torstaina, elokuuta 02, 2007

Tämä merkintä on englanniksi, koska aion uudelleenkäyttää tekstin muualla.

European Go Congress in Villach, Austria was due to begin on Saturday July 14. This year, a record number of participants from Finland was expected: 30 registered in total. On arrival in Vienna international airport at 9.40 am, the weather was already hot at 27 C. Fortunately, Antti Holappa who had arrived in Vienna the day before, was waiting for us with our air conditioned rental car. In the car were traveling also Antti Törmänen and Ilkka Mattila from Oulu, and Fredrik Blomback from Sweden. Pretty soon after the flatlands of Lower Austria and Burgenland around and south of Vienna, the terrain became mountaineous. As there was no speed limit most of the time on the southern motorway A2, the average speed of traffic was about 140-160 km/h. We stopped for lunch in Graz, Arnold Schwarzenegger's hometown, and tried to find the Terminator statue erected for his honor, without luck.

The registration procedure for the congress in Villach was not quite as streamlined as possible. We had to stand in line twice: once to receive a pre-filled form we were supposed to check and another time to pay for our accommodation. Antti Holappa offered to take everybody's luggage to the youth hostel, after which he was to return the car in Klagenfurt some 40 km away. Having no bag with me, I managed to lose the receipt for my accommodation payment during the welcoming party. Fortunately, I informed the organizers who later remembered me and confirmed my payment on the phone to the youth hostel on my arrival there. Despite minor shortcomings, I found the attitude of the general organizing staff to be helpful and friendly. The very Saturday evening we found Moby Dick, a bar across the river from the congress centre, later to become the official after-go meeting place for the congress participants.

On Sunday morning, after a good night's sleep, the main tournament started. To my dismay, I found out that I'd been paired against Javier-Aleksi Savolainen. When I asked the organisers whether pairings of players of the same country below the McMahon top bar were intentional the reply was that one of the options of the pairing program was set wrong before the already belated first round and that it would be corrected. I did win the game, fortunately.

The first week of the main tournament went extremely well for the Finnish dan players. Tuomo Salo had won all his five games and Miika Nikula, Ilkka Mattila, Pekka Lajunen, and myself had won four games each. Vesa, Matti, and Antti Törmänen had won two of their first opponents, including Pal Balogh and Li Ting, both 6 dan, by Matti. After the second round, three Finns were in the top eight!
We found out later that Pal Balogh had been very unlucky: having lost his luggage on Saturday, he was left with only the clothes he was wearing at the time of his arrival and had been forced to sleep on the gym floor without a mattress.

On Wednesday, Antti Holappa, Jaakko Virtanen, and I traveled up the Drau river valley to the town of Spittal by train. Our intent was to hike to the summit of Goldeck. Just like the entire first week, the day was very hot with daily maximums hovering at about 35 C and the sun blazing at full power from a cloudless sky. We took a cable lift to a higher station at 1650 m above sea level (about 1100 m higher than Spittal) and decided to hike to the top at 2140 m. The air was clearly cooler than down in the valley, maybe between 25 and 30 degrees. In a meadow some distance up, there were cows from a nearby village enjoying the day lying in the grass. There was nice gasthaus with cold beer just above the treeline. We arrived at the summit after 2-3 hours of hiking. The view was magnificient. To the north were a couple of snow-capped peaks somewhat higher than 3000 m above sea level.

The weekend tournament also went well for the Finns, as expected. But the draw left a lot to be desired. This time, I had to play two Finns. After my having lost to Miika Nikula in the first round, they paired my up with Deni Seitz. When we asked the organizers what was up with the draw, they brushed us off telling us our problem was one of the minor ones, and that if the settings of the pairing program were to be touched "there was going to be trouble". We were left to wonder whether it was a good idea to run a 400-participant tournament with using an unfamiliar pairing program. The organizers of an international tournament should absolutely be thoroughly familiar with the pairing software they are using. There were people taking part in the tournament who had traveled from abroad for the weekend tournament only.

When the second week began the Finnish winning percentage dropped as expected in a McMahon tournament after a good start. I lost also in the seventh round after a life-and-death blunder costing me 15 stones. I cut down on time spent at Moby Dick and started winning again. In the end, out of the eleven Finnish dan players who played all their games in the main tournament, two won 7/10, five won 6/10, three one 5/10, and one 3/10. Vesa's final position was 10th, an all-time best for a Finnish player. The tournament winner was Hong Seok Ui from Korea. European Championship was won by Ilya Shikshin from Russia. Were it not for Park Jong Wook's sudden lung infection and absence from rounds 8 and 9, the results could've been different. Wook did not lose a single game out of the eight he played whereas Hong Seok Ui had lost to him.

Overall, this year's European Go Congress was a pleasant experience. Despite the heat, which in itself made afternoons spent on the beaches nearby or at the spa wonderful and evenings comfortably warm, the main playing hall in the congress centre was cool and shady. A minor problem was that the two rooms for the top players were somewhat inadequately air conditioned. The venue being a congress centre still by far exceeded the usual standards of an EGC venue, thanks to generous support from the sponsors, including the city of Villach. Also special thanks are in order to the mayor of Villach who gave special permission to pubs and bars to keep their terraces open until midnight.