Memories of Pair Go
Kuniko Horie (Japan)
When I (a 6-dan) first played in the Kinki qualifying tournament for the International Amateur Pair Go Championship over a dozen years ago, parent-child communication with my son (then a junior high school student and 4-dan) was my aim. However, the combination between my son, who said, ‘I’m a pacifist. I don’t like fighting,’ and me, an aggressive player, was chaotic. We did well to pick up even one win. This was an example of the Olympic spirit (?), the meaningful thing about Pair Go being taking part.
That was how things were when my son left the family home. I was devoted to Pair Go. And I wanted to win. Surely the other side of the Olympics is that it’s meaningful to make the right efforts so that you can win purely. I immediately began searching for a partner with whom I could win.
First, I asked a player very senior to me, Mr. K, who had represented his prefecture in the past. I had played more than 100 games with him, so I believed that I understood his style. However, when he became my partner, he played move after move that I didn’t understand at all. So I just played time-saving moves. After the game he lamented, ‘You just played point-losing ko threats.’
Even so, our team once reached the final. In that game, it was still the middle game, but both sides were almost out of time. We had the lead. Rather than a go contest, it became a clock-pressing contest. Our moves got mixed up on the board and I lost track of whose turn it was. ‘What? Me next . . .?’ I asked everyone. Silence. I realized that the pair shouldn’t talk, but again I asked, ‘My turn?’ At that instant, our red flag pitilessly fell. Our opponents then also won the tournament in Tokyo. We were the goddess of victory for them. (Laughter)
Next, I made a pair with Mr. R (6-dan), who had often taught me since I was a child. ‘How do you play Pair Go?’ he said anxiously. ‘Don’t worry. When I don’t know what to do, I’ll play a time-saving move and let you decide the move,’ I said like a veteran. When we won the first game, we spontaneously shook hands. ‘We won. We won♪.’ The stones were still on the board and we hadn’t thanked the other team for the game. We showed a total lack of sensitivity and regard for etiquette. But I have never been so happy on winning a game. When you win a game of Pair Go, it’s ‘twice the fun’, they say, but in my case it felt like ten times the fun.
When I formed a team with Mr. T, a go instructor (did we look like mother and son?), I now had the composure to enjoy the go of the four players. Our opponents did not seem used to competition and were playing quite slowly. I sent them a silent message: ‘If you don’t speed up, you’ll lose on time.’ And I glanced at the clock as I played. Our male opponent played the next move promptly. Then I looked at the go board and was astonished to see that a large group of ours, covering more than half the board, had been cut off at the root. Moreover, it was completely eyeless. Apparently there had been a peep. However, Mr. T played on quite unperturbed and eventually we got two eyes. I rejoiced: ‘Mr. T, you’re just as strong as I thought!’ At that moment, another eyeless group of ours was cut off. Simultaneously, their time expired. Whereupon, my usually amiable partner glanced at me and asked sharply, with narrowed eyes: ‘Were you looking at the board?’
‘Sorry. I was looking at the clock.’ I apologized abjectly. Then I tried to laugh it off. However, looking at the clock while playing became a real habit of mine.
In this way, I have taken part in the Kinki regional tournament nearly every year, but I have never won, so I haven’t been able to go to Tokyo. From various people I’ve heard rumours about how interesting, how fantastic the Tokyo tournament is. When I look at the Pair Go Association’s home page, I see photos of my friends who seem to be having a really good time.
‘Just once, I’d like to play in the Tokyo tournament . . .’ My ambition was strong, but my go strength made it unreasonable. But I couldn’t resign myself and when I was looking at the home page I had a flash of inspiration. In the notice soliciting entries in the Araki Cup handicap tournaments, it said that Supporting Members of the Pair Go Association had top priority.
‘That’s it!’ Immediately I rang up the Pair Go Association.
‘How does one become a Supporting Member?’
‘Pay the annual membership fee of 4,000 yen.’
What could be simpler? I immediately made the bank transfer, then started looking for a partner to go to Tokyo with me. I asked the youthful Mr. N (6-dan), who had previously said, ‘You can ask me to play Pair Go any time.’ When he replied, ‘Let’s do our best,’ my heart had already flown to Tokyo.
When I saw the postcard confirming participation in the Araki Cup for the first time, my eyes turned round with happiness. A line caught my eye. ‘There’s a Best Dresser prize. Please dress up.’ Dress us? For go? It seemed strange, but my heart was dancing. I was happy to have been born a woman.
November 2006: the long-awaited day finally came. When I entered the tournament venue, I found myself in a different world. It was a gathering of splendid-looking ladies and gentlemen. ‘Wow! How fantastic!’ I thought, and at that instant I was attacked by nerves and completely froze up. I have no memory of how I was able to play. But even now I clearly remember the inexpressible feeling of pleasure and comfortable fatigue I felt when the party ended.
I was lucky enough to be able to play in the goodwill match as well. While I was playing, I was desperately trying to arrange some English words in my head so that I could talk with my opponents. I seem to have a habit of not concentrating on the board. (Laughter)
2008 was the third year that I had partnered Mr. N. Finally we achieved our ambition of becoming the Kinki representatives. However, that year the tournament was used to select the Mind Sports Games representatives, so the participants were only Japanese. Mr. N was disappointed. ‘Eh? No foreigners? He said. ‘Just when I thought that beating a foreign team would be a chance to improve our ranking.’ I was disappointed rather because the tournament was not so glamorous.
This year Mr. N and I were lucky enough to win the Kinki handicap tournament for the first time. And, a piece of super luck, we have been chosen to play in the goodwill match. What dramas are awaiting us this year?
Anyway, for Pair Go, which has made us realize anew the fun of go: gratitude and cheers!