History of Go in Slovenia

The history of Go in Slovenia is closely connected with the history of Go on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. In the following article, however, we will deal only with events concerning Go in Slovenia.

Introduction of Go to Slovenia: Ervin Fink’s devotion

First thing that needs to be mentioned is the Go club in Pula (now a part of Croatia, at that time the main Austro-Hungarian naval base), where Go was played from the year 1900 to the end of the First World War. In that club, a young Slovenian naval officer Ervin Fink learned how to play Go in 1914. Much later, in 1960, he wrote a series of articles about Go in a Slovenian weekly newspaper, and in the following year, 1961, he published the first Go book in Slovenian language, Go igra (The Game of Go).

As the result of these articles, a number of students who used to meet in Ljubljana’s chess club began to play Go. Very soon, on December 22nd 1961, a Go club was founded, with Ervin Fink as president. Go društvo Ljubljana (Go Club Ljubljana) quickly established various international contacts and on August 5th 1962 it was accepted into European Go Federation as the fifth member of this association, which at that time consisted only of organizations from Austria, Germany, Holland and Great Britain.

Not only that Go started to thrive in Ljubljana, Maribor and some other Slovenian cities, but Slovenian players were also very active on the international scene. They participated, for instance, in the 1st International Go Tournament that was held in Tokyo in 1963 and returned there for the and 2nd edition of that tournament the following year. Soon after, Go Club Ljubljana organized a big international team tournament Zlati zmaj (Golden Dragon Cup – the dragon being the symbol of the city of Ljubljana) in March 1964. This tournament became traditional and it was played every year until 1978, attracting a huge number of participants, at that time second only to European Championships. Following the establishment of World Amateur Go Championship in Japan, the Golden Dragon Cup was discontinued due to changes in the European tournament calendar.

Late 60’s and 70’s: The Golden Age of Slovenian Go

In April 1965, Lovro Šturm published the book Kako se igra go (How to Play Go) in Slovenian and later also in Serbo-Croatian language. In the same year, Go Club Ljubljana published its first bulletin. Both these publications caused a huge rise in Go activity and the number of players grew constantly. Many new clubs were founded and so on April 28, 1968 nine clubs established Go zveza Slovenije (Slovenian Go Association) with Lovro Šturm as president and Peter Gaspari as secretary. In that year, Slovenian championship was played for the first time and it has been held ever since.

Players from Slovenia participated in numerous international tournaments with very good results. Most successful was Zoran Mutabžija (he was a member of Go Club Ljubljana until the dissociation of Yugoslav Go Association in 1991, now he is Croatian citizen), who won the European championship in 1967 (in Staufen) and 1971 (in Bristol). Eduard Ekart and Igor Bizjak also placed very well on several European Championships. Some other players with good results on the European Go Congress Masters Tournaments were Peter Movrin, Andrej Šturm, Peter Gaspari, Jože Intihar and Radovan Golja.

From 1969 to 1974, international tournament was held annually in Bled with many strong participants. Slovenian players won this tournament in years 1970 (Zoran Mutabžija and Eduard Ekart), 1973 (Jure Klemenčič) and 1974 (Igor Bizjak). In 1969, Slovenian Go Association also organized the 13th European Championship in Ljubljana, and next year, a team of Slovenian Go players visited USA, participating in an international tournament in New York and playing matches with teams of Go clubs in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston. In following years, players from Slovenia made many successful appearances in various international tournaments; for example, in Prague tournament, Lojze Šuc took 1st place in 1978 and 2nd place in 1979, and Peter Gaspari finished 3rd in 1978.

In 1974, Ervin Fink was awarded the Okura Prize for his contribution to spreading go.

From 80’s to present: A Way Forward

On October 15th 1978, Go associations from Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia founded the Yugoslavian Go Association, which took over the membership in the European Go Federation from Slovenian Go Association. Also, Yugoslavian Go Championship was established in the same year, and the winner represented the country in the WAGC. The members of the Slovenian clubs who participated in WAGC at that time were Šuc (1979 and 1984), Mutabžija (1980, 1985 and 1990), Gaspari (1981), Ekart (1982) and Matoh (1987).

The tradition of Golden Dragon Cup was in some way renewed in 1985 with annual team matches between Yugoslavia and Austria, considering the fact that the main contestants for the first places in the past Golden Dragon Cups were Slovenian and Austrian town-teams. These matches on eight boards became regular events held in both countries. For the Yugoslavian team, Slovenian clubs usually provided 6 or 7 players.

Memorial of Lado Omejc was established in 1988 as a main Slovenian Open Tournament. From 1989 to 1992 it was held in Jezersko, but since 1993, when it attained the status of a Grand Prix Tournament, it is held in Bled.

Yugoslavian Go Association dissolved on October 8, 1991 and Slovenian Go Association immediately (in November) started the process for renewing the membership in European and International Go Federation (IGF). Slovenia was accepted back to EGF in 1992 and to IGF in 1993. On the 1992 EGF General Meeting in Canterbury Slovenian Go Association also accepted to host Grand Prix tournament series, which was the top European competition at that time. Every year from 1993 to 1999, the aforementioned Memorial of Lado Omejc was played as a Grand Prix tournament. In the year 2000, this tournament became a part of Toyota European Go Tour, and now it’s a part of European Cup.

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Slovenian Go Association does not publish any magazine, but it had issued the bulletins on various occasions – among others, there were bulletins commemorating the 25th anniversary of Slovenian Go Association (1993), 35th anniversary of the Go Club Ljubljana (1996) and so on. In cooperation with the European Go Cultural Centre, a set of Go teaching cards in Slovenian language was prepared in 1997, and the book Step by Step was translated in 1998.

Since 1961, many well-known Go players from other continents visited Slovenia. Let us mention only a few of them (in order of their visits): Kaoru Iwamoto, Kazuo Matsumoto, Hirotaka Sanno, Tatsuko Masubuchi, Edward Lasker, Shuyo Miyashita, Sachiko Honda, Chizu Kobayashi, Yoshiaki Nagahara, Kunio Ishii and Hisashi Shirakami with the group of 22 players (among them Shoji Hashimoto, Ryuji Ieda, Hirotaka Okahashi and Ryoichi Kuroda)… Last visit of professional Japanese players was in September 1999, when Yoko Inori and Yukari Umezawa visited go clubs in Kranj, Ljubljana and Novo mesto.

At last we would like to mention the presidents of Slovenian Go Association:

1968 – 1976: Lovro Šturm
1976 – 1985: Peter Gaspari
1985 – 1987: Werner Ussar
1987 – 1991: Dušan Jukič
1991 – 2003: Peter Gaspari
2003 – 2008: Milan Zakotnik
2008 – 2010: Gregor Butala

Nazadnje posodobljeno 19.02.2023