The force of Kikou Emura’s first stone of the day touching down squarely on the board could not conceal a slight tremble of the hand. Japan’s hope lost his all-important game this morning to Chinese player Yuqing Hu, a real blow to his chances of taking home the top prize. On the next board, Korean candidate Hyunjae Choi’s hopes of a professional career are hanging on victory tomorrow. As fans and the media gather around the top boards, we wondered how players cope with the intense stress of such an important tournament.
The International Go Federation (IGF) has begun conducting anti-doping tests in line with other mind sports, such as chess, to combat the use of performance enhancing drugs to improve concentration and, above all, to subdue the nerves. We asked the Irish representative James Hutchinson to share his thoughts on go as a sport, and these new measures to prevent cheating.
For me the secret to good performance is threefold: a good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast and nerves of steel. After a refreshing sleep there’s nothing like a large helping of eggs and bacon to stock up on protein for the game ahead. Eat more than you need, then you can cut back for lunch if necessary. I’d also recommend to play some sport to train concentration and to learn to keep your nerves. I play a lot of table tennis, a nervy game that trains you to keep a handle on the pressure. This skill can be transferred to go, and I can tell when my opponents start to lose it during a game, giving me a chance to pounce.
I think it’s great how we can have such an enjoyable amateur tournament without getting too serious, but at the top end of the spectrum the players can be fighting for their livelihood. As has happened in other sports such as cycling, the moment athletes begin substance abuse it becomes necessary for others to follow suit to keep their place at the top. The moment they lose that, they are forced to forfeit their dream profession doing what they love. That’s another reason I think it’s important for us amateurs to seek moderation.
While there may be no substitute for skill and determination (not to forget tsumego!), the introduction of anti-doping tests have secured recognition for go in the sporting world.
– John Richardson