The new National Go Center opened Friday in Washington DC with an afternoon event featuring a ribbon-cutting and speeches by dignitaries from as far away as Japan and as near as Northwest DC. Festivities continue today with a tournament starting at 9a (be there by 8:30 to register; follow the Board 1 action live on KGS) and then at 7p tonight a Member’s Access event that includes pianist Haskell Small and another pianist performing Small’s “A Game of Go,” an original composition inspired by a famous game by the legendary Shusaku. Michael Redmond and Chris Garlock will then do a commentary on one of the new games by Master/AlphaGo reprising their roles as commentators on the historic AlphaGo match a year ago.
Center Executive Director Gurujeet Khalsa welcomed the assemblage and American Go Association president Andy Okun called the opening — attended by a full house — “very heartening” and said that “it’s clear that DC has risen to the challenge of building a community and a sustainable institution.” The Go Center, Okun declared, “is going to be e very good place to play go.”
American Go Foundation — and former AGA president — Terry Benson reminded the attentive audience of the long history of Japanese support for American go, noting that “JAL sponsored our first US Championship,” and that Japan’s Go Review was the primary source of go news and instruction in the 1960′s. He also pointed out that “the first U.S. Go Congress was held not far from here and was organized by some of the same folks who have now helped found this National Go Center.” Benson showed a go fan autographed with “strong heart” by Kajiwara and, choking up slightly, said that “go is not just a game for us, it’s something that can be so much more. The Go Center will be a crossroads for the world and that’s just what Iwamoto would have wanted.”
Nihon Ki-in chairman Hiroaki Dan (right, in photo at left, with Khalsa) — who flew in from Japan just for the opening — and Iwamoto North American Foundation Executive Director Thomas Hsiang (via recorded message) offered their hearty congratulations on the Center’s opening and wished the organizers well. Mr Dan noted that the Nihon Ki-In “is over 90 years old but go has been played in Japan for over 1,000 years and our goal is to help spread it throughout the world.” Also speaking were Mark Hitzig, Executive Director of the Japan-American Society of Washington and the Japan’s Deputy Chief of Mission Atsuyuki Oike, who said that “The go board is a universe of the entire world.”
After officially opening the Center with a ribbon-cutting, everyone headed up to the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre in Silver Spring for a special private screening of the brand-new documentary “AlphaGo,” fresh from its world premiere last Friday at the Tribeca Film festival in New York City, after which many of the players, energized by the epic 2016 Lee Sedol-AlphaGo match, headed back to the NGC to play go.
- report/photos by Chris Garlock