After the sixth round, Ranka interviewed Kamon Santipojana, 4-dan, the player from Bangkok who had beaten two European 5-dan opponents on the first day, lost to two European 5-dan opponents on the second day, and split his remaining games.
Ranka: How has the tournament gone so far?
Santipojana: This has been completely different from any other tournament I’ve played in. There’s been much more pressure. But I’ve enjoyed it. I hope I can come again.
Ranka: Please tell us about your go career.
Santipojana: I first learned the game from some classmates in school. We played among ourselves, but then my older brother, who does not play go, heard of the Thai Go Association and told me about it, so I started going there. At that time I was about 8-kyu, but I began taking part in tournaments, and a year later I was shodan. A couple of years ago I made 4-dan. I study from Korean books. I can’t read Korean, but I study the diagrams.
Ranka: Who is your favorite Korean professional?
Santipojana: Choi Chulhan.
Ranka: How many go players are there in Thailand?
Santipojana: I haven’t verified this myself, but the figure often given is about one million.
Ranka: Where do they all play?
Santipojana: In Bangkok, they come to the Go Association, and they play on the Internet. There are also branch associations in many of the provinces, such as the Kanchanaburi Go Association, the Chiang Mai Go association, the Phuket Go Association.
Ranka: What are the activities of these associations?
Santipojana: They hold tournaments, issue certified rankings, and teach the game to many different types of people, including schoolchildren and schoolteachers.
Ranka: What do they do for boards and stones?
Santipojana: We have nine-by-nine sets with plastic boards and stones that are made in Thailand, and we also import regular boards with real stones which we use in tournaments.
Ranka: How are Thai ranks awarded?
Santipojana: Through the Thai rating system, in which you accumulate points from your results in tournaments. I have a rating of 5200, which is equivalent to more than 5-dan, but in Thailand, to make 5-dan, you have to pass a test against a professional. You have to beat the pro with a three-stone handicap. Then your rating is reset to zero, and to make 6-dan you have to accumulate more points, be vetted by the head of the Thai Go Association, and pass another test against a pro, this time with a two-stone handicap.
Ranka: How many 5- and 6-dan players are there.
Santipojana: There are five 5-dans. There are only two 6-dans. One of them taught the Thai language at the University of Kyoto, so he is a Japanese-level 6-dan. Only one person has made 6-dan in Thailand so far. That’s Rit Bencharit, who won five games at the World Amateur Go Championship in 2006.
Ranka: How many of these 5- and 6-dans did you have to beat to get here?
Santipojana: The were eight players in the Thai qualifying tournament for the World Amateur Go Championship, and it was a knockout, so I only had to beat three players. One of them was 5-dan.
Ranka: What other games do people play in Thailand?
Santipojana: Lots of games, including Thai chess and scrabble. Thai scrabble players are among the best in the world. They’ve won any number of international tournaments. I’d say that scrabble is the best known game in Thailand, followed by Thai chess.
Ranka: What are you now studying?
Santipojana: Business administration. I expect that I’ll go into business, but I also want to keep playing go.
Ranka: Thank you.