Uganda - this really is new in go

Go players in the west are often inclined to bemoan the difficulties of finding opponents, starting a club, getting a teacher, acquiring books and equipment, and no doubt in some cases the price of coffee. All genuine problems. But at least we generally have an infrastructure in place that allows us to tackle these problems and, usually, make significant headway straightaway.

It is surprisingly hard to imagine what things would be like without the infrastructure that we all take for granted. But Charles Matthews has first-hand experience in one of go's most unexpected locations - Uganda.

Kampala 2006

Charles, left, teaching in Kampala in 2006

Charles is already well known to western players as one of the strongest UK players and the author of esteemed books such as Teach Yourself Go and Shape Up! Always keenly interested in teaching - first as a mathematics don at Cambridge University - he now reaches a worldwide audience as one of Wikipedia's driving forces. He is responsible, of course, for WP's go pages, but is in fact the organisation's main man in the UK.

Despite that he has found time for a much smaller and maybe even tougher teaching problem, helping go players in Kampala above all just to get together and have equipment on which to play go. There is much more to this than saying, "Oh, I've got some spare sets you can have". In fact, a parcel full of goodies could land the recipient with nasty customs charges. As in go, a more subtle and patient approach can work better.

The Ugandans are lucky in that they have their own organisers who have demonstrated the necessary staying power as well as passion. And innovation. The way they have tackled their unique problems had to be new, but may actually offer insights and inspiration for the rest of the go world.

On the next page, Charles and Dan Isabirye offer a brief glimpse inside a beehive of activity.

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