In the last round of competition, the Philippine’s Celeste Abat trounced India’s Shashank Dave, scoring her first win on the board, to escape from last place in the final standings. Ranka interviewed her the next day, after lunch at a noodle restaurant near Lake Yamanaka.
Ranka: How did you get started with go?
Celeste: By watching Hikaru no Go. Then I asked my friend Aki from Hokkaido to teach me how to play, and things started to move from there. He suggested that I should e-mail Yuki Shigeno, the secretary general of the International Go Federation at the time, so I did; she put me in touch with Mr. Izeki, a go player in the Philippines; he directed me to a go club; and I started going there every Saturday.
Ranka: And how did you get to be the president of the Philippine Go Association?
Celeste: No one else wanted to lead it. I had already been its secretary general, and I felt a need to look after its members, so I took the leadership role.
Ranka: How often does the association meet to play go?
Celeste: Usually once a month, because most of the players are too busy working to meet every week.
Ranka: Do you have tournaments?
Celeste: Yes, at least two or three tournaments every year. Right now we have a national tournament coming up in June.
Ranka: How strong are your strongest players?
Celeste: In the association, three dan. Actually we have stronger players in the Philippines, but many of them are shy about joining up, because of the time involved. What I need to do is help them solve this problem, so they can participate on a flex-time basis. I want to encourage them to come to the tournaments, because I know they’re strong and have a chance to win.
Ranka: How many members do you have?
Celeste: About fifty.
Ranka: Are they mostly Philippine-born, or immigrants from the Asian mainland?
Celeste: Philippine-born, almost all of them. We get asked about this, because we sent a Korean immigrant to the first Korea Prime Minister Cup and he took third place.
Ranka: How did you qualify to come here?
Celeste: By beating a one-kyu in our most recent tournament. I didn’t win the tournament, but the players who finished first and second had already been to the World Amateur Go Championship, so they asked me to go instead.
Ranka: Now, please tell us about your game with the Indian player.
Celeste: I had been playing very meekly in this tournament. I guess he thought I was not very strong, because he played by just responding to my moves. He didn’t notice that one of his groups had been killed. When he finally realized that it was dead, he tried to save it but wasn’t able to, and lost by more than twenty points. I think he was disappointed, because he’s stronger than me.
Ranka: Did you enjoy the tournament?
Celeste: Yes, I really enjoyed it. It was a good experience for me to be the only girl competing. Sometimes it was hard, but it turned out okay.
Ranka: Thank you and best of luck to the Philippine Go Association.