As in the previous thirty World Amateur Go Championships, most of the top places in the 31st World Amateur Go Championship went to Far Eastern players, but Eastern European players have also been doing well recently, and this year, two of them broke into the top eight. At the other end of the scale, six of the last eight finishers were from Central and South America. Will Europe ever catch up with the Far East? Will South America ever catch up with Europe? After the tournament, Ranka talked with Ondrej Silt (Czechia) and Pal Balogh (Hungary), who took 5th and 7th places, and with a group of South Americans, including Fernando Aguilar (Argentina) and Maria Puerta (Venezuela), to find out what some of the top European and South American players are doing and what they think about the future.
Ranka: What are you doing these days, and what are your future plans?
Balogh: I’m a type of student, but I’m also a semi-professional go player in that at least ninety percent of my income comes from go. Besides playing, I also teach the game, but as for future plans, I’m in the process of thinking that out. One thing I might do is to learn to play poker. The thing about poker is that there are no clear ranks. Everybody thinks he’s 6-dan. I might be able to support myself by playing poker on the Internet and still have time left for go.
Silt: I missed five years of schooling while I was an insei in Japan, so I’m still in high school. I don’t have to attend classes, I just take the exams. I’d feel embarrassed sitting in classes with all those much younger kids. I study for a week before exams, and devote the rest of my time to go. I’ve started teaching go to children, but I haven’t decided yet what to do after I graduate.
Aguilar: I’m doing welfare work to aid the indigenous people in Argentina. These are forest dwellers who have traditionally made a living as hunters and gatherers, but their forests are being cleared for farming, to grow soybeans to ship to China, for example. I also teach go on the Internet.
Puerta: Fernando is a saint.
Ranka: Do you teach on a volunteer basis?
Aguilar: I did at first, but not now.
Puerta: Even saints have to eat.
Aguilar: My present system is to play a set of simultaneous games, and then go over them one by one.
Ranka: What do you think the Central and South American countries need to do to turn out more strong players?
Aguilar: We need to increase our go-playing population. Strong players will then appear naturally.
Puerta: But this won’t be easy to do. One of the big problems in South America is that we are a mixture of indigenous, African, and European people with very different customs. In an indigenous village, if a person catches a fish, the people think the fish belongs to everyone, whereas in a European society, if I catch fish, that’s my fish. Or by indigenous customs, it would be perfectly normal for a child to go into a friend’s house, open the refrigerator, and help himself to whatever is inside. Some of my son’s friends do this. It’s distressing. It will take a long time for our society to change. We may be able to produce a strong go playing population in another two hundred years, but not in just fifty years.
Ranka: What about Europe? What will it take to produce players who can win the World Amateur Go Championship?
Balogh: That will be very difficult. For one thing, only one person in a hundred thousand in Europe is familiar with the game. There is also a difference between the way European children and Oriental children concentrate on things. I see this at the school where I teach, which is a special school for foreign children, with half the teaching done in Chinese. The Western children play go for awhile, and then they want to do something else. The Oriental children sit there and really try to absorb what you’re saying. One factor is that Oriental parents appreciate the value of the game and put pressure on their kids to do well. It will not be easy for Europe to overtake the Far East.
Ranka: Thank you.