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Shotwell Updates Computer Coverage, Challenges Kissinger

Sunday October 30, 2011

Computer go has improved dramatically in recent years, For instance, a program named “Zen” recently earned a rating of KGS 4D by playing 83 games in 24 hours at that rating, and winning 60 of them. Peter Shotwell (l) has written about computer go for years, and covers all the latest advances in a thorough update of his article available from The Bob High Memorial Library, entitled, “A Time Line of Supercomputer Go: Temporal Difference Learning to Monte Carlo Programming.”  Also available are two appendices featuring interviews with some of the more prominent programmers. Shotwell also joined the critical reaction to Henry Kissinger’s recent use of go principles to explain Chinese thinking, posting “Thoughts on the Relationship of Go to On China by Henry Kissinger and The Protracted Game by Scott Boorman,” arguing in detail that neither of the books contribute much towards understanding the basic differences between Eastern and Western history, thinking and language that are the roots of the differences in strategic outlooks, both past and present.
– Roy Laird

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“Flawed” Use of Go in Kissinger’s New Book?

Sunday June 5, 2011

Henry Kissinger ‘s understanding of go strategy informs his latest book, On China. However, according to a recent review in The Economist, Kissinger’s book “is marred by three related flaws. The first is Mr Kissinger’s insight that Chinese strategists think like players of wei qi or Go, which means that, in the long term, they wish to avoid encirclement. Westerners are chess-players, tacticians aiming to get rid of their opponents’ pieces ‘in a series of head-on clashes’, he writes. ‘Chess produces single-mindedness; wei qi generates strategic flexibility.’” The review, entitled No go points out that “This conceit has been used by other authors. It appears every few pages here like a nervous tic. Even before Mr Kissinger joins the game, the metaphor is pulled into service to analyse, among other things, Chinese policy in the Korean war, the Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s (where, of course, “both sides were playing by wei qi rules”), the 1962 war with India (“wei qi in the Himalayas”). Later he describes events in Indochina as ‘a quadripartite game of wei qi,’ just at the time when genocide was under way in Cambodia.” Finally, The Economist reviewers say, “the picture of Chinese foreign policy, as formulated by cool, calculating, master strategists playing wei qi, makes it appear more coherent, consistent and effective than it has been. China’s involvement in the Korean war, for example, led, in Mr Kissinger’s phrase, to ‘two years of war and 20 years of isolation,’ hardly a goal for China—or a wei qi triumph.” In a related story, Leonard Lopate recently interviewed Kissinger on NPR’s WYNC and they briefly discussed the game of go; click here to hear the interview; they talk about go  from approximately 13:50 to about 16:20. Click here for our January 24, 2011 report on Kissinger on Go and Chinese Strategic Thinking.
- thanks to Robert A. McCallister, past president of the AGA and former publisher of The American Go Journal, and to Richard Simon, for spotting these reports

“Flawed” Use of Go in Kissinger’s New Book?

Kissinger on Go and Chinese Strategic Thinking

Monday January 24, 2011

Discussing China on CNN Sunday, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that “One has to understand the Chinese intellectual game, which is what we call go (and) they call weiqi.” Explaining that “it’s a game of strategic encirclement,” Kissinger said that “our intellectual game is chess. Chess is about victory or defeat. Somebody wins.” Kissinger contrasted chess in which “all the pieces are in front of you at all times, so you can calculate your risk” with go, where the pieces “are not all on the board, and your opponent is always capable of introducing new pieces.” Historically, Kissinger said, the Chinese use strategic analysis based on “the go way.” Despite Kissinger’s cogent understanding of the game, CNN mistakenly used video of Chinese Chess to illustrate the segment. Click here to see the interview; the comments about go begin at 7m32s.
Thanks to the many readers who alerted us to this interview.
UPDATE: Noting that “The goal is less victory than persistent strategic progress,”
Kissinger made similar comments in a 2004 Newsweek column. (Thanks to Roy Laird for finding this)

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Go Quiz: Who Pulled Off the “Miraculous Upset”?

Friday April 4, 2014

Last week’s quiz: Before turning to the poll results, here’s my personal all-time favorite go reference. This Camel ad from the late 1970s should have worked.  It was certainly popular, often featured on the back covers of numerous magazines. While not the best board, the bowls are nice, the board position reasonable, the decor splendid and our hero dutifully takes black against the master – top marks.  And for coolness it hits the all-time high. I mean, he has a piercing gaze, cool mustache, is at home in a world few men ever see and women bring him drinks.  Unfortunately, it only got more folks addicted to smoking, and not go.

I found all of your responses interesting, from the mysterious “Love and Go” by Wando Wende (on which I could not find any information) to the intriguing – and new to me — French cartoon “Code: Lyoko”, which certainly looks interesting and features the characters playing the game and discussing it, reports Alison Fotness.  Brian Kirby offers “PopCo”, a novel that features go prominently. Others chose brief references in “Tron: Legacy” and “Da Vinci’s Demons” while I was surprised no one chose “Star Trek” appearances or the cool background ambiance appearance in “24″.  It was great to hear from old friend David Erbach, editor of the early journal “Computer Go,” who suggested Henry Kissinger for featuring go in one of his books.  Ramon Mercado came up with the interesting choice of “ATARI”  the computer game company.  Full marks go to Drew Chuppe for selecting the film “Heaven Knows Mr. Allison”.  This World War II drama features Robert Mitchum as a soldier stranded on a Japanese-occupied island.  While breaking in to a store-room for food, he tensely hides while two soldiers play a couple of games.  A popular film, an accurate depiction as well as a wonderful use of the game as part of a suspenseful part of the plot makes this perhaps the greatest western film reference, but at the time, as an obscure game played by the “enemy”, it failed to gain go much popularity here.  Finally, Michael Goerss intrigued me with his spotting of go in Martin Sheen’s hotel room in “Apocalypse Now” but I must confess, I do not see it.

Tenuki-ing to those chosen by more than one of you, the films “A Beautiful Mind” and “Pi” garnered two votes each.  I must say I was expecting “A Beautiful Mind” to be the winner.  The Best Picture Oscar winner certainly wins the popular honors, and many folks got interested in go as a result, but the go scenes are less than convincing and minor.  Darren Aronofsky’s “Pi” does a better job and go is more central to the plot, thanks no doubt in part to credited guidance by “Go Advisors” including former AGA President Barbara Calhoun, Michael Solomon and the late Don Wiener (misspelled in the credits as “Dan”).  Sadly, this first effort by the director of many critically acclaimed films was not widely seen.  Your quizmaster will have to go along with the choice of 6 of you: “Shibumi” by Trevanian. The thriller features go-related section headings and a marvelous, lengthy section about the main character’s training and playing of the game.  And if a film version ever makes it to the screen the novel’s number one position could be solidified (or destroyed).  Many, many players were intrigued by the game as presented in the book, and learned to play as a result. So, until Steven Spielberg makes “The Tesuji Kid” about an unpopular but cute middle schooler who comes across a small asian garden while hiding from some bullies, meeting three old men playing go who teach him lessons from the game, which become lessons in life, foiling the bully, impressing his/her teachers and getting the boy/girl – Trevanian is number one.   Congrats to Steve Miller of Ramsey, MN, this week’s winner, randomly chosen from those who suggested Shibumi.

This Week’s Quiz: Hearty congratulations to Gu Li for taking game three of the jubango; could this be the start of a comeback? In the Japanese top titles, the matches are best of seven.  Who was the first player to come back from an 0-3 deficit and win a title in what was termed a “miraculous upset”?  Was it Sakata Eio, Rin Kaiho, Kato Masao or Cho Chikun?  Click here to submit your responses and comments.

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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.

Learning from the Stones: Go for Project Managers

Tuesday July 16, 2013

What’s a go lover to do when faced with the choice of a dissertation topic? For Grant Kerr, a doctoral candidate at the SKEMA Business School’s Lille campus, the choice was obvious. Kerr, an experienced manager of  IT and process improvement projects, had become disillusioned. “Traditional project management  . . . is limited by its rationalist, determinist, normative, first-order control paradigm,” he writes.  “It does not sufficiently consider context, strategy, irrational decision-making, nor does it deal with effects of goal and methods uncertainty such as high rates of change and reciprocal interactions between activities.”  As a longtime go player, Kerr realized that go may serve as a useful analogy to examine these issues. He notes that “the game of go has been used as a source analogue for many disciplines, e.g. military; politics (Boorman 1969; Kissinger 2011), business (Anderson 2004; Miura 1995), and mathematics (Conway 1976),” and proceeds to examine 83 identifiable principles of play.  In the end finds that seven of these principles may lead to more productive problem analysis, especially when there is strong opposition to a project. “[Go] adds a new perspective to current thinking on uncertainty. It suggests that project managers learn to deal with enduring conflict.” Kerr’s thesis is available in The Bob High Memorial Library.
- Roy Laird

Boz Slams Dr. K, Says China’s Policy “More Akin To Chess”

Monday October 10, 2011

by Roy Laird
Earlier this year, we covered the skeptical reaction to Henry Kissinger’s claim, in his new book On China, that principles of go — or weiqi, as it’s known in China –  influence Chinese military and political thinking. (Click here to view the article. ) The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and others found the comparison shallow and superfluous. Noted go author Peter Shotwell disputed the historical basis for Kissinger’s assumptions here. Now Richard Bozulich, the founder of Ishi Press and Kiseido and author or publisher of dozens of the finest go books in English, goes even farther, in an essay available for download exclusively on the AGA’s Bob High Memorial Library. In Richard Bozulich on Kissinger on China and Go, he presents a set of facts to support the view that in fact China pursues particularly unreasonable, unyielding policies, while the US and even chess-playing Russia sometimes apply “commonsense” principles that can also be found in go, but do not originate there. Whether or not one agrees, it’s a well-made case and a fascinating read. I especially enjoyed a section intended for non-players in which the “commonsense” aspects of strategic concepts like aji and yosu-miru seem to come clearly into focus, even for a non-player. We eagerly await Dr. Kissinger’s response . . .

Categories: U.S./North America
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Shotwell Updates Go! More Than a Game

Monday July 4, 2011

Go writer Peter Shotwell reports that he recently updated Go! More Than a Game with a brand-new chapter covering recent developments in the go world. New material in Go! — first published in 2003 by Tuttle — includes Computer Go Turns into Supercomputer Go, Surreal Numbers and Combinatorial Game Theory, Go Combinatorics: The Maximum Number of Possible Go Positions, Games and their Length, Asian Professional Go, Two Giant Tibetan Go Boards and A Re-dating and Re-interpretation of the Pre-Han Confucian Go Passages. Because of space limitations, the section on beginner’s use of The 36 Strategies has been dropped from the latest edition, “however they will soon appear in the AGA e-library” Shotwell says, adding that he’s now at work on a review for the EJ of the use of go in Henry Kissinger’s new book On China and Scott Boorman’s The Protracted Game.

GO IN THE NEWS: U.S. Strategists Learning from Go, says Wall Street Journal

Sunday June 26, 2011

“Forget chess,” said the Wall Street Journal on June 11. “To understand geopolitics in Taiwan or the Indian Ocean, U.S. strategists are learning from Go.” David Lai (r), a professor at the Army War College, has been telling senior military officials in the U.S. and overseas in recent months that go “holds the key to understanding how the Chinese really think—and U.S. officials had better learn to play if they want to win the real competition,” wrote reporter Keith Johnson in “What Kind of Game Is China Playing?” Lai authored a 2004 paper called “Learning From the Stones,” that described China’s long-term and indirect approach to acquiring influence and “zeroed in on concrete geopolitical challenges such as Taiwan, which he described, in terms of Go, as a single isolated stone next to a huge mass of opposing pieces.” The paper caught the attention of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who the WSJ says “quickly became a convert to his way of thinking.” Kissinger refers to go throughout his new book, “On China,” (“Flawed” Use of Go in Kissinger’s New Book? 6/5 EJ). One of Lai’s first fans was Air Force Gen. Steve Lorenz, formerly the head of Air University, where Lai then taught, reports the WSJ. “Gen. Lorenz heard one of his lectures in late 2005 and summoned him for a full briefing about the insights that Go could offer.” In recent months, Lai has briefed officers at Pacific Command, the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, the Center for Army Analysis and the Australian Defence College. “One officer at the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, where Mr. Lai gave a presentation at a commander’s conference in March to about three dozen officers, said ‘the game analogy really sparked fascination’ and was useful for Air Force officers who might have to consider China a potential adversary one day. He conceded, though, that the briefing’s heavy academic content left ‘plenty of heads hurting.’ ‘You’ve got to think like the other guy thinks,’ said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Other say that comparing national strategic thought to popular sports and games is an over-simplification. “Go is a very useful device for analyzing Chinese strategy, but let’s not overdo it,” James Holmes, an expert on Chinese strategy and professor at the Naval War College said. The 6/11 article also features a video of the WSJ’s Christina Tsuei getting a lesson on the game from 35-year go veteran – and Brooklyn Go Club organizer — Jean-Claude Chetrit (left).

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