Six top European players are currently studying in Beijing, China under a program sponsored by CEGO China. The Chinese Go magazine Qi-Shi recently published an interview with five of the players: Pavol Lisy (Slovakia), Ali Jabarin (Israel), Lukas Podpera (Czech Republic), Jan Simara (Czech Republic), Dusan Mitic (Serbia). Andrii Kravets of the Ukraine was not available. Lisy and Jabarin are two new European pros. The report was translated by Jennie Shen and Kevin Huang and edited by Chris Garlock.
Qi-Shi: What’s the status of go in your countries?
Podpera: There are about 250 active go players in Czechia, and their level is getting stronger and stronger. Last year, for example, the Czech team won the European team championship. There are four European 6ds in Czechia; we (Lucas and Jan) are two of them.
Lisy: I’m from Slovakia. There are about 50 active players there, including eight dan players.
Jabarin: Israel has about 50 players. I feel like the talent level is pretty high, because even though some countries have more players, we can beat them. We have some promising young players.
Qi-Shi: How long have you been playing go? What’s your background?
Podpera: I started to play go at the age of 7. My father introduced me to the game because he used to play the game in the university.
Simara: I started [to play go] because I played chess, then I met go. When I was about fifteen, I switched from chess to go.
Qi-Shi: Why is go more interesting to you?
Simara: Go has much more possibilities.
Mitic: It’s the same as with Lukas — I learned go from my father.
Lisy: I started to play go at the age of five. My father taught me.
Ali: I got introduced to the game by a friend. I just started to play when I was twelve, started going to the tournaments, then kept playing since then.
Qi-Shi: You came to Bejing to study at the Ge’s Academy. What did you learn here? Do you have a goal?
Podpera: The European pro qualification which I would like to try to pass. Otherwise I don’t have any real future planning; let’s see how it will go.
Simara: I think I’m improving in all areas.
Lisy: I feel like I’m improving in the school because I spend lots of time on go. I improved mostly at the endgame I think.
Qi-Shi: Do you have a plan for your future? Do you want to be a pro or want to do things related to go?
Podpera: Of course I would like to be a pro.
Simara: About the future, not exactly sure…come back and see, play some games..
Mitic: I have no plans for the future, except I’ll try to become pro.
Lisy: My plan for the future: to get good results at the international tournaments, win some games against Asian pros, but that’s just a dream.
Jabarin: I was in university and I stopped before I came here, and I told myself I that for at least two or three years, let’s see what I can do with go. The dream is to be able to play competitively in Asia. It’s not a plan; I would say it’s a dream, but that’s the end goal. I hope I can improve as well, I know it’s not very easy.
Qi-Shi: What do you think is the most interesting thing about go?
Podpera: The endless numbers of variations.
Qi-Shi: Which part of go is the most difficult to improve?
Podpera: For me the most difficult thing to improve is the endgame. It’s very hard to count the points exactly, most of the games are decided by the endgame. But here they found how to improve in those go schools with practice.
Simara: The most difficult part to improve I think is reading.
Mitic: I agree with most of the things Jan said, I think the most difficult part of go is reading.
Lisy: The most difficult part of go, maybe the judgement, I don’t know.
Jabarin: I think something which is very important is mentality. When you play and also when you study. Having the will to win, the will to try hard, so you’ll study a lot, staying calm while playing is very important, that’s one of the things that I’m trying to improve here. Other than that, I feel like I gained a little bit of knowledge also. I always learn new moves, not just josekis, but new techniques. Then something which I learned about the game, I can just say that to me go is very deep, just feels different from all the other games. It’s not just a game.
Qi-Shi: Who is your go idol?
Podpera and Simara: Iyama Yuta
Pavol: Chen Yaoye
The six players played the Silk Road Amateur Tournament in Xian, China (left). Lisy won first place and Jabarin won second place.
Qi-Shi: How did you feel after you won the tournament?
Lisy: I was very happy. The tournament was very good. I enjoyed it, I think, For example the time setting helped me, because I’m used to playing fast games. It was not so difficult to overcome the pressure.
Jabarin: We (Pavol and Ali) just came back from Japan from a tournament, (where) we had decent results. For me, I was feeling a bit more confident. And I was quite proud of some of the games I played in the [Silk Road] tournament. I regret the game I lost to Pavol. The tournament was a lot of fun, so it was good, of course I was happy with the prize money.
Qi-Shi: People think westerners and Asians think differently. Do you think that western go players and Asian go players think differently?
Pavol: I don’t know how they think. I think there’s a difference that they care more about the beginning of the game, they know how to finish the game, that’s the difference.
Qi-Shi: Some Asian pros think the feeling/instinct is very important. Do you play more with your feeling/instinct or reading and judgement?
Ali: Both. I think I understand what he means. The feeling is somehow much more important. Sometimes we play much less territorial, play more for a moyo, maybe not myself, but I think many players in Europe, they play much more moyo style. Sometimes t’s just like ‚Oh wow, this move looks good, feels good,“ not saying it like it is much more precise.
Qi-Shi: What do you want to do for European Go?
Podpera: We can bring some knowledge from China to Europe, open go schools and teach.
Simara: We are all part of the [pro] system. So if some of us are successful, naturally this system is also successful, that’ll be good for everyone.
photos: top right: the Go school in Beijing; 2nd left/3rd right: pro lesson with WangYao 6P; bottom left: Silk Road (also called 1st Qinling Mountains Cup) amateur tournament awards, Pavol won first place, the prize money was 60,000 RM, (US$10,000).
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