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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.

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Categories: U.S. Go Congress
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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.)

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Categories: U.S./North America
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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

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Categories: World
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Finding the Move: Remembering Go World

Sunday December 2, 2012

By Keith Arnold
In a time when Newsweek cannot make a “go” of it as a print publication, it is hardly surprising to see the end of Go World. Still, a visceral sentimental sadness is hard to shake. Those of us who go back to the days of Go Review, or at least the pre-internet years, will doubtless find this passing much more of a milestone than younger folk. In the not-so-distant days when there were just a few new books a year, the quarterly arrival of Go World filled my weekend mornings as I carefully reviewed title matches and eagerly devoured the months-old ‘news,’ stale perhaps but as fresh as an English speaker could get at the time.

So it’s hard for me to choose just one favorite Go World story (“My Favorite Go World Story” Contest Announced 11/26 EJ) from a magazine that was such a constant companion, in the car, in my briefcase, consulted whenever life lulled.  But one of my favorite moments as a go player is Go World related, although, luddite that I am, I must confess it occurred using “Go World on Disc” and not the paper version.

I was reviewing a game of Shuko’s (still my favorite player) at home on the computer.  I was a keen, improving player at the time, and even if I might be stronger now, I am not sure I am as sharp.  The program allowed you to guess the next move by clicking on an empty intersection – if you were correct, the move would appear, along with any comment from the magazine on that particular move. It was Shuko’s play in a complex fight and I stared at the board, trying to find a way for my hero to win. I read for some time, finally made my decision, and clicked on the spot. Nothing. I looked again. I still liked my move, so, stubbornly, I clicked again on the same spot. Still nothing.

Usually when this happened I would try other moves, with increasingly lazy speed till I happened on the right move or gave up in frustration. But this time I just stared at the screen and finally hit the key for the next move. With the digital stone, a comment appeared. “Shuko regretted this move.  He should have played at ‘a’” which was…my move!  I will never forget jumping up and down with excitement at finding the right move when the pro had not. And it was not even one of Shuko’s famous blunders. I was thrilled.

Don’t get me wrong, I was and am still a weak go player, and this is the only time that I, like a duffer golfer whose one good drive keeps him coming back, can ever recall doing this. Thank you Go World for all the pleasure you have given us over the years, and for that one glorious moment that made them all sweeter.

Arnold runs one of the oldest chapters in the American Go Association, the Gilbert W. Rosenthal Memorial Baltimore Go Club, which has sponsored the Maryland Open go tournament every Memorial Day weekend for 39 years.

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Go Art: “The Hedgehog” Now Available Online

Wednesday November 28, 2012

The Hedgehog (Le Hérisson), the French film based on Muriel Barbery’s’ novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog (GO SPOTTING: The Elegance of the Hedgehog 5/4/2010 and The Return of the Elegant Hedgehog 10/24/2010) is now available on Netflix for instant play. As in the novel, the main character is a precocious 12-year-old girl who comments acerbically about the adults around her and knows more about go than the father of a friend who is making a movie of The Girl Who Played Go. As Terry Benson noted in our previous report, “She uses go as a philosophic metaphor, saying that ‘One of the most extraordinary aspects of the game of go is that it has been proven that in order to win, you must live, but you must also allow the other player to live. Players who are too greedy will lose: it is a subtle game of equilibrium, where you have to get ahead without crushing the other player. In the end, life and death are only the consequences of how well or how poorly you have made your construction. This is what one of Taniguchi’s characters says: you live, you die, these are consequences . It’s a proverb for playing go, and for life.’” This dialogue is retained almost verbatim in the film.

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Categories: Go Art
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Slump Over, Lee Sedol Pulls Off Olleh Cup Hat Trick

Tuesday November 27, 2012

Lee Sedol 9P seems to be fully recovered from his slump earlier this year, pulling off a classic hat trick in the Olleh Cup by defeating Choi Cheolhan 9P 3-1 in the final for his third straight Olleh championship title. It also makes Lee the only winner in this all-Korean tournament, which started just three years ago.  In 2010 he defeated Kang Dongyun 9P and Lee Changho 9P in 2011. The final game was an exciting contest showing how professionals  consider the whole board situation when playing and both sides fight for life throughout. The Olleh Cup not only features the best Korean players but also hosts a children’s tournament.
Adapted from a report on Go Game Guru; click here for game records and more information. Edited by Ben Williams

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Teachers at the 2012 International Go Symposium

Tuesday November 27, 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. Dozens of 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.

Games may be a major key to learning, suggested keynote speaker Nolan Bushnell (right) at the 2012 International Go Symposium, August 4-5, 2012. The entrepreneurial wizard behind products as diverse as Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, Bushnell is now applying principles such as “thalamic engagement” and “spaced repetition” to develop Brainrush, a game-based learning app that aims to help students learn all kinds of material more effectively. Mexican Go Assoiation President Israel Rodriguez offered some interesting speculations on the nature of the barriers to developing a go culture. Yet go is a superb medium for growth and development, as Dr. Roy Laird – a clinical social worker who manages treatment programs for The Children’s Aid Society in New York City and former President of the American Go Association – explores in his talk “Play Go And Grow,” about the unique aspects of go that favor positive development, and some interesting recent research on go and the brain. While go is popular in Asian communities and has developed a growing base among Caucasians in the West, its presence is very limited in other Western cultures. In Playing Under and Pushing Through the Stones, Roxanna Duntley-Matos, a member of the Western Michigan University School of Social Work faculty, describes how she used go as a tool for “emancipatory education” with the Ann Arbor Hispanic community, promoting leadership, camaraderie and success among a marginalized minority. At the upper end of the learning spectrum, Peter Schumer described a for-credit course on go  that he has taught at Middlebury College for years, offering tips on everything from curriculum development to teaching style. In “How Rules, Terms and Attitude Help or Hinder the Game,”, American Go Foundation (AGF) President and AGA Rules Committee Chairman Terry Benson (left) urges a rethinking of what it means to “play go,” and what we teach. Peter Freedman, an experienced go teacher from the Portland area, looked beyond simply teaching children the game to how to help them develop a lifelong love for go, while go teacher Siddhartha Avila’s Mexican school is committed to teaching through the arts. On a practical level, AGF VP Paul Barchilon  outlined some of the many ways that the AGF can help aspiring organizers in the US. Laura Martinez ended the go teacher’s panel, and the conference, by unveiling the winners of The Second International Go Art Contest.

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 additional support.  All presentations can be found at the Symposium’s YouTube channel. In addition, links to all the videos and to associated papers, links and contact information be found at the Symposium website. NEXT WEEK: Historians and anthropologists at the Symposium.

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Categories: U.S./North America
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Tesuji Battle in 16th China-Korea Tengen

Monday November 19, 2012

An Younggil 8P reviews the deciding game between Choi Cheolhan 9P and Chen Yaoye 9P at the China-Korea Tengen in September. In this game commentary from Go Game Guru, the tremendously exciting game features two opposing styles of play, Chen’s solid and territorial style and Choi’s thick, fighting style.

This game involves beautiful tesuji and unorthodox moves at every turn, and comes down to the wire with two desperation kos to finish the game.

Chen won the first match in this best-of-3 series, so Choi was fighting for his life, as well as looking for revenge since he fell to Chen last year 2-0. He is 1-8 against Chen all-time – losing the last seven games in a row.
- Adapted from a report on Go Game Guru; edited by Ben Williams

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Categories: Game Commentaries,World
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Chinese Professional Go Player and Pioneer Chen Zude Dies

Saturday November 3, 2012

Chen Zude, one of the first Chinese nine-dan professionals, died of pancreatic cancer in Beijing on November 1. He was 68.

“Though we’ve lost one of the go world’s brightest lights,” said AGA President Andy Okun. “We’re fortunate that Chen Zude inspired so many to follow in his path, leaving a community that, while saddened by this loss, is larger and stronger than ever.”

Credited as the first modern Chinese player to defeat a Japanese nine-dan (Iwata Tatsuaki) in an even game, Chen grew up during the “Cultural Revolution” era and was a self-taught player as well as a politically savvy go promoter, bringing the game from the status of “bourgeois decadence” to that a mind sport of national pride.  He is often considered the father of modern go in China and as go became integrated into the sports ministry in China, Chen was selected as the first president of China Qiyuan when it was established in 1992 to promote go as a profession.  He continued in that position until 2003 when it was passed on to Wang Runan.  Chen was also the first president of the Chinese Weiqi Association, a body that represents go on the international scene. In 1980, when Chen was playing in the “Xintiyu Bei” (New Sports Cup), he vomited blood and was diagnosed with stomach cancer, which he battled for 32 years.

“Because of his health, Chen never visited the US, but he often expressed his hope that the West would get to appreciate the fascinating game to which he devoted his life,” reports  International Go Federation (IGF) vice president Thomas Hsiang, who met Chen in Beijing in 2008.  “He always gladly hosted visitors from the West, giving them copies of his books and offering the full cooperation of China Qiyuan.” Chen’s study of fuseki “triggered the systematic study of fuseki both in China and Japan,” adds Frank Fukuda. “He also advocated and emphasized the cultural aspects of go, saying that it would bring peace and help people conduct themselves well.”
photo: Chen (second from left) in 2008 with Thomas Hsiang (second from right), Hua Yigang (then president of the China Qiyuan) and Hsiang’s wife, Joy (left).

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The Spirit of Play: “I’m Stuck”

Monday October 29, 2012

There are countless books, dictionaries and other materials aimed at expanding knowledge in go. But Argentinian champion and teacher Gabriel Benmergui 6D says that “what most of these resources don’t take into account is that there are many things that happen to the players, before, during and after the game that have just as much effect on the result.” In this new column for the E-Journal, Benmergui goes beyond tactics and strategies to look at the player, with a goal of helping develop “an unshakable spirit.” This article is dedicated to Benmergui’s first teacher, Franklin Bassarsky, “the greatest teacher I could ever become,” who recently passed away. “He was Argentina’s greatest go teacher,” says Benmergui, “creating generations and generations of go players here.”

A common situation for go players is the feeling of not moving forward or improving, of being stuck. The reality is that most players go through this phase, and there are actually well-known rank barriers, located around 9k, 5k and 2k, ranks that hold unusually high concentrations of players. In Lessons in the Fundamentals Kageyama 7P said “You can identify when you are stuck when you find yourself playing for fun, with disregard of the outcome. Maybe you even read books but they don’t help you improve. You also rarely review the games you play.”

As a teacher I have seen many go players “plateau” like this. Their common denominator is a fear that they’ve peaked, that they’ve reached their maximum potential and that studying any further will be a waste of time. This usually happens when players are no longer improving naturally, as they tend to do between learning the rules up to around 10k, where just getting advice and playing was enough to steadily improve. The truth is that expecting to go up in rank with little or no effort is like expecting to lose weight without diet and exercise. So when people ask me “I’m stuck, what should I do?” I immediately respond “What are you doing to improve?” And it’s no surprise for me to hear “I watch and play games” as if that alone were an appropriate level of training.

My advice: Just do it! If you want to improve you have to be proactive. You have to set goals and perform a more rigorous training regime. Solve life and death problems, read books with the intention of putting in practice the knowledge gained. Take lessons. Remember that people improve at different speeds, but with effort everyone improves.

Gabriel Benmergui lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentinian Champion in 2011 and 2012, he has extensive international amateur tournament experience, representing South America twice at the World Student Oza, two-time Prime Minister Cup representative for Argentina, captained his country’s team in KABA’s World Team Championship in 2005 and was Argentina’s representative for the 2005 WAGC. Benmergui studied go in Korea, in Lee Sang-hun’s dojang, at Kim Sung Rae’s KBC and at BIBA (Blackie’s International Baduk Academy) and now runs the Kaya.gs Go Server. Photo graphic by Chris Garlock

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