Pieter Mioch, Go journalist from the Netherlands, is living in Nagoya, Japan,
the very same city which hosts the 2005 World Amateur Go Championships.
Pieter will cover the tournament with a series of articles, especially
but not only focussing on the Western participants from Europe and America.
In a nutshell: "That's all folks, get your prices, find a restaurant to
get something to eat, no, there is no Sayonara party, and don't forget
to pack in time tomorrow because you have to be out by 8:30".
All things have to end and this 26th time world amateur championship had
its finale Friday May the 27th about 7 o'clock in the evening when China
got about 3 trophies, a few diplomas and a JAL stewardess thrown in for
good measure. Seated in the front row the top ten contestants each were
called to the stage to get their hard-fought reward. Mr. Sakai, the
director of the Nihon ki-in of Nagoya, handed out the top price. This
is the same man who lobbied successfully at the Toyota group to get the
Toyota-Denso cup going. If I were to spill secrets easily I'd tell that
this caused his pro rank to go from 5 to 7 dan. Quite a feat if you
realize that Sakai sensei's retired in 1977 and has not participated in
pro competition 28 years.
After Sakai sensei the Kisei title holder Hane "pastel" (suit/ tie
color) Naoki followed and after him referee Hikosaka Naoto, winner of
the 1998 Judan title helped handing hand out the remaining prices.
I managed, just barely, to get a hold of Winner Yu Qing Hu who was quit
busy doing interviews with several TV stations but otherwise seemed to
have the time of his life. Hu is a very gently spoken handsome man with
pianist' like hands who reminds us of the immense popular Korean soap
drama's stars which nowadays can be found on Japanese TV everyday.
How old were you when you picked up go?
I started to play at six.
If you could freely chose any player, pro or amateur, to play who would you like to have at the other side of the board best right now?
I cannot answer that question, there are so many fantastic players. I'd play anyone, if it is a good and enjoyable game, that is all what counts
I have been talking with a lot of the participants here and during the conversations go was often referred to as an art. What do you think is a good way to describe go?
Hum, good question. (Don't mention it) In my opinion go is culture and competition blended into one.
And off the TV crew went again pulling Hu from behind to the next
interview, the cable TV program "Igo Shogi Channel". The answer to
the last question, by the way, I found quite intriguing, Through the
interpreter he said in Japanese "go wa bunka to shoubu". If any of you
have an idea what he said in Chinese and how to put that best in English
please tell me or Jan.
Right at the start of the tournament, just after the opening ceremony I
spoke with the Japanese representative Kikuchi. For everybody who has no
idea who Kikuchi is here a brief introduction. Yasuro Kikuchi started to
play from age 3 in 1932. He reached a level he could compete with the
local talent by the age of 7. After moving to Yokohama he studied under
Koizumi 5-dan, Morikawa 1-dan and Fujisawa Hosai 7-dan. He worked for
Nippon Steel Cooperation, but never turned his back on go. Winning close
to 30 amateur titles Kikuchi has on a few occasions beaten top pro's on
even. His previous results at the WAGC were third place at the 7th and
24th tournament, second at the 8th and winner of the 14th tournament
Now Kikuchi is still a top level amateur and proved this once again by
winning the WAGC preliminaries to earn the right to represent Japan at
the 26th WAGC. Instead of his games, however, these days he is better
known for running his go-dojo called "the Ryokusei Academy ". Among many
others Yamashita Keigo, currently Tengen titleholder, is a pupil of this
Kikuchi is also famous for his efforts to foster tighter cooperation
between the go playing nations especially China, Korea and Japan.
Here's what Kikuchi said 23 May 2005.
"I'm from 1929 and when people here look at me they will probably think "does that old man still have it?" or "Is he going to be alright?" Be that as it may, I intend to do my utmost best, also to give courage to the elderly go fans.
Players from all around the world are gathered here to compete. They or
young and quite strong and doing well is in this tournament is going to
be far from easy. Anyway, I am glad to be here and like I said, I'll
give it my best and we'll have to see how far I get."
INTERVIEW 5 MINUTES LATER:
"You were really looking tired last time I saw you play in the 24th WAGC. It was right after your game against South Africa's representative that you looked exhausted. Are you going to be ok here?
Well, who can tell. I don't know about that myself but we'll have to try and see what happens, don't we?
Mr. Kikuchi, why is it that you never became a pro (although you have proven time and again that your level is more than sufficient to do so)?
Well, that is probably, mind you probably I say, because of the times we were living in back then. In my youth, right about the age talented people have to become serious and make up their mind if they really want to be pro or not, Japan was right in the middle of the Second World War. So, that for one thing made it hard to chose a (none essential occupation) career as a pro. Also, you have to keep in mind that go was not at all as popular as it is nowadays.
My last question, what should people be doing in order to get ahead at go?
Getting stronger at go is all about being surprised I think. (!)
Do you mean that moves in a game should resonate in your heart as well as your mind?
Yes, that's about it. Being surprised, the ability to be surprised, emotionally being involved is what is necessary to improve I think.
So let me recapitulate this, dealing with go, matters like curiosity, surprise and "feeling" something when looking at moves is what you say is the essence of becoming a better go player?
Yes, that is more or less what I want to say. Mind you, there is nothing
wrong with just "play" play. Rapidly putting moves on the board without
feeling much put just having a good time, nothing wrong with that. But,
I strongly feel that this kind of approach has its limits. You'll get
somewhere to sho-dan perhaps but that's it. If you on the other hand
start thinking like "what is it exactly that surprises me here" (after
feeling thrilled by the surprise in the first place) and put some energy
into that line of thought, from that very moment you'll start to grow.
Once you start growing like that, wow, there is no end to it, growth
keeps going on and on. This is in my opinion true no matter what age
but especially for children, who have the ability I am talking about
naturally. For adults it has become more difficult to get in the right
state of mind, perhaps. That is by the way also the reason why adults
should look at their children for hints of how to get ahead. (this is a
Japanese proverb "children raise their parents")
But, Kikuchi sensei, isn't it all but impossible for the average grown-up to get back in that child like open state of mind?
Well, just be honest to yourself, it is not such a hard thing to do, try and see."
Let's rephrase Kikuchi sensei's words a bit and put it like this:
No matter how strong you think you are, the moment you start reacting to
moves which take you by surprise (a move I don't know? ridiculous!) but
are too proud to admit it you are cutting yourself off, rejecting the
gift of genuine surprise and the wisdom it points to.
Here is the last game Kikuchi played in this WAGC, it is not unlikely
that this at the same time will become the last game he played at an
international go tournament ever.
26th WAGC, round 8
2005 May 27
Yasuro Kikuchi, Japan
Frank Janssen, the Netherlands
Hikosaka Naoto, 9p
Figure 1: 1-32
Hikosaka 9p did the game commentary, he wondered if Kikuchi would show
up as he promised/ Kikuchi had obviously enjoyed the whole tournament
but at the same time must have been glad it was over.
The opening is flawless, Hikosaka and Kikuchi both nodded in agreement
when white 12-14 appeared on the board. Yes, that is the correct idea,
white has a good grasp of where the stones have to go.
When analyzing white wondered if instead of his move at 23 playing at 1
as shown in diagram 1 is possible too.
Kikuchi put 2 on the board and
white lost confidence. "What now, here?" The Dutch representative said
while playing elsewhere. "Tenuki, wow, that is a bit too much I think"
was Kikuchi's reaction.
Hikosaka joined in, "White 1 is a normal move, has been around for some
time too. Next white can chose where to play, both A and B are playable.
"This is the point where black started to do strange things." Kikuchi
said when black 25 came on the board. In answer to 25 white 26
is perfect. It is as good a move as they come according to the
professional. The distance between the white stones is not too narrow
neither is it too wide. Because white can make such a schoolbook example
of a good position black shouldn't have played at 25 to start with.
Analyzing Kikuchi probingly played as shown in diagram 2 and Janssen
answers at 2.
"Nah, this also is not too good for black," Kikuchi said.
He next moves black 1 to the left at A. Hikosaka 9p, however, stopped
the search for a move at the bottom. "There is no clear good move for
black at the bottom. He should leave the situation as it is and instead
answer the white move in the upper right (24). A simple one-space-jump
seems the way to play here.
Figure 2: 33-71
After the game Frank explained that he wasn't happy with the position
of white 24 (in the previous figure). He asked Hikosaka sensei "shouldn't this move better have
been here (black 33)?" To which Hikosaka replied, no, there is nothing
wrong with white 24, a normal move. When the pro saw what happened after
black 35 he said "Aha, that's why you didn't like white 24, now I can
understand. If you play like this it is no good.
"Something like this is better for white. White can handle the fighting
because he has a strong position at the left. By the way, the diagonal
move at 1 is a well-known move the representative from the Netherlands
of course knew about but he was surprised at diagram 3. I thought black
would counter like this and he showed diagram 4, a joseki.
"I do not like this with black, he has an ugly shape, a real dango"
Hikosaka sensei didn't seem to mind that this variation is given in
books as playable for black. For him the shape is most important, and to
be sure black does not look elegant or light.
White 68 came as a surprise Kikuchi "Yes, that is the aim, eventually,
but right now feels a bit fast, don't you think?" The pro did not take
sides in this argument but if forced it looked as if he would back up
Kikuchi and say that white perhaps should have waited a bit longer
before playing at 68.
Figure 3: 72-95
White's move at 72 and 74 show a very good feel for the game, Kikuchi
was visibly impressed and even said so outloud. Hikosaka wholeheartedly
agreed. Now we have come to the highlight of the game.
Starting at 90 white is preparing for 92 which effectively cuts black in
two and if he resists he will sustain heavy damage to the right side.
Hikosaka saw this while analyzing and said "naru hodo" (= I see) meaning
that the moves white plays make sense and he can understand what white
is aiming for. However, in spite of the high-tech white moves this is
not the part of the board to be concerned with. "The white stones at the
right can fend for themselves, if black is going to cut them off and
tries to get some profit he'll find that there is too much bad aji in
the right-side black stones to make this happen" explained Hikosaka 9p.
If white would go with diagram 5 he still would have had a good game.
When Hikosaka showed this variation it all looked so simple but in order
to come up with this during your own game is not easy at all. White 1 is
very nice because it eliminates nasty aji and white 3 defends as much
territory as possible.
Once black jumps to 95 white is behind. Janssen did not manage to stage
an upset and in the end lots by 12.5 (?) points
Commentary after move 95 omitted, moves from black 125 are not recorded
yet but Frank Janssen was thinking about completing the record the
moment he gets back in Holland
Figure 4: 96-125
As last I would like to thank Jan, Dave and Cameron for helping me with
the articles, pictures and HTML and the organizers for having me over,
pulling up a desk without permission and acted as if I owned the place.
Further I want to thank all the professionals who helped me out when
asked and lastly I very much want to thank all the participants of the
26th world amateur championship for your time and friendly cooperation,