Post-Golden week, Globis cup

Insei training resumes tomorrow after a one-week break. The Golden week concluded last Tuesday, but my week continued in an event-rich manner afterwards, as well.

On Wednesday I went to play tennis with Shutō 7 dan, Tajiri 4 dan and a few other friends; it was the second time I played tennis in my life, so the quality of the game wasn’t exceedingly high (at least on my part; Shutō and Tajiri were in fact both quite adept). Then on Thursday, me and Leon went ice skating together with Mitani 7 dan and a few of his friends. It was only the day after that we realized that one of the friends, an incredibly friendly and easy-going Taiwanese person, was in fact Rin Kanketsu 7 dan; he had introduced himself as “Kankan”, and my brain didn’t work fast enough to make the connection on the spot. While I wasn’t good at tennis, I was still able to skate surprisingly well—maybe all those hours of gym in secondary school some ten years ago didn’t go to waste!

The first Globis cup, meant for players under 20 years old is taking place in Tokyo this weekend. On Thursday evening, me and Leon got to attend the tournament’s welcoming party, which in traditional Japanese way meant speeches and good food.

globis-cup
The players (and sponsors) of the tournament; how many can you recognize?

At the time of writing, two rounds have been played in the double knock-out tournament. Unfortunately, the European representative, Lukas Podpera 6 dan is already out with two losses, as is the favourite of the audience, Joanne Missingham 6 dan professional.

joanne-ichiriki
Joanne Missingham 6p and Ichiriki Ryo 7p face off in the first round
pros-analysing
Top professionals, including Yamashiro Hiroshi 9p, Yūki Satoshi 9p and Takemiya Masaki 9p in the front, analysing the games as they are played

This weekend’s insei games are played on the sixth floor (meaning the tatami rooms, instead of the usual rooms on the seventh floor). While my legs aren’t very much looking forward to the ordeal, otherwise I find the tatami rooms and legged boards to provide for a better feeling for the games than regular table boards. Then from next Monday on, I’ll start occasionally visiting the Ichikawa go dojo.

38th Kisei prize-giving ceremony

On last week’s Friday, me and Leon got to attend the 38th Kisei prize-giving ceremony, which was held at the Tokyo Imperial Hotel in Ginza. As seems customary for these events, the organizers weren’t stingy about money when it came to the venue or the catering.

The winner of the 38th Kisei tournament was no other than Iyama Yūta, who successfully defended his title (of which he currently holds six of the seven available). Me and Leon were lucky to have gotten the chance to take a photo with him, as below:

iyama-photo

…One might indeed get the idea that the people in the photo were football players getting ready for a free kick by the opposing team, as somebody remarked on Facebook.

I’d prepared for the ceremony by avoiding eating too much earlier in the day, because by my experience I knew that there’d be plenty of good food available. To my dismay, this time, I hardly had any chance to eat at all, as for some reason the ceremony hall was full of old acquaintances with whom to speak, including for example Takemiya-sensei, two insei girls who used to go to Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan’s dojo at the same time as I did, and Igo-shougi channel’s reporter, who of course had to ask me for a quick interview on what I think of Iyama.

antti-interview

…Like so.

Saturday’s insei games continued in usual fashion with a 2-1 result, but on Sunday I suddenly got sick of what seems to be a common cold. I considered not going to the training because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to play normally, but decided to go anyway knowing that scoring even one win might be big, and that I might as well rest on the following week. As such, I did score one win on Sunday, and have now gotten rest for four straight days. Because the quality of my games from last weekend wasn’t very commendable, and because I passed up on getting the English class pros’ comments on them, I don’t have any games to post today.

In exchange, to make it easier for the blog readers to speculate about April’s results, here is the results sheet after last Saturday’s games:

results-april

 

March league final results

Last weekend marked the end of the March insei league, and my second-to-last insei month. My return date is approaching at a frightening pace, especially looking at how fun Japan has lately been for me. The other day, I got to see a strict Takemiya-sensei at the English go class, and the commentary that he gave on my games turned out very valuable indeed. One of the more hilarious comments I got from him was to the extent of “What’s this, you’re playing like a go bot — first you do something really silly, and then you play this strongly!”

The next weekend will be a break from insei training — Japan’s school year starts from April 1, so I imagine around this time of the year the children (and probably most other people as well) have a small break from everything. The same applies to the Ichikawa go dojo, which is having a break from today until next Monday. It’s definitely spring here now; the temperature will be about 15° C on average during the day, and in about one week it’ll be time for the cherry to blossom. Right now it looks approximately like this outside:

The stairs that go down here lead to the metro station of Roppongi Itchōme; it's a five-minute walk to here from the apartment I'm staying at, and an eight-minute ride from here to Ichigaya, where the Nihon Ki-in is.

Last weekend’s result was four wins and two losses for me, summing up to 14 wins and 10 losses for the whole of March. That got me the fifth place in the C league. And actually, since three people get promoted and two insei from B class quit, right now there is a “possibility” that I will get to play in B class next month. Nothing is sure yet, as the insei instructors are likely currently figuring out what to do. If I do get to play in B class next month, it’ll be like getting in from the back door, but I’ll take any opportunity I can to get to play in the A-B class room.

Edit 29 March 13:39: I checked today at the Ki-in, and it turns out I’m not getting to B class — instead of promoting 5 C class insei, they only demoted one B class insei. Too bad, but cannot be helped!

The results table of the last two weeks looked like this:

Kisei day trip to Kofu

It’s been four months since my last larger excursion here in Japan. Last time was Innoshima, an island southwest from Osaka; this time Kofu, a smaller city not far away from mount Fuji. I conducted this trip with Tom (from the Nihon Ki-in), who worked out the details of the day trip. We left slightly after noon, went first to the Shinjuku train station, and took a train from there directly to Kofu, which took about 80 minutes. From the Kofu train station we took a taxi to the ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) that was used as the venue for the last Kisei game.

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Visitors, March league begins, English class, NHK interview and team tournament approaching, commented insei game

Yes, the topic does imply that I should write more often. The good news is, I should soon start having more time for it again!

Since the last time I wrote, quite a bit has happened again. My parents came to visit me last Friday, and left back for Finland this morning. Thus, I’ve had a short break from really intensive training, and have taken the time to look around Tokyo again. I’m getting the feeling that having had a short break should be a good thing. I’m not sure how we did it, but in just four days, we visited more or less all the relatively important tourist sites in Tokyo. By our standards, at least. That’s about 80 000 steps walked, too!

Last weekend was the beginning of the March league — I’m still in the middle of C class. I opened badly with one win and two losses on Saturday, but miraculously got three wins on Sunday. Two of those three won games were initially very difficult, but somehow I was able to turn them around. In the third game, my opponent more or less came and killed himself in my moyo — the game was over in about 100 moves.

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Out-of-ordinary insei training and a go party

Today marked a slightly more special insei training day. Out of the blue during the day, the insei instructors came up with the idea of switching the classroom to the sixth floor from the normal seventh. That means that today, I played two of my three games in a traditional tatami room, which the professionals normally use for their games! Of course, it wasn’t my first time in a tatami room, as I’d participated in two kenkyuukai before. Still, it was a welcome change.

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Level up!

Although there’s one week of October left, the October Nihon Ki-in insei league is now over, and we’ll already start with November’s league this weekend. Since this way, one “month” only has 28 days, we’re running a little bit fast — this is compensated by the insei getting a Christmas holiday of two weeks, right after the December league stops at December 18. My final score in class E was 40 wins to three losses, easily giving me the first place of the class. From next weekend on, then, I’ll be starting at class D with a significantly smaller amount of games to be played, but with slower time settings. The exact settings are described here (in the first paragraph), in case somebody missed them.

Yesterday we had the fourth installment of the English lesson for professionals. The lesson went otherwise as normal, me presenting my insei games and the professionals commenting them in English, but there were two surprise factors. First was that Tom, my friend from the Nihon Ki-in, had through some contacts gotten us two new western participants: Andreas from Italy and Gediminas from Lithuania. Of them, Andreas had played a little bit some fifteen years ago, and Gediminas was new to the game. The reviewing part of the English lesson, then, likely wasn’t very useful or interesting to the newcomers, but after two game reviews, we had the professionals teach Andreas and Gediminas some basic rules of the game — again in English, of course! I helped a bit, but the professionals did very well on their own part. The second surprise factor was that Takemiya-sensei also attended the lesson! He was present for the first 45 minutes, commenting one of the insei games that I lost, and then went on to his weekly dancing lesson. Could I say, then, that I have taught Takemiya? Maybe best not to.

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Congress game against Svetlana Shikshina, with impressions from Ten and comments by Takemiya 9p

I got a sudden inspiration to finally comment a game for this blog, and what could be a better choice than the exciting game I played with Svetlana in the European Go Congress this year, to which I also received commentary by Takemiya Masaki 9 dan? The game was initially difficult for me for non-obvious reasons, but I managed to turn it around when the game started nearing the endgame. I played with white. Sit back, relax and enjoy!

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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.

EGC report

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:

The water mirror of Bordeaux, likely one of the city's best-known sights.

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