This is a big honor for me to have an interview with Cho Hye-yeon 9p !
“Cho Hye-yeon (조혜연, 趙惠連 b. 7 June 1985 in Suweon City, South Korea) is a Korean, professional 9-dan., She became the fourth female to reach 9-dan. She was a pupil of Kim Weon. Her style has lead to the nickname “The Female Yi Ch’ang-ho. She became a professional at the age of 11 years and 11 months, making her (at the time) the third youngest professional in Korea (after Cho Hunhyun and Lee Changho). ” (Source Sensei Library)
I want to thank her for this wonderful interview below and for these priceless answers that she gave, especially the last answer is really something which will make me think for a while! Amazing !
Q: What does Go mean for you?
A: I have been playing Go (Baduk in Korean) for over 27 years. I have had a lot of difficulties from living with a game of go, but nowadays I found that “Go is my family, and I can’t live without it.”
Q: How did you start playing Go?
A: I was sent to a Go academy by my parents when I was a kid (age of 7). My mother didn’t know how to play the game, however, she was quite aware that Baduk (go) was very good for kids. Besides, my grandfather really loved a game, so I learned Go from that family-based atmosphere.
Q: How hard was it for you to become professional?
A: It was extremely difficult in many ways. Thankfully, I became a pro player at my age of 11, but I felt that it was too late for me to be a pro at that time. Before the year of 1995, there was an annual women’s pro test in Korean Baduk Association which selected two women pros at one time. From the year of 1996, the system was changed and only one woman professional was selected in the test, twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. I couldn’t become a pro until the year of 1996, because I got the 2nd place twice. I had a Go teacher whose name was Mr. Noh Geun-soo, the 6-dan amateur player. He sent me to the pro teacher, Kim Won 7p, after I failed my second pro test. In less than 6 months I learned a lot from the pro teacher, I finally became a pro.
Q: Do you feel that sometimes you do not improve? What do you do in such case?
A: I feel it almost all the time. Besides, the game of go doesn’t seem to give you the feelings that you are actually improving on the game. However, something suddenly occurred to me that I have improved in the game of go, ‘when the right time comes’. So, even if I feel that I am not improving at all, I have to practice it over and over again. When you feel that you don’t seem to improve it regardless of your efforts, maybe it is the time to change your playing style. Maybe you like to play games without reading pros’ game records. Maybe you don’t like tsumego-reading. You can find yourself by changing habitual practices on the baduk board.
Q: You are one of the strongest female players, do you still study?
A: Of course I do study Go for my upcoming matches. I have been playing more than one thousand official pro games for the last 23 years, and my upcoming goal is to win 1,000 times in the official matches. Yes, I am studying Go in my own way. First off, I usually practice in Tygem, where I can easily find stronger players. Second, I try to study my opponent before my matches, mainly about his/her playing styles, the openings they like, etc… From time to time I try to create my own life and death problems. It really helps me read complicated situations on the board.
Q: Your style of play had a nickname “The Female Lee Changho”, did it change nowadays?
A: Yes it has changed. Well, Lee Changho 9p, the legendary player in Baduk, he himself has changed. He no longer plays the way he used to play it in the past. I am not good at endgame, which refers to Yose. These days people call me, “Go global”, because I went to many countries for spreading Go from four years ago.
Q: How did AI revolution affected your way of thinking and game style?
A: AI Emergence changes many things in Baduk. Many pro players study AI for their trainings. I used to refuse the way AI thinks which seems peculiar and opposite to my thoughts, but I finally yield to AI power and the way of thinking. I cannot win a single game if I refuse to study AI. Thus, I have been studying Elf-Go actively from this year, and it changes my opening style a lot. (For example, I didn’t like 3-3 in an early opening until last year, but I started to play it in my early opening from this year.)
Q: How did you feel when Lee Sedol lost the first match?
A: I was totally shocked and astonished while I was watching a game with hundreds of friends of mine. I bet for Lee Sedol before the challenge match. Besides, I was also shocked by the first game. Lee didn’t get a chance throughout the game.
Q: Your lectures during the EGC 2018 in Pisa were fascinating! What do you think is the key for a student to study efficiently?
A: Thank you for the kind compliments! I think that every player has to find ‘him/herself’. A game of go is like a mirror that illuminates ‘who you are’. Studying go starts from the point you find yourself on the board. Everyone is different, so that you have to find yourself and the things you like and you don’t like to do. Then you will find the better way how to cope with difficult situations on the board. Simply put, you have to figure out things that fit you or not. (The more you play games, the more you will learn.)
Q: Which part of the game do you think is worth studying most (fuseki,middle game and endgame) and why?
A: Hmm… what a difficult question it is, but I feel that tsumego(life and death problems) and reading skill is the most important thing in Go. The game result usually depends on two players’ reading skills. Not to mention, opening and endgame are very important too. Pros usually find it hard to study openings. It is harder to study openings than endgames.
Q: What are the benefits of playing Go in your opinion?
A: There are many benefits by playing Go! If you are fond of Go, maybe your life has already changed, like ‘before knowing go / after learning go’. Basically, the way of reading is very interesting, and you are free to play wherever you want. It resembles our lives, so definitely, Go extends our way of lives. You never feel alone when you are surrounded by Go friends. Obviously it extends your viewpoints about friends, world, adjoining countries, etc. A game of Go also helps you learn more about Asian cultures. Unlike chess, Go has more of Asian style of cultures. It is highly popular in North East Asia, so you are naturally interested in Asian cultures and traditions after learning Go. Obviously learning Go is one of the most fascinating ways for you to experience Asia, religious awareness, and so on.
Q: I heard about the technique of solving life and death problems with closed eyes in order to improve reading skill more efficiently? What do you think about it and what is your advice to these whos reading skill is not impressive?
A: In terms of solving life and death problems, one thing is quite clear: Don’t read answer diagrams before you solve problems. If you keep reading tsumegos, obviously your reading skill will grow up.
Q: What should one do if he loses the joy of the game?
A: Sometimes you lose the joy of the game of Go when you keep losing the games or you feel ‘I am no longer improving the game’. Go is a kind of art. So, if you listen to music or appreciate paintings, it may help you understand more about Go. I usually go to classical music concerts whenever I need some short breaks. A path of Go is very long, so we should find out how to get along with it. Sometimes people lose interests because they concentrate only on Go (baduk). The way of Go can be discovered from other fields, so there’s no rush at all.
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