Martin Muzika the first Czech Gomoku World Champion 2019 interview

Martin Muzika

1. When did you start to play gomoku and how?

I found out about standard gomoku at high school in 2008. At the same time I played a school tournament and I won it. This tournament should have chosen the 5 players that would participate in the Pisqworky tournament, which is a competition between different schools. Unfortunately, there was no bus connection to the place where we should have played our first tournament and my school decided to cancel our participation. For the first time I was quite sad because of gomoku. After some time, I started to play on a Czech offline server where I found out about the swap rule. It was a year after I won the school tournament for the second time and my journey started from there. Thanks to my huge progress, the team which I was part of qualified to the Pisqworky tournament final in Brno. Unfortunately, our school decided that we wouldn’t go there because of financial reasons and the fact, that Christmas was rapidly approaching. And that is the time when my nature and connection to the Czech gomoku federation began. I couldn’t accept the fact that my school would just give up without trying. Thanks to my conversation with peroxid I got the idea that I would go with them by bus on my own and my four teammates would get there by car with our teacher. I didn’t even consider that my parents would be against it and the next day I went straight to the director’s office. And that was the start of the journey of my career because thanks to meeting the Czech gomoku federation players (cannot forget the one long legendary game against Kedlub in two pubs) I went to Hradec and then to Pardubice where I met probably the best gomoku player of the new history: Attila Demján.

2. What job do you do what are your hobbies besides gomoku?

I work as a developer in a Broadcom company. My hobbies are football, Gomoku, logical-strategic games, table tennis, volleyball, running, cycling, reading books that are interesting for me, programming my own application “Gomoku library” for android and so on.

3. Which were the most difficult games in this AT?

I believe that the hardest game in this AT was the game against Gergo but the most important one was the one against Katsev. The first one because Gergo was the main favourite of the AT. In this game I made the wrong choice twice from the AI’s point of view, which resulted in my opponent’s several winning opportunities. The game against Katsev was the most important one from all of the games. Especially when I was finally in a position to attack and at the same time Zoltán lost against Żukowski. At that moment I had one hour on my clock and a position which was as if built directly for me. It was raining outside so much that I’ve likely never seen that before. Drops were falling down on roofs and I finally started to believe that I can win the tournament but only if I would find the winning against Katsev. Thirty minutes of thinking and I was still unable to calculate the game to the very end. I was searching for every branch and I couldn’t believe that there was nothing. My mind was telling me that I was wrong. There should be something and I’m just searching wrongly. When I started to lose time on the clock my concentration became worse and like many times before I was forced to come up with something and I went for a complex idea which doesn’t make much sense in the situation. That idea should have somehow allowed me to attack on a place where I had zero stones at that moment. I skipped my winning twice and I believed that my first idea was right. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that after 20 stones there would be a cut. I didn’t see any other option. I went close to the cut situation and I stopped there. So close and I failed! I added more than 20 stones on the board but I didn’t give up and as always I fought till the end. I continued searching for the winning because going to defend would mean to draw and that would result in me being only one point ahead which would mean losing the chance to win the tournament. I counted everything and in the end I found an interesting and precise winning on the edge of the board. At that moment I started to believe that I could win the tournament!

4. What are your future plans? (as job, gomoku player, organiser)

I would like to finish my game for android: “Gomoku library” which has been helping me improve in the last 16 months. I’d like to find some interesting place to live in, to be more happy than sad and to finally win the Czech open. In the meantime I would like to be a trainer and teach Gomoku and other logical games. 

Pavel, Martin and Villem enjoying some tasty food

5. I heard you are thinking to try renju QT next time because you have AT place in gomoku AT. Do you plan to practice some renju as well?

Yes, I’m already practising right now. Thanks to Tunnet’s advice I bought a book from Okabe (Nakamura`s puzzle book – solving in the bus on my way to work, so far I am almost in the middle of the book) and thanks to Ants’s advice I bought a book from Epifanov in Plock last year. Apart from that I started studying the basics with yixin which helps me understand minimum of the theory I need to know. After that I want to check games of other players.
Next part of my practice should be online tournaments and thanks to Aki and Madli I’m going to Sweden this November for a team tournament (I already have tickets).

6. What were your expectations before the tournament?

My expectations, goals or maybe wishes were to get to the final and to get a national place for my country. QT happened to be the hardest tournament ever for me. When I qualified to the final my goal was to be in the top five and to finally get a national place because I was quite sad that I failed in  Prague in 2017 and made it harder for Czech players here in Estonia thanks to my mistakes.

7. Who did you consider to be the main favourites?

In my opinion, the main favourites before the QT were Gergo, Peroxid, Kedlub and Zoli. After the QT it was Gergo, Peroxid and Zoli but when blitz finished, I started to feel that only Gergo and Peroxid were the favourites. My consideration slightly changed after we saw the pairing of AT. If I had even a secret thought that I’d like to win it then after I saw the pairing it was gone. My only thought was that there is no chance! All three main favourites were starting against me and my strongest advantage – “crazy opens” were pointless in this final. I was just quite thankful at that moment for Peroxid’s advice before the game against Kedlub in the QT because thanks to that I spent the best opening at the right moment which I would never happen to do myself. 

8. What were your first feelings and thoughts when becoming a world champion?

The first feelings were weird because I was sad, really, really tired and mad at myself.  In the 9th round I was quite lucky because I didn’t calm down and I won something where I found a winning in a matter of seconds but I played it the way that it was lost. Few minutes later Zoltán lost against Muratov and after that some people already started congratulating me even when there was a really small mathematical chance that I could finish second. The game against Zoltán in the 10th round made it even worse. I felt so tired and my concentration was terrible. Thanks to that I lost even when my swap2 was playable. It made my feelings even worse because the feeling that you would become the World champion and immediately lost to the previous World champion is not exactly the greatest.
Soon after the game everyone started sending me congratulations because Peroxid beat Żukowski. Then we went to a restaurant where I started to enjoy it because even though I lost, no one could get more points than me. Sometimes you need to be lucky.
Then I started to feel that I did something amazing. I always had the feeling that Czech players are strong and now we proved that.

Time to relax and enjoy the special cake

9. What do you think were your strong sides, why exactly did you win?

I would say that a huge part of my strong sides is strategy. Already when I was child, I liked strategies and here in a game like Gomoku you can use it in many ways. The next is definitely a weird memory. I can remember things that happened several years ago and for me it is as if it was yesterday. The next one is the ability to count really deep and to see wining patterns and combinations in seconds which helped me win dozens of lost games as I proved during the QT and the AT. This is actually the main part of my style, because it looks like I’m attacking all the time in the end. I cannot forget my crazy openings and swap2s (which I wasn’t able to show this time). Maybe even that I’m unstable, chaotic and most of the time not concentrated enough could be an advantage because I get to situations like possibly no one else which is most probably a huge disadvantage during the games (at least it makes it more interesting for everyone) but it is without a doubt a really huge advantage during the preparation and during the game when you need to come up with something like swap2. Another point which helped me is my nature. That I am without a doubt stubborn in the combination and playing even after and before rounds (no rest at all), helped me before the hardest game of AT against Gergo when I played with QingQing till the game started. It means that I had no time to be stressed which is one of my main disadvantages. I cannot forget my friends because they helped me between games. Especially Peroxid who was leading me to the victory.
All these parts helped me to win the AT. Even without my negative sides no one could promise me that I would win it. I believe that if I wouldn’t make so many mistakes,  I would most probably fail to win the AT because my opponents would have easier positions that they would know.

The top 3 of the Gomoku WC: Bulatovsky, Muzika, Zukowski

10. What are your future plans concerning gomoku? In the near future and further plans? Do you want to be active only as a player or perhaps also as an organiser, trainer or someone else?

I would like to be more than a player. I was teaching my friends gomoku on the internet and most probably I would still like to do it and even more if it would be real. I organised a tournament once at my workplace. The tournament was several months long but still a cool experience.
According to my plans I would like to convince more people from different countries to play gomoku. I was quite sad last several years when I saw that older people have no time for gomoku anymore and younger people are not interested at all. I always dreamed of a tournament with hundreds of people when I started participating in live tournaments ten years ago.

11. What do you most enjoy about gomoku?

I enjoy playing between the games and playing when it is only for fun (like on an afterparty) because I am not that stressed. The feeling when you find something or build something is cool too. All of this is fun but meeting the people from Gomoku and Renju community is something even more than games. I’m always sad when tournaments are ending and like 10 years ago in these situations, I would play even more on an afterparty and I would play forever just to forget that it is coming to an end. I would stay in this different world because these tournaments are the only situations when I have no problems with my bad addictions. Being with friends and concentrating only on Gomoku solved it. When everything ends I only have my memories and then it is quite hard to concentrate on real life because my memories are like a film for me. 

12. What would you like to say to your fans 🙂 ?

Enjoy the game.
Play fair.
Never give up.
Learn as much as you can – it can be helpful in real life.
Participate in as many real tournaments as you can. Most probably you will find new friends and maybe we will meet there too.

Game comment:

Game Muzika – Bulatovsky

Click here to link gomokuworld website to scroll the game from beginning.

In the seventh round I was playing against Oleg Bulatovsky. For the third time in a row I was starting the game against him. The decision which opening to use against him was really the main stone of the result. I decided to go with one secret opening which could look like similar to an old one of mine. Everyone from the Czech republic expected a swap2 but not me. Maybe I had a secret thought that Oleg won’t try his luck for the third time in row. Due to that I was checking all my preparation before I went to sleep. My decision was clear – if he chooses white I will attack, if he chooses black I will not go with the best 4th move but I will play a worse one on 4.f11. Still I was hoping that Oleg will add two stones. For this reason I was quite sad when he decided to choose the white colour after 20 minutes of thinking. My 4th move showed up on the board. Black has an advantage after that but white doesn’t not need to solve schemes after 5th stone on the right (square around i13). Oleg put an expected 5th stone on e11 and I immediately put 6.d12. The next move was on the board sooner than I expected – 7.g10 and there my mind started to think.
I was remembering the Peroxid’s recognition of Dupski’s style against Muratov (AT in Prague 2017). Two and a half days before I was checking the game again because of the upcoming match against Muratov. I spent more time on the game than I should have because I was thinking why these moves were that good and whether they actually were that good. According to that I started to think about 8.f9. Which was the same principle as Dupski’s 7th stone. The only difference was the third stone. I counted that after 9.g13 I would play 10.f12, 12.g12, 14.i11 and my situation would be fantastic. Unfortunately, when Oleg played 9.g13 I started to be kind of scared and instead of a perfect calculation of my first idea I started to count a passive way with 12.e12, 14.g11 and then I checked all possible attacks of black to be sure that all of them would force black to slow down with attack because of white counterattack on d11. The first huge mistake in this game. With almost two hours no one should play like that because I missed that after 15.i11 white cannot play 16.h12 as I wanted and if Oleg would play it maybe I would have been too hasty and I would have played wrongly. Luckily, Oleg went with a straight attack – 15.h10. After that white has a huge advantage and black is forced to attack which will increase the number of white stones on the board.  Oleg spent lots of time and my position was stable. Moves 16, 18, 20 were forced by opponent which saved lots of my time. The main stone was 21 and I was waiting so long for Oleg’s move that I had already figured out that 21.k11 allowed me to attack but 21.j10 would force me to play 21.j11. The time comes up and Oleg puts 21.k11. My answer was immediate – 22.d11 and the show begins! Black was forced to play 23.c12 and I was already prepared to play, 24.c10. In the game it is always a good idea to have a plan. My plan was 26.d9 and 28.e10 but I started to change my plan when I was waiting for 25. stone. The main reason was that I liked 26.d10 in combination with g8 because it gave me an interesting VCF with a final fork on c11. Unfortunately, there was a problem that black could play h8 and then block my VCF with h7. For this reason I decided that I would play h7 instead of g8 because I had a combination of attack after every black defence. Oleg chose wrongly and I had a straight winning after 29.h8. Unfortunately, I decided to play a four 36.i9 which blocks my simple winning and I started to make it more complicated as always. The reason why I played i9 was, that I didn’t want to allow black to play on j10 or i9. Both of these ideas make no sense. Black cannot play on j10 because it gives white a four on i9 and if black plays on i9 then white has a stone on j10 which blocks the j-line for black. If I didn’t see the strong white attack on the left then I would maybe understand the four 36.i9. Unfortunately, in the combination with my next move 38.f6 which I wanted to play already at the time I played 32.g8 it makes no sense. The only plus point for me was that I played my prepared combination till 44.j8. Which means the sequence 32-44. I was sure that after that moment I would be controlling the whole game with attacks on both sides. Oleg’s block 45.h6 doesn’t block the winning which was already there when I was blocking 44.j8 (again block for controlling game instead of winning). After 48.f4 there is no chance to block. Luckily, my sequence was also winning. The negative point is that I skipped two simple winnings and made my life more complicated. „Why play something simply if there is a complex way?” I heard many times. Probably I’m too stubborn and when I finally decide to do something then it is hard to change that.

Thank you very much for the interview and wish you the best of luck!

Questions by Tunnet Taimla