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Americans Win Brunei Friendship Match

Saturday March 2, 2013

The US has won the Brunei Friendship Cup, which was held Saturday Feb. 16th, on KGS.  Sponsored by the American Go Honor Society, and the Brunei I-Go Society.   “The match revived an earlier tourney last held in 2010, and renewed an international friendship with countries in Southeast Asia,” reports tournament coordinator Andrew Huang. This year’s event featured two teams from Southeast Asia, a team from Canada, and a team from the United States (selected by a qualifying event the prior week). The US team featured Aaron Ye 5d, Jeremy Chiu 5d, Louie Liu 1d, Sathya Singh 1k, Jeremiah Donley 4k, Joshua Song 12k, Eric Liu 3k, Kalin Bradley 6k, and Monsoon Shrestha 8k. In the end, the Americans were victorious after posting a 3-0 record, while SE Asia Team 2 (2-1) got second, SE Asia Team 1(1-2)  got third, and Canada (0-3) got fourth.  “Most importantly, some international friendships were made,” reports Huang, “and very exciting games were played (including a triple ko in the qualifying event). We look forward to an even more successful event next year.”  Full reports are here. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor. Photo of Brunei players from


54th New Jersey Open Set for March 2-3 in Princeton

Sunday February 17, 2013

The Princeton Go Club will host the 54th annual New Jersey Open the weekend of March 2-3, reports co-director Rick Mott. The 2-day, 5-round event has been running for more than half a century, and on the Princeton campus for 23 years. Registration is 9-10A Saturday, March 3. Email co-director Mott for full details at

Go has a long history at Princeton. The Princeton club was founded by Professor Ralph J. Fox of the Department of Mathematics in 1945, who continued to promote go in Princeton until his untimely death in 1973. Professor Fox brought a number of Japanese professionals to visit Princeton, and often hosted them at his house. His late wife Cynthia bequeathed some of his books, photographs and papers to the club archives.

Perhaps the most famous association of Princeton with go is an opening scene in the film “A Beautiful Mind”, depicting the life of Nobel laureate John Nash Jr., in which Nash is challenged to a game by a fellow graduate student.

The Princeton club hosted the fifth US Go Congress in 1989. The following year, the long-standing New Jersey Open, one of the earliest regional events in the US, moved to the Princeton campus where it continues to be held. The tournament has drawn up to 120 players from Virginia to Massachusetts, with occasional visitors from as far away as Europe and Asia.

Past NJO winner and former club president Zhaonian (Michael) Chen ’11 (AGA 7D) is the highest-rated player to date to be part of the Princeton community. He was part of the first group of students from the nearby Feng Yun Go School to reach college age. Freshman Zhongxia (Ricky) Zhao ’16, AGA 7D, also studied with Feng Yun (photo). “In recent years, we have had an influx of college club players, notably Stony Brook and Rutgers. This year, Cornell has told us they will be sending a group as well,” Mott tells the E-Journal.
photo: Feng Yun analyzing a top-board game at the 2010 NJO; photo by John Pinkerton 

Categories: U.S./North America

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


The Traveling Go Board: Blackie’s International Baduk Academy

Saturday January 19, 2013

by Lisa Schrag As visiting Americans who help run the Bay Area Go Players Association, Roger Schrag and I wanted to see first-hand how go is taught in South Korea, a country where the population is as familiar with go (called baduk in Korean) as Americans are with chess.

We visited Blackie’s International Baduk Academy (BIBA), where we were greeted by friendly teachers Kim Seung-jun 9P “Blackie” (right) and Diana Koszegi 1P (left). Two years ago, they opened BIBA’s doors in the bustling Sanbon neighborhood of Seoul. The school only accepts international students, yet the system of learning go is traditional Korean. While a student there, you are living and breathing go with a daily schedule that runs from 11 in the morning to about 10 at night. All coursework is conducted in English, and people come  from places such as Canada, Singapore, France, Germany, Serbia, the U.K., and the U.S. Students may also attend events, meet pro players at tournaments, and visit the Korean Baduk Association.

“Even if you are at BIBA for a short time, the value is in learning how to study,” explained Koszegi. The pair told us that Korean go study focuses significantly on life and death problems. “Foreigners are weak on life and death,”  Koszegi continued. “They might come in as a 3d but play more like a 5k in life and death. Korean kids who are 3d play like a 5d in life and death.” Blackie plays go professionally in addition to teaching, and I asked him if doing so much teaching weakens his game. “You don’t get weaker teaching,” he responded.  “Maybe you don’t have as much time to study, but you don’t get weaker.” The key is to not overplay during teaching games. Instead, Blackie waits for opponents to make mistakes. There is a traditional Korean go school for children just down the hall from BIBA, and BIBA students sometimes connect with the kids there for competitive games. There’s also plenty of sightseeing available when you aren’t studying go or playing foot volleyball and soccer with the BIBA gang: palaces, parks, biking along the Han River… For more information, visit BIBA’s website. For more about Seoul, check out Visit Seoul. Photos by Lisa Schrag.

Categories: Traveling Go Board

Your Move/Readers Write: Programmers Advocating Go

Sunday January 6, 2013

“Recently I’ve discovered some information about programmers advocating go to their peers,” writes Steve Colburn, an IT professional and go organizer in Rochester, NY who’s also on the AGA website and EJ team. “The first one is a video from the Game Developers Conference in which Frank Lantz from the NYU Game Center gives a talk about Life and Death and Middle Pair: Go, Poker, and the Sublime  (reported in the 10/30 EJ). The second part is part of the Clojure community. The head of the community Rich Hickey advocates the playing of go to people who code in this language. I know of a few active Clojure programmers (Eidogo and IGS programmers) who are all go players. At this year’s Clojure Conj, Zach Tellman gave a talk about Playing Go with Clojure  right before the keynote. It’s great to hear go being publicized like this to our peers and those who do not know about go.”


Janice Kim on Why Solving Go Problems Isn’t Boring (& Two Books to Read Now)

Wednesday January 2, 2013

Although I agree with most of the article on how to improve (The Spirit of Play: “What can I do to improve?” 12/31 EJ), I must — tongue firmly in cheek — object to the statement that solving go problems is ‘boring’.

When I was a student at the Korean Baduk Association, the protocol for solving a problem was that you had to be willing to stake your life that your answer was complete and correct. ‘Complete’ is key, as you definitely didn’t want to scramble for a reply if an alternate move in some sequence was suggested; the executioner may have itchy fingers. Solving problems to this day remains a high-octane, nail-biting affair for me, especially if it’s not much of a reading challenge, so tempting then to omit steadying the nerves and triple-checking. You can hold yourself to a higher standard when practicing, and everybody loses sometimes so the pressure is off when playing, so you might think it’s the actual competition that is the tedious part of go…”

Last (well, not really) thoughts. They don’t call the experts ‘practitioners’ for nothing. Janice’s brain cross-references with two suggested reads: The Little Book of Talent, questions-answered-from-real-world-not-author-agenda-practical-really-works tips for improvement in any endeavor, and the science fiction novel Ender’s Game, almost required reading on the American Cultural Experience syllabus. Spoiler alert the entire premise is this idea of thing-itself-is-a small detail or afterthought, the lead-up to the game, not during the game, is where the winner is decided.
- Janice Kim 3P; photo: Kim playing primary schoochildren at the Shuang Huayuan campus of the Beijing Chaoyang Fangcaodi International school on December 17; photo by Chris Garlock



Go Spotting: Last Resort

Sunday December 30, 2012

“Go was just featured on a U.S. TV series!” writes Alicia Seifrid. The game was featured in the ABC series “Last Resort,” episode 10 (“Blue Water”), which aired last Thursday, December 13. “The series is about a renegade U.S. submarine crew on an island in the Indian Ocean,” explains Seifrid. “In this episode, a Chinese diplomat named Zheng visits the crew offering humanitarian aid. He meets with Captain Chaplin, who is wary of what strings might come attached with the aid. Zheng offers Chaplin his grandfather’s go board as a gift. When Chaplin says he prefers chess, Zheng says ‘In chess, the victor is the one who annihilates his opponent’s armies. In weiqi or go, victory goes to the one who can control the most territory with the fewest armies.’” Later in the episode, they play a game against each other, and Zheng catches Chaplin in a trap, “exactly what Chaplin fears might be the real-life situation if he accepts Zheng’s aid,” says Seifrid. She sent along this screencap of the board during their game, noting that “Chaplin is black and Zheng is white.”

Categories: Go Spotting

Scientists at the 2012 International Go Symposium

Tuesday December 18, 2012

The 2012 International Go Symposium in Black Mountain, North Carolina attracted leading scholars and researchers from around the world for two days of presentations and discussions on the many aspects of the game of go. Hours of footage have now been edited down and posted online to accompany the conference papers. This 3-part series covers highlights of Symposium presentations by teachers, scientists, historians and anthropologists. 

In addition to the teachers and social scientists whose presentations have been described previously in this series, several computer scientists and mathematicians brought their colleagues up to date on recent advances in those areas at the 2012 Symposium. Programmers have been trying to create strong go programs since the creation of the first computers in the 1950’s, but their efforts were so ineffective that go was dubbed “the fruit fly of artificial intelligence.” Top-level play is still an exclusive human domain, but these days computers are closing in, thanks largely to the so-called “Monte Carlo Tree Search” (MCTS) technique, which selects each move by playing out hundreds of thousands of games and choosing the move that seems to win the most games. ZenGo, an MCTS-based program, recently defeated the legendary Takemiya – twice! And in October, playing as “Zen19″, ZenGo finished nearly 200 games over a four-day period on KGS, ending with a ranking of 5D.  Jacques Basaldúa, the author of GoKnot, reviews the basics of the MCTS algorithm and explains how a new filtering mechanism known as “CLOP optimization” is making programs stronger than ever (right)Francois van Niekerk also looks at MCTS, focusing on its unique ability to make use of parallelization and supercomputers.

In the world of mathematics, Prof. Elwyn Berlekamp and others have been exploring how to calculate the “temperature” of endgame moves, for instance in Berlekamp’s Chilling Gets The Last Point. Bill Spight, who wrote a chapter about Berlekamp’s “Coupon Go” in More Games of No Chance, presents some further thoughts on Berlekamp’s concept of “thermographic” analysis, and discovers surprisingly deep questions of life and death on the 3×3 board. Kyle Blocher uses combinatorial game theory in a different way, to develop a method for assessing the value of moves that he calls “miai counting”. Another aspect of the game that seems to yield to mathematical analysis is seki, as we learn from Thomas Wolf, the author of Mastering Ladders. Wolf explores how to recognize a seki when it appears, differentiating among “basic”, “linear” and “circular” types and developing a way to express seki in mathematical terms (left).

The AGA and the 2012 US Go Congress are extremely grateful to The International Go Federation for financial support that made this event possible, and to The American Go Foundation for supporting the video recording.  NOTE: Links to all the videos and to associated papers, links and contact information be found at the Symposium website.

Categories: U.S. Go Congress

Go Worlds Going Fast

Monday December 10, 2012

Inspired by the announcement of plans to end publication of Go World, the superb quarterly that published top-level instructional material and analysis of more than 1,000 of the most important games over the past 35 years (Endgame for Go World Magazine After 35 Years  11/16 EJ), The American Go Foundation is now offering its massive inventory of the last available issues for sale to all AGA members (shipping within the US only).  All proceeds from the sale go directly to the AGF to support their work promoting go in the US. “The response has been stronger than expected,” according to AGF VP Paul Barchilon. “We’re already out of several rare issues, and running low on others.” The Feng Yun Go School alone has ordered more than 500 copies. “We have given back issues of Go World as prizes to better students for years,” Ms. Feng says. “For many, they have never seen anything like it. It’s a real eye opener. The AGF is doing good work that benefits kids and go education in America, so supporting their mission with this purchase is also attractive. ” Never seen GW? The AGF has secured exclusive rights to offer a sample issue for download. More than 30 issues are currently available, but act fast! A collection would make a perfect holiday gift for the go lover in your life. (Please feel free to print this and pass it along.)

Categories: U.S./North America

Kim Myung-wan 9P to Comment Live on Samsung Cup Final

Saturday December 8, 2012

Kim Myung-wan 9p will be providing live game commentary on the upcoming contest between Gu Li 9P, one of China’s strongest players, and Lee Sedol 9P, Korea’s strongest player, in the final of the 17th Samsung Cup. The match will take place in Shanghai on Dec. 11-13, and Kim’s live English-language commentary will be on the Tygem go server the first 15 minutes of every hour on Tygem’s  “Korea 1″ server.  The games, which could last four or five hours, are set to start at 6p West Coast time (9p EST), on Dec. 10, 11 and 12. In their lifetime record against each other, Gu Li has a slight lead of 15-14. photo: Kim Myung-wan 9p at the 2012 Cotsen Open/AGA-Tygem Pro Qualifier; photo by Chris Garlock

Categories: World