When I woke up the next day, I felt like a brand new person. I know that I could have been like a lot of other players who would have recalled the performance from the first day and felt sorry for themselves, but the the experience I had watching Park Sohyun (3p) play the night before had struck me and really opened my eyes.
I was running a little late that morning, and ended up getting there around 9:35am. According to the schedule, I was already late and so I half-expected to find everyone already playing their games and my clock already running. However, it seemed like I wasn’t the only one running late because the pairings hadn’t even been put up when I arrived.
After catching up with some people though, the roster was finally put up. As I scanned the list, I found my opponent: a 5 kyu. He would be taking Black and I was giving him no handicap.
My opponent was 5 kyu and I wasn’t giving him a handicap. Had it been yesterday, I probably would have been frustrated that I was “demoted;” but I was past those stupid egotistical thoughts today.
As I sat down in front of my opponent, I was very clear on what I was going to do: I was going to try and play like Sohyun did the night before. It was going to be strong and interesting go. That’s the go I would play. Below is the kifu. (The commentary version will be Monday Go Meditation: Game 63)
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It was an exciting game, but one that I felt far more in control of than any of the games previously. When my opponent resigned, I let out a sigh of relief. “Yes.” I thought, “At least I’m now 2-2. And to top it off, I’m feeling a hell of a lot better than yesterday.”
After Round 4, Myung Wan Kim (9p) and I grabbed our bento boxes (unfortunately I didn’t take a photo this time, but I got the galbi one) and I took him back to the hotel so he could rest / work on other things (since there was a few hours gap before he had to be back).
When I dropped him off, he asked me to pick him up around 3:10pm. So when I arrived back at the tournament, I looked at the time.
“1:00pm is when Round 5 starts,” I thought, “And assuming my game takes even just the main time alone, I would be over time and late picking up Myung.”
With my record at 2-2, I seriously debated not playing in the 5th round and taking a buy. After all, 2-2 isn’t a bad record to end the tournament with right?
A good part of this was my insecurity at the prospects of possibly ending the tournament with a record of 2-3 and losing the final round, but I realized quickly that it was stupid. I decided to simply play in the 5th Round, and if push came to shove, I would resign the game if it took too long because I wanted to make sure I would pick up Myung on time.
Before I knew it, the fifth round pairings were up. My opponent was a 4 kyu that I knew from the area. There would be no handicap and I was taking white. Below are the results of the my final game for the tournament. (The commentary version will be Monday Go Meditation: Game 64)
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When the game was coming close to the end, time was also drawing near as well. It was around 2:30pm when I had begun my final hunt to kill the group on the top; but my opponent still had plenty of time left on his clock, so I couldn’t fault him for trying to take the time to make sure he was really dead. However, with time drawing close, I began mentally preparing myself to resign and simply be satisfied with the game that I had played.
As you might imagine, I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked my lucky stars when he resigned. “Hoorah!” I thought, “ I still can go pickup Myung with time to spare!” And with that, I went to report my results and went off to pick him up.
When we got back, there was still some time to spare before the remaining festivities began (i.e., lecture and simul games). This was perfect however, because I was able to spend some time talking with Sohyun (since she had been running in and out and busy with other obligations). We went over my game in Round 5, and I even got her to sign a book that she had given me the night before.
As we wrapped up one of our conversations, a fellow Korean player had come by; so she had the idea to give both of us a simul game while we were waiting for everything to start (which was incredibly kind of her). I decided to play an even game with her since I wanted to feel the full power of her skills.
Unfortunately we were only able to play about 20 or so moves before she was summoned to play the official simul games scheduled for the event. However, what I will say about the game was that even in that series of short exchanges, it was quite an experience to watch her start dismantling what I thought was a good position.
With all the games finished, they had the following activities going on simultaneously:
(1) Myung Wan Kim (9p) reviewing one of Andy Liu’s (1p) game from the tournament.
(2) Park Sohyun (3p) playing simultaneous games with eight different dan level players.
(3) Michael Chen (8d) playing simultaneous games with 5 players that were around SDK players (i.e., 1k to 9k).
(4) Allan Abramson (previous AGA President) giving simultaneous games to DDK players (i.e., 30k to 10k).
After a couple of hours, the time finally came for the awards ceremony.
The tournament was broken up into seven sections:
- Open Section (7d+)
- Dan A (4-6d)
- Dan B (1-3d)
- Kyu A (1-5k)
- Kyu B (6-10k)
- Kyu C (11-15k)
- Kyu D (16k+)
When they announced the first place prize for the Kyu D division, “… 1st Place, trophy and $100” echoed over the microphone. As I heard the cash prize amount, I’d be lying if I said that part of me didn’t feel just a twinge of jealously as I heard the cash prize amount. After all, it wasn’t chump change by any stretch of the means!
As I sat there listening to them announce the winners, I recalled the time that I had won first place in the Pumpkin Classic. I smiled as I remembered that momentous feeling. And a small part of me wished that I had done better in the tournament; but then I reminded myself that I had nothing to be ashamed of for this tournament. After all, on top managing to bring my record up to 3-2, the experiences and the lessons that I had learned through this tournament were priceless and I would not have traded it in for a better record or any trophy or prize money.
“Kyu A Division (1-5k),” echoed over the microphone.
My attention returned to the present as I thought. “Oo… I wonder who won my division.”
– let’s pause and let’s rewind the clock for a sec –
Earlier when I had been walking around, I had heard the tournament directors talking about how the kyu divisions did not have any people who won 4 games except for one person. (I later found out it was Bob Crites who had been performing well in tournaments recently.)
A part of me became hopeful at that thought that maybe I was still in the running for something, but then I brushed the notion aside as I recalled that I had not exactly played my best consistently in the tournament.
– return to present moment –
“3rd Place - Weixin Wang, 4k - $50 and a trophy”
applause and multiple cameras taking photos going off
“Huh,” I thought, “That’s the guy I lost to in the 3rd round. If he got third place, then I’m most definitely out of the running now.”
“2nd Place - John Zhao, 3k - $100 and a trophy”
“Wait,” I thought, “That’s the guy I beat in the 1st round. Maybe I still have a shot?”
As I’m sitting there bewildered and trying to make sense of how the tiebreakers might actually work, the microphone echoes again:
“1st Place - Benjamin Hong…”
I honestly wish someone had taken a picture of my face, because I can tell you that I was completely and utterly surprised. But yeah, I wasn’t hallucinating or imaging things. I really did get 1st place.
The thing about tournaments is that you never know what’s going to happen. I went the first day with a 1-2 record and completely thought I was out of the running. In fact, I even thought about dropping out the last round because of stupid insecurities. Imagine if I had done that? Imagine if I had just given up? The story would not have been nearly as exciting would it?
Though I am very grateful that I got 1st place, I really believe that this tournament will forever go down as one of the pinnacle moments in my journey as a go player. The experiences and things that I learned about myself through the trials and tribulations are ones that I will forever remember fondly and I look forward to continue building on them.
Many thanks also goes out to Keith, Gary, Andy, Todd, Alan, the Korean Baduk Association and many others for making this tournament a huge success. And of course, special thanks goes out to SmartGo for its awesome iPad app that serves as my trusty sidekick for recording my games.
Finally, a huge thanks goes out to Myung Wan Kim (9p) and Park Sohyun (3p) for making this tournament an unforgettable experience and providing guidance when I really needed it!