Thursday 25 July 2013

Last day of the Go Camp

Everything has to end but the end of the Go camp came rather fast. The last day started quite normal with the 9th league game. I was able to win against a 2 Dan (with handicap) reaching a final score of 5 wins and 4 losses.
After the final endgame lesson there was a special event. The winner of the camp league was supposed to play against a top professional. The only person with just one loss was Lionel Zhang, 6 Dan from US.

Final endgame lecture.
Lionel got one stone handicap which means he took black and there was no komi. As an additional advantage he got 1 hour of basic thinking time. His opponent was Yukawa-sensei, 9 Dan. Since he is a professional he just got 5 minutes and therefore had to play most of his moves in the 30 second byoyomi.
First move of Lionel.
The game was live reviewed by another professional right next to the actual game. I think Lionel was a bit disturbed by that but for professionals it seemed nothing special.

Live commentary of the Kobayashi Opening played by Lionel.
As another special feature we were asked to guess the next move a few times. If that was the case the player whose turn it was had to write down the next move. Then we were told four different options for the next move and the ones who answered correctly got a small prize.

Yukawa-sensei is writing down his next move.
Lionel failed to handle a slight overplay of the professional correctly and therefore got a bit behind. He tried to come back but could not catch up again and resigned when the endgame began. Nevertheless it was a very interesting game to watch for all the spectators.

Subsequent analysis of the game.
After the show game there was the official prize giving. The best players of different strength sections got some cool presents. The winners in the Dan section even got a nice magnetic go set.
I got a tea cup that was created to celebrate Yuki-senseis Tengen title for writing this blog. I really appreciated that but was therefore unable to make a picture of all the prize winners since I had to be there, too. 

Maeda-sensei was a bit confused about the prizes.
We had a "Good bye"-dinner in the evening and afterwards went back to the playing site. Many of the professionals who had done some teaching dropped by that night and played games or told funny stories while enjoying Japanese drinks.
We even got an additional Shamisen presentation by Nakano-sensei. Most of us used the last chance to perform typical Japanese music themselves and went to a Karaoke bar later that night.
After a long night of celebrating on Saturday everybody had to leave. Some people had to go home immediately others spent a few days more in Japan but everybody agreed that it would be great to come back next year.

With this post I close the coverage of the Osaka Go Camp. I hope you enjoyed reading the blog. 
I would like to learn more about how you liked it so feel free to leave a comment with praise or blame.

Finally I would like to thank the organizers Maeda Ryo and Li Ting again for inviting all of us to Osaka.
The only picture of both I could found.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Osaka Aquarium

I want to finish some pending posts before I close the blog. One of the few things I planned to visit beforehand was the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. It is one of the biggest indoor aquariums worldwide and has some very rare animals. The aquarium is located on an island close to the Osaka port but it can be reached very conveniently with public transport.
I saw a lot of cool animals but making photos of things behind glass is always challenging.
I hope you enjoy some of my better photos:

Chinese giant salamander

Capybara - the largest rodent in the world

Personally I like (living) Octopus a lot.

The most popular animal of the Osaka aquarium is the whale shark. They are very large shark feeding on plankton like whales. The two in Osaka are comparably small with around 5 meter  each. There are very few places in the world where you can see this fish.

A Whale shark having lunch.
Japanese spider crabs are the largest crabs in the world. Naturally the just occur in the ocean around Japan mostly around Honshu.

Many Japanese spider crabs

Thursday 18 July 2013

Eating in Japan

I was asked several times to write something about the food in Japan. I tried to make some photos of my dinner experiences. It can be a bit difficult to find a restaurant you like in Osaka. There are a lot of small shops which are specialized on a few things but you don't know which if you can not read Japanese. Some have English menus but normally not outside. I'm not sure if they had foreigners in mind but a very great invention for people not able to speak Japanese are models of the food. They take their models very serious. I even have seen plastic beer :-)

Large collection of available food.

Being a sculpture it easily ignores gravity.

It's very helpful to get an idea of a restaurants menu.
They difficult thing that remains is how to tell the waitress which dish you like. To be honest I mostly tried to prevent that by going out with people who are able to speak Japanese. When I was eating alone I had to hope that something like "Ramen onegaishimasu" does not provoke to many further inquiries.

Despite of easier ordering eating with many people is in general more fun. Especially when you try to go out with around 20 people when most restaurants do not have so many seats at all. During one of these trips we ended up in a supposedly Korean place. The funny thing was that you get raw meat and must cook it yourself on small fires at the table. The meat was very tasty. Some people even grilled shrimps but these had to be peeled before. In any case it was a good training for being fast with chopsticks. I think this idea of indoor barbecue could be very popular in Germany, too. 

Two former Insei enjoy food preparation.

This one is from a shop close by to the playing site and they have an English menu. That makes it a good choice for a quick lunch.
Donburi (rice bowl dish) with egg and beef.
The most interesting eating experience happened a few days ago. One of the camp participants is currently fasting because of Ramadan. That means he is just allowed to eat after sunset. Naturally he want's to get a proper meal then. Some of the guys discovered an All-you-can-eat-and-drink place which is perfect under this circumstances. The whole thing costs 3,000 Yen for two hours. In the first 45 minutes they serve some basic dishes like fries, pizza or kind of "snack beans". After that you can order from a large menu. The interaction with the waiters is reduced to a minimum at that place since you order by using an electronic pen.  You have to point this (magic) pen on the dish you want in the menu say how many of it and send the order. After some starting problems and a new pen we figured out in which angle the pen works best and then it was very convenient.

David demonstrates the electronic ordering.

We got a large variety of different dishes. The sausages in the front were ordered by me.

Since the waiter had nothing to do but delivering our food we asked him to take a picture.

And that's how it looked at the end of the party.
I could not check it out but I was still surprised to find a German place at all.

I found a German Grill but it was closed.
Next to traditional restaurants there are also the standard international franchises like McDonalds and Subway Sandwiches but with noticeable different menu. Subway for example has a sandwich with shrimps but none with salami which is a bad trade in my opinion. 
(I don't think you are interested in this but I still can not understand why they cut my large sandwich in halves before they added the ingredients. I worked shortly for Subways and I absolutely see no point in dividing it at the start instead of the end. Any guesses?)
After telling you about the mostly traditional and high quality restaurants here is a tip if you have less time/money or it is 3 am in the morning. There are so called convenience stores. As far as I know, they never close and they offer a decent supply of food, drinks and other stuff. The even have microwaves to immediately heat your food. Unfortunately when it comes to packed food like rice balls or lunch boxes you have to gamble about the ingredients again. Sometimes you can guess a bit from the picture :-)
These stores can be found everywhere. We have two in a distance of about 5 meters.

Convenience store close to the playing site - lifesaving place in a lot of situations

Wednesday 17 July 2013

The day before last of teaching.

Yesterday we nearly had one of these "normal" camp days where nothing exceptional happens . I won my league game with 3.5 points against a Candadian 1 Dan. It was a rather exciting but we did not get a review so far. I will try to catch up and upload it all together. In the afternoon Yokota Shigeaki, 9p gave his second lecture. This time on how to handle invasions inside a sanrensei formation. In principal I highly appreciate any lecture concerning sanrensei. In practice there is the slight problem that I'm more familiar with it than the average player and therefore already read about most of the stuff Yokota-sensei showed. However I mostly remembered just the first few moves and not the complete sequences he showed so it was still interesting.

The white move is not good in this situation. Black just goes on top of it and white has to pull back.
(I'm sorry for the bad light but I'm hesitant to use a large flash during the lectures.)
Shortly before the end of the lecture our special guest finally arrived: Yuki Satoshi, Judan. There are seven big titles in Japan. Most of the time all of them are held by professionals of the Nihon Kiin (the larger association) but Yuki was able to snatch the Judan title for the Kansai Kiin and of course also himself. 
At the moment there are just three person who are holding one of the big seven. The most famous Go player in Japan at the moment, Iyama Yuta, Kisei/Honinbo/Tengen/Gosei/Oza, greedily collected 5 of the them. In fact Yuki-sensei took his Judan title directly from that player and therefore reduced him down to 5 :-)
By the way, Iyama Yuta belongs to the Kansai branch of the Nihon Kiin.
Yuki-sensei seemed like one of those important business person who are travelling around all the time. He arrived with a wheeled case since he had to go to Tokyo for a game directly after the camp visit. Shortly before, he came back from a tournament in China...

Maeda-sensei introduces Yuki-sensei.
Most people took their chance to get an autograph of a title holding did I. The large kanjis on the right are hard to translate into English. Even the native speakers had problems with it. They mean something like "back to the roots", "remember the beginning" or "big dream". Apparently Yuki-sensei likes the kanji a lot he even choose them as the name for his son.

The first column in the left is Yuki-senseis name, the seconde means "Judan".

Normally we just signed up for teaching games until four people were reached but everybody wanted to play with Yuki-sensei. Therefore this time the four people playing were determined by a drawing between everybody who signed up. Unfortunately, I was not among them.

The four lucky winners of a Yuki-game.

There were also regular teaching games going on. Mostly for people who have not played twice already.

Maybe the people could immediately practice the content of
Yokota-senseis lesson.

Today was the beginning of our last days off. Originally I planed to go to the Osaka aquarium. However, Kim-sensei, one of our teachers had to play a professional game today. Maeda-sensei was able to convince the people at Kansai Kiin to broadcast it to the public area and so we went to watch it. Actually we were hanging around and have been playing against locals. Occasionally we took a look at Kim's game but since they have 3 hours of thinking time it's not progressing overly fast.
In the end Kim-sensei won by resignation and can continue competing in the Tengen league.
Tomorrow I will really go to the aquarium.

I would guess it was the first time that so many westerners were
watching a live game in the Kansai Kiin. Kim-sensei is white on the right screen.

PS: I just happened to come by when these kids were practicing at one of these large Japanese drums in a shrine in the middle of Osaka. It was a bit surreal.

Monday 15 July 2013

Teaching game #2

There is just one more day with teaching games so I signed up today for my second one. The teacher was a young female professional. Unfortunately I do not recall her name.
We did not analyze the game much since I was the first one to finish and it seems like I made no overly huge mistakes. At least nothing which costs me my 5 stone lead. Instead you get a picture of here:

Camp League - Game 7

Today was normal teaching schedule. For the first time I got a small prize for correctly solving an endgame homework. It's kind of a key chain with different coloured balls.
My league game also went well. I won against a 1 Kyu from Phoenix, US (Another nigiri win!). My score now is 3-4 with two games left. So I still have the to finish the league with a positive score.
I included some comments by Kim-sensei but the game is kind of unspectacular since we played very calmly in the opening. However it was kind of funny that he had the moyo despite of me playing sanrensei :-)

Sunday 14 July 2013

Final Friendly Tournaments

Since it was weekend we had no "training" the last two days but played against local player. On Saturday it was like the weekend before but Sunday was very special.

We got a lot of visitors again.
Before the 1st round at Saturday morning there were unfortunately not enough Japanese player to challenge all camp participants. Therefore ten of us had to play teaching games. Normally one professional plays simultaneously against 4 or 5 people. This time they made it a bit more challenging for the teachers since our three professionals and one very very strong amateur alternately played against 10 people. That means every teacher plays every 4th move of white in 10 different games simultaneously. This led to funny situations where one professional did not follow up the 3-3 invasion of the previous one and things like that. I uploaded my game in a separate post. I would say it was close :-)

Francis Meyer (8 Dan) is hurrying to the next board while Kim Byeongjun (3p) is thinking.
In the 2nd round we played for the first time with reduced handicap making it harder for the camp participants. I played against a Japanese 1-Dan and was able to win the nigiri and the game.

Just one person of our Saturdays best four player could continue to battle on Sunday.
On Sunday we went to visit the Kansai Kiin. This time not just for watching but to actually play a friendly tournament there. On Sundays (probably Saturdays also) there is Insei training. Insei are Go students who want to become professionals. They play in the same room as the professionals on Wednesday and Thursday. We were allowed to take a look while they were playing league games. Since my battery was empty just when we have gone upstairs I have exactly one good photo of the Kansai Kiin Insei.

Small kids training to become professional Go player.
After watching the Insei and having lunch we started a tournament against preliminary Insei. These are even smaller kids that train at the Kansei Kiin to get strong enough for becoming Insei. At least the top 18 player of the camp played without any handicap, so we did nigiri all the time. 
By the way, nigiri is the way to randomly determine which player takes which color. One person places an amount of stones larger than zero and the other one guesses before if the number is odd or even. Today I won nigiri 6 out of 7 times and I think I never lost one before in Japan. So at least my nigiri score is very good :-)

A room full of young kids and old westerners. 
 I don't know the actual score but I guess we lost pretty badly. I just heard of one person with an positive score at the end. However we were able to play a lot of games. We just had to wait at our seat until the next child were sent to us. I think I managed to play the most games that day, in total seven. But I lost five of them.

The Japanese kids have been very young but most of them were easily at western Dan level.
After loosing 3 out of 4 games playing sanrensei as black I decided to switch my strategy and annoyed them by starting with a 5-5 and 5-4 point. The first try was already successful and my opponent seemed a bit upset about it. The second game I lost by 7.5 points but at least the invasion of my 5-5 corner died! 

The first board. I think the girl is an actual insei.
It was quite fun to play against these children and I realized again just how much stronger people are in Japan since these small kids were not even real Insei.

PS: Sightseeing in the centre of Osala ^^

Teaching Game #1

This is my teaching game from Sunday morning against 4 four different of our teaches. They were alternating between the moves so approximatley every 4th move of white is by the same person. :-)
Unfortunately the nevertheless managed to beat me.

Friday 12 July 2013

Make a pilgrimage for Go players

I already mentioned that we were planning to go on a two day sightseeing trip. The first station of our bus tour was Innoshima. Thorough reader of 'Hikaru No Go' might know that this is the birth place of Honinbo Shusaku and also his last resting-place. Today they are proud to be a "Go playing City" as the mayor told as. Approximately 10% of the over 20,000 inhabitants are Go player. (The German Go Federation has at most that many members at all.) One reason why so many people are attracted to Go in Innoshima could be the exciting playing site. They are among others playing in the Shusaku Museum.

The entrance of the Shusaku museum.
After a bus tour of around three hours we arrived on the island Innoshima and walked into the Shusaku museum. We have been exptected there already. Even the mayor of Innoshima took part in the opening ceremony. He claimed to be a very strong Go player himself but I do not know if he took part in the tournament.

The mayor of Innoshima (right) with a translator.
Before we started to play Go again we got a short tour through the museum. They really have a lot of things about Shusaku and his time.

Playing tables right next to Shusaku artefacts.
In the backyard of the museum is a reconstruction of Shusakus childhood house. There he took his first steps of becoming a Go master. His mother actually was the first one to teach him Go.

Everybody wants to be in the house.
 After the tour the actual games immediately started. Around twenty people from the camp had decided to join the tour. We played handicap games against local Go player. They had already prepared pairings for all three rounds.

This is a very convenient "Go table".
Our top three player were asked if they would like to play in the living house of Shusaku. It had nice boards and a lot of flair but unfortunately no air conditioning. Nevertheless everybody wanted to play there and so the organizers tried to find as much ventilators as possible.

Top boards playing in a reconstruction of Shusakus birthplace.
In the end we achieved a very good result again by winning 70% of our games. Somehow the ranks got mixed up with Japanese and American ranks so not all games had proper handicap. I just managed to play against two of my three predetermined opponents. Both of them were Japanese 2-Dan, like myself. We did "nigiri" and they seemed happy that I knew the word myself. I won it both times and was therefore able to play Sanrensei all the time. The first opponent seemed not very experience with that opening and I played a bit more calmly than usual to keep it friendly. The other one played quite well but I managed to win by 4.5 points.
As it is apparently a common habit in Japan everyone got some small presents after the closing ceremony. I wonder if we appear impolite by don't giving anything in return.

After the closing ceremony we went to visit Honinbo Shusaku himself. Unfortunately nowadays one has to go to the graveyard for that. It was my first at a Japanese or in general Asian graveyard. The location at the hill is very beautiful.

A beautiful Japanese graveyard.
 In fact even the view from the graveyard itself is very impressive.

They say if you touch the the tomb stone of Shusaku you become two stones stronger. I was a bit hesitant to to do that since I think it is a waste before someone is at least 4 Dan. However everyone of us followed the tradition to put an incense stick in front of the grave. I'm not sure how that influences the rank...

The tomb stone of Honinbo Shusaku!
In addition to the actual grave there is also a shrine for Shusaku which was build by a succeeding Honinbo. It is a traditional Shinto shrine (as far as I understood it) and directly next to the museum.

A part of the shrine for Shusaku.
I guess that were enough photos for one day. I have even more from a really large shinto shrine at Miyajima. Tomorrow will be another friendly tournament against local players. Let's see how it goes.

PS: You should not ask a professionals how much handicap he will get in a professional game (Question to a 3p who is going to play an 8p: "So you will get 5 stones?") or tell him that he will rise two Dan levels when he gets two stones stronger (for example by touching Shusakus grave).
Actually professionals are much closer to each other than amateurs. According to one of our teacher even top professionals like Gu Li or Yi Se-tol could not give more than at most two stones to any active professional.

Maeda-sensei was quite popular with the elderly ladies of Innoshima.