Group photo at the Toronto Go Spectacular
Those looking for evidence that in-person go events can still attract a crowd need look no further than the Toronto Go Spectacular, held at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) from December 28 to 30. Organized by the North American Go Federation and sponsored by Deep Mind, the event attracted nearly 200 players and included youth, novice, Open and professional tournaments.
“It was a fantastic event and a real pleasure working with the Canadian team,” said American Go Association president Gurujeet Khalsa. “We are excited to be exploring more possibilities with them for North American cooperation.” “We’ve been talking about hosting a North American go event in Canada for many years,” added Canadian Go Association president James Sedgwick. “I was very pleased the stars finally aligned and we were able to make it happen. The event was all I could have hoped for, and we are especially grateful to all the American participants who made the effort to attend and make this a truly North American event.”
The E-Journal team arrived bright and early for the invitational youth and pro events on Wednesday, December 28. Because only a few competitors were expected, this was the calm before the storm. Sixteen youth players — eight players under sixteen years old and eight players under twelve — arrived from throughout the US and Canada to contest two age group championships. They played a marathon knockout of two out of three matches that lasted for the entire event.
Also arriving on Wednesday were the four professionals battling for the 1st North American Professional Championship, with a $6,000 first prize at stake. Drawing for the initial pairings for the one-round semifinal, Alex Qi 1P of New Jersey drew his teacher Ryan Li 3P of New York, while Andy Liu 1P, also of New York, drew Henry Yu, a Canadian student living in Hamilton, who is certified 2p in Taipei.
The E-Journal broadcast Board One on OGS, where Ryan Li notched a steady and solid win over Alex Qi. At least that was the assessment of In-Seong Hwang, one of the two guest teachers, in a lecture that evening. So there was great surprise when AI analysis revealed that Qi had actually held the advantage for most of the game. Meanwhile, on Board Two, Henry Yu made a comeback to win a close game with Andy Liu. (Game records: Semifinal Board One, Semifinal Board Two.)
The other main event began on Thursday, December 29, with the start of the six-round open event, as well as a novice tournament for beginners. When everyone had checked in, there were 184 players participating in the many events. Nick Prince kept check-in and pairings running smoothly with his Leago pairing software, and players could easily find their places either on the huge screen in the playing hall or on their phones.
Meanwhile the kids continued to play in the invitational room, and the North American Pro Championship continued. In the championship round, semifinalists Li and Yu would play a three-game final match to determine first and second place, and Liu and Qi would play a best-of-three match for third place. In the first games, Li defeated Yu, and Qi defeated Liu. (Game records: Final Game One, Third Place Playoff Game One.)
Open players were able to have their games reviewed by guest teachers In-seong Hwang 8d and Mateusz Surma 2p, who also offered his excellent series of kyu level go problems for sale. Food was provided onsite by by the JCCC, saving the players time during the busy event.
The huge and beautiful space of the The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre was filled with the joyful noise of children, including a contingent decked out in identical blue sweatshirts from the New York Institute of Go, along with three other large groups from Canadian go schools. The largest was Gofun Studio, but We-Go Club and the students of Ms. Mu Miao were also well represented.
The final day, Friday, December 30, brought the crucial games in all the Spectacular’s events. In the morning, in the Pro Championship, Henry Yu evened the final, defeating Ryan Li by resignation, while Alex Qi defeated Andy Liu a second time to secure third place. (Game records: Final Game Two, Final Game Three, Third Place Playoff Game Two.)
Up to this point in the Pro Championship, White had won every game on Board One. “Invincible gote” seemed to be the motto, with pros choosing White every time they had a choice. For the final round on Board One, Ryan Li won the nigiri and, following the pattern, took White. In a very entertaining game, he managed to fend off Henry Yu’s relentless attacks to win a final capturing race. In-Seong Hwang’s post-game review produced a riot of laughter from the crowd, particularly from the good natured Henry Yu, who laughed the loudest. Hwang’s lectures were broadcast on the AGA Twitch channel.
U12 tournament report: Waterloo youth Crane Kuo 3d came in as the favorite. Fighting hard to challenge him were Albert Tang 2d and David Fang 2d. They played a tight match with two of three games decided by less than two points, but in the end Tang earned the right to challenge Kuo. In the final match, Kuo won 2-0 with solid wins in both games. “We have played friendly games before and I won a fair percentage of them,” said Tang. “But in this match I had no chance at all. It seems Crane has taken a leap upwards in his playing level, it will be interesting to see what he can do from here.”
U16 tournament report: This event featured four strong 5d players who were expected to be fighting for the title. On one side of the bracket Shengda Tan 5d (a student from Montreal) sailed smoothly through to the final. He has been dominating play in the Canadian league the last couple of sessions, so this strong result was not a surprise. But on the other side of the bracket another Vancouver youth Ben Gong entering as 3d/4d knocked off both Derek Zhou 5d and Yuxin Fu 5d. However in the final Ben Gong could not take down Tan. They played two long and hard-fought games, but in the end the title went 2-0 to Shengda Tan.
Novice tournament report: 41 novice players from 25k-10k competed in a five-round one-day novice tournament. Although the level of play might not have attained that of the other events, the passion to compete was clearly no less, and the joy after victories on the (mostly) young faces was a pleasure to behold.
Open tournament report: The sixth round of the open was the last to finish. 124 players took part, with a very strong field of 25 competing in the championship group for the $1,000 first prize. In the end a tiebreaker was needed between Ivan Lo, Remi Campagnie, and Brady Zhang (a past North American representative in the Globis Cup who has recently started his studies at the University of Toronto), the three top players who finished 5-1; the tiebreaker went in Ivan Lo’s favor, and he took home the title. USA stars Albert Yen and Zhaonian Michael Chen both scored respectable 4-2 results, but couldn’t quite recover from early losses to put themselves in contention. (Selected game records from the Open: Round 2 Board 3, Round 4 Board 2, Round 5 Board 1, Round 6 Board 1.)
The closing ceremonies were hosted by Canadian Go Association President James Sedgwick, with the assistance of Irene Sha, Nick Prince, Sedgwick’s daughter Alice and niece Veronika Keras. American Go Association President Gurujeet Khalsa and NAGF President Andy Okun joined Sedgwick and Prince in awarding trophies, medals and gifts to the winners.
If the Spectacular becomes an annual event, whoever takes the torch from James, Irene, and their team truly will have a tough act to follow.