Japanese girl taught by Korean to debut as youngest go player

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Japanese girl taught by Korean to debut as youngest go player

Sumire Nakamura, right, poses with go board game player Yuta Iyama in Osaka, western Japan, Sunday. The Japanese schoolgirl, who trained in Seoul for about two years under the ninth-degree professional player Han Jong-jin, will be 10 when she becomes the youngest professional player as of April 1. / EPA-Yonhap

By Park Ji-won

A Japanese school girl Sumire Nakamura, who trained in go, or baduk in Korean, in Seoul for about two years, will become the youngest professional go player in Japan.

Officials of the Nihon Ki-in, the largest go organization in Japan, told reporters during a press conference Saturday in Tokyo that the organization has decided to promote Sumire to a professional go player as of April 1 under a special quota for talented young amateurs. The quota was made to nurture players who can compete with go players from overseas countries such as Korea and China, where there are many strong players.

She will make an official debut at 10 beating the record of Rina Fujisawa, who was aged 11 years and six months when she became professional nine years ago. Sumire will start her career at the lowest rank of first-degree.

"I'm happy when I win. I want to win a title while I'm at junior high school," Sumire told reporters Saturday.

According to her South Korean instructor Han Jong-jin, the ninth-degree professional player, Sumire and her parents came to Seoul in 2017 to look for an academy to improve her go skills. They chose Han's academy to hone her ability and practiced go there since then. Sumire's family went back to Japan at the end of December to attend an elementary school in Osaka.

Han told The Korea Times that he, as an instructor, feels proud of her and remarked that it's good to be able to see her growth as a professional go player.

"I wasn't surprised by her debut as it was only a matter until she'd become a professional player. I think the Japanese organization gave her a good opportunity to build a professional career," Han said Monday.

Han recalls Sumire was competitive and hated to be beaten. "Her go skills are better than any other kids her age possibly because her parents taught her well. Also, she concentrated on my instructions. It seems that she remembers the feeling of defeat and tries not to lose again the next time."

Also, she learned Korean pretty fast, Han said. "It took less than six months for her to understand Korean instructions given by me. She speaks almost like a Korean now."

However, Han added that it is important for her to try hard to improve her ability to equally compete with other professional go players. "I celebrate her debut. But it is easy to be forgotten. I hope she can be remembered in history."

Her 45-year-old father Shinya Nakamura is also a ninth-degree professional player. Sumire started playing the game at 3, her mother said during the press conference.

Go, which needs players to take control of territory on the game board, is said to have started in China more than 2,500 years ago. Korea is one of the go powerhouses among go players. Young Japanese and Chinese amateurs and professionals come to Korea to improve their skills by attending go academies.


Sumire Nakamura, right, poses with go board game player Yuta Iyama in Osaka, western Japan, Sunday. The Japanese schoolgirl, who trained in Seoul for about two years under the ninth-degree professional player Han Jong-jin, will be 10 when she becomes the youngest professional player as of April 1. / EPA-Yonhap

By Park Ji-won

A Japanese school girl Sumire Nakamura, who trained in go, or baduk in Korean, in Seoul for about two years, will become the youngest professional go player in Japan.

Officials of the Nihon Ki-in, the largest go organization in Japan, told reporters during a press conference Saturday in Tokyo that the organization has decided to promote Sumire to a professional go player as of April 1 under a special quota for talented young amateurs. The quota was made to nurture players who can compete with go players from overseas countries such as Korea and China, where there are many strong players.

She will make an official debut at 10 beating the record of Rina Fujisawa, who was aged 11 years and six months when she became professional nine years ago. Sumire will start her career at the lowest rank of first-degree.

"I'm happy when I win. I want to win a title while I'm at junior high school," Sumire told reporters Saturday.

According to her South Korean instructor Han Jong-jin, the ninth-degree professional player, Sumire and her parents came to Seoul in 2017 to look for an academy to improve her go skills. They chose Han's academy to hone her ability and practiced go there since then. Sumire's family went back to Japan at the end of December to attend an elementary school in Osaka.

Han told The Korea Times that he, as an instructor, feels proud of her and remarked that it's good to be able to see her growth as a professional go player.

"I wasn't surprised by her debut as it was only a matter until she'd become a professional player. I think the Japanese organization gave her a good opportunity to build a professional career," Han said Monday.

Han recalls Sumire was competitive and hated to be beaten. "Her go skills are better than any other kids her age possibly because her parents taught her well. Also, she concentrated on my instructions. It seems that she remembers the feeling of defeat and tries not to lose again the next time."

Also, she learned Korean pretty fast, Han said. "It took less than six months for her to understand Korean instructions given by me. She speaks almost like a Korean now."

However, Han added that it is important for her to try hard to improve her ability to equally compete with other professional go players. "I celebrate her debut. But it is easy to be forgotten. I hope she can be remembered in history."

Her 45-year-old father Shinya Nakamura is also a ninth-degree professional player. Sumire started playing the game at 3, her mother said during the press conference.

Go, which needs players to take control of territory on the game board, is said to have started in China more than 2,500 years ago. Korea is one of the go powerhouses among go players. Young Japanese and Chinese amateurs and professionals come to Korea to improve their skills by attending go academies.


Park Ji-won jwpark@koreatimes.co.kr


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