American Go E-Journal » U.S./North America

New Documentary Tracks Chess, Challenge and Championships at a Brooklyn Middle School

Thursday November 15, 2012

by Dr. Roy Laird
At Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, three out of every four students qualify for free lunch, but when it comes to spirit, support and  pure brain power, some of them have plenty of resources. In fact, as we learn in Brooklyn Castle, the award-winning new documentary from Kelly Dellamaggiore, IS 318 is home to some of the strongest young chess players in the country; the school’s teams have brought home nearly 30 national championships. As a longtime proponent of go in the schools, I found the film to be an inspiring reminder of what mind sports can do for kids. Brooklyn Castle follows five members of the 2009-2010 team, each with their own goal.   Rochelle Ballantyne wants to be the first African-American female Master level (ELO 2000) player (11/18 update: she made it, with a new rating of 2057 following the recent World Youth Chess Championship in Maribor, Slovenia). Patrick Johnston, on the other hand, just wants a positive result so he can raise his ranking out of the 400s. (Spoiler alert: chess seems to help him with some attention issues he had in earlier grades; he emerges from middle school as an honor student.) As the students pursue their dreams, we are reminded that behind every dream is a team. With support from the school’s budget, fundraising efforts and help from foundations such as Chess-In-The-Schools, school staff go far beyond the call of duty, for instance taking 57 players of all levels to the National Championship in Dallas. That’s 57 potentially life-altering experiences right there. Chess-loving children apply from far and wide because they know that all sixth grade students are required to take at least one period of chess per week; in seventh and eighth grade it becomes an elective, but students can schedule up to seven periods of chess per week. We also meet the players’ families and see the crucial role their support plays. The team’s toughest opponent turns out to be a succession of budget cuts that threatens to take them out of a national competition they know they can win.  Hurry if you want to see it in theaters, although the low-tech sound and video quality may be better suited for a smaller screen. You can also read about the school at length in How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.

Brooklyn Castle – in theaters now — vividly highlights the benefits of school-based mind sports programs. (Post-film progress report: As reported in The New York Times earlier this year, five players from IS 318 achieved the equivalent of a college baseball team winning the World Series, becoming the first middle school team to win the National High School Championship!)  Go is also a wonderful arena for this kind of growth and development, in some ways even better than chess. If you’re thinking of starting a go program in your community, The American Go Foundation can help you with free equipment, matching funds, mentoring and much more – you’ll be surprised how easy it can be, and how rewarding for teacher and student alike.
- Laird, a former President of the American Go Association, currently serves on the Board of the American Go Foundation and manages school-based mental health clinics for The Children’s Aid Society in New York City.


Categories: U.S./North America

28 Great Go Talks Now Online

Wednesday November 14, 2012

What does it take to become a Chinese pro? How did Hotta Yumi get the idea to write Hikaru No Go? What is new in the history of go and its rules? Who was Atari founder Nolan Bushnell’s most famous minimum-wage employee? For answers to these and many other intriguing questions about the game of go, visit the 2012 International Go Symposium’s new website, where all the presentations are archived, along with links to associated papers and web pages, as well as a YouTube channel of video recordings of the event.

Sponsored by The International Go Federation with additional support from The American Go Foundation, the conference was presented by organizers from the The American Go Association and the 2012 US Go Congress. This was the first such gathering since 2008, and 25 speakers eagerly seized the chance to present their latest findings to more than 100 registered participants. The Symposium offered something for just about everyone – programming enthusiasts, history buffs, anthropologists, teachers, organizers, and of course players. Papers and links associated with these presentations are available here. In the coming weeks we will profile some of the more remarkable videos, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out in the meantime.


Bryan Denley Wins Western Mass. Fall Tourney

Monday November 12, 2012

Players from as far as New Jersey and New York turned out for “a great day of go competition” at the Western Massachusetts Go Club Fall Tournament on Sunday, November 11th. “Bryan Denley scooted to first place, winning all four of his games,” reports TD William Luff. Willis Huang, Eric Osman, and An Tran tied for second. All the winners won one month’s membership to and should e-mail Trevor Morris at to claim their prize. photo (l-r): Ian Tran 10K, Eric Osman 2D, Bryan Denley 10K, William Luff 2D (TD) and Willis Huang 3D

Categories: U.S./North America

AGF Sponsors Pro Teaching Program

Monday November 12, 2012

Thanks to a generous donor, the American Go Foundation is able to grant a select number of young players the opportunity to have a series of  professional lessons online.  Yi Lun Yang 7P, Janice Kim 3P, and  Jennie Shen 2P, have generously agreed to support the program.  Applicants must be AGA members, currently in grades K-12, and have never had a professional lesson before.  Applicants will be judged on their demonstrated interest in go, their short essays and any letters of recommendation.   Finalists may be asked to play a game against a strong amateur to confirm their enthusiasm.   Six lessons will be provided to each player selected.  The deadline for applications is January 1 2013. Apply to get stronger today, click here to download the form.   -Report by Keith Arnold, Photo by Paul Barchilon: Yilun Yang teaching kids at the 2010 Go Congress.

Young Lions Youth Tourney Nov. 17

Sunday November 11, 2012

“Sign up now to play in one of the premier youth tournaments in the US,” urges AGHS Vice President Hugh Zhang.  “Past winners of the Young Lions Tournament have gone on to do extremely well in the United States Youth Go Championship. 2010 winner Vincent Zhuang went on the win the USYGC, while Yunxuan Li, the 2011 winner nearly made the finals. This year, there will be an open division with Aaron Ye 5d poised to make his move. Get ready to rumble, because it will be an awesome showdown to see who will lead the pack of young go lions,” says Zhang.  For more info, and to register, visit the AGHS website. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor

Go Review: GoClubsOnline

Sunday November 11, 2012

By Peter Drake

I’ve used several different tournament management software packages over the years that I’ve run the Portland (Oregon) tournament. For the past couple of years, I’ve been using GoClubsOnline (GCOL). This has certainly been the most stable, least frustrating option and I plan to continue using it and recommend it to others.

GCOL works through a web browser and all data is stored remotely in the “cloud”, so there’s no worry of files being corrupted or lost. That does mean, however, that GCOL is not the right choice for a tournament director (TD) without reliable internet access.

For the TD, a package like this has two core jobs: pairing (deciding who plays whom) and recording results. Pairing is notoriously difficult because there are many constraints. GCOL does as good a job at this as any software I’ve used, with a plethora of options, like avoiding pairing players who live in the same city. While GCOL has on rare occasions given me some strange pairings it allows the TD to make some pairings manually and then automatically re-generate the rest. This is a recurring strength of GCOL: if something doesn’t work perfectly, there’s almost always a workaround.

There are a number of options for communicating the pairings to players. With two or three dozen players, I tend to just turn my laptop screen where they can see it, but you can print out pairings as well. Players can also log into the GoClubsOnline site and see their pairings and results.

Recording results is as easy as checking boxes. These can be displayed in the same variety of ways, and winners can be automatically computed; in my tournament, I compute the top three in each of dan, single-digit kyu, and double-digit kyu. The otherwise-tedious process of emailing the results to the AGA is accomplished with a few mouse clicks.

The stability of these basic features alone makes GCOL worth using, but there is much more. Players can register in advance online, for example, drastically reducing check-in time. GCOL also keeps track of income and expenses and how much needs to be forwarded to the AGA for tournament fees.

Is it perfect? Not quite yet. The system does take a bit of learning, as there are many options, but the default settings are generally good. Some may balk at the annual $39 cost, but this only covers “out-of-pocket expense” according to GCOL’s author, Robert Cordingley 2k of Sante Fe. “It is still very much a volunteer effort,” he explains. We are fortunate to have a volunteer willing and able to produce such complex, high-quality software for such an obscure niche. Cordingley has been extremely helpful; I’ve often been able to get help from him during a tournament and he’s added features requested by various TDs, like allowing players to specify meal preferences at a tournament serving lunch.

GoClubsOnline is reliable, clean, and easy to use. I have every reason to expect that it will become even more so as the number of users increases.
Drake is the Tournament Director of the Portland (Oregon) Go Tournament and runs the Lewis & Clark College Go Club in Portland.

Go Spotting: Girl vs. Monster; Xbox LIVE’s Path of Go; Tenjou Tenge

Saturday November 10, 2012

Girl vs. Monster: Go makes an appearance in the new Disney channel movie “Girl vs. Monster”, reports Tyler Keithley. If anyone’s got more details and/or stills, send ‘em to us at

Xbox LIVE’s Path of Go: Shawn Ray from Tennessee recently discovered Xbox LIVE’s go arcade game The Path of Go. Ray notes that “My mother, who is not even a go player, said ‘You know go is getting popular when it is on the X-Box.’” He says the game is “unique and fun,” adding that “the graphics are very well done and the board and stones are beautiful and portrayed in a way that you feel like you are playing with the go stones from ancient times.” In addition to useful beginner-level problems, Ray says there’s “a nice little story line with an interesting twist at the end.” He adds that “While most players who are well versed in the game might find the first few chapters boring and easy, it is worth it once you reach the later stages in order to find out what happens. Also the final boss is not so easy, as I am a 4d and it still took me a couple tries to beat him since we are playing on a 9×9 which forces me to come up with new strategies as I can’t us my normal joseki/fuseki ideas on a smaller board.” Ray has a few minor technical complaints but his main problem is that “since the game is not yet popular, I am finding it very difficult to find an opponent on X-Box Live. Hope we can spread the word and get more go players online!”
See Xbox’s Path of Go The New Hikaru No Go? for our original report in the January 10, 2011 EJ.

Tenjou Tenge: Taylor Litteral spotted a go board in Episode 26 of the anime Tenjou Tenge (at 7:40). The anime is based on the Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Oh! great, which primarily focuses on the members of the Juken Club and their opposition, the Executive Council, which is the ruling student body of a high school that educates its students in the art of combat. As the story unfolds, both groups become increasingly involved with an ongoing battle that has been left unresolved for four hundred years.

In Memoriam: Dr. Heidi Kirschner

Thursday November 8, 2012

Doctor Heidi Kirschner died at her home in Seattle on November 1. She was 99 years old. A beloved elder of the American go community, Kirschner helped build the local go scene in Seattle, WA; and her son, Chris, is also a longtime local and national go organizer currently serving on the boards of the Seattle Go Center, the American Go Foundation, and the American Go Association.

Heidi Kirschner was 9 kyu when she arrived in the US from Austria in October 1939, with her husband Franz, also a 9 kyu — and the suitor who was willing to learn go from her. Clutching the then-customary single suitcase that could be squeezed out of Nazi-controlled Europe at that time, Kirschner was, even at 9K, probably the strongest Caucasian woman in the US at that time. In that suitcase was a cardboard go board with wooden stones on which her son Chris, born less than two days after her arrival in Seattle, would learn to play at age 6, shortly after the end of the war.

Kirschner learned go from her mother and an uncle who had visited Japan with the Austrian navy around 1900 and picked it up there.  She grew up in Vienna, the daughter of Ludwig Moszkowicz, a prominent surgeon in Vienna, Austria, and Elizabeth, director of the first nursing school in Austria.  In 1937 Kirschner graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School and at the family graduation party met an American woman, Mildred Lemon from Olympia, Washington, who in 1939 sponsored the immigration of Heidi and Franz to Seattle, where she raised four children before returning to the practice of medicine in 1958, joining her husband in his solo practice.  She retired in 1977 but continued to teach early childhood development part time at the UW Medical School.

As early as 1961, when the American go scene was concentrated in New York City and San Francisco, Kirschner put Seattle on the map by hosting Iwamoto Kaoru 9P during his tour of the United States that year. And her home was often the site for go events like a teaching session a few years later for local Caucasian players when a trio of women professionals — Reiko Kitani, and Sachiko Honda and Teruko — from Japan visited.  With son Chris directing, and assuring her she was not too weak at 9K, she  attended the US Go Congress in Seattle in 1995, and was a fixture at many subsequent Go Congresses as well as at local events at the Seattle Go Center.

As her mother before her, and her son after, Heidi Kirschner believed strongly that go could be an instrument of peace, a belief also shared by  Iwamoto, the Japanese professional go player – and Hiroshima survivor — who funded the Seattle Go Center as part of a mini-network of go centers founded in New York City, Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Seattle to support the spread of go worldwide.
- photo by Phil Straus

Categories: U.S./North America

Pair Go “A way to form new friendships”

Monday November 5, 2012

Updated results in last weekend’s Pair Go Championships moved the US team up to 14th place. “Meeting different people was the best part” of the tournament, held in Tokyo,Japan. US team member Amy Su told the E-Journal. “It was very surprising to see so many countries participating,” added Su’s partner, Lionel Zhang. “It shows go is becoming more popular around the world. The informal goodwill match was great.” New US Pair Go Coordinator Rachel Small agreed, noting that “I am a lot more aware of the international presence of Pair Go now and intend to encourage our strong women to play Pair Go. Overall, the event was inspirational. I see Pair Go as a way to form new friendships.”

Categories: U.S./North America

Hurricane Aftermath Assistance

Monday November 5, 2012

“The American Go Association extends its deepest concern to members, their families, and the communities impacted in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy,” says AGA President Andy Okun. To assist members who may have been impacted and those who would like to contribute to the recovery efforts, the following websites may be helpful in finding assistance and contributing to the recovery: The Red Cross; United Way; Salvation Army; Charity Navigator.

For those of you working on relief efforts, whether individually or as a club, please let us know about the support you are providing, the extent of the problem, where you are, and how others may help, including contact information, so that we can share with our readers. email us at


Categories: U.S./North America