On the afternoon of September 21, 2014, Hiraoka Satoshi, three times amateur Honinbo and twice world amateur go champion, found himself facing a neurosurgeon. More precisely, he was facing Osawa Shinichiro, a member of the faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery in the Graduate School of Medicine at Tohoku University. Between them was a go board, and they were about to play the game that would decide which of them would represent Japan at the 2015 World Amateur Go Championship in Thailand.
Hiraoka had been seeded into the 60-player selection knockout and given a bye in the first round, so he reached the final game by defeating only four opponents: a veteran from Chiba, a middle-school student from Fukuoka, an insei from the Kansai Kiin, and Mori Hironobu, another seeded player, who had played in the WAGC in 2007. Dr. Osawa, the amateur meijin of Miyagi, had entered at the first round and downed five opponents, including a former amateur Honinbo and an insei from Nagoya. Those were in addition to the opponents he had beaten in the Miyagi qualifying tournament. His appearance in the final game was no surprise; he has beaten professional opponents in the Agon Cup. The presence of insei among Hiraoka's and Osawa's opponents was a little unusual -- Japanese insei rarely take part in amateur tournaments -- but in any case, none of the insei reached even the semifinal round.
Instead, all four of the semi-finalists were in their thirties or forties, far past insei age. In contrast, the last eight world amateur go champions have all been in their teens or twenties. And none of them have been Japanese. Japan did rather well in the WAGC in the last decade of the 20th century, taking five championships against three for China and two for Korea, but since 2001 Japan has won the WAGC only once, and after Mori's third place in 2007, no Japanese player has finished higher than fifth.
The job of lifting Japan's sagging fortunes will fall to Hiraoka, for he beat Dr. Osawa by 9.5 points. Hiraoka was in his mid-twenties when he first won the WAGC in 1994, and in his mid-thirties when he won it again in 2006. Can the JR freight railwayman win another world championship in his mid-forties, or can he at least restore Japan to a place among the top four? We'll find out next summer.
- James Davies
SportAccord is proud to present the 10 ambassadors for the 2014 edition of the World Mind Games to be held in Beijing in China from the 11th to the 17th of December. Representing the best practices in their respective sports discipline, the following ambassadors would be the faces of their respective sports at the World Mind Games this year.
International ambassador- Alexandra Kosteniuk
Chinese ambassador- Wenjun Ju
International ambassador- Fulvio Fantoni
Chinese ambassador- Wang Wenfei
International ambassador- Viktoriya Motrichiko
Chinese ambassador- Ala Tenghua
International ambassador- Hajin Lee
Chinese ambassador- Jiaxi Tuo
International ambassador- Hok Him Wong
Chinese ambassador- Sinan Tang
The SportAccord World Mind Games ambassador programme is a step taken towards increasing the profiles of the constituent member sports at the annual event. Chosen carefully by the international federations, the ambassadors are the representatives of their respective sports, tasked with helping reach out to a wider audience of mind sports. Also part of their responsibility is community outreach at the World Mind Games, where they are supposed to conduct sports clinics with young children, inspiring them to consider the pursuit of mind sports through informal and formal means.
Each sport has 2 ambassadors, one international and the other Chinese. The purpose of this classification is to ensure that the appeal of each sports does not remain restricted to either the international or the domestic audience.
Full details of the SportAccord World Mind Games ambassadors can be found here.
- Source: media.sportaccord.com
The 25th International Amateur Pair Go (IAPG) Championship was held at the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont in Tokyo on October 25-26, 2014. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of pair go, two professional exhibition games were also held on the 25th, a World Students Pair Go Championship was held on the 26th, and numerous Pair Go Association officials and supporters and pair go promotion partners (PGPPs) were invited from Japan and overseas. Many of these guests took part in the parallel handicap tournament, also held on the 26th, in which nearly 150 pairs competed for the Araki Cup.
After a kickoff party on the 24th, the 32 pairs competing for the IAPG Cup got right down to business by playing the first round of their five-round Swiss System on the morning of the 25th. The Korean pair (Kim Sooyoung and Jeon Junhak) were favored because (1) they are respectively the highest-rated Korean amateur female and male players, and (2) they won this event last year. They made a good start by beating the pair from Germany. The pairs from China and Chinese Taipei and eight of the eleven Japanese pairs also won their first games, but the pair from Hong Kong (Vanessa Wong and Chan Naisan) lost to the Japanese pair from Hokkaido.
In the field of contestants for the IAPG Cup, by far the largest contingent had scholastic occupations: they were students or teachers, from the middle-school level to the university level. But the field also represented many other walks of life, ranging from company president to manicurist, so Ranka decided to ask some of them about their work, starting with six of the winners in the first round.
Dong Qin (China) 'I'm in charge of the weiqi (go) department of the Hangzhou branch of the China Chess Institute, which is the second largest branch in China. This involves managing the Hangzhou Weiqi Association and Hangzhou's pro team -- that's my main job.'
Yao Jun (China) 'I'm chief editor at the Shanxi Shuhai Publishing House. We publish a wide range of books, including textbooks that use go for educational purposes.'
Pau Carles (Spain) 'I work at a book and game store. We sell mainly science fiction and things like that, but we also have a small go section with books and equipment.'
Isabel Barros (Spain) 'I work for a game company. We produce board games -- not go, but eurogames such as Catan and Carcassonne, and role-playing games.'
Dragan Dubaković (Serbia) 'I'm a go player and a cook. I like everything about go: the people, the philosophy behind the game, getting away from home and going to tournaments -- and maybe it has something to do with China, because I also like to cook Chinese food.'
After lunch there was a huge goodwill pair go match, to which many of the pairs came dressed in national costume. The Germans came in football uniforms and brought a ball. Including players, officials, and PGPPs, they had nearly a complete football team.
After the goodwill games, some of the players watched the professional exhibition games, or listened to the public commentaries given by 9-dan pros Ishida Yoshio and Michael Redmond. In one game Japan's top men's and women's title-holders Iyama Yuta and Hsieh (Xie) Yi-min defeated Korea's Cho Hunhyun and Lee Hajin; in the other game, which pitted two married couples against each other, China's Chang Hao and Zhang Xuan defeated Japan's Chang Hsu (Cho U) and Kobayashi Izumi. Chinese Taipei was also represented, for although Hsieh Yi-min and Chang Hsu live and play in Japan, by birth and citizenship they belong to Chinese Taipei.
The exhibition games were followed by a lavish party that featured the rousing performance of a new pair go song, penned by screenwriter Koyama Kundo (Iron Chef, Departures). His song is quite different from the go songs traditionally sung at American and European go congresses.
In the second round next morning, the Korean pair beat the Japanese pair from Shikoku, while the young pair from Chinese Taipei (Lin Hsiao-tung and Lai Yu-cheng, both students) defeated the pair from China. Ranka continued its occupational survey by speaking with some of the other second-round winners.
Ito Akio (Hokkaido) 'I have a waterproofing company in Hakodate, with about ten employees. We waterproof the roofs and outer walls of buildings.'
Gyorgy Csizmadia (Hungary) 'I'm a mathematician. I work as a quant for the Budapest branch of Morgan Stanley, doing mathematical modeling of financial instruments.'
Wembris Isral (Indonesia) 'I have my own automobile service workshop. I do body repair on European and Asian cars.'
Lie Diana (Indonesia) 'I'm working for an export-import service, doing network business development. We help our clients ship goods overseas and bring goods from overseas into Indonesia.'
Greatbodin Buranarachada (Thailand) 'I'm an electrical engineer. I design and check electrical systems for mass transport facilities, such as subways and elevators. And my partner Yanakorn Anusiri is an engineering student at Chulalongkorn University, from which I graduated.'
In the third round, Ito Akio and his partner ran up against the pair from Chinese Taipei, to whom they lost, and the Korean pair overcame the pair from Singapore. Other winners included pairs from Australia and Germany, a pair from the Kinki district of Japan (the area around Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara), and the European champion pair. Five of them offered the following information about themselves.
Wei Xu (Australia) 'I'm a machinist. I operate a CNC machine -- a computer-numerically-controlled machine tool -- that makes parts for automobiles and trucks.'
Jana Hollmann (Germany) 'I studied mathematics and have worked for fifteen years as an actuarial consultant for a worldwide consulting company. My specialty is pensions and benefits.'
Fukuda Satoru (Kinki district, Japan) 'I work as a photographer for a company that installs utility poles for a power company. I take pictures of the poles to confirm that they have been properly installed.'
Manuela Marz (European champion pair) 'I'm now a professor of bioinformatics at Friedrich-Schiller University. I do teaching and research -- we have a system in Germany where you have to do both simultaneously -- but my main activity is research and I love it.'
Benjamin Teuber (European champion pair) 'I'm a student of life.'
After lunch, in the fourth round, the pairs from Korea and Chinese Taipei faced Japanese opponents and continued to win. The pairs from France, Russia, and the United Kingdom were also among the winners in this round, and they turned out to include a programmer, an economist, an accountant, and an inventor.
Ngoc-Trang Cao (France) 'Although I'm French and am playing for France, I moved six months ago to work in the United Kingdom. So now I am a game programmer at a British company. We create video games for consoles and PCs.'
Vladimir Gorzhaltsan (Russia) 'I divide my time fifty-fifty between two jobs. I work as an economist for a financial company, and I'm an executive officer in the Russian Go Federation.'
Alison Bexfield (UK) 'I'm a chartered accountant. I work for the BBC, in the audit department. I make sure the BBC spends its money wisely.'
Simon Bexfield (UK) 'I've just invented a very nice puzzle called the Perplexing Pyramid. It's a 3D printed object, made in one piece but with printed hinges, so it's a fantastic shape that folds into something interesting. Recently I've also been making 3D printers and developing various small technical advances in them, which are being used in the Threedy printers that go into schools, and around the world.'
While the second to fourth rounds were being played, the World Students Pair Go Championship was unfolding on four tables at the side of the playing room. The competitors were all university students: two pairs each from China, Japan, and Korea, and one pair each from Chinese Taipei and Thailand. The champion pair was Kim Hyunah and Park Moonkyu from Korea, who beat Hu Shih-yun and Chan Yi-tien from Chinese Taipei to end undefeated. Full results are here.
Then it was the turn of Korea's Kim Sooyoung and Heon Junhak and Chinese Taipei's Lin Hsiao-tung and Lai Yu-cheng to play the deciding game for the IAPG Cup, in a special quiet playing room with extended time limits, while the rest of the IAPG field continued with the fifth round. Ranka concluded its occupational survey with four of the fifth-round winners, including the Japanese pair that took sixth place, an American accountant, and an aspiring Swiss novelist, the daughter of the Swiss physicist Marcel Golay.
Kuramoto Minoru (Kinki district, Japan) 'I'm a freelance go instructor. I play teaching games and give classroom instruction.'
Saito Naoko (Kinki district, Japan) 'I have my own nail salon.'
Daehyuk Ko (USA) 'I do accounting and financial analysis for Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.'
Monique Golay (Switzerland) 'My novels are addressed to young people. The names of my characters are Japanese names from the game of go. For example, I have a Dark Lord whose name is Moyo. He's a five-billion-year-old elf, and he is fed up with life but unfortunately he is indestructible. The only way for him to destroy himself is to time-travel all the way back to the Big Bang and destroy the entire universe. The other characters try to stop him. I'm trying to make young people laugh, and also to bring them to the game of go.'
To time-travel back to reality, the pairs from Korea and Chinese Taipei had gotten into a corner ko fight. At his public commentary, Michael Redmond said he thought the Korean pair came out of the fight slightly ahead, and in fact they went on to win by resignation. At the ceremony that followed, they received numerous cups, trophies, and other awards, as well as a best-dresser prize, which they accepted in national costume. The pairs from Mexico, Serbia, and the United Kingdom also received best-dresser prizes, likewise in national costume. The chief judge was fashion designer Koshino Junko, and the dress she wore for the awards ceremony was stunning too.
In the final standings, the Korean pair won their second straight IAPG Cup, Chinese Taipei took a second straight second place, Hong Kong took fourth place, Singapore was ninth, Czechia was thirteenth, the European champion pair was fifteenth, and the U.S. pair was sixteenth. Nine Japanese pairs filled out the rest of the top sixteen, led by former insei Tsuji Moeka and Tsunoda Daisuke; their third place earned them a cup as the Japanese amateur champion pair. Complete results and pictures of all the players are here.
And as pair go founder Taki Hisao pointed out, while the Japanese go population has been gradually decreasing during the past quarter century, the pair go population has exploded in Japan and throughout the world. The International Pair Go Association now has 70 member countries and territories. One looks forward to the next twenty-five years.
- James Davies
Peter Smolárik, Slovakia's representative at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup, is a university student who has been an active go player for more than half his life. His extensive tournament career in Slovakia includes 2nd place in the Košice City Championship last November, 5th place in the Slovak Championship last May, and 9th place at the Slovak Go Festival last June. In the KPMC he scored one win, over a young opponent from Australia. Ranka talked to him during the lunch break on the second day.
Peter: This is my first time in Korea and it's been very good. Ranka: How do you like being in Korea?
Ranka: Do you see any similarities between Korea and Slovakia?
Peter: Both have lots of natural beauty, lots of mountains and hills, and very good skiing.
Ranka: Do you ski?
Peter: No, but the mountains and hills are also good for bicycle riding, which I enjoy.
Ranka: Please tell us how you learned to play go?
Peter: I learned from my father, more than ten years ago, and after that, I went to go clubs. We have a couple of clubs in Košice, where I live, and some more in Bratislava. Mostly I play at the Košice go club, but when I have time I'll go to other clubs for tournaments and competitions.
Ranka: How many tournaments does Slovakia have per year?
Peter: About ten.
Ranka: We understand that Pavol Lisy, who recently became the first European go player to qualify as a pro in Europe, also lives in Košice. Has his becoming a pro made any big changes?
Peter: It didn't draw a big reaction from the news media, but one change it made was that he couldn't come here to the KPMC. So I came instead. But Pavol can still compete in other amateur tournaments in Slovakia.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck this afternoon.
Photo: Ito Toshiko
SportAccord launches photo contest on Instagram for World Mind Games 2014.
22nd October, 2014: A picture is worth a thousand words. Or in your case, worth a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3!
SportAccord presents the World Mind Games 2014 photo contest and a chance for you to win neat prizes for your interest in mind games. All you need to enter are an Instagram account and decent photography skills.The rules of entry are simple and consist of the following easy steps-1. Click a photograph showcasing your interpretation of any of the 5 mind games at the World Mind Games 2014- chess, bridge, Go, Xiangqi and draughts.2. Upload the photograph on Instagram using the hashtag #SAWMG14.The 3 best photographs would be chose on ‘vision, originality and creativity’. The prizes awaiting the winner are as follows:
1st prize- 1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 3
2nd prize- 1 World Mind Games watch
3rd prize- $100 gift cardThe contest opens from the 22nd of October to the 4th of December, 2014.
So, pick up that camera, get clicking and get winning!
The Choongam Baduk Dojang (go academy) has been a driving force behind Korean Baduk for the past two decades. In the 1990s it was not only a training place for young aspirants but also a meeting place where some of the strongest Korean players would get together to analyze games and investigate new moves. In 2011 it was reorganized in its present form by the merger of three dojangs. When the players at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup visited it on September 18, they were welcomed by its headmaster Choi Gyubyung, 9-dan. He explained that Choongam was currently the leading baduk academy in Korea, having the largest number of insei and having turned out the largest number of professional players. Photos of these pros adorned the hallways. The 51 KPMC contestants were then matched against a like number of Choongam students for a friendship match. While the match was in progress, Mr Choi kindly consented to an intervew with Ranka.
Choi: Choongam has a long history, and I've been with it since the beginning. It was founded in its present form in 2011 by Yang Jaeho, Yoo Changhyuk, and Heo Janghoe, all professional 9-dan. It has students of many levels, up to the insei level. There are different rooms for students of different levels. As a pupil advances from level to level, he or she moves up from room to room. Ranka: Please tell us a little about the history and organization of Choongam.
Ranka: How many foreign students do you have?
Choi: At present Benjamin Lockhart, from America, is studying here, and we have students from Taiwan as well. In the recent past we've also had European students, from Czechia, France, and Poland, for example.
Ranka: How was today's friendship match organized?
Choi: We matched the KPMC contestants against the Choongam students in order of rank, for the contestants, and rating, for the Choongam students. We excluded the top twenty Choongam students, so we started with number twenty-one, who was matched against the top ranked KPMC contestant, and then so on down.
Ranka: What do you think are the keys to becoming a good baduk player?
Choi: To start with, memory is important, as it is in any form of education, not just baduk. You have to gain and retain knowledge. But the most important thing in baduk is to develop the ability to figure things out for yourself. To do some original thinking during your games.
Ranka: How do you view the current baduk competition between China and Korea?
Choi: Last year China pulled ahead of Korea, but I think this may be a temporary situation. China has a very good educational system, however. It will be very interesting to see how the contest between China and Korea develops in the future.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: Ranka was unable to keep tally of how all the friendship matches turned out, but at the top end, the KPMC contestants had a tough time. Although the KPMC champion-to-be Wei Taewoong won his game, China's Hu Yuqing, twice world amateur champion, lost to Choongam's Cho Namkyun, and Japan's Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki lost to Choongam's Moon Hyojin. At the bottom end, however, where the Choongam side consisted mostly of primary school students who were still near the beginning of their serious baduk studies, it was a different story. Ranka is pleased to report that some of the smallest European countries can still produce players who can defeat some of the kids at Korea's leading baduk academy.
This is a continuation of an interview Ranka had with Alexandra when she played in the first World Mind Sports Games in Beijing six year ago. At that time she had interrupted her university studies in Hungary to study go at the International Baduk Academy in Korea. That interview ended with Ranka asking Alexandra what her future plans were. She said she wanted to get stronger at go, see how much progress she had made a year later, and then decide what to do next. What she eventually decided to do was to enroll as a graduate student in Korean literature at a Korean university. Studying Korean literary theory and writing a thesis in Korean left her little time to play go, so when she earned her degree and returned to Hungary, she was playing only at about the 1-dan level. Nevertheless, when a call went out on the Internet for someone to represent Hungary at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup, she answered it.
Alexandra: Actually I got started by accident when I was fifteen. I was looking around on Internet sites, I think Japanese-related sites, and I found this site about go and I got really interested in it. So I started to play on KGS and later looked for some Hungarian players, and that is how I started the game. Ranka: How did you get started playing go?
Ranka: And how did you come to pursue a graduate degree in Korean literature?
Alexandra: That actually developed from my interest in Korea. After I spent one and a half years in Korea I went back to Hungary and graduated from my university, and after that I went to one of these reading evenings. It was something like a reading circle. They were reading Korean writers' short stories, and I really liked them. I really liked their atmosphere. They were very, like, harmonious. And so when I later applied for a scholarship to Korea, a governmental scholarship, I thought, I could study Korean literature in Korean, which is an asset, and I'm also kind of interested in Korean literature, so why not?
Ranka: Can you tell us about one Korean author that you particularly like?
Alexandra: Of course! To start with, I like female writers a lot, because in Hungary thare are not that many of them; it's still mainly male writers that dominate the scene. One of the writers I like is Kong Ji-young. She's quite famous and has a lot of works in translation. I particularly like her because I wrote my thesis about her. She's one of the first female writers that got really famous. She writes about things in a very female way that I like very much.
Ranka: What does she write about?
Alexandra: Well, she writes about several things, but the short stories I particularly like from her are about making the transfer from the eighties, when Korea was still sort of a dictatorship, to the nineties when they finally became democratized. It became an inner struggle inside Korean people, especially Korean youth, university students. At one time in the eighties they thought that socialism was going to be the way to go, but at the end of the eighties a lot of Eastern European socialist states became democratic. So they had this whole world collapsing inside them. How were they to overcome the collapse?
Ranka: You now work as a translator. Have you translated any go books from Korean into Hungarian?
Alexandra: No, because the go population of Hungary is only about 100 to 150.
Ranka: What do you translate?
Alexandra: Well, right now I'm just starting out, so I'm trying to establish myself as a freelancer. So far I've mostly translated literature, and that's what I'm most interested in. Much of my work has been proofreading translations by Koreans who are translating Hungarian literature into Korean: famous Hungarian writers or famous Hungarian historical books. I've also worked as an interpreter; I interpreted for a well-known writer when he was in Hungary. His name is Yi Mun-yeol and he's very famous in Korea, so I was really happy to have that chance.
Ranka: We wish you good luck in your career.
Alexandra: Thank you.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Andre Connell is a Johannesburg-based information technology consultant who represented South Africa at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup in Seoul. Ranka spoke with him after he had played two rounds and split two games with very different Asian opponents.
Andre: I learned about the game at Stellenbosch University, which is where I studied. We have a student center where the students can go and get fairly cheap food, and the go club used to meet there. So one evening I walked past and asked the guys, 'What are those? Can you eat them?' Which is kind of the standard question. It started from there and I've been playing ever since. Ranka: How did you learn about the game of go?
Ranka: How many years ago was that?
Andre: That was in '95, so it was nineteen years ago.
Ranka: How has go developed in South Africa during those nineteen years?
Andre: It's grown. During the Hikaru no Go phase when everyone was watching the manga, it grew quite a lot. We've kept a few of those players, and I think the general level in South Africa has improved quite a bit. We have one very strong player, Victor Chow, who has been playing in South Africa and is pretty much the strongest guy around in our country, but there are a lot of the rest of us who have also increased our level. I'd say we've got between five and ten players at around the two to four dan level now, which is much better than, let's say, fifteen or twenty years ago when I started, when we had only a couple of dan players. So that's basically where we are at the moment. We're not as strong as many of the European countries, for example, but we're doing fairly well.
Ranka: Does Victor Chow teach the rest of you?
Andre: Yes. We generally play against him in tournaments. Every time you get to a tournament, which can be about two to five times a year, you get to play a game against him, and it's pretty much a teaching game.
Ranka: Do you also go into the places where the original African population lives?
Andre: The townships, for example. One of our strongest clubs is actually in Soweto. We have a couple of players from there who have actually gone to the World Amateur Championships and to the KPMC. I think about seven or eight years ago Julius Paulu went to the World Amateur Champs, and Welile Gogotshe went to the KPMC four years ago. Julius was around 1-dan. He's unfortunately passed away since then, but Welile is one of the strongest players in South Africa. He's probably around 3-dan. He's doing very well.
Ranka: And now, can you tell us about your first game, this morning?
Andre: My first game this morning was against Mongolia. It was quite a tight game. I had a large lead up to about move 100, and then I kept losing little chunks of territory and stones, and eventually managed to sneak it by 2-1/2 points, but it was quite tight at the end. It was one of those that almost got away. At least it was 'almost' -- it didn't get properly away.
Ranka: And what was the story this afternoon?
Andre: I played against the Korean player. He is very strong, quite a few stones stronger than I am, but it was a lot of fun. I tried to attack one of his groups. It didn't work out too well, and then he had one of my groups on the run. It managed to live, but he ended up taking a quarter of the board in return, so he was twenty or thirty points ahead and there was no way I could catch up, unfortunately.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck in the upcoming rounds.
Postscript: In the remaining rounds Andre faced four European opponents and beat one of them to finish 36th.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Lorenz Trippel is a Swiss 1-dan who works at an office in Zurich, likes cycling, is an active go organiser and is also a prolific provider of go information on the Internet. Ranka talked with him shortly after he arrived in Seoul for the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup.
Lorenz: We have a long history of go in Switzerland. We started in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and from there we have been growing slowly, like everywhere else in Europe, I think. Now we have about 150, maybe 200 active go players. We have the tradition that every club holds a tournament each year, so we have eight or nine tournaments a year. As we are small, our organization has waves. Sometimes the people get very active and do a lot, and some other times things go a bit slow. But still, we are maintaining quite a good tournament schedule. We also try to promote the game on some special occasions where we can put up a stand, talk to the public, and explain the rules. That's probaby, from my point of view, the most important thing the organization can do: to promote the game. Ranka: Please tell us about go in Switzerland.
Ranka: How did you get started in go?
Lorenz: I got started through my family. My father played, my aunt played, and I have an older brother who played -- a half-brother, who is much older than me. When I was like ten he was already in his thirties. So they would play against each other, my father and my brother, and I would watch them playing. That's how I started, just by observing the older family members. And then one day I started to play myself, but I don't really remember the moment when I started to play.
Ranka: Please tell us more about your go-playing aunt.
Lorenz: She's now over one hundred years old, and she has a very emotional connection to the game. She's not a strong player. She just has this feeling about it, about playing the stones. She likes the game, but she is not competitive at all. To her, it's more of a social doing.
Ranka: And what are you looking forward to in the KPMC?
Lorenz: In this tournament I really couldn't say what I'm looking forward to. I just want to play good games. I cannot win a prize. I'm sure that if I play too well in the beginning I will meet some very strong opponents and get crushed, so how well I do cannot be counted by numbers. I just want to to play good games.
Ranka: Thank you and we hope you do.
Postscript: Lorenz played quite well on the first day of the KPMC, beating 2-dan and 3-dan opponents from Norway and Spain and losing only to a 4-dan from the Netherlands. His prediction then came true: on the second day he was matched against a pair of 5-dans from Thailand and Germany and a 4-dan from Israel, lost all three games, and finished 35th. But that was still second highest among the eight 1-dans competing.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Ranka talked with Belarusian 1-dan Aliaksandr Chakur shortly after his victory over a like-ranked player from Brunei in the first round of the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup.
Ranka: How long have you been playing go?
Aliaksandr: I've played go for about ten years. I started to learn in my university days. Then I found a go club in our city, Minsk, where there were other players and also a teacher, Alexandr Suponev. He began to teach me and I started to progress. I played a lot every week.
Ranka: Is there a lot of go activity in Belarus?
Aliaksandr: We have around eighty players, and we sometimes have tournaments.
Ranka: Are you currently the strongest of the eighty?
Aliaksandr: The three strongest players now all play as 1-dan, and then there are three to five 3-kyu players, so I may not be the strongest, but I am one of the strongest.
Ranka: What happened in the game that you just finished this morning?
Aliaksandr: In that game I was stronger. Her opening was much weaker and I killed most of her groups.
Ranka: And what are your hopes for the coming rounds?
Aliaksandr: It's mostly communication -- to communicate with people from other countries -- also to play and review games, maybe become stronger, and maybe find some new ways to progress.
Ranka: How often have you been to the Far East before?
Aliaksandr: One time to China, one time to Japan, and this is my third time in Korea, always to play in a go tournament. I've played in the KPMC twice before, in 2008 and 2012.
Ranka: How did you do those two years?
Aliaksandr: I won about half my games and lost about half. That's my usual result, so I hope that this year I will do the same, or maybe better.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.
Postscript: This year Aliaksandr broke even again. In his next five games he faced opponents from New Zealand, Turkey, South Africa, Portugal, and Peru, with ranks from 1-dan to 6-dan, and defeated two of them to take 31st place.
Sweden's new go champion Jakob Bing has played in two Korea Prime Minister Cups, both times winning three games and finishing near the middle of the field. In 2012, playing as a 2-dan and assisted by a McMahon point, he came in 33rd out of 70. In 2014, now ranked 3-dan, he finished 28th out of 51 without McMahon assistance, the tournament having reverted to the normal Swiss system. Ranka interviewed him shortly after his last game.
Jakob: Well, sadly, it seems that go in Sweden has been shrinking. It was more active seven years ago when I started playing. There were more tournaments, with more players. We still have one very big tournament, the Gothenburg open, which gets up to sixty or more participants, but a normal tournament can be like twenty to twenty-five people. The number of tournaments has been shrinking as well. How many do we have left now? I think maybe five or six a year. But a new thing that has started is that we have a summer go camp near Gothenburg, arranged by the Gothenburg go club. This has been very successful for three years in a row. It's very nice, very relaxed, in a nice natural setting near a lake. Quite a lot of people come. Ranka: Can you bring us up to date on the go scene in Sweden?
Ranka: To learn how to play better?
Jacob: Yes, to learn, but in a more relaxed atmophere than at a tournament. It's good for people who don't like the competitive atmosphere in tournaments, but they want to meet others and play a lot of go. I think it's a very good thing to have, because it's a different way of playing go together, and some people prefer it.
Ranka: And now please tell us how you feel about your performance here at the KPMC.
Jakob: For some reason, I have been playing much too aggressively. In fact, I've been playing very badly for the past few months, though I've played a bit better in the tournament here. I lost all three games on the first day, but I kind of had strong opponents. Then today I won all three games, for the opposite reason. I guess that if you lose all your games on the first day you can expect to meet weaker people.
Ranka: Which do you think was your best game of the six?
Jakob: Either my first game against the player from Malaysia or my third game against Vesa Laatikainen, from Finland. I think I played best in those games. The third game ended with me dying a lot. I thought I was going to kill my opponent and I tried too hard and everything died. But it was fun.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Photo: Ito Toshiko
James Sedgwick is president of the Canadian Go Association, but was competing in the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup as a player. Ranka interviewed him at breakfast at the Olympic ParkTel, before the bus ride to the Korea Baduk Association building for the first round.
James: Canada is a big country, so it can be hard to get an overall picture of how the community is doing. You notice how one region can have a mini-go-boom for a few years while there's another region where the organizers have fallen away. A lot of Chinese organizations are very active now. There are two or three schools in Toronto that teach kids, mostly Chinese kids from second-generation families, and that's having a big impact. A lot of strong young players are coming in. There was a youth tournament this spring which had forty children under twelve, mostly from these schools. Ranka: Please tell us about the go community in Canada.
Ranka: What are the names of these schools?
James: One of them is called the Golden Key Go School, because it operates at the Golden Key Culture Center. They ran the last Toronto Open. Another is just called, in English, the Toronto Go School.
Ranka: And what about the rest of Canada?
James: I think the rest of the community is growing slowly, but when I look at players around my level, about European five dan, there are five to ten of us from a Western background. I don't think there were that many ten or twenty years ago. So it's hard to perceive, but the growth is there.
Ranka: What is it like, trying to organize go in a country as big as Canada?
James: Recently I think we've had a more active executive in the Canadian go organization than we had five or ten years previously, which is a good sign, but it's always a struggle to figure out how you've made a difference at the end of the day. You need the local go communities to do a lot. Well, they're trying, and we're trying too.
Ranka: How was your visit to the Choongam Baduk Academy yesterday?
James: They were very strong, generally stronger than the field here. It was impressive to see. It's always a shock the first time, but I've been to go camps in Shanghai and Beijing -- my wife is originally from Beijing -- so I've had similar experiences elsewhere. It was about what I'd expect at a strong go school here. The intensity of the training the kids go through to get as strong as they are, we're nowhere near that yet in the West.
Ranka: Was it a good warm-up for the KPMC?
James: Oh yes, it got my brain into gear. I'm still thinking through some of the positions in my head. During the tournament I hope I won't make the same mistakes, although I'm sure I'll make make different mistakes.
Ranka: What other hopes and expectations do you have for the KPMC?
James: My hopes are mainly to avoid embarrassment. I'm a little weaker than the last few Canadian representatives. Last year the Canadian representative in the KPMC finished third. I think it's unlikely I'll be able to match that, but my goal is to finish in the top ten.
Ranka: Last year's Canadian representative was Bill Lin. Have you played him very much in Canada?
James: Yes, quite often, in the Canadian Go Association's online Dragon League. That league was created and named by Chuck Elliot, a long-time go organizer in the Canadian prairies who is now in his seventies but doesn't seem able to sit still. I think he's currently involved in setting up some sort of school in China where they teach go and English. I've played Bill maybe five games in the past two years. I don't know that I've been able to win any of them, but I've had chances at fairly late stages in some of the games.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.
Postscript: After beating Jerusalem Open winner Amir Fragman in round three but losing to the players from China and Chinese Taipei in rounds two and five, James found himself matched against one of Europe's strongest players, Thomas Debarre of France, in round six. The winner of this game would earn an award for placing in the top sixteen. James lost, but still earned an award by placing in the top four in the America and Oceania zone.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
Malaysia was represented at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup by the secretary of its weiqi association, Jimmy Cheng (Cheng Khai-yong in Chinese), who also works as a weiqi (baduk, go) teacher. Ranka interviewed Jimmy after his first-round victory over an opponent from Sweden.
Ranka: How did you learn to play go?
Jimmy: I learned because I watched the Hikaru no Go animations. I started when I was fifteen years old, about eleven years ago. At the time, there were hardly any go players in Malaysia, so at first I was just playing by myself, but afterward I managed to find the Malaysian Go Association, which we now call the Malaysia Weiqi Association, so I joined them and started playing competitively.
Ranka: And when did you start teaching?
Jimmy: Teaching? I started teaching in 2010, only four years ago. Before 2010 there was no weiqi teaching in Malaysia. All of the weiqi players were playing on their own. Actually, there was no institute teaching any game like chess or weiqi in Malaysia. Then, suddenly, a chess academy where they taught Chinese chess and international chess appeared, so I approached them and told them I was good at weiqi, and started teaching there. After that, I started recruiting students, and it all grew to the point where now we have three or four weiqi institutes promoting the game, and I'm also going into primary and secondary schools to teach.
Ranka: Are you based in Kuala Lampur?
Jimmy: Yes, I'm based in Kuala Lampur, and most of our main events are held in Kuala Lampur, but the game has started growing in other places too. One place is a chess academy in Ipoh, which is up north of Kuala Lampur. There's someone trying to promote weiqi in every part of Malaysia.
Ranka: How old are your students?
Jimmy: The yougest I've taught is about six years old, but I've also taught a lot of adults. Normally I teach groups of students, mostly in primary and secondary schools. When adults come, often they want to learn so that they can get their sons or daughters to learn. About half the population of Malaysia is Chinese. They migrated into the country from China a long time ago, but they still relate to Chinese culture, so I'm sure they are potentially interested in weiqi. There is just a lack of information about the game, and how to learn it. So to promote our game to them, what I am doing now is to create places for them where they can learn to play.
Ranka: Do you make a good living at this?
Jimmy: For me, it's actually quite good. I don't belong to any one institute. If there's any place where they need someone to teach, I go there. I've been sort of a pioneer. It was quite hard in the beginning, but now, after these few years, I think I earn about the same as a university graduate. I still don't own my own institute, however. I think that if I had my own institute I could do even better. But I just hope I can spread weiqi all around Malaysia, so wherever they need help, I'll go there and provide them with material assistance, with the teaching materials and equipment that they need.
Ranka: And now, can you tell us about the game you just finished in round one?
Jimmy: Well, first of all, my objective here is to beat the players who are ranked at the same strength as me or below. When I play someone above my strength, it may be kind of hard to win. Before the game I checked my opponent's rank and saw that it was 3 dan, the same as me, so I hoped to win and fortunately, I did. I can't say it was a hard game. I'd call it a comfortable win, although he fought a lot.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: In his next game Jimmy outdid himself: he upset Thai 5-dan Vorawat Tanapatsopol. Then after losing to two 6-dans and a 4-dan, he won his last game against another 3-dan opponent, Portugal's Daniel Tome. This earned him a well-deserved award as one of the top four players in the Asian zone excluding China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko
European youth go champion Lukas Podpera, who was Czech champion in 2013 and came in sixth in the World Amateur Go Championship in 2014, started the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup by beating Lou Mankao, a 5-dan from Macau. The game ended well before lunch, so Ranka took the opportunity to ask him about his experiences at the Choongam Baduk Academy, where he had studied in the past.
Ranka: When did you first attend the Choongam Baduk Academy?
Lukas: I first attended the Choongam Baduk Dojang two years ago when I told Mr Kim Sungrae, who is now one of our referees, that I would like to study baduk seriously somewhere in Korea. He recommended Choongam as the best, the biggest, and the most famous dojang in Korea, so I went there for one month, and then I returned a year later, last year, again for one month.
Ranka: How much do you think those two months improved your game?
Lukas: Both times, after I studied at Choongam there was a European Go Congress and I played really badly in it. I had learned a lot of new stuff, my head was thoroughly confused, and I didn't know what to do. But now, two years after first going to Choongam, I believe I've improved by at least one stone, from average European 5-dan to strong European 6-dan. So I had to be patient a bit and wait for the results, but the results came.
Ranka: How did you study there?
Lukas: I remember that in the morning there was always almost no one there. Some of the kids went to school, because they were generally about five years younger than me. So in the morning I would do life and death problems and replay games. They way they replay games is not like the European way, where we replay from books very slowly, reading the commentaries. They would replay the game really fast. Sometimes it would take them only fifteen minutes to replay a game. So sometimes I replayed ten or fifteen games a day. And also we played some kind of league games, usually with fast time limits, like at most half an hour of basic time.
Ranka: Do you think you learned a lot by replaying all those games very fast?
Lukas: Yes. At least my reading became much better than before. Before I was like all Europeans, much slower than the Asians, because they're reading by shapes and we're only reading by moves. Although I was much better than them at positional judgement, they would always exploit some of my aji, or kill me somewhere, That didn't happen in Europe. So my reading improved a lot, I think.
Ranka: What other foreign students did you meet there?
Lukas: I guess the most well known European student there was Mateusz Surma, a 5-dan from Poland. He stayed there for two years, I think, so he had been there the longest, but there was also Rémi Campagnie from France, another 5-dan; he was studying there for three months. There were no other European students, but from the USA there was Benjamin Lockhart, who is studying there still, and from Canada there was Gansheng Shi, who stayed for two months.
Ranka: How do you hope to do in the KPMC this year?
Lukas: Two months ago I played in the World Amateur Go Championship and did really well, so I would like to get a similar result. I would like to win five games, which is probably what is needed to finish at least in sixth place.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: After lunch, Lukas lost to Juang Cheng-jiun (Chinese Taipei) in the second round, but he won his next three games, beating Kim Ouweleen (Netherlands), Thomas Debarre (France), and Doyoung Kim (New Zealand). In his last game he fought valiantly but unsuccessfully with Tsuchimune Yoshiyuki (Japan) for a place in the top six. Tie-breaking points put him ninth.