America’s Benjamin Lockhart, 7-dan, was paired against Hungary’s Alexandra Urbán, 1-dan, in the first round of the 2014 Korea Prime Minister Cup. After winning that game, Benjamin beat a series of steadily stronger opponents — Tomas Hjartnes (2-dan, Norway), Alvin Han (3-dan, Singapore), Dejan Stanković (5-dan, Serbia), and Dmitry Surin (6-dan, Russia) — until his victory streak was finally stopped by Wei Taewoong (7-dan, Korea) in the final round. Both the American Go Association and the Choongam Baduk Dojang, where Benjamin is currently training, can take pride in his fifth place finish.
Ranka: Where are you from?
Benjamin: New York. I grew up in Brooklyn.
Ranka: And where did you learn to play go?
Benjamin: My father is a mathematician and so he knew about it; computer and math people usually know about go. He taught me and my brother when I was maybe nine years old. I then studied and played on and off until I was about sixteen and started taking it pretty seriously. For the past five years I’ve been studying it pretty much every day. For the last three years it’s really been my whole life.
Ranka: How did you get into the Choongam Baduk Dojang?
Benjamin: When I was eighteen I went to Budapest. Lee Youngshin, who is a professional player, was living and teaching there, and I became very good friends with her. When I came to Korea a year later, she and Yang Geun, a 9-dan pro, helped me get into Choongam. They recognized that I needed a dojang to study at, and Choongam had just been recreated by merging three dojangs, so it all fit together. They told Choongam who I was and that I wanted to study, and Choi Gyubyung, the 9-dan pro who runs Choongam, let me in. I’ve been studying there for three years.
Ranka: What made you decide to do this?
Benjamin: Anyone who wants to study go seriously has to move to Asia.
Ranka: Do you want to become a professional player in Korea?
Benjamin: I don’t think that I can become a professional in Korea unless I become a Korean citizen, but I can become a professional in America through the American system. I hope to play in the next American pro qualifying tournament, whenever they have it. It’s still very unclear, but as I placed in the top division of the US Open I think I can get a spot. That’s why I came to the KPMC.
Ranka: Please tell us about your game against the Russian player in the fifth round of the KPMC.
Benjamin: He died immediately in the opening, and so the game was kind of easy. I played very carefully, very solid. I won by a point and a half in the end, which was pretty tight, but I was just being very careful. Maybe I was lucky that he didn’t play so well in the beginning.
Ranka: How was your game against the Korean player in the last round?
Benjamin: I’m not happy about it, because I didn’t play very well, but I at least played with some fighting spirit. I kind of went for an all-out victory, got too excited about it, and started misreading. It was over after I misread. I got drunk on my own thoughts of victory, which is a mark of inexperience.
Ranka: Thank you and more power to you.
– Photo: Ito Toshiko