American Go E-Journal

The Traveling Board: A Tale of Two Games

Wednesday May 4, 2016

by Phil Straus

In early 1997, I played in a Baltimore tournament as a 45-year-old three-dan. I split the first two games. In my third game I 2016.05.04_straus-trav-bdwas paired in an even game with a two-dan. Statistically I had about a 2/3 chance of winning. I lost, but what was shocking was that I resigned in less than 30 minutes. I had recently published, with Yilun Yang, Whole-Board Thinking in Joseki. The opening (fuseki) was by far the strongest part of my game. I was ahead at the end of the opening in at least 95% of my tournament games. I was shocked to be so far behind so early in a game. Normally, I have to get to my middle-game weaknesses before I fall behind.

I had spent the previous decade studying intently, hoping to reach the upper levels of amateur play. I looked across the board, and realized my opponent had better potential than I. He was seven years old. I withdrew from the fourth round, went home in time to get a babysitter and go to the movies with my wife. By Monday, I had stopped all my regular lessons and training, and became a full-time photographer.

This past Saturday, I played in the Philadelphia tournament as a 64-year-old two-dan. In my first game, I took six stones from Eric Lui, 1P. I was right. That seven-year-old in 1997 had had more potential. I was delighted that I didn’t lose this game until the fighting in the middle game. The six-stone handicap helped delay my second resignation against this fine player. It was a pleasure to lose again to this young man, who still has such great potential.

Straus is a former president of the American Go Association. He’s at right in the photo above, playing Eric Lui. photo by Henry Hathaway. 

Categories: Traveling Go Board