I was born in Shanghai at the end of 1983. In 1988 Shanghai had an outbreak of food poisoning, from seafood, and both of my parents were stricken. During the year-long break they took to recover, they started playing five-in-a row, and I learned to play too. I was only five years old, but I learned well — maybe too well — after a while I was beating everyone in my family. Thinking that I had talent for black-and-white board games like this, my grandfather took me to see a friend of his who ran a local club in our district, and that’s where I learned to play go. So it was purely by accident that I took up the game. My family were under the impression that go was something similar to five-in-a-row.
After that, I had to go to school, but I continued to drop in at the club to play go on weekends, and I was lucky enough to get some good instruction. Within a year or so I had reached 1 kyu. After that I had a private tutor, or rather a series of private tutors, each about four stones above my current rank, who would give me one teaching game per week. That really helped me a lot. Around the age of ten I reached 5 dan without ever having trained at a formal go academy. My tutor then became Liu Jun, who won two world amateur go championships. I took private lessons from him for three or four years, and under his tutoring, I became one of the reigning powers of amateur go in Shanghai. I started playing for Shanghai in national tournaments, sometimes even beating Liu Jun in official competition.
But I continued my scholastic career, graduating from a good high school and passing the entrance exam for Jiaotong University, which was the fourth or fifth ranked university in China. So my scholastic level may not have been as high as my go-playing level, but I was on a proper career path. I didn’t have to sacrifice my academic life to play go.
In 2007 I went entered EM Lyon, a French business school ranked eighth in the world. One reason I chose a school in France was that my father was working there as a diplomat. Another reason was that my father had taught French, and I had lived in France for nine months when I was eleven years old, so I already had a kind of attachment to the country and could speak the language well. Still another reason was that after graduating from Jiaotong University I had gone to work for China Mobile, as a kind of sales representative for business to business service. I was under a lot of pressure in that job, and the salary structure was weak. Everyone told me that if I graduated from a good school in France, I could work there and earn a more comfortable living.
All that has changed, incidentally. Chinese salaries have doubled, and France is in the middle of an economic crisis. But I have a good job as a financial director in the innov8 group, for a wholesale firm that supplies accessories for smartphones.
I don’t play go now as much as I used to. Mainly I play in tournaments near Paris; I don’t have time to travel around. For that reason, even though I have one of the highest ratings in the European rating system, I’m not well known to most European go players. They see me only if they come to Paris.
But I’ve written a couple of French go books, one about strategy in the middle game and one about the endgame. Another ambitious project I have is to introduce people to go by associating go theory with Chinese culture: with I-ching, yin and yang, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the Thirty-Six Strategies, and so on. I want to do something to help the international go community, and I’d like to promote go in this way, rather than by the Hikaru-no-Go method.
Making good on their promise to support both go and educational initiatives, the developers of AlphaGo Monday announced the division of the $1 million prize fund they won in March’s historic match with Lee Sedol 9p, including grants to both the American Go Association and the American Go Foundation.
“Pleased to confirm the recipients of the #AlphaGo $1m prize! @UNICEF_uk, @CodeClub, and the American, European and Korean Go associations,” tweeted DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis. “@theaga, EGF and KBA will use the #AlphaGo donation to raise awareness of Go worldwide and encourage participation especially at youth level.”
The biggest recipient, UNICEF UK, will receive $450,000 to support global education work including girls’ education and gender equality, while $100,000 will be granted to Code Club UK for the creation of more clubs around the world for children to learn to program. The go community grant is $150,000 each to European Go Federation, the Korea Baduk Association and the American go entities. The AGF will receive $60,000 and the AGA $90,000, DeepMind said.
“It has become clear that the AlphaGo match was the biggest promotional boost the game of go has received in many years, and most of the credit for that is due to DeepMind’s people and how hard they worked from the start to make sure the match gave the widest and most positive exposure possible to the game,” said AGA President Andy Okun. “The announcement of these grants shows they are continuing that good work. I am happy to express to them the thanks of our whole North American go community for the love and respect they have shown for the game.”
“Go is good for kids and the Google grant will help us reach and teach more of them. Broaden the base!” said AGF President Terry Benson.
AGA’s proposal to DeepMind was to use the AGA grant as the basis of a North American pro championship tournament over six years, and for AGF to use the grant to explore methods of more effectively spreading go in schools, said Okun.
For a third straight day, players with rooms on the north side of the Ramada Plaza Hotel were awakened by a cock crowing at 4:00 a.m., but today, for the first time, this call to action was followed by a sunrise and patches of blue sky. After breakfast, the excitement and upsets that had marked the first two rounds gave way to a relatively clear and calm third round, punctuated by only a few minor upsets. In the undefeated group, Turkey’s Emre Polat (4 dan) downed Singapore’s Yi Fei Yue (5 dan). In the middle group, Hong Kong’s Chi Hin Chan (6 dan) made up for his second-round loss to Andrii Kravets by beating Romania’s Christian Pop (7 dan). And in the winless group, 3-dan David Pollitzer (Argentina) bested 4-dan Amy Song (Australia) while 5-kyu John Gibson (Ireland) upended 1-dan Supravat Pal (India). At the end pf the round, the winless group had been whittled down to just seven players, representing China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, France, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Ukraine.
In the fourth round the host country’s Baoxiang Bai faced his first serious challenge. He was paired against France’s Junfu Dai, a former star of amateur go in Shanghai. The two had not played each other before. ‘If you count five years as one generation,’ Junfu said, ‘he’s two generations after me.’ Victory in their inter-generational encounter went to the Chinese player, by resignation. ‘I didn’t feel that I even came close,’ added his somewhat crestfallen opponent.
While Bai was dealing with Dai, Korea’s Kibaek Kim also faced a serious challenge: his opponent was Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Cheng Hsu. Victory in this game went to the Korean. In the fifth round tomorrow Kim will take on Indonesian wonder boy Rafif Shidqi Fitrah, who defeated Turkey’s Emre Polat in round 4, while Bai plays the Ukraine’s Andrii Kravets, who was drawn down and defeated Singapore’s Yi Fei Yue. If Bai and Kim win these two games, which does not seem unlikely, the crunch will come when they lock horns in round six.
In the meantime, midway through the tournament, players from seventeen countries and territories have posted winning records: seven each from Asia and Europe, one from North America (the USA’s Bob Lockhart), and two from the Middle East (Turkey’s Emre Polat and Israel’s surprising 3-dan Tal Michaeli, who dispatched a 5-dan Canadian in round 4). The traditional Asian go powers may come out on top in the end, as they did last year, but that remains to be seen. The rest of the world is clearly closing the gap.
Full results here.
– James Davies
My first World Amateur Go Championship was in Hangzhou in 2010. At the time I was about to finish my university studies, majoring in economics, and I had decided to move to Taiwan to work and study Chinese. Work and study and, as it turned out, meet some go players. I made the move in July 2011.
After three years in Taiwan I had learned the language well enough to open a Peruvian restaurant, which was the only way for me to get my native cuisine there. It’s been a nice experience, and it’s given me a place of my own at which to play go. Starting three months ago, a group of us have been playing go every Tuesday at my restaurant. This has created opportunities for me to encounter local players, improve my game, and play with foreigners as well. One of them is a Spanish go friend I had made before coming to Taiwan. He had been interested in my plans to move to Taiwan, and later he came over himself, so now we have two Spanish-speaking go players in Taiwan, which is pretty remarkable.
Five years after Hangzhou, I had the chance to represent Peru at the WAGC again, this time in Thailand. It was a really, really nice tournament. They introduced a new pairing system, the McMahon system, at that WAGC. The pairings were weighted according to the players’ strength, which gave people like me a chance to score more wins. It was also the first time the WAGC was held outside Japan, China, and Korea. The organization of the whole tournament was simply spectacular, from the moment we arrived at the airport up to the very end. Thai go players are quite good, and they excel in their will to make improvements in go in their country. Their expectations from the WAGC were very high, and they treated us wonderfully. The tournament atmosphere was excellent. There were always strong Thai players in the playing room. After the rounds they let us hang out with them and play against them, which was very nice.
Taipei, which is where I live in Taiwan, is a fascinating city. It presents a mixture of Chinese and Japanese culture, and the people are very warm-hearted, just like Latin Americans. It was this combination of things that made me choose to live there. Now I have a wife, who is Taiwanese, and a four-month-old daughter. I’m really happy.
I grew up in Rivne, a small city in the western part of the Ukraine, where about 85% of the population speaks the Ukrainian language instead of Russian. I started to play go at the age of seven, so I’ve already been playing for nineteen years. There was a go club in Rivne headed by a man named Viktor Shevchuk. He taught a group of young players that included me, Artem Kachanovskyi, and a few others. None of us were very strong, but we all grew up together, pushing ourselves to gradually higher levels. When I was sixteen I went to Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and I’ve lived there since then. In Kiev there were high dan players, and in one year I had reached the 5 dan level. But then complications set in: I needed to get a job to earn some money. So for three or four years I stopped playing actively and worked as an appraiser, calculating the prices of houses and cars. But then I got the opportunity to go to China and study go there, so I went — twice, in fact. My ambition was now to become a European pro. Last year I reached the finals of the European pro qualification tournament, but I lost to Artem, so my current goal is to become pro next year.
Playing go has become my full time occupation. I’ve been playing go for practically my whole life, so I don’t see any point in doing anything else. The economic situation in the Ukraine is difficult; it’s hard to find a good job. For the money that people are willing to pay you, it’s really not worth working. I decided that it would be better just to play go and see what happens. People who have jobs, like Artem now, for example, are always thinking about what they have to do at work the next day. If you’re not working, you spend your time thinking about go: the mistakes you made in your last game and how to correct them.
So how do I feed myself? Although salaries are extremely small in the Ukraine, so is the cost of living. Prices are very low. If you can get a few hundred euros per month, that’s enough to live on. In my case, I still have money that I saved while I was working regularly, so I’ll be able to live without working at all for a few more years. In addition, there are some go tournaments with good prize funds, like the European Grand Slam: ten thousand euros for first place! In the future I plan to make a real career out of go, playing and, who knows, perhaps teaching. I’m not sure I’ll succeed, but at least now I have lots of free time.
When I was in China I was studying go ten hours a day. When I got back from China, I decided not to study there again. The environment was too different. But still, it was a good experience, because while I was there I learned to study on my own. Of course in China you have good professional teachers who can explain things to you, but the rest is the same wherever you are. You can study at home by doing tsume-go probems and playing through professional games. You can also play online on Tygem against professional and other very strong opponents. I play perhaps fifty to a hundred fifty games a month online, and there are some professionals living in Europe now, so when I have questions, I can ask them. Studying go in the Ukraine is basically just like studying in China, but not as strict. I try to train daily. And here at the WAGC, I don’t feel any pressure to win the championship — after all, there’s no prize money — but I’m trying to win each game I play, just taking them one at a time.
You can call me Ignatius, which is my Christian name. I’m the founder of the Brunei Darussalam Go Association. I learned about the game from watching the Japanese anime Hikaru no Go in 2003. At first I didn’t understand the rules, but then I learned them from a friend, whom I call the co-founder of go in Brunei. He had some go software, but we had no other opponents and no go set, so we used othello (reversi) equipment — the othello board is the same size as a 9 x 9 go board.
When we were studying for our GCE A-level exams at prep school, we started a go club as an extracurricular activity. We got quite a good turnout, and soon we had to procure more othello sets. Later I made contact with the president of the Malaysian Go Association and we started to get proper go equipment through them.
In 2004 or 2005 I was struck by the sight of a team I saw at the beach, wearing jerseys, representing Brunei in some international sports event. At that instant I realized that we should form a Brunei Go Association and get recognition from the government. I had also been reading a book called Things You Never Learned at School. One thing that book said is that when you find yourself wondering why somebody doesn’t do something, that may be a sign that you should do it yourself. This had stuck in my mind, so now I went into action. After we got organized, I contacted Yuki Shigeno at the International Go Federation, and we joined the IGF. Then we started sending players to international tournaments: the Korea Prime Minister Cup, the World Amateur Go Championship, the Asian Go Championship held in China, and so on. I competed in the KPMC four times before leaving Brunei to study architecture at Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
Now I’m back in Brunei, working as an architect. I’m also continuing to play go, but the go community in Brunei is still small. There are only about thirty active players, out of a population of 400,000. Because of its gas and oil, Brunei is a wealthy kingdom (yes, it has a king), and the people are very laid back. The main amusements are movies, European board games, trekking, things like that. Most of the go players belong to the 10% Chinese minority. One thing we lack is professional instruction, but even so, we have hopes of introducing go into the school system in Brunei, and one of my ambitions is to get the royal family interested in the game. This may well be possible. Because of Brunei’s small size, our go activities already get good attention in the local media.
Register for the 2016 US Go Congress by midnight Monday and save $50! The $25 registration will increase to $75 Monday, 6 June at 11:59 pm EST. The US Go Congress is the largest go activity in the United States. It happens once a year and runs July 30 – August 7 in Boston, MA this year. Events include the US Open, the largest annual go tournament in the US, professional lectures and game analysis, continuous self-paired games, and all kinds of go-related activities from morning to midnight. “Come for the go. Come for the camaraderie of old friends,” says Congress Director Walther Chen. “Whatever your reason, we are looking forward to seeing you there.”
I last competed in the WAGC in 2005. At the time I was working in computer security at a university. Since then I’ve been working in the same department at the university, but there have been some organizational changes, and now I’m looking for a new job. As for go, we held the European Go Congress in Finland in 2010, which had some importance for me. Mainly, I was involved in bringing it to Finland. I’ve also been playing at my club, and helping to organize some other go tournaments, like the European pair go championship in Helsinki, and I’ve started doing organizing work for my sailing club, in particular for the offshore world championship.
I started sailing as a kid when my father built an Optimist dinghy. Later, when I started to play go, that took up most of my time, but a couple of years ago I thought that go had become rather stable in Finland, and our sailing club had become involved in some European championships and then the offshore world championship, so I decided to get back into sailing. After starting out in the Optimist, which is just a child’s boat — an adult would be too heavy for it — I had sailed a Windmill, which they have in Finland and the United States, and my father had some bigger boats, such as an H boat and a Senorita Helmsman, so in the summer, when I wasn’t playing go, I went sailing again. I partnered with my father in a Windmill in the Finnish championship, and we took third place.
Henceforth, May 21 will be a memorable date in the history of Russian go. On that date, more than 200 go fans gathered in Saint Petersburg, Russia, for a massive simultaneous go game. The event took place on the street near architectural masterpiece the Kazan Cathedral. Even cold wind and drizzling rain did not deter players who turned out to challenge their country’s strongest go masters, including Alexander Dinerchtein 3P, Ilya Shikshin 1P and Natalia Kovaleva, who’s been European Female Champion. Some passersby got intrigued and played go for the very first time in their life, adding to the game’s fanbase. Every participant got a memorable souvenir and anyone who could defeat a master got an additional prize. Overall 218 people played on 191 boards, setting a national record. Click here for a video of the event (added 6/9).
- report by Daria Koshkina; photos by Mikail Krylov
Candidates have come forward for each of the four available seats on the AGA board. Current candidates are: Eastern – Gurujeet Khalsa, Central – Doc Sade, Western – Andrew Jackson, At-Large – Ed Zhang, Steve Colburn. Nominations, including self-nominations, may be made by full members for the region in which the member resides or nationwide for the At-Large seat and must be received by June 15. Nominations and questions must be emailed to email@example.com. Click here for complete election information and qualifications.
On June 5, at 9 am EST, Nikola Mitic of the Nordic Go Academy, currently a class A insei at the Nihon-Kiin, will give a lecture on the direction of attack in the early game. The lecture will take place in the Advanced Study Room of KGS and it is free to attend. Mitic, whose user name on KGS is nidza92, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Advanced Study Room can be found under the heading “lessons” in the room list on KGS.
The Mexican Go Association’s 3rd Annual Go Congress in Mexico City will be host to three professional teachers, including one each from the US and Canada. With the aid of AGA, Stephanie (Mingming) Yin 1p from NY and William (Gansheng) Shi 1p from Vancouver will be visiting Mexico, and with the support of the Korea Amateur Baduk Association, Cho Hye-yeon 9p from Seoul will teach as well. This is the first time a Mexican Congress will have this many pros.
“Western go is developing in a tremendous way. While America and Europe already have pro systems, in Latin America we don’t even have a Congress type of event. We can’t lag behind compared to other regions,” said Emil García, Mexican Go Association president. “The main purpose of the event is letting the local players grasp some of the deep insight pros have and for them to teach us through lectures, game reviews and simul games.”
Airfare for the two North American players is courtesy of the American Go Foundation, said AGA president Andy Okun. “When we received an invitation from the Mexican Go Association for pro teachers for their event,” said Okun, “I thought about the projects on which we’ve cooperated with Mexico and their success in promoting the game to kids. I also thought about the many years of generous support we have received from the go associations in Asia and thought this would be a chance for us to ‘pay it forward’ for the good of the game.”
The three-day event will also hold the 3rd Mexican Go Open with a prize pool near $1,000 US and will take place in the Tlatelolco University Cultural Center, Mexico City, Mexico. You can check more info about this event in its webpage.
The AGA Summer Go Camp includes a week of go learning in a friendly kid’s summer camp setting,” says Co-Director Fernando Rivera. “Campers enjoy morning and evening go lessons with a professional teacher throughout the week, and outside of the daily lessons enjoy more traditional summer camp activities.” Matthew Qiu writes “at go camp [last] year I made a lot of good friends, and played a lot of go. Go camp is a fun way to meet new people, and improve your game.” With a mix of lessons, outdoor activities, tournaments, and other Go related activities, the camp is an ideal place for kids to make friends and have fun while also improving their go skills. “Outside of the go classroom, we did many fun-filled outdoor activities,” writes camper Leon Chang, “we went canoeing in the lake, shot arrows at the archery range, climbed ropes courses, and much more!”
Perhaps 12-year-old Joe does the best job of summing up everyone’s feelings after a great week at camp: “When I left camp I was sad that I will miss all my new friends, but when I came back home I was happy because I was beating everyone and showing that I improved.” Go Camp will take place from July 3-9 at YMCA Camp Campbell Gard in Hamilton, Ohio. The camp will be run by Nano Rivera and Frank Luo. Youth who played in the NAKC or the Redmond Cup are eligible for a $400 scholarship, and need-based scholarships of up to $250 are also available courtesy of the American Go Foundation. For more information on the latest camp-related news, and to download the registration forms, visit the camp website, or e-mail Nano Rivera at email@example.com. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor. Quotes and photos by Nano Rivera.
The AGA YouTube channel will broadcast a live commentary as China’s Ke Jie 9p and Korea’s Park Junghwan 9p face off in the round of 16 of the LG Cup tomorrow night in Korea. The game starts at 5 p.m. PDT on Tuesday May 31 in the US. Each player has three hours main time and there will be no lunch break. Commentary by our own Myungwan Kim 9p, hosted by Andrew Jackson, will begin at 7 p.m. PDT and last likely until 11 p.m. PDT.