by Chris Garlock
The AGA’s professional qualification tournament tests the go skills of its young competitors, but it’s also a grueling endurance challenge. With two rounds each day, and each game usually going at least three hours, that’s six to eight hours a day for a full week. The concentration these players bring to bear on each game is fierce; every move is considered, and then reconsidered. I’ve seen players think about a move for twenty minutes, reach into the bowl for a stone, take it out and then put it back and settle in for another ten minutes. Even the most natural, “obvious” move must be fully read out and time, while a factor, seems to be the furthest thing from their minds as they follow the branching trails deep into thickets of strategy and tactics, move and countermove, probe and response.
The silence in the playing room is deafening. Traffic swishes by outside and the sounds of a working hotel drift in throughout the day. The pinging of the elevator doors. Housekeeper carts rumbling overhead. Snatches of conversation as hotel guests walk by the room. The hum of air conditioning.
As fierce as the competition is here — and every single one of the players wants to win — it’s not unusual to see two players who have just spent the last few hours trying to slaughter each other’s groups now peacefully reviewing the game, sometimes for another hour. In fact, the analysis is so cooperative and collegial that it can often be difficult to know which player is the winner and which the loser. Perhaps because they understand that in the shared search for mastery they are both winners.
Garlock is leading the E-Journal’s game recording/broadcasting team at this week’s AGA Pro Qualification Tournament in Los Angeles. photo: Daniel Gourdeau (l) and Jeremy Chiu review their game while Manuel Velasco and Sarah Yu watch.