American Go E-Journal » Go Spotting

“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?
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Go Spotting: Don Winslow’s Novel “Satori”

Saturday May 14, 2011

Don Winslow’s Satori is based on Trevanian’s Shibumi so it’s not surprising that the novel has go references. “The whole book uses references to go for all its plot twists and turns,” reports Rusty Brown. “The author learned go in college, but said he wasn’t proficient at the game.” A sample from the novel: “When the immediate situation is untenable, Nikko, what do you play for? Time, Otake-sama. Play for the long game.”

GO SPOTTING: Go on the History Channel

Friday May 13, 2011

GO SPOTTING: Go on the History Channel: Reader Drew Chuppe recently caught a go reference on a History Channel program called “The Art of War.” “They were talking about how the teaching of Sun Tzu could have helped Robert E. Lee win the Civil War,” Chuppe writes. “To my surprise, the narrator remarked that on the final day at Gettysburg, ‘Lee abandoned his go strategy and reverted to chess strategy’ and stated that the charge up Cemetery Ridge was dictated by chess strategy.” Go “teaches us to stay away from the opponent’s thickness and look for weaknesses in his position,” says Chuppe, noting that “Ordering a charge across a broad, open field into cannon fire is the battlefield expression of placing a stone next to your opponent’s strong wall. As an aside, I have read The Art of War but I do not recall any overt reference to go (though) there are a few strategic statements that could apply.” In a related go connection, graphic designer and longtime American go community contributor Mike Samuel – who designed many of the annual U.S. Go Congress logos — designed the History Channel’s iconic logo.

GO SPOTTING: ‘The Archaeology of Internment’

Monday May 9, 2011

“Readers may be interested in the current May/June issue of Archaeology magazine,” reports Janice Kim. “There is an article ‘Archaeology of World War II’ that includes a section ‘The Archaeology of Internment’ that describes some findings at the Kooskia camp in Idaho, where American citizens of Japanese ancestry were interned during World War II. It notes that archaeologists ‘… are uncovering evidence that people not only survived, but also struggled to maintain their identity and dignity even in the most restrictive and dehumanizing environments’, with a picture of go stones discovered at the site. In light of recent events I think it’s important to reflect on this chapter in our history, and I was heartened by the Journal’s reporting of fundraising events for Japan by the US go community.”
- photo: go players in the Wyoming Heart Mountain internment camp in 1943; photo by Tom Parker, The War Authority via The National Archives

YOUR MOVE: Readers Write: More on Have Gun, Will Travel

Sunday May 8, 2011

More on Have Gun, Will Travel: “The screen shot from “Have Gun Will Travel” looks to me to be 5-in-a-row and not go,” wrote Richard Dolen, among others responding to our May 2 “GO SPOTTING: Have Gun (and a go board) – Will Travel” post. “Even though the word “seki” is mentioned in the dialogue; here it probably means that nobody won, but they used a word from go to describe it.” And Jeffry Finer notes that “The Have Gun Will Travel episode was #186, not 171 (episode 30 of season 5). It aired in 1962.”

GO SPOTTING: Have Gun (and a go board) – Will Travel

Monday May 2, 2011

In Episode 171 (“The Coming of the Tiger”, episode 30, season 5, available in streaming video on Netflix) of the classic TV Western Have Gun – Will Travel, the hero, Paladin (Richard Boone) is shown playing a game of go in San Francisco, reports David Saunders. “To the dismay of his Japanese opponent, Paladin announces that the position is seki,” Saunders writes. “The game is interrupted by a crisis and resumed at the end of the episode.  I was amazed to see this in a national TV show from c. 1961.”
Screenshot at left courtesy Paul Barchilon

Categories: Go Art,Go Spotting
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GO SPOTTING: Discover Magazine on “Who’s Smarter, a Human or a Computer?”

Sunday April 24, 2011

“Go computers are not even close to human capability,” reported Andrew Moseman last February in Discover Magazine . In “Who’s Smarter, a Human or a Computer?” Moseman reviews “the ways that humans can still out-think our computational creations—for now.” On the eve of the IBM’s supercomputer thumping of Jeopardy champions, Moseman looked at checkers, chess, poker and go, as well as Scrabble and Risk, which are also games where humans still do better than computer programs. “There won’t be any major popular game solved for a while now,” University of Alberta professor Jonathan Schaeffer — a member of a research team that created a poker-playing AI that can best human players in limit Texas hold ‘em — says. “There’s a gap.”
photo: Watson faces its human rivals in a practice round. Image: Jeopardy / IBM

GO SPOTTING: Seki on Bar Karma, Triple Ko in Film Comment

Monday March 14, 2011

Bar Karma, a show on Current TV, mentioned seki and discussed it on a recent episode, reports EJ reader Laurie. And in the Jan/Feb issue of Film Comment, Bob Barber reports that a headline on page 8 that says “Triple Ko.” Although Barber says “I couldn’t make out the connection, I’m happy to see go terminology creeping into American English.”

GO SPOTTING: Summer Wars

Monday January 31, 2011

“Nine and a half minutes into the movie Summer Wars there is a character replaying a game of go,” reports Steve Colburn. “The board is seen again at 53 minutes into the movie. Summer Wars is from the director who made ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.’”

GO SPOTTING: “Dangerous Moves,” “Taste of Tea” & “Sanjuro”

Monday January 17, 2011

Recent go spottings in films by EJ readers include Dangerous Moves,  a 1984 French film (La Diagonale de fou) about a couple of chess grandmasters. “At minute 20, the elder is shown in the evening playing go with someone,” reports Bob Barber. “The board position looks quite cluttered, and they seem to be placing stones at random while talking.” And None Redmond just saw A Taste of Tea, a 2004 film directed by Katsuhito Ishii that features go as a major part of the plot and has been called a “surreal” version of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. EJ Managing Editor Chris Garlock recently rediscovered Sanjuro, the great 1962 Akira Kurosawa film starring the magnificent Toshirō Mifune (r) in an exciting – and quite funny — sequel to Yojimbo, with Mifune reprising his role as a wandering ronin who in one scene halfway through the film naps next to a goban and then perches atop it to instruct his young samurai. All three films are available on Netflix.

Categories: Go Art,Go Spotting
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