December 12 was a rest day for the go competition at the SportAccord World Mind Games, but for a dozen or so of the players and officials, it was an opportunity to pay an afternoon visit to the Zhang Guan Gun No. 3 Elementary School. This is one of the schools in Beijing where the pupils also learn to play go. About two dozen schoolboys, dressed in light blue school uniforms, were lined up inside the school gate to greet the bus carrying the players and officials, escort them to the school meeting room, and present them with self-made gifts.
“We played one-on-two simultaneous games with representatives from the 5th and 6th grades,” says Thomas Hsiang, a 7-dan. “My two opponents were 3D players and both took only three stones. We played in their go classrooms, on tables specially made just for playing go. It was there that one sees the future of go in China and understands why it will be hard for others to compete with the Chinese in go in the foreseeable future.”
In an unscheduled event, Andrew Okun (right), the American team captain, dropped in on a lesson in a regular classroom to give some second graders a chance to practice their English. They peppered him with questions. Where do you live? Los Angeles. Do you like chicken? Yes. Do you also like duck? Yes. Do you like ice cream? Yes, I like it too much (patting midsection). After ten minutes or so, Okun ended the session with a question to the class: Do you like studying English? The class went wild in shouting Yes.
Back in the go classroom the games were still in progress. On the whole, the pupils were acquitting themselves well but finding that without a handicap, beating world-class professional players and even world-class European amateurs and IGF Vice Presidents is not so easy. Unfortunately, the bus had to leave and some of the pupils’ parents had come to get them, so the games were cut short, farewells were bid, and a smiling group of players and officials returned to the Beijing Intercontinental Grand Hotel.
- James Davies, with additional reporting by Thomas Hsiang; photos courtesy Ranka Online; where you can read Davies’ full report.