Just for the record, no trip to Madrid can be considered even near complete without a visit to the Nam-Ban Go Club. Directions and meeting times are on the website (which helpfully has French, English and Spanish language options).
I visited on a Friday evening. Numbers were down because of the World Cup (Spain versus Chile), but there were still a number of players there, and the club went out as a group for dinner and drinks after the games.
The go club meets Monday, Thursday and Friday at Círculo Catalán, Plaza de España nº6, Madrid. If you’re looking for the venue, you can take the metro to Plaza de España, although don’t do what I did and wander around underground and end up emerging at Noviciado. I got a bit disoriented in doing so, and ended up being a bit late!
The building itself can also be a bit of a challenge to navigate – I wasn’t sure if I had the right place; there was a big lobby on the ground floor, but no one there. I climbed a set of stairs and met some people who were perhaps involved in a dance class or theatre performance of some sort. They didn’t know anything about go, but suggested I carry on up the stairs. Sure enough, I found Nam-Ban on the next flight up.
I was welcomed by the incredibly generous Masaru Mikami, 6-dan. Everyone was paired up when I arrived, so he played me a game with a 9-stone handicap. I tried to play strong, attacking moves while reinforcing my position. At the beginning, I think I did reasonably well at keeping the white stones separated. Of course, my position ended up crumbling and groups died that seemed oh-so-alive just moments before, however, it was a great experience and I learned a lot. We reviewed the game and Mikami pointed out a few places where I could improve. So useful!
I then played a mathematician (yay!) around my level (and lost – I misread a life-and-death situation) and watched a review of another player’s game. I think I doubled my Spanish vocabulary – ‘poco’ and ‘grande’ came up quite a lot, as did ‘importantisimo’ and ‘conectar’. (Oh dear – I’ve already forgotten the word for ‘cut’ – this does not bode well for my Spanish go career!)
I also learned the word ‘pichones’ which means something like ‘pigeon’ or ‘small chick’ and is a word used affectionately within the go club for beginning players or for not-so-good moves made by stronger players who should know better. (One of the women in the club had made a ‘Pichones’ t-shirt in the style of the famous Ramones logo for a team tournament – it was ace!)
Everyone in the club was extremely friendly and welcoming despite my very (very!) poor grasp of Spanish. I’m looking forward to meeting up with this lot again, either in Madrid or at other European tournaments. Thank you to all for a wonderful evening!