The Chinese non-playing team captain is Hua Xueming, who won the Chinese women’s individual championship in 1993 and 1995 and the Tombow Cup in 2002, and more recently partnered with Nie Weiping to win the Shenzhen International Pair Go Tournament in 2010. She has also competed in the Fujitsu Cup with some success (beating Otake Hideo in 1994), and in 1985 she became one of the few women to win a tournament open to both women and men when she defeated a large number of male opponents, including Yu Bin, in the Xinxiu (New Star) Cup. She consented to an interview with Ranka during round 1.
Ranka: Please tell us about your coaching career.
Hua: I worked as a coach for the National Youth Team, starting in 1997, then as a coach for the National Women’s Team starting in 2002. In 2005 China became dissatisfied with the results being produced by its national team, and assembled a group of five coaches for its national team. In June 2005 I became their group leader, as well as a coach of the National Men’s Team.
Ranka: What was the reason for the dissatisfaction?
Hua: China still hadn’t reached the top. For the first decade of full-scale international competition, the top country was Japan. Then for next decade, it was Korea. Up until 2005 Chinese players managed to win only three world titles.
Ranka: And after 2005?
Hua: China’s National Team has been doing better. Since 2005 they’ve won 23 world titles and they’ve been competing on equal or superior terms with the Koreans.
Ranka: What was the reason for China’s great leap forward?
Hua: There were four reasons. One was the long years of effort that the Chinese go community has put into the game since the distant past. That laid the foundation. A second reason was the existence of an elite national team in China. That created a sense of purpose. A third reason was the performance of China’s national team in the China-Japan Super-Go Series. The win-and-continue format of that tournament created an environment in which Chinese players could excel, and their success showed that Chinese players could be as good as any in the world. As for the fourth reason, it’s simply China’s large population.
Ranka: Which means that compared with the rest of the world, China has a larger pool of potential world champions to draw on. But what keeps Chinese young people interested in playing go, instead of the electronic games that seem to be displacing traditional games in other countries?
Hua: The situation in China is a little different from the rest of the world, because it is now changing for the better. In the past, go was treated as a sport in China, which created heroes and kept people interested, but now it is also regarded as a cultural pursuit, which makes it worth teaching to children as part of their upbringing. And another big factor, again, is China’s population. Even if go enthusiasts do not make up the majority in China, there are still quite a lot of us.
Ranka: Are you satisfied with China’s results in the SportAccord World Mind Games so far?
Hua: Oh, I guess we’ve done reasonably well, but I think the important thing about the SportAccord World Mind Games is not the individual results or team results. It’s the publicity that’s being generated, not only in China but also in the rest of the world. The televised broadcast of that’s taking place right now is one example.
Ranka: Finally, can you tell us something about the Chinese players and how they were selected for this year’s SportAccord World Mind Games?
Hua: The men are all young and all are winners of world championship titles. The selection process was very simple. We just took the three most recent world title winners from the National Men’s Team. On the women’s side, Yu Zhiying is also young and she was selected because currently she ranks as the strongest woman in China. Rui Naiwei was selected both for her strength as a player and because of her international reputation. And it was as the senior player, incidentally, that she was chosen to get the bye in the first round.
Ranka: Thank you very much.