Before the first round, Ranka had chances to talk with the players from Finland, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Turkey, and the U.S.A., and asked them what they had been doing so far this year.
Juri Kuronen, Finland: Studying statistics. I’m a university student. In the past I studied go in China, but after that visit I became busy with my university studies and I haven’t been putting much time into go or competing in tournaments with strong fields. I used to play on the Internet, but not much recently.
Pal Sannes, Norway. I work for the Norwegian Metereological Institute, so I’ve been predicting the weather, with computers. Earlier this year I played in the Nordic Championship, with very bad results, and in one small tournament in Oslo, but what I like to do in the winter is go skiing. A month ago I started forcing myself to play on the Internet, on Tygem, to get accustomed to playing with 30-second overtime. Last time I competed in a tournament with that system was at the Korean Prime Minister Cup. I ended up playing all my games within the 30-minute basic time limit, to avoid getting into overtime.
Yuan Zhou, U.S.A. I’ve been teaching go and writing about it. As for playing go, I’ve been playing a lot on the Internet, especially on Tygem but also some on KGS. Not so many tournaments: I tend to go to tournaments run be people I like, so this February I played in the handicap tournament organized by Alan Abramson in Virginia as a celebration of the Chinese New Year. I finished second, losing to Josh Lee. It was a two-stone game and he won by one point. I was actually quite pleased, because he’s one of my students. His ‘Lee’ is an American name, not Korean or Chinese. I put most of my effort into teaching American players with Caucasian backgrounds, because they have to struggle with the lack of resources in the English language, and I want them to do well.
Zaid Waqi, Malaysia. I’ve been busy with my export business, so I haven’t been playing go so much, but I did participate in one tournament and I’ve been playing a little online, on KGS. I was playing more in 2010, when I was part of the Malaysian go team at the Asian Games. In my eight-year go career I reached shodan in one year, then advanced one stone per year up to four dan, then leveled off. Boon-Ping Teng is stronger than me, he’s 5 dan, but I got lucky against him in the WAGC selection tournament, and that’s why I’m here. Malaysian go has been developing. We’ve started to publish go books–in English, because we don’t have go terminology in Malaysian. I’ve studied from English go books, not Chinese books. I can’t read Chinese. I tried to learn for three years, but the intonation is too difficult.
Kerem Karaerkek, Turkey. In January I spent a month in Korea at Blackie’s International Baduk Academy, studying with Kim Seung-jun and Diana Koszegi. I think I got a little stronger, but after returning to Turkey I’ve been busy with my work as a mountain guide, so I’ve played in only one small-town tournament, and I don’t play very much online. Being a mountain guide means more than climbing mountains. I also take people on skiing tours–hike up and ski down–and take lots of groups on trekking tours and nature tours. We take groups of all ages, including children and senior citizens. For me a working day starts at 7:00 a.m., when I start seeing about breakfast for the group, and ends at about 11:00 p.m., so there’s no time for go. But after working as a guitarist in bars, then managing a disco bar, and then working for ten years as a translator, translating mainly fantasy novels from English into Turkish, guiding people on nature tours and taking them up mountains is a good life.
Nakazono Seizo, Japan. The three big Japanese amateur tournaments are held in July, August, and September, so this year I haven’t played in any strong tournaments, but I’m constantly in contact with the game because I manage a go salon for my company, Sunshine City, in Tokyo. This keeps me in touch with all levels of amateur play. I view go as a field of knowledge, like an academic pursuit, not just a game to see who wins. One feature of our salon is that from the outset, we’ve used a 6-point compensation, permitting drawn games, even in tournaments. It works fine. Another thing I’ve been doing for the past decade is to play on teams of Japanese university alumni competing against similar teams of Korean university alumni. We’ve been doing this once a year. Our team is made up of players of prefectural champion class and just below that level, but the Korean team is just as good: our team results so far are 2 wins, 3 draws, and 4 losses. Someday I hope we can bring other countries in, perhaps create a world alumni tournament something like the World Student Oza. I’ve also been to China several times. The first was nearly forty years ago, after political relations between China and Japan were normalized. We visited Beijing, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, playing go in each city. One of our opponents was Nie Weiping. Around the same time I had a chance to play a quick game with Chen Zude when he visited Japan.
– James Davies; photos by John Pinkerton