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2014 WAGC Player Profiles: Americas & Oceania

Sunday June 29, 2014

Last of a series of profiles of players in the 35th World Amateur Go Championships, which will be held July 4-11 in Gyeongju, Korea. Fifty-seven players from a like number of countries and territories are scheduled to make the trip to Korea to compete in the four-day, eight-round Swiss system. Many will be veterans of previous tournaments held in Japan and China, some drawn back to WAGC competition after a long absence, perhaps by the chance to be part of the first WAGC held in Korea. As usual, the largest contingent will come from Europe (30 players) and the youngest from the Far East (15 players, including an 11-year-old fromIndonesia). Click here for Ranka’s June 24 WAGC preview.

Americas
Argentina: Haroldo Brown 3k (right) is a 54-year-old development consultant from Buenos Aires. Career accomplishments Include “17 years of working with an outstanding humanitarian organisation (Oxfam) and at least 15 years in the theatre world.” His favorite thing about go is “The different paths one goes down in each game and, of course, the chance to meet people from many walks of life.” Hobbies include screenwriting. He’s not married, but says he “’adopted’ three daughters while I lived in Nicaragua.” He adds that “Go keeps my mind thinking strategically and this includes analysing with an open mind the different alternatives paths I can take in the face of whatever challenges come my way… And this has proved most useful in my development work as well as in the screenwriting world.”

Canada: Yongfei Ge 7D is a 45-year-old software architect from Scarborough. He’s been playing for 30 years, winning the Canada Open Championship in 2007, and the US Open Championship in 2001, 2007 and 2011. His favorite thing about go is to “Win after hard fight.” Hobbies include PC games, novels and running. Career highlights include the Horizontal Award, “signed by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.” He’s married, with one daughter.

Costa Rica: Enrique Boza Araya 7k is a 52-year-old systems engineer in San Jose. He’s been playing go for 11 years and says his favorite thing about the game is “The depth of the game despite its simple rules.” His hobbies include strategy games – he’s a 5-time champion at the Banco Central de Costa Rica’s annual tournament — writing fantasy stories, and movies.

Mexico: Ricardo Quintero Zazueta 5D is a 63-year-old mathematician and full time researcher at Cinvestav  in México City. He’s been playing go for more than 40 years and has been Mexican champion eight times. His favorite thing about go is “Making lasting friendships through go and the depth of the game itself.” His hobbies include Kendo. He’s married, with three children.

United States: Jie Liang 7D is a 43-year-old software engineer from Nashua, New Hampshire. Working with the same company for over 16 years, he says “I am doing well in the work so I have spare time to play go.” He’s been playing for 30 years, won 4th place in the 2010 KPMC and says his favorite things about go are “comfortable, brain game, concentration, competitive, friendship.” Hobbies include photography and fishing. He’s married, with “one 2-year old lovely boy, full of energy who likes placing stones on board in some patterns.” He adds that “I can still find great interest in playing go. Also I try to improve my games through online resources. There are some strong young players and Europeans are getting better too. I hope I will have better luck this time in the WAGC.”
Missing: Brazil (probably too busy with the World Cup!).

Oceania
Australia: Sang-Dae Hahn 7D is a retired professor who just turned 73 and lives in Sydney. He’s been playing go for 48 years, and is a 12-time Australian Champion (1978~1993) and won the 2012 Korean Ambassador’s Cup. His favorite thing about go is “creating my own aesthetic world” and his hobbies include “singing, traveling, and people.” Career highlights include teaching at Yon-sei Uni, Sydney Uni, Myongji Uni and 10 times Singing Recital. He’s married, with one child.
Missing: New Zealand

Africa: missing Madagascar & South Africa

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Wired Magazine on “The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win”

Tuesday May 13, 2014

“Rémi Coulom is sitting in a rolling desk chair, hunched over a battered Macbook laptop, hoping it will do something no machine has ever done.” So begins Alan Levinovitz’s thorough report on the current state of computer go in Wired Magazine – The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win – published May 12. Levinovitz covered this year’s UEC Cup, the computer Go tournament held each March that rewards two finalists with matches against a “Go sage” in the Densei-sen, or machine-versus-man matches. The Wired report covers the history of computer go, name-checking Einstein, Turing and Nash, includes an excellent explanation of the game’s branching problem and explains how the development of Monte Carlo Tree Search enabled the latest breakthroughs in computer go, in which Coulom’s Crazy Stone program won the first Densei-sen last year against Japanese professional Yoshio “The Computer” Ishida. American-born pro Michael Redmond — a regular EJ contributor — makes an appearance in the report as the commentator at the UEC Cup. Levinovitz does a good job demystifying computer go, as well, writing that the view that go is “the final bastion of human dominance over computers” is “deeply misguided.” Levinovitz points out that “computers can’t ‘win’ at anything, not until they can experience real joy in victory and sadness in defeat, a programming challenge that makes Go look like tic-tac-toe. Computer Go matches aren’t the brain’s last stand. Rather, they help show just how far machines have to go before achieving something akin to true human intelligence.”
photo: Remi Coulom (left) and his computer program, Crazy Stone, take on grandmaster Norimoto Yoda. Photo: Takashi Osato/WIRED. Thanks to the many EJ readers who quickly spotted this report and passed it along. 

Categories: Go Spotting,Japan,World
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Physics Central Podcast on “Beating the Game of Go”

Friday May 2, 2014

“Beating the Game of Go” is the title of a recent Physics Central Podcast. “Researchers in France want to model the game as a complex network. Other examples of complex networks include airplane flight plans, social networks, neurons in the brain, and fungal communities, to name a few. By modeling Go as a complex network, the researchers hope to find patterns and symmetries that could assist scientists who are working on Go-playing programs, that they hope will some day beat the best human Go players (something that already been accomplished in Chess).” The report also has a number of interesting and useful go links.

Categories: Go Spotting
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Dumb Cluck? 9×9 Go Reportedly Solved

Tuesday April 1, 2014

A team of researchers at the University of Brightloch have announced that 9×9 go has been solved. Inspired by recent improvements in computer play by Montecarlo algorithms, they hypothesized that “If a computer can play at random andplay good games, what prevents a more powerful device (like a brain) to do something similar?”

So the researchers picked a team of 100,000 chickens and taught them to play go. “It was hard in the beginning, but once a few knew how to play they started teaching others,” they report. “After a couple months all were playing as 30k players and we set them loose in a field filled with 9×9 go boards and bowls with stones. Also some grain and water.”

A month later the chickens were gone, and the same position was repeated on every 9×9 board: perfect play, with white winning by 0.5 points with 7.5 komi. The chickens had also left a note. It said “So long, and thanks for all the grain.”
- based on a report on Nordic Go Academy by RBERENGUEL; thanks to Go Game Guru, which posted it on their Facebook page

Categories: World
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Go Spotting: Top Mind-Bending Games

Sunday February 16, 2014

Go makes the top slot in Top 10 Mind-bending Strategy Games on the How Stuff Works website. “It’s perhaps no coincidence that the most mind-bending of all strategy games is also the oldest,” writes John Kelly. Kelly also reports that “Japanese neurosurgeon Kaneko Mitsuo has studied the effect that playing Go has on older adults, noting that “Randomized trials by the U.S. National Institutes of Health have shown that playing certain types of games — though not a mental health cure — can keep the brain healthy.”
Thanks to Aaron Murg of Bethesda, MD for passing this along! A 15-kyu AGA member, Aaron says “I enjoy waking up each morning to find an E-Journal waiting to be read.”

Categories: Go Spotting
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The Go Quiz Returns!

Saturday February 8, 2014

by Keith Arnold, HKA
I am delighted to have been asked to return as AGA Quizmaster and look forward to bringing you a whole new batch of weekly brain-teasers that will test your knowledge of the go world and its fascinating history. I will be ably assisted by quiz veteran Phil Waldron 6 dan and Daniel Chou 6 dan; if you notice clever questions of a new style, they will deserve the credit, while all errors (and unfortunate puns) will remain my responsibility.  Please remember to submit your answers on or before Thursday each week. Let the games begin!

Since we’re in a self-referential mood, let’s make our first effort close to home: How many books are in Keith Arnold’s go library?  For the purpose of this question, all languages are allowed, including duplicates as long as they are materially different (translations, revised editions with different covers) as opposed to the deranged “doubles” of an obsessed collector.  Our E-Journal editor – who interviewed me at my home some years ago — will be as surprised as I am that the number of go books finally exceeds my voluminous collection of books regarding the War Between the States. Is the number 600-700, 700-800, 800-900 or more than 900?  Click here to make your guess and, as always, feel free to include your comments, rude or otherwise, as we do award extra points for clever responses. photo: Arnold at the 2012 US Go Congress; photo by Phil Straus

Categories: Go Quiz
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Research Offers a New Look at Go Players’ Brains

Thursday February 6, 2014

A research collaboration in Seoul has revealed new information about the cognitive requirements of playing go and the effects that it may have on the brain. A team compared a group of expert go players with a group of beginners and published the results in the journal “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience”. The work revealed several differences between the brains of the beginner and the expert. The experts had increased volume in certain areas of the brain, decreased volume in others, greater interconnectivity between certain regions and differences in the overall brain structure. A correlation between the magnitude of the effect and the number of years of go training suggests that these differences are not simply the result of a predisposition of these people to continue playing go. Rather, the difference in brain structure can be explained by the the fact that the brain rewires itself to meet new skill requirements. This phenomenon, known as neuroplasticity, has been observed before in chess players. The areas of the brain in which the experts outmatched the novices are associated with visuospatial processing and emotional regulation in decision making, among others. This suggests that these skills are important in go. Thus, it appears that long-term go training can enhance these and other skills and can indeed be used as a tool for brain development. The complete article is available here. The literature search section links to many other fascinating studies as well. There are several related articles. Click here for one that discusses similar specific physical changes in the brain and reaches similar conclusions. The EJ covered this article at length in 2010 here.
- Ben Gale, Korean Correspondent for the E-Journal
Categories: World
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Mind-Mapper Tony Buzan Takes a Turn at the Go Board

Monday January 27, 2014

Tony Buzan, the inventor of mind-mapping and author of numerous books on enhancing the power of the brain, has made his debut appearance at a go tournament at the age of 71. The man once named by Forbes Magazine alongside Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher and Michail Gorbachev as one of the world’s top five international lecturers played in round one of the annual Maidenhead Go Tournament, held January 18 at Hitachi’s European Headquarters in Maidenhead, south-east England, after seeing publicity about the tourney in his local newspaper, the Maidenhead Advertiser.

He entered with a nominal grade of 10k, but it seems this may have been wishful thinking as opponent Colin Maclennan of Twickenham Go Club, with a thick grade of 10k, won by a large margin. Maclennan says, “In our game it soon became apparent that I was building a huge moyo that he allowed me to turn into territory.  He then invaded with little hope of life. In the end I won by over 100 points.”

It appears that Buzan has long wanted to find the time to learn to play go well, though it is hardly surprising, with his prodigious output and many speaking and other commitments, that he has not so far been able to put in the many hours required to master the game. British Go Association VP Tony Atkins says Buzan approached the Association some twenty years ago, enquiring about learning at the time when manytime British and European Champion Matthew Macfadyen 6d was actively teaching. He added, “I still have fond memories of a festival of the brain that [Buzan] organized at the Royal Albert Hall some years ago, which we were privileged to teach go at”. Atkins organizes the go competition in the Mind Sports Olympiad (see Taylor Wins Gold at London’s Mind Sports Olympiad, EJ 8/28/13), which Buzan co-founded.

However, the novice promised tournament organizer Iain Attwell that he will be attending some of Maidenhead Go Club‘s Friday evening meets in the future. If he does, he will be in good hands: the club and tournament, sponsored by Hitachi,  grew out of the Furze Platt School go club which Attwell founded some twenty-five years ago with fellow teacher France Ellul who had taught him to play, and the school produced every single Under-16 and Under-18 British Youth Champion for a number of years. Attwell described his guest as “a very nice gentleman”, and expressed hopes that Buzan will be as good as his word.

In a surprise finish, Toby Manning 2d of Leicester this year stole the tournament from British Championship Challenger Andrew Simons 4d of Cambridge in the third and final round. Click here for full results.

Report by Tony Collman, British correspondent for the E-Journal; photo courtesy of  Buzan’s mindmappingsoftware blog.

New Go Mag Tries to Bridge Print, Online Formats

Thursday December 12, 2013

Imagine sitting at your go board, playing through a game from a printed game commentary. You come to a point where you need further explanation, scan the QR code into your Smartphone, and go online for a tutorial. Or jump online to play the game with the aid of your laptop or tablet. Whichever works best for you, Cooper Stevenson wants to help you enjoy the beauty of the game with his new magazine, Formation. “I want to engage the initial spark people have when they first appreciate the game and carry them all the way to expert levels,” Stevenson told the EJ in a recent interview. “Learning go should feel like a journey through a scenic valley, discovering new treasures along the way.” The inaugural issue includes coverage of a merger to create a potentially major new server, the latest scientific evidence that go actually produces physical changes in the brain, and move-by-move commentary by Go Seigen on a classic encounter with Kitani from 1957. Stevenson adapted Jim Z. Yu’s translation, also available as the first of ten games and several other game analyses in the free download, “Go on Go: The Analyzed Games of Go Seigen.”

By porting instructional material online, Stevenson hopes to make it easier for players to learn, especially those new to the game. “When I was learning from printed books, the diagrams were too hard to read,” Stevenson said. “I wanted to give authors a better way to communicate their ideas to their readers.” Formation will be available in print and online. The print version will have a spiral binding so as to lie flat next to the goban. QR links will enable players to step through a variation, get the answer to a problem, and so on. “The key is delivering the best content respective to the medium by which it is delivered,” Stevenson said. “The online site will have current news because digital media are more timely. The print medium will have more in-depth stories and features from the world of go. The reader can take their time absorbing the content, as a copy is always on the coffee table, ready for a good read.”  Subscriptions to the print version will be available soon at the website.

Formation is looking for volunteer proofreaders, interesting games, and authors. If you have an idea for future content, contact editor@formationmag.com.

Terpstra Tops Las Vegas MindSports Go Event

Wednesday December 11, 2013

Ted Terpstra of the San Diego Go Club topped a field of 8 at the December 7-8 go section of the 2013 Las Vegas MindSports event. Sponsored by MindSports International, the event included other “brain” games such as chess, Scrabble, Magic: The Gathering and various miniature war-games. Runners-up in the 4-round go competition were locals Michael Wanek (LV Go Club) in second place and Jun-Suk Kim (LV Go Club) placed third; the three medal winners split a nearly $200 prize pot. During breaks, players were allowed to watch the other games at MindSports, watch sports in the Sports Book, or gamble at the gaming tables.  “The event coincided with the National Finals Rodeo,” reports local organizer Chris Tettamanti, “and in the Venetian Hotel venue, there were plenty of places to buy authentic Western wear and cowboy gear. photo courtesy Chris Tettamanti

Categories: U.S./North America
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