Antti: Hi! Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Helcio: Hi! I’m Helcio Alexandre Pacheco from Brazil. I live some 100 kilometres away from the capital, Sao Paulo. I’m ranked as 3 dan, and I also play as 3 dan on the Tygem go server.
Antti: How did you qualify for the WAGC?
Helcio: I participated in a qualification tournament in Sao Paulo and made it to the second place. The winner, Thiago Shimada, could finally not come to Japan for the WAGC, so I was the next player in line.
Antti: Can you tell me how you study go? How long have you been playing?
Helcio: I started already maybe 30 years ago. I found out about the game in a science magazine and got interested. However, I didn’t know anybody who I played the game, so it was difficult to find opponents; that time, internet access was not a common thing either. I looked up go-related information whenever I could, and also downloaded the 9×9 go program, Igowin, with which I played a lot. I even made it to ‘professional’ level on the program, but when I later got to play my first 19×19 game on IGS, I got completely demolished! It was like a completely different game. I started playing from time to time, but I was also kind of hooked to chess, and had periods when I only played go, and then periods when I only played chess. However, I always tried to stay up to date with whatever was going on in the go world.
Later, I saw Hikaru no Go, and it made me really want to play on a real board. I went to the Nihon Ki-in in Sao Paulo and played somebody with seven handicap stones, but lost again. In just a month, however, I was able to play an even game with the same opponent, so maybe I just wasn’t used to the real board. Ever since then, I’ve been playing both online and offline, participating in some tournaments, and also reading English go theory books. At one point I got busy with work and didn’t play so often, but now I have started to have time again. Very recently I also started studying with the AI.
Antti: How is the go scene in Sao Paulo?
Helcio: These days, there are maybe 50 active players. There is the Nihon Ki-in Sao Paulo branch which has a Japanese player base, and then there are also Korean and Chinese groups of players who play elsewhere. In addition, there is also a separate group of university students who play together.
Antti: What is your impression of the WAGC this year?
Helcio: I have wanted to play in the WAGC since 2001! My friend actually qualified for the tournament in 2003, but the tournament was cancelled because of the SARS outbreak. I tried to qualify for the tournament for a long time, but I think it was worth it – I am really enjoying my time here!
Antti: Why do you think go is interesting? How would you promote the game among new players?
Helcio: I like it as thinking practise: there is no hidden information and everything that matters is on the go board, so finally it is the player’s understanding of the game that decides the winner. In this way, go provides an excellent framework for a player to constantly improve their own thinking, searching for the perfect game.
I also like to play chess, and I think go players could learn from some chess conventions. In chess tournaments, players are required to record their own games or their results will not get saved; and in this way, large databases of amateur games are created. When you prepare for a chess tournament game, you can look up your opponent’s games and see what kind of openings they prefer or what their playing style is like. I think it would be interesting to have such a database for go tournaments as well, as that would deepen the metagame between the players.
Antti: Thanks for your answers, Helcio! I hope you have a nice time in Japan!
Helcio: Thank you!