BGJ56: World Amateur Championship

British Go Journal No. 56. June 1982. Page 3.

Japan 1982

Francis Roads

In August 1981 the EGF did me the honour of appointing me European Team Captain for the WAGC 1982. I arrived at the Shinjuku Prince Hotel, Tokyo, at 00.30 a.m. on Monday 15th March after a very fraught journey via Anchorage. My ideas of what Team Captains do at what is basically an individual competition were still rather hazy. Here is a Japan diary.

Mon. 15th: I seem to be the last to arrive, but, very sensibly, we have no morning commitment. My room-mate Matthew Macfadyen (the British representative) and I stroll in one of Tokyos few parks. Lunch in a Japanese style restaurant. Youd better know how to use chopsticks, and theres no English on the menu, so you take the waiter outside and point at a plastic replica of what you want. The portions are generous and surprisingly cheap.

In the afternoon we are taken by coach to a posh hotel for "orientation". This turns out to be mainly instructions for the Opening Ceremony. For this we are lined up by continents behind banners and marched in to the strains of "Land of Hope and Glory" (I jest not). Huge room, cameras a-flashing, TV crews operating, jostling with press and Go dignitaries, including ex-prime minister Fukuda. Lots of speeches in formal Japanese. We Team Captains are introduced on stage.

Then the draw. Each contestant takes a fan from one of four boxes and displays to all the number written on it. This determines his place in the draw. But he is directed to one particular box, and it becomes obvious that the draw (32 player knockout) is rigged so that at least four occidentals will appear in the last eight.

The food and drink are lavish, but at a given moment we are lined up again in mid-mouthful and marched out, to be driven back to our hotel by 8.30 p.m. Not all of us were sure we wanted to return that early.

Tue. 16th: We are shown how to use the railway to get to the Nihon Ki-in. All the stations etc. are given in Roman letters as well as Kanji so the Tokyo underground is a good way to get about. This is just as well, as even the Japanese find the buses difficult, and taxi drivers expect you to tell them where to go, preferably in Japanese.

I watch Matthew beat Paul Selick (Canada). Not much for Team Captains to do yet. I go shopping and discover that the story that all Japanese speak English is a big lie. On the plane out I met a very friendly Japanese (Mr. Asahara) who taught me some useful phrases. I have good reason to be grateful to him.

Wed. 17th: Tournament Committee meeting. Thats us Team Captains. We are informed of the arrangements for next years Championship - Osaka, 14th-20th Feb, with 32 countries participating (adding Mexico, USSR, and GDR to this years 29). I have doubts about those last two actually reaching Japan).

I try to push two points at this meeting: (i) they should use the MacMahon system instead of their very complicated multi-round knockout, which has already matched a 7 dan with a kyu player on evens, and (ii) that if the N. and S. American and Oceanic Team Captains have each only two players for whom to be responsible, its tough on the European Team Captain who (this year) had fifteen. But Japanese Committee meetings work on the principle that all the major decisions have already been taken. If you want to influence them, you must get at the right people beforehand. I just hope I have planted seeds that may germinate in years to come.

Meanwhile Matthew has lost to Aguilar (Argentine). A prophetic loss? He now goes into a 16-player losers tournament, together with todays winners of yesterdays losers, if you see what I mean. There is also an eight player losers losers tournament.

In the evening we are invited to his "Tengen" go salon in the Ginza by Mr. Nakanori, a generous patron of Go. Plenty of Sushi to eat and Sake to drink, and we are all found opponents. Am impressed that the background music is Mozarts 40th and 41st symphonies, and not the usual rubbish. Somewhat less impressed when I have heard each symphony five times. A Japanese version of the water torture.

Thu. 18th: Matthew has two rounds to play today. He beats Siivola (Finland) and loses to Na (Korea). No surprises there.

In the evening we found the International Go League. It is clear that its main function will be as a publicity front for the Nihon Ki-in within Japan, and that since Japan is producing the money we had better do things their way. This seems to me quite an acceptable arrangement. I just hope no Westerners spoil it by trying to introduce alien democratic notions.

Later we receive our greatest honour. Some of us (those who happen to be standing around outside the Ki-in at the right moment) are taken out to dinner by Eio Sakata. Later we go to his Go salon. There I meet and lose a game to Michael Redmond, the US born 2 dan professional. Matthew and I sing The Weak Kneed Dans to Sakata and friends, who listen politely. At the end there is a chauffeur driven car to take us back.

Fri. 19th: Matthew beats Nakatsui (Brazil). In the afternoon we have a "friendship match" with a team of Japanese business and professional people associated with go. In the evening to Tengen again, Brahms symphonies this time. Matthew tries the Tokyo taxi service after missing the last train back.

Sat. 20th: Last round. Matthew loses to Lam (Hong Kong). The two Chinese battle it out for first place. In the afternoon Otake gives a commentary on their game - the words "direction of play" feature in it prominently.

The evening brings the closing ceremony and prize giving, followed by press interviews in which the contestants are lined up in the final pecking order and asked to say a few words each in English. Quite an ordeal for some. Then a farewell party when your Team Captain takes his reputation in his hands and gives a speech of thanks in Japanese (previously written for me by Mr. Asahara and memorised during the week). I wonder just how polite that applause was.

In the evening I meet Mr. Shirakami from Kansai Ki-in. He has invited all the Europeans, Oceanians, and S. Americans to Osaka as guests of Kansai Ki-in. Organising this trip has caused me more trouble than all my other duties as Team Captain put together - and from Nihon Ki-ins point of view it is quite unofficial.

Sun. 21st: Panic! Having exhorted all the twenty people coming to Osaka to be in the lobby promptly at 9.00 am, I wake to find the alarm wasnt set. Its 9,00 now, so no breakfast, and a 4 minute pack. Matthew is a good nurse-maid and picks up the bits Ive forgotten and tries to calm me.

We catch the 10.12 "Bullet Train" for Osaka. They really do run every 12 minutes, but I reckon our 125s are as fast and as comfortable. There is a coach waiting at Osaka to take us to Hotel Seriyu, at Ishikiri, on the outskirts. (You can probably work out that ishikiri means stone cut, and masonry is indeed the local industry.) Professional players, including Shoji Hashimoto, from Kansai Ki-in play us two or three at a time, and then we meet some amazing children aged 10-15. They visit the home of a sensei called Minami for three hours four times a week to learn Go. A four dan twelve year old girl gives me black and wipes me round the board. The others fare little better.

Later there is a banquet, speeches, and more games with other youngsters. They are lovely children, polite, cheerful, and not showing any signs of repression from their intellectual hot-house.

Mon. 22nd: It is Bank Holiday, and we experience a traffic jam Japanese style on the way to visit the Todaiji temple and a museum at Nara, the most ancient capital city. In the afternoon many leave the party at Nara station.

Seven of us remain, and have a vast meal of Nabe with Mr. Shirakami. Later your Team Captain got a bit sloshed on Sake.

Tue. 23rd: Team Captain decides on a leisurely start to the day. We see off three more people from Osaka. After wandering (and getting lost) in Osaka we end up at the castle, and are suitably impressed.

Quiet evening at the hotel. Our room is Japanese style, i.e. shoes off at the door, tatami mats cover the floor, no drawers, chairs etc., and you sleep on the floor on futons. We enter further into the Japanese spirit by taking a traditional hot spring bath. You prance naked into this communal bath, almost too hot to bear. Supposed to be very relaxing.

Wed. 24th: To an art gallery nearby. Matthew and I return to Ishikiri for a walk in the woods that cover the nearby hills, the others revisit Nara. Wonderful to leave cities for a day. Matthew spots many birds. Later we walk through Ishikiri itself. Not a beautiful town, but free from the studied ugliness of the concrete jungle of the big cities.

In the evening we meet Minami sensei and three of his children. He stands us what Matthew terms an 'n+l' meal - 'n' is the number of dishes on the table so far, and 'n+l' is the total number.

Minami teaches by insisting that a beginner learns 80 moves of a professional game before having the rules explained. I cant see this working in Europe, but the kids seemed to have done well on it. The three he brought with him sat quietly and patiently through three hours of adult chat in a foreign language. Mind you, they tucked the food away.

Thu. 25th: Two rejoin the party as Mr. Shirakami shows us round Kyoto. Highlight is the Jakkoji temple, where the Honinbo house has its origin. We are shown the Go ban of 1st Honinbo Sansa and other antiquities. I am allowed to beat the huge temple drum. Can you imagine a church dedicated to chess?

In the evening we are allowed to eavesdrop a rehearsal of Gagaku, the Imperial Court Music - reckoned to have survived 1400 years. Very thrilling - could write pages about it.

Fri. 26th: Back to Tokyo. Matthew and I get in a slow train having paid for a fast one, and miss a lunch appointment. Must learn to read some kanji.

We arrive at the flat of Richard Hunter and Louise Bremner. They have "gone native"; i.e. shoes off, sleep on the floor, etc., but make us very welcome. Out to dinner with my cousin, who is prospering by selling European Archaeological art works to the Japanese.

Sat. 27th: Lazy morning. Flying visit to Mr. Iwamoto's Go salon, then to a Noh play. All in mediaeval Japanese, and unbelievably slow-moving, but very satisfying in retrospect. Out to dinner again.

Sun. 28th: We visit Mr. Asahara at Takao on the outskirts. He is a youngish engineer at a sewing machine factory, but his house is quite traditional. They build small and light partly because of high land costs, but also because of earthquakes. We felt a couple of little 'uns during our stay.

There is a traditional meal, with Mrs. Asahara waiting on us. Then he drives us out into the mountains to see Mount Fuji.

In the evening he feeds us much more than we can manage and we return bearing many gifts.

Mon. 29th: Last day for me. Louise helps me shop for presents. I meet Geoffrey Tudor, who was the BGAs first contact with JAL. Reach airport painlessly. Find my neighbour in the 'plane is a 2-dan. Good journey home.

My first impressions of Japan were coloured by the ugliness of the cities - mostly concrete blocks arranged higgledy-piggledy with few open spaces or old buildings of any kind (thanks to the earthquakes). Everywhere is crowded and commercialised. But you soon discover the compensations. Almost no vandalism or graffiti, little litter, little crime. Plenty of time to cross at crossings. Very reliable transport. And very polite, courteous and generous people. I had to buy an extra bag to bring home all my presents.

If you are patient you can find the traditional Japan which is not so deeply buried under the Western exterior. And it is well worth finding.

Looking back, the results of the WAGC seem almost the least important detail. The final positions were poorly related to actual performance, e.g. to come 8th you win two games then lose three, but the ninth player must win five out of six. Further details of the draw are not worth giving, but here for what they are worth are the final results:

1.Tsao (China)
2.Yang (China)
3.Hirata (Japan)
4.Kim (Korea)
5.Aguilar (Argentina)
6.Kobashigawa (USA)
7.Mattner (W. Germany)
8.Tomes (New Zealand)
9.Na (Korea)
10.Kanno (Japan)
11.Novak (Austria)
12.van Zeijst (NL)
13.Lam (Hong Kong)
14.Macfadyen (UK)
15.Hansen (Denmark)
16.Nakatsui (Brazil)
17.Selick (Canada) la Banda (Spain)
19.Donzet (France)
20.Poliak (Czech.)
21.Rigo (Hungary)
22.Siivola (Finland)
23.Venczel (Romania)
24.Gueco (Philippines)
25.Ekart (Yugoslavia)
26.Johanssen (Sweden)
27.Pang (Singapore)
28.Burlini (Italy)
29.Smythe (Australia)
30.Safrasiantz (Switz.)
31.Skogen (Norway)

Moszczynski, Poland, could not attend.


This article is from the British Go Journal Issue 56
which is one of a series of back issues now available on the web.

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