Four European players came from the city of Quzhou together with Mr Ge Yuhong, the director of Ge Yuhong Weiqi Academy known to many European players through CEGO exchange program. Elian, Alexander, Mirta and Stjepan are currently at the Academy studying go until February 2024. This year, the tournament overlapped with a big go event in Warsaw. That's one of the reasons the strongest European players couldn't come. Another reason is the long, quite expensive journey. Still, with generous travel support of 1,000 USD provided by the organizer, some European players traveled to Shaya, a county surrounded by the Taklamakan desert in the south and mountains all around.
However, being named one of the first Weiqi cities in China, Shaya is a unique place full of tradition and natural wonders. The playing venue was the Shaya hotel, with a big park nearby where we found a Weiqi monument.
The tournament had 8 rounds. The time settings were curious: 50 min + 2 x 10-second byoyomi, which resulted in many blitz endgames.
An interesting rule was that if you look at your phone during the game, or your phone rings, you automatically lose. It was advised to give the phone to the organizer at the beginning of the round or leave it in the room.
Also, something Europeans are not very familiar with - there is no counting on the board! The referee takes a picture and a counting application gives the score within a few seconds.
There were 50 players. Players from Eastern China were not eligible to play this tournament, to increase the motivation of Western China, where Go is not as developed.
The winner of the tournament was Li Jiaq, who won all games and claimed the first prize of 60,000 RMB and promotion to 7-dan.
The results of the European players:
- Ioan Elian Grigoriu 6d – 12th place
- Jan Simara 1p – 19th place
- Remi Campagnie 6d – 23rd place
- Alexander Eerbeek 5d – 25th place
- Stjepan Medak 3d – 38th place
- Ondrej Kralik 3d – 41st place
- Petr Kouba 4d – 42nd place
- Ivan Kostka 4d – 43rd place
- Frantisek Caha 2d – 44th place
- Mirta Medak 3d – 46th place
The 8th Silk Road Tournament had special prizes for teams composed of three players from the same region. The team of the strongest three European players took fifth prize.
Even though tourism in Xinjiang province can be quite difficult for foreigners, the organizers took good care of us, and we could see what Shaya offers.
On the picture you can see that the first round was played at the edge of the desert in the TaQian castle front yard, after a magnificent opening ceremony.
The ceremony and the first round were well covered by Chinese media. For some it might have been a little difficult to focus on the game, with so many cameras around.
We were also taken to the Poplar forest – living for a thousand years without dying, dead for a thousand years without drowning, drowning for a thousand years still.
Even for just half an hour, it was a beautiful place to see. Then, Kong Xiangming 8p and Zhang Mingkang 3p played simultaneous games in the shade of a 1400-year-old tree.
All in all, the 8th Silk Road tournament was a nice and unique experience. Hopefully, the next one will be announced a little earlier, and many more Europeans will surely join. Many thanks to the CWA and other helping organizations for supporting European players.
Photos by Adela Maronova and Mirta Medak
About the author: Mirta Medak is a 3 dan go player, currently studying the game as the leader of the European group in the Ge Yuhong Weiqi Academy, Quzhou. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Zagreb, Croatia. Since 2022, she is studying at the Vienna University of Technology, at the same time helping young go players from Austria and Croatia to improve.