It's well past the European Go Congress already, and I myself am back from a short holiday. Even if it's a bit late, I thought it'd be nice to write about the topmost impressions of my second trip to France, and my fifth go congress.
The congress was situated in a suburb of the legendary city associated with wine, Bordeaux. The suburb, Talence, itself seemed to be a large university campus. The organizers had arranged for several university buildings to function as the congress area — a common solution, if a bit cumbersome. Comparing to all the other congresses I've been to so far, the general distance between the congress buildings was the longest. The congress in Villach, 2007, was remarkably good in the sense that everything was under the same roof; it was incredibly easy to find all sorts of activity in case one got bored. In Bordeaux, although the setting was functional enough, many evenings felt somehow hollow. Luckily it was easy enough to get on the tram and travel to the downtown of Bordeaux, which was full of things to see and do. Indeed, Bordeaux provided for some really nice sightseeing:
As anyone who's attended a EGC knows, however, the most important thing are of course all the go players who have gathered in the same (this time spread-out) location. On that part, this congress was just as splendid as all the rest.
This year, I went to the congress quite straight away after having attended the Experience go in China trip. I did have a break of one week in the middle, but not surprisingly, many of my tournament games ended up showing a lack of precision, with an increased amount of improvisation. I initially went to the congress aiming for a 7/10 result in the main tournament, but after just three rounds, that plan went down the drain. On the other hand, a big surprise was the fact that I ended up actually winning the rapid tournament, of which likely no other people save for those who attended the congress know. Even at the congress venue, they stopped publishing the rapid tournament's results after three rounds.
What ended up my most pleasant memory of the congress, however, was not the new sights, nor some occasional wins here and there, but my meeting the Japanese professional team — most importantly including Kobayashi Chizu, Tom Urasoe, Takemiya Masaki and Michael Redmond. Of these, Kobayashi Chizu and Tom Urasoe are the people who've greatly helped me sort out my plan to become insei in Japan, starting next October (on that note, I've now received the Japanese Certificate of Eligibility, and need simply bring that to the emissary of Japan in Helsinki with my visa application, and wait a few days; then everything is settled). Most western players familiar with the western go scene know Michael Redmond as the (as of yet) only western player who reached the professional 9 dan rank, and Takemiya Masaki is something closer to a living legend in the go world, known for his "natural style", which has been dubbed as the "cosmic style" by the general public. In a nutshell, the natural playing style involves not concerning too much about solid territory, but instead creating bigger figures and frameworks along the board, usually leading to a moyo game. Opposed to this is the territorial playing style, which right from the start goes to stake out solid territory, with little regard to what happens in the centre area of the board.
While I of course exchanged words with the Japanese team otherwise, I also took part twice in the Master course which they held four times during the congress. It was incredibly interesting to listen to Takemiya talk about go philosophy, and Michael Redmond was a really good interpreter, while also giving his own professional opinion. I did understand most of what Takemiya said in Japanese, but still the experience was even nicer with Redmond, and on the second time when he'd left for the US Go Congress, the other professionals. Even better, the subject that Takemiya was talking about was close to what I've been discussing here in this blog, that of how we should approach the concepts of winning and losing in the game of go.
Takemiya has made it clear that he likes dancing, and during the Master course he also drew many analogies to dancing while talking go philosophy. When one is dancing, one doesn't technically process in one's head every body move one makes, but instead does what feels natural. Takemiya paralleled this to go, pointing out that one should play what feels right, instead of doing something that a book says one should do, but what one still wouldn't like to do. If a move that one wants to play is wrong, then the case can be reviewed after the game, and once one sees why the move is wrong, he won't want to play it again. This is how improving functions. Michael Redmond pointed out that even then, when there's a close combat situation which needs careful reading instead of sheer intuition, Takemiya himself will read the situation out, too, instead of playing something that seems right after a moment's thought. The play-what-feels-right case only appears when there is no one clear correct move.
Takemiya's idea was that when a player plays every move that he wanted to play, he'll be content even if he ends up losing. Of course winning is fun in itself while losing is not, but there's a fine line between losing when you've done just what you wanted to, and losing when you did something that you didn't want to do at all. In the short run, a win may look like a big thing, but when you look at a longer timespan, single wins here and there are tantamount to nothing. It is therefore more valuable to have the experience while playing a game be as good as possible, and being able to play what one wants is a key factor in that. This philosophy agrees with the notion that I've had myself for sometime, that of disliking it when certain people go out to claim that the winning of games is the most important thing. Some people even go childishly out of their way to try out-of-the-game ways to change the result of the game, only for the sake of the result.
Apart from the philosophy part, the Master course also involved a tsumego section (only on my first time) and a game review section. Kobayashi Chizu invited me to present my games for Takemiya to comment, and so I ended having two of my games commented by him! The game records, including my thoughts and Takemiya's comments, would be interesting content for this blog, but at least for now I'll put off including them.
Click on the picture to find the hidden Takemiya.
As any go congress I've been to, this one too was a really nice experience. While I was at it, I also bought my entry to next year's go congress in Bonn, Germany, and am already looking forward to it. Maybe next time, after I've had 8 months of intense practice in Japan, I'll be able to pull that 7/10 off!