Not long ago, on February 24 to be exact, sixteen globetrotting, go-playing university students gathered at the Hotel Monterey La Soeur Ginza in Tokyo for a reception to kick off the 12th World Students Go Oza (throne) Championship. Half of them, four young men and four young women, came from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, where go is a major intellectual sport. Another six young men and two young women came from Brazil, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Russia, Thailand, the Ukraine, and the USA. Ahead of them were two days of competition to determine the champion and put the others in their places.
If you imagine a typical go-playing university student to be slight of build, serious, studious, and quiet, then there was one who looked the part perfectly. That was the young man from China: Wang Chen. But for the past few years Mr Wang has also been one of the 'Four Heavenly Kings' who rule China's amateur rating list.
A native of Dalian, Mr Wang learned go at age seven and started taking part in the annual Chinese professional qualification tournament at age ten. After nine straight failures to make pro, he gave up and enrolled at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, where he studies economic reporting and captains the university's go team. In the meantime, he had begun winning major amateur tournaments in China, at least one each year since 2009.
Chinese amateur tournaments have significant monetary prizes. When he won the Chenyi Cup in 2011, Mr Wang earned as much as a white-collar worker in China might make in two years. Essentially he was putting himself through college by playing go. Last July he won the first Chinese International University Weiqi (go) Tournament, and this year in January, after taking fourth place in the Evening News Cup, he beat one of China's top pros in the Evening News pro-amateur team match, so this unassuming economist-to-be landed in Tokyo with excellent prospects of winning yet another championship.
And that's what he did. In the first round on the morning of February 25 he downed Ken (Kai Kun) Xie, who had been New Zealand champion at age twelve in 2006. Playing black, Wang killed two groups of white stones and won by resignation in 175 moves. (When played out to the end, a typical game of go lasts nearly 300 moves.)
In the second round Wang faced Yamikumo Tsubasa, an Osaka University student who has consistently done well in the Japanese Students Top Ten Tournament. Playing white, Wang killed a black group at the 120th move. Mr Yamikumo conceded the game 44 moves later. Next morning Wang defeated the other Japanese player, Ritsumei University coed Go Risa. She came out of the opening badly and resigned after only 90 moves. Wang's last opponent, Chung Chen-En, a student at Taiwan's National Central University, put up more resistance than the other three, but in the end he too resigned, following a futile last-ditch attack on one of Wang's groups.
Yamikumo, Go, and Chung did not lose to anyone else, so they finished as part of the four-way tie for runner-up. Tie-breaking points put Yamikumo second, Chung third, and Go fourth. Taiwan's Hu Shih-Yun also lost only one game and came in fifth. The opponent she lost to was the USA's Maojie Xia, who had played the two Japanese and finished a highly commendable sixth.
In his championship interview Mr Wang said that all of his games had gone well. None of his opponents would argue with that. He added that after graduating he hopes to continue his amateur career and is particularly interested in coaching talented young players.
And what about the rest of the world? Viktor Ivanov (Russia, 9th place) and Kwan King-Man (Hong Kong, 10th place) matched Maojie Xia by winning two games apiece, and although Yanqi Zhang (France, 12th place) won only once, the opponent she beat was Zhou Shiying, the Chinese female player. At both the reception and the awards ceremony, officials in the All Japan Students Go Association, which handled all the organizational work (drinking party included), remarked on the rising level of play in countries outside the Far East.
Complete results and clickable game records can be found here.
Gyeongju, Korea during the week from July 4 (arrival day) to July 11 (departure day). The tournament itself (July 6-9) will be an eight-round Swiss system.The 35th World Amateur Go Championship will be held in
Also scheduled are a general meeting of the International Go Federation, an opening ceremony, and a reception (all on July 5), an awards and closing ceremony (July 9), and a sightseeing tour of Gyeongju (July 10).
The tournament venue will be the Hyundai Hotel in the Bomun Lake resort area of Gyeongju. Players from 74 countries and territories are being invited.
The WAGC is organized by the IGF. This year the preparatory work is being done at the Korea Baduk Association in Seoul, Korea.
Gyeongju, a former capital of Korea, was once famed far and wide for its architectural and other riches. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist destination. Participants will find much to see, both on and off the go board.
here.The 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games in Retrospect The short story of the 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games is that Beijing treated the 150 competing mind athletes to a week of good food, good weather, and warm accommodations, and China took the lion's share of the medals. There was no mistaking the look of joy on the faces of China's Wang Chenxing and Zhou Ruiyang when they won the pair go tournament, adding gold medals to the silver medals they had already won in women's individual and men's team competition. China's bridge, chess, and xiangqi players also did well, so China can be very happy with the outcome of the Games. But so can many other countries: Korea for the gold medal won by its men's go team; Chinese Taipei for its silver and bronze medals in go; Russia for the numerous medals won by its chess and draughts players; even countries such as the Ivory Coast, Latvia, and Vietnam, whose players captured medals in draughts and xiangqi. The grand tally can be found
It was encouraging that although the North American go contingent finished nearly winless, it took evident satisfaction in having played well against professional opponents--and having beaten one of them. Europe's performance was also encouraging. European players finished only fifth in men's team, women's individual, and pair competition, but they trounced the North Americans, they nearly beat the spirited team from Chinese Taipei, and in that match Ilya Shikshin overcame a strong Asian pro, after defeating some strong Asian amateurs earlier this year. European go may now be near the level of go in Chinese Taipei one generation ago. It has a group of strong and dedicated young players, and its future looks bright.
Coming at the end of a year dominated by Chinese professional go players, the Korean men's team's gold medal was particularly exciting. The Koreans carried the momentum of that triumph into the new World Team Championship held in Guangzhou the week afterward. Fielding a team consisting of top medalists at the SportAccord World Mind Games this year and last year, they triumphed once again, beating Chinese teams three times. An interesting year lies ahead, and its climax will come at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing.
- James Davies
Mi Yuting started the month of December by winning the best-of-five title match for the Mlily Cup, defeating Gu Li. He lost the first game on November 30 by the narrow margin of 3/4 stone, but then won the second, third, and fourth games on December 2, 4, and 6, all by resignation. The games were played in Nantong in Jiangsu Province, China. Mi's victory earned him 1,800,000 yuan (over €200,000, nearly $300,000) and an immediate promotion from 4-dan to 9-dan. Wang Xi and Zhou Ruiyang, the two players that Mi and Gu beat in the best-of three semi-final matches in October, will seek consolation in the upcoming SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing.
Born in 1996 in the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu Province, about 400 kilometres northwest of Shanghai, Mi qualified as pro shodan when he was only eleven years old, becoming, at the time, China's youngest professional go player. In 2010 he joined the Jiangsu team, which was currently playing in the B League of China's National Team Tournament (sometimes called the City League). The team took first place and moved up to the A League in 2011. There Mi promptly reeled off nine straight wins, including victories over Chinese stars Gu Li and Kong Jie, which propelled Jiangsu to a sixth place finish among twelve teams competing in the A league. With Mi in their lineup the team has continued to advance, finishing fifth in 2012 and third in 2013. In the meantime, Mi won China's individual men's championship in 2012 and began to make his mark on the international scene as well, reaching the rounds of sixteen in both the BC Card Cup and the Samsung Cup, beating Korea's Park Jeonghwan and Lee Changho along the way. The opponents he defeated in 2013 to win the Mlily Cup included, in addition to Wang Xi, Korea's Kang Dongyoon and Lee Sedol and China's Kong Jie, all of whom are multiple title-winners, and Chinese teenager Dang Yifei. Game records of the Mi-Gu match are available at the go4go website.
The 3rd SportAccord World Mind Games will be held in Beijing December 12-18. Contestants will compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals in five disciplines: chess, contract bridge, draughts, go, and xianqi. This year the go competition will include a round-robin men's team tournament, a double-knockout women's individual tournament, and a single-knockout pair-go tournament. China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Korea are each sending three men and two women. North America is sending three men and one woman, and Europe is sending three pairs, who will also compete in the men's and women's events.
The all-new Chinese contingent includes this year's winners of three major international tournaments (the Ing, Bailing, and Bingsheng Cups), plus the Bingsheng runner-up. The two Koreans who missed winning medals last year will return to try again, accompanied by three Korean players making their first SportAccord appearances. Among the players from Chinese Taipei and Japan are six teenagers, including the granddaughter of the legendary Fujisawa Shuko.
Europe and North America are fielding mixed pro-amateur teams. The European contingent is primarily Russian, but also includes this year's European champion (from France) and runner-up (from Slovakia). They will be seeking in particular to avenge Europe's various losses to the North Americans in the first two SportAccord World Mind Games. Three veteran players on the North American men's team and one young Canadian woman will try to stop them.
Go Ambassadors of the 2013 World Mind Games. Besides playing in the women's and pair-go competitions, they will join some of the world's top stars in the other disciplines in a program of social and publicity events.Representing these thirty go players to the world at large will be Russia's Natalia Kovaleva and China's Yu Zhiying, the
Live coverage of the go competition will be provided to a worldwide audience via the SAWMG YouTube channel and other media, with a running commentary by the popular duo of Chris Garlock and Michael Redmond. In addition, daily reports and commentaries will be posted on the Ranka website.
Several of the pairs competing at the 2013 International Amateur Pair-Go Championship were married, but the Romanian pair, Lucretiu Calota and Irina Davis (ne Suciu), went them one better: they are married and both came accompanied by their spouses. While the Romanians were playing (and defeating) the Japanese pair from the Kyushu-Okinawa region in round four, Ranka took the opportunity to talk with Irina's husband Ian Davis, who is himself a pair go player.
Ranka: How did you become interested in go, and in pair go?
Ian: I started playing go back in university. There was someone I knew in the chess club who introduced me to the game. That would have been in 1999 or 2000, when I was nineteen or twenty years old. There are not many people to play with when I was at university, so it was not until I had finished university that I started playing seriously. I didn't start playing pair go until I was about twenty-three, when I was working at my first job in Cambridge. My first game was actually a game of rengo at the club, and then I started playing pair go on the Internet, I started because there was a very big go club in Cambridge and I wanted to learn the game properly.
Ranka: Why on the Internet?
Ian: There weren't that many pair go tournaments back then. It was quite difficult to get a game.
Ranka: How did it work out?
Ian: Many of the first pair go games I had were quite disastrous. Sometimes you play with someone who's very serious, and if you make a joseki mistake because you're about 20 kyu, they get very angry--they just resign--so it wasn't always a harmonious introduction to the game. It had its ups and downs, but I kept at it, and I still like playing pair go.
Ranka: Do you compete in pair go tournaments?
Ian: I think my first pair go tournament was the London Open in 2007 or 2008, where pair go was a side event. My partner was my teacher Guo Juan, and we won the event. We won it twice, in two different years. After that I played with some other partners, including Irina, but on the Internet I played pair go quite frequently, because I enjoy it.
Ranka: Why is that?
Ian: It's more relaxing to play pair go. There's not as much pressure on you, and it's more sociable, so it's nice.
Ranka: When you play pair go on the Internet, where is your partner usually located?
Ian: Normally in a different country. After university, I lived in Cambridge for about one year, then moved back to Northern Ireland, where I'm originally from. I had some friends in France I used to play with, and I also played sometimes with people I knew in Cambridge. But last year I moved to France, to work as a software tester for Reuters, and now I play pair go quite regularly with my wife. We were married six months ago, but we still play as a pair on the Internet.
Ranka: Do you prefer pair go to ordinary go?
Ian: I don't know if I could say which way I prefer. It depends on which mood I'm in. Ultimately I like them both. After all, it's just different ways of playing the same game.
Ranka: Thank you.
After a stretch of fine weather and Halloween hijinks, Tokyo hunkered down under gray skys and intermittent rain for the weekend of November 2-3, but inside the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont, the atmosphere was warm and festive: thirty-two pairs from twenty-two countries and territories were there to compete in the 24th International Amateur Pair Go Championship. China returned to the competition by sending an editor (Zhou Gang) and reporter (Wang Rui) from Weiqi Tiandi, China's leading go magazine. Korea sent its top-rated junior amateur Jeon Junhak, who recently won the Incheon Mayor's Cup for the second consecutive year. (In the Korean amateur rating system, junior means under 40 and not an insei). His partner was Kim Soo-young, a student at Myongji University who is an active player on the Korean pair-go scene, who won this year's Women's Amateur Kuksu title, making her the reigning queen of Korean amateur go, and who hopes to help spread go internationally in the future. Chinese Taipei sent Lo Sheng-chieh and Lin Hung-ping, who also competed in the World Students Go Oza Championship in Tokyo in February. Russia sent Dmitry Surin and Natalia Kovaleva, who finished tenth in the 23rd IAPG Championship last year. Japan entered eleven pairs who had won their way in through regional qualifying tournaments.
In the first round, played right after lunch on November 2, the Japanese pair from the Tokai-Hokuriku region (central Japan) defeated the Chinese pair. The winners of this game were Shinichi Torii, a local government worker, and Chie Kato, a cheery primary-school student who played from a wheelchair. Three Japanese pairs lost their first games, to the pairs from Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Russia.
The first round was followed by goodwill games that partnered the championship competitors with a variety of non-competing pair-go players, including a dozen pros. Before the games began, the pros were introduced and asked to give some advice. Always think of your partner, said one. Don't keep thinking of your partner, said another. The weaker partner should relax, play his or her own game, and let the stronger partner worry about teamwork, said a third. After a mistake, take a deep breath and look over the whole board, said a fourth. One of the more perspicuous comments came from 4-dan pro Sachiko Hara, who said she found pair go very effective in teaching children because it forced them to behave well and think realistically, which made them stronger.
Most of the overseas players donned national costume for the goodwill games. The British pair were decked out as a helmeted knight and his lady. The Australian pair wore koala suits. The Swedish pair sported midsummer wreaths, and treated the crowd at the welcoming party that followed the goodwill games to a midsummer frog song and dance.
Next day the remaining four rounds were played in parallel with a huge (138-pair) handicap tournament. Chie Kato and Shinichi Torii gave the contestants' pledge in Japanese, and Wang Rui and Zhou Gang repeated it in Chinese. The Russian pair lost to a Japanese pair in round two, but the pairs from Chinese Taipei, Germany, and Korea remained undefeated in this round and the next, as did Ayako Oda and Kazumori Nagayo, a married pair of former insei who operate a go school in Yokohama.
In round four, the Korean pair defeated the German pair in less than an hour. "We never had a chance," said law student Olga Silber. "They didn't make a single mistake," added Benjamin Teuber, who is currently training at a go school in Beijing.
In a much longer game, the Oda-Nagayo pair defeated the pair from Chinese Taipei. "Our opening strategy worked, we got a territorial advantage, and we kept it," Kazumori Nagayo said. "Last time we competed we lost to the Korean pair, so we'll be looking for revenge in the final round."
And they very nearly got it. They matched their Korean opponents in the opening and came out of the middle game with a sizeable lead. The Koreans managed to reduce the lead by setting up a ko, but the ko was too indirect for them to win, and the Japanese pair simplified things by connecting it, after which they were still ahead. Near the end, however, they made a slip that cost them four points, and the Koreans won by 2.5.
This is the tenth Korean victory in IAPG championship competition, as compared with seven for Japan, four for China, two for DPR Korea, and one for Chinese Taipei. Korean pairs have triumphed every year since 2009, and this year (2013) Korean players made clean sweep by also winning the World Students Oza Championship, the World Amateur Go Chamionship, the Korea Prime Minister Cup, and Thailand's 15-dan team tournament.
The final game was followed by the traditional gala award ceremony and party. Jeon Junhak and Kim Soo-young came away loaded down with prizes. Kazumori Nagayo and Ayako Oda received a prize for the best result by a Japanese pair: their SOS score placed them third, behind the pair from Chinese Taipei. The 4th-place prize went to Dmitry Surin and Natalia Kovaleva, whose four victories included a second win over a Japanese pair in the final round. Japanese pairs took the prizes for 5th to 8th places, but the pairs from Germany (9th), Romania (11th), Sweden (13th), Vietnam (14th), and Czechia (16th) scored three wins apiece to join three more Japanese pairs in the top sixteen, and the pair from the Netherlands (Merijn de Jong and Els Buntsma) won a best-dressed prize. In all, European and Vietnamese pairs won a total of five games against Chinese and Japanese opposition, another sign of the rising level and popularity of pair go worldwide.
Full results and players' pictures are here.
Ilya Shikshin faced his toughest opposition in the first and last rounds of the Korea Prime Minister Cup. Emura Kikou faced his toughest opponent in round four. Both ended with five wins, and SOS points put the Japanese player fifth and the Russian sixth in the final standings. Before the standings were announced, Ranka asked the two for their opinions about their crucial games and about the entire tournament.
Ilya Shikshin: The game I just played against the player from Taiwan was exciting, because it was the last round and the winner would get a high finish, but we both made many mistakes, so I can't say it was a good game. I won, but I don't feel satisfied about the tournament. I didn't play as well as I played in Japan a month ago. When I was playing the player from Hong Kong in the first round, my feeling was that he was not stronger than me, maybe even weaker than me, but I lost because I made too many mistakes. Then because of the pairings in the next few rounds, for me it became more like a festival than a sporting competition. Of course it was fun, but I also felt disappointed. I came here intending to play for the championship.
Emura Kikou: Aside from the Chinese player, all my opponents were European, except for the Thai opponent in the last round. The Thai and European players were strong. Their level is high, and after three straight wins on the first day I felt happy with the way I was playing. Going on to lose to the Chinese player in the crucial game the next morning, in the fourth round, was a bitter pill. I was trying to play calmly. My opponent made some mistakes; I had plenty of chances; but I didn't have the strength to take advantage them, and I made one big mistake myself. There was a move I just didn't see. At least I was able to put it behind me in the last two rounds. Taking the tournament overall, I guess I played up to my usual standard, but I still feel terrible about the game I lost. I'll be returning to Korea for the World Amateur Go Championship next July--I'll try for a better result then.
The game with the widest generation gap in the last round of the Korea Prime Minister Cup was played between Hungarian mathematician and financier Dr Gyorgy Csizmadia and Singapore schoolboy Yifei Yue. Both had been seeded into the upper McMahon group and were looking for their third win. When the game ended, Ranka asked them for their thoughts about it and about the tournament as a whole.
Gyorgy Csizmadia: In this game I started out by trying to build some big walls and make a big moyo. But then he came inside the moyo and actually managed to cut off one of my groups, and from that point on I think he was clearly ahead. As for the tournament in general, it was very nice: nice accommodation, nice playing site, good food, and very good organization. Some people complained about the pairing system--this usually happens at tournaments--but for me it was all right. I enjoyed the tournament very much.
Yifei Yue: I didn't play well in this game. I made some mistakes in the center. I made a lot of mistakes there. My opponent also made mistakes, so I won, but I didn't play well. I had exams right before the tournament, so I wasn't in good playing condition. But it was a great experience, my first time in Korea. Korea is really a nice place, with nice food. Now I'm hoping for a good result in the final standings.
Postscript: By winning this game, Yifei Yue captured 25th place.
Nuttakrit (Krit) Taechaamnuayvit and Alexander Eerbeek played one of the longest games in round four of the Korea Prime Minister Cup. As soon as it was over, Ranka asked both of them to describe what happened.
Krit: I thought I had a very good game, but then I made a terrible mistake and a corner that I had already killed came back to life. The situation was now very difficult for me, but at the end I was lucky. Alexander made an even worse mistake and a big group died, so I won.
Alexander: Well, first of all he got a big moyo. I'm very bad at reducing moyos in general, so I made a deep invasion and got some weak groups, right in the beginning of the game. He attacked me and I managed to live. Then he attacked another group, and another group, and I managed to live with all of them. At a certain point I made a ko in a corner and managed to win the ko fight, and then I was winning the game, but because of time pressure at the end I couldn't read out a life-and-death situation, and a group died. So that was it. I'm good at screwing up games, but it was exciting: first he was winning, and then I was winning, and then he won. As for Krit's playing strength, it's hard to say after just one game, but perhaps he's a little stronger than me.
Postscript: Krit went on to beat Czechia's Ondrej Silt in the next round and ultimately finished ninth. His only losses were to Korea's Park Jaegeun and Japan's Emura Kikou. Alexander lost the battle for tenth place to the Ukraine's Dmytro Bogatskyy in the last round and finished seventeenth, best among the players with three wins.
After losing to the tournament winner-to-be Park Jaegeun in the second round, Taiwan's Lin Shinwei was paired against unbeaten opponents from the lower McMahon group (from Luxembourg and Switzerland) in rounds three and four. Ranka talked with him shortly afterward.
Ranka: Please tell us about your game against the Korean player in round two.
Lin: I had a poor opening and fell behind by quite a bit. In the middle game I had a few chances to catch up and in fact I did catch up, but then I lost ground again just before the endgame started. I had no chances after that.
Ranka: And what about your other three games so far?
Lin: I had better luck in them. My opponents were pretty strong, but they all made major mistakes in the opening--played below their ranks--so it wasn't too hard to win.
Ranka: You live in Kaohsiung in Taiwan, you went to Sendai in Japan for the World Amateur Championship last month, and here you are in Gumi for the Korea Prime Minister Cup. How would you compare these three cities?
Lin: Sendai was an exciting city. Here in Gumi the setting is more bucolic. But inside the playing room, the atmosphere is the same. Kaohsiung is a big city, like Sendai, and the food is good.
Ranka: We understand that you tied for first place in Taiwan's insei league this year and are set to become one of Taiwan's next professional players. When will that be?
Lin: Next year, on January 1st.
Ranka: Most of the professional players in Taiwan seem to be based in Taipei. Can you tell us a little more about the professional organization in Kaohsiung?
Lin: Counting both male and female, there are six pros from Kaohsiung. The top ranked is Liao Wen (5 dan). You could say that we are trying to catch up with Taipei.
Ranka: How do you study the game?
Lin: I study professional games, play online on Tygem, review my own games and other people's games, and participate in professional study groups where we analyze professional matches.
Ranka: How do you find time to do all this and keep up with your school studies as well?
Lin: I concentrate and study hard at school during school hours, but after school, I devote most of my time to go. Well, go and baseball.
Ranka: How are you hoping to do in the next two rounds and in the final standings?
Lin: I'm hoping to win my next two games and finish 5-1. I'm less concerned with standings, because you have no control over your SOS points. I would like to play the Chinese player--he would be a tough opponent.
Ranka: Thank you.
Postscript: Lin won his next game against Juri Kuronen (Finland), but then lost to Ilya Shikshin (Russia) in the last round.
Ranka: To start with, please tell us how you got here.
Giedrius: By winning first place in the Lithuanian Go Championship in 2012, but it began with three other tournaments in three cities: Vilnius, Moletai, and Kaunas. Players hoping to take part in the championship must first collect points in those tournaments. Then the top eight proceed to the championship, which is a round robin, and from the round robin they receive points that are used to select the players for the World Amateur Go Championship and the Korea Prime Minister Cup. These points accumulate over a period of up to maybe five years. When you go to the WAGC or KPMC your points are reset to zero.
Ranka: And how often have you been reset so far?
Giedrius: Twice. I played in the Korea Prime Minister Cup six years ago and in the World Amateur Go Championship three years ago in China. In both I finished around 30-somethingth.
Ranka: Please tell us more about go in Lithuania.
Giedrius: There's a small club in Kaunas, where I live. Usually about six players come each week. Vilnius is bigger; they have about twenty every week. In Moletai there is a go teacher who teaches mathematics in a school and runs a go club for children after classes. Perhaps he gets about twenty students per year. Moletai is a small town, so some of the players come to Vilnius or Kaunas to study and play at the clubs there.
Ranka: Since you've been to China and Korea, how would you compare them with Lithuania?
Giedrius: I like Korea very much. They have very nice people. In both Korea Prime Minister Cups that I have attended the organization has been excellent. It's always good to come to Korea--like a holiday. China also had a fine tournament, but the smog was a problem. It wasn't healthy to walk around outside in Hangzhou. As for Lithuania, the air is good, and that's where my friends and family are, but it's really cold. Korea in October is like Lithuania in August. When I get home it will be about five degrees. I like nice weather, which we don't have in Lithuania. Instead, we have lots of rain.
Ranka: How would you compare the food in these three countries?
Giedrius: I didn't like the food in China: it was too aristocratic. I guess they treated the tournament competitors to some very good meals, but they were too good for me. The one meal that I liked in China was a cheap meal, a poor man's meal, that I had at a Chinese temple in Hangzhou. I went in and tried it and it was very good. Korean food is very good too. When I left Korea the last time I felt healthier, better than at home. Perhaps it's the low salt content and low fat content of Korean food. In Lithuania fatty food is considered good.
Ranka: Thank you.
Ranka: How does it feel to be here at the Korea Prime Minister Cup?
Jonathan: Quite good, actually. It's more of an experience than a sporting competition or an athletic event. I've met some good people and some familiar faces that I haven't seen for a long time. It's a world that I was really connected to a few years ago--I used to live in Korea--so it's nice to see how things have changed and to see that everyone is doing fine and the game is still going on.
Ranka: Please tell us more about your go-playing career.
Jonathan: I started playing when I was fourteen. I liked the game and became quite good. When I was seventeen I went to Japan with the intention to study go, and became an insei under Kobayashi Chizu sensei. After half a year as an insei I was not quite satisfied with my improvement, so I moved to Korea in order to continue studying there. I studied go in Korea for one and a half years, but then, unfortunately, I had an accident when I went to the European Go Congress in Bordeaux, France. My passport was stolen in the airport, along with basically all my belongings--my computer, my phones, my money, everything. I could not keep flying and return to Korea. The only next destination I could choose was to go back home. Once I went home I was still not allowed to return to Korea because of army rules. I was supposed to go into the army at a certain age but they didn't allow me to, so I had to stay put for a while. That was basically why I stopped studying go.
Ranka: Please tell us about your career as a diving instructor.
Jonathan: Diving has always been a hobby of mine. For anyone who hasn't tried it, it's an indescribable feeling. I had to choose something for a temporary profession, something other than waitering, so I sacrificed my hobby and turned it into a profession. That is not something I'm sorry about; I still enjoy diving a lot. About five months ago I started working in a unique diving reef, called Dolphin Reef, in Eilat, the southernmost city in Israel. The area is famous for its good diving conditions. It's an open sea area. The reef is closed with a net so that the dolphins stay inside, but the water is open sea water. Now I get to dive with dolphins every day and introduce people to the wonders of diving and the underwater world, and I get to play with some intelligent creatures too, so it's a pretty good job.
Ranka: Is there anything you'd like to add?
Jonathan: Yes. I owe a very deep debt of gratitude to Kim Seung-jin. He is the owner and master of Blackie's International Baduk Academy. As far as I'm concerned, and from my previous experience, his school and his system of studying are the most efficient way to improve--while having a lot of fun. So if anyone is thinking of improving his go skills in Asia, he should talk to me, because I would like to put in a good word for BIBA.
Ranka: Thank you.
Following his victories in rounds one and two of the Korea Prime Minister Cup, Norway's Jostein Flood took time out to give Ranka the following account of his recent game-playing activities.
This is my first visit to Korea. I came almost a week ago. I was selected as one of the BIBA group of players who were invited by Blackie--that's 9-dan pro Kim Seung-jun--to visit his go club and then watch the round of sixteen in the Samsung Cup. I saw a lot of very strong professional players from China and Korea, and a lot of difficult games.
I haven't been playing much go recently or studying the game very much. I've been spending too much time playing and studying backgammon. I'm one of the stronger players in Norway, and I've played in a lot of tournaments in Norway and some abroad, including the Nordic Open in Copenhagen and the World Championship in Monte Carlo. A friend of mine was the developer of Jellyfish, the first commercial backgammon computer program. Go is definitely the more interesting and fascinating game, but backgammon is a more social game, and it has a money element. Money is not the motivation for playing go--the game itself is so interesting that it isn't necessary to play for money. For backgammon there has to be some money component; otherwise the game is not interesting enough. Sometimes I play a little poker too.
Basically I don't think what place I end up in here is so important and how many games I win is not too important either. The important thing is to play interesting games, to enjoy the games, to meet many new people, and to have a good time. Although of course I would like to win as many games as possible.
Note: BIBA stands for Blackie's International Baduk Academy, and Jostein won one more game afterward to end with the fourth-highest finish among the players who started out in the lower McMahon group.