American Go E-Journal

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?

Categories: Traveling Go Board

Club Updates: Updating Club/Chapter Info

Friday February 15, 2013

Little Rock, AR: The Little Rock Go Club has been re-started in Arkansas, reports Aulden Murch. “ We have six enthusiastic members so far but have not found a place to meet yet.” In the meantime, reach Murch at or call 501-337-3451.
Silver Spring, MD: The Arthur Lewis Go Club has moved to the Mid County Community Center (2004 Queensguard Rd, Silver Spring MD 20906); 240-777-6820 • where it meets Tuesdays from 6-8:45p.

The AGA maintains go club contact info on our website; if you are the current head of a go club you can edit and update that information yourself. Just log into the membership database with your user account and you can not only be able to edit your own personal information but also your club’s. Once you log in, look for “Manage [Go Club's Name]” where you can edit the club’s data, which will automatically update the information on the club listings on the AGA’s web site.

Categories: U.S./North America

SmartGo to Sponsor KGS Meijin Qualifiers

Thursday February 14, 2013

SmartGo is sponsoring the February and March qualifiers for the KGS 2013 Meijin tournament. Smallbird won the 2012 KGS Meijin inaugural effort, with some of the strongest players on the server competing for the final prize: $500 and a special icon. The 2013 KGS Meijin season has already started, with Alex12 winning the first spot in the qualifiers (finals will be held starting in November). SmartGo’s February round has 18 entrants thus far, with ranks up to 6 dan. The single-elimination tournament will take place February 16-17; see the tournament web page for more details.


Categories: U.S./North America

Sun and Chiu Leading in USYGC

Thursday February 14, 2013

The United States Youth Go Championships (USYGC), held Jan. 19th on KGS pulled in 63 players.  The withdrawal of the Ing Foundation from the event did not appear to have any effect on attendance.   Kids and teens competed in five different bands, with players ranging from 7 dan to the double digit kyus.  First place winners will be receiving crystal trophies in the mail, while second place winners will get a Sai plushie.  All players can also now claim $400 scholarships to the AGA Go Camp, or $200 scholarships to US Go Congress, on a first come first serve basis.  The scholarships are courtesy of the AGF, which helps bring dozens of young players to the Congress every year.   Dan level kids were also competing for entry into the four player finals, and the big prize of a free trip to the US Go Congress. Sixteen-year-old Calvin Sun 7d (at left) finished first in the qualifiers for the Senior Division (under 18) while ten-year-old Jeremy Chiu 5d (at right) placed first in the Junior (under 12).  The finals are double-elimination, and the first two rounds were held Jan. 20.  The finals for the Senior Division will continue over the next few weeks, while Jr. Division kids will square off in person in March, at the BAGPA ratings tourney in Menlo Park CA.  For full qualifier results, go here.   The senior finalists were Calvin Sun 7d, Albert Yen 6d,  Andrew Lu 6d, and Andrew Huang 6d; The Junior Division had only five players, and used double elimination from the start.  Jeremy Chiu 5d, and Aaron Ye 5d are the last two still standing. Winners Report: 1st place Sr. 1-4 dan: Jerry Shen 4d; 1st place Sr. 1-5 kyu: Larry Qu 1k; 1st place Jr, 1-5k: Eric Liu 5k; 1st place Sr. 6-10 kyu: Royce Chen 10k; 1st place Jr. 6-10 kyu: Tianyi Tina Li 10k; 1st place Sr. 11-15 kyu band: Henry Hathaway; 1st place Jr. 11-15 kyu band: Frederick Bao 13k; 1st place Sr. 16-30 kyu band: Sarah Amano 18k; 1st place Jr. 16-30 kyu band: Alex Kuang 23k.  The tournament was run by Paul Barchilon and Hugh Zhang. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor

In Shocker, Lee Sedol Announces Retirement; May Move to U.S.

Wednesday February 13, 2013

Lee Sedol 9P, the longtime #1-ranked player in Korea, has shocked the go world by announcing in a recent interview that he would “…definitely retire and move overseas within three years.”

Lee, 29 years old, is still at the top level of competition, and will probably be able to compete at that level for another four or five years. But the decorated pro says he wants to end his professional playing career at its height, rather than facing a possible decline.

“I’m going to quit while I’m still at the top,” said Lee in his recent interview, “I can still compete for a few more years, but what can I do after that? Competing and being at the top is an important part of who I am, as a fighter and a player.”

Lee has ambitious plans for his retirement as well, however, planning to teach and promote go abroad.

“I want to make go as popular as chess,” he explained.

For American players, at least, this may be good news – since Lee reportedly views the United States as the best place to expand the game.

The U.S. holds another appeal for Lee as well – his wife and young daughter have just moved to Canada for his daughter’s education.

Adapted from a report on Go Game Guru; please click for game records and more information. Edited by Ben Williams

Categories: World

Canada 4-peats in Nail-Biting Youth Tourney

Tuesday February 12, 2013

Aiming to keep its winning streak alive, Canada put on a thrilling come-from-behind victory at the 5th US-Canada Youth Friendship Match, held this past Saturday on KGS and viewed live by over 200 go fans. Featuring the strongest amateur youth players in North America, the match seemed to be locked in for the US, as Albert Yen 6d, Andrew Lu 6d, and Aaron Ye 5d won the first three games. However, Canada came storming back, with wins by Jianing Gan 8d and Oliver Wolf 5d, leaving the top board of Calvin Sun 7d versus Bill Lin 8d to be the deciding game. In the end, Bill prevailed, bringing the Canadians back to a 3-3 split in wins and a victory with the top board tiebreak secured. Next, the North American team looks for a repeat victory over the European youth in the Transatlantic Match that will be played this coming spring. Full results can be seen here. -Story, and tournament, by Lawrence Ku

Xuyu Xiang 7D Wins Phoenix Chinese Week Go Open as Year of the Snake Dawns

Tuesday February 12, 2013

After almost seven hours of intense competition, Xuyu Xiang 7D (at left in photo) won the 2013 Phoenix Chinese Week (PCW) Go Open on February 10 in Phoenix, AZ. Held on the Chinese New Year’s Day at the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix, this was the ninth year for the PCW Open. Eighteen go players ranging from 15k to 7D competed in four divisions “and celebrated the Year of the Snake,” reports organizer Quan Li. “We had some young kids as well as a senior player close to 70 years old.” The Open attracted many spectators, Li reports, and winners were presented with specially-designed medals featuring a ying-yang logo made of titanium. “Every player enjoyed the games and friendship with other players,” Li adds, “We will meet again in the Year of the Horse.”

Results: Xuyu Xiang 7D was undefeated to win 1st place in Division A (high dan); Jason Lin 5D won 2nd place.  Joshua Simmons 2D — also with straight wins – took 1st place in Division B (low dan & high kyu), Bill Gundberg 1k won 2nd place, Eric Lin 2D and Jeffrey Luo 2k shared 3rd place.  Jared Hogrefe 5k, Richard Hardy 5k and Demir Zoroglu 4k won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively in Division C (mid kyu).  Shane Edey, Denis Liu and Chiu Ly won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in Division D (low kyu), respectively.  Note that Denis and Chiu are 11-year-old kids.
photo: Xuyu Xiang (l) playing Jason Lin; photo by Quan Li


Categories: U.S./North America

NAGC Update: Pro Events in Parsippany Tuesday; Event Moves South on Wednesday

Tuesday February 12, 2013

The North American Go Convention continues tonight as professional go players Myungwan Kim 9P and Joanne Missingham 6P (at right, playing Pair Go; click here for the game record) give lectures, play simuls or provide game reviews from 7-10p in Parsippany, NJ. The action shifts south tomorrow, moving to McLean, VA (8200 Greensboro Drive, Suite 900) and then to GMU in Arlington for the weekend (3351 Fairfax Dr.)

Results from the NAGC Days Inn Cup New York Metro Open: Open Division (6d and above): 1st: Ruxu Cao 7d; 2nd: Ruinan Wang 7d and Zeyu Xu 7d (tie). Expert Division (3d-5d): 1st: Zhihong Ma  4d; 2nd: Justin Ching 3d; 3rd: Willis Huang  3d. Proficient Division (1k-2d): 1st: Xinyu Zhou  1d; 2nd: David Glekel  2d; 3rd: Yunxiu Zhang  1k. Intermediate Division (12k-2k): 1st: Dan Ambrose 4k; 2nd: Barbara Huang 7k; 3rd: Bab Crites 12k. Novice Division (13k and below): 1st: Sarah Crites 28k; 2nd: Eric Weiss 17k; 3rd: James-Lee Meredith 18k. There were 33 players in the Dan and 1k Division, 16 players in the Kyu Division, for a total of 49 players. There were 17 players in the Blitz Go tournament, and eight in the Pair Go tournament.
Click here for the Dan Division Cross Tab and the Kyu Division Cross Tab
- Yue Zhang, Tournament Director; photo by Liang Yu


The Spirit of Play: “Nature vs Nurture”

Monday February 11, 2013

by Gabriel Benmergui

In my last column (The Spirit of Play: “What can I do to improve?” 12/31/2012 EJ) I discussed players who reach moderately high levels of play with little effort, especially regarding problem solving. Since those players often have a big effect on others, I think it would be valuable to delve deeper into the matter.

I find it damaging when I hear a strong player say “I got to X-Dan with little study. If you only play games and review you can get to X-Dan like me.” Such cases seem to prove that effort is a waste of time, but they’re really damaging because they discourage players from putting in the necessary work to improve.

The reality is that naturally strong players are quite rare. For each player that rather effortlessly reaches a moderately high level of play, there are thousands that do not. The “system” of just playing and reviewing simply doesn’t work for the vast majority of players. And despite their rapid improvement, these players are not really the clear success cases they seem; without proper effort they’re not going to reach the highest level they can achieve.

In the end, natural skill doesn’t really matter. It’s just not something you can control. What you can control is the effort and work you put into improving. Natural skill has a limit that effort does not have. We live in an age where one of the most renowned players of all time, Lee Changho 9P, fell extremely short in skill when compared to his teachers and his classmates, but through an immense amount of hard work Lee attained a place at the top of the world.

My Advice: For amateur players, go should first and foremost be about enjoyment. Do what pleases you most. However, if you want to improve, be ready to put some effort into it. Self-study, lessons, and reviewing your games will all help you get better. And when a naturally strong player crosses your path, learn what you can from them but ignore any advice that seems to offer an easy path to improvement. Slack training will never be better than proper study. But don’t take my word for it; here’s Lee Changho’s #1 tip to get stronger: “Solve life and death problems!”

Gabriel Benmergui lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentinian Champion in 2011 and 2012, he has studied go in Korea and now runs the Go Server. Edited by Chris Garlock; photo by John Pinkerton

GoGameGuru: Expanding the Nexus of Useful Go Information

Sunday February 10, 2013

GoGameGuru, the online go “hub” founded in 2010 by Australians David Ormerod, An Younggil 8P and Jingning Xue, started with a bang – literally. Ormerod and Xue were among the 469 passengers flying from Singapore to Sydney when one of the engines exploded four minutes into the flight. The captain was credited with averting what could have been one of the worst air disasters in history. In the wake of this narrow escape, Ormerod reassessed his life priorities, and dedicated himself to bringing go to the West, with the help of his two friends. “More than anything else, Western go needs a steady stream of new players,” Ormerod told the EJ. The result, GoGameGuru (GGG), is a rapidly-expanding nexus of useful information from the ground up, as well as premium services and products for everyone, especially new and intermediate players. A growing collection of essays such as “Thinking Big in Go” and “5 Tips for Dealing with Unexpected Moves” is available, along with problems, game analysis, extensive news coverage of important tournaments and events, and a weekly newsletter claiming more than 5,000 subscribers. GGG has a related account, where visitors and and specifically tailored search algorithms find and suggest related content, and account owners can easily distribute stuff and grow their communities of interest..

Part of GoGameGuru’s idea is to also operate a successful business. “If GGG can be financially viable, we’ll have more time and resources to introduce go to
more people,” says Ormerod. “If we achieve our goal, the market for go products and services will grow, making a better business environment for everyone.” Last summer, GGG established a partnership with Korea’s BadukTV, making 24/7 go TV available in the US. A subscription also includes access to translated lectures. More recently, GGG has opened an online store, featuring affordable and premium goods. All equipment ships for free, and to support American Go, and GGG will donate 10% of the proceeds from any sale to the AGA (when you use this link). When GGG says “premium,”  they’re not kidding – the finest board available will set you back a cool $100,000. Personally, I’m not sure I need to own that one (some more reasonable options also look very nice), but I’d love to play a game on it some time. Use this link to do your shopping and support the AGA at the same time!
- Roy Laird