The American Go Foundation (AGF) is offering $200 youth scholarships to this year’s US Go Congress. Interested youth must write an essay on why they want to go; the application deadline is May 31st. Twenty-five scholarships are available, and up to 15 awardees will be selected by June 1. Five scholarships are available to residents of Canada or Mexico. Applications received after May 31st will be approved on a space available basis. The scholarships are available for US youth who are under 18. Youth who competed in either the NAKC or the Redmond Cup are eligible for an additional $200 scholarship, for $400 total. For more information, and to apply, click here. - Story and photo by Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor. Photo: The Youth Team Tournament is one of the many activities in the Youth Room at Congress.
American Go E-Journal » Events/Tournaments
Monday April 11, 2016
Saturday April 9, 2016
Google DeepMind team members Aja Huang 7d and Hui Fan 2P have just confirmed that they’ll attend this year’s US Go Congress in Boston. “This is an exciting opportunity for the American go community to meet some of the team behind AlphaGo, which attracted global attention to go,” said Congress Director Walther Chen. The Congress runs July 30-August 7; click here for details. Dr. Huang (right), who was seen by millions worldwide last month playing for AlphaGo against Lee Sedol 9P, will give the keynote speech — together with European champion Hui Fan 2p — at the Congress opening ceremony on July 30. They’ll also attend a “Computer Go Afternoon” session on August 4. In other Congress updates, the attendance of the following professional players have been confirmed: Myungwan Kim 9P, An Yan 7P, Hajin Lee 3P, Yi Tang 2P and Shuang Yang 2P.
- Chun Sun
Wednesday April 6, 2016
It’s unusually nice out today*. As I stroll down my neighborhood and head towards the park, the sun’s rays hit me square in the back, right between the shoulder blades. The tingling warmth spreads all the way down and brings feeling to my toes…
It’s midnight in Huai-An, China, the site of the inaugural IMSA Elite Mind Games 2016. After a thirty-hour ordeal that included a cab ride of record-breaking speed between Shanghai’s international and domestic airports followed by a half-day layover, I arrived at the New Century Grand Hotel, a majestic venue secluded from downtown and just about everything else.
I’m looking around for a familiar face. There are none, to my slight disappointment mixed with relief, since at this point I’m rather unsure in my ability to form a coherent thought, let alone communicate in words. I stumble inside the luxurious living quarters on the eighth floor (surely a sign of good things to come), dragging the trusty luggage that has been with me to the ends of the earth. I check my phone for messages, and there it is, in flawless pinyin, ‘ming tian jian’, meaning ‘see you tomorrow’. Just for a moment, the fatigue melts away and my mind is clear and sharp.
The next morning at the dining hall I’m greeted by Ryan Li and Sarah Yu, the Canadian half of our North American Go Dream Team led by Mingjiu Jiang on the first board and Andy Okun, AGA president extraordinaire, as team leader. With players from around the world representing the various disciplines (Go, Chess, Draughts, Bridge, and Xiangqi), it’s a truly international event, complete with a security checkpoint and metal detectors located at the entrances to each of the playing areas.
“If the situation is bad, keep your head up and wait for your opponent to make a mistake.” Mingjiu chuckled slightly, motioning with his fork towards the air. It was lunch the next day and he was giving us some last-minute advice before we were set to take on Korea in the Men’s Team competition. We nodded solemnly in unison, Ryan and me, carefully avoiding each other’s gaze to prevent the inevitable burst of laughter. Despite arriving after midnight and missing the opening ceremony, Mingjiu appeared in good spirits, greeting anyone he recognized with a hearty clap on the shoulder. With so many varied and delicious desserts up for grabs, it was all I could do to resist overindulging myself right before the game. I reluctantly bade farewell to the sublime chocolate cake, looking back one last time before taking the long walk to the battlefield with the others, each of us lost in our own thoughts.
Both Korea and China fielded teams of some of the world’s top players. While we were unable to take a game from either country, we scored a win against Japan in a game where Ryan (right) fully showcased his fighting skills to defeat one of Japan’s up-and-coming young professionals. Against the Taiwanese team there were also good chances to win, although their superior experience prevailed in the end. After consecutive defeats, we managed to regain some pride with a victory over Europe. Overall, we were still somewhat disappointed, but there were moments during my own games when I felt that my opponents were not as strong as I imagined, and I was not as weak. With steady, determined effort, I wholeheartedly believe that in the foreseeable future the West will be competitive on the international stage.
After the conclusion of the Men’s Team and Women’s Individual events, the Pair Go knockout in which Ryan and Sarah participated took place. I wandered into the game review room during the final round, and, whilst standing around awkwardly, was invited by one of the top Taiwanese players, Chen Shiyuan 9p, to take a seat alongside him and Zhou Junxun 9p as they analyzed their compatriots’ game. Being able to ask them questions when I didn’t understand something was a real treat. Even after just a couple of hours, I felt like I had gotten stronger. These are the moments that every go player lives for.
I’m on the trail now, picking up speed as I navigate the winding path through the riverbend. When I reach the top of the hill, I’m breathing hard and my jet-lagged legs are starting to cry out in protest. In just a few days it’ll be roughly twenty degrees cooler again for a while before the warmth finally returns for good. But for now, on the cusp of spring, I’ll take one more lap around the baseball field, one more breath of the crisp air, enjoying the moment while it lasts, wishing for one more day in sunny Huai-An, and my very own copy of AlphaGo.
*The IMSA Elite Mind Games were held in early March and Eric sent in this report a few weeks ago; we apologize for the delay in publication. Click here for the E-Journal’s previous reports on the IMSA. Team photo (l-r): Mingjiu Jiang, Sarah Yu, Andy Okun, Eric Lui, Ryan Li
Friday March 18, 2016
Registration for this year’s US Go Congress — July 30-August 7 in Boston, MA — is now open: click here.
“The organizers of the Boston Go Congress are very excited to welcome all attendees,” says Director Walther Chen. “We’ll be doing our best to provide lots of fun go activities and an overall great experience.”
Check back regularly for more updates on tournaments, activities, attending pros, and more.
Important: this year, the policy for minors is more stringent, please contact the registrar directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure that you have completed all procedures before Go Congress.
Wednesday March 9, 2016
At the insistence of staff counsel at Boston University, the US Go Congress and AGA this year will be instituting tougher procedures for the appointment of guardians for under-18s staying at BU for the Go Congress without parents, AGA President Andy Okun told the EJ. “It is more involved than in previous years, which is regrettable, but campuses and their lawyers are feeling some pressure in the wake of the Penn State scandal. More vigilance in this area seems to be both inevitable and a good thing, and this is just the year we have to start.” If under-18s are staying in campus housing without a parent or formal legal guardian with them, a parent will have to sign a waiver and appoint an onsite guardian, as has been necessary since 2011. That guardian will have to be staying in the same housing and be attending Congress in the same time period, as always. The new requirement is that the guardian will also have to undergo a database background check by a third party service hired by AGA, as well as a brief online training in the protection of minors. AGA will charge the parents $25 for the background check, although the actual cost will vary and likely be more. The BU policy doesn’t apply to kids who are not staying in campus housing; for them, Congress will ask parents to sign a form as in prior years, but without the need for background check or training. Congress this year has booked some rooms at a hotel near the campus and other housing options are available around Boston. Questions about the policy can be addressed to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The forms will be ready within the next week or so, Okun said.
Thursday March 3, 2016
Koreans Park Jeonghwan 9p and Choi Jeong 6p defeated the Chinese team of Tang Weixing 9p and Yu Zhiying 5p to take first place in the three round pair go competition at the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian.
Playing for North America, the Canadian team off Ryan Li 1p and Sarah Yu 6d, took sixth place overall, losing to Ilya Shikshin 1p and Natalya Kovaleva 5d. Li and Yu lost in round one to the Taiwanese team of Joanne Missingham 7p and Lin-li Hsiang 6p, but scored a win in round two against Ali Jabarin 1p of Israel and Elvina Kalsberg 5d of Russia.
Japan secured third place with Tomoya Hirata 7P and Hoshiai Shiho 1P defeating Missingham and Hsiang.
- Andy Okun, Special Correspondent for the E-Journal, with reporting by Hajin Lee
photo: Pair go top medalists with Pair Go founder Mrs Taki and local CP official
Tuesday March 1, 2016
Two of the three go events at the IMSA Elite Mind Games ended Monday with Korean and Chinese victories, while the North American Men’s team and lone woman contender Sarah Yu 6d each took 5th place. In the course of the match, each of the three men players defeated a pro with Ryan Li 1p scoring a final round win against the young Japanese talent Mutsuura Yuta 2p.
The men’s team, comprising Li, Jiang Mingjiu 7p and Eric Lui 1p, were winless in the first three matches of the five match round robin, losing to Korea (see team photo at right), Taiwan and China. Round four was against the European Go Federation team of Fan Hui 2p, Ali Jabarin 1p and Ilya Shikshin 1p, expected to be the main competition for North America. On board three, Lui beat Shikshin while on board two, after falling behind early on, Li scrapped hard and fought gallantly, but was unable to catch up with Jabarin. The match turned then on board one, where Jiang beat Hui, recently in the news for his October match against AlphaGo, in a hard fought half-point game.
North America’s final day match against Japan could not have moved North America out of 5th but was the deciding factor in Japan or Taiwan taking 3rd place in the match. Japan, needing the win to stay on the medal stand, won by 2-1. Although Li beat the strong 16-year-old Mutsuura, Lui lost to Toramaru Shibano 2p, another 16-year-old with a strong record in his two years of pro play. Jiang meanwhile, lost to Hirata Tomoya 7p, although both a disappointed Jiang and some observers in the room thought he had a chance to win.
Li’s win was in line with the opinion expressed by the Asian team captains present, that the young AGA and EGF pros had improved significantly, approaching in strength a new Chinese pro and matching weaker Japanese pros. They mainly need more opportunities for serious tournament play in order to improve.
Korea effectively won the tournament by beating main rival China by 2-1 in round two. Both were undefeated against the other teams. Japan staked its claim on third place against main rival Taiwan in round one when Mutsuura and Shibano prevailed in their games.
In the women’s individual tournament, a 12-player double elimination, Sarah Yu lost in round one to Korea’s Oh Yujin 2p, but then won against Rita Pocsai 4d of Hungary and then Elvina Kalsberg 5d to guarantee at least a fifth place finish. Her round four match against Yu Zhiying 5p went beautifully until the players were in byo yomi and the Chinese pro took control of the game. Yu Zhiying went on to win the tournament. Yu’s last game was against Cao Youyin 3p. Cao won, taking fourth. Joanne Missingham 7p of Taiwan was third and Choi Jeong 6p of Korea took second.
A three-round pair go event started Tuesday, with Yu and Li facing off against Taiwanese teammates Missingham and Lin Li-Hsiang 6p.
- reported by Andy Okun from Huaian, Jiangsu Province, China; photo courtesy Ranka Online
Tuesday March 1, 2016
Despite being pushed to the loser’s bracket, Yu Zhiying 5P defeated Yu Jin 6D and Joanne Missingham 7P to make it into the women’s final at the IMSA Elite Mind Games, where she’ll play Choi Jeong 6P for the gold medal. In the men’s team division, North America defeated Europe 2 to 1, thanks to Jiang Mingjiu 7P’s (right) dramatic half-point victory over Fan Hui 2P and Eric Lui 1P’s win against Ilya Shikshin 1P. The match between North America and Europe attracted a lot of attention because for the first time, both teams were represented by professional players. Meanwhile, China defeated Japan 3-0, Korea defeated Chinese Taipei 2-0 and with just one round to go, the Korean team is leading with four wins while the Chinese team has three wins and one loss.
- adapted from a report on Ranka Online
Monday February 29, 2016
by Special Correspondent Andy Okun, with reporting by Natalya Kovaleva
In the run-up to AlphaGo’s challenge match with Lee Sedol 9p in Seoul in a little over a week, go players have been worrying about the new age whose beginning might be marked by an AlphaGo victory. What will the go world be like when computers are so good? Will people still want to play go? What will change? Taking advantage of the collegiality of the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian, we sought counsel from a community that has been through this before. We asked chess players how the game was affected by Garry Kasparov’s historic loss to IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, the steady growth in strength of computer chess since, and how go players should greet the news. The general view was that go players should not be afraid of the new age, but that things will be different. There may even be some new and interesting problems to handle, as there have in chess.
“So many cheats!” said KwaiKeong Chan (right), a long time chess player, arbiter and organizer from Hong Kong. Chan is helping run the chess section of the IEMG as deputy chief arbiter. The software is so strong that it has become very easy to find new ways to cheat, Chan said. “Hiding in the toilet is primitive,” he said dismissively of a toilet-based chess scandal last year in Dubai, although he refused to detail some of the more subtle methods people use. Strong computers also are how officials crack down on cheats, he said. Chess software is so good that given a board position and an ELO rating, you can predict the exact set of moves a player of that strength will likely draw from. If a player consistently picks better moves than are likely for his or her rating, officials know to pay close attention. “You cannot play beyond yourself. It’s not humanly possible,” said Chan, who himself had designed some very early chess-playing software.
Beyond that, chess players don’t really care about computers’ strength and said go players shouldn’t either, he said. Rather, the advent of strong computer go will bring publicity to the game, as Deep Blue did for chess, Chan said. “That is always a good thing, publicity, good or bad. Publicity is what you need.” Chess is being played more than ever before, and while Deep Blue is not the main reason for that – he cited years of community effort in presenting chess well – it did produce a second surge of new players after the Bobby Fischer surge of the 1970s.
The presence of such strong computers has had other effects on how chess is played and the nature of chess expertise, players suggested. Since strong computers can provide weak and middling players with solid and accurate analysis, the role of the chess master is different than it was, said Russian player Alexandra Kosteniuk (left), a grandmaster, former Women’s World Chess Champion and author of “Diary of a Chess Queen.” The strength of players has gone up, but the best players don’t command the same respect they might have in years past because the best critique is available to everyone. “Maybe in a few years, there will be no go masters,” she said.
Shahriyar Mamedyarov, a 31-year-old Azerbaijani grandmaster and former rapid chess World Champion, said it used to be that when he was in world championship tournaments, he might have seven or eight fellow players with him helping him prepare for the games. He doesn’t need to do that now, since any questions he has or analysis he needs done can be done by computer. Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina, a three-time Russian women’s champion, said computers had raised the standard of training and that “we need to memorize much more than we did before.”
Kirsan ILyumzhinov, the controversial president of both the Federation Internationale des Echecs and the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, as well as the head of IMSA and a long time sponsor of computer go competitions, said in the early days of the computer go project, human players and human programmers would work hard to develop the computer player and make it stronger. “Now the computer develops and trains the human.”
Perhaps the bluntest argument against fear of computers learning to play our games well came from Ruslan Ponomariov (right), a Ukrainian grandmaster and FIDE World Champion from 2002 to 2004.
“What we can do?” he asked with a shrug.
photos credits: Kirill Merkurev (Chan); chessqueen.com (Kosteniuk); en.chessbase.com (Ponomariov)
Sunday February 28, 2016
After two rounds, the Korean and Japanese men’s teams are undefeated in the first International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) Elite Mind Games in Huaian, China, while North America’s sole woman player scored a win to stay alive in the women’s Individual event.
After losing to a Korean pro in round one, Sarah Yu 6d (right) of Canada beat the European team’s Rita Pocsai 4d of Hungary in round two, moving on in the double elimination tournament. Yu said she and Pocsai were well matched and that she had benefited from a few mistakes in her opponent’s endgame play. On the other hand, playing against Oh Yujin 2p in round one was daunting, the strong amateur said. “When you are playing against a pro, you just have to try to make the game last longer,” Yu said. “It forces you to play better.” In the game against Oh, “there were never any chances.”
On the men’s side, the North American men were winless against Korea and Taiwan, though Eric Lui 1p believes he had an opportunity against Lin Shih-Hsun 5p of Taiwan. Lin and Lui, who are friends, reviewed for two hours after the game. Lin made left a major group vulnerable late in the game and Lui (left) attacked but was unable to bring off the kill. “Unfortunately, I went for a small part of the group instead of trying to kill the whole group, which clearly would have been the right thing to do,” Lui said in an interview in the bright white marble lobby of the New Century Grand Hotel Huaian. While the game wasn’t over then, Lin didn’t let down his guard again and won by resignation. His game on day one against Kim Jiseok 9p was not so suspenseful. “The thing about active young pro players today is their game is so well-rounded,” Lui said. “Their game has no real weaknesses.”
On board one, Jiang Mingjiu 7p lost to Lee Donghoon 5p on the first day and Taiwan’s Chen Shih-Yuan 9p on the second. Ryan Li 1p of Canada lost to Park Jeonghwan 9p of Korea and Lin Li-Hsiang 6p. The Korean and Chinese teams are thought to be the strongest, so Korea, in addition to defeating North America, may have effectively taken the lead in the round robin tournament when it defeated China by 2-1 in the second round. Japan’s very young team, including two 16-year-old 2 dans, is also undefeated, having beaten Europe in a clean sweep and Taiwan by 2-1.
- Andy Okun, reporting from Huaian, China. For more IEMG reports, game records and the tournament contestants, go to Ranka Online’s website.