Sunday, October 5, 2008

72 miles

My visit to the Korean Go Club (not a normal 100miles post):

My wife just got a job working as an art assistant near downtown LA so I am taking the opportunity to drive her there and then do my own thing while she works. I looked up the 7-day a week go clubs in the LA area and found a few. I decided to try out the LA Go Club, it is Korean in the Korean side of town. So Sunday I dropped my wife off and headed to the club!

I found the club with a medium amount of difficulty, the building is U shaped with a parking lot in the middle facing a busy road. There was a sign for the club but it was faded, rusty, and small; Lost within the absurd amounts of posters, bill boards, and Korean lettering on the walls.

When it was time to go in, I headed up a small staircase to a small landing with two signs, one of which pointed to the right for the LA go club room (the other pointing to the baduk university !!! badass!!!). I stepped into the room to find 5 or so Korean guys leaning over a game of go, my kind of place!

As a side note, I had been warned that these kinds of clubs might not openly welcome new people, and might not offer to play a game strait away. So I was prepared to watch a few games and maybe if I was lucky, someone would play with me.

But as soon as I walked in, they noticed me, asked if I played go, asked my rank and I was whisked away to a table in the middle of the room. It became clear that my opponent did not speak much English, but we worked though it. I took 9 stones and he proceeded to trounced me in this game and the new 3 games after. Later I found out he was about a 4 dan. He comes to the club every day! Wow that would be amazing to be able to do.

The club was apparently one of the original go clubs in LA. The room was filled with about 20 boards on folding tables. Each table had 3 go boards, 6 go bowls and 2 ash trays. The club appeared to be configured like this for so long, the tables had lost all their painted wood patterns on the surface someone would lean on to watch a game. The area where each go bowl sat was warn down past the wood pattern and into the substrate of the table. Under the go board was pristine table, pattern and all.

More people trickled and after I had been there for an hour or so, there where about 15-20 people all involved in watching a game or playing in their own, all chain smoking, most speaking Korean. The club members had this way of slamming the stones down onto the board for each move. They made it look graceful and aggressive at the same time. The clack sound filled the room just under the smoke layer. Amazing.

I played a few more games, about 7 in all in my 3 hour stay with 3 different people. I never won, but I got really close on one game. The person that runs the lessons (a 7 dan pro!) said that he has seen people start coming to the club as beginners and in 2 years they are shodan! So here is to that!

I am not sure if I conveyed the awesomeness of the place, or the energy that you could feel in the room. I will go again next week and see how I do then!

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