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At Hamburg

Hamburg, with a population of 1,700,000, the 2nd largest in Germany, is the center of economics in north Germany and an international city with one of the biggest trading ports. Because of that, I felt that the place accepts everything and seems broad-minded and with a natural air.

Not only economics but Go is also very active. Anyway, the number of members of Hamburg Go Association is about 200 which is the same number as Berlin, the capital, with a population of 3,500,000. I guess if you add people who don't pay the member fee and enjoy Go by themselves, as some Europeans are careful with their money, the Go population will be more than 1,000 people.

The other day, I went to Hamburg to teach Go and to visit the Mausefalle tournament. In Hamburg, there are 3 big tournaments a year and each tournament has a unique name. In May, Affensprung (crape myrtle). In November, Tengen. Mausefalle means a rattrap. I heard that that means `snapback'.

The tournament took place 15 minutes away from Hamburg Central Station by S Bahn (suburban railway). Tobias and Steffi who live in this town at the tournament committee office, are my precious friends. I have known Steffi for 15 years since she was introduced to me when I first traveled to Europe. At that time, I couldn't speak a word of English or German and I remember that I kept on saying `Yah, yah'. That is my sweet memory.

Besides their own jobs, Tobias is an editor of a magazine which is published by the German Go Association (6 times a year) and Steffi is an official of the German Go Association. Also, since 2 years ago, they have started selling Go goods through the internet and it is now easy to get Go books which were difficult to get and Go boards and stones. Their business which encourage the role of popularizing Go seems to be going well because of `Hikaru no Go' which created a Go boom.

Every day, they are busy with work centered around Go but they are unbelievably lively and fun people.

This is the 4th Mausefalle tournament. Each year, the number of participants has been increasing and this year, 140 people gathered from all over Germany. This tournament consists of 3 games on Saturday and 2 games on Sunday, 5 games in total, which is standard in Europe. Most of the time, there are cash prizes for winners and 2nd place through 5th place.

What I think is good about the German tournaments is the accommodation where players with sleeping bags stay at local players' houses. After the games, at night, we talked about various subjects with Go friends from all over Germany with wine or beer glasses in hand.

Italian people do not let guests stay if they don't have extra beds but German people are magnanimous in that way. Germans, maybe, are practical that they prefer to go to a lot of tournaments by saving on accommodation expenses. But I think that they can do so because they are Go friends.

Also, at the tournament, it was good that the tournament committee provided handmade sandwiches and cakes and drinks with reasonable prices. Usually, at other tournaments, they are held at campuses of universities or public institutions so that kind of service was very much appreciated because it is difficult to have meals in between games.

The participants were mainly in their 20s to 30s and half of them were under 10kyu. 10kyu in Germany is about 4 or 5kyu in Japan. Also, there were young women here and there and it was colorful. The winner was Mr. Lee Saedol, a Korean Go star and Mr. Cho Soek Bin, ex Korean Insei with Mr. Lee. He stayed in Hamburg for about a month and that was a good thrill for everyone.

On the week days before and after the tournament, I visited Go clubs of gymnasiums (schools for 11 to 19 year olds).

Recently, in Germany, there is a new tendency that students establish Go clubs by themselves at their schools and do activities because of `Hikaru no Go'. The Go Association of the state supplies Go boards and stones for free and if there is someone who has time to teach in his area, he goes to school to teach, but basically, students organize and study by themselves.

Before `Hikaru no Go' was published, there were hardly any Go clubs at school. So, the influence of comic books is incredible.

Adding to that, the independence of the students, the teamwork of the people who provide support from the Go Association and the help from the people around the students are three elements that work together well. I felt that I want to do what I can do to help those people.

Next tournament, in summer, I'm planning to visit Hamburg for the children's Go tournament.

This "GO Friends Report " started in February !


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