14-15th of March, Seoul: Part 1
As usual we woke at 7.00 am and quickly showered, usually I am first to shower as the other are a little too slow in the morning. More hot water for me! Breakfast is at 8.00 AM and usually we get toast marmelade, kimchi and other stuff accompanied by water, milk and coca cola as drinks. Shortly after that we left for Heongseong to fetch the bus to Seoul. The old men taking care of us were so kind to drive us there. In the small town we had a awful cup of coffee for which we luckily had not to pay. The bus however surprised me it was very comfortable with enough space, even for me. There is not much to say about the 1.5 hours to Seoul. Korea is still a huge constructionsite and our busdriver seemed to be very good as he even took more risks than the previous ones.
In Seoul Mr.Kim awaited us at the main busstation which is approximatly as big as Colognes main trainstation. A lot and I mean an awful lot people were fluttering through the station and streets we passed through. Everything is so colourful and lively and my memories of German towns seem deprived of colour and beauty. It looks like a dream. Three streets further there was a big subway-station. Mr. Kim showed us how to buy a subway-card, which is very comfortable to use. It works like a prepaid card. After buying it first for 9500 Won you have 7000 Won on it to use. It is surpringly easy to use the subway in Seoul. Basically each ride costs 900 Won which is not even half an Euro and after existing an line which is not connected to another line directly in the station the bus-transfer to it is free for 30 minutes. There are several main-lines, which are coloured and named differently which makes navigating easy. Stops are announced in Korean and English and shown on one of the many TV-screens in the subways. Using the subway is like checking in and out at work. You put the subway-card on a field prepared for it and the machine electronically deducts 900 Won from it at lets you pass after that, leaving the line you entered works the same except that it does not cost money. Very easy, smooth and especially inexpensive in contrary to Germany which's system cannot even be explained without writing an bigger essay.
Our first destination was the Hankuk Kiwon, the Korean Baduk Association, as we had a team participating in an amateur team tournament but not before eating lunch in an nice restaurant which served various fish and sushi menus. We had grilled fish and some kind of salad-rice-mix which was flavoured with a red and really spice sauce. The spice is not the problem but have you ever tried to eat a nicely grilled fish with chopsticks? It is hard to even pick up just a tiny bit. The fish was really lucky, if it had not been we would have killed it a couple dozen times. While the waitresses secretly laughed at our primitive attempts to eat our meal, Cho Hye-yeon joined us for a short while, promising to take us out for dinner in the evening.
For those who do not know her. Cho Hye-yeon is an 8dan professional player with an cheerful and kind attitude and perfect English and Japanese. So she is not only very strong at Baduk, probably currently the strongest Korean femal pro, but also talented in languages.
Lunch ended more or less satifying at we finally were going to the Hankuk Kiwon.
The building itself is rather plain but quite big. Greyish in colour and only the sign "Hankuk Kiwon" written in Hangul decorate the front. It is a multistories building with 5-6 stories. In the groundlevel is the reception, the shop and the Baduk TV studios. The 1st floor holds the main playing-room for the Insei and a few smaller rooms which were locked or empty. In the 2nd floor are the mainoffices which I did not see this visit. The 3rd floor has several smaller rooms with TV's and boards to play on for those who want to observe high-level matches in the titel-match room. 4-6th floor are professional-area with their main-playing and study rooms.
After arriving our attention immediatly fell on the tiny shop of the Hankuk Kiwon. It is stuffed with hundreds of books and magazines. There is just place for 2-3 persons to stand in and if you are not observing closely the shopkeeper is not even visible behind all the books. But for now we had not the time to dive and see through all the material there, we had to go to the opening ceremony of the tournament. It is rather boring to look like you are attentivly listening to the speeches even if the host was a very attractive woman in a shining red uniform consisting out of a blazer and a short skirt. Soon after the tournament started but sadly I was not strong enough to play for KBC so I just watched a few minutes and then intended to browse through what the shop had to offer but Mr. Kim had already other plans and was trying to organize a few professionals to play a teaching game with the lot of us who were not playing in the tournament but they would not do that free of charge of course so that idea was cut out fast. Mr. Kim was not out of ideas though and found five amateur players to play a friendly game with five of us. I was fast enough to raise my hand and thus allowed to play. Here I for the first time would have needed one of those cards which display your name and telefon number. I might have disappointed my opponent a little because I did not have one. I had to place a three stone handicap and we started to play. I had a solid game and was leading throughout the whole game but my opponent was not overplaying and still steadily was catching up little by little as I failed to kill his dumpling but at three stones such a thing is not game deciding. In the endgame I was leading by about 15 points and played an bad endgame move which should have given me 2 more points but I oversaw on thing and swiftly the strike came and killed half of my group and this I lost. It was close but no way to win anymore so I resigned. After a discussion of the game I asked him about his level of play and he said he is a Korean 5dan. Quite surprising as I deemed myself not so far away from his level of play. (Was he just kind?) Anyways our teams one female and one male team continued to get beaten or win one or two games while I finally found the time to wander through the building and buy some books. Mr. Kim helped me to choose a few and the shopkeeper swiftly supplied me with more similiar books. Additionally to those problem books I bought I bought some pocket-books for inseis which contain some easy and in higher volumes very hard and even harder problems. All in all I bought 11 books for just 68000 Won, very very cheap compared to the shops one usually buys in and the sortiment is much bigger than anything I have ever seen.
Meanwhile Cho-sabomnim (Cho Hye-yeon) joined us again after her meeting with a publisher. She wrote a problem book named "Creative Life and Death problems" which should be published in the next week. It ranges from simple dan-level problems up to cracking hard professional-level problems, so if you want challenge go and get that book. I am sure I will!
I returned into the main-playing room shortly after purchasing my books and suddenly was halted by Kim-sabomnim who shoved me to a Korean person I at first did not recognize but then I remembered it was the 5dan I played just an hour ago. He babbled some stuff on Korean, which of course I did not understand at all, until he muttered something like "Pro ku-dan" while pointing at a person in the room. He then pulled out a book out of his bag and gave it to me, signaling me to open it. It contained signature in Korean which dated back to 2005 and besides it was the photo of the professional who just stood a few meters away. "Well...?" I thought a bit puzzled as I did not know what to do or to say but the 5dan somehow made it clear the the book was a gift from him to me. A pretty cool gift I must say, not only is it signed by 9dan professional but also is a book about trickplays which I have been struggling with in the last days.
Perfect book! With signature! Hehe how lucky I am. :)