The 7th Renju World Championship took place in Kyoto, Japan, August 7-12, 2001.
After 12 years of history of World Championships, the big renju event took place in the same place where everything began 12 years ago - Kyoto City. Without any doubt, Japan is the leading renju country in the world, and everything we know about renju comes from Japan. To play renju in the country where it was born - a wonderful feeling. Since two years before there had been a big celebration in Japan during the 100th anniversary of name renju, it was very meaningful to have the World Championship to be brought back "home" again. Yoshimi Hayakawa, the leader of Japanese Renju Federation since 1995, had made great job! Despite the absence of good sponsors, he managed to make the tournament most successful and contributing so much into it!
The locaton of the World Championship was the Kyoto Park hotel - the same place where 2 years ago the match Meritee-Nakamura was held. Lots of people came to Japan this time, to take part in the most wonderful renju event of the year. Although people spoke different languages, it was not a problem thanks to the big number of voluntary interpretors of several main languages. It was a great news that RIF family got a new member - Korea.
Some big changes happened within RIF as well - President Tommy Maltell and Yoshimi Hayakawa resigned their posts, and the new elected president was Peter Jonsson and vice-president Norihiko Kawamura. Pavel Salnikov became the General Secretary. Vice-president Alexander Nosovsky and treasurer Stefan Karlsson continued their posts.
The A-final was waiting the five players from the Qualification Tournament. Nakamura had already announced 2 years ago that he will not participate in the WC in 2001, but some people still hoped he might change his mind and join after all. But finally everybody realized Japanese had to play once again without their best leader. Since Japanese had had really bad luck in previous World Championship, they had only one national place in A-final which was taken by Shiniti Ishitani who had been successful in Japanese QT earlier.
It meant that the Japanese stars Kazuto Hasegawa and Hideki Nara had to start with International Qualification tournament. The situation in QT might have looked too relaxed because not so many "famous" players took part. Nara and Hasegawa made a draw in their game in early stage of QT being convinced they both will pass easily. But then the "unfamous" players Kim and Lin made their surprising performance and took the the A-final seats away from Hasegawa. Old veterans Gardström and Karlsson were more careful and did not slip - therefore they got A-final seats too. Only the "good old stable" Hideki Nara managed to pass into A-final from Japanese QT players.
Since Nakamura was absent, most people guessed Meritee might win the tournament this time. The remaining places were wildly open and it was impossible to guess them until perhaps by the 6th round when Russian players Igor Sinyov and Vladimir Sushkov's good play got the attention. The last rounds of the tournament did not bring any surprises - the top 3 players kept their leadership from the beginning of the tournament until the very end. The Japanese had failed to enter the top 3 for the second time in a row, and it was a big disappointment for Japanese audience, especially because the World Championship took place in their home country and home city where 12 years ago Japanese had taken all 4 best places led by Shigeru Nakamura. Japanese may have needed those "valuable" places this time more than ever, to prove that Japanese are still dominating in the world of renju, and to give good "news" for local media, which could help a lot in promoting renju in Japan and make it even more popular game as it was before.
Japanese players Nara and Ishitani knew their mission and knew what people expected from them, and that was too big psychological load for them. It is easier to play for oneself, but hard to play for the country when so many people expect the player to bring the good place.
Despite the huge pressure, Hideki Nara did very well - he got the 4th place that is his "bottomline" in every World Championship. It is hard to find such a stable player like Nara. Igor Sinyov got the 3rd place, which was not surprise anymore even to those who did not know Sinyov well, because Sinyov had been very successful in last World Championship as well. Sinyov is really a stable player now, after 20 years of unstability and bad luck. Stefan Karlsson could not repeat the success of previous WC but he did his minimum duty for ensuring the National Place for Sweden. The biggest surprise of the tournament - Vladimir Suhkov's 2nd place with 9 points from 11 !!
Who could expect such result after ineffective play in last WC? But he showed that he had improved so much during past 2 years and everyone had to fear him. Ando Meritee's first place was not so big surprise maybe, but the score of 11 points was surprise for himself too. The veterans of world championships - Soosõrv and Gardström could not reach to top 3, but they proved that with their experience and skill it is impossible to drag them out of top 7.
The newcomers Kim and Lin could not surprise much more in the A-final as they did in QT - A-final players took them seriously, and did not gamble with them. Despite the stronger resistance by A-final opponents, Kim still managed to make the good play and got 4 points from 11, which was enough to boost him to the 13th place in RIF rating list.
One of the most surprising things of the tournament was the excellent fighting spirit of the players - everybody tried his best to do well in their games and struggle as long as the result of the game became really clear. As a result, there were only 4 draw games out of 66 total games! A history of fighting spirit had now been made in the World Championship finals as well! There were no more agreement draws between players and no more draw-oriented play styles. Everybody played for win!
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