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!
Ranka talked with translator and interpreter Juan Samper after his victory over Natasa Malinic of Bosnia and Herzegoviina, one of three games he won in the KPMC. Here's what he said.
I learned to play seven years ago, in Bogota, after watching the movie Pi. The main character played go with his mentor, and they talked a lot about how the ancient Japanese thought of the go board as a microcosm of the universe. In fact go was one of the main themes in the movie. The characters were very smart, and I thought that if smart people play go it must be a difficult game, so I'll learn it and show everyone that I'm smart too. That's not exactly how it turned out, but I made shodan in about three years. and recently made 3 dan playing online.
The main go club in Bogota is the Salto del Mico, the 'Monkey Jump.' Its location is the Casa de la Historia--House of History. This is an establishment run by a well known radio personality who is also a historian and talks a lot about Colombian history. Her idea was that it should be a place for promoting many different cultural projects, and Salto de Mico became one of them. We meet every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Typically five to twenty players show up. We also hold national national tournaments there and sell go boards and stones that are made in Colombia. Because of the high cost of importing boards and stones from the Far East, two of our members invested some money, talked to some local manufacturers, and gave them the specifications for a go board, and now they manufacture the boards and make inexpensive plastic stones. I think the two investors have already recovered their investment.
Now there is also a go club at the National University in Bogota, which is the biggest university in Colombia. In the last few months that club has really taken off, attracting a lot of young people. There's also a club in Cali that is teaching young people, and there's another club in Medellin. All told I'd say Colombia has about 100 go players, of whom about 50 are active, at least from time to time. The big news is that a 12-yead old kid has just won the Colombian National Championship. His name is Juan Ramirez; he's our secret weapon for the future.
You can find out more about Colombian go here.
Ranka spoke with Lucretiu Calota just after his 5th-round game with the Korean player.
Ranka: Could you describe the game for us?
Lucretiu: I lost by resignation. I had some ideas, but he kept denying me. I found the game so boring--he just kept taking territory. I tried playing more open, but in the end his position was more solid. I couldn't attack, and then I didn't see that he could cut off some stones of mine. They died, and it was over.
Ranka: How about your other games?
Lucretiu: I'm more satisfied with them. I lost to Japan, but only by ten points. I won against Australia, Chile, and Denmark. The game with Australia in the first round was a big fight that became random after we both got into overtime.
Ranka: Please tell us something about go in Romania.
Lucretiu: There was a special situation in Romania back when it still had a communist government. There were no computer games, no dancing, and young people didn't have other things to do, so they went to culture clubs. They had chess clubs, contract bridge clubs, science fiction clubs, and when go came along, they started playing go. Most of the go players were in Bucharest. A lot of them were students at the same university. They would get together at the same campus, drink beer and vodka, and play go. That's how you get stronger. And we also had Radu Baciu. He was the first strong Romanian player--he got to 3 dan back in the 1970s. He was always ready to play go with anyone who wanted to. In the mid 1980s, when I was living in Braşov, I would come to his house in Bucharest and play go with him every day. I don't know what else he did. Now we are all forty years old. Well, Lucian Corlan and Cornel Burzo, the former children in the group, are thirty, but we all have other things to do. And Romanian young people are like young people in other countries, they play computer games. We had one promising young player until recently, but now he's a serious university student and doesn't have much time for go.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck in the next round.
Note: Lucretiu drew Jerome Salignon, the French player, in the next round and won to finish 8th.