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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.


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Interview with Ben Gale from South Africa

Ben Gale and Pieter Mioch "No, I never play go on the Internet, I don't like it. I mean, staring at this small screen the whole time, it is different; I can't get exited about it. What's the fun of playing against a machine? I very much prefer a real opponent of flesh and blood to play against instead of a metal box any day of the week."
The words of Ben Gale, a 23-year old playing under the flag of South Africa.

It is Ben's 1st time at the WAGC. Watching him from a distance, one could tell he visibly enjoyed both the 1st and 2nd round game immensely. In the first round he was matched against one of the favorites, the representative from Japan, Kikuchi.
"What I like about go? Hmm, well it is not winning because when I played Kikuchi I was properly taken in but I had the time of my life! I also think that Kikuchi was being nice to me on purpose. I mean, he could've easily killed a big group of mine but he didn't do. Well, actually he didn't need the group, but all the same, he played very kindly I feel."
Ben who has just started an electronics trading company learned to play go at age 14 from his father. "My father was about 3 kyu I think. It took me about two years to get ahead of him. I was rewarded this year's seat to the WAGC owing to the point system. I'm not the strongest player in my country but most of the strong players in South Africa are not that active anymore. I can't hold a candle to Victor. (Victor Guan Chow, 5th at the 24th WAGC) He loves all kind of games but I think that he is best at go."
Ben plays about once week on Tuesdays at a coffee shop. They have some 30 registered players there but the number of people showing up regularly is more between 10~20. Before picking up go he was a chess player of some skill.
"Well, it was like Chess, Chess, Chess and than suddenly Go. I felt much more attracted to Go than I ever felt to Chess. But to answer your question ``what I like about go''. Well, for one thing, it is the mental battle you are having with the other guy. Also, the feeling you get the moment you know you did something right. This is very important to me and very enjoyable in that, every now and then you know you played a good move. That is why I say; I don't mind losing a bit, as long as I lose well."
With this attitude Ben will undoubtedly keep improving until he perhaps some day can meet Victor on even terms. In spite of his obvious talent Ben is also quite modest as his last words of the interview prove: "I'd be satisfied if I can get three wins in this field. If I could win 4 games I'll be very happy."

Figure 1: 1-27
Event 26th WAGC, round 2
Date 2005 May 24
Place Nagoya, Japan
Black Ben Gale, South Africa
White Hector Paiz, Guatamala
Commentary Pieter Mioch, 6d
Game record

Figure 1: 1-27
Diagram 1

Diagram 1
In diagram 1 the most common continuation is shown. Instead of white's game move at 6 (figure 1), splitting the bottom black position in two with white 1 is the way to go. Next, black might first want to play at either A or B, but it is often an interesting approach to not play it just yet and have a look elsewhere first. Black 2 or thereabouts is the biggest point on the board.
Diagram 2

Diagram 2
Diagram 2 gives a peaceful example of what happens if black chooses to play at 2, undoubtedly a huge move. White 3 is not the only move, of course, but it keeps things simple and especially now that the komi has become 6.5, there is often no point in white complicating the game as long as he feels he is not behind. After black 6, white gets to make a shimari in the upper right corner. This might be one reason for black not playing A or B in diagram 1. Diagram 2 ends with white getting the excellent shimari making move with stone 7.
Diagram 3

Diagram 3
Returning to the actual game grid (figure 1), white is usually reluctant to exchange white 12, black 13. After this it is not possible anymore for white to make an invasion in the corner and since there is a black stone at 9, an extension towards to right also is no longer possible.
Diagram 3 shows an alternative which makes the game a bit easier for white. This is not a joseki but this is most probably the way white wants to play judging from what happens in the game. The pincer of white 1 is a little bit far but this distance enables white to play at 5. If this two-space jump were any closer to the black stones then black would have something to aim at? cutting!.
Now black has a much more difficult time to settling his right side stones (although they're not gonna die, of course?). What is also nice for white is that an invasion at A still is an option which might become very attractive later on. If black wants to prevent white from entering, then he'll have to add a move at B or thereabouts. This in turn will mean that white gets an extra move in the center. This, in turn, might make the game rather difficult for black. Although black would very much like to play B, he probably has to wait a bit in order to find the right moment.
Figure 2: 28-60

Figure 2: 28-60 Ben Gale, Pieter Mioch and Hector Paiz
Diagram 4

Diagram 4
White's 28th play in the match (Figure 2) is a little bit funny looking, as the standard tesuji would be to connect by attaching at 1 as shown in diagram 4. The problem with this, often nicely working move, is that black 2 either cuts the white stones in two or prevents him from connecting underneath (if white answers at A black will play B).
White, however is in need of eyes and he doesn't really want to move towards the strong black lower left corner.
Diagram 5

Diagram 5
So, white 1 in diagram 5 seems to be the simplest way of playing and again, simplicity is not something you are averse to, especially if you're holding the white stones. (There is a 6.5 point reward waiting for you; you only have to finish the game in order to get it!!!)
White 1 aims at both moving out at A and connecting underneath at B. If black prevents the connecting by playing at C, for example, white can move out towards the center. However, he also can make eyes by peeping at D before blocking at E. White is not unhappy with "only" making eyes. He has been playing in a black influence sphere, a place were he not could hope to make many points to begin with.
Game move black 31 makes the game difficult for white. Since he is cut in two, his choices are limited. After 32, however, the representative from South Africa felt that he should have defended the territory at the bottom. In my opinion, this is a little bit too much "Mr. Nice Guy".
Diagram 6 looks very attractive the longer you look at it. It is obvious that white will have a very hard time making the eyes he is so desperately in need of.
Diagram 6, by the way, seems to prove that white 32 was not a realistic move.
Diagram 6

Diagram 6
Diagram 1 shows the game to move 61. In the end black won by 9.5 points but for the best half it was a 3-4 point game. It took, however, almost 4 hours to finish and both participants must have been tired for sure.

Hector Paiz from Guatemala, holding the white stones, was registered as a 3 kyu player. He played a very strong game and next time deserves to enter as at least shodan.

Copyright © Pieter Mioch May 2005

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