American Go E-Journal » Traveling Go Board

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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The Traveling Go Board: The Zen of Turn-Based Go

Sunday September 23, 2012

By Lee Frankel-Goldwater 

Morning can be open, glorious and bright. It can also be foreboding, especially if the day ahead holds worries, uncertainty and concerns.

Then there’s go. Open-ended yet with clear purpose. A desired result but sometimes an unclear path. Freedom within boundaries. Everything looks black and white, but often it isn’t. Yet always a sense of focus, of peace, at the challenge as everything else melts away.

Which brings me to the Online Go Server (OGS). When I first discovered the turn-based OGS and the accompanying Android app I was overjoyed at having finally found a way to keep up my playing in the context of a busy life. On the bus, go; on the train, go; in the middle of a cross walk, go. I soon became obsessed with the new playing medium, so much so that sometimes I would wake up, hit the alarm, and open my games.

After a few days, I noticed something lovely; I felt more focused, more at ease, and clearer than in some time. Morning tummy and foggy thoughts had evaporated, replaced by a satisfying sense of accomplishment before my first cup of tea.

As a yoga and meditation practitioner I’m well-versed in the maxims of getting up early to practice, the value of a morning run, the teachings that creativity first thing in the morning can return benefits for the whole day, but even so, I was startled to discover how rewarding a little turn-based morning go turned out to be.

In researching Blue Zones, the areas of the world with high longevity populations, I have learned that a sense of purpose for waking up in the morning is a key to health and happiness. And while my initial fervor for instant morning go has now waned a bit, the lesson has not.

Lee Frankel-Goldwater is a freelance author, designer, traveler, and teacher who blogs at www.HolisticPanda.com Click here for more on Internet go, including turn-based go.  

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Big Tuesdays a Tradition at the Seattle Go Center

Thursday July 19, 2012

Over 50 players visited the Seattle Go Center on Tuesday, July 17. They ranged from complete beginners to 4 dan players.  Tuesdays are always well-attended at the Go Center.  “Even on slow weeks we will have 25 players.  Our priority is teaching beginners and intermediates, but everybody can find a game.” reports manager Brian Allen.  Members also shared fresh bread baked by Chris Kirschner, caught up with old friends, and made new ones.  Visiting AGA members are encouraged to come by on Tuesdays.  “It’s a tradition that makes Seattle special.”   Photo: 6 p.m. on a Tuesday night in April.  Report and composite photo by Brian Allen.  More info: seattlego.org

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Traveling Go Board: Cortes Island, BC

Wednesday July 18, 2012

Former AGA President Phil Straus (l) and American Go E-Journal Managing Editor Chris Garlock play go July 8 at Manson’s Landing on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada while awaiting a seaplane to carry them to Seattle. The two were finishing up a week’s sojourn at the Hollyhock Lifelong Learning Centre. Photo by Alex Corcoran

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Traveling Go Board: Matsumoto Castle

Wednesday July 4, 2012

“I just returned from a couple weeks in Japan and though I didn’t have an opportunity to play go, I did see some terrific traditional sets at various specialty shops in Kyoto and in Nagano, plus a nice one at the Edo Tokyo Museum,” reports Peter Schumer. “But the best go sighting for me was at Matsumoto Castle in the pretty town of Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps. Not nearly as famous as the White Heron Castle in Himeji, the old and distinguished Blackbird Castle of Matsumoto is still well worth a visit. The moat and surrounding walls date back to 1509 and the castle itself is nearly as old. Inside the castle, there are some displays of various samurai artifacts including suits of armor and beautiful swords. But what really caught my eye was this simple goban and stones, though they are a bit non-standard by modern standards of course. It looks like the stones have been through a great many more battles than the soldiers who played with them.”
- photos by Peter Schumer

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“My Father’s Last Game” Translated into Chinese; Cool Players; “Liking” Iwamoto’s Go Centers; Cotsen Correx

Wednesday May 9, 2012

“My Father’s Last Game” Translated into Chinese: Betsy Small’s Traveling Board column in the March 29 E-Journal, “My Father’s Last Game”  has been published in China, on the sina blog and major go websites, as well as in the publication Sports Fan, which has a circulation of about 150,000. “Some readers told me they were in tears after reading the story,” Simon Guo, who translated the article, tells the E-Journal. “Me too.”

Cool Players: “I could be mistaken, but the men in that photograph (Go Photo: Cool Game 4/22 EJ) look like Igor Grishin (left) and Maksim Tikhomirov (right) from the Russian Go Federation,” writes Nikolas. “ Alexandre Dinerchtein sent me more photos of them” on the All About Go blog.

“Liking” Iwamoto’s Go Centers:
Noting that “The Seattle Go Center is in serious jeopardy because the Nihon Ki-in has decided to sell the building that has housed it since its inception” and that “the unilateral manner in which the decision was made raises questions regarding the future of all of the Iwamoto Go Centers,” NY Go Center Board member Roy Laird is urging go players to “like” any or all of the three Iwamoto Go Centers that have Facebook pages: The Seattle Go CenterThe New York Go Center and The European Go Cultural Centre. “This public groundswell of support could open the door to a more effective partnership between the Nihon Ki-in and Western Go,” suggests Laird.

Cotsen Correx: Myung-wan Kim is 9P (not 3P as mistakenly reported in our 5/2 post In Appreciation: The 2012 Cotsen Open Team), Chris Sira was the Tournament Director. Our apologies for the error and oversight.

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The Traveling Board: My Father’s Last Game

Thursday March 29, 2012

by Betsy Small

My father, Dr. Paul M. Howard, was a psychoanalyst who loved to connect with others through the game of go. He was a very quiet man, and go became a special way for the two of us to bond.

My father discovered go in the 1940s in a book by chess International Master Edward Lasker, Go and Go-Moku: the Oriental Board Games, originally published in 1934. He never got to play an actual game until the 1960s, however, when my older sister Judy married a go enthusiast, who spent many enjoyable hours playing with my father. About six years later my father was delighted when I married Haskell (Hal) Small, another go enthusiast, and happier still when I learned the game a few years later. For us this marked the beginning of our communication through go for many years to come. I distinctly remember our very first game – neither of us understood much about it, but we had fun splitting the board diagonally into two parts, “His Side” and “Her Side.”

In the beginning, our games were limited to several visits every year, since my parents lived in Boston and Hal and I lived in Washington DC. But after the advent of the Internet, my father and I found online go a joyful way to connect across the miles that separated us.

In the fall of 2006, shortly after my father celebrated his 100th birthday, he suffered several small strokes, and we moved him to a senior residence in Washington so I could spend as much time with him as possible. While his go skills had declined, my father’s enthusiasm for the game remained strong and now we could play go most every day. At his peak he had been as strong as 10 kyu but now he was perhaps more like 40 kyu. I had remained a 13 kyu for many years and was now giving him a 3 or 4 stone handicap on a 9 x 9 board. Occasionally my father would express frustration with his waning go skills, but he took comfort in being reminded of how exciting the process of playing go remained for him. Most of the time, even at a weaker level, playing continued to give him great pleasure, because he still loved go, and our games were meaningful occasions for both of us.

As my father’s health declined we moved him to a hospice. Early one morning in January, 2007, we received a call that he had only hours to live, and we rushed to his bedside. My father’s pulse was weak and he was barely able to speak, but his eyes opened and he smiled when he saw us, managing a surprisingly firm handshake for Hal. Even more surprising were the faint words he spoke: “black stones…white stones…” Because he was too weak to sit up, we got out the board and placed it on his belly. From this angle he could not get a clear view of the bowls or the board, so I guided his hand to the bowl. He picked up a stone, and then I guided his hand to the board. Although he couldn’t see where the stone landed, he placed it with great intention. I made my move and we continued back and forth with these familiar and comforting motions for ten or fifteen minutes, until he gestured that the game was over. Not too long after that, a look of contentment, deep tranquility and fulfillment on his face, my father passed from this world.

That last game with my father, more of a symbolic farewell than a thought-out game of logic, will always be my most memorable.

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The Traveling Board: College Students Discover China

Saturday August 20, 2011

Cherry Shen 6d reports on her experiences this summer:

I’ve traveled to China several times before but none of my trips were quite as insightful or fun as this one. On July 22-30, a team of 11 American undergraduates and graduates had the amazing opportunity to attend the 1st U.S.-China Go Camp/College Student Exchange, simultaneously playing go and learning about China’s rich culture and history. The group consisted of 10 students (William  Lockhart, Steven Palazola, Cherry Shen, David Glekel, Zachary Winoker, Michael Haskell, Michael Fodera, Dan Koch, Brian Lee, and Cole Pruitt) and one team leader (Walther Chen), most of them hailing from the East Coast . Exploring China with a group of go enthusiasts was hilarious, eye-opening, and extremely memorable. As soon as we landed from the airport, we were showered with generosity and overwhelming hospitality from the members of the Ing foundation, Mrs. Lu, translators, other go players, and everyone else. The university hotels we stayed at were great and the authentic Chinese food was incredible. Aside from the mind-blowing go-themed hotel, go schools, and go lectures hall, I also learned about the many cultural aspects of China during our trips to the Great Wall of China, Yu Garden, Shanghai Financial District, and more. The presence of go in China was so impressive, especially when we were introduced to numerous 4-5 dans who were 7/8 year-olds at the Hangzhou Go School. We also had unique opportunities to receive teaching games from professionals, meet other college go students, and tour go facilities. This  journey has been unbelievably amazing and enriching; and I hope we can reciprocate this experience to future visiting Chinese college students. - Special E-J Report by Cherry Shen. Photo: At Fudan University, with various college go players.

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