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April 5th, 2020

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History of Go in South Africa

Go in South Africa has mostly been informal in nature (and unfortunately poorly recorded).

An informal Johannesburg Go Club existed since 1974 or 1975, started by some computer programmers who worked at the Pelindaba nuclear research institute (the attraction of computer programmers and IT professionals to the game has been a dominant theme in South African Go). Paul Edwards who would later found SAGA, joined the club in 1978 or 1979.

The Cape Town club was established in 1984 by Tony Putnam and Andrew Davies. Tony learned the game from Clive Hunt of the Johannesburg club. Peter Southwood, a boat builder later joined the club and used his expertise to produce extra sets. With access to only a handful of books and playing each other the first Cape Town club members were able to reach 1-2 kyu level.

The formalised SA Go Association was established by Paul Edwards – with help from others – in 1992. Paul drafted the first SAGA constitution, and applied to the IGF for recognition of SAGA. Council members and a president were elected. The first SA Open was probably held in 1993 in the Western Cape Province.

The Stellenbosch club was established in about 1994, also with help from Paul Edwards. Early Stellenbosch players included David Richfield, Anthony Richfield, Konrad Sheffler and Charl de Villiers (some of whom learned from Peter Southwood).

In the late 1990s, an enterprising Dobsonville (Soweto, Johannesburg) resident, Sello Leopeng, aided by Kagiso Mampe, began teaching Go to schoolchildren at several Dobsonville schools. Sello learned about Go after reading about it in Reader’s Digest, and thereafter contacted Paul Edwards. With the headmasters’ agreement, otherwise unused 2-hour sessions with the standard 3 classes (11-year-olds) were used to teach the children. Sello and Kagiso’s efforts were largely voluntary.

In 1997 a retired amateur Go teacher from the Nihon Ki-in, Mr. Haruki Kagohashi, volunteered to come and teach in Soweto for a month. He had read about the project in a Japanese Go weekly magazine, in a report by professionals Konagai 7-dan and Izumitani 7-dan on their visit to the Dobsonville Go Centre. Mr. Kagohashi donated 30 boards and 50 sets of stones, plus a fine high quality set, to the schools project. He lived with Sello in Dobsonville and gave lessons daily at the schools – and after hours at the Dobsonville Go Centre.

The Dobsonville club produced some strong young players such as Welile Gogotshe, Sipho Mampe and the late Julius Paulu who was the first black player to represent South Africa at the World Amateur Go Championship.

A major contribution to the development of stronger South African players was made by Victor Chow. Victor moved to South Africa from China when he was still in high school. Before emigrating to South Africa he had formally studied Weiqi in China and unfortunately missed the opportunity to turn professional. Victor lifted the level of play immensely and was also an excellent and willing teacher.

Since the mid 1990s South Africa has usually had a representative at the World Amateur Go Championship, with Victor Chow reaching 5th and 12th place in 2002 and 2007. South Africa has also sent representatives to the Korean Prime Minister’s Cup and Victor Chow has regularly taken part in the Samsung Cup.

At various times there have also been clubs based in Pretoria and Durban. The number of regular players has unfortunately declined in recent years, with about 20-30 active players across the country. Cape Town is currently the most active club.

Posted by Admin as at 6:14 PM, Comments Off on History of Go in South Africa