Hong Kong Trip: Part 3 — Weiqi

Part 1 — The Scenery   ||   Part 2 — The Food   ||   Part 3 — Weiqi

Intro­duc­tion

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.

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Wait… why does that car­toon char­ac­ter look like he’s doing some­thing I’m ter­ri­bly famil­iar with…

*blink*

*dou­ble blink*

*rubs eyes*

*squints at the bus ad*

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Oh.… my.…. Sai!!!!!!

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.

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In Hong Kong, this is the sym­bol for the metro / sub­way line. If you see this, there is one very close by.

After grab­bing break­fast, we found our­selves the near­est metro line and headed off towards 252 Hen­nessy Road; Wan Chai; Hong Kong.

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The metro sys­tem is also way bet­ter than DC. Look. They have a map with elec­tronic LED’s to show you where you are and what stop is next. Brilliant!

Because I didn’t want to be late, we arrived with plenty of time to spare (around 9:30AM).

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Woohoo! Here we are! The Hong Kong Go Asso­ci­a­tion at 252 Hen­nessy Road; Wan Chai; Hong Kong.

After find­ing the loca­tion, I turned around to look for the door­way and was instead greeted by a kind of creepy look­ing entrance.

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Tell me I’m not the only one who thought this looked like a scene out of a hor­ror movie like Saw or something…

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!”

Noooooo!!!!!!

Noooooo!!!!!!

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.

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This is it! In case you ever are vis­it­ing, this is the sign you should look for!

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Here’s a shot of the entrance to let you know you’ve found the build­ing. Much bet­ter than the other loca­tion right? Seems much more trustworthy.

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.

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Stamps, signed fans, bowls, tro­phies etc. It was quite a sight!

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!

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Isn’t this a mag­nif­i­cent sight? The only thing that would make it bet­ter would be peo­ple play­ing as well!

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.

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Look at all those play­ers! Each lit­tle tag is a per­son! If only I could have met and played one of them!

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.)

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As you can see, my stuff is setup on the right table. This was where we had our lesson.

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 Kifu

After the les­son, I got to explore a lit­tle bit more and found their mag­nif­i­cent book collection.

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Isn’t this mas­sive? All Chi­nese books though! If only we had this many Eng­lish go books.…

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.

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Hong Kong Go Asso­ci­a­tion reusable bag (one side)

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Hong Kong Go Asso­ci­a­tion reusable bag (other side)

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A neat cal­en­dar card to put in your wal­let (front)

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Cal­en­dar card for your wal­let (back)

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5 issues of a Chi­nese go magazine

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A portable mag­netic go set for the plane! (front)

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Portable mag­netic go set for the plane (back)

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Portable go set removed from the box.

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Portable go set board and stones.

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Aer­ial overview of the board and stones in action. And in case you’re won­der­ing, this is the best mag­netic go set I’ve used to date (exclud­ing the YMIm­ports Roll-up Mag­netic Board because that is dif­fer­ent from this kind of mag­netic set).

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A clear go folder with the HKGA car­toon mas­cot on front!

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And a hand­out that Shiu Lao Shi cre­ated on the opening.

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.

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Here’s a shot of me and Shiu Lao Shi by the front desk.

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… =)

Con­clu­sion

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!

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  • Ris­ingStar

    Thanks a lot Ben! Did you play Go any­where else or was this your only go-related activ­ity in the entire trip? (By the way, I have the same board. It’s awesome!)

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      I stud­ied go all around Hong Kong, but this was my only real go-related activ­ity the entire trip since I was unable to locate any local go play­ers at the time. (I later found out that some­one I knew was in Hong Kong, but by the time we tried to coor­di­nate it was unfor­tu­nately too late. =()

  • Yunzi

    Thank you Ben, it was very nice.

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      You’re wel­come! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://neagle.github.com Nate Eagle

    Awe­some post. That first photo of the room full of boards and bowls is just won­der­ful. I also loved the photo of the LEDs in the metro train… nice UI example

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      Thanks man! It was quite a crazy adven­ture. Haha. Def­i­nitely loved the metro in Hong Kong though. So clean and orga­nized… xD

  • http://truthandgo.blogspot.de/ Eye­catcher

    Yes, great story, very nice adven­ture! Thank you again for shar­ing…
    ;-)

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      You’re wel­come! I’m glad that you enjoyed it!

      Yeah I really wish I had the whole kifu, but we just didn’t have enough time for me to copy down the moves though. In the future how­ever, I need to make sure I at least take a pic­ture of the final result. That’s bet­ter than noth­ing in my opinion.

  • Devin Flake

    Awe­some expe­ri­ence! It reminds me of the go proverb — “use go to meet friends” — http://senseis.xmp.net/?UseGoToMeetFriends

    For me, go has been a great way to meet new peo­ple and have a lot of fun :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      Glad you enjoyed it! Go is def­i­nitely a great way to meet friends. I have def­i­nitely been for­tu­nate to meet so many great peo­ple like you through go. Thanks for stop­ping by!

  • David

    Nice story! I was actu­ally in HK around New Years and had a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence. I found the web­site and ended up going to that first loca­tion (the one on cen­tral). I had some reser­va­tions about that sketchy entrance, but decided to go in any­way. There actu­ally was a play­ing area there and a lot of booketc., albeit not as big as that other place you went to (which I didn’t know existed lol). I was wor­ried that there would be only old peo­ple like in japan, but luck­ily there were a cou­ple of peo­ple a my age and I got two games in. It was a lot of fun! That les­son sure sounds nice though…

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      Thank you! I have also heard that the one with the sketchy entrance has a play­ing area too, but it seems activ­i­ties have been moved over to this new area.

      That’s awe­some that you got a chance to play some locals! I would have loved to have that expe­ri­ence as well. Haha.

  • Jenny Every­where

    That’s a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence! I have that same mag­netic go board. I put it in my purse when I go to a par­tic­u­lar buf­fet restau­rant for lunch. I’ll eat, then set up the board and replay a pro game or work on life and death prob­lems. A wait­ress stopped to look, and was very effu­sive, say­ing that she used to play with her brother many years ago. It was a real thrill to her to see some­one play­ing. We talked as long as she could spare some time.

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      That’s amaz­ing!!! I totally should do that! I’m glad that you enjoyed this post though. Hope­fully we will get a chance to play one another some day!

  • King Kenny

    Hi, I stum­bled upon your blog and read through this entry of yours… Was it the HKGA (Hong Kong Go Asso­ci­a­tion) that you vis­ited or the HKCGA (Hong Kong Children’s Go Asso­ci­a­tion)? Or are they the same?

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      Good ques­tion! I’ve actu­ally been debat­ing that myself. I believe they might be closely tied together, but may actu­ally be sep­a­rate organizations.