by Lisa Schrag As visiting Americans who help run the Bay Area Go Players Association, Roger Schrag and I wanted to see first-hand how go is taught in South Korea, a country where the population is as familiar with go (called baduk in Korean) as Americans are with chess.
We visited Blackie’s International Baduk Academy (BIBA), where we were greeted by friendly teachers Kim Seung-jun 9P “Blackie” (right) and Diana Koszegi 1P (left). Two years ago, they opened BIBA’s doors in the bustling Sanbon neighborhood of Seoul. The school only accepts international students, yet the system of learning go is traditional Korean. While a student there, you are living and breathing go with a daily schedule that runs from 11 in the morning to about 10 at night. All coursework is conducted in English, and people come from places such as Canada, Singapore, France, Germany, Serbia, the U.K., and the U.S. Students may also attend events, meet pro players at tournaments, and visit the Korean Baduk Association.
“Even if you are at BIBA for a short time, the value is in learning how to study,” explained Koszegi. The pair told us that Korean go study focuses significantly on life and death problems. “Foreigners are weak on life and death,” Koszegi continued. “They might come in as a 3d but play more like a 5k in life and death. Korean kids who are 3d play like a 5d in life and death.” Blackie plays go professionally in addition to teaching, and I asked him if doing so much teaching weakens his game. “You don’t get weaker teaching,” he responded. “Maybe you don’t have as much time to study, but you don’t get weaker.” The key is to not overplay during teaching games. Instead, Blackie waits for opponents to make mistakes. There is a traditional Korean go school for children just down the hall from BIBA, and BIBA students sometimes connect with the kids there for competitive games. There’s also plenty of sightseeing available when you aren’t studying go or playing foot volleyball and soccer with the BIBA gang: palaces, parks, biking along the Han River… For more information, visit BIBA’s website. For more about Seoul, check out Visit Seoul. Photos by Lisa Schrag.