11th World Student Go Oza

This week I participated in the 11th World Student Go Oza Championship, held annually in Tokyo, Japan. I’d won the right to represent Europe in an internet qualifier tournament last December, effectively using up a day playing go when I should have been finishing my bachelor’s degree presentation.

The whole business about the tournament became a sum of good tradeoffs: by participating in the qualifier, I (again) got a free trip to Japan, and while I caught a flu last Thursday and still wasn’t completely healthy by the time I was supposed to fly to Tokyo last Sunday, it paid off by me finally ending up on the third place! According to the organizers, that’s the best result for a European representative so far.

With this, my trophy shelf again increases in size.

The results of the tournament can be found on Nikkei’s web page, together with all of the game records. I imagine the readers will be interested in at least my games with the Korean and Taiwanese representatives. About these, I’m planning to include commented sgf files on this blog later.

First Gooften essay!

I figured a few days ago that instead of writing yet another small status update about “soon publishing the kikashi essay”, I’d rather just take a few more days, actually write the essay, and then talk about it. Here’s a late Christmas present for my readers!

It has probably been nine years since my first encounter with the go term kikashi. Back then, I was neither much in touch with Japanese go terminology nor strong enough to figure out what was actually meant with the term, so I, like many others, assumed the more common western understanding of kikashi: that of a simple “forcing move”. While I’m certain many western players do have the right conception of kikashi, I’ve experienced that the term is also often misused. While this essay will never reach the whole of its target audience, I think it will be successful if even a few readers reach a moment of clarity after finishing reading.

My main incentive for writing this text wells from now having studied go in Japan for a few months. When I arrived in Japan,  I didn’t have an accurate conception of kikashi myself, but now I feel I have mostly figured the term out. Since most western players don’t have a similar opportunity to go absorb correct go terminology, I feel it’s my duty to contribute something on this part. If, after reading the hopefully-not-too-long essay, you feel you’ve learned something and you like what you’ve learned, I would like to hear any thoughts or commentary you have about it!

Kikashi: taking advantage of the opponent’s plans


First day in Japan

Hi folks! I have successfully landed in Japan, and am almost there in managing not to fall asleep before the night — staying awake for 30 hours is getting already difficult enough for me. Even with the threat of making typos or absurd sentences by accident, I decided to write this blog post. The sole reason for that is that we, me and Kurt, went to the Nihon Ki-in today in order to check my route to “school”, but ended up seeing the whole building through, inside out!

This is more or less what happened today, explained through a compilation of pictures:

Finnair's airplane dinner. Inside the foil is a beef hamburger steak and some potatoes. The noodle product on the lower left pretty much implies that we're going to Japan!

Continue reading “First day in Japan”

Day of departure

Gifts? Check! Clothes? Check! Passport with visa? Check! Wallet, laptop, phone, rechargers, etc, etc, etc? Check! Weight limit exceeded? Check! Something forgotten? Most likely, but it shouldn’t be vital! Time before the airplane departs? Less than seven hours. Final blog post? Soon done!

The above should describe my current situation quite well. Today 17:15 PM Finnish time, my airplane departs for Tokyo, where I’ll arrive 2:55 AM Finnish time, meaning 8:55 AM Japanese time — it’s going to become one really long day. Once there, I’ll have quite a rigmarole to clear up: getting used to the new settings, meeting with Nihon Ki-in personnel and friends on Thursday, doing an interview on Friday, studying as insei right away in the weekend, and registering as alien at a local police office sometime during my first three weeks.

At this point, I would like to thank everybody who has helped to make my trip to Japan possible: Kobayashi Chizu sensei and Tomotaka Urasoe of Nihon Ki-in, my good friend Kurt for fixing my accommodation problem, Jaakko Virtanen with his company Virte-metalli and the Finnish-Japanese Organization for providing me with a big enough travel budget, and my family, girlfriend and go player friends for all the encouragement and practical help!

My Finnish readers may be interested to know that I also have a travel blog in Finnish at insei.japanissa.fi! Rest assured, English readers, I’ll make sure to update this blog often enough.



Japan plans and the Nordic Go Academy

In exactly three weeks, I’ll be arriving in Tokyo for my insei period. Most of my preparations, including getting the visa, are done with, although I still lack a proper insurance, as well as barefoot running shoes for the winter. I haven’t studied Japanese quite as much as I would have liked to, so far, but even if I’m a bit late on that part now, I can catch up the hard way when in Japan. Having studied Japanese well before my plan to become insei, I could understand Takemiya-sensei’s lecturing in Japanese quite well in the European Go Congress in Bordeaux, so I shouldn’t have big problems in Japan on that part.

From what I’ve heard, while the insei only formally assemble in the weekends, there appear to be study group meetings during the weekdays as well. If I remember correctly, the numbers were something like at least five meetings month, but if I want to go to as many as possible, up to three times a week is possible. Add to this any teaching I may do, and some self studying, and my weekly schedule is fairly full already.

Another thing that I have yet to work on is how exactly I plan to continue teaching go while in Japan. Practically all of my students so far have been westerners, but with something like a seven-hour time difference and the fact that my weekends are always full, it’s looking somewhat difficult for me to keep holding internet lessons. For this reason, I’m right now working with Jeff and Juri on our Nordic Go Academy project, to get it well enough known in go public to ensure a constant, sizable pool of students. Offline reviews at the moment seem like the best way to continue doing go teaching while in Japan. For those interested, our September league is starting this weekend (with October 1-2 being counted as the last September league weekend, as October has five weekends), and we will also have promotional simultaneous games (with a quick review afterwards) with the students every Friday at 21 PM CET. Our website will be updated shortly about the September league.

Short and long-term future plans

As some of the readers may already know, unless something goes badly wrong, I’m set to go to Japan next September to become insei for about eight months. According to present plans, I would start as insei in October, and return to Finland sometime in early May. I won’t be able to participate in the Nihon Ki-in professional exam during this time period, as that exam starts in the summer, but I’ll see if I can take a shot at the Kansai Ki-in professional exam for western players.

In addition to my Japan plans, I am also participating in the Experience go in China program again this summer, as part student and part teacher. Of course, I’ll also be going to the European Go Congress 2011 in Bordeaux. So, even before becoming insei, my schedule will be packed full with go activities.

While in Japan, I’ll continue to teach on the internet to make sure I’ll get by. The insei train only on two days a week, so in terms of schedule this won’t be a burden — I’ll have plenty of time to write about my experiences on this blog, as well!

Quite recently, we thought up a KGS league program together with Jeff and Namii. In the league, the participants play pre-paired games against other participants, and we teachers comment the game a bit later (as soon as we can), offline. Participation in the program takes a minimum of one month. We’re starting next weekend, and for now there are still spots left for players of KGS 1k-3k strength. The introductory price, up to August, is 45e per month, for which the participants play 12 games a month, getting comments to them all — and up to August, also, the teachers will play a simultaneous game against the participants once a week, commenting them as well. Detailed information can be found on the Nordic Go Academy home page.