April Rip-Off: The Gong Show

Cheng Gong (L) vs. James Hutchinson

Sometimes you just happen to be in Dublin for a weekend, notice that there’s a tournament on, stop by on a whim…and proceed to sweep all before you to take the top prize. Visitor Cheng Gong, formerly of the London club, took three straight wins to top the table. The first hint that this was the likely outcome came in the first round when his opponent John Courtney hit byo-yomi while Gong had used a scant seven minutes of thinking time. He played with similar assurance against James Hutchinson and Matei Garcia, forcing resignations in both games. Reigning champion Lu Xinqun chalked a loss (his only loss to date in an Irish tournament) against Matei in the first round, to finish third overall.

Lee Byoung-Ju (L) vs. Stephen Eachus: could eight stones be a bridge too far?

Further down the table, Niall “el Presidente” Tuohy and Ruari “Californicator” McCloskey swung at each other like a pair of heavyweight boxers deep into the fifteenth round: in a game marked by massive reversals, Ruari finally cut a loose connection to sever a group of stones, and put the game out of the reach of any further rip-offs. Two newcomers from the Belfast club enjoyed mixed success: Calum Mackenzie shook off a first round loss to Niall to win his next game against Arthur Cater, but Stephen Eachus had a tougher time of it, with his third and final loss coming against clubmate Calum. Making the final of the Irish Championship seemed to be a bad omen, with John Courtney and Alex Delogu only scraping one win between them.

Baffled by the technology: tournament director Eoghan Barry resorts to pen and paper

Prizes duly awarded, we repaired to the bar upstairs: the lucky ones enjoyed pints and rengo, the less fortunate endured a lengthy and detailed exposition on corner sequences from John. The hard core continued on to M & L Szechuan, where Przemek tried in vain to teach us how to pronounce his name correctly (“Chemex? Perzmek? Premzek?”) and the usual ráiméis over the bill lasted almost as long as the meal itself. And so another successful Rip-Off came to a close.

The Northern Irish contingent breathe a sigh of relief as the train pulls out of Connolly Station

Thanks to Ruari for the pictures.

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