Malaysia was represented at the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup by the secretary of its weiqi association, Jimmy Cheng (Cheng Khai-yong in Chinese), who also works as a weiqi (baduk, go) teacher. Ranka interviewed Jimmy after his first-round victory over an opponent from Sweden.
Ranka: How did you learn to play go?
Jimmy: I learned because I watched the Hikaru no Go animations. I started when I was fifteen years old, about eleven years ago. At the time, there were hardly any go players in Malaysia, so at first I was just playing by myself, but afterward I managed to find the Malaysian Go Association, which we now call the Malaysia Weiqi Association, so I joined them and started playing competitively.
Ranka: And when did you start teaching?
Jimmy: Teaching? I started teaching in 2010, only four years ago. Before 2010 there was no weiqi teaching in Malaysia. All of the weiqi players were playing on their own. Actually, there was no institute teaching any game like chess or weiqi in Malaysia. Then, suddenly, a chess academy where they taught Chinese chess and international chess appeared, so I approached them and told them I was good at weiqi, and started teaching there. After that, I started recruiting students, and it all grew to the point where now we have three or four weiqi institutes promoting the game, and I’m also going into primary and secondary schools to teach.
Ranka: Are you based in Kuala Lampur?
Jimmy: Yes, I’m based in Kuala Lampur, and most of our main events are held in Kuala Lampur, but the game has started growing in other places too. One place is a chess academy in Ipoh, which is up north of Kuala Lampur. There’s someone trying to promote weiqi in every part of Malaysia.
Ranka: How old are your students?
Jimmy: The yougest I’ve taught is about six years old, but I’ve also taught a lot of adults. Normally I teach groups of students, mostly in primary and secondary schools. When adults come, often they want to learn so that they can get their sons or daughters to learn. About half the population of Malaysia is Chinese. They migrated into the country from China a long time ago, but they still relate to Chinese culture, so I’m sure they are potentially interested in weiqi. There is just a lack of information about the game, and how to learn it. So to promote our game to them, what I am doing now is to create places for them where they can learn to play.
Ranka: Do you make a good living at this?
Jimmy: For me, it’s actually quite good. I don’t belong to any one institute. If there’s any place where they need someone to teach, I go there. I’ve been sort of a pioneer. It was quite hard in the beginning, but now, after these few years, I think I earn about the same as a university graduate. I still don’t own my own institute, however. I think that if I had my own institute I could do even better. But I just hope I can spread weiqi all around Malaysia, so wherever they need help, I’ll go there and provide them with material assistance, with the teaching materials and equipment that they need.
Ranka: And now, can you tell us about the game you just finished in round one?
Jimmy: Well, first of all, my objective here is to beat the players who are ranked at the same strength as me or below. When I play someone above my strength, it may be kind of hard to win. Before the game I checked my opponent’s rank and saw that it was 3 dan, the same as me, so I hoped to win and fortunately, I did. I can’t say it was a hard game. I’d call it a comfortable win, although he fought a lot.
Ranka: Thank you very much.
Postscript: In his next game Jimmy outdid himself: he upset Thai 5-dan Vorawat Tanapatsopol. Then after losing to two 6-dans and a 4-dan, he won his last game against another 3-dan opponent, Portugal’s Daniel Tome. This earned him a well-deserved award as one of the top four players in the Asian zone excluding China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan.
– Photo: Ito Toshiko