This year event Winter Go Festival is held from 2nd of February till 11th February in Vatra Dornei (Romania). Part of the festival are many activities such as SEYGO Tour split in U20, U16, U12, Wildcard Pro Qualification, Romanian Women Championship, Romanian PairGo Championship and the huge Vado Cup tournament.
Oscar Vazquez who is European 5-dan player and also youth European U16 Champion (2017) spend 6 months in Chinese Go Academy in Beijing and won the SEYGO U20 category and also qualified for Pro Qualification which will be held in May.
Congratulations for this wonderful performance and for his nice answers on the interview below.
Q: You studied in China with the CEGO program, what was the experience like?
A: I went to the Ge Yuhong Academy already two years ago for nearly half a year, and then again this august for the same amount of time. I appreciate my time there greatly, not just because of the effects it had on my Go, but also for the lessons it taught me, such as learning to live alone (without my parents) and having to take sole responsibility for everything that happened to me. Of course, the training was pretty tough (check out Sinan’s book for details) and training there was not easy for me in terms of disciplining myself. Now that I look back on my time there, however, I can only be grateful for the amazing opportunity I have had to dedicate my life to Go, even if just for a few months.
Q: How much do you think you improved in China? What about your play style? In what ways did it change?
A: It’s not all easy to pinpoint how my strength changed. There’s no way of knowing exactly how strong the people in the school are, so until I play enough European opponents it’s a mystery. I have only played in the Winter Go Festival since coming back from my second visit to China, but from my games so far I feel like my understanding and judgment in a game has improved dramatically, more than I would have expected. I think my play style changed in the sense that I became a lot more aggressive in contesting my opponent’s intentions, as well as much more willing to counterattack my opponent in ways that make them uncomfortable. This way of playing makes my games a bit of a knife’s edge for both player and sometimes makes me lose, but overall I think it’s quite positive.
Q: You won the SEYGO U20 tournament congratulations! How were your games?
A: Unfortunately many top U20 players were not able to make it to the event, so some of my opponents were much weaker than me. I did have two really tough games against Elian Grigoriu 5d and Sinan Djepov 5d (I lost to Sinan). While I feel I have improved a lot, my competition also trains avidly. For example, Sinan studied in China with me (and wrote a book about it!) and Elian studies at JIGS, the first established Go school in Europe. Therefore, it is not surprising that my rivals are still very hard to defeat.
Q: What do you think about the Festival Winter Go Camp in Vatra Dornei?
A: It’s the second year in a row I visit this camp, and I’m as impressed with the event as last year. The whole week is organized very smoothly and the amount of participants is really insane (around 200). There are plenty of tournaments, lectures and other events which makes every moment here worthwhile. Unfortunately Vatra Dornei is a bit difficult to get to, but it’s 100% worth it once you have arrived. Additionally, this year’s festival is especially nice because it hosted the first stage of the SEYGO project.
Q: SEYGO project is trying to develop the youth community in Europe, what do you think about it?
A: As a top youth player, I feel like my peers and I are not always supported as well as we could be by the EGF (for example youth tournaments rarely have any prize money). That’s why I really love the idea of a youth Grand Prix. The fact that there is decent prize money, we are given a nice venue to play, and that the top games are broadcasted really makes me feel like youth players are given more respect and support now. More importantly, the project is not only promising for top players, but also for kids who are just getting into the game, as one of the main focuses of SEYGO is to teach as many young children go as possible, and to provide the material (teachers, lectures, etc…) to help them develop.
Q: What else do you think would help the youth in Europe?
A: I think something really important for youth Go would be to teach as many schoolchildren as possible. Right now there are very few teachers who can afford to promote Go to kids, for example as an after-school activity, because it is costly and time-consuming. It would be nice if the EGF were to fund teachers to perform this task in most if not every EGF member country. Attracting people to Go is perhaps the easiest when they are young, and there is a lot of untapped potential for future go players. The SEYGO project is trying to achieve this, among other goals, and that’s already a step in the right direction.
A: First of all, a little relieved. I would not currently have the rating to qualify, so having the insurance of the wildcard makes sure I will actually complete step one of becoming professional, showing up to the tournament. Because I qualified by beating some of my rivals for the title this year, I also feel some renewed confidence in my strength and potential.
Q: How do you prepare before a tournament ?
A: Often before a tournament I become very motivated to study and improve, so I bump up my study time and try to really by engaged in Go. I think, however, that it’s more important to stay in control of yourself during the actual games. Every rated game I play I become very tense, and it’s really important for meto balance my state of emotion between being too slack and unfocused and being too nervous and stressed.
Q: This festival has EGF Academy activities, any thoughts on the sessions and the EGF Academy in general?
A: The idea behind the EGF Academy is to give talented players the resources and environment to train and improve from their homes. In concept it’s an amazing plan, and at the moment it also has legendary
professionals Alexander Dinerchtein 3p and Catalin Taranu 5pas instructors. With all of these promising features one would expect the EGF Academy to thrive. However, it currently suffers from lack of exposure to
the public, as it is almost never announced anywhere except some obscure corners of the EGF website. As a result, fewer and fewer people are participating in the academy, which in my opinion is a pity
because of the potential it had and still has to offer. The silver lining for the project are the EGF Academy camps held at events such as the Winter Go Festival, several times per year. The training is much more engaging for everyone when we are face to face, and the EGF Academy’s members have become a very close and devoted community. It’s these activities that really give me hope for the future of the online school.