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GWC 2017 - Diary of Zoltán László

Gomoku World Championship 2017

 

Diary of Zoltán László

 

 

 

Prelude

 

After my knee injury in August 2016, I was totally destroyed mentally and lacking opportunities. I decided to improve my Gomoku skills as I was forced to stay in bed. First of all, I finished second in Hungarian Meijin in January 2017, however, I was not satisfied with my results and the way I played. In the meantime, WBC was in progress, the Online World Blitz Cup in one-minute Gomoku, where I was participant and co-organizer as well. That tournament went well, I won and became the best blitz player online in 2017, ever since I won WBC, IRP and UM2016 as well and had 59/72 in EL.

 

Despite being successful online, a lot of players doubted that I can achieve anything in long time control, so I had to prove them wrong. Actually, I have been preparing for GWC for a long time, creating brand new openings, swap2s and analyzing known schemes and central openings, actually everything I could expect from my opponents. I had a few practice matches with players like Łukasz Majksner, Márk Horváth, Gergő Tóth, Igor Eged, Petr Zizka or Lukas Soucek and also tried to gain as much info about future opponents as I could. Shortly before departing, I spent a few days at Gergő's practicing, which helped me a lot, first of all, appointing my mistakes, like rushing, or being lazy to count everything and even getting used to concentrate on the board rather than on my phone or other devices.

QT

 

Day1 --- Ever since this was my very first Gomoku World Championship, I had to play a qualification tournament to get into the A tournament, the final twelve. To be honest, I never doubted that I can make it to the AT, I wanted to show power in the first rounds and win the QT calmly in the end.

In the very first round of QT, I faced a newcomer, Asso Randma from Estonia on his opening. I knew nothing about him, but this did not distract me from the fact that I must win the game. He put a corner opening and I decided to swap2 it, assuming he might know how to play well from his corner. He played positionally dead moves in the beginning, which resulted in a quick loss. I was the very first to finish a game in GWC2017, which I was specially happy for. 1/1.

 

I took a short break, went back to accommodation and relaxed before the next round, where I had to face Denis Osipov from Russia on my opening.

I did not feel well about this game, because I have played quite a lot with Denis online, thus he knows most of my openings. I even skipped lunch to decide on the opening. I did not plan to show my hidden cards in QT, so I played a scheme which I expected to be swap2d, however, I played that scheme 2 times only online and I don't know too much only basics. Bit risky, but as stated before, I expected a swap2. Denis actually put a very interesting swap2, at least for me. I could not find any serious advantage for any of the colors, matter of fact the main theory was killed by the black stone, so I had to come up with some plan. Eventually, I decided to play more or less aggressively with white and not positionally, converting to one of the wind openings (h8 j9 m10), which is white sure win from central, and playable from this shifted version. The game began, I was frustrated, I could not build the desired advantage from the swap2 and even had to play carefully at some points. The game became balanced after some moves and then, I had a half-threat on the right side, which Denis kind of ignored and started to attack on the left, just as expected. During the game usually he had more time than me, somewhere even +10 minutes, which is quite unusual for me, I usually play very fast. I blocked the attacks of Denis and then he blundered, maybe he was afraid of time playing with me in the end, who knows. I was somewhat lucky, somewhat tactically successful, but nevertheless the winner of the game. 2/2.

 

The stress I felt during the game got converted into inner energy for the third round, where my opponent was the current Czech Champion, Pavel Laube.

He is well known for various corner openings and having known he opens to me, I did not really prepare, just took a rest to be as fresh as possible.

The game started, he opened a corner, where I felt black a bit better for my style of gaming, so I chose colour. Nothing special, some horse-moves and passive positional playing, until move 16, where I could make some advantage for myself with 17-H9. He had to block me and I had to create a great attack from that position. I was planning to attack from the very beginning and now I had the chance to somehow connect my stones with the ones I had down. All my moves were put exactly according to the plan and he failed to find defense, thus I won in a total of 39 stones. 3/3. Day one ticked, everything was perfect. By the end of the third round, we were already aware of the first opponent of the next day. For me, it was the current Polish Champ, Łukasz Majksner, who had 2.5/3.

 

Day2 --- I simply celebrated the successful day with some beer and evaluating the opponents' performance in the QT. There were few surprises for me, as Michał Zajk had 2/3 and Michał Żukowski had only 1.5/3,  disappointment from Poland, I must say. Oleg Bulatowsky from Ukraine had only 1/3, same points as Mikhail Kozhin, on the other hand, Tomas Nemec from the Czech Republic and Maciej Nowakowski from Poland had 3/3. I had to check these players because their names were unfortunately not familiar for me and I knew if I win I will face the winner of Nemec-Nowakowski, so it was really important.

 

Against Łukasz, I did not prepare much for the 4th round, we know each other very well, so I discarded any options of schemes and decided to play a wind, which he does not really like and I can expect a swap2. To be honest, this was a game which I did not really want to win because I wanted him to get into AT as well, so I was not quite heated for the game. I would not have minded a draw, of course losing was not an option, but a draw could be okay for me. Unfortunately, he spent 15-20mins on the 24th stone and he missed a quite simple win, total blunder. I spent 2-3 minutes on recounting the winning line and then played it. Not many efforts, but still won, 4/4. I felt a bit sorry for him, as his chances decreased, but if he makes such blunders, he might be unworthy of AT, I thought, however, I cheered for him because I know that he can play very well. In the fifth round, I was facing Tomas Nemec as he beat Maciej Nowakowski, and he was opening to me, so I decided to check his corner opening and look for a good swap2. As I could not find any, I decided to simply pick black and outplay him.

 

Round 5 started, Tomas played the expected corner, he said: "it was working so far". I did not hesitate too much and picked black. I felt that I have some positional advantage in the very beginning, I could hardly decide on the 9th, because there were a lot of various continuations in my mind and also the 15th move wasn't an easy decision, however, I thought I would win in 15-20 moves max, because I couldn't really see any way out for white. Actually, 14-E7 is black sure win and 16-J7 black sure win, too. I failed to count these and, to be honest, I felt I can move anything and still have ultimate winning chances from the position. Very bad idea it was, I must say. Then I made a total idiot mistake, which actually happened twice in this World Championship, namely, I was counting the continuation in my head and forgot to play the first move because in my mind it was played and simply played the next one in my preferred branch. I played 23-I9 instead of 23-J5 and 25-I9 branch. I was really angry at myself because I should have paid more attention. 23-I9 was kind of suicidal actually, as I cut myself from attacking and tried to survive, he even had a win, but missed it, then he tried some attacks, but messed it up in mutual time trouble and I was able to win the game. What a relief it was, having 5/5. My next opponent for the last round of Day 2 was Maciej Nowakowski, whom I did not know at all. All I could do is ask some more experienced players, who told me he used to be the best 10-12 years ago and check his games, where I could see he is really old-school player, so I decided to put one of my well-known schemes and wait for some swap2, I could even expect the type of swap2-ing, generally some standard or pro close to edge.

 

Round 6 began, I put the scheme and waited for an answer. He spent like 35mins at least on the swap2, which, to be honest, I liked because it was not an easy decision. I simply decided to play white because of the overline and I thought I can link up with 2-D5 in the game creating various attacking positions. He fought very well, but he lacked time as he spent too much on the swap2, so I played more or less faster to put him under pressure and forcing out a mistake. My position wasn't the best, I planned to come out from the corner with some threats and get a positional advantage somehow. 24-F3 is seemingly a nothing, but it gave me good chances for the continuation. I had the exact plan in my mind and simply played it. I succeeded in it and then the game was mine, he had no time and no position to outplay me, I finished him off, having another perfect day. 6/6! This meant I have already secured my place in AT, just as expected. Once again, I decided to check my opponents' performance to see who might happen to be in AT alongside me, having already known I'm starting with Petr Zizka on the third day of QT on his opening. I did not do much practice for this game, rather help Łukasz somehow with his games so that he can join the AT.

 

Day3 --- Unluckily, Tomas changed his corner opening to an other one, so the preparation got wasted a bit, but this opening is best for a scheme swap2 and Łukasz won the game, so it was not a big problem. On the other hand, Zizka put a black sure win against me, which Gábor just showed me the day before, however, I decided to put a swap2 and prepare myself for AT instead of theory gaming. I put a nice 50-50 swap2, but played an idiot move afterwards which resulted in a sort of quick loss, he played directly as he always does and this time it was enough. I was angry at myself because of the wasted match and I lost my first game also. Zizka became the leader of QT for some reason, I am not so lucky on coefficients I think. In swiss, they say who loses in first rounds gets easier opponents. Well, on this tour there were many good players, so easy is hardly acceptable to say, but whatever, the QT first and second did not even play with each other. My last opponent in QT was Martin Muzika, who has already secured a place alongside Petr Zizka in AT before the last round. Zizka had Michał Żukowski, who had to win to get into AT, so I was sure he would beat Zizka, thus with a draw I am first in QT anyways.

 

Round 8 began, I did not know what to open so I chose my favourite corner opening. Martin played a swap2 which had an overline, so I decided to play white and gather some positional advantage. I really wanted to win, but somehow I did not feel motivated enough. I just wanted to play AT and don't lame around in QT anymore, but I just lamed around, as I put some really optimistic and stupid moves and he found a way out from the corner. Post-analyze showed I had a block still, but I was so angry that I wasted the game that I kind of gave up and did not even try to find any blocks. I felt ashamed, losing two games in a row from players who I consider weaker. I was really angry at myself, finishing only third in QT after 6/6, but I knew that I came to AT and not QT. I went back to accommodation and took a refreshing shower and I was really excited about the lotting of AT. The opening ceremony was held from 16:00 and I was a bit disappointed as I could see Martin getting a small trophy for winning the QT, that should have been mine if I am not an idiot, but I had to move on. AT trophy is bigger, that was my thought. I had an excellent draw, in my opinion. I could instantly see myself on the podium:))

 

Day4 --- No time to rest, AT began on the very next day. Being aware of my opponents for each day, I prepared a bit. I started with Martin on his opening. I could expect a lot of openings, I prepared some swap2s but that was all. Second opponent was Mikhail Kozhin from Russia. No preparations needed, I was opening to him and I knew that he will get one of my new openings for sure.

 

Round one began at 8:30, which is too early for me generally, but I was extremely motivated and planned to use as much time as needed, no rushing, calm and organized gaming. Martin put his opening on the board which was unfamiliar to me. First of all, according to my plans, I started to try and solve the opening looking for a sure win. I could prove some moves but two. Too risky, I had to swap2. My swap2 was not the best with some white advantage but I liked it. He chose and played really quickly, in my opinion too quickly. I counted some variants and chose the preferred branch expecting his moves. Everything went as planned. He tried some threats on the left flank, but I easily blocked him and gained some good position. In a few moves, he could not stand the pressure and blundered which let me win easily. 1/1, perfect start!

The other games were almost as exciting and interesting for me like mine, Gergő Tóth played with Yuriy Tarannikov, who was world champion years before I was born. Gergő put a scheme and surprisingly, Tarannikov chose colour and played a losing branch. It was really disappointing, I thought this could never happen in such prestigious tournament, but also happy that it was Gergő who could win. Go go Hungary! Osipov defeated Kozhin, Dupszki defeated Laube in a long battle, Ilya Katsev lost from a not bad position for black after the swap2 from Ilya Muratov and Żukowski again defeated Zizka. For me, expected results, however, some of the games were not happening according to my expectations.

 

Round 2 began from 14:30 and I put my new corner against Kozhin, who seemed to me totally unmotivated and careless during almost the entire competition. He played very quick moves and did not mind his opponents as well. He put a swap2 against my scheme which was not bad, but I decided to try attacking directly having known he is not so motivated and forcing out an early mistake. To my surprise, he left the table after the swap2 and fell asleep in a chair. It was really bad situation, because normally I would have let him known that I moved, but the facts that he called me not a good player previously and that he fell asleep and did not even care about me was annoying me, so I decided to keep thinking on the continuation and not waking him up. Three or four minutes gone when he returned, played instantly and left again. Never mind, he did not play the best white at least, I thought. I started my direct attack, but two moves later I missed a sure win because I thought that I will win anyway from that position. Once again, lack of willingness to count. This way I left some onlies and made some more mistakes, once again happening I forgot to play the first move like against Tomas Nemec, but he still failed to find the defense which let me won. I was quite relieved because I could have won easily and messed it up. From the other games, only two table was interesting for me this time, Dupszki, who easily beat Osipov in few moves and Gergő, who had a long battle with Laube, who once again lost. What a bad day for him and what a good day for Hungary, each of us having 2/2. Next two opponents were quite tough ones, Denis Osipov on his opening and Rudolf Dupszki, the title defender on his opening as well. I did not do much preparation, expecting some new openings especially prepared for me.

 

Day5 --- Denis put some interesting opening, which I tried to solve, one white was really appealing and was a sure win for all black moves but two, but those two are black sure wins. I got a bit puzzled but decided not to waste more time and put a swap2. Being aware of the style of my opponent, I put some swap2 which can be played with white easily. Each of his moves was as planned and I found a nice win, 3/3. The most interesting game maybe in round 3 was Tóth-Dupszki. Gergő put the same scheme he put against Tarannikov, Dupszki swapped and for some reason Gergő chose black and had to defend, which he failed at. Previously in the morning before the rounds, he asked me if there would be any Hungarian with a perfect score at the end of the day. My response was self-obvious: "Yes, me." I had to motivate myself, Dupszki and Osipov are very strong opponents and both opened to me. Laube once again had a long fight but this time he could win, finally, against Michał Żukowski.

 

Round 4, the player I have never beaten in live and not even a draw I could achieve against. The title defender, Rudolf Dupszki and he is opening. I expected some strange corner openings like he usually uses, but I got some nice central opening shifted.  I liked on white but there was a black which I was afraid of, so I decided to play safely and swap2. I checked a huge amount of possible swap2s but discarded each. Finally, I tried to use a similar swap2 which Łukasz put against me, but this time it was black advantage and I was a bit afraid, but could not come up with anything better. The game began, Dupszki, of course, chose black. I had to play very carefully. To be honest, I did not really have any chances to attack and had to find best defenses to keep chances alive. He spent a lot of time on his moves which were indicating a future time trouble, which arrived. I played quickly trying to press him, though I had more than an hour left. Tactics succeeded, he let one counter vcf threat for me, which I could successfully use, in time trouble he messed it up and lost. Wow. I beat Dupszki for the very first time, but I felt a bit angry because of the weak position during the match. Dupszki seemed really frustrated, he surely assumed he had a win but screwed. Anyways, it was a good game between two top players of the present time. And hell yes, 4/4!! The only player to have 4 out of 4 points, having played against Dupszki, Kozhin and Osipov already! Things are clear, I have the advantage and I must do everything to keep it.

 

Day6 --- Unfortunately, I got sick and felt really unwell, couldn't really sleep and was really sick in the morning, too. My next two opponents were the considerably weakest in the AT, Petr Zizka and Ilya Katsev. Due to my sickness, I could not prepare at all and only tried to rest - unsuccessfully. I put my favourite scheme against Zizka knowing his swap2s are generally weak and always advantage for one of the colours, mostly for white. Just as expected, he put a swap2 and I chose colour quickly. I would not like to go into details about the match, I had 10-15 winning positions but failed at each, even misplaced a stone (36-N8 was meant to be N9, but somehow I misplaced it and did not even notice at first). In conclusion, total disaster, wasted piece of.. and I finally beat myself, enabling Zizka to gather his first point in AT. I was extremely angry but rather sick, I immediately went back to the college because my head was exploding, had a fever and all the other stuff. Was not easy, but I arrived at my match against Katsev just in time, wanted to get over it quickly and go back to sleep, however, the score mattered, I was still leading. He knew my sickness and prepared a trick for me with one of my usual swap2s, but it backfired when he forgot the theory. I knew what to do and beat him using only 11minutes. A quick discussion and a goodbye, went back to sleep, especially because the next day was a free day, I wanted to get better and win the tournament.

 

Day7 --- I felt much better after a good night's sleep and was ready to join the fellows, however, I could not take part in sports activities due to my injury, I just played some blitz Gomoku with some players and that's all. I had another hard day coming up, Tarranikov and Laube. I was hesitating a bit about the opening, I generally wanted to use my new openings, but I decided to put a scheme which is not commonly known among players.

 

Day8 --- Simple as that, I put up the opening and let him think about it. Of course, I was a bit anxious about him choosing colour again, but I knew how to play the best branches, so no worries, I thought. He has been thinking for a while and then tried to trick me with a conversion into a central sure win opening shifted. He must have been upset, as I simply calculated the known branches with the shift and chose colour. He did not really have any chance during the game, I used 21 minutes and he used 135. Huge difference.

 

The second opponent for this day was Pavel Laube, whom I defeated in QT and in Budapest as well. He is very strong from his openings and anyways, in Gomoku. He does not rely much on theories and schemes but rather on his counting skills.

He put some random corner and I was happy to see it, for some reason I became too confident and planned to surround him in the corner and force out a positional death. Aha, but I missed a simple win of his and he beat me in a split second. Incredible mistake. Especially because Dupszki somehow survived and defeated Michał Żukowski from a position, where Żukowski had a, let's say, well-known central opening converted, which is a white sure win, but he messed it up and then lost. Bad for me, but good for the tournament and for Hungary, I thought. Still, I can't believe he screwed that game. He had good positions in most of his games yet he could have won maybe the half of these games, including a game against Gergő where Gergő missed a win. So I lost my second game unfortunately, while Dupszki kept collecting the points. This was the point where I kind of gave up because I felt nobody could beat him and I can finish only second. I joined the blitz tournament (5mins+1sec/move) and confidently won it. Then, we went out for dinner and when I returned, I did not have any motivation to prepare for next games. I had Gergő and Ilya Muratov the next day.

 

Day9 --- Having lost my motivation mostly, I did not prepare at all. I had no clue what to open against Gergő, basically I planned to open some corner, but when I put the first stone Gergő told me he knows what I would open and I did not want to disappoint him and played the new scheme which I used against Kozhin in round 2. This was nothing new to Gergő, as we have played it during our preparational games, where he beat me 4-3, apparently. He converted the game into a central opening shifted, but it was clear to me, that it must be white sure win this way. We played the main theory from central and because of the shift I had a sure win, which I converted into my victory. Was a bit sad, because this meant Gergő might be out of top3 and then no full-Hungarian podium, but first of all I was playing for myself and then for Hungary and friends. Dupszki had a very interesting position with Muzika when we left with Łukasz to have lunch and when we came back, they told me Muzika won. Wow. I could not believe my ears! I was leader again, I got back the championship title into my hands, namely if I win all the remaining games, gold is mine. Outstanding euphoria, I was on cloud nine.

 

I had Ilya Muratov as my upcoming opponent, who seemed to me careless about the World Championship and somewhat tired, bored even. He opened to me, some central opening which I do not really like, hard to swap2. I most likely put a white sure win (haven't analyzed it fully since), he chose white, played a very strong move, I played a surely losing black, but then he has been thinking for 50 minutes, and still put a bad move. Nothing special, he did this against Gergő as well. Strange that he had superb chances, but could not live with them. I somehow balanced the position and with the 13th move, it was already turned into my sure win. He resigned after 21 moves. I was so happy, I am opening to Żukowski, I must beat him and then gold is mine! I decided to take part in super-blitz tournament, I thought I can somehow play directly in AT (as I was late from QT) since I have won the World Blitz Cup, and it seemed okay, but shortly before the final I was told I can only play BT alongside other GAT players, like Gergő, Muratov, Zizka and Muzika. I was unhappy with such and did not have any motivation to play in BT, I played totally carelessly, but won BT and challenged the AT winner for a match, however, the cup couldn't be mine to my disappointment. The super-blitz winner was Vladimir Nipoti, whom I beat in WBC quarters 16-9, but this time we played 1+1. Before the beginning of the match, Gergő came to me and congratulated for winning the World Championship. I was laughing, thought he would be joking as he often is, but no, Dupszki lost to Tarannikov! I became the World Champion of Gomoku in 2017, I was so happy, nothing could stop me, I beat Nipoti 10-1 in the grand finale. At the night we went out to celebrate and it was not a soft night, to say the least. I went back somewhere around 4 AM, though I had the last match still unplayed with Żukowski.

 

Day10 --- I could barely wake up, took a shower and went to the playing hall. I was late for 20minutes or so, put up a corner and went out to wash my face. I was not in my top form, to say the least, and I had some difficulties with counting and playing, but his 6th move was very bad in my opinion and then the position became rather black. I tried some normal attacking moves without counting and eventually succeeded, I beat him and finished first with 11/9 points. Hungary performed as expected, I finished first, Dupszki second and Gergő 4th. Not that bad, I think. The third place was taken by Denis Osipov, who played well in most of his games, losing only to Hungarians in AT. Fun fact is, the first place, me, lost only to 9th Zizka and 10th Laube, and the last place, Katsev, beat only 9th and 10th, giving a nice frame to the tournament.

 

To sum up, I became the youngest official Gomoku World Champion as long as I know, but I am still not satisfied. I plan to play better and better and win everything I can and most importantly, make Gomoku more popular among people. Sadly, thinking  is something not trending nowadays, kids prefer pointless shooting games instead of sports even, what could I say about logical games then? I can only hope it would change at least minimally because Gomoku is a real art, a beautiful game. Apparently, this was my very first won adult Gomoku tournament. :)