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Chess Players Counsel Calm As Computers Close in on Go

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 2016.02.29_Kwai Keong Chansection 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.

2016.02.29_Alexandra KosteniukThe 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, as2016.02.29_ponomariov03 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)

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Korea, Japan Ahead in Elite Mind Games Men’s Tourney, N.A.’s Sarah Yu Scores Win

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 2016.02.28_Jin_Yu-imsaon 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.”

2016.02.28_Eric_LUI-iemgOn 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.

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IMSA Inks Deal Guaranteeing Three More Years of Elite Mind Games in Huaian

Sunday February 28, 2016

The International Mind Sports Association will hold three more IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian, Jiangsu Province, China over the next three2016.02.28_imsa_ban600x90 years, according to IMSA Secretary General (and AGA VP) Thomas Hsiang. IMSA signed a memorandum of understanding on Feb. 28 at the first IEMG with officials from the Jiangsu Sports Bureau, the government of Huaian and the China Qiyuan (the Board and Card Games Administrative Center of China’s General Administration of Sport) under which a second, third and fourth IEMG will be held the second week of January in 2017, 2018 and 2019. “I am very grateful to our friends at the China Qiyuan for their crucial role in making the first IEMG possible, and now for adding three more rounds of IEMG,” said Hsiang. “The local organizational efforts have also been just marvelous! The past few days have been most enjoyable and I look forward to having this event become a regular fixture on the mind sports scene.” As part of the MOU, IMSA will open an office and a mind sports academy in Huaian and all the parties have agreed to work to spread mind sports generally and also to promote Huaian as the “Mind Sports City of the World.” The IEMG were in part prompted by the end of the successful four-year run of the similarly structured SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing.
- Andy Okun, reporting from Huaian, China

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“The Surrounding Game” Update: Peter Shotwell Interviews Cole Pruitt

Sunday February 28, 2016

If you’ve been following the E-Journal over the last several years, you will know that Cole Pruitt (right), Will Lockhart and many friends have been 2016.02.20_cole-pruittworking on The Surrounding Game, the first major documentary about what’s “going on” in the world of go today. Here’s Peter Shotwell’s November 2015 interview with Pruitt during a visit to the Los Alamos, New Mexico labs where Pruitt was conducting labs tests for his Washington University of St. Louis PhD thesis.

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Categories: U.S./North America
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Evanston Go Club to host Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo Game 1 Watch Party

Saturday February 27, 2016

Following the Seattle Go Center’s lead (Seattle Plans AlphaGo-Lee Sedol Watch Parties 2/25 EJ), the Evanston Go Club will have a watch party 2016.02.27_evanston-go-clubfor the first game of the Lee Sedol/AlphaGo match. The party will be hosted by club President Mark Rubenstein at his home. The game will be shown on a 55” TV in Rubenstein’s rec room, which also has a pool table and a dartboard. “It should be a lot of fun!” says Rubenstein. “There will be plenty of go sets available for people to follow along with the game, play their own games, or both.” The party will start at 10 PM on Tuesday March 8 at 917 Maple Ave, Evanston Illinois. “This is an historic event for the go world. Come and be part of it! And please bring some liquid libations or munchies to share.” says Rubenstein. Please RSVP to mark@evanstongoclub.org.
photo: Evanston Go Club meeting; photo courtesy Mark Rubenstein

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Myungwan Kim 9P to Comment Live on Nongshim Cup Starting March 1

Friday February 26, 2016

Myungwan Kim 9P will be providing live commentary in the Nongshim Cup starting Tuesday, March 1st.  The game will begin at 10p PST (1a 3/2 EST) and commentary on the AGA’s YouTube channel will begin at 10:30p PST 1:30a 3/2 EST, UTC-8).  2016.02.26_Nongshim10BracketsThe Nongshim Cup is a win-and-continue team match between Japan, China, and Korea.  On Feb 29th, Gu Li — on a 3-game winning streak after beating Choi Cheolhon, Kono Rin, and Park Jungwhan — will face Japan’s next player, Murakawa Daisuke.  Lee Sedol will face the winner of that match up, and the AGA will continue to broadcast games as long as Lee keeps winning; the remaining games are scheduled for March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
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Categories: China,Japan,Korea,World
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Seattle Plans AlphaGo-Lee Sedol Watch Parties

Thursday February 25, 2016

The Seattle Go Center is planning to host watching parties for the upcoming AlphaGo-Lee Sedol 9P 5-game match, March 7-15. “We did 2016.02.26_seattle-jubango-party-First Gamesomething similar for the Jubango between Lee Sedol and Gu Li in 2014, although those games were longer,” reports club manager Brian Allen. “It was great fun. You can also play casual games at the same time.”

The first game will happen in Korea on March 9, which will be Tuesday, March 8 Seattle time. “We plan to watch it at the Go Center with our video projector,” says Allen. “The game starts at 8 p.m., and is expected to run 4 or 5 hours. Dennis Wheeler will be the host. Lee Sedol 9P, winner of the Jubango between Lee Sedol and Gu Li, and representing the human race, is confident that he can beat the version of AlphaGo that beat the 2 dan pro Fan Hui in October of last year. The big question is: how much has AlphaGo improved since then?”

Allen sent along the Harry Belafonte version of “John Henry” the “steel-drivin’ man” who so famously took on the steam engine.

Check the Seattle Go Club’s calendar for the dates of the other games, which they’ll also be watching. If other clubs plan similar events, please let us know at journal@usgo.org

photo: Frank Lam and Andrew Jackson (r) following the first Jubango game at the Seattle Go Center; photo by Brian Allen

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The Power Report: Lead shared in Honinbo League; Women’s Meijin League concludes

Thursday February 25, 2016

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Lead shared in Honinbo League: The first game in the fourth round of the 71st Honinbo League was played on January 7, with Ichiriki Ryo 7P (B) beating Yamashita Keigo 9P by 4.5 points. On January 14, Yo Seiki 7P (W) beat Motoki Katsuya 7P by resig. This was Motoki’s first loss, so he now shared the lead with Yo; both were on 3-1. On January 21, Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Ida Atsushi 9P by resig. On January 28, Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Cho U by resig., so he joined Yo and Motoki in the lead. On February 4, Cho U 9P picked up his first win, beating Ichiriki Ryo 7P by resig. with white. On the same day, Motoki Katsuya 7P (B) beat Ida Atsushi Judan by resig. On February 11, Takao (B) beat Yamashita by 7.5 points. On February 18, Kono (W)beat Yo by 1.5 points. That game completed the fifth round. At present, Takao and Motoki, both on 4-1, share the lead.

Women’s Meijin League concludes: The final round of the 28th Women’s Meijin League was held on January 7. Aoki Kikuyo 8P had already won the league in the fifth round, but she won her final game as well to finish with a perfect score. Results: Aoki (W) beat Fujisawa Rina 3P by resig.; Okuda Aya 3P (B) beat Kato Keiko 6P by resig.; Suzuki Ayumi 6P (B) beat Mannami Nao 3P by 2.5 points. The title match with Xie Yimin will start in March.

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Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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The Power Report: Iyama to challenge for Judan; Meijin League

Wednesday February 24, 2016

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama to challenge for Judan: The new tournament year at the Nihon Ki-in got off to a start on January 7. Most of the interest focussed 2016.02.24_54jyudan_2on the semifinals of the 54th Judan tournament. The Judan is the only top-seven title Iyama Yuta doesn’t hold; if he becomes the challenger, he has a chance of achieving a simultaneous grand slam. In his semifinal, Iyama (B) beat Imamura Toshiya 9P by resignation. His opponent in the play-off to decide the challenger to Ida Atsushi will be Yo Seiki (Yu Zhenqi) 7P of the Kansai Ki-in, who won the other semifinal. Yo’s opponent, Shida Tatsuya 7P (B), forfeited the game because of an illegal move; he recaptured a ko immediately, without making a ko threat. (To be precise, Yo’s ko threat was a ko capture in a position that was a double ko; Shida, who was in his last minute of byo-yomi, should have captured the other ko.) Last year Yo lost the play-off to decide the Oza challenger to Iyama, so he was seeking revenge when the play-off (right) was held at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on January 21. Yo (W) took the lead when he cleverly settled a weak group, but winning the first fight is not enough to beat Iyama. The latter subjected Yo to so much pressure that eventually he slipped up in the endgame, letting Iyama stage an upset. Yo resigned after 277 moves. The title match with Ida Atsushi Judan starts on March 8.

Meijin League: The first game of the second round of the 41st Meijin League was played on January 7. Ko Iso 8P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resignation. At this point, Ko, on 2-0, took the provisional lead. On January 11, Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig. and joined Ko in the provisional lead. On January 21, Cho U 9P (B) beat Uchida Shuhei 7P by half a point and Murakawa Daisuke 8P (W) beat Hirata Tomoya 7P by resig. On February 4, Takao (B) beat Hane Naoki by resig. On February 11, Cho U (W) beat Ko Iso by resig. Cho and Takao, both on 3-0, share the lead, but Murakawa, who had a bye in the third round, is also undefeated. Cho’s good results in this league are a stark contrast to his bad performance in the Honinbo League.
Tomorrow: Lead shared in Honinbo League; Women’s Meijin League concludes

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Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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Life Sports Invites Kids to Japan

Wednesday February 24, 2016

0720152216Three children from North America are being invited to Japan, for international friendship matches. The sponsors of the trip are paying all expenses while in Japan, and a stipend of 100,000 yen (around $893 at press time) for airfare. Fifty-four children under the age of 13, and at least ten kyu, are being invited from ten countries: Japan, China, Korea, France, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Thailand, Canada, and the US. The kids will stay at the Maisima Lodge, in Osaka Bay, and will have opportunities for cultural exchanges as well as for playing go. The AGA will select three kids, two from the US and one from Canada, based on participation points earned from attending various AGA events. The matches will be held July 25-28, and AGA Go Camp Director Fernando Rivera will lead the team. All expenses are paid for the kids, but parents who wish to come will need to pay their own travel and lodging expenses. If you are interested in attending, please fill out the form here. Any questions should be addressed to youth@usgo.org. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor. Photo: Participants at last year’s Life International Go Meeting. The event is sponsored by Life Sports Foundation, and NPO Life Kids Go Club, with the cooperation of the Nihon Ki-in and the Kansai Ki-in.

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