Go players rise to the challenge

By Lin Shujuan in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-07 07:34
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A Go world champion takes on amateur players at a special event in Bozhou, Anhui province, last year. LIU QINLI/FOR CHINA DAILY

He went on to lead China to victory for two consecutive years in the China-Japan Supermatches, beating several top Japanese players including his teacher, Fujisawa Hideyuki. Nie even earned the nickname "Steel Goalkeeper" for his prowess in chalking up wins despite being the only Chinese player left in the tournament.

His achievements in Go have been compared with the Chinese women's national volleyball team that won five consecutive world championships in the 1980s.

During that decade, the popularity of Go rose to new heights as many younger people started to learn to play the game.

Clubs, academies and tournaments devoted to the game mushroomed across the country to meet the growing demand. The demand for classes continued to grow in the new millennium when middle-class families became wealthier and started to prioritize their children's education.

Founded in 1999, the Nie Weiping Go Academy has more than 5,000 students enrolled in its 25 divisions nationwide. The academy, which has produced 23 international and national Go champions, including the world's top-ranking professional Ke Jie, organizes the Go Premier League for men and women.

According to the China Go Institute, the number of players in the country has risen from 25 million in 2009 to 40 million. Statistics from the institute, which organizes the certification test for players, also show there has been a 30 percent annual rise in the number of dans, the master rank in Go, issued since 2015.

Wang estimated that in 2017 at least 100,000 professional teachers from more than 200,000 facilities in China were offering Go training.

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