by Keith L. Arnold, hka
A soft voice slowed me as I rushed past at last weekend’s first Washington Open Baduk Championship, which was organized by Allan Abramson, Gary Smith, Todd Heidenreich, Andy Okun and myself. I turned to see Shin Kang, who embraced me like an old friend. Mr. Kang, of Ellicott City, Maryland, was the hero of Baltimore go players when I began playing back in the 1980′s, and I was extremely honored and touched that he recalled me from our few meetings over the years.
Shin Kang (at left in photo) was the highest-rated player in the U.S. during the late 1970s, above even the legendary Takeo Matsuda of New York, and Young Paeng of Pittsburgh, an old rival he asked about on Sunday. Kang was the Eastern Champion, or “Honinbo” from 1976 to 1978 and won the Maryland Open for its first 5 years, 1974 to 1978, and again in 1980. He lost in the phone relay US Championship to Kyung Kim of San Francisco in 1976, and, for the most part, paid his own way to get out to San Francisco in 1977 to try again face-to-face, but once again was defeated by Mr. Kim; their games were commented on by no less a luminary than Haruyama 9 dan. Meanwhile, he sponsored a teaching tour by Kim In 8P, and was top board in a telex match with Taipei.
In 1978, JAL sponsored the U.S. Championship in New York, but Mr. Kang’s opponent was not Mr. Kim but Shigeo Matsuhara of Los Angeles. Mr. Matsuhara’s victory in the Western Championship was considered quite an upset; after all, he had been defeated that year in the Los Angelos Open by a fifteen-year-old kid named Michael Redmond.
Mr. Kang won two straight games to become US Champion, and went on to represent the US in the first World Amateur Go Championship, along with Mr. Matsuhara, Mr. Kim and team captain Richard Dolen. Sadly for us, work pushed tournament go out Mr. Kang’s life for many years. Now retired, we can only hope we will see more of the 66-year-old former importer and wholesaler.
Kang won his first game at last weekend’s first Washington Open Baduk Championship, lost his second, but then won rounds 3 and 4 and I was excited to see him on board 2 for the final round. I was ecstatic when a re-pairing put him on Board One against the undefeated Andy Liu (at right in photo). I showed E-Journal Managing Editor — and Board 1 game recorder — Chris Garlock a listing on my IPad of Kang’s impressive Maryland Open record as Andy walked by, took a look and softly exclaimed “Oh, wow!” at the record of his fellow Maryland Open champion so many years before his birth.
Mr. Kang greeted Andy with a combination of respect, fellowship and, I think, pride, in his role in bringing American go to a place where this young man could sit across from him, “So, you are the pro,” he smiled. “I look forward to receiving a good lesson.” Liu 1p respectfully but strongly responded “We are equals here.” It was a wonderful moment, one of the first generation of great American go players, enjoying the chance to see what has grown from the seeds he planted, and today’s pioneer, recognizing and appreciating their shared and ongoing journey.
- photos by Chris Garlock (top right) and Phil Straus (bottom left)