The 63rd European Go Congress was held this year in Brussels, just a stones throw from Manneken pis and the Grand Place. Myself and Ian Davis were the only ones playing for Ireland, with participants of all ages from just about every corner of the globe numbering about 800 over two weeks. This was my 4th EGC and I am by now familiar with the rhythm of a congress day.
We wake early to have breakfast with other players staying at the same hotel. Then ensure your official player badge is on straight and head to the venue and into the crush to find your table number and opponent. This year, however, the organising committee sent out a morning newsletter outlining the days main events, ongoing results from the European Championship, and your game details. Those saved minutes were not spent dawdling over an extra cup of tea, but huddled over In-Seong Hwangs daily “Trouble Master” problems, delivered in the newsletter. In honour of our host nation, Belgian chocolates were handed out in his daily Trouble Master lecture to those who had found trouble and solved the sequences.
With our minds now sharpened we part ways to find our boards for the main tournament game. It is a special feeling to be among hundreds of other players, all bent over their boards playing the best Go they can. A heatwave seems to be the norm for EGC and players cool themselves with all kinds of fashionable fans.
Game won or lost, it is time for analysis and review. One of my favourite things about EGC is the professional players who spend hour upon hour each day reviewing hundreds of games. My go-to-pro this year became Antii Törmänen 1p, who taught me a lot about how to play fast and light. It must have been good advice as I won all 5 games and received EUR50 voucher for Guo Juans Internet Go School in the 1st week closing ceremony.
Reviews done its time for lunch and hoping that the time has not become too late. EGC is as much a social event as it is a game tournament. The venue in Brussels had a great little cafe where you always run into someone you know. Then its time to attend a lecture or two, which run from around 2pm to 7pm, divided by topic and strength. If you have a free moment it can be fun to watch other peoples game reviews, peruse the Go shop, see some Go art, or – special treat this year – decorate your Go tote.
There is a side event almost every evening, including Rapid, Childrens, Beer (1 point per win, 1 point per beer, most points wins), Chess & Go, Pair Go, and 9×9. Unofficial poker and board game tournaments usually pop up too. AI has been a feature of recent Congresses and the inaugural Yin Yang Tournament was played from an “unpredictable starting configuration” deemed even by Leela Zero. Those who had signed up for side events would grab something quick to eat before heading back up to the playing area.
For the rest of us, it was finding a restaurant with space enough to sit a sizeable group. The players from Norway are quite few, so we had a messaging group to keep in touch. With other friends too we often split into smaller groups to eat and met later at one of the citys bars to play more Go. Twenty-six boards were distributed to thirteen bars and restaurants in the locale. There we relax and chat, play rengo, or replay and discuss the days games. Knowing that we will do it all again tomorrow we are usually in bed at a reasonable hour.
I played just a few games of the weekend tournament, taking some time off in the afternoons to sightsee. Brussels is a great city full of beautiful art and architecture. During the trip we also visited Ghent, Antwerp, and took a bike ride to Westmalle Trappist brewery. Then it was goodbyes and see you next year before heading to the train station to start the journey home.
No matter what city we are in, this rhythm stays largely the same; only the details and friendly faces vary. There is definitely something to be said for having a husband that plays Go too and is happy to give two weeks of holiday time to Europes annual pop-up Go village!
We have already signed up for next year in Ukraine… http://egc2020.org.ua/
Click here to see the complete EGC 2019 photo album.