On Sunday, the 2022 European Championship concluded with impressive games in both the final and small final. Congratulations go especially to our new European Champion and winner of the grand prize: Benjamin Dréan-Guénaïzia 6d of France.
In his final game against Artem Kachanovskyi 2p, Benjamin fell behind during the middlegame by around five points and twenty minutes on the clock. Showing great fortitude, however, he succeeded in complicating the game and taking a large number of points in the centre. As the endgame started, it was clear from the body language of both players that they knew the score was razor thin. Benjamin asked Artem to lay out the captured stones, and in the following moves both players were clearly counting the score again and again.
As it turned out, there were no more points on the board left to play for: Benjamin’s slight lead was insurmountable. In the final count, he won by 3½ points and was thus crowned Champion.
In the small final between Fredrick Blomback 6d and Nikola Mitić 7d, Fredrick built a strong lead by the fiftieth move and held onto it for most of the game. Despite some complicated ko fights and large trades, Fredrick emerged from a final fight with a reduced, but still unassailable lead – Nikola resigned after 180 moves. Fredrick thus claimed third place, and Nikola fourth; in a field of 32 strong players, both are impressive achievements.
Many of you will be familiar already with our new Champion, but for those who aren’t, Benjamin was kind enough to provide a brief interview:
Congratulations, Benjamin! How did the tournament go for you, how did you enjoy it?
I enjoyed the EC very much. It was a shame the playing venue for the top boards was a little far from the main venue, but the playing conditions were nice. I really didn’t put any pressure on myself, so I was able to enjoy every game.
Which was the most challenging game, and why?
I guess most people would expect me to say the final, or one of the games in the later stages, but I would have to say that the hardest was my first-round game against Vladimir Danek 5d. It was the first game of the tournament and I was still getting into the competition and warming up. As it turned out, he outread me in a local sequence, the game ended up very close and it wasn’t easy to win!
What were your thoughts going into the final, did you have a plan?
I didn’t have a play per se, I had lost to Artem in the preliminary stage so I was glad to have the opportunity to face him again and hopefully beat him the second time. I just tried to play my best.
You mention that Artem had beaten you in the third round, how did you beat him this time?
All my friends advised me to prevent the game from becoming too calm, they said, “Don’t enter Artem’s torture chamber!”. I guess I did end up there for a while, but perhaps he felt too good by the middle of the game and that’s why he let me build a huge centre. It turned out it was enough for me to win.
You won the European Championship on your first time reaching the final, what does this victory mean to you?
Well, it’s hard to say. The victory was so unexpected, I really didn’t prepare myself for it. I was quite overwhelmed for the first few minutes after the game finished, it will probably take me a few days to digest what happened. I don’t think it will change my go life very much, except that my name will remain in the EGF history books and that’s nice! Although I do suspect they’ll spell it wrong…