After much waiting and anticipation, I’m happy to release the final post on my Hong Kong trip. Since we always save the best for last, it should come as no surprise to you that you had to wait till the very end to hear about my go adventures! Before we go on however, I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. (1) The title of this post was originally “Go,” but due to the fact that I was in Hong Kong, I felt it was only appropriate to title it “Weiqi.” (2) However, in order to ease the readability of my post, I will be using “go” in the text instead of “weiqi” for simple consistency with English go literature. With that said, onwards with my go adventure in Hong Kong!
Part 3 – Weiqi
As I’m sure some of you remember, I posted on reddit and here before the trip to see if anyone was in the area. Most of the feedback I got from people was that I should visit the Hong Kong Go Association (HKGA). I was a little saddened by the fact that I was unable to find anyone who lived locally online, but I knew that I couldn’t bear the idea of going all the way to Asia and not do a single go-related activity. So I promised myself that if I were to do anything for myself this trip, it would be to visit the HKGA.
When we first arrived in Hong Kong, one of the things we did was to go to one of the shopping districts. And believe it or not, as I’m walking down the street, I see this across the street.
*squints at the bus ad*Yep. It was an ad for go on a bus. No it wasn’t some special bus for the HKGA. It was just your normal run of the mill bus with an ad for HKGA. You have no idea how excited I was to see it at the time. Haha. I probably even looked a little crazy to the people around as I’m pointing excitedly and trying to tell my family to look at the epicness painted on the bus.
Now if anyone has visited the HKGA website, you’ll notice that it’s entirely in Chinese without any English version. And while I may be able to read and write Mandarin, trying to read a web page full of Chinese is a huge struggle for me since my Chinese is still rather basic.
One of the things I noticed on the site was that there were classes being held at night throughout the week. They would cost money, but that didn’t bother me since it would be a brand new experience for me. So I had my mom call them (because I can’t speak Cantonese), and we find out that the classes were not actually running at the time.
When my mom told me that, I then asked if they had a time where local players would come and play. As you might imagine, I was envisioning the HKGA to be something like the Nihon Ki-in in Japan where there’s a go salon in the building with a bunch of people playing throughout the day. To my surprise and disappointment, the secretary told my mom that they didn’t have anything like that.
I was pretty bummed to hear that. After all, would my epic go adventure in Hong Kong be reduced to simply visiting the HKGA and maybe taking a few pictures? All hope was nearly gone until the secretary told my mom that I could take private lessons if I wanted to.
After some back and forth, I found out that my teacher would be an amateur who was around 6-7 dan. He could speak Mandarin and English as well, so language wouldn’t be an issue. The only obstacle in my way was that it would be about $100USD for a lesson.
I wrestled with the decision for a while. After all, $100USD is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. However, for those who don’t know me, I’m more of the seize life by the moment kind of person. Since I had no idea when I would go back to Hong Kong, I ultimately decided to schedule a lesson for the next day in the morning at 10:00AM.
The next day, I woke up excited to embark on my go adventure. My mom asked if I knew where I was going, and I told her that I had the address (252 Hennessy Road; Wan Chai; Hong Kong) already. I had confirmed it via Google maps and also a redditor had also told me the same address. Just to be safe though, my family was kind enough to be willing to go with me (in case I needed help getting around), so off we went.
After grabbing breakfast, we found ourselves the nearest metro line and headed off towards 252 Hennessy Road; Wan Chai; Hong Kong.
Because I didn’t want to be late, we arrived with plenty of time to spare (around 9:30AM).
After finding the location, I turned around to look for the doorway and was instead greeted by a kind of creepy looking entrance.
After buzzing and waiting around for 15-20 minutes, I got a little nervous as I was wondering whether or not the teacher had bailed on me. I had tried to sneak into the metal door earlier to go in and see if anyone was around, but I got chased out by some elderly Asian gentlemen (who seemed to be the security guard). He told me that no one was upstairs and that no one was planning on being there. Uh oh…
Around 9:55AM, we get a call from the secretary my mom spoke to last night. She asked if we were still coming. “Still coming?” my mom said, “We’re waiting outside!” After about ten seconds had passed, a feeling of dread washed over me… Sure enough, my mom turns to be and says, “We’re in the wrong location! This is not the correct place! They are actually located around the place we were eating breakfast!”
Needless to say I was utterly blown and felt terrible since someone had come to teach me and I was about 20-30 minutes away from where they were. Luckily however, the teacher was not in a rush to leave and was willing to wait for me to go to the correct location.
At this point, I had dragged my family on a 30 minute journey to a new part of the city. I could not bear the notion of dragging them 30 minutes back just so I could go to the HKGA. So so I told them to go ahead and stay and explore the new part of the city. And with that, I ran off to find the place myself.
So if you’re wondering at this point, this is the correct address: 12/F, May May Building, No. 683-685 Nathan Road, Mongkok.
After navigating my way back to Mongkok, I started looking for the sign that would signal me that I had found the building.I was a bit out of breath by this point, but I was sure glad I had found the building within a reasonable time. And before I knew it I was riding the elevator up to the 12th floor.
When the door opened, I was immediately greeted by a display case full of go memorabilia along with trophies and awards.
And after greeting the secretary at the front and exchanging the customary greeting and welcome, I turned left to see an incredible sight of go boards and bowls galore!
Up on the left in the same room, there was a cork board where all the members had these mini tags with their names on it and hung by their respective rank.
In terms of my lesson that day, it turned out that I would be learning from the President of the Hong Kong Go Association himself! (I will refer to him as Shiu Lao Shi from this point on.)
For the first part of our lesson, we went over concepts regarding opening theory (i.e, fuseki). While this is a topic I have studied a bit overall (compared to other aspects of go), I was of course humbled by how Shiu Lao Shi was able to remind me of some fundamental principles when it came to fuseki.
One of the key ideas I was taught was how the opening was a lot about balance. If you can get an even result, then you have done a good job with the fuseki. Too often players try to get some massive advantage and then end up in a bad position. This is still something I’m working on, but it was a much needed reminder since I’m an aggressive and impatient player as a whole.
After more fuseki study, we played a 5-stone handicap game. Due to time constraints, I was not able to record the game. However, although I never got to spend the time I would have liked to try to recreate the full game, here is a partial kifu that I tried to recreate that day.*
*Note: There is no commentary on this kifu due to how short it is, but I thought that being able to see how the game started up would be better than nothing.
[download label=”Download Kifu”]http://bengozen.com//wp-content/uploads/2014/04/2014.03.18-HKGA-Lesson.sgf[/download]
After the lesson, I got to explore a little bit more and found their magnificent book collection.Before I came to the HKGA, I had also envisioned that there might be a store or a pile of books where I could purchase something for me to remember the place by. Unfortunately all their books were on a loan basis only (which I would obviously not be doing since I’d never return it haha), and there was no “gift shop.” However, though I didn’t know it at the time, I was very lucky in that Shiu Lao Shi had no intentions of letting me leave empty handed.
After walking around the HKGA a bit more and chatting with Shiu Lao Shi, I went up to the front desk to pay for the lesson. Next thing I know, Shiu Lao Shi was asking the secretary to give me a souvenir bag. The following are shots of the very generous gift that he ended up giving me.
As you can imagine, I was very grateful and thanked him numerous times for such a generous gift. After all, I had expected to leave the HKGA with nothing but a good story and what I could carry in my brain. So I was like a little kid on Christmas when he gave me all of these souvenirs for me to bring home with me.
When the time came to part ways, we exchanged contact information and said our good-byes. I was certainly sad to leave since I would have loved to have stayed all day, but time was ticking and I had to go meet my family afterwards.
Overall, I was glad that I was able to visit the HKGA and have a chance to learn from Shiu Lao Shi. It was a great experience and I certainly hope that I’ll be able to go back one day and play with other locals in the area. Maybe I’ll attend a tournament or something… you never know what the future holds… =)
With all that said and done, I hope that you enjoyed my Hong Kong series and felt that you could get a glimpse into my adventures in Hong Kong. As always, any feedback you have for me would be greatly appreciated. And if you ever have any questions or plan to go to Hong Kong yourself, please let me know and I’d be happy to chat with you!