American Go E-Journal » U.S. Go Congress

Go Congress Evening League Melds Self-Paired and Midnight Madness, Welcomes Local Players

Sunday July 31, 2016

While this year’s U.S. Go Congress in Boston includes many longtime traditional events like the U.S. Open, Lightning Go and pro lectures, it also offers some new events. The Evening League combines the community and competition of the Midnight Madness tournament and the flexibility of the Self-Paired. “The Evening League is all about fostering competitive spirit in a straightforward and transparent format,” says TD Andrew Hall (photo). Perhaps most important, this is the first year that the Go Congress is offering evening passes to enable local players who cannot attend during the day to have a chance to play some competitive rated games while the Congress is in town.IMG_0403

Imagine a ladder. The first night of the tournament (Sunday night beginning at 7p), players will be placed in positions from the top of the ladder to the bottom in the order they register for the tournament. During the tournament, players on the ladder challenge other players who occupy higher spots. If the challenger wins, they take the defeated opponent’s ladder position and everyone else moves down one spot. The tournament will be handicapped at handicap-2, all games will be rated, and results will be updated and projected real time during the evening rounds. These live TD-facilitated sessions, every evening from 7pm to midnight, are designed to give sense of physical place and the competitive spirit provided by a tournament, but players are not restricted to scheduled play. They may play games using tournament time settings with opponents anytime during the day, much as they did in the Self-Paired. Players record the results and the date and time of the game, and these results are input into the ladder every evening at 5pm in time for that evening’s ladder to be updated with the day’s results. That evening, players continue challenging and moving up (or down) the current ladder. Players do not need to play every evening; those who do not show up to an evening round are dropped from the ladder, but can join the ladder again when they want to play, and even challenge to reclaim their previous spot. Prizes may be won in the form of individual prizes inspired by the self-paired prizes of years past, but also through achievements that are attainable by multiple players.

The Evening League provides a structured opportunity for the local go community and Go Congress attendees to mingle and compete. “It’s king of the hill style; you play to climb the ladder and defend your space at the top!” says Hall.
- Karoline Li, Congress Tournament Liaison for the E-Journal; photo: Hall shows off Evening League playing space in main playing area in Boston University’s George Sherman Union; photo by Chris Garlock

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Standing Room Only for Young AGA Professionals

Sunday July 31, 2016

Eric LuiSunday afternoon at the U.S. Go Congress featured an unusual line-up; three homegrown American professionals conducted game reviews in Boston University’s George Sherman Union. The newest pro, Eric Lui (right), a 1 dan professional as of January this year, is soft-spoken but the room full of players hung on his every word. “Who thinks black is better? Raise your hand,” asked Lui, who was reviewing a game for Ken Koester 1d. They were discussing a sequence in the corner, ending with a liberty race in the top left. “So, it seems like Black has too many liberties [so white can’t live],” explained Lui.

Andy LiuAt the same time, Andy Liu (left), 1 dan professional, was lecturing to a room so packed that many couldn’t even get in the door. “The key to being stronger is you must, at all costs, avoid playing in the ‘red’ (or low-percentage) areas,” he told the audience, sprawled on the floor and spilling out the door. Although he was  reviewing his recent game with Lee Sedol from the Ing Cup, Liu seemed more focused on explaining the paradigm shift in measuring playing strength with the success of AlphaGo. Each point on the board has a probability distribution of how good a move it is. In the opening, most of the moves are green (i.e., having normal distributions), particularly on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th lines. You shouldn’t spend a lot of time on the opening, Liu advised, “Don’t sweat it… Don’t try to look for outliers when there are none.” Instead you should spend time when the distribution is skewed: when one move is green, and all the rest are red. How do you know what Calvin Sunareas are red and green? It’s not that easy, according to Liu. He doesn’t know and no pro does. Their play isn’t perfect. That’s why AlphaGo is so exciting; it sees these distributions. “AlphaGo has called humanity out,” Liu said, saying that now top professionals are being forced to become stronger.

Calvin Sun, 1 dan professional (right), followed his young colleagues at 3pm. His fans, sitting in the front row, were multitasking by listening and watching games on KGS. Sun, reviewing a game, spoke quietly, “This is pretty good for you. It’s joseki but nowadays white doesn’t really play this because black gets sente.” His review, targeted at 1 kyu – 3 dan players, involved discussion of different joseki variations and when to not follow the joseki.
- report/photos by Samantha Fede, E-Journal special correspondent, reporting from the 2016 U.S. Go Congress  

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Why We Play: Alexandra Patz 13k, Lee Schumacher 1D

Sunday July 31, 2016

Alexandra Patz 13k
Age: 43Alexandra Patz
Lives in: New York, NY, originally from South Africa
Years playing go: 5 years, but learned almost 20 years ago and took a break
Favorite thing about go: Alexandra likes how stimulating go is for the brain. “Very engaging,” she explained. When asked if she plays other brain games, she says, “It’s really just go, I tried chess as I child, I never really liked it, I never learned bridge. I lived in Japan for a year, so I became interested in Japanese culture. And when I moved back to South Africa, I joined a go club there.” 2016.07.31_lee-schumacherShe’s also fascinated by AlphaGo, and the deep learning involved. “[Go] is an amazing community, too,” she adds, “Clever people.”

Lee Schumacher 1D
Years playing go: Since the age of 13
Lives in: California
Favorite thing about go: “The focus, the immersion.”

- report/photos by Samantha Fede, E-Journal special correspondent, reporting from the 2016 U.S. Go Congress  

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Huge Audience Turns Out for AlphaGo Keynote at U.S. Go Congress

Saturday July 30, 2016

With over 600 signed up, this year’s U.S. Go Congress in Boston has the most registrants in the 32-year history of the2016.07.30_aja-huang event and it seemed as though just about every one of them was crowded into the main playing area in Boston University’s George Sherman Union Saturday night as AlphaGo’s Aja Huang 7d gave the keynote address, along with Fan Hui 2P. The audience was spellbound as the two gave a fascinating insider’s look at the two-year development of the AI program that decisively defeated Lee Sedol last March and attracted global attention to the game of go.

Huang (right) gave an overview of how AlphaGo started in 2014 as a 2-man project as he and David Silver worked to explore deep learning and reinforcement learning with computer go. (Click here to see the video of the keynote speech) The policy network trained by supervised learning was developed by Chris Maddison and the team realized significant improvement in the latter half of 2014 by combining the policy network into AlphaGo. While the details are fully explained in the team’s Nature paper, Huang shared personal stories like how Fan Hui was chosen to test the program. “I 2016.07.30_fan-huisaw him at a tournament in Dublin and the top Korean players were all going out to drink the night before the tournament but he said no, he couldn’t go because he had to prepare for the games, so I knew he was very serious,” Huang laughed.

Fan Hui (left) said that he almost missed the invitation to visit the DeepMind team in London because it seemed a bit odd and he thought “it might just be spam.” In fact, “when I heard it was Google, I assumed they would be hooking me up with something like Google Glass, so when I found out they just wanted me to play a computer program I was so relieved and thought Oh, this will be easy.” In perhaps the most poignant story of the evening, Fan Hui took the rapt audience through his five secret games with AlphaGo in Fall 2015, losing every game until at the end, “my game was crushed and I thought I now knew nothing about go.” Out of those defeats, however, Fan Hui discovered even greater depths, not just to go itself, but to his own fascination and love of the game. “What AlphaGo teaches us is that you can play anywhere,” he said, as the audience erupted in applause.

After their presentation, the two took questions from the audience, many of whom wanted to know things like when an 2016.07.30_alphago-team-awardAlphaGoBot on KGS will be available and whether a strong version of the program would be available in the near future for desktops or handhelds. Most were answered cryptically with “Under discussion,” but in response to a question about how strong AlphaGo is today, Huang — who had earlier showed a graph charting improvement of one rank a month — did say that it was possible that the program could now give a professional two stones, but that this has not yet been tested. He also said that commentaries will be released soon on all five AlphaGo-Lee Sedol games, as well as three games between AlphaGo v18 (the version that played Lee Sedol).

Longtime International Go Federation and American Go Association official Thomas Hsiang presented Huang and Fan with a special award from the International Go Federation to the AlphaGo team “in appreciation for its outstanding contribution towards the development and promotion of go.”
- Chris Garlock; photos by Phil Straus
Click here to see the complete video of the keynote speechRead more about AlphaGo here and check out all our AI posts here.

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US Go Congress Broadcast Schedule: Sat 7/30 & Sun 7/31

Friday July 29, 2016

In addition to broadcasting US Open Masters top-board games on KGS as usual, the E-Journal broadcasting team will 2016.07.29_kgsagain this year video stream the US Open Masters top board on both the AGA’s YouTube and Twitch channels (check out the video trailer here, both with live commentaries by professionals. Plus a couple extras as well…

Here’s the tentative line-up for this weekend’s broadcasts (plus a reminder of Saturday’s AlphaGo keynote), subject to change (we’ll keep you posted on Facebook and Twitter).

Saturday, 3:30P EST: AGA City League Finals
Pandanet
YouTube/Twitch: Jennie Shen 2P, with Andrew Jackson 4d2016.07.29_alphago

Saturday, 7p: Congress Opening Ceremony & Keynote Speeches by AlphaGo’s Aja Huang & Fan Hui 2P

Sunday morning, 9:30a EST: US Open Masters Game 1
KGS: Jenny Shen 2P, with Andrew Jackson 4d
YouTube/Twitch: Hajin Lee 3P, with Stephen Hu 6d

Sunday afternoon, 3:30p EST: Redmond Cup Game 12016.07.29_youtube
YouTube/Twitch: Jennie Shen 2p with Lionel Zhang 7d

Sunday evening, 7:30P EST: US Open Masters Game 2 
KGS: Feng Yun 9P, with Chris Garlock 3d
YouTube/Twitch: Hajin Lee 3P, with Stephen Hu 6d

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Amateur Team Relay Go to Get Tryout at U.S. Go Congress

Thursday July 28, 2016

Team Relay Go will get a tryout next Tuesday night at the U.S. Go Congress. As previously reported (Team Relay Go the “Next Big Thing”?), Relay Go involves two teams of players playing one game. At the professional level, each team consists of a captain and 10 players; two players from each team start the game off, while the rest of their teams watch and discuss the game at a separate location. After a fixed number of moves, the next set of two players from each team tag in to continue the game and so on. “The beauty of Team Relay Go is in the team discussions of the ongoing game,” says Neil Ritter. “Players work together to understand the current board state with different views being shared and explored.”2016.07.28_Team_Relay_Go

Tuesday’s experiment is with an amateur version of Team Relay Go. “The goal is to give amateur players an idea of how a professional looks at a game,” Ritter says. The format will be a little different from Professional Team Relay Go. One game will still be played by two teams, but each team will be captained by two professional players, who will work to prepare the next pair of amateur players to be tagged into the game. The amateur players, fortified with pro knowledge, “will get tagged in and play some professional-level go … yeah, right!” laughs Ritter. “They’ll do their best and after the game is over the mess will be sorted through in review.”

There’s room for up to 48 players to participate in Tuesday’s Team Relay Go. Sign up at the ‘Events Sign Up Table’ next to Registration on Saturday, July 30, or email ritter.neil@gmail.com before midnight Monday, August 1. “This new event is only possible because of the professional players who have volunteered to be team captains,” notes Ritter, extending thanks to Mingjiu Jiang 9P, Feng Yun 9P, Yilun Yang 7P, William Shi 1P, Andy Liu 1P, Eric Lui 1P, Calvin Sun 1P, and Ryan Li 1P.

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Redmond Cup Player Profiles

Thursday July 28, 2016

With congress right around the corner, the 2016 finalists for the Redmond Cup are gearing up for the championship matches. The first match of both the Senior (under 18) and Junior (under 13) divisions will be broadcast on KGS, Sunday 8/1 at 3 pm EDT. The Senior Division Finals will also be live-streamed on the AGA’s Youtube channel with professional commentary from Jennie Shen 2p and Lionel Zhang 6d.  Tuesdays match will be commentated by Stephanie Mingming Yin 1p and Michael Chen 8d, if there is a third round in either division, Gansheng Shi 1p and Andrew Lu 7d will comment live on Thursday.  The player profiles below will help EJ readers know who is who.jeremy_chiu

Leading the Senior Division is 14-year-old Jeremy Chiu 6d, from San Jose, California. He is looking to win his first Redmond Cup title after being the runner-up in the Junior Division in 2014 and coming out in first place in this year’s Senior Division preliminaries. He first learned about go from his Chinese school when he was 5-years old, and started taking classes shortly thereafter. Currently, he studies with Mingjiu Jiang 7p, who has taught many other star US Youth players.  On Chiu’s own time, he does lots of tsumego and reviews professional games, along with playing and reviewing games on Tygem. Aside from go, he also enjoys playing the piano and violin, as well as swimming. When asked about his thoughts for the finals, Chiu told the EJ, “Albert is a very strong AlbertYenplayer, especially in the middle game, and I will need to be very careful. I hope that we will play good games in the finals.”

Albert Yen 7d, age 16, is from Chicago, Illinois, and is the defending champion in the Senior Division. He started playing go when he was 5 years old after watching Hikaru no Go and joining a local go club in Taiwan. Albert currently studies with Mingjiu Jiang 7p, and studies go by playing and reviewing slow, quality games when he has time.  Yen is also a star track-and-field hurdler at his high school. While Yen fell to Chiu in the preliminaries, Yen told the EJ, “I think our strengths are very close. I don’t want to do anything too different to prepare for the finals, so I will just remain cool and trust my abilities during the games.”

luoyi_yang

Luoyi Yang 4d, age 12 is from Toronto, Canada, and placed first in the Junior Division preliminaries this year. She started playing go at the age of 4 at a local go school in China, where she studied with Ding Lie 6p, Wang Xiangyun 2p, and Wang Chenfan 4p, two afternoons a week before moving to Canada this past year. Outside of playing go, she enjoys playing the piano and singing.AryCheng copy

Ary Cheng 4d, age 10, lives in Sunnyvale, California, and is the defending champion in the Junior Division. He started learning go at age 6 in a go class at a Chinese school, and was immediately drawn towards the game. Currently, he studies with Mingjiu Jiang 7p, and plays on IGS in addition to doing tsumego. When he is not playing go, he also enjoys playing table tennis. -Justin Teng, Redmond Cup TD.  Photos courtesy of the players.
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Yang Shuang 2P Visits NOVA Go Club on Way to US Go Congress

Wednesday July 27, 2016

Last Monday, July 25th, the NOVA Go Club in Arlington, VA had a special visitor from China, Yang Shuang 2P. Ms. Shuang2016.07.27_NoVA-pro-visit (right) visited the club on her way to next week’s US Go Congress in Boston. She played a demonstration game, followed by review, with Josh Lee 6D. “We thought Josh had a chance with two stones and the additional handicap of our guest’s 31-hour flight to the DC area that day,” says Garrett Smith, “But Josh resigned after an exciting game.”
photo by Betsy Small

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Tennis/Soccer Congress Alert

Tuesday July 26, 2016

Tennis-playing go players who want to burn off some energy on the courts are invited to join E-Journal Managing Editor 2016.07.26_Phil-Straus-Chris-Garlock-go-on-football-field-50-yard-lineChris Garlock on the Boston University tennis courts next week. “Bring your tennis gear!” Garlock urges, fresh off league victories for both his 3.5 and 7.5 combo teams. Terry Benson invites those who prefer to handle balls with their feet to join him for the usual afternoon soccer scrimmage. Details on both TBA; email journal@usgo.org
photo: Garlock and Phil Straus introduce go to the gridiron at the 2015 Go Congress 

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2016 Go Congress: A Brief Introduction to Boston

Saturday July 23, 2016

by Chialing Chan2016.07.23_BostonU

The 2016 U.S. Go Congress begins in just a week. It will take place on the main campus of Boston University, which is located near the heart of Boston and along the Charles River. Boston is a fun and beautiful city during the summer: blue sky, Boston Harbor Islands, cool ocean breeze, good food, and beautiful people. It’s a vibrant city with about 152,000 college students. And it’s home to many innovative companies and institutes. Boston is also steeped in history. This was where the Boston Tea Party took place (some believe it’s the reason why we drink coffee today) and the first place in the United States to have a 2016.07.23-duck-boatssubway transportation system. The city was named after Boston, Lincolnshire, England, the origin of several prominent colonists. The original people of the area were the Massachusett, after whom the state is named.

Go players who use the traditional day off on Wednesday to explore the city might enjoy dimsum in Chinatown, a walk around Boston Common and the Public Garden, a lunch at the Faneuil Hall, a ferry ride to one of the Boston Harbor Islands, a dinner at the North End, and/or drinks in Cambridge. Alternatively, you might enjoy a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts and an afternoon tea inside the Boston Library (at Copley Square) with its gorgeous paintings and architecture. For kids, the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science are always the big hits. And of course, there are always the duck boats. See you soon!

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