World Championship

Organization: MSO & GIPF Centre
Place: Alexandra Palace, London (GB)
Date: August 26, 2000
Format: Swiss system, 7 rounds, 25 min. player/game
Participants: 17

"Octopus" becomes 1st GIPF World Champion

Alexandra Palace… What a magnificent place for an event like the Mind Sports Olympiad! The organizers couldn't have found a better temple: a large neo-classicistic building on the top of a hill in the middle of a park. Bathing in the sun, it didn't need a lot of imagination to look at it as if the MSO-logo had materialized in London: the Partenon, where the Greec Gods gathered. When climbing the stairs to the main entrance, it must have crossed the mind of many participants that playing games is a divine occupation… It definitively is! August 26, 11 AM… 17 GIPF-players gather at the GIPF-post in the huge central hall. 17, that is not really an impressive lot for a World Championship. But it is Saturday and many other tournaments are overlapping each other today. If that would not have been the case, we would most certainly have been with at least 5.000 (*). A pity, but we have good faith that we'll have that many entries for next year's GIPF WC, though.

So, we settle for a group of 17 participants, consisting of a strong nine-headed Belgian delegation, 3 Englishmen, 2 Dutchmen, 2 Italians, and 1 Japanese. The favorites are Werner Dupont (B), Kurt Van den Branden (B), Patrick Van de Perre (B) and Koen de Jongh (NL). Good chances can also be given to Karel Daelemans (B), who is playing very consistent the last months. Stephen Tavener (GB) has the potential to surprise everybody - but if he does so in the first rounds, then will it still be a surprise in the ending stage of the championship? Aksel De Meester (B) (who registered but didn't arrive yet) would normally be a favourite, too, but he has hardly been playing in 2000. Gianni Cottogni (I) got sick the very moment he arrived in London and already looks as if he's about running out of pieces before having started his first game. Brave man! Fred Kok (NL) is collecting 4th places at this years Olympiad (LOA and Hexdame) and resigned himself in not getting a medal this time (although he likes gold very much!). Rita Pauwels (B) can beat the best - but so far she hasn't succeeded in holding on to her normal level for 7 games in a row and the same does count for André De Laet (B). Frédérick Van Aelst (B) has made a lot of progress but has a bad habbit: he always seems to remove the wrong GIPF-pieces. Mozes De Bruyn continues to play like a benji-jumper: the deeper the gap, the more fun it is to go for it - and than hope that the elastics will hold. There are also 3 new-comers: David Faldon (GB), Harold Lee (GB) and Giancarlo Niccoli (I), who only recently learned how to play and participate with no other ambition than to be back next year. And, last but not least, there is Yoshi Ikkai (J)... No doubt that he, being the number 1 ranked player, is a favourite, too, but he has had an extremely occupied year. And last summer he also attended the MSO GIPF-Championship as the top-favorite but lost 3 games. How good is his play today? In January he had become the Japanese GIPF-Champion, but how strong were his opponents? And what about his trip? He arrived yesterday evening, straight from Japan, for no other reason then to play GIPF. When I ask him about his jet-lag, he nods yes and says: no, my eyes slept well! So, he clearly isn't going to put all of his cards on the table before the start of the championship...

The favorites win their first game. In the second round Kurt is the first to crack; Koen leaves him no chance. In de 3rd round a few more must bend: Patrick beats Werner with his cautious play (the heritage of his chess background, he says) and a very concentrated young Koen gets Yoshi on his knees after a tight game in which both took turns leading the dance all the way - and it happened that it was Koen's turn when the games ended. In the 4th round Koen beats Patrick in no time. Patrick opened very poor, loses 3 pieces in a very early stage and is so mad at himself that he can't concentrate any more: game over. Koen is the only player left without defeat: 4 down, 3 to go. He has 4 players on his tail with 3 wins each: Yoshi, Patrick, Werner and Karel.

Meanwhile there are only 15 players left in the championship: Giancarlo and Harold have resigned. No prob. The level of play is high; even with only 15 players the spirit is good and the players measure up with each other with a lot of drive and perseverance. Yes, there's a world title at stake.

Round 5… Kurt can't find his normal shape and gets beaten by Rita. Patrick and Yoshi win against, respectively, Karel and Aksel. Koen encounters Werner… Beautiful to watch, these two: they are probably the most "natural" players of the lot. They play GIPF like Jimmy White used to play snooker: fluent, apparently without stress, always preferring an attack above a consolidating defensive move. The best prove of their instinctive play is that they never seem to be running out of time; even when they get behind, they nonetheless give the impression to have the upper-hand. Werner - a former judo-fighter - puts every ounce of his body in the match and that may have made the difference: Koen capitulates. That means that we have again 4 players sharing the lead with 4 wins: Patrick, Koen, Werner and Yoshi. Still in the running for the medals with 3 wins are Stephen (will he, indeed, surprise everybody?), and Rita and Karel, who both seem in control of their nerves (which always appeared to be their Achilles tendon during previous tournaments).

Up to round 6: 2 of the leaders meet each other: Patrick and Yoshi. Werner and Koen encounter 2 of the pursuers: Rita and Stephen. Werner shows no mercy to Rita. And Stephen shows no mercy to Koen! He puts Koen under pressure from the very beginning with lots of GIPF-pieces; he claims the center of the board, pushes Koen into a corner, takes a few deep breaths to finish the game and then, literally, makes the wrong move (i.e. not the move he intended). Koen jumps up and steels the point. As said in the beginning: Stephen a very surprising player! (Or was is mercy after all?) Karel wins against the struggling Kurt (last year's silver medal winner), which results in the following standings after 6 rounds: Yoshi, Werner and Koen with 5 points; Patrick and Karel with 4 points… And Werner and Yoshi haven't played against each other yet…

One round to go… and we have a true final: the first World Champion will be the winner of the game "Werner - Yoshi" (both have a higher MB-score than Koen). Koen plays against Karel; if he wins, he'll be sure to become the vice World Champion. But Patrick and Karel, too, still have the possibility to snatch the second place, or at least the third. Patrick beats André in a quick game, but must wait to know where he'll end. Koen doesn't leave Karel much chance; Karel looks tired and doesn't find a way into the game. He seems to be a bit short with every moves he makes. Koen, almost playing nonchalant because he already knows he missed the gold medal, still shows enough concentration to win without having been in trouble. He'll be the runner-up, that is a fact know. The third place depends on what Werner and Yoshi will do - and the first place too, of course…

The final… Werner and Yoshi are nervous: they shake hands with shaking hands. Another indication that stress is running through their veins is that they both start the game with caution: both open with only 4 GIPF-pieces. Yoshi normally plays with 5 and Werner sometimes with even more. So, a careful start. Werner goes for the e-diagonal; Yoshi counters on the a5-i1 diagonal. Werner gets the upper-hand and goes a GIPF-piece ahead in the 12th move - but gets out of position through it. Yoshi immediately takes advantage of his numerical preponderance on the board, puts a pair of Werner's GIPF-pieces under pressure and next claims the center of the board. Werner defends his GIPF-pieces with despair - and that may have been his mistake. It would probably have been better to give up one of his GIPF-pieces and, instead of a series of defensive moves, concentrate on breaking through Yoshi's central pieces. Yoshi captures a GIPF-piece and still controls the game, which results in another capture. All the other games of the 7th round are finished by now and everybody is gathered around board 1. Werner finds a way back in to the game, levels the score and even takes the lead again with a 5th captured piece. And then Yoshi shows why he is called the "Octopus": no other player succeeds of using all 6 sides of the board like he does. He gets the advantage of having more pieces in his reserve, holds on to it, and attacks each time when Werner has only few pieces to play with. He sacrifices 2 pieces to set up a capture of 3. Being one piece ahead again, he also removes his last but one GIPF-piece (i.e. to be sure to hold the last move) and sets for Werner's last GIPF-piece - not to capture it, but to force Werner to spend pieces in defence. By doing so two rows get blocked and leave Werner no possibility to recycle pieces without losing his last GIPF. Yoshi Ikkai wins a great final and becomes the first GIPF World Champion. Koen, in spite of having won against Yoshi, gets the silver medal, Patrick jumps over Werner and snatches bronze.

(*) In total just above 5000 people participated at the MSO 4.


Place Name Score M-Buch. Buch. Progr.
1-2 Ikkai, Yoshi (J) 6 22.0 30.5 23.0
  De Jongh, Koen (NL) 6 20.0 27.5 25.0
3-4 Van De Perre, Patrick (B) 5 22.0 30.5 22.0
  Dupont, Werner (B) 5 22.0 30.0 22.0
5-9 Daelemans, Karel (B) 4 20.0 27.5 18.0
   Tavener, Stephen (GB) 4 17.0 24.5 15.0
  Pauwels, Rita (B) 4 15.5 23.0 15.0
  De Meester, Aksel (B) 4 15.5 23.0 14.0
  De Bruyn, Mozes (B) 4 15.5 22.0 13.0
10-11 De Laet, André (B) 3 19.5 26.0 12.0
  Kok, Fred (NL) 3 18.0 25.5 12.0
12-15 Van Den Branden, Kurt (B) 2 19.5 28.0 12.0
  Van Aelst, Frédéric (B) 2 17.0 22.5 7.0
  Cottogni, Gianni (I) 2 15.5 23.0 6.0
  Faldon, David (GB) 2 14.5 20.0 8.0
16-17 Niccoli, Giancarlo (I) 1 2.0 7.5 2.0
  Lee, Harold (GB) 1 2.0 6.5 1.0

Cross table

No Name Total 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Ikkai, Yoshi (J) 6 10:W 7:W 5:L 12:W 4:W 3:W 2:W
2. Dupont, Werner (B) 5 11:W 6:W 3:L 8:W 5:W 10:W 1:L
3. Van De Perre, Patrick (B) 5 12:W 9:W 2:W 5:L 7:W 1:L 11:W
4. De Meester, Aksel (B) 4 : 14:W 9:W 7:L 1:L 12:W 13:W
5. De Jongh, Koen (NL) 6 13:W 8:W 1:W 3:W 2:L 6:W 7:W
6. Tavener, Stephen (GB) 4 14:W 2:L 10:L 9:W 12:W 5:L 15:W
7. Daelemans, Karel (B) 4 15:W 1:L 11:W 4:W 3:L 8:W 5:L
8. Van Den Branden, Kurt (B)  2 16:W 5:L 17:W 2:L 10:L 7:L 9:L
9. De Bruyn, Mozes (B) 4 17:W 3:L 4:L 6:L 11:W 14:W 8:W
10. Pauwels, Rita (B) 4 1:L 13:W 6:W 11:L 8:W 2:L 14:W
11. De Laet, André (B) 3 2:L 16:W 7:L 10:W 9:L 15:W 3:L
12. Kok, Fred (NL) 3 3:L 15:W 13:W 1:L 6:L 4:L :W
13. Cottogni, Gianni (I) 2 5:L 10:L 12:L 15:W 14:L :W 4:L
14. Van Aelst, Frédéric (B) 2 6:L 4:L 15:L :W 13:W 9:L 10:L
15. Faldon, David (GB) 2 7:L 12:L 14:W 13:L :W 11:L 6:L
16. Lee, Harold (GB) 1 8:L 11:L :W : : : :
17. Niccoli, Giancarlo (I) 1 9:L :W 8:L : : : :

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