It’s a bit overdue, but here’s a review of my game with Youwhan Kim from the World Student Go Oza! Most of the comments are my impression, but a few of the impressions are by the Nihon Ki-in English class attending professional players.
I’ll aim to review one or two games more from the tournament before long. Next up in line is the important, decisive match I played on the fourth round with Taiwan!
Did the game evoke any feelings or impressions? Please leave a comment!
As I tweeted earlier, last Tuesday I went to see Nihon Ki-in’s annual awards ceremony. The Japanese year starts on April 1, and so the ceremony is fittingly held towards the very end of the year. The ceremony consisted of speeches by important people, giving the Ōkura Kishichiro prize to a few more aged people, giving prizes for professionals due to highest winning ratio/longest winning streak/most games played/etc., and of course announcing the new professional one dan players (who amounted to six people). Here are the new professionals in a photo:
Well, I’m still busy as usual — it might be for the better, however! My friend Tom from the Nihon Ki-in thought up an idea to go see the Kisei final being played. I was instantly excited by the idea, and so in a few hours today, we’ll ride the train to Kofu, quite near to mount Fuji. Expect some photos from there in the near future! Other than that, I’ve been the target of NHK recently; you can see here what last Sunday was like for me. That wasn’t even everything, as the NHK reporters also came to Mimura-sensei’s dojo on Monday to do some more coverage. The result, supposed to last for about 10 minutes after heavy editing, will be shown on April 15 in the Japanese television.
Long time no write! Life in Japan is hectic as usual: in addition to my normal weekly activities, I’ll be doing some interviews in the near future, and I’ve got some visitors (including my parents) to entertain as well. The interviews will be for Igo Mirai, a Nihon Ki-in go magazine, and for NHK. On next week’s Sunday, some reporters will come to the apartment to take a few pictures of me!
It’s certainly been interesting here in Japan lately: in the last few days, there’s been several noticeable earthquakes, albeit they’ve only been worth 2-3 richters in Tokyo. It was rather interesting to wake up this morning due to the building moving. Apparently there’d been a 5-richter quake somewhere along the east coast of Japan.
I’ve yet to wish happy new year for my readers, so here goes: Happy new year! I’m not sure if the topic’s “new year, new tricks” is actually used in English — I translated it directly from the Finnish saying. The meaning is still obvious enough, even if the saying didn’t originally exist in English!
I spent a two-week break from the Christmas up to new year not really playing go. An exception, I visited the Mimura dojo on December 26 in the middle of my break to give Mimura-sensei a Christmas present, two moomin-themed mugs and some Finnish chocolate. As usual, then, I did some tsumego there and played a few games, and that time got mercilessly defeated by the fellow insei. As a Finn, I was honestly surprised that the dojo was gathering even during what would normally be Christmas holiday. And it wasn’t only that; normally the dojo is open from around 4 PM to 9 PM, but since the children had a break form school, the dojo was open from all the way from 9 AM to 8 PM. I got around to thinking what would happen in western countries with a similar dojo: probably both the teacher and the students would go: “Oh, it’s holiday now, I’d rather just sit back and not do anything”, and then there would be nothing ventured and nothing gained. I don’t have anything against relaxing a bit here and there, but I find there’s something really wrong in the western countries’, at least Finland’s, attitude towards holidays, as if “being able not to have to do anything” was a state that people should strive for.
Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Gooften! Exactly one year ago, the first text was posted, and although I didn’t end up changing the look of the page as I said back then, I can still say that we’ve come a long way. In the beginning, Go of Ten had something like 50-150 visitors per day, depending on when the last post was written. Now, on a blog post day the number is something like 500-1000, and on a non-post day it’s still 250-500. The average number of visitors for this November is 474 so far. This is my 51st blog post so far, giving pretty much a pace of one blog post per week. Let’s hope that the numbers keep on going up in the future!
Last weekend’s insei games ended up with six wins out of seven games. On Sunday, on the first round, I ended up losing against insei number nine; I made my first big blunder in an insei game so far, and ended up losing some 50 points just for that. That was in the middle game, and by the endgame I counted I was about 10 points behind and resigned. The two other games on Sunday were pretty much easy wins. Summing up, so far my record in D class is 18 wins and 2 losses, for a winning percent of 90%. Unfortunately I didn’t find a good opportunity to take a picture of the results sheet, so we’ll have to do without for now.
Another insei week is now done with, this one having been my first week in the D class. My result was another 7/7 (seven wins out of seven games), meaning that if there was a playing level difference to the E class, it’s still not quite decisive. I only played the insei ranked from place 5 to 12 (myself being ranked 11), so I didn’t get to play the insei who were in class C last month. I’m hoping they’ll be of different caliber than the rest — at least in class E, there was a notable difference between the previously-D-class insei and previously-not. The difference is mostly in technique relating to the opening game and to shape, so when playing a peaceful game, even class D insei can give me some hard time.
Indeed, having moved up a class, the first thing this weekend I wanted to probe out the level of my new opponents. The very first game I played peacefully, which actually led me to being a little bit behind in terms of points sometime in the middle game. Some manoeuvres later I did get the lead, however, and finally won the game by 6.5 points. Thanks to these games having byo-yomi, the opponents no longer make such blatant mistakes (well, myself included of course) as in the E class. My reaction to the first game was something along the lines of “Phew, that was close, better make sure I don’t get more games as close as this one”, and the six following games were more fighting-oriented. The same six I also won by resignation.
Some people have expressed interest in speculating the level of my future adversaries, so I went out of my way on Sunday’s lunch break to take photos of the C and D class results sheets:
Just to get the number of Japan-related photos up, here’s also one from the Nihon Ki-in’s entrance hall:
Of course, an insei related blog post is nothing without a game record, so here’s the second-most-peaceful game that I played this weekend. I was looking to fight in this one, but the opponent wouldn’t let me.
I somehow got the impression that my opponent here (insei number 8 in the results sheet) is a fan of Lee Changho, due to his steady and simple way of playing.
At move 14, I had the sequence of black 1, white 2, black 3, white 4 and black 5 in mind, but for some reason I chose the inferior way of playing, seen in the game record. However…
…move 24 seems like an incredibly slow white move, even if there was some potential threat at d9 or e9 to try to cut the white stones apart. I would have played k3 as white without thinking.
At move 29, the game already feels good to black.
Move 38: this move, even if today sometimes seen in professional games, was the one that struck me as the most Lee Chango -like move in the game. It works effectively at getting a base for the white stone, prioritizing territory over influence since the centre area looks like dame anyway. I planned the answer of black 39 so that I’d have the chance to exploit white’s shape weakness of l18 later.
Moves 47-66: this sequence somehow worked incredibly smoothly for black; even though the corner died, black got a fair profit while reserving sente.
The game quickly proceeds to the endgame after the upper side sequence, starting with black l18, is carried out. Eventually, white resigns because of the point difference.
Since the D class has an even number of 14 insei, I’ll unfortunately no longer get teaching games with the instructors. However, it’s still possible to get a review if a game ends quickly enough, and if the teacher is free at the time, as long as I’m able to ask for the review in Japanese.
This week, on Thursday, I’m finally doing some vital Japanese go-related activity that I missed out on my last trip here, two years ago: I’m visiting the island of Innoshima, the birthplace of Honinbō Shuusaku (1829-1862), up to date one of the most famous (and strongest) go players ever. Innoshima is a good 700 kilometres away from Tokyo, so a two-day trip is necessary. Points of interest while in Innoshima will be Shusaku’s grave and the Shusaku museum, which includes go equipment used by the legend himself. Expect to read a report on this trip in approximately one week!
Yesteday we had the second session of the concept of “professionals learn English and Ten learns go”. Practically the setting is that I am presenting some of my (insei or otherwise) games on a board in a classroom in the Nihon Ki-in, with about six or seven professionals present on average, and the professionals attempt to comment the games in English. This time, the strongest professional present was 7 dan. The concept is courtesy of Kobayashi Chizu sensei.
Yesterday, before delving deeper into the game of the day, we recapped some important basic terms related to go. Kobayashi-sensei wasn’t present, so if it wasn’t for Simon’s assistance, I would have been on my own for the English teaching part. Simon did indeed a great job in assisting me, helping me with a lot of translations, and writing the English terms up on a whiteboard for the professionals to take notes of. At the beginning of the study session, I was initially slightly lost at how to take charge of everything, so I quite randomly took the English words for parts of the go board as the first content of the day: 隅＝すみ＝sumi＝corner, 辺＝へん＝hen＝side (upper/top, lower/bottom, left, right), 中央＝ちゅうおう＝chuuou＝centre.
The English terms seemed to be new for most of the “students”, so it turned out to be good opening practice. I was quite strict on the words’ pronunciation, due to the fact that in Japanese, people sometimes use the Japanglish words of コーナー (“koonaa”, corner) and センター (“sentaa”, center). Apart from the *er sound, there’s not a real difference. We then started with the game review, and also recapped terms like connection, cut, extension, jump, et cetera. I’m not sure this whole studying concept provides for even-handed learning for all parties; the professionals are only learning English, while aside from go technique, I’m also learning Japanese! And for some reason, I still seem to hold the teacher’s role.
Greetings! It almost seems like I’ve settled down for a one post per week rhythm here, quite reasonably following the pace that insei studies go at. This weekend, there were another 12 games divided between two days. Contrary to the last weekend, however, I ended up getting a clean record this time! Apart from the game with the teacher, of course.
My wake-up time in the weekend is currently 7:30, leaving me with the bare minimum of time to take a shower and check the internet before taking the subway to Ichigaya, where the Nihon Ki-in is located. Insei are to be present at 9:10 at the latest, but I prefer to have a little bit of extra time in case the subway is late or something (very rare in Japan, but still possible). Both days this weekend, I found myself hungry in the morning, and ended up buying a box of diced fruits from the convenience store near Ichigaya. A common problem that arises in Japan, however, is that there are close to no good locations where to stop for a moment and eat. I ended up eating my breakfast in the entrance hall of the Nihon Ki-in, for lack of a better location, and it felt very weird. Last time in Japan, two years ago, I remember buying a lunch box from a convenience store at a train station, and when I didn’t find any benches, I went to sit and eat on an empty stairway. Not long after, a security guard came to direct me to a nearby park, where eating was not prohibited. Eating while walking is a no-no in Japan as well.
Insei training isn’t light, I’ll give you that! The schedule is strict and incredibly full, and being an insei isn’t just about playing go. The school is, after all, meant for children who are potentially going to become professional go players. In addition to gaining playing strength, then, the teachers will do their utmost to also get the children to act like professional go players should. This also goes for wannabe-pro foreigners who find their way to the school. In a sense, it’s kind of like I’m back in elementary school, just the manners that are being taught are from a different culture. It is a relief that the teachers, while being strict, are also nice, and recognize that I’m to break the form at times, coming from a different culture myself.