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.
Wei Qian lost to opponents from Romania and Czechia in the first and last rounds of the Korea Prime Minister Cup, but in between he ran off four straight wins to score the second highest finish in the lower McMahon group. He was in the middle of his winning streak when he consented to an interview with Ranka. Here's his story:
I was born in Shanghai, and I learned to play go because my mother thought it would be good for my mind. She arranged to have me coached. This was during the cultural revolution, when we weren't able to study normal school subjects, and I found go quite interesting. It was the one interesting thing I could do at the time.
After the cultural revolution ended, I stopped playing go and studied hard to get a university education: first a bachelor's degree in China and then a masters degree in electrical engineering in Australia. In Australia I played in local go clubs, and then when Pandanet started up I started playing on the net. Back in those days you had to buy the software, not like today when everything is free. But I bought it because go had become part of my life, something that was always with me.
I think go has helped me in my life. I work for a company that makes commercial refrigerating systems. I have to solve many problems in my work, and the go approach has helped me out. It teaches you to look for another way of doing something.
I played once for Australia in the World Amateur Go Championship, and also in the first Korea Prime Minister Cup. I've played in some Australian tournaments too, but mainly I teach kids. I live in Sydney. I have a small group of five or six kids who come to my home every Sunday, including my son, who is now ten. They're still kyu-level players. The strongest is about three or four kyu.
Go is looking up in Austrialia. Compared with ten years ago, there are more tournaments, and a lot more young people are starting to play. I'm really too old to come here--now I just play for fun--but I came this time so that I could also visit my family in China. I'd like to encourage other people to come in the future.
Ranka spoke with Vedran Vasiljevic after the second round.
Ranka: Please tell us about your go career.
Vedran: I've been playing for about ten years. A high-school friend taught me, in Rijeka. In the beginning I made very quick progress, but then I didn't have enough time to play constantly or enough money to go to tournaments. Rijeka is the world's third biggest carnival town, and one of the activities at the Rijeka carnival is playing go, so I used to go there. I've also been to two European Go Congresses: in Villach in Austria, and Groningen in the Netherlands.
Ranka: What other tournaments have you played in?
Vedran: I've played in various smaller tournaments: Trieste in Italy, Bled in Slovenia, Belgrade in Serbia, Zelenkovac in Bosnia. Compared with them, there are a lot of stronger players here at the Korean Prime Minister Cup, and the organization is better. I needed some time to get used to Korean food, but now I like it. I also like Korean culture. Korean people are always very open and very ready to help strangers. They're always smiling. And in Korea, compared with Croatia, everything is so big!
Ranka: What is your goal for this tournament?
Vedran: I would like to get at least two wins.
Ranka: Thank you.
Note: Vedran got his two wins in the next two rounds against opponents from Chile and Azerbaijan, and then added a third win in the last round against the player from Morocco. Well done!