“There is a persistent problem with the thinking behind many go articles (The Spirit of Play: “I’m Stuck” 10/29/2012 EJ, for example),” writes Terry Benson. “Everyone eventually gets stuck at some level and can’t get higher. Their game might change, but it doesn’t get better. Whatever rank they are will be their high water mark. That’s go and that’s life. There are limits in our brains which we can test but not break.
“So anyone who plays only because they are ‘getting better’ sooner or later will stop playing. Hopefully, before they give up, they’ll realize that go is a great game with many types of puzzles to solve and a wonderful way to connect to other people. They’ll switch from ‘I have to get better’ to playing for the pure enjoyment of stones, wood, patterns, and the thrills of the contest.
“What we need in this country — and indeed in the world — are millions of people playing go the way millions play tennis or golf or run. Most of them will be duffers; 35 handicap golfers, 9-minute milers, and, in go, 25 kyus. And their level of play will seem horrid to ‘serious’ players. But they are playing and they should be encouraged to play simply for the joy of playing. If they are having fun in the confusion of 25 kyu – leave them alone, especially if they’re kids! We know how often a won game gets away, even from stronger players. In some ways the game is even more fun at 25 kyu because literally anything can happen.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get better or trying to learn something new. There are levels of play that some people will find more satisfying than others. But improvement is a short term rationale. It’s far better to fall in love with the game.”
Benson, a 1-dan, has been playing go for 52 years and has served as president of the American Go Association, Managing Editor of the American Go Journal and is currently President of the American Go Foundation. He directed the video/webcast of the International Go Symposium 2012, where he gave a talk on promotion of the game.