American Go E-Journal

Japanese Professionals Minematsu & Kobayashi Tour UK

Sunday March 16, 2014

The recent European Youth Go Championship (EYGC) and British Go Congress held in Bognor Regis, England saw Japanese professionals Minematsu Masaki 6p and Kobayashi Chizu 5p visiting the UK under the auspices of the Nihon Ki-in. As previously reported (Podpera Takes Top Prize at European Youth Go Championships, 3/9 EJ), they gave teaching sessions  and reviewed games throughout the long weekend, finishing off on Monday March 4 with a full teaching day for adults as the European youth battled out the final rounds.

Additionally they both paid a visit on Thursday February 27, the evening before the start of the EYGC, to the Oxford City Go Club where Harry Fearnley had assembled 13 players from 20 kyu to 5 dan. They initially divided into two teams to play one against the other, each member of a team taking two consecutive turns before handing the baton to the next, and the pros used the moves in this game to make teaching points. After that, each pro took on 6 participants in a simul (right). Click here for Harry Fearnley’s full report of the Oxford visit, including more photos and the record of Fearnley’s game against Minematsu.

After the EYGC, Kobayashi alone went on to visit two more UK clubs: North London Go Club in Hampstead on Tuesday March 4 and Edinburgh University Thursday March 6.

I caught up with her at the North London venue, where 11 attended, from beginner to 6d. Club Secretary Michael Webster was our host. Proceedings started with a similar exercise to that at Oxford, but with only about eight present initially, we formed one team to play by turn –two moves each — against the pro while she made observations about our moves (left). This gave time for a couple of latecomers to find the Parish Church tucked away in the back streets of Hampstead, and we all then went on to look at some joseki, before most of us took on Kobayashi individually in a simul. During the simul she helpfully suggested better moves and at close of play made general suggestions about how I could play more effectively.

Between times I got the chance to ask Kobayashi her impressions of UK go and the EYGC in particular. She has long had a mission to spread the game and Japanese go culture in the western world, especially Europe, and particularly focusing on the young. In 2007 she lived in Vienna  and has also spent time in Berlin and Paris, where she was heading after the UK tour. In 2008 she was appointed Special Advisor for Cultural Exchange for the Japanese Government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs and later also became a director of the Nihon Ki-in. Talking about her work, she likened the promotion of go culture to the cultivation of a garden. She mentioned points of go etiquette during the evening too, such as opening an even game as black with a play to the top right corner and not rattling the stones in the bowl whilst thinking. She told me she saw much promise amongst the young players at the EYGC – some of whom, such as new Under-20  European Champion Lukas Podpera, she had already met – but emphasised that those aspiring especially to pro status should take professional go tuition at the earliest age possible. She related how her father, a strong amateur, had applied for insei at age 19 but was told, “too late.” For that reason he sent his children to learn young, with Kobayashi Chizu herself starting at age 6. She studied under Kitani Minoru and she and two of her brothers, Satoru and Kenji all became professionals. Of Oscar Vazquez 2d, Under-12 European Champion, she said he was “very calm” and had a reputation for “never making mistakes”.

The next day, Kobayashi took the long train ride north to Edinburgh in Scotland, where she appeared on the evening of Thursday March 7 at the Appleton Tower of the University. Boris Mitrovic, a postgraduate research student at the University’s School of Informatics and a challenger for the British Go Championship last year, hosted. There 15 sat around a single board (right), starting off with the same two-moves-each against Kobayashi exercise as at N. London, as she commented with instructive criticism. They then solved a few tsumego together, after which three or four pairs of the attendees each played the first few moves of games which became the subject of the pro’s comments. At the end of the evening – and the tour – Kobayashi was taken for a meal at the Favorit restaurant.

Click here for Kobayashi’s own photo album of her UK visit.

Report by Tony Collman, British correspondent for the E-Journal. Photos: Minematsu considers his next move against Harry Fearnley, by Oxford club member; Francisco Divers contemplates the position as Michael Webster looks on, while Kobayashi smiles at a comment by another onlooker, by Tony Collman; Katherine Power makes one of two consecutive moves for Kobayashi’s consideration at Edinburgh University, by Boris Mitrovic.

Categories: Europe,Go News