Former baduk master now promoting chessLee Sang-bum launched the Korea Chess Association last month in an effort to increase Koreans’ awareness and appreciation of the game.
Mr. Lee, 49, said Koreans are not very familiar with chess, usually preferring the local game of baduk, or go. Both are games of strategy that involve moving black and white pieces on a checkered board.
However, baduk game pieces are small pellets of uniform size and shape, in contrast to chess, where different pieces represent different ranks and functions. Also, while chess is a game of elimination, the goal in baduk is to fill up the spaces on the board.
“Many Koreans don’t understand why they should learn chess when there is baduk. However, chess and baduk have different characteristics and each has its own merits. It’s not something you can compare,” Mr. Lee said.
Mr. Lee has been teaching chess at an organization known as Mind Sports since 1999. Prior to that, he taught baduk for many years.
Mr. Lee first learned baduk as a boy from his grandfather, a Buddhist monk. Having suffered from polio at the age of three, he was unable to go to elementary school as the disease left him with weak legs. His father could not afford to move away from their small farm and his grandfather taught him the board game when he got bored with regular lessons. They would sometimes read books on baduk together, as well as playing the game.
Mr. Lee became so good at the game, he went to Seoul at the age of 13 and began teaching it to others.
He became interested in chess in 1988, when he saw some foreign reporters playing the game in Olympic Park. He studied chess further through books, and by the early 1990s he was one of the best players in the country.
“Many people are so obsessed with the goal of learning the game to sharpen their thinking skills that they forget to enjoy the game itself,” Mr. Lee noted.
by Kim Young-hoon