American Go E-Journal

Remembering John Goodell, American Go Pioneer

Friday August 7, 2015

Curious to see how go might be played without a center point, John Goodell didn’t just theorize about it; he produced 3,000 go sets sans center 2015.08.07_goodellpoint. They didn’t catch on, but Goodell’s lifetime of promoting the game earned him the American Go Association’s first Edward Lasker Distinguished Service Award in 2002; he died in 2004 at the age of 94. A longtime St Paul resident, he’s been honored this week at the US Go Congress with a prominent display of memorabilia celebrating his life as a go player and promoter.

Goodell (second from right) learned the game in the mid-1950′s while doing customer research for a department store. His idea was to see if board games would help elicit more reliable information from customers. Although that didn’t work, he became deeply involved with go, leading the US team to the second World Amateur Go Championships in Japan in 1964, as well as serving as president of the AGA from 1962 to 1964. Perhaps most famously, he once imported two tons of go stones and distributed them across the country.

John Goodell said that go is “almost like meditation. When you play go, the world goes away.” And though he played the game for more than half a century, he never entered a tournament, where “You play to win; but winning and losing is of almost no consequence.”

A St Paul documentary filmmaker, Goodell was nominated for an Academy Award in 1974 for “Always a New Beginning.”

Click here for more information about the history of the American Go Association.

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