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Lee Sedol Says Andy Liu “Stronger Than I Had Anticipated”

Sunday January 27, 2013

With the technical glitches solved, the twice-delayed game between Lee Sedol 9P and new American pro Andy Liu 1P took place Saturday morning on go9dan.com. Lee won by resignation but said that “Andy is much stronger than

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I had anticipated,” adding that AGA President Andy Okun “must be really happy about how strong the AGA pros are!” Okun responded that “we really pleased and proud of our new pros. We are also grateful to Lee Sedol for giving them a chance to hone their skills and learn from such a champion.” The second round in the AGA-Europe Pros vs. Lee Sedol Lee 10-Game Series is likely to be held next weekend; stay tuned for details.

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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.

 

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New in Print: Commented Games of Lee Sedol (Volume I)

Sunday September 23, 2012

by Roy Laird
What does the world’s top player do when he’s not playing go? In the case of Lee Sedol, the answer turned out to be: write wonderful go books. In June 2009 Lee abruptly retired from tournament play in a dispute with the Korean Baduk Association, which was later resolved. During the break, as Lee reflected on his career, he reviewed several of his most important games in detail with his sister Lee Sena, a former female amateur Myeongin (Meijin), who had just returned from a long stay in Australia. Three books emerged from this collaboration, and, as we reported last week, the first  has just been published in English by Baduktopia as Commented Games of Lee Sedol I. In unparalleled depth, Lee explores his first title-winning game in 2000; his loss against Lee Changho in the 2001 LG Cup; and the game with which he won his first international tournament, the 2002 Fujitsu Cup.  Using dozens of game records and hundreds of explanatory diagrams per game, Lee takes us through each contest step by step, with more than 100 pages of analysis per game. As a mid-level player, I was slightly daunted to find that the very first page of analysis explains why Lee decided, at move 6, to avoid a 30-move variation of the hard-to-fathom takamoku taisha variation. But as I kept reading, I also found clear and insightful points on many different levels. There’s something for everyone in these wide-ranging game analyses. The large format, open layout and use of multiple game records – some contain only two or three moves — make everything so easy to follow, you may not even need to play along on a real board. Lee also offers personal reflections on subjects ranging from his life growing up on a farm on Bigeum Island off the southern coast, to his thoughts and feelings during and after the games. Lee’s father was a crucial figure and great go aficionado — we learn that he even included the word “Dol” (“Stone” in Korean) in his children’s names.  (“Sedol” means strong stone.) With more than 300 7.5”x10” pages in quality paperback form, it’s a hefty volume, with a price to match – over $40. But if the best way to improve is to study professional games, this is the most thorough discussion ever in English of play at the highest level. It’s found a home on the top shelf of my library with Invincible and those great classic game review books that John Fairbairn has been putting out lately. I’m looking forward to Volumes II and III.
photo: Lee Sedol with his daughter in 2008

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Hikaru Author Hotta Yumi Interviewed

Monday September 3, 2012

Hikaru no Go author Hotta Yumi was interviewed on film at the International Go Symposium on August 5th, 2012. For those who missed the live stream,  the Tiger’s Mouth website has printed the entire text of the interview.  The AGF is currently editing the videos from the symposium, all of which will be available online at a later date.  A few choice highlights from the Hotta interview are below, you can read the full article here.

On how the series began, Hotta says “I wanted to learn go, so I paid a go school and started to attend classes once a week with a pro. He was mean, and never let the students win the teaching games. This was frustrating to me, because I was thinking ‘Why am I paying to lose all the time?’ I wished that I had a guardian angel or a ghost that could help me beat him really bad. It was at that moment that Hikaru no Go was born.”  When asked about how go has affected her life, Hotta replied: “Honestly, I had no idea that so many kids would want to learn how to play go. Not just in Japan, but all over the world. Especially kids in other countries where there aren’t many teachers or resources for playing go. Nowadays many more kids can play go thanks to the efforts of teachers, professionals, and groups that are helping to bring go to kids around the world. For my own life, Hikaru has made it very hard for me to attend go tournaments. So many people will watch over my shoulder during my games, and I’m not a very strong player so it is very embarrassing!” – Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor. Translation by Akane Negishi and Solomon Smilack.  Photo: Hotta Yumi, by Paul Barchilon.

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AGF Twitter Feed

Monday July 2, 2012

Part of the new AGF website is a Twitter feed, which drew the attention of  #Engage365 for an interview with AGF VP Paul Barchilon last week.  Learn more about the redesign, and the AGF’s goals in the transcript of the interview here.  The AGF hopes to build a voice on Twitter, by sharing information about new Go clubs and resources nationwide.  Interested readers can follow the AGF at AGFgo on Twitter.

 

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Joe Walters Named 2012 AGF Teacher of the Year

Thursday June 21, 2012

This year’s Teacher of the Year winner, Joe Walters of Pasadena, CA, learned go in the Navy. That is, he learned about go. “A buddy and I tried it and wound up bewildered, with two walls across the middle of the board,” Walters said.  “I didn’t really start to understand go until the Ishi Press books began to appear in the 1970’s.” Walters’ current rank is about 8K. Each year the American Go Foundation selects an outstanding go organizer as Teacher of the Year (TOTY). The recipient receives an all-expenses paid trip to the US Go Congress, where the TOTY leads a discussion among fellow organizers, sharing strategies and learning from each other.  After his stint in the Navy, Walters returned to civilian life and joined the staff of the Reiyukai (Spiritual Friendship Society), a lay Buddhist association. He suggested organizing a go club at the Center to attract visitors and promote interest, and the Go-For-Yu Club was born. Later, after a stint as the Director of the Reiyukai in the Philippines, he returned to Pasadena and founded the Yu-Go Club. “Jimmy Cha was a big help in the early days, along with Richard Dolen, Gun Ho Choi, and Bob Terry. Then when Yi-lun Yang came to town, things really started to take off.”

Four years ago, when Walters retired, he decided to use some of his newfound freedom to start a go program at his grandson’s elementary school. Before long, about 150 of the school’s 400 students were involved – ironically, his grandson was not among them. Starting with brief presentations during recess, the program soon moved to the lunchroom. “Most of the kids were finishing lunch in 15 minutes or so. The cafeteria doubles as the auditorium, so we set up go equipment on the stage. Being so visible, other kids wanted to play, and so it grew.” Each participant gets an index card marked with a Pokemon character of their choice, to record contact info, game results and so on. Setting up the program, Walters relied heavily on the Assistant Principal, who last year became principal of a nearby school.  Walters expanded his activities to that school, teaching and operating the program two days a week during lunch at each site. “The noise in the lunchroom makes it hard to teach, but we can’t meet privately because students cannot be alone; a teacher must be physically present at all times,” Walters said. The principals of the two schools are good friends and maintain a friendly rivalry between their schools, so when Walters proposed an intramural tournament last year, they jumped at the chance and even provided a traveling trophy. Four players from each lunchtime group – first/second grade, third/fourth and fifth/sixth – met in a two-round playoff last year, but a few no-shows marred the result.  This year, all interested players will participate. Walters ran the event with the help of local players Jeff McClellan and Reese.  This year they will offer lessons to the parents, ending with parent-child games for all who will participate. Next, Walters hopes to teach participants in a local senior center and perhaps arrange for some of his students to meet and play with the seniors. He also enjoys teaching beginners on KGS and can often be found in the Beginner’s Room as “Jodageezer”. “Go is such a great way to connect all different kinds of people,” he says.
 reprinted from Sensei: The American Go Foundation Newsletter

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Sempais Leading the Way in WV

Sunday November 13, 2011

“In Glen Dale, West Virginia, an unlikely new program has attained a huge following at John Marshall High School: Go Club.  With a membership of nearly 100 students, the club has grown by massive leaps and bounds in a way that no one thought possible. Go Club started two years ago with a handful of students in my study hall,” writes school teacher David Will.  “I had brought a board and a book of go problems with me to study hall one day to give me something to do while my students worked on homework.  Three students approached my desk and inquired about the game, something that they had never seen before.  Two of those students would go on to important roles in the club. In years past, I have always taken two or three days to teach the basics of go to my World History classes to close the chapter on ancient Chinese history.  For the rest of the year, many of the students would play the game, but it had not gone beyond a diversion for after the completion of worksheets and tests.  Now, I had an interesting opportunity.  These students and I played go daily for months, honing their skills to where they were competition for me, and one even finally defeated me. Continue reading…)

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Free Sample Member’s Edition Game Review: “Tiger’s Mouth” Kyu Game

Monday October 24, 2011

Today’s game review, by Feng Yun 9P, looks at a kyu level game between two young players who wish to remain anonymous.  White is just eight years old, and improving quickly.  His opponent is 14, and also a very quick learner.  This match was played during one of the monthly Tiger’s Mouth prize tournaments, sponsored by the AGF.  Website members can join the tourney, and compete for $75 worth of prizes in three different brackets.  Raffles are also held for the anime prize pack, and a complete set of Hikaru no Go manga (all 23 volumes).  Youth players 18 and under are welcome at all TM tourneys, click here for more info. NOTE: The next TM tourney will be on October 29th, click here to register. Want to see game reviews every week? Sign up now for the E-Journal Member’s Edition!

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Moore and Yan Win AGF College Scholarships

Monday October 10, 2011

D’mitri Moore, of Detroit, MI, and Jasmine Yan, of  Edison, NJ, have each won $1,000 towards their college expenses, from the American Go Foundation.  The scholarship recognizes high school students who have served as important youth organizers and promoters for the go community, and is awarded annually.  Applications for next year’s scholarship are due by Nov. 20, more information can be found on the AGF website.  Moore launched a go club at his high school in inner city Detroit, and stuck with it through thick and thin over the next four years.  Moore’s essay for the scholarship speaks to his passion:“I believe that most inner-city children statistically fail to achieve, not because of their inability to comprehend, or actually do the school work, but because they are bored, because they are not being challenged on a level which forces them to think in a different manner in order to solve problems. The first person I introduced go to was one of these types.  Everyday, when we would have nothing to do, I would teach the rules of go to this student and everyday he would steadily improve bit by bit. His intrigue of the game spread like a wildfire and his drive to one-day defeat me spurred him to want to play and study more. A connection had been made and every good go player knows that once you have a strong, connected group of stones, you have to make extensions from it in order to amass more territory. When I told him that I wanted to start a club at Renaissance High in order to get more people (specifically youth) in the city of Detroit to play, he was very determined to help look for a sponsor while I filled out the paperwork. Within our first 3 months, our group size tripled and all of the kids who may have never ever noticed each other walking down the hallway were connecting and bonding like they had been friends for years.”  Moore entered his school in the AGHS School Teams Tourney, and was able to place fourth in the Jr. Varsity Division at their first tournament.

Jasmine Yan began teaching go as early as fifth grade, and launched go clubs at  both her middle, and high schools.  She led both teams to compete in the School Teams Tourney, and also became active as a teacher.  When the opportunity to volunteer came, Yan immediately joined the AGHS, and eventually was elected President.  In addition to running and organizing national tournaments, she helped with promotional efforts, and continued to teach locally the whole time. She first discovered go as a child in China, and wrote in her essay: “A few weeks after we had come back from China, I saw an advertisement for Feng Yun Go School, and I begged my parents to sign me up. However, in the first session, I was terrified to discover that I was the only girl, as well as the weakest in the class; for several weeks, I lost every game I played. Yet, during those difficult times, something about the game of Go persuaded me to keep playing. Nine years later, I have improved from 30 kyu to my current rank of 4 dan.”  Not concerned solely with her own development, Yan also began teaching go at her Chinese school.  “For the next three years, I taught the go class in FCD, with about ten to fifteen kids in each class. The first year was somewhat of an experiment for me. I learned that all the kids had different comprehension levels; some would understand the concepts taught immediately, and others took longer. Eventually, the kids in my class had ranks ranging from 1 dan to 25 kyu.”  Yan also represented her country, as part of the US National Team in the first Mind Sports Games in Beijing, in 2008.   - EJ Youth Editor Paul Barchilon.  Photos: Top Left: D’mitri Moore; Top Right: Jasmine Yan.


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In Memoriam: Ethan Baldridge

Sunday July 31, 2011

The go community lost Ethan Baldridge (l) last week. The Richmond, Virginia native — who passed away after a short illness on July 20 at just 31 — was a quiet and slender presence at East Coast Tournaments and workshops for many years, and attended several Go Congresses, helping out with the E-Journal staff.  Ethan also logged countless volunteer programming hours for the AGA, especially on the mail systems. He’ll be missed.

Though not as well-known as some of the other folks I’ve written about, Ethan was a unique and positive personality.  He truly loved the game of go and was deeply committed to studying and improving.  Yet what made him different is the way this commitment animated his behavior.  He was not the super-serious guy with his nose buried in a book, or craning over some strong players discussing one of their games.  Ethan shared his passion with a shy grin and a quiet laugh, finding something interesting in every game, helping beginners and kyu players as well as learning from strong players.

When you played a tournament game against Ethan, you were always in for a delightful battle.  He seemed to pour himself into every move.  Yet when the game was over, his joy and mirth about the game was amazing.  He was simply delighted to have spent a couple of hours learning with you.

Now if you didn’t know him, and you lost, this could be a bit off-putting: suddenly this young man is giggling and pointing out what you did wrong – in the most friendly manner – but to the more serious amongst us, the reaction might be to get upset. But if you knew Ethan, you knew that he would be no different if he had lost, chortling at his own mistakes and gleefully reviewing the lessons learned.

This is what I will miss most about Ethan, that we can be serious about our game and improving, but still recognize that this particular game was simply an enjoyable milepost along the way, an opportunity to measure and learn, but nothing to get upset about.
Thank you Ethan for all the times you laughed at me, the times I made you laugh at you, and most of all, for the times we laughed together.

- Keith Arnold, hka; photo by Allan Abramson at the recent NoVa tournament

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