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.
“I ran a small tournament at my place in Des Plaines (IL) on October 19 with 9 players,” reports Laura Kolb Moon. “We named it the First Ivy Moon Tournament after my baby daughter.” Daniel Puzan 1k took first place with a perfect 4-0 record, and Lisa Scott (1k) and Matt Inwood (5k) took 2nd with 3-1 records. graphic: the tournament’s namesake demonstrates the rare but surprisingly effective “Cheerio tesuji”; photos by Laura Kolb Moon
Nearly three dozen players attended the 2013 Portland (Oregon) Go Tournament, held (date) at Lewis & Clark College. “This is an increase of over 25% from last year,” said tournament director Peter Drake. Zipei Feng 7d swept the 10-player open division with five wins, followed by Harry Zhou and Nick Zhirad. In the dan handicap division, the winners were Jim Levenick, Glenn Peters, and Eugene Zhang. For single-digit kyu, Maxwell Chen (also 5-0), Minh Pham (president of the Lewis & Clark College Go Club), and Clark Brooks. For double-digit kyu, Eric Hanscom, Eric Wang, and Ethan Zhuang.
The numbers for youth and female players were also improved from last year, Drake reports. Maxwell Chen took the prize for top youth player. Cynthia Gaty was the top female player.
GoClubsOnline was used for tournament administration. “Thanks to Yellow Mountain Imports for a generous prize discount,” says Drake, who also thanked KGS, SmartGo, and Darrell Malick (via Cynthia Gaty) for prize donations and Glenn Peters for bringing boards, stones, clocks, and snacks.
What game has tens of millions of active players, is very popular in Asia, has professional leagues and professional tournaments all over the world and was originally dominated by the North American League? Not go, of course. It’s League of Legends, one of the most popular eSports, or organized video game competitions. We were tipped off to this phenomenon by one of the strongest amateur go players in the United States, who admitted recently that his go playing time has been cut into not only by work and family, but by his fascination with League of Legends. “As a mental and strategy game, it bears a close resemblance to go,” the player — who prefers to remain anonymous — says, although unlike go, League of Legends is a team game, with five players on each team. “Like the go world, China and Korea are dominating League of Legends now,” the player says. “However, because this game has such a big fan base in North America, there is a chance that we can come back.” According a Forbes report in August, “If there needed to be further evidence of the growing enthusiasm in the West for eSports, League of Legends may have just set some sort of unofficial record for most tickets to a live event sold in the shortest amount of time. In about an hour after they went on sale, tickets to October’s World Championship Final event in LA’s Staples Center were sold out.” And according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “Top (videogame) players can ultimately take home $18,000 a month or more.”
Kelsey Dyer was “pleasantly surprised to find go” mentioned in Clifford A. Pickover’s “The Math Book,” which chronicles discoveries and advances in mathematics throughout history. Picover “gives a rundown of the object of the game and its mathematical facets” and Dyer says that his favorite line is “While powerful chess software is capable of defeating top chess players, the best Go programs often lose to skillful children.”
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.
Go-playing university/college students under the age of 30 can still register for the qualifying prelim for the 12th World Students Go Oza Championship, which will be held February 24-28, 2014 in Tokyo. Sixteen students from around the world will gather in Japan to decide the world’s number one student player. There will be an online preliminary round on Pandanet to select the 16 student players. Click here for details. University/college students under the age of 30 are eligible to participate.
Nearly forty leaders met to discuss “spreading weiqi to the world” in Beijing on September 23. The summit gathered a number of heavyweights in the Chinese go community, including Ma Xiaoming and Xia Guozhu from China’s Association for International Friendship with Foreign Countries, Liu Siming, Wang Runan, Hua Yigang and Wang Yi from the Chinese Weiqi Association, Li Lizhen from the headquarters of the Confucius Institute, and Wang Ping from China’s National General Administration of Press and Publication. In addition, executives from different media companies were invited, including Window of Golden Street (WGS), Sina, eWeiqi, Sohu, Blue Focus and Qingfeng.
Both Ma and Liu emphasized the urgency of promoting go globally and praised the “Weiqi Travelling Worldwide” project, while Shao Qiang from WGS proposed the idea of a China-US Go Congress. The influential level of the summit attendees is the highest in many years, a strong indication of China’s interest in global Weiqi cooperation.
- Alice Zhang, translated by Rainy Han and Zhiyuan ‘Edward’ Zhang
Go author Jonathan Hop is working on a new project about Chinese culture and language. “I am trying to get funds to do a graphic novel,” Hop tells the E-Journal. In “Journey to the Middle Kingdom,” three modern-day kids travel back to ancient Chinese fairy tales. “The main character’s grandfather plays go and owns an antique shop,” Hop, a 4-dan from Ann Arbor MI and author of the “So You Want to Play Go” series says. “Go will make an appearance in the first book and I’m definitely going to have it in several others because the book series is a celebration of Chinese culture. I also may even teach the readers a little bit about go (because that’s what I do) if the series gets underway, but I gotta get the first book going.” With just 14 days to go, Hop’s Kickstarter campaign has raised nearly $1,200 toward the $10,000 goal.
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!
Online registration for the 2013 Cotsen Go Open and 2nd AGA Pro Prelim is now closed. To register on-site in Los Angeles, come early this Saturday, October 26th; registration opens at 8a at the Korean Cultural Center (5505 Wilshire Blvd). “If you are not registered by 9:30, you will not be allowed to play in the first game,” organizers warn. The Cotsen features a number of unique attractions, including paying the AGA “one time rating fee” for all players who do not currently have an AGA membership, prizes for those who can solve certain go problems, one candidate will be selected for the AGA’s next professional certification tournament to be held later this year. Plus, Myung-wan Kim 9P, one of the organizers of the US pro system, will also be on hand to teach and play simultaneous games and local Southern California favorite and renowned US teacher Yi-Lun Yang 7P will also teach and provide game commentary. There will also be a pro game over the internet between Yi-Lun Yang 7P and another pro. Lee Hajin 3p and Kim Minhee 3p will also be there to do game reviews and simuls along with a late addition to the delegation, Kim Younghwan 9p. Kim (left) became pro in 1987. His nickname is “Younghwan Wizard” because of his ability to give more handicap stones to amateur players than any other pro, and still win. He is currently working as a baduk instructor and a commentator for Baduk TV. The tournament also features free lunch at a food truck (but only for those who pre-register) and two masseuses who will make the rounds “to ease the tensions that arise in your shoulders when you discover that your big group really doesn’t have two eyes.” There are also go club prizes of $1,500, to be awarded to top three clubs that have the most points overall in the tournament. Top-board games will be broadcast live on KGS by the E-Journal. photo: Cotsen with son Lord at the 2012 Cotsen Open; top right photo by Chris Garlock
Andy Liu won the October 12 Gotham Go Tournament in New York City. Liu Xiaohan was second and in 3rd place was Benjamin Lockhart, who qualified to play in the AGA Pro Select tournament in Los Angeles later this year. “We had a total of 82 players competing for $1500 in cash and prizes from all ranks!” report organizers Peter Armenia and Mathew Hershberger. Click here for full results and a photo album. photo: Benjamin Lockhart (l) plays Zhong Sichen in the final round; photo by Peter Armenia