Sweden's new go champion Jakob Bing has played in two Korea Prime Minister Cups, both times winning three games and finishing near the middle of the field. In 2012, playing as a 2-dan and assisted by a McMahon point, he came in 33rd out of 70. In 2014, now ranked 3-dan, he finished 28th out of 51 without McMahon assistance, the tournament having reverted to the normal Swiss system. Ranka interviewed him shortly after his last game.
Ranka: Can you bring us up to date on the go scene in Sweden?
Jakob: Well, sadly, it seems that go in Sweden has been shrinking. It was more active seven years ago when I started playing. There were more tournaments, with more players. We still have one very big tournament, the Gothenburg open, which gets up to sixty or more participants, but a normal tournament can be like twenty to twenty-five people. The number of tournaments has been shrinking as well. How many do we have left now? I think maybe five or six a year. But a new thing that has started is that we have a summer go camp near Gothenburg, arranged by the Gothenburg go club. This has been very successful for three years in a row. It's very nice, very relaxed, in a nice natural setting near a lake. Quite a lot of people come.
Ranka: To learn how to play better?
Jacob: Yes, to learn, but in a more relaxed atmophere than at a tournament. It's good for people who don't like the competitive atmosphere in tournaments, but they want to meet others and play a lot of go. I think it's a very good thing to have, because it's a different way of playing go together, and some people prefer it.
Ranka: And now please tell us how you feel about your performance here at the KPMC.
Jakob: For some reason, I have been playing much too aggressively. In fact, I've been playing very badly for the past few months, though I've played a bit better in the tournament here. I lost all three games on the first day, but I kind of had strong opponents. Then today I won all three games, for the opposite reason. I guess that if you lose all your games on the first day you can expect to meet weaker people.
Ranka: Which do you think was your best game of the six?
Jakob: Either my first game against the player from Malaysia or my third game against Vesa Laatikainen, from Finland. I think I played best in those games. The third game ended with me dying a lot. I thought I was going to kill my opponent and I tried too hard and everything died. But it was fun.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Photo: Ito Toshiko
James Sedgwick is president of the Canadian Go Association, but was competing in the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup as a player. Ranka interviewed him at breakfast at the Olympic ParkTel, before the bus ride to the Korea Baduk Association building for the first round.
Ranka: Please tell us about the go community in Canada.
James: Canada is a big country, so it can be hard to get an overall picture of how the community is doing. You notice how one region can have a mini-go-boom for a few years while there's another region where the organizers have fallen away. A lot of Chinese organizations are very active now. There are two or three schools in Toronto that teach kids, mostly Chinese kids from second-generation families, and that's having a big impact. A lot of strong young players are coming in. There was a youth tournament this spring which had forty children under twelve, mostly from these schools.
Ranka: What are the names of these schools?
James: One of them is called the Golden Key Go School, because it operates at the Golden Key Culture Center. They ran the last Toronto Open. Another is just called, in English, the Toronto Go School.
Ranka: And what about the rest of Canada?
James: I think the rest of the community is growing slowly, but when I look at players around my level, about European five dan, there are five to ten of us from a Western background. I don't think there were that many ten or twenty years ago. So it's hard to perceive, but the growth is there.
Ranka: What is it like, trying to organize go in a country as big as Canada?
James: Recently I think we've had a more active executive in the Canadian go organization than we had five or ten years previously, which is a good sign, but it's always a struggle to figure out how you've made a difference at the end of the day. You need the local go communities to do a lot. Well, they're trying, and we're trying too.
Ranka: How was your visit to the Choongam Baduk Academy yesterday?
James: They were very strong, generally stronger than the field here. It was impressive to see. It's always a shock the first time, but I've been to go camps in Shanghai and Beijing -- my wife is originally from Beijing -- so I've had similar experiences elsewhere. It was about what I'd expect at a strong go school here. The intensity of the training the kids go through to get as strong as they are, we're nowhere near that yet in the West.
Ranka: Was it a good warm-up for the KPMC?
James: Oh yes, it got my brain into gear. I'm still thinking through some of the positions in my head. During the tournament I hope I won't make the same mistakes, although I'm sure I'll make make different mistakes.
Ranka: What other hopes and expectations do you have for the KPMC?
James: My hopes are mainly to avoid embarrassment. I'm a little weaker than the last few Canadian representatives. Last year the Canadian representative in the KPMC finished third. I think it's unlikely I'll be able to match that, but my goal is to finish in the top ten.
Ranka: Last year's Canadian representative was Bill Lin. Have you played him very much in Canada?
James: Yes, quite often, in the Canadian Go Association's online Dragon League. That league was created and named by Chuck Elliot, a long-time go organizer in the Canadian prairies who is now in his seventies but doesn't seem able to sit still. I think he's currently involved in setting up some sort of school in China where they teach go and English. I've played Bill maybe five games in the past two years. I don't know that I've been able to win any of them, but I've had chances at fairly late stages in some of the games.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck.
Postscript: After beating Jerusalem Open winner Amir Fragman in round three but losing to the players from China and Chinese Taipei in rounds two and five, James found himself matched against one of Europe's strongest players, Thomas Debarre of France, in round six. The winner of this game would earn an award for placing in the top sixteen. James lost, but still earned an award by placing in the top four in the America and Oceania zone.
- Photo: Ito Toshiko