Samsung 2004 Dispute

  Difficulty: Intermediate   Keywords: Rules, Tournament


In the preliminary of 9th Samsung Cup Open in 2004, there was a dispute in a match between Huang Yi-zhong of China playing White and Kim Kang-geun? of Korea playing Black. At the center of the issue was the rule difference between countries concerning captive stones and what to do with them.

According to Chinese rules, it does not matter how you deal with captured stones to calculate the final score. Captured stones do matter according to Korean or Japanese rules. Without realizing it, Huang somehow gave one of his captured stones to Kim, which started the odd dispute. This is what happened.

First, Kim spotted a white stone underneath his side of the table. So he picked it up and gave it to Huang very early in the match. As they played along, Huang captured 4 black stones and somehow got confused about how many captured stones he should have. Forgetting one capture earlier, Huang thought there was one extra black stone on his side. He proceeded to put one black stone into Kim's bowl. Reading deeply at the moment, Kim simply thought Huang found an extra black stone in his white bowl or underneath his side of the table (as Kim did earlier in the match). So, he did not bother to ask.

According to the Chinese rules, keeping captured stones is not consequential. However, according to the Korean rules (same as the Japanese rules in this regard), captured stones are used to calculate the final score (though the result is same regardless of which method, Chinese or Korean, you use). Huang forgot the difference at that time, but he later realized that the game was being played under the Korean rules. And, he began suspecting that the extra stone he put back into Kim's bowl was actually his captured one. So, he proceeded to take one black stone out of Kim's bowl. (Misplacing captured stones or taking one out of opponent's bowl without a mutual agreement would be a disqualification on the spot according to the Korean rules.) Due to the language barrier, Huang did not explain to Kim what he was doing. Confused, Kim called a referee. The referee tried to clarify how many captured stones Huang should have. Unfortunately, both Huang and Kim were incorrect to conclude that the captured black stones should be 4 after some discussion (actually 5 as correctly recalled later). Hence, Kim and Huang mutually agreed on 4 and continued to play.

The game was tight and ended in favor of Kim by half a point according to the Korean rules. However, Kim realized that something was definitely wrong as the last one who filled the space should lose by a half point. But, it was Kim who filled the last space. Huang, calculating the score according to the Chinese rules and hence believing that he won by a half point, also noticed the discrepancy.

The discrepancy was obviously caused by mishandling of the black stone both Huang and Kim previously agreed upon. Hence, Huang demanded going over all the moves step by step (reproducing the game from beginning to end) to see to whom the stone in dispute belonged and thereby who was the winner. Kim by now knew the black stone was indeed a captured one. But, he thought that deciding the match by simply figuring out whose the black stone was would be meaningless as he made the moves taking into consideration the number of the captured stones they agreed upon. Hence, the mishandling of the black stone, obviously affected his situational judgment and thereby his playing. Hence, Kim protested against deciding match by simply going over all the moves to clarify the possession of the black stone earlier in dispute. Instead, he expressed that the issue of the mishandled black stone should be examined whether or not it was legal to do so.

In my opinion, nobody was clearly at fault. Huang, though it was his responsibility to know the rules of the host, misplaced the captured stone out of good intention. Kim's view is reasonable.

Then, two things happened to make the matter worse. Obviously, some Chinese thought -- not fully understanding how Koreans play by calculating the captured stones -- Kim was trying to cheat somehow by protesting against going over all the moves. One Chinese reporter put out an article filled with inflammatory rhetoric and short on facts. It says that Huang, not knowing the Korean rules, gave one captured stone to Kim as such an act is inconsequential in the Chinese rules to calculate the final score. Huang tried to take it back as he realized that he had to follow the Korean rules. Kim refused. The match ended in favor of Kim by a half point. Huang demanded going over all the moves to see who the real winner was. Then, Kim "acted shamelessly" by refusing to so in order to keep the sordid win. Instigated by the report, many Chinese fans began a campaign of character assassination on Kim.

In Korea, nobody at that time was reporting the incident in depth before Korean Baduk Association's investigation was finished. Kept in the dark and relying on the Chinese report and its fans' reaction, some Korean fans got into the character assassination, as well. Furthermore, Korean Baduk Association ruled for a rematch between Huang and Kim before it revealed its investigation fully, which gave a strong impression that Kim was at fault. Kim forfeited the rematch, which in turn gave an impression that he indeed was at fault.

Now, with the investigation report released, the character assassination of Kim in Korea has been subdued. The Chinese reactions to it will play no important part ultimately for Kim. But, the way Korean Baduk Association handled the incident is quite regretful.

This type of character assassination can leave a lasting impression of Kim on the public and fans. Kim's professional ethics and personal dignity were at stake. The Korean Baduk Association should have done either 1) withholding a decision until it released the investigation report or 2) upholding the rules of the host as such is a precedent if it had to be decided before the investigation report was made public.

I actually believe that the reactions of Huang's and some Chinese fans' are rather understandable because due to the rule differences (hence not knowing how it affects plays), they probably thought simply going over all the moves could resolve the situation (hence, Kim's protest could be misperceived shameless). Kim's reaction, too, is reasonable as the issue of the black stone in dispute (on which they both previously agreed upon though wrongly) did affect his situational judgment.

Nevertheless, how Korean Baduk Association handled the situation was inexcusable. They simply did not take into consideration Kim's dignity and how the public may question his professional ethics. They owe a sincere public apology to Kim.

There are some reporters of both Korea and China who resort to inflammatory rhetoric without fully grasping facts and cultural differences -- perhaps motivated by some bad blood between them. It is unfortunate that this lack of professional ethics can escalate unnecessary and ultimately destructive mutual hatred, fostering wrong stereotypes already prevalent among quite a few.

P.S. The misplacement of captured stones, intentionally or otherwise, can create a confusion and break the concentration of the opponent. It can sometimes cause the opponent to miscalculate and lose the game by playing without taking into consideration that some captured stones are misplaced.

There are many rules of Go that some moves, purely mistakes without any intention to confuse the opponent, automatically disqualify the player who makes the mistake. They are easily correctable mistakes without real harm. However, since those mistakes can create unnecessary confusion, break the concentration of the opponent and can be misused intentionally, they are prohibited with a grave consequence of disqualification.

By the same token, the misplacement of captured stones are to be met with a consequence. That is the rationale behind the Korean rules regarding the misplacement of captured stones.

Samsung 2004 Dispute last edited by on October 1, 2017 - 10:45
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