Player Profiles

I could put down the names of every guy who ever played the game here, but instead I will make some restrictions based around my ability to write something vaguely interesting about them.

  • Tony Goddard : 6 dan
  • Titles: Belfast 1992, Irish Open 1994, Irish Handicap 1995

Of course Tony is not Irish, but rather English. He was one of the early powerhouses of British (and indeed European) Go, coming second in the European Go Championships in 1976. He is also extremely socialist in his political leanings, and arrived in Belfast shortly after the the toppling of the Iron Maiden. There he founded a Go Club at Queen’s University of Belfast around 1992. He won, and helped organise the first tournament in Northern Ireland, in which 8 people competed. Tony also effectively mentored Paul Donnelly; who we shall cover here later. In 1994 he won the Irish Open, now the Confucius Cup, which is sponsored by his then club mate, Dr Liming Wang; also to be covered later. Since returning to the mainland of the UK, circa 1995/6, I don’t believe he has played in Ireland at all. Tony’s style always struck me as decidedly territorial, and he was very much a player whose strength could be determined by their mood. A quote from Tony to remember « shibori is the essence of Go ». You can find some of Tony’s games in old British Go Journals, but you may instead prefer to read through his own biography.

  • Paul Donnelly : 1 dan
  • Irish Championship Runner Up: 1995

Paul Donnelly was a computer scientist, he took a PhD at Queen’s University Belfast, publishing a paper on neural nets in computer Go programming. He is most famous for flying off to Japan to represent Ireland at the 1997 World Amateur Go Championships, and never coming back. Some rumour about marrying a Japanese woman. Many years later I saw him online on KGS Go Server, playing as ontilt. So perhaps he is more into poker these days. Possibly living in the USA or the UK these days, Paul is very much a ghost of Go. This is a shame, given his quick rise to shodan, it is pity he was lost to us. His continued presence in the Top 8 would surely have raised the level of competition. You can find a review of some of his games from the world amateur championship in the Ranka Yearbook.

  • Stephen Flinter : 1 dan
  • Titles: Irish Championship: 1995, 2000
  • Irish Championship Runner Up: 1994(?), 1997-1999, 2001-2007

Steve was another computer scientist, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea, not all Irish players are computer scientists. I suppose he is mostly famous for losing to Noel Mitchell in the Irish final. He won the Irish title in 1995 and 2000, but was runner up a mighty 12 times. In fact, he was man who gave me my own first title by the margin of 2-1. Our first game nearly had some fun, after Steve took a stone off the board that still had 1 liberty, luckily I spotted this mistake. :) After becoming a father he (clearly) found that he had much less time for the game, and has never made a go of any of his comebacks. You can find quite a few of his games on the Irish website, and indeed a few from the Ranka Yearbook.  Steve also did his fair share of organisation, and held various positions in the committee, such as webmaster and newsletter editor.

  • Noel Mitchell : 2 dan
  • Titles: Irish Championship 1990-1994, 1996-1999, 2001-2006, 2013 Irish Handicap 1997
  • Irish Championship Runner Up: 1995, 2000, 2008

Noel has won the Irish Championship a colossal 16 times, which places him (as of 2013) in third place in the European all time champions list. From 1990 through to 2006, in combination with Stephen Flinter, he created a complete stranglehold on the Irish Title. Also internationally, it was Noel who was representing Ireland in the World Amateur Go Championships in the beginning. Noel has a PhD in Physics from TCD, but by trade he is an events organiser. This proved to be a useful skill when it came to helping organise the European Go Congress in Dublin. This isn’t the only hard organisational work Noel has taken on, he’s been a teacher, president, and PRO on various occaisions for the IGA. Noel’s style has always struck me as very Japanese; that is to stay that he has quite an emphasis on shape and influence. Perhaps that explains something of his longevity at the top, for he still managed to win the national title in 2013. His other major hobby is baseball of all things. If you are interested, you can also find Noel’s games by hunting through the Irish website or old Ranka yearbooks. His trademark goatee has laid him open to having « of Nazareth » appended to his name in years gone past.

  • John Gibson : 2 kyu
  • Titles : 1992 Irish Handicap
  • Irish Championship Runner Up: 1993

A friend of mine characterised John as an old fox, which seems to be a fair description of his playing style. John is solid proof that not all Go players are computer scientists, as I should know, because I have spent a good few hours coaching him on how to log into IGS in order to play a european league match. By trade he is an interior designer, who was responsible for styling the Pembroke Inn, where the Dublin Club met for many a year. John has had a long interest in the game, playing it well before the Irish Go Association was founded. He claims to have learnt the game from the book Go and Gomoku. Before playing Go; he was (and still is) playing Chess, with some degree of success. You can see that he took part in the Irish Chess Championship in 1966, and he was part of the Student Olympiad team in 1967  scoring 3/8. He is responsible for converting a good deal of the Chess players of the Collegians Club to the game. John is something of a « bitter ender », and subsequently manages to rip off a good number of players. This has resulted in the transmogriphication of his name and the words aji and rip-off. He has been an outstanding organiser, as well as a recruiter/promoter for the game. For the longest time, he was running the Irish Go Congress. As a player he has also had his moments. In 1993 he placed first in the championship league, and thus qualified for the final against Noel Mitchell. Then as proof of his staying power, coming joint first in the Top 8 in 2003. John has also obtained some reasonable results at the WAGC. Apart from Chess and Go, John also enjoys Bridge and Tennis.

  • Terence McSweeney : 1 dan

I have no idea how Terrence came to learn about the game of Go, but learn it he did, and well he learnt it too. He is from Waterford originally, and first came to my attention playing on KGS. After a time he moved to Cork, or as it was  then styled, The people’s republic of Cork. There he studied art, but for a year, but then he skipped off to London, and we didn’t see much of him after that, although he still plays it seems. I hope he will play again in Ireland some day. When I was starting to dream of winning the Irish title in 2007, I was well aware that Terrence was going to become stronger than me very soon, such was his rate of improvement. Indeed, I was upset that he was unable to play all his games that year, (that was the danger with playing by arrangement)  if he had he may well have been in the final with me. He was the last Irishman to play in the European Oza, and had a creditable competition in the KMPC in 2008, toppling a 4 dan at one point. As I remember, he was an expert in the Kobayashi fuseki. If he had continued to liveand play  in Ireland, I’m quite sure he would have been champion.

  • Wei Wang : 6 dan
  • Titles: Cork 2008 – 2009 (Jan & Nov), Irish Open 2011(=)

Once upon a time, University College Cork was the centre of learning in Ireland. At the heart of this place was one young student from China, Wei Wang. He was with us for only a few years, but he imparted a lot of knowledge in that time, and took his place at the top of most of the local tournaments between 2008 and 2011. Additionally, he reviewed a lot of games for the Irish Newsletter, when it was still running. Wei was the champion of the People’s Republic of Cork.

  • Cao Tongyu : 4 dan
  • Titles: Irish Ladder 2008-2009

A lovely quote from Tongyu was that while he learnt his Go on the streets, Wei learnt his in school. Tongyu has a teaching position at University College Cork, where he has been living for the past 10 years or so. When Wei Wang is not in residence, he is the strongest player in the country. Sadly, a fear of leaving the bliss of Cork to play in  competitions means that he seems set to never win the Irish Championship. He does currently head the Irish squad for the European Team championships though, were he usually picks up a board point for us. Tongyu also enjoys playing Chess and watching Snooker..

  •  Claas Roever : 1 kyu
  •  Titles: Irish Championship 2008, Irish Online Championship 2008
  • Irish Championship Runner Up: 2009

Claas is a mathematician, I am not sure if that should be clear from studying his games; probably not. He is, I believe, originally from Germany, but spent a long time living and playing in Ireland. (Yes! Another player on the list who isn’t Irish) Initially he was in Dublin, and was one of the regular faces to be seen in the twilight of the Pembroke Inn. Then he moved off to Galway, where he seemed to get a little stronger, perhaps with the competition of Daniel Paraschiv, who was also at the university there. Class won the championship in 2008, the year after I won it. I faced him in the final the next year, wresting the title back. I always found him a tricky opponent, his play seems always to be on the edge of overplay and overactivity, but like his cigarettes, it is hard to stub out.

I suppose that a lot of players will not have heard of this man, or may not immediately recognise his name. In 1995 he came to Belfast to study Economics at Queen’s University Belfast, were somehow he met up with Anthony Goddard, which allowed him to play Go. In actual fact, he was playing in the first Belfast tournament, and in (perhaps) the first Irish Go Congress. He became director of the Confucius Institute at University College Dublin in 2006. There he helped start a Go club, and he helped sponsor the Irish Open – now it is of course called the Confucius Cup. I played him in 2014 in the 5th round and managed to just hold on to a victory. He’s a dangerous player, but a generous benefactor.

  •  Tiberiu Gociu : 2 kyu
  • Titles: Belfast Open 2013

Tiberiu hails from Galati in Romania, as a diversion I can tell you that although most Romanians would say Galati is Moldavian, many Moldavians would disagree. Tibi, as he is generally known, came over to Belfast around 2005, from Italy, to work as a COBOL developer. With his help, I was able to introduce the game to a lot of people in Belfast who worked at our company (Allstate Northern Ireland). As such, he is another promotional star listed on this page. What about his playing ability though? I’ve always had the impression that he was missing a little discipline in his play, indeed Catalin Taranu (5p) did tell him that he needed to stop thinking about rahat, and then he could play what was correct. Nonetheless, he’s qualified for the Irish Championship league and obtained a best position of 5th place in 2014 – potentially he can go farther. Without rahat, I believe he can reach shodan. Tibi is also a keen photographer, and you can find a lot of his work on the IGA website if you browse through the tournament reports.

  • James Hutchinson : 1 dan
  • Titles: Irish Championship 2011, Irish Ladder 2012, 2013
  • Irish Championship Runner Up: 2010, 2012

James first learnt Go at Cambridge University, where he studied mathematics. Unlike myself, his learning experience there was rather disappointing. « They showed us the rules, and then let us sit down at a 19×19 board to play together. » – not the classic, nor the recommended approach. In 2007, he started in Allstate Northern Ireland club (our works club). There, when giving him 9 stones, it was fairly obvious to me that he possessed some talent. Particularly in yose, he didn’t play the way most beginners do, throwing their points into the water, he could actually count and play. I suppose that his degree didn’t go to waste then. He was at 9k in the first Belfast Open, but started pushing up the ranks fairly quickly. A slow player by nature, he was also studious, and even professed to doing tsumego every day! By 2010 he was good enough to enter the Top 8, where he rattled through the opposition, coming second only to myself. The next year he went 1 futher, beating me in the final (the cheek!) and put in a good showing at the World Amateur Championships, were James Davies interviewed him. In 2012 he dropped the title to Roman Pszonka, but this year(2014) he has a chance to grab it back. James is also a keen sportsman, playing tabletennis, football, hockey, and various other nonsense. If he keeps up the good work he can reach 2 dan. One important point to remember with James, if he stands up, he’s feeling the pressure.

  • Karl Irwin : 2 Dan

Karl is another one of the players from up north. He grew up in Moneyreagh, which is actually quite close to where I lived. Raising the level of coincidence slightly further, he studied mathematics at Cambridge, just like James Hutchinson, and he went to the same grammar school as myself: Methodist College Belfast. He learnt the game at Cambridge University Go Society. Unlike James and myself, he hasn’t played much in the province, racking up only 2 tournaments whilst still a (promising) kyu player. After university, he put aside a career as a heavy, and went to China to teach mathematics. There, he has played enough Go to be awarded the title of 2 dan, has received press coverage due, in part, to local disbelief that this guy was playing the game, and been called « giant white man ». Well actually, that last part isn’t true, he was called that in Botanic Gardens, Belfast. Karl clearly has some talent, and if he starts playing locally, he would seem to be an obvious favourite to start winning titles.

  • Isao Toshima : 2 Dan
  • Titles: Irish Open 1990

Whenever you arrive in a new country, obviously the first thing that you want to do is to play Go. Isao couldn’t find anyone to play Go with, and wrote to the British Go Association asking for help to found a club. He was told instead that Dublin actually did have Go players that he could play with. The 1991 Ranka Yearbook features a little snippet about the man « The impetus for this organization came from the arrival in Dublin of Isao Toshima, a 2-dan from Japan who was very keen to teach new players and generate a strong club. Contact was made with others who were already playing, and chess clubs and game conventions provided opportunities to heighten awareness of the game. » Sadly, he had to return to Japan in 1991, but some of the players still keep in contact with him.

  • Justyna Kleczar: 2 kyu
  • Titles: Galway 2011, 2013

Justyna moved with her family to Ireland a long time ago, causing her to have to experience the horror of learning Irish for her leaving cert. She has been very active in organising the game in Ireland, and was pretty instrumental in running the UCC club and the various tournaments they hosted. She has played in the Top 8 twice, achieving pretty respectable placings. Her opening is not that hot in my opinion, but her middlegame fighting seems to make up for that. I believe they told her something along these lines when she participated in the Go to China trips. Justyna has a rule that her boyfriend must play Go, and sadly has moved to Amsterdam as a result of this. She also has a pet hate of internet Go.

 

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