Three-time European champion Ilya Shikshin comes from a go-playing family that includes his sister Svetlana, who has played professionally in Korea. A short English-language biography of Ilya can be found on Svetlana’s website.
At the World Mind Games he lost to Japanese and Chinese opponents in the first two rounds of individual competition to earn a five-day break, after which he partnered with Natalia Kovaleva in the pair competition and took fifth place, best among the pairs from outside the far east. Ranka talked with him after the first round of the pair event.
Ranka: Are you enjoying the World Mind Games?
Shikshin: Oh yes, but given the length of the tournament, I thought there would be more programs planned, perhaps some entertainment.
Ranka: Please tell us about where you live in Russia and how you learned to play go.
Shikshin: I was born in Kazan and I still live there. Kazan is a big city with a population of about one million people, sometimes referred to as the third Russian capital. My father started teaching me to play go when I was five. He taught at a chess school, but he had his own go class there. He had lots of pupils and I made fast progress because I was able to play with other kids who were at the same level.
Ranka: And you’ve also studied in the far east. Please tell us about that.
Shikshin: I’ve been to Korea many times, most often in the summer. I think I’ve lived there about one and a half years. I first went in 2002, staying for two months. The next time was in 2003, and then in 2006. In 2008 I stayed for nine months. I visited many Korean go schools and trained a lot. I played many games with Korean kids. One school in particular that I attended was the Golden Bell, located near the Korean Baduk Association in central Seoul. It was a small school with only eight students, but I hear that now it has grown quite big, and that some of its students have become professionals.
Ranka: Is there any particular professional player whose games you particularly admire?
Shikshin: Of the professionals here at the World Mind Games my favorite is Choi Chulhan. I think he is one of the strongest players in the world, maybe the strongest after Lee Sedol. I really like to watch his games. I played against Murakawa Daisuke from Japan in both the individual and pair competitions, and both times I felt that there were chances to win. I think European players might be able to reach his level. My feeling is that if European players studied harder they could compete with the Japanese, but not with Choi Chulhan.
Ranka: Thank you.