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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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Ralph Spiegl, Go to The Man

Ralph Spiegl

In the 6th round of the tournament I found myself at the same table with Spiegl and Slovenia's Leon Matoh. When the representative from Austria won the nigiri and got to play the black stones, I moved over to his side of the table instead remaining where I was and "flipping" the game board on the screen of my laptop. (In accordance to the strict instructions by the ki-in people).
When the laptop and I were settled Matoh and Spiegl could start their game, and what a game it was.
Before having a look at that 3-hour battle in which Matoh at one moment seemed to have seven (7!) groups on the board, I'd like to present you the Spiegl interview first.

"But Pieter, how do you know if what I tell you is all true? I could be making up every single word for all you know!"
"Well Mr. Spiegl, I want to be trusted (much easier that way to get writing work, any work) and when you go over the article I did on you and see that I truthfully put down what you told me you know that I can be trusted. That you will never forget, isn't that worth something?"
Laughing Spiegl continued talking, he is a big man and when asked about his weight he didn't mind at all.
"I'm about 140 kilo at the moment; I've been told that is more or less the same weight of the Sumo Champion Yokozuna." The first foreign-born Yokozuna Akebona weighs in at over 200 kilograms so Spiegl is not quite there yet.
"I started with go at age 23, quite late come to think of it. At that time what was I doing, I studied so many things I don't exactly remember, I think it was music theory. For a while I have been a composer, you know before I started doing my current line of work."
At the moment Spiegl is a private investigator, work he is not particularly fond of but when asked about it he explained. "This work is not that attractive but it pays the bills and since it doesn't take up so much of my time I can spend plenty time on go, and that is what it is all about."
Although Spiegl does not like to compete in tournaments so much anymore he loves putting time and energy in go. "Just now I'm busy going through the complete works of Go Seigen for the second time, currently I'm in book two. Of course I put every game on my fancy board wouldn't dream of just clicking through it on a computer.
"Anyway, at 23 I started with go and went to the Vienna go club for the first time. I had seen some pamphlets or such at the university and those had peaked my interest. Actually, I remember that when I was 6 years old my father and I played a game once. He had bought a set but he didn't like it very much and we never played again. That experience, however, always has stayed with me. The pamphlets I saw brought me back.
"There are about 50 go players at the Vienna go club I think, anyway, go have a look at their page there you probably can find all the numbers you need. On a usual evening about 20 to 30 people show up to play a game.
"By the way, did I tell you that I lived in Korea for one year? No? Well, I had been there many times already but all with the intention of learning about go I decided to settle there for one year. It was not as difficult for me as one might expect, I mean, I had something I could do (together). I could play go and that helps to establish a bridge of some sort, if you go to Korea, don't know the language and you have no mutual interest at all with the people there, then I guess you'll have a hard time.
"As I said before, I enjoy studying go more than participating in a tournament like this. I like the game and through studying, my ability to sense the correct direction of play and seeing what is important and what is not has improved enormously. I don't read too well, however, and that is inconvenient."
"I have done plenty of interviews before but (because I like you) I will give you an exclusive. I do some Japanese home cooking as a hobby and I must say myself, that it is not bad at all. Stuff like Sukiyaki, Tempura you name it."

Talking with Spiegl for only 10 minutes is much to short, of course, to get to know him well. However, I strongly feel the impression I got, a robust man with many interests but just one love, can not be that far wrong. Have a look at his game and perhaps you can see in his mind too, advisable or not. Figure 1: 1-48
Event 26th WAGC, round 6
Date 2005 May 26
Place Nagoya, Japan
Black Ralph Spiegl, Austria
White Leon Matoh, Slovenia
Commentary Pieter Mioch, 6d
Game record

Figure 1: 1-48
Diagram 1

Diagram 1
By lack of professional help I had a look had my old super joseki dics and this is what they came up with. It looks like white 1, diagram 1 and not game move white 22 is the way to go here. The answer is funny enough the same move as in the game, attaching at 2. The result of black's tesuji (2) followed by the sacrifice strategy is felt to be ok for black. Black has a thick position and doesn't mind the amount of cash white got so much.
Diagram 2

Diagram 2
To thwart blacks plan white can see what happens if he answers at 1 in diagram 2. According to the dics both players can live with this result.

Pushing from black 33 does not feel that good. Starting to move from black 29 is more natural since those stones cannot be considered strong yet and the black top stones are solid.
Instead of entering at the 3-3 point (38) an extension to D11 would make the game easier for white. One cannot help but feel that after the invasion white got rather busy in this game. Figure 2: 49-98

Figure 2: 49-98
Sacrificing stones 50-52-56 is a success for white since he got two living groups in return. Both these groups, especially the one on the right side, also secured points which makes the loss of said three stones not at all painful. All in all, because of the fuseki black is still doing fine and could have delivered a forceful punch if he had played black 95 on the forth row instead of the third.
White suddenly seems to be able to exploit black's thinness a little which gives him the chance to come back in the game again. In the end, however, a fierce ko-battle decided the game in Black's (Ralph Spiegl) favor.

Copyright © Pieter Mioch May 2005

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