As many of you know “Haylee” – Hajin Lee 3p, she is a Korean Professional player and she got quite famous in the West with her Youtube Channel having over 13 thousand subscribers and about 1.3 million views on her Go videos ! She definitely contributed a lot to the Go community with all these lessons and live commentaries, she also traveled to Europe and America, so today I feel honored to have her interview for explorebaduk over here and I hope all of you who read it, will like it !
Q: Why did you decide to become a Go professional?
A: I think it was when I was about 9 years old. loved playing Go, and when I first learned about professional players, it just seemed like something I was born to do.
Q: How hard is it to become a Go professional player?
A: It’s hard to become a strong Go player in the first place, because no matter how smart or intelligent you are, you have to devote many years to study Go. Once you reach that skill level, it is still hard to pass the pro qualification because the competition is tough. But I would still say the former is harder and more important part than the latter.
Q: You are famous as “Haylee” and your YouTube channel contributed a lot to the Go community in the west, how did you get the idea to make the channel?
A: In the beginning I just wanted to make a couple videos to see if people enjoy a format where I talk about what I am thinking while I play. Then two things happened: first, I found it fun to make those videos and wanted to do more, and second, I got a lot more viewers than I expected. So, I continued for a few years.
Q: You wrote a book “Outside the Board” tell us more about it !
A: When my English was just getting good enough to write my thoughts, I decided to start a blog to practice writing. At the time I was still active as a pro player, but I was wondering about my future. About a year after I started my blog, I went to university and I kept writing on the blog until I graduated. It was again a few years later that I decided to publish those blog entries as a book.
Q: You traveled around Europe and America as well, what do you think about Go development in the West?
A: There are many things I admire about the Go communities in the West. For example, the ratings and database systems for amateurs are quite advanced, and Go tournaments can be enjoyed by players at all levels. Most organizers and administrators are volunteers but Go tournaments in the West are just as well organized as the tournaments in Asia. Yet, what the East Asian Go has are huge Go population, government support, history, and recognition. For the Western Go to further develop from here, I believe we should look at both other successful mind sports in the West and the Go organizations in East Asia, and hopefully create our own path to growth.
Q: What is the main difference between tournaments in Europe/America comparing to Asia?
A: The biggest difference is that East Asian tournaments are very focused on strong players and winners, whereas Western tournaments are more accessible and enjoyable for all level players.
Q: You have played many notable strong players, what did you learn from them?
A: You know, I did play strong players like Lee Sedol or Cho Hunhyun in official tournaments, but honestly I don’t remember those games anymore. The only thing I remember is that I was very thrilled and humbled at the same time to have the opportunity to play them.
Q: Would you say that “Psychology” plays a big part in Go?
A: Can’t be ignored, but I would say a small part compared to skills.
Q: You seem to have moved to America and you also got married – congratulations ! How much time do you have for Go? You also started making series with your husband, it looks awesome !
A: Yes, I have moved to Mountain View, California in 2017. I work full-time as a Software Developer at Xinspire, a tech startup, and in my free time I work for the American Go Association as International Affairs Manager. You can probably guess that I don’t have much time for actually playing Go, haha.
Q: Sometimes it is not easy to explain to a parent why Go is beneficial. Why do you think playing Go is good for children?
A: Go teaches children to think independently, to focus on one thing for long time, and to accept defeats. When I have my children, I will most certainly teach them how to play Go.
Q: Sometimes people feel like they do not improve at Go, although they invest a lot of time into studying, what would you tell them?
A: When people ask for advice for Go skills, I usually say, do tsumego regularly, play long games, and review your games to see the mistakes. If someone is already doing all these and still not getting better, I would say, maybe try to be more desperate – like, imagine your life is on the game every time you play. That might help.
Q: What is your philosophy on Go, why do you like it?
A: I am not sure if I have a Go philosophy… But I know why I like to play it. I love the experience of total immersion. When a game is over, I sometimes feel like I just came back to life from some kind of dream, and somehow the last couple hours just disappeared. My face is hot from all the heat from my brain, and my heart is recovering from the thrill I just had from an intensive game. For last words – EGF and AGA have been working hard to organize the first Transatlantic Professional Go Team Championship. The first round will be on Apr. 7, 20:00 Central European Time. The games will be played on KGS, and live-streamed on YouTube and Twitch by the AGA. Hope you can all enjoy the event.