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The Janice Kim Files: Debating the Details

Friday June 24, 2016

by Janice Kim 3P2016.06.24-janiceKim

Andrew Feenberg has made illuminating and interesting points comparing and contrasting the recent match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, and the novelized match between Shusai and Kitani in the book The Master of Go.

There are differences in the modern feeling of go, and what go traditionally has been, and it is all about the details; the ones we focus on, and what they mean, are up for debate.

Feenberg suggests (Rational Play? The Master of Go vs. AlphaGo), as some observers in the book do, that move 121 was the central issue, a move away from the main center battle in order to take advantage of the time rules. Kawabata does spend a bit of time on it, but I’d say therein lies the issue for the Master: it’s not a central issue to the game itself.

For that reason, it may have the appearance of a modern attempt to take advantage of ‘fussy’ rules in order to win a game, at some cost to the meaning of the game. In fact, it may be much more insidious than that :), it’s a ‘modern’ way of extracting the maximum number of points whenever you can, without emotional involvement in what appears to be happening on the board at that moment as a battle between two human opponents. In this sense, the modern game is bringing a new, more nuanced sensibility to the concepts of “tempo” in games, specifically “sente” and “gote” in go.

The Master himself allows that it’s a question of timing, and his opponent may not be able to make that small forcing play later, depending on how the center battle goes. It possibly does throw him, as he later misses a crucial timing issue in that center battle (at this level, questions of who is the inferior player I think can’t be shown through one game, or one move in one game, and are beyond the scope of what can be argued through them). But this detail of what the Master actually said is lost as well, perhaps deliberately as it’s subtly suggested that the Master himself is now trying to “justify” an (ugly) move in an attempt to preserve the beauty of go, as if we have a lock on definitions of beauty, and 121 isn’t it, and the players themselves are telling us things about the game that they don’t understand.

If this were a modern game, there would be no question that White would lose a game without komi; there’s no reasonable chance that one top player can spot another Black no komi, the Master is almost certainly going to lose such a game precisely because of tradition. It’s interesting to me to note our human tendency to focus also on the score beyond winning and losing, as if the players would care if it was a 3 or 4 or 5 point loss, and play accordingly. Observers often say a resignation or a bigger loss is somehow indicative of a greater difference in skill exhibited between the players. It’s rare for someone to see that a great player, seeing he or she was behind, would make plays that were arguably better, but perhaps riskier and result in a greater loss.

Focusing on another detail, I’d hesitate to call this a ‘Western’ influence, although perhaps Kawabata appears focused on ‘outside’ influences and is feeling it from the West, and China could be considered west of Japan, or not being looked at, depending on where one is standing :). The way of thinking behind move 121 to me has clear roots in an outside, fresh perspective of analysis through objective territorial counting that Kitani’s great collaborator in the modern way of play, the player who came to Japan from China, Go Seigen, brought to the table.

A more compelling analogy to me would be between Go Seigen and AlphaGo, and the big question still to be answered is if AlphaGo will bring us a rich body of work like Go Seigen did, so much so that it’s said you can do nothing but study the games of Go Seigen 10 times and become a professional shodan, or if we’ll have 10 tantalizing clues of what AlphaGo was thinking at a point in gmaespacetime.

Much thanks to Mr. Feenberg, and the American Go E-Journal, for bringing such thought-provoking pieces right to me with my morning coffee!

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Go Classified: Seeking players in Iowa City

Friday June 24, 2016

Iowa City, IA: Seeking players to form a go club in Iowa City.  All strengths welcome.  Contact: ximane@gmail.com

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Categories: Go Classified,Main Page
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“Computer Go Afternoon” Planned for US Go Congress

Wednesday June 22, 2016

This year’s US Go Congress organizers have lined up “an exciting ‘Computer Go Afternoon’” reports Chun Sun. “We are 2016.06.05.congress-logohonored to have Yuandong Tian from Facebook Research, who will present ‘DarkForest: A DCNN-based open source Go engine,’ on the afternoon of August 4.” Also lined up is John Tromp, who has calculated the exact number of legal go positions, and who will present a lecture on the subject on August 4. As previously reported, Google Deepmind is coming to the Congress this year as well. In addition to giving the opening keynote on Saturday, July 30, Google Deepmind’s Aja Huang and Hui Fan 2P will also present an “AlphaGo Insider” lecture on August 4th’s “Computer Go afternoon,” focusing on the developer community. “After these exciting presentations, DarkForest will play Andy Liu 1p at 3 handicaps,” Chun Sun adds. As the new “JustGo” live recording/broadcasting app will be demoing around the lounge and playing room.

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American Go Yearbook Published

Wednesday June 22, 2016

The American Go Yearbook 2015 Member’s Edition Collection has just been published. One of the benefits of membership 2016.06.14_yearbookin the American Go Association is the Member’s Edition of the American Go E-Journal, the largest English language go publication in the world. The Member’s Edition includes game commentaries and other special content and the annual Yearbook collects it all into one handy online document. Once selected in the online Yearbook, game records or PDFs open up quickly and easily for review or download. We appreciate our member’s support of the AGA and hope that they will find the Yearbook a valuable and useful resource. Click here now to join the AGA and begin receving the Member’s Edition. Special thanks to the Yearbook Production Team: Myron Souris, Games Editor; Justin Hall, Assistant Online Editor.
- Chris Garlock, Managing Editor

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Canadian Go Open to be Held July 1-3 in Ontario

Wednesday June 22, 2016

The 39th Canadian Go Open Tournament will be hosted in Mississauga and Oakville, Ontario this year from July 1st to July 2016.06.12_Canadian Go Open Tournament3rd over the Canada Day weekend. Participants will have a chance to view the Canada Day fireworks and dazzling cirque shows at Mississauga’s Celebration Square (7 minutes drive away from event venue) after a day of playing Pair Go on Friday.

The six-round main tournament will be hosted on Saturday and Sunday in Oakville. Lectures for both beginners and advanced players and simultaneous game with professional players will be scheduled in between games. A casual four-round lightning Go will be hosted on Saturday night. The tournament will end with a traditional award ceremony and banquet. For detailed schedule and more information, please visit the Golden Key Go School’s website.

The price for the three-day event is $85 for adults and $60 for children. Door price will be $10 higher. Register now for three days of fun.
- Joanna Liu

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Problem of the Week

Library of Shapes

Black to play