Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Woman of the Week : Rui Naiwei

Rui Naiwei is a female professional igo player who became the first woman to achieve 9 dan in igo history.

Rui Naiwei was born in December 28, 1963. She started to play igo at the age of 12. Though she started at a rather "late" age, she managed to be in the national squad in 4 years.

In 1980 she was 4th in the National Women's Championship (then the premier event for women). In 1981 she was 3rd, and in the following two years she came second.

Success at this level brought her automatic selection for the visit to Japan in the 1982 Japan-China Go Exchange, where she put quite a few Japanese noses out of joint by recording a 7-0 clean sweep, including victory against the Japanese women's champion. 1982 was the year that China first awarded dan grades. Rui was made 4-dan, but immediately qualified as 5-dan in the same year. She reached 6-dan in 1984, and finally turned pro when she reached 7-dan in 1985.

She was promoted to 9 dan in 1988

Rui left China abruptly in 1989, just after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. She then lived in Japan. Making friends with Komatsu Hideki and Yoda Norimoto whom she met during the igo exchange. They learned together in Fujisawa Shuko's study group.
Rui made a living easily enough by teaching go - she was the main instructor for a computer network - and by working in the international division of an insurance company.

A breakthrough came for Rui in 1992. The Taiwanese entrepreneur Ing Chang-ki was hosting his quadrennial Ing Cup, and he decided he wanted Rui and Jiang to be part of it. The Chinese at first objected, but since the Koreans and Japanese sided with Ing, he got his way. Then the Chinese said they wanted the first three rounds to be held in Shanghai, but as they wouldn't allow Jiang into Shanghai (it was this that gave credence to the Tian'an-men rumours) Ing decided they would play in Seoul.

It was a memorable tournament for Rui in two ways. First she announced, at the opening reception, that she and Jiang had married. Then, despite having no competitive games for two years in Japan, she stormed through to the semi-finals (Jiang lost in Round 1). This was the best achievement by far of any woman in the go world, and when the time came for her best-of-three match with Otake Hideo 9-dan of Japan in Taipei, she was already the darling of the Taiwanese media.

She lost the match, but not before registering one win against Otake, regarded as the pinnacle of female achievement thus far. She cried bitterly afterwards, not so much for her loss - she had already dreamt six times she had lost! - but because "there are no more games waiting for me."

With residence problems and the need to earn their livings, Jiang and Rui went separate ways after the Ing tournament, he back to California, she to Japan. But events in the go world were moving a little in their favour. It was the beginning of the growth in international events. In summer 1994, a Chinese jewellery company launched the short-lived Cui Bao (Kingfisher Treasure, i.e. jade) Cup as a Woman's World Championship. Rui won, in Beijing no less - so she at least was still perona grata in China.

In November of the same year, a Korean brewery company organised the longer lived Bohae Cup, with $30,000 first prize. This too was a woman's world championship, and since the Cui Bao Cup ended after one term, it could justifiably claim this status (it has since been replaced by the Hung Chang Cup). Rui won, as she was also to do in term 3 and 4.

Rui became the first woman ever to win an open championship in the igo world when she won the Kuksu title in 2000. She surprised everyone when he beat Lee Changho to win the right as the challenger. She gave even bigger surprise when she won the third game from Cho Hunhyun thus stealing the title from him.

She currently play as professional player in Korea and ruling the female section where she currently holds both Female Kuksu and Female Myeongin title.

Rui Naiwei (right) vs. Cho Hyeyeon (left) during the Female Myeongin title match earlier this year.

Here is the game records of the gmaes above:
Rui Naiwei vs. Lee Changho
Rui Naiwei vs. Cho Hunhyun, game 2
Rui Naiwei vs. Cho Hunhyun, game 3

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