The brain sport “Go” course at the Korean Cultural Center in Ankara attracts the attention of Far Eastern culture enthusiasts of all ages.
Dong Woo Cho, Director of the Korean Cultural Center affiliated to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Ankara, explained the activities of the cultural center, Eren Kurter, who gave the course of the game here, and the students who attended the course, talked about their interest in this sport and their impressions of the lessons.
Eren Kurter, the Vice President of the Turkish Go Players Association, who met Go when he was a student at Hacettepe University in 2005 and has been giving Go lessons since 2006, meets with his students once a week and teaches the intricacies of this sport.
In the course, students improve their game techniques by trying to expand their own area with 181 black and 180 white pieces on the game board, while trying to disrupt the opponent's areas.
“Five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master”
Saying that Go courses or courses are offered in universities as well as in secondary education, Kurter said, “Go is taught as an elective course at Hacettepe University. We also started at Atılım University in the previous years. It has become a credit course in universities,” he said.
Emphasizing that there is no hierarchy in the game, Kurter said:
“We are trying to surround the largest area with black and white pieces on a board with nineteen horizontal and nineteen vertical lines. So our goal is not to destroy or remove the opponent from the board. He will make a field, and I will make a field. He who has only one point more space wins the game.”
Played for 4,000 years
Kurter explained that the sport of Go dates back to ancient times:
“It has been played for nearly 4,000 years and no two games are the same. Because there are so many possibilities on the board. The possibilities on the Go board are greater than the number of atoms in the universe. This makes the game a little exciting. The game never gets into a routine, it is never the same.”
Saying that Go can be learned from the age of six, Kurter said, “You can learn all the rules in five minutes. The game already has only one rule. That is life, the breathing points of the stones are open. Our goal is to pave an area with living stones. Then there are tactics and strategies that develop on this in the game. You can learn from the age of 5-6 and play until the age of 70. It takes five minutes to learn the game, but a lifetime to master it.”
Emphasizing that Go is a reflection of life, Kurter said that people's characters are reflected on the Go board:
“It is actually possible for us to improve ourselves by practicing and to see our good and bad sides.”
“There is no hierarchy in the game”
Ali Akdag, one of the students of the course, said that he learned about such a course at the Korean Cultural Center from his mother's friend and that he has been attending the course for about 4 months.
Stating that the game is sometimes difficult and sometimes easy, Akdağ emphasized that the course changes according to the players, but that he enjoys playing.
One of the students of the course, Seçil Yeşilırmak, 20 years old, 3rd year student in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Hacettepe University, is also the most successful female player in the “National Hacettepe University Go Tournament”.
Yeşilırmak said that while she was coming to Korean lessons at the Cultural Center, she immediately registered as soon as she learned that the Go course was also opened:
“The game of Go seemed easy when I first started, so I thought I'd do it. Then the game tells you 'no, I'm not that easy'. You have to constantly think and practice.”
Yeşilırmak mentioned that this sport is more enjoyable and more difficult than chess, which it is usually compared to, and said, “Every piece is equal, but every piece gains importance depending on where you put it. "There is no hierarchy in the game," he said.
“Game keeps you focused”
Elif Çeliker, one of the students of the course, told that she was aware of the game of Go when she was coming to the Cultural Center for Korean and cooking classes and was very impressed by the documentary “AlfaGo” she watched at the cultural center:
“In the documentary, I saw the world's most successful Go player fighting against the computer and admitting his loss with a trembling voice. When he was upset, I realized how important the game was and I wondered about this game.”
Stating that he normally has trouble focusing, Çeliker said, "When you play the game, you just adapt to the game and think about the moves. You don't have to think about anything else, which keeps you focused. While playing the game, you start to think in different ways. Each stone means something. If you make a wrong move, you cannot undo that move," he said.
“It develops the intelligence of children”
Dong Woo Cho, Director of the Korean Cultural Center, said that the sport of Go is also known in Turkey, and that they started to give lessons this year after their request to open a course.
“You know, the game of Go, or the sport of Go, is very common in Japan, Korea and China. Go is taught at an early age in South Korea because it is very beneficial for children.”
Explaining their satisfaction with the interest shown by the Turks, Cho said that they will continue to offer courses as long as there is demand and the teacher is available:
“There are cafes where Go is played everywhere in my country. Also, many Go lessons are taught at primary school level in Korea, as it is a very ideal game for the development of children's intelligence. We know that chess is very common in Turkey as well. We see an increasing interest in the game of Go, just like chess.”