With the goal of promoting the game of Go in the Sultanate, Chen Xinwen and Shaolun along with a group of fellow enthusiasts established the Brunei Darussalam Go Association in 2011.
According to Wikipedia, Go is a board game of abstract strategy for two players with the aim of surrounding more territory than the opponent. Invented in China more than 2,500 years ago, Go is believed to be the oldest board game continuously played to the present day.
In an interview with the Bulletin, Chen Xinwen, who is the President of the Brunei Darussalam Go Association, looked back at the association’s origins while recalling that they started “with zero background support, zero funding and just a small group of high school students who love Go”.
“The passion started off at Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College (MDPMAMB) in 2005 as an extracurricular activity, where it was probably the first time that Go was introduced in Brunei,” said Chen, reflecting on the journey.
He added that there were no sets of Go in Brunei at the time, and they used Othello or Reversi as beginner’s sets, before later buying sets from the Malaysia Weiqi Association.
Their momentum would carry on in 2006 where an application was submitted to the International Go Federation as the Brunei Igo Society and approved in 2007.
The next year saw Brunei Go players invited to international invitational tournaments in Korea, China and Thailand, as well as the establishment of a Go Club in Chung Hwa Middle School Alumni Association. However, it was closed in 2010.
In 2008, a blog was started to record all Go happenings in the country. On May 25, 2011, the Brunei Darussalam Go Association was established.
Brunei Darussalam Go Association is now a member of the International Go Federation, Asian Go Federation (as auditor), International Pair Go Association, and an ordinary member of the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council (BDNOC). Chen’s curiosity for Go came from a Chinese book he read, with a title roughly translated as ‘Things you were never taught in school’, where one of the phrases said, “If you ever question, ‘Why has no one ever done it?’, then you should just do it.”
Chen said, “Go/Weiqi/Baduk has over 2,000 years of history and Brunei did not have an association and no one was playing. So, we introduced the game to everyone.
“The game is proven to be beneficial to young children and even adults. For young children it improves concentration skills, helps cope with challenges and overcomes defeats, have healthy hobbies, and allows social networking. For adults, it’s to slow down their busy life and prevent Alzheimer’s.”
The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak massively impacted efforts to promote the game.
“From 2020 to 2022, there were no overseas invitational tournaments and students lost motivation of playing and learning via an online platform. There were also no new members or learners. We need to cover the losses next year.”
With no physical events held, he said, “We used Discord for communication to teach via live screen sharing from the online Go platforms.
“International tournaments were also held online during the periods such as the World Amateur Go Championship 2021. We held friendly Southeast Asia Go tournaments online every week.”
To introduce and teach Go to young kids, he said, “The youngest age to start is five; preferably learning offline. We have to teach the basic rules such as capturing first. From there, we slowly guide them to the complete rules of the game.”
He added that there are currently 20 active competitive members, with the youngest being eight years old, with the average age of members between 20 and 30.
Chen also revealed that next month they “will be sending a mixed double team: Haidar, 33, and Wong Hui Xin, 13, to compete in Japan for the Pair Go International Tournament. Hui Xin started in 2020 and improved significantly to compete internationally, while Haidar has been an executive member since the establishment of the association before 2011”.
For the future, Chen hopes to see the Youth and Sports Department give the green light for the association to compete in the Asian Games in Hangzhou. The last time that Go appeared in Asian Games was in Guangzhou in 2010. It will be a tremendous experience for the association members, he said.
“We are planning an invitational exchange Go camp for overseas kids to enjoy the beautiful Belalong nature retreat, while creating a healthy bond with kids from the association.
“The association is hoping to work on teaching more instructors to be able to teach new players and promote in schools and companies of interest,” Chen added.