Andre Connell is a Johannesburg-based information technology consultant who represented South Africa at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup in Seoul. Ranka spoke with him after he had played two rounds and split two games with very different Asian opponents.
Ranka: How did you learn about the game of go?
Andre: I learned about the game at Stellenbosch University, which is where I studied. We have a student center where the students can go and get fairly cheap food, and the go club used to meet there. So one evening I walked past and asked the guys, ‘What are those? Can you eat them?’ Which is kind of the standard question. It started from there and I’ve been playing ever since.
Ranka: How many years ago was that?
Andre: That was in ’95, so it was nineteen years ago.
Ranka: How has go developed in South Africa during those nineteen years?
Andre: It’s grown. During the Hikaru no Go phase when everyone was watching the manga, it grew quite a lot. We’ve kept a few of those players, and I think the general level in South Africa has improved quite a bit. We have one very strong player, Victor Chow, who has been playing in South Africa and is pretty much the strongest guy around in our country, but there are a lot of the rest of us who have also increased our level. I’d say we’ve got between five and ten players at around the two to four dan level now, which is much better than, let’s say, fifteen or twenty years ago when I started, when we had only a couple of dan players. So that’s basically where we are at the moment. We’re not as strong as many of the European countries, for example, but we’re doing fairly well.
Ranka: Does Victor Chow teach the rest of you?
Andre: Yes. We generally play against him in tournaments. Every time you get to a tournament, which can be about two to five times a year, you get to play a game against him, and it’s pretty much a teaching game.
Ranka: Do you also go into the places where the original African population lives?
Andre: The townships, for example. One of our strongest clubs is actually in Soweto. We have a couple of players from there who have actually gone to the World Amateur Championships and to the KPMC. I think about seven or eight years ago Julius Paulu went to the World Amateur Champs, and Welile Gogotshe went to the KPMC four years ago. Julius was around 1-dan. He’s unfortunately passed away since then, but Welile is one of the strongest players in South Africa. He’s probably around 3-dan. He’s doing very well.
Ranka: And now, can you tell us about your first game, this morning?
Andre: My first game this morning was against Mongolia. It was quite a tight game. I had a large lead up to about move 100, and then I kept losing little chunks of territory and stones, and eventually managed to sneak it by 2-1/2 points, but it was quite tight at the end. It was one of those that almost got away. At least it was ‘almost’ — it didn’t get properly away.
Ranka: And what was the story this afternoon?
Andre: I played against the Korean player. He is very strong, quite a few stones stronger than I am, but it was a lot of fun. I tried to attack one of his groups. It didn’t work out too well, and then he had one of my groups on the run. It managed to live, but he ended up taking a quarter of the board in return, so he was twenty or thirty points ahead and there was no way I could catch up, unfortunately.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck in the upcoming rounds.
Postscript: In the remaining rounds Andre faced four European opponents and beat one of them to finish 36th.
– Photo: Ito Toshiko