American Go E-Journal

A seat at the board: a game recorder’s view

Tuesday August 22, 2017

by Nate Eagle2017.08.19-wu-hao-eagle

Move 110 of Wu Hao’s game against Ryan Li in this year’s U.S. Masters is remarkable: two seemingly dead white stones reach out a toe to the first line, creating a connection to the outside that turns out to be unbreakable due to an invisible sente, one that ends up swallowing up black’s four outside stones and becoming a game-winning fortress of territory. You can check out that move now and relive it—the timelessness of game records is one of the magical things about go, better even than baseball’s much-loved box scores—but I got to actually be there.

I sat next to Ryan Li, across the table from Wu Hao (right), my hand perched in readiness near the trackpad on my laptop, and traveled with two amazing players for several hours. I did my best to be as easy for them to forget as an extra chair at the table, trying not to stretch or fidget or distract from the game. How did I spend those hours? As well as I could, I tried to understand the game and think about white and black’s choices. If you had a magical view into the brain activity of the three humans at that table, of course, you would see two brains afire with electrical tempests of analysis and one brain with a single red LED blinking fitfully. But I was there with them, waiting while they thought, ready to ink their moves into electronic permanence before the 2017.08.19-nate-eagle-IMG_8652stones stopped vibrating.

That waiting, those long stretches of silence, is the difference between being forced to watch a match in its entirety and viewing a record afterward. It’s what gives one’s mind the time to ask questions, and those questions are what make watching a game edifying. It’s exciting when I anticipate a move correctly; even more so when—far more commonly—I’m wrong, and I get to spend the next few minutes learning about why the move actually played was stronger, sharper, bigger, or better-timed. The Socratic principle holds true in go as it does in all things: no teacher can give us knowledge, they can only help us answer our own questions.

Getting to be a recorder during this year’s Go Congress was a privilege and a pleasure: if you’re interested in volunteering to record at a future AGA event, please email

Eagle, who recorded evening Masters games (as well as the City League final), went 6-0 to win the shodan division of the 2017 U.S. Open
photo (top right): Eagle’s view of Wu Hao; (bottom left): Eagle recording a game between Matthew Hu and Tim song during the Pandanet AGA City League finals on August 5; photo by Chris Garlock

Categories: U.S. Go Congress