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Go tournament for the visually impaired

Do you know that the visually impaired can play Go and have fun if they use special Go boards?

To distinguish between black and white stones, the plastic stones have bumps and they can be placed on the Go board. To confirm the place of stones, naturally you put weight by fingers and the stones are easily moved, so to avoid that, there are magnetic boards, too, but they are mainly for the tournaments because of the weight. For popularizing Go, 9x9 paper boards are used. There are 19x19 Go boards but for the beginners, 9x9 Go boards are adequate.

At the actual games, they play Go by calling out `3-3í or `5-4í to make sure the place of the stones or the teachers hold their hands and show the place of the stones.

The Japan Go Society for the Visually Impaired (the founder is Mr. Setuo Morino, 9dan, from Kansai Ki-in) who designed the sets of Go boards for the visually impaired was established about 10 years ago based in the Kansai area, aiming to spread the enjoyment of Go to the visually impaired and also to have communication for them in various fields through Go.

The contents of their activities (volunteers go and visit schools and facilities for the visually impaired in various parts of Japan to teach Go, developing software which shows the moves by voice, supplying Go text books in Braille and so on) are in wide range and now, it has spread all over Japan.

Also, recently, there is cultural exchange between local primary schools and visually impaired people. If Go doesnít exist, they wouldnít have an opportunity to meet each other. I think Go is like a passport to remove a lot of barriers which exist in this society.

At the moment, there are about 1000 Go lovers who are visually impaired. There are some people who learnt Go and then became visually impaired so the strength varies from high dan players to the beginners but Iím sure everyone enjoys playing Go in their own way.

The other day, the 7th Go tournament for the visually impaired was held in Osaka and 120 people participated from all over Japan. With the guide dogs watching quietly, from the beginners to 6 dan players are divided in 2 groups and played by 9x9 and 19x19 boards. It was very lively with some high school students who are not visually impaired participated as well.

The big event during this tournament was a game of Japan VS Korea, so called `International Meijin Championshipí, the champion of the visually impaired in Korea, Mr.Son, who was invited and the Japanese champion, Mr. Nakamura. They played both 9x9 and 19x19 board games and the result was that Mr.Son won both the 9x9 and 19x19 boards, this year. Both of them are totally blind but their strength is 5dan.

I met Mr.Son at the European Go Congress in Poland this summer. He brought a special 19x19 Go board with his 2 children and participated in the main tournament as a 5dan player and he did well, 5 wins and 5 losses. The European people there were impressed by the appearance of Mr.Son who understands everything on the Go board by the feeling of his finger tips and is strong as well as a gentleman. I suppose you can imagine the situation there.

Also, not only people who came to the tournament but also there were games by telephone for people who couldnít come to the tournament because they live far away or didnít have someone to accompany them.

That was a system by which those people who live far and the operators at the tournament were connected by telephones and the operators tell the moves of both players. For those visually impaired people who donít usually have this kind of opportunity, it must had been a fun moment.

Donít you think that itís a shame to have such a wonderful opportunity only in Japan? By all means, Iíd like to introduce this event all over the world! First of all, Iím thinking of doing that in Europe where I live.

Q&A of Yuki Shigeno 2 dan go
2004.12 December
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