Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for the EGC2024 news. We want to know a bit more about our supporters and sponsors and I'm sure it will be highly interesting to all the Go community.
Please tell us who you are and how you discovered Go, to start with!
Hey, my name is Žiga Hajduković, I'm a 2-kyu Go player and I run a research and development studio. At Razum (which translates to reason, mind), we focus on designing and developing mobile apps.
I discovered Go a quarter of a century ago during my summer student job, when an older physics student was playing it on his computer and I, as a fan of abstract board games, was immediately curious. So, I started clicking away in igowin to warm up.
I actually quit Go a couple of times as it was too frustrating. Then I started playing online with a co-worker, and I was hooked!
It wasn't until 2016 that I first played a live game on an actual board with actual stones, it was in a tournament in Bled. I lost, to Mirta Medak and her father, Damir. I didn’t go to another tournament until three years later. But after the COVID-19 pandemic settled down, I got my daughter (now thirteen) into the game, and we started going to tournaments a lot more, so now I am REALLY hooked!
We would love to know more about Razum. What attracted you as a company to get involved in the game of go? Or rather, how did the go world invade your company?
Well, as a company we took a dive into Go as I had this idea last year to make 9x9 Go sets as New Year business gifts for our partners, instead of the usual bottles and practical thingies.
But, my idea was bigger than that. As we work together with our partners in fairly large teams (30+), we also feel the natural need to socialize outside of work commitments. Also, working on a project together for years inevitably brings friendly relationships with it.
So, I started organizing Go workshops with our partners and friends as a sort of a team-building exercise.
Of course, it’s all very lightweight, with emphasize on socializing, but it was really well received. I made them bring their newly-acquired Go sets, explained the rules briefly and off we went! They all played a couple of 9x9 games each.
We are an R&D company with a focus on top-quality custom mobile app development. This means we only have the highest-quality talent in our team, and we only work with partners who are also interested in the excellence we deliver. I believe this focus on quality requires great mental effort, and this is where Go comes in. I think it’s the perfect game to practice to keep your mind sharp and focused. Not to mention the countless other skills and types of thinking one can deduct from Go and apply to real life problems.
Having said that, Go is not the only game to do that, I just happen to like it most. We play chess and Magic the Gathering in our company regularly, as well, to just name a few of the physical board/card games. There’s also Age of Empires, Hearthstone and others that we play online in the evenings.
Do you have perhaps some ambitions at EGC 2024 to find like-minded future collaborators?
Honestly, I am hoping to meet some potential talented people, but also potential clients. I believe partnerships with common interests can have greater chances of success. I would love to see our company developing a Go-related app in the future!
How do you imagine the EGC2024 in Toulouse? Which event are you looking forward to the most?
After my experience at EGC2023 (my first EGC), I am most keen on taking part in the main tournament.
But some of those side events, like playing a game with a 9-dan pro, are such an amazing opportunity!
Also, I have fond memories of Hwang Inseong’s lectures featuring Kung Fu Panda, and special game type events, like Chess & Go.
To be honest, everything about an EGC is just brilliant, so I am expecting a lot of mind-bending new experiences!
What does go represent for you, if we can start a philosophical discussion? Many go principles can be applied in real life and in business, and it also teaches important values. Has it ever been useful in your life?
I agree so much with the principles of Go being applied to real life and business. One of the best aspects of Go I find is the fact that it is not (usually) about annihilating your opponent, but one only has to win by an ever-so-tiny margin, even just half a point. And the whole game reflects that principle, where with every move you are trying to tip the balance of the whole game (or life) little by little in your favour.
I think the usefulness of Go in my life comes a lot from the mental abilities that I gain playing Go, like focus and ability to make decisions under pressures of time and other things.
If you could travel in time and space, which Go player would you like to play with and why?
This may sound strange, but I haven’t explored Go history and famous Go players much yet.
Having said that, I recently took a dive into the history of Go in Slovenia. Turns out Slovenia had quite a formidable Go player base in the 60s and 70s.
Just recently purchased the first Slovenian book on Go (GO IGRA (translated: THE GAME OF GO), by Ervin Fink) on an online flea market.
So, I would have to say I’d love to travel back to the 60s or 70s and play with Ervin Fink and other players from that era who brought the game to Slovenia and ignited the Go revolution, firstly within the Chess playing community and beyond it later. I’d have loved to be a part of that discovery phase of the game.
What did you feel when Google Deepmind first announced its achievements with the human-machine battle involving Fan Hui 2p, followed by the AlphaGo match? Do you think we still have soooo much to discover (and suffer) about AI go, or are we already doomed forever?
Amazed. I remember watching the Lee Sedol games streamed live online. It was just astonishing. As I mentioned, I taught myself Go with the help of a (fairly primitive) AI 25 years ago. Another thing is, I was always into AI, ever since I started to learn programming.
Now, with GPT, we are also starting AI projects within our company, so I am really excited about this next “AI era”. I think we definitely have “soooo much to discover” still. AI (i.e. AlphaGo, KataGo...) is still quite a blackbox – it shows variations, but it’s not really capable of teaching. There is still the “solving” of the game left for us to do, like how Othello was recently solved. That is, if we want to go mathematical on it. We’re definitely not doomed, apart from not being able to beat AI anymore.
I definitely enjoy the new AI tools popping up (like KaTrain and AI-Sensei) and gladly use them while I teach and learn!
Alright, now let’s talk about your country! What is the go scene like in Slovenia?
We have around 42 active players (that is more than 20 per million capita!), ranked from 20-kyu to 5-dan, and we meet on a weekly basis at a couple of locations around the country, most prominently in Ljubljana. We organize five regular yearly tournaments, participate in various events (like Japanese-themed days) to promote Go and, this year, we also started several Go classes. There’s a weekly open class now in the library in the centre of our capital Ljubljana and we also started a go class in three primary schools across Slovenia.
TLDR: We are planning nothing short of a rebirth of Go in Slovenia!
Do you have a Go-related short anecdote?
Ha, I think I do. So, as I mentioned, I just started a Go class in our local school this year. My daughters signed up (duh!), along with some of their friends and also a small number of first graders (six years old).
So, I manage to find and collect all the Go students that applied, and we come into the designated classroom for the first time. And this boy (six years old) asks: “Is this where we are having the classes?”
I respond, cautiously: “Yes. You don't like it?”
And the boy goes: “Oh! I thought we're having Go classes in the gym!”
🤷Might be the intro text on next year’s application form….
The application form intro text for the school Go class goes like this (translated):
Go is one of the oldest board games. Legend has it that it was invented by a Chinese general over 3,000 years ago to teach his son how to think strategically. The game requires long-term planning, assessment of the situation and the ability to read the opponent’s intentions. All this, in turn, helps to develop many skills such as critical thinking, patience, concentration and empathy.
Join us at the Go club, become part of this magical game and discover if you have a general within you!
Thanks to Žiga for answering our questions! We’re looking forward to meeting you at EGC2024. We will keep an eye on the progress of Go in Slovenia!