American Go E-Journal » Traveling Go Board

The Traveling Board: Innoshima, Birthplace of Honinbo Shusaku

Friday August 2, 2013

by Jan Engelhardt

Western go players sightseeing in Japan won’t want to miss Innoshima in the Hiroshima prefecture. That’s the birthplace of Honinbo Shusaku, the most famous go player ever. Shusaku was born as Kuwahara Torajiro on June 6, 1829 in Innoshima. At the age of 10 he moved to Edo (now called Tokyo) to join the legendary Honinbo go house. Even after he became a professional go player, Shusaku returned to Innoshima for long stays. The people of Innoshima are very proud on Honinbo Shusaku and value his heritage, calling themselves a “Go playing city” where as much as ten percent of the 20,000 inhabitants play go and twice a year Innoshima hosts a a “Shusaku Honinbo Go Festival” for professional and amateur go players.

The “Honinbo Shusaku Igo Memorial Hall” is a fascinating museum honoring Shusaku’s life and accomplishments, showcasing many artifacts of his life, including the old goban on which his mother taught him go. In the museum’s back yard there is a reconstruction of the actual living house of the family. The museum’s memorial hall is also used for go events, including professional ones. There are always go boards available for guests and it’s amazing to see all the letters, game records and go material related to Shusaku’s fascinating life. Next to the hall one can find a shinto shrine constructed by a later Honinbo in Shusaku’s honor.

Not far away is Shusaku’s grave. It is said that one becomes two stones stronger by touching the gravestone, and it’s traditional for visitors to light an incense stick there in the great player’s memory.
- Engelhardt, who was in Japan recently to attend the Osaka Go Camp, is the E-Journal’s German Correspondent. photos by Jan Engelhardt

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The Traveling Board: Osaka Go Camp

Sunday July 28, 2013

By Peter Schumer

Beautifully organized, the recent Osaka Go Camp drew about 35 “campers” from nearly a dozen countries.  Most of the instruction was in English, but there was a good bit of Japanese, French, and German mixed in amongst us and it made for quite an international and festive feeling.

Though ages ranged from mid-teens to early 70′s and our ranks ran the gamut from 20 kyu up to 7 dan, everyone got along really well and seemed genuinely friendly and supportive of one another. Every day there was a scheduled match followed by professional game reviews, several lectures, and simuls with pros.

One of the highlights was a visit and simultaneous games with Yuki Satoshi, currently Judan.  We also played lots of friendship matches with various local go clubs and go students of all ages. The most fun for me was a series of games with students at the Kansai Kiin who ranged in age from 7 to 12 but who were all at least 2 dan in strength.  It was the one group that had a winning record against us.

There were also many go-related sightseeing trips to Kyoto, Nara, Innoshima, Hiroshima, and the beautiful island of Miyajima. In Innoshima, we visited the Shusaku Museum and memorial site, where we learned that there are over 2000 local go players in a town of just 20,000, and it seemed that a good percentage of them showed up to test our go prowess. Two go boards at the Shusaku museum (left) were especially interesting: the one on the right is Go Seigen’s retirement board and stones, celebrating 70 years of an outstanding professional career in Japan, while the older board on the left belonged to Shusaku and was given to him by his patron Lord Asano (watch for Jan Engelhardt’s report on the Innoshima visit in an upcoming EJ).

After camp ended, I had a few extra days for travel.  One day I spent visiting the Shinto grand shrines in Ise, and my last full travel day was to Uji, a lovely small town just south of Kyoto. It is best known for growing arguably the best green tea in Japan and for several beautiful Buddhist temples, especially the Byodo-In which contains the famous Phoenix Hall.  Currently it is being restored and so was covered up, but fortunately I’d seen it on a previous visit.  This short-lived disappointment propelled me to walk farther along the Uji River until I came to the Tale of Genji Museum.  The last ten chapters of this classic of Japanese literature take place in Uji and so the museum largely focuses on them, but there are a couple of important scenes where go plays a significant role and luckily one of the life-sized displays (top right) was of such a scene (photo).
- A longtime local go organizer, Schumer founded the Vermont Go Club

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The Traveling Board: London, UK

Thursday July 25, 2013

The Central London Go Club took advantage of the current UK heatwave to call a go picnic on Sunday, July 21. It was held in Royal St James’s Park in the heart of the capital, adjourning later to the Captain’s Cabin pub in Piccadilly.

14 answered the call and in addition, as organizer Julia Woewodskaya told the E-Journal, “There were quite a few spectators; some were asking questions about the game; one person was explained the rules and played at least one game.”

Click here for more photos.
- Tony Collman, British Correspondent for the E-Journal. All photos by Kiyohiko Tanaka, Central London Go Club/Nippon Club Igokai, City of London Go Club

 

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Go Dreams Come True at Osaka Camp

Thursday July 11, 2013

Going to Japan to train to play go is a dream for many western go players. It’s a dream come true for 32 players from around the world, who are now attending the 3-week Osaka Go Camp led by by Maeda Ryo 6P and Li Ting 1P. The camp started July 1, and most of the participants are from the United States, followed by Canada, France and Germany; all told, there are ten different nations represented by players ranging from 25-kyu up to 7-dan.

The daily schedule includes one league game and different kinds of professional lectures. Maeda is stressing the importance of endgame reading and gives out homework for that. The winner of the camp league will get the opportunity to play a teaching game against a professional 9-dan. The most promising candidate so far is Lionel Zhang 6D from the US, who has four wins and no losses thus far.

On the weekend there are friendly tournaments against local players visiting the camp. Some of them are regular visitors to the US Go Congress and were happy to be able to play in their hometown against westerners. Wednesday and Thursday are free days that can be used for sightseeing trips. There have already been trips to Kansai Kiin, Osaka Castle and Kyoto. Some people did not want to stop playing go for even a day and used their free time to pay a visit to the Kansai Branch of Nihon Kiin and challenged the people there.

The professionals are not just teaching go; they also take time to show participants around. Especially going out for dinner with local people is very worthwhile. Nakano Yasuhiro 9P even gave an example of traditional Japanese music, giving a performance with a shamisen, a three-stringed, Japanese musical instrument. Click here for additional photos and reports on the camp’s blog.
- Jan Engelhardt, German Correspondent for the E-Journal; photo: a friendly tournament against locals

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Bay Area Organizers See Japan-U.S. Blind Go Connection

Wednesday June 26, 2013

Sighted go players who struggle to master the game of go may be surprised to learn that many blind people in Japan know how to play go, and that there are clubs with blind players who meet on a regular basis. Last Fall, Bay Area Go Players Association board members Roger and Lisa Schrag traveled to Japan and met with Mr. Fumio Miyano (second from right in photo) of the Japan Go Society for the Visually Impaired in Osaka, Japan. The Society produces special 9×9 and 19×19 go sets and Braille go books so that blind and visually impaired people can play go.  Black and white stones can be differentiated by feel, grid lines are raised, and the stones fit into holes in the board so that they will not move when a player touches them to read the board position.

The Japan Go Society for the Visually Impaired also hosts an annual international go tournament for blind players. There are some strong go players out there who are blind. Nakamaru Hitoshi of Japan and Song Jung-taek of Korea, for example, each are rated at 5 dan.

The Society has provided Bay Area Go Players Association with a special 9×9 go set and Braille go materials. “If you have a blind or visually impaired friend in the San Francisco Bay Area interested in learning to play go, we now have the necessary equipment to teach them,” says Roger Schrag; contact him for details and to make arrangements.

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Mind GO Club Re-Opens This Week in Rehovot, Israel

Tuesday June 25, 2013

The Mind GO club’s second largest go club in Israel is re-opening this week. The club, in Rehotot at Weizmann Science Institute, is opening under the auspices of Professor Peleg, Dean of Mathematics faculty at the Institute. Meetings start this Wednesday, June 26, 20:00 in the Ziskind building (Math and Computer Science), second floor, room 261. All are welcome. Shavit Fragman first opened the club at the Weizmann Science Institute in 2004 and it was run then successfully run for several years by Dr. Andreas Doncic from Sweden. For further details, contact Shavit @ 054-4500453.

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Traveling Board: U.S.-Cuba Friendship Match “A Rare Opportunity”

Wednesday March 6, 2013

While the U.S. team prevailed in a February 16-17 friendship match in Cuba, “the true victory was in realizing this rare opportunity for players from the two countries to come together,” said trip organizer Bob Gilman.

A team of 11 U.S. players competed with Cubans at the Academia Cubana de Go in Havana. The US players ranged from 5 dan to 24 kyu, and the Cubans had a similarly wide range. The event drew coverage on Cuban sports TV.

“They are just a wonderful group of people and their passion for the game came through every minute we were with them,” said AGA President Andy Okun. “When the barriers between our countries are gone, the North American go community will be that much richer.”

“All the players I played showed intense fighting spirit,” Okun added, “and I think they will benefit a lot once they have easier access to resources and opponents.” He also noted that “The rum they served out to celebrate the end of each day’s play was awfully good.”

Anthony Chen 5d agreed that ”If the Cubans get to play go on the internet, their
strength will improve dramatically. Since their travel is limited, they don’t play against many different styles of players. It was good that our US team was able to provide a measuring stick for them, but if they can play regularly on the internet, I am sure they will raise their level rapidly.”

Catherine and Royce Chen each brought donations for the Academia: Catherine 10 new copies of Cho Hun-Hyeon’s Lessons on Go Techniques Vol. 2, a book she had translated, and Royce 50 used go books he had collected. The Cubans presented the US players with gifts of Cuban handicrafts.
photo: Cuban player Sergio Seara Saenz (left, in white shirt) and Andy Okun (at right, with back to camera); photo by Joel Olson

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The Traveling Board: Terry Benson Visits the Cuban Academy of Go

Friday February 15, 2013

When a group of US go players (2013 US–Cuba Friendship Trip Planned 9/23/2012 EJ) arrives in Cuba this Friday, it’ll be the second visit from the United States in as many months. Former AGA President — and current American Go Foundation President — Terry Benson (at left in photo) visited the Cuban Academy of Go on January 11 during a personal trip to the island last month. His report follows.

I was picked up by Rafael Torres Miranda and Señorita Kenia, the professora de go at the Academy, who drove us 15 minutes to the school’s location, west of Havana in the Playa district quite far from Old Havana and downtown.
The Academy was established in 2009 with funding from Japan’s Kansai Kiin, Benson says, and followed previous visits from various pros. The Academy occupies a space under the sports stadium and is supported by the government sports department. The professora is 15 kyu and gets an average and modest monthly Cuban salary to teach and run the club.

The academy is open Mon to Fri. 4 to 8 and sometimes later, but is not open on the weekends at all, when the professora is off. Attendance averages 10-15, out of a local group of 40-50. There are about 450 go players in the country. Tournaments are in the 50-player range. To play in a tournament you must show up a minimum of four times a month.

At the Academy they have mostly home-made boards and Cuban-made stones. The boards are ok, one sided with paper applied to something like foamcore. The stones are very light. There’s no internet access and no computer. They need both: they didn’t know about the go symposium held last year. They have a few dan level players including one 5 dan, some women, and the kids who come after school.

I played an even game against Yordan Cruz 1-dan (at right in photo), which was about right. I managed to eke out a 1.5 win after a poor endgame. We used an ancient set of thin slate and clam shell stones on one of the few thicker boards. The room was big, 60×30 or so, room for 30 boards plus lecture space. There’s also an office, kitchen, and two bathrooms. The space is well lit, with lots of posters.

The poor state of Cuban public transportation – and that most Cubans don’t have cars -  encourages the creation of local clubs. So the Academy is one of several in Havana.  Cuban go is old style: face to face.  Despite the limitations, the Cuban go players were like the many Cubans I met – musicians, farmers, fishermen, artists – content, happy to be playing/singing/working, and encouraged by the changes which are gradually transforming their island world. They hope for more contact with the go world, and as this year’s visits show, this will surely happen.  Who won’t want to play go under the sun on a beautiful beach with a stone in one hand and 7 year Anejo in the other?

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Go Game Guru’s “Year of Go in Photos”

Thursday January 31, 2013

Our friends at Go Game Guru have just posted their 2012 album of favorite go photos, which are great fun to look at – the captions are amusing too — and many of which would make terrific screensavers or wallpaper. Click here for the 2011 collection.

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The Traveling Go Board: Blackie’s International Baduk Academy

Saturday January 19, 2013

by Lisa Schrag As visiting Americans who help run the Bay Area Go Players Association, Roger Schrag and I wanted to see first-hand how go is taught in South Korea, a country where the population is as familiar with go (called baduk in Korean) as Americans are with chess.

We visited Blackie’s International Baduk Academy (BIBA), where we were greeted by friendly teachers Kim Seung-jun 9P “Blackie” (right) and Diana Koszegi 1P (left). Two years ago, they opened BIBA’s doors in the bustling Sanbon neighborhood of Seoul. The school only accepts international students, yet the system of learning go is traditional Korean. While a student there, you are living and breathing go with a daily schedule that runs from 11 in the morning to about 10 at night. All coursework is conducted in English, and people come  from places such as Canada, Singapore, France, Germany, Serbia, the U.K., and the U.S. Students may also attend events, meet pro players at tournaments, and visit the Korean Baduk Association.

“Even if you are at BIBA for a short time, the value is in learning how to study,” explained Koszegi. The pair told us that Korean go study focuses significantly on life and death problems. “Foreigners are weak on life and death,”  Koszegi continued. “They might come in as a 3d but play more like a 5k in life and death. Korean kids who are 3d play like a 5d in life and death.” Blackie plays go professionally in addition to teaching, and I asked him if doing so much teaching weakens his game. “You don’t get weaker teaching,” he responded.  “Maybe you don’t have as much time to study, but you don’t get weaker.” The key is to not overplay during teaching games. Instead, Blackie waits for opponents to make mistakes. There is a traditional Korean go school for children just down the hall from BIBA, and BIBA students sometimes connect with the kids there for competitive games. There’s also plenty of sightseeing available when you aren’t studying go or playing foot volleyball and soccer with the BIBA gang: palaces, parks, biking along the Han River… For more information, visit BIBA’s website. For more about Seoul, check out Visit Seoul. Photos by Lisa Schrag.

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