American Go E-Journal

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.

Categories: Traveling Go Board

AGA East Go Camp Is a Go

Monday March 26, 2012

The AGA East Go Camp has been  confirmed for the summer of 2012. The camp will take place the week before the U.S. Go Congress from July 28 to August 4 and will be held at the same location – the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Camp directors Nano Rivera and Amanda Miller welcome all campers from the ages of 8 to 18 to join them for a week of go-playing and fun. More information regarding the camp will be available on the AGA website, and registration will open within the next two weeks, so be sure to check back soon. – Story and photo by Amanda Miller, Camp Director.  Photo: the 2011 Go Camp.

Salt City Tourney Takes the Cake

Monday March 26, 2012

A special attraction of the annual Salt City Go Tournament – scheduled for this Saturday, March 31 in Syracuse, NY — is the “go problem” cake baked by local go organizer Richard Moseson’s wife Chris. “Competitors are invited to fill out an entry form supplying what they believe should be black’s first move” to solve the life and death problem icing the cake, reports Moseson, and “a prize is given for one of the winning submissions at the end of the tournament,” although the cake itself is consumed at the conclusion of lunch. “We do give out 15 other prizes to game winners too, mostly books from Slate and Shell,” adds Moseson. The tournament derives its name from Syracuse’s history as the principle salt resource in the United States until 1900.
photo: 2011 tournament winner Phil Waldron (r) observes the cake preparation by Chris Moseson; photo by Richard Moseson

Categories: U.S./North America

This Week’s Go Calendar: Arlington, Sacramento, Syracuse

Monday March 26, 2012

March 31: Arlington, VA
NOVA Cherry Blossom Festival
Gary Smith 703.254.6429

March 31: Sacramento, CA
Davis/Sacramento Go Club Spring Quarterly
Willard Haynes 916.929.6112

March 31: Syracuse, NY
5th Annual Salt City Go Tournament
Richard Moseson 315.682.7720
James Howard 315.395.3557

Get the very latest tournament information.

Categories: Calendar

Computer Game Tycoon to Keynote First US International Go Symposium

Saturday March 24, 2012

The father of the computer gaming revolution, Nolan Bushnell, will be the keynote speaker at the first US International Go Symposium, on August 4-5, 2012. The Symposium will bring together go scholars from around the world to explore  educational, cultural, historical, literary, artistic, scientific and technological aspects of the game. Bushnell has called go a “wonderfully rich and powerful game” and his “favorite game of all time.”

When he founded a pioneering computer company in 1972, Bushnell selected a go term, atari, for the company’s name. Atari’s game Pong became the first commercially successful computer game, opening the door to modern computer gaming. Organized by Peter Shotwell, noted go scholar and author, the symposium will take place on August 3rd and 4th during the first weekend of the American Go Association’s (AGA’s) 28th US Go Congress in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The International Go Federation is providing seed funding for the symposium. For more information about the Symposium, or to submit papers or proposals, contact Peter Shotwell at

2nd World Mind Sports Games to be held in France; AGA Seeks Donations for U.S. Team

Saturday March 24, 2012

The International Mind Sports Association has announced that the second World Mind Sports Games (WMSG) will be held August 9-23 at the Lille Palais in Lille, France.  International Go Federation (IGF) vice president Thomas Hsiang reports that the second WMSG will be an all-amateur event. “Once again, we will be depending upon donations to support sending our U.S. team to this prestigious competition,” says American Go Association President Allan Abramson. Due to the lateness in confirming the event site, the IGF will not be participating on as large a scale as in the first WMSG.  The European Go Federation has been asked to organize the event. Supporters donated about $15,000 to send the U.S. team to the first Mind Games in China in 2008. “Can we ask you to match or exceed this amount for this Summer’s games?” asks Abramson. Use the “donate” button on the AGA website, to contribute or get and use the AGA credit card.


Categories: U.S./North America

Go Expo Day a Big Hit in NorCal

Saturday March 24, 2012

Bay Area Go Players Association held the third annual Go Expo Day on March 11 in Oakland, CA, and once again it was a big success. Over 50 people from diverse backgrounds converged on the Oakland Asian Cultural Center to learn how to play go, pick up a free 9×9 go set and Way to Go booklet, and watch games in the monthly AGA ratings tournament taking place in the room next door.

“We need more teachers!” exclaimed Jay Chan, Go Expo Day co-organizer, as inquisitive adults and children poured into the room and filled all available seats. A few tournament players heeded the call for help, generously pausing their rated games and stepping in to teach until more go instructors could be brought in.

Teacher Ernest Brown summed the day up nicely when he commented, “It was just so great to see so much interest and enthusiasm for go.” Based on the success of this and previous outreach events, Bay Area Go Players Association will hold the next Go Expo Day during the September monthly AGA ratings tournament instead of waiting until 2013. “The great teaching supplies available from the American Go Foundation store make it a lot easier to teach go to beginners at our regular monthly tournaments,” explained co-organizer Roger Schrag. Photos by Steve Burrall and Roger Schrag.

Categories: U.S./North America

European Chess Union Clamps Down on Cleavage

Wednesday March 21, 2012

“European Chess Competitions To Be Less Sexy With Strict New Cleavage Rules” reported Gawker on March 8. “Strict new rules govern the accepted wardrobe for woman’s matches,” the report continued, referencing a more detailed report in Chessbase News. “The European Women’s Championship is the first where the new ECU Dress Code regulations apply,” according to the March 7 Chessbase report. “They are quite specific: regarding décolletés (in the US ‘cleavage’): ‘the second from the top button may be opened.’ And skirts may be no shorter than 5-10 cm above the knees.” Explained ECU General Secretary Sava Stoisavljevic, “We came up with that idea because we noticed that during the games many of the players were not wearing proper clothes… It’s nice to see chess players with short skirts – they are very pretty girls. But I believe there should still be some limit.” Other dress code rules specify that “clothing should be crisp, show no excessive wear, no holes and shall be free of body odor” and that while sunglasses, glasses or neck ties can be worn during the games, no caps or hats or permitted, “except for religious reasons.” American Go Association President Alan Abramson said unequivocally that “We have absolutely no intention of even considering” such a dress code in AGA-sanctioned tournaments. And at the European Go Federation, President Martin Stiassny told the EJ that “EGF has other problems than thinking about such nonsense. For sure no plans in this direction as long as  I am president of the EGF.”
- thanks to Steve Colburn for passing this along.

Categories: Europe

Zen Computer Go Program Beats Takemiya With Just 4 Stones

Tuesday March 20, 2012

Taking just a four-stone handicap on a full board, the Zen computer go program defeated Takemiya Masaki 9P on March 17. The legendary pro played two games against Zen as part of the 6th E&C Symposium in Japan. In the first game Zen received a five stone handicap and won by 11 points. After that the handicap was reduced to four stones, but Zen surprised many by winning again, this time by 20 points. Zen — aka Zen19 — was written by programmer Yoji Ojima and ran on hardware provided by Kato Hideki, of team DeepZen. According to Hideki, the hardware for this match was a mini-cluster of four PCs (a dual 6-core Xeon X5680/4.2 GHz, a 6-core Xeon W3680/4 GHz and two 4-core i7 920/3.5 GHz) connected via a GbE LAN. This is the same hardware used by Zen’s ‘zen19s’ and ‘zen19d’ accounts on KGS. Both of the games were played with 30 minutes main time and 60 seconds byo-yomi. Zen is currently ranked 5 dan when playing under similar time conditions on KGS. Earlier in the day, another pro, Ohashi Hirofumi 5P played two even games on 9×9 against Zen. The result was one win each. While winning against a pro with four stones is very impressive and shows how far computers have come in go, it’s clear that Zen was able to win these games by avoiding fighting to a certain extent and relying on its excellent positional judgement, raising the question of whether Zen and other programs will continue to improve steadily as the handicap is reduced and they’re forced to play a more risky style.
- adapted from David Ormerod’s report on GoGameGuru, which includes both Takemiya-Zen game records. Photo: Takemiya Masaki 9P.

Categories: World

China Steals Show at 4th BC Card Cup

Tuesday March 20, 2012

The 4th BC Card Cup is about to enter the round of 16. This year’s tournament has been full of upsets with favorites falling left and right in the early rounds. Two stand-out players so far have been 16 year old Mi Yuting 3P and 18 year old Dang Yifei 4P of China. In the first round, Mi defeated Korea’s young star, Park Junghwan 9P. Then in the round of 32, Mi caused quite a stir by defeating the legendary Lee Changho 9P. Dang followed suit by defeating Lee Sedol 9P in the round of 32. Mi and Dang are joined by China’s Gu Li 9P, Niu Yutian 7P, Zhou Ruiyang 5P, Kong Jie 9P, Liu Xing 7P, Xie He 7P, Tan Xiao 5P, Chen Yaoye 9P, Jiang Weijie 9P, Piao Wenyao 9P and Hu Yaoyu 8P, and Korea’s Lee Wonyoung 3P, Park Younghun 9P and Baek Hongseok 9P. Unfortunately for Japan and Taiwan, the handful of their players who made it to the round of 64 were eliminated at that stage.
- Jingning; based on her original article: China on a roll in 4th BC Card Cup at Go Game Guru. Photo: Mi Yuting 3P.

Categories: World