Interview with Andrii Kravets, Ukraine
I grew up in Rivne, a small city in the western part of the Ukraine, where about 85% of the population speaks the Ukrainian language instead of Russian. I started to play go at the age of seven, so I’ve already been playing for nineteen years. There was a go club in Rivne headed by a man named Viktor Shevchuk. He taught a group of young players that included me, Artem Kachanovskyi, and a few others. None of us were very strong, but we all grew up together, pushing ourselves to gradually higher levels. When I was sixteen I went to Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and I’ve lived there since then. In Kiev there were high dan players, and in one year I had reached the 5 dan level. But then complications set in: I needed to get a job to earn some money. So for three or four years I stopped playing actively and worked as an appraiser, calculating the prices of houses and cars. But then I got the opportunity to go to China and study go there, so I went — twice, in fact. My ambition was now to become a European pro. Last year I reached the finals of the European pro qualification tournament, but I lost to Artem, so my current goal is to become pro next year.
Playing go has become my full time occupation. I’ve been playing go for practically my whole life, so I don’t see any point in doing anything else. The economic situation in the Ukraine is difficult; it’s hard to find a good job. For the money that people are willing to pay you, it’s really not worth working. I decided that it would be better just to play go and see what happens. People who have jobs, like Artem now, for example, are always thinking about what they have to do at work the next day. If you’re not working, you spend your time thinking about go: the mistakes you made in your last game and how to correct them.
So how do I feed myself? Although salaries are extremely small in the Ukraine, so is the cost of living. Prices are very low. If you can get a few hundred euros per month, that’s enough to live on. In my case, I still have money that I saved while I was working regularly, so I’ll be able to live without working at all for a few more years. In addition, there are some go tournaments with good prize funds, like the European Grand Slam: ten thousand euros for first place! In the future I plan to make a real career out of go, playing and, who knows, perhaps teaching. I’m not sure I’ll succeed, but at least now I have lots of free time.
When I was in China I was studying go ten hours a day. When I got back from China, I decided not to study there again. The environment was too different. But still, it was a good experience, because while I was there I learned to study on my own. Of course in China you have good professional teachers who can explain things to you, but the rest is the same wherever you are. You can study at home by doing tsume-go probems and playing through professional games. You can also play online on Tygem against professional and other very strong opponents. I play perhaps fifty to a hundred fifty games a month online, and there are some professionals living in Europe now, so when I have questions, I can ask them. Studying go in the Ukraine is basically just like studying in China, but not as strict. I try to train daily. And here at the WAGC, I don’t feel any pressure to win the championship — after all, there’s no prize money — but I’m trying to win each game I play, just taking them one at a time.
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