Go in China - Ruben's Testimony
Study Go in China
This year, Guo Juan gave me and my friend Wesley the opportunity to study Go in China. I had met Guo Juan a few years earlier, and at that time she told me it was possible for Western Go players to study in China, so I told myself I would do so as soon as I could. After all the preparations, Wesley and I headed to Wuhan this February, to start studying Go under the supervision of the teacher there; Yan Lao Shi.
From the first day on it was obvious that Guo Juan sent us to Yan Lao Shi for a reason. She told us before that she would only send Western students to a teacher who would take very good care of them, and the first few days we immediately felt that Yan Lao Shi and his family were going to take very good care of us. When we were hungry they would get us food, when we had a question about something then they would do everything to answer it, and occasionally they would take us out to look around Wuhan and pay a visit to a temple or park. That is also one of the reasons I decided that if I ever go to China again, I will surely pay Yan Lao Shi a visit, because he is one of the nicest persons I ever met. But besides the fact that the teacher and his family are very nice, what about studying Go?
Putting aside the first week when we went to the Go training school every day (the children didn't have to go to regular school because of some kind of holiday, so they could come to the Go school every day), we went to the training school on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and in the weekend. To be complete, our schedule there was as follows: during the week we had to study for ourselves in the morning while Yan Lao Shi (or one of the teachers at the training school) would play a teaching game with us in the afternoon, and in the evening we got class from him. Now we were afraid that our Chinese would be way too bad to understand anything, but sometimes there was an interpreter to help us during the lessons, and even if she wasn't there we still could understand the lessons because Yan Lao Shi did everything he could to make us understand. Think of closing a door when you have to seal in an opponent, or making an ugly face when we played bad moves, etc. Quite funny, but easy to understand. During the weekend we went to the training school to play the children there, and in the evening Yan Lao Shi would comment on the games we played that day. Now this might sound boring to a non-Go player, but I can assure you that if you are a Go-player you will never feel bored spending so much time on Go. When we had to study for ourselves we had to make homework (consisting of tsumego, divided into 1-, 3- and 5 dan problems), or we replayed a professional game. And when we played the teachers then we played 2-stone games with them (and usually got crushed :P) And what about the training school? The first time we got there the age and the level of the children there surprised us. In Holland, where I come from, there is only 1 dan player younger than 14 years old, but in China there were 8 year old 5 dans, and 12 year old 6 dan players! And the funny thing is, even though these children are so young and even though the strategical part of their game is not really good, they are unbelievably strong at calculating and solving life and death problems. More than once we were ahead after the opening, but as soon as a middle game fight would start the children would outread us by far, and we lost so many games because of our bad calculation. Of course Yan Lao Shi knew this, so that was the reason we had to make all the homework. So be warned, when you are going to study Go in China, then you will improve your calculation skills :). Also Yan Lao Shi taught us a lot about the opening and the endgame, things we never thought of before. And our progress? We studied Go for 3 months, but actually we don't have any idea of how much we improved. The thing is that we learned so much, and before we could process anything we learned, Yan Lao Shi would teach us something new. However, we are sure that our calculation, opening and endgame improved by a lot, and according to Yan Lao Shi our feeling for the game became much better. So expect to improve while you are there, but also to improve when you're back in your own country, because then you finally have time to put things together.
To end this report, I want to say that I really had the time of my life in China. I heard other students are going to Wuhan later, and I must say that already I am jealous of them. Expect to learn a lot about Go, about the basics of the game and about how to play, but also expect meet the nicest people you have ever seen, and to have a very good time.