While the U.S. team prevailed in a February 16-17 friendship match in Cuba, “the true victory was in realizing this rare opportunity for players from the two countries to come together,” said trip organizer Bob Gilman.
A team of 11 U.S. players competed with Cubans at the Academia Cubana de Go in Havana. The US players ranged from 5 dan to 24 kyu, and the Cubans had a similarly wide range. The event drew coverage on Cuban sports TV.
“They are just a wonderful group of people and their passion for the game came through every minute we were with them,” said AGA President Andy Okun. “When the barriers between our countries are gone, the North American go community will be that much richer.”
“All the players I played showed intense fighting spirit,” Okun added, “and I think they will benefit a lot once they have easier access to resources and opponents.” He also noted that “The rum they served out to celebrate the end of each day’s play was awfully good.”
Anthony Chen 5d agreed that ”If the Cubans get to play go on the internet, their
strength will improve dramatically. Since their travel is limited, they don’t play against many different styles of players. It was good that our US team was able to provide a measuring stick for them, but if they can play regularly on the internet, I am sure they will raise their level rapidly.”
Catherine and Royce Chen each brought donations for the Academia: Catherine 10 new copies of Cho Hun-Hyeon’s Lessons on Go Techniques Vol. 2, a book she had translated, and Royce 50 used go books he had collected. The Cubans presented the US players with gifts of Cuban handicrafts.
photo: Cuban player Sergio Seara Saenz (left, in white shirt) and Andy Okun (at right, with back to camera); photo by Joel Olson