American Go E-Journal » Go Spotting

Go Spotting: Counterpart

Friday March 23, 2018

The opening title montage for Starz’ new scifi, noir-spy series Counterpart is arresting: One black stone on a spotless white2018.04.01-Counterpoint S1-E1 - The Crossing go board separates into two stones, which then divide into numerous black and white stones across an endless board. This theme repeats throughout the rest of the series in both explicit and suggestive patterns, intimating that while the conflict you’re about to witness originates from a rigid black and white ideology, it is best played by the intuitive, shifting strategies of go.

Go players are taught early to “see the whole board.” That is nearly impossible in Counterpart, as the “board” grows and shrinks throughout the series, even as the acquisition and defense (or knowledge of ) territory remain essential.

The first episode, “The Crossing,” opens with a go game between the story’s central protagonist, Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons), and his friend Andrei (Silk is playing black, Andrei white)  in progress at an outdoor cafe in Berlin (above).

And it just gets better from there; there are several references to go and go memorabilia (including books), throughout the season’s episodes.

2018.04.01_Opening Scene_COunterpart_Episode5In episode 5, Shaking the Tree,  Silk –a heretofore weak player– nearly bests Andre (left). This is integral to the story as it tells us something important about this Silk (yes, there is more than one. I did mention this a scifi spy tale, right?) different from his counterpart.

According to cinematographer Martin Rhue, go was always integral to the show’s writers, which is why the game’s motif was incorporated into the title sequence.

Rhue confesses neither he nor Counterpart‘s creator /producer Justin Marks actually play go…yet.

But Rhue said a true go player would stage the board for each shot, as well as instruct the actors on how to handle the stones. Rhue did not know whether past famous games were  staged on the board or just a game from the contracted go player’s personal past.

If your are fond of noirish (scifi) spy tales reminiscent of le Carré’s Smiley’s People, as well as go, Counterpart – which wraps up its first season on Sunday, April 1 — might be just the series for you.
Charles “Doc” Sade

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Historic go at Princeton’s Fine Hall

Thursday March 8, 2018

In the January 10 edition of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, there is an article by Elyse Graham called “Adventures in Fine Hall: The weirdness of math’s golden age.”  She writes of the hijinks of the great mathematicians of the 1930s gathering in the Princeton 2018.03.03_Math-EinsteinNew_0University Mathematics Department and the Institute of Advanced Studies: Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, Kurt Friedrich Gödel, Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl.

Speaking of Fine Hall, the center of mathematics at Princeton, she writes, “To blow off steam, many students got into games, as players and creators both…. During the day, a visitor to the common room might see the nation’s mathematical brain trust absorbed in games of Go, bridge, double solitaire, or chess, played classic or whimsical variants.” She also writes that “A favorite was a double-blind variant of chess called Kriegspiel,” which Terry Benson has adapted for go at his Crazy Go nights each year at the U.S. Go Congress. “The boast went out that Fine Hall ‘could produce a champion in any game that was played sitting down.’”
- Ted Terpstra
photo (l-r): Luther Eisenhart, Albert Einstein and Walther Mayer

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1971 Honinbo Tournament Game 2 video released

Tuesday March 6, 2018

A new video compresses the second game of the historic 1971 Honinbo Tournament into a compelling 4 1/2 minute sequence, 2018.03.03_1971-honinbo-videocomplete with music by the Blue Dot Sessions. Ishida Yoshio, just 22, entered the Honinbo League for the first time that year, won it, and went on to beat the established Honinbo, Rin Kaiho, in the title match. The second game is thought to be the most exciting of the match. “The focus of this project was to highlight the wonderful graphic beauty of a flowing go game rather than a analysis of the moves,” says video creator Mike Garland.

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Chess blogger Michael Bacon posts on go

Monday March 5, 2018

Chess blogger Michael Bacon — the “Armchair Warrior” has recently published some posts on go, including “AlphaGo and the Hand of God,” “The Surrounding Game” and “Weiqi (Go) Versus Chess.” In addition to being well-written, thoughtful – and sometime provocative — explorations, Bacon’s posts are well-illustrated with photos and videos. 2018.03.03_armchair-warrior-screengrab

“AlphaGo and the Hand of God’ is about the “AlphaGo,” documentary,  which Bacon calls “poignant,” adding that “While watching the movie the thought crossed my mind that what I was watching was a watershed moment in the history of mankind, analogous to Neal Armstrong’s ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’”

In “The Surrounding Game,”Bacon reminds readers that not only was Edward Lasker – attributed in the film as the source of a famous quote about go – an International Master, not a Grandmaster, as identified in the film, but that there is a dispute about the quote itself, with some attributing it to former World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker, a distant relative. However, Bacon clearly likes the film, which follows the lives of several top American players, Ben Lockhart and Andy Liu, competing to become the first Western professional. “Despite their diverging paths, Ben and Andy face the same question: is a lifetime dedicated to Go truly worth living?”

And in “Weiqi (Go) Versus Chess”, Bacon contrasts chess and go in politics, popularity and player personalities. Noting that “Chess appeals to people who like to attack and who savor the win over the process,” Bacon says that go “is a game of patience and position. It appeals to very bright people who don’t expect to win quickly but who are willing to earn success one small step at a time. GO players enjoy the process as much as the win.” He also argues that “AlphaGo has done for the game of Go in America what Bobby Fischer did for the game of Chess when he defeated the World Chess Champion, Boris Spassky, in 1972… In a very short period of time the game of Go will be unrivaled, leaving all other board games in its wake.” Further, he suggests that “It could be that the people of the planet are moving away from the brutal, war like, mindset of a war like game such as Chess and toward a more cerebral game such as Go.”

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Go spotting: “Band-Maid” music video

Monday March 5, 2018

Go makes a split-second appearance in the music video for the Japanese girl rock band “Band-Maid” in their new song 2018.03.03 BandAid music video2018.03.03 BandAid screengrab“Domination.”  “Go board seen at 1:06 in the song,” reports Todd Dahlquist.

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Go Spotting: Altered Carbon

Tuesday February 13, 2018

The premise of Netflix’s new sci-fi show Altered Carbon is simple: After 250  years of suspended animation a prisoner is2018.02.13_alteredcarbon_kovacs_vertical-core_rgb_us-1 returned to the world with exactly one chance to save his life – he must solve a “mind-bending” murder. And, oh, by the way, his consciousness has been digitized, downloaded  and stored in the “cortical stacks” implanted in the spine of his new body.

AC‘s central protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, is of Japanese descent and sometimes plays go. In a flashback during Nora Inu (#7 – between the 40th and 42nd minute) Kovacs plays go with his sister as they talk. The ‘board’ presented here is a roll-up, either vinyl/cloth (or the futuristic equivalent), though the go-ke appear to be chestnut. The game in progress presented, however, appears believable. Toward the end of Rage in Heaven (#9) a goban is featured on camera twice; it appears this is a “set piece,” although a character picks up and plays with a stone. The same table goban in Rage in Heaven appears at the beginning of season 1′s final episode, The Killers (#10.)

The future Altered Carbon depicts is less than optimistic; think the bluesy, morose zeitgeist of Blade Runner, as opposed to the love letter to humanity that was InterstellarAltered Carbon is based on the Richard Morgan novel of the same name, his first book in the Takeshi Kovacs cyberpunk trilogy.

- Charles “Doc” Sade

 

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SRP Alpha Go Video Released

Monday February 12, 2018

Last month Dave Liang and Sun Yunfan, the musical duo known as The Shanghai Restoration Project (SRP), released their2018.02.12_srp-video new album R.U.R., leading with the single “Alpha Go.”

The pair recently followed that up with a supporting video for the song, produced and animated by Yunfan.

Alpha Go explores a future robotic world, devoid of humans. It is both an  elegy and tribute to Ke Jie’s defeat by the AlphaGo AI. As such it is not a surprise to see the many go references in the video.

The new video can be viewed on Neo Cha.

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Go Spotting: “Counterpart”

Thursday January 18, 2018

In the opening montage of “Counterpart”, a new sci-fi thriller television series on Starz, “there is part of a stylized go board grid2018.01.07_counterpart with black and white stones appearing on it,” reports Joe Maia. “I’m guessing this might suggest that go will appear regularly, though briefly if the first episode is any guide, on the show.” 

An espionage, sci-fi thriller with a metaphysical twist, “Counterpart” tells the story of Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons), a lowly cog in a bureaucratic UN agency who is turning the last corner of a life filled with regret, when he discovers the agency he works for is guarding a secret: a crossing to a parallel dimension. Through Howard and his “counterpart” on the other side, the show navigates themes of identity, idealism, what ifs, and lost love. Check out a trailer here.

“In the first scene, Simmons is is sitting outside with another man, with an almost finished go game in front of them,” says Maia. “They talk about other things, and make only a mention or two about the game. Later in the episode, Simmons is again seated across from the same man, again with an almost finished go game in front of them. I was interrupted so I was unable to watch the last 20 minutes of the episode, so I do not know if there were additional scenes with go in them. I could not tell if the games looked real or not. The camera angle did not allow a full view of the board.”

“Counterpart” premieres on Starz on January 21.

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Go Spotting: Yoshida Kenkō

Thursday January 11, 2018

Fred Baldwin found this on a Twitter feed. Yoshida Kenkō  was a Japanese author and Buddhist monk. His most famous work is2018.01.07_Yoshida Kenkō-quote Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), one of the most studied works of medieval Japanese literature. Kenko wrote during the Muromachi and Kamakura periods.

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Go Spotting: “The Memory Palace of Mateo Ricci”

Wednesday January 10, 2018

“The Memory Palace of Mateo Ricci” includes a reference to a European coming across go in China, reports Jose Santiago. 2018.01.07_The Memory Palace of Mateo Ricci On page 157 of Jonathan D Spencer’s book (Penguin Books, 1984 ed.), is a section describing a memory method used by the Jesuits and previously by Greek and Roman scholars referred to as Memory Palaces:

“Hortensius recalled every price of every item sold at auction, while Chen Jian recalled each detail of his accounting books and the produce of his looms. Scaevola, riding back to his home in the country, could replay in his head every move of the pieces in the board game he had lost, while Wang Can could do the same with the game of Chinese checkers (weiqi) where he had been only a spectator.”

“I recall my friend Victor Chow 5p being able to recall five games he played simultaneously in Oxford,” Santiago adds. “I can do about 50 moves with difficulty!”

 

 

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