thailand is in fact rather rare for European players. There is so much to learn about their go system, and the countries as well!
For example, it was snowing slightly on the morning of the tournament, and at lunch we ended up discussing the weather with the Malaysian representative, thus learning that it is kind of always hot there in Malaysia, yet always less hot than it can be in Southern France in the summer.

After a last dinner together discussing life – or for me trying to convince everybody to join the EGC 2024 in France – we all parted, met again randomly at breakfast before splitting for good to follow our individual plans. For Europeans, that included a trip within Japan or nearby Korea, to make the nearly 15h of flight worthwhile.

Barbara summed it up very well.

I really enjoyed meeting the other ladies. And after traveling two more weeks through Japan afterwards I am full to the brim with new impressions.
It was such a pleasure to meet again and play Go in Himeji.

'Wait, what? - play go in Himeji?' - you may ask, wondering when the hell is this article going to end.

Yes. As it happened, because the world is small and often full of funny twists, we did meet again.

Himeji castle
Himeji Castle is very famous! And very high. And very big.

I had planed to go more to the South in Japan step by step, down to Hiroshima, and that first plan got distracted by the chance to meet with Hayashi Kozo sensei 6p from Kansai Ki-In in Himeji.

On her end, Barbara had planed to visit the biggest castle of Japan and visit a beautiful city, namely, Himeji.

That's how we ended up meeting all together with Hayashi sensei – you may have heard of him if not met him at previous European Go Congress. And because we never have enough, we played some go!

games with Hayashi sensei
Teaching games with Hayashi sensei.

Hopefully, next year, European girls will do better in the tournament and the big smile will not be only due to the totally wonderful experience and incredible people we met, but also to victory!

You can find more information (in Japanese) about the tournament here:

The most interesting for you might be to check the commentaries of the pro games on the YouTube channel of the Nihon Ki-In: (final and 3rd place games)

And that's all! Hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did just reading it.

Thanks a lot to the Nihon Ki-In for the pictures, Taiwanese go Association for one, Tom Urasoe from the Nihon Ki-In and all the staff, the sponsor, for the perfect welcome and organisation.

Hello Tokyo! - The 2024 Senko Cup world Go women's championship
27.03.2024 14:06
Thanks for this very interesting report !
30.03.2024 10:51
Great article!
Peter Dijkema
03.04.2024 16:59
Great reporting, thank you.
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