American Go E-Journal

NEW STUDY FINDS PLAYING GO MAKES BRAINS GROW

Monday September 6, 2010

Serious study of go causes actual physical changes in the brain. That’s the stunning finding of a Korean group of neuroscientists who studied the difference between “long-term trained players” and“inexperienced controls.”  In their paper, which appears in the August 2010 issue of Neuroimage, Lee et al. report that they found “larger regions of white matter . . . that are related to attentional control, working memory, executive regulation, and problem-solving.” Their findings also suggest that “experts tend to develop a task-specific template for the game, as compared to controls . . . [and] were less likely than were controls to use structures related to load-dependent memory capacity.” In other words, experts don’t think harder, look at more variations or read farther than the rest of us; they use “spatial processes” – pattern recognition – to see better moves than the rest of us immediately. The researchers used a special type of fMRI –voxel-based diffusion-tensor imaging — to compile their data. This is a fairly well-established method: last year British researchers used the same process to show that “motor learning” – in this case, juggling – produced similar changes. The findings that strong players use something like “intuition” to see better moves tends to confirm previous research such as Chase and Simon’s classic 1973 study, where it was discovered that master chess players see more meaningful “chunks” when briefly glancing at a position than “woodpushers.” “Chunk theory” is now a widely accepted way of understanding how trained brains work. Reitman’s 1976 paper furthered our understanding of expert processes by studying an “expert” go player (Jim Kerwin, who went on to become the first Western pro) and then-beginner Bruce Wilcox (later the author of NEMESIS, the first computer go program) and confirming the basic tenets of “chunk theory.” Other research has examined whether go playing brains may have different — and hopefully more desirable — general qualities than non-playing brains.  The Deoksoo Study is one of several suggesting that serious go students may acquire more sophisticated cognitive abilities in other areas. In 2003, Chen et al. showed that go players use many different areas of the brain; similar chess studies have shown more localized activation. Lee et al.’s study takes our understanding one giant step further – high-level cognitive training has a physical impact on the brain, just as hitting the gym does for the body. This finding has enormous implications for the eternal “nature-nurture” debate. The current conventional wisdom is, “We are what we’re born with,” not “We are shaped by our experiences.” The brain’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions and perform the other work that makes us human is seen largely as biological, inborn, brain-based. “Big pharm” ads tell us over and over that the way to fix our depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ED, etc. is to tweak our brain chemistry with a pill.  Teachers and parents often label struggling students, then begin the quest for the perfect pill that will fix the ADHD, bipolar disorder or whatever. But what if the pills don’t work? If it’s an inborn biological problem, what’s the solution? Fortunately, we now know that certain kinds of experience can actually improve the physical brain.  As the authors say, “long-term Baduk training appears to cause structural brain changes associated with . . . higher-order cognitive capacities, such as learning, abstract reasoning, and self-control, which can facilitate education and cognitive therapies.” Other questions now arise. Are some activities more growth-promoting than others? Probably. Does the brain change more in players who begin at a younger age? Does the increased white matter in go players’ brains just help them to play well, or is the increased “throughput” capacity useful in other areas as well?  One would think so, but there’s no evidence – yet.  To learn more, check out “Go and Cognition” by Peter Shotwell, in the Bob High Memorial Library.
– by Roy Laird; additional reporting by Hajin Lee 3P

Categories: World
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NEW IN PRINT 2010 (PART II): A Beginner’s Bonanza

Monday September 6, 2010

by Roy Laird
The past year has produced a notable bumper crop of books for beginners and newer players — the so-called DDK (double-digit kyu) range. Jonathan Hop, a 3D amateur, published So You Want To Play Go?, a three-volume series that aims to give the reader the knowledge to improve ten ranks per book; if it works, at the end you’ll be ready to aim at shodan. Click Volume One, Volume Two and Volume Three to learn more about each book. 21st Century Baduk for Beginners is the latest offering from Sung-rae Kim, the author of several other works in the growing number of English-language works from Korean publishers. Some of these early efforts suffered somewhat from clumsy English, but Diana Koszegi 3P helped with this translation, suiting it more fully to the idioms of the English language. Finally, we note the publication of Go Made Easy by Sam Sloan. Sloan, better known as the last non-lawyer to argue before the Supreme Court, and for suing the US Chess Federation, has also written beginner’s books and DVDs on chess, shogi, Chinese chess and poker, while also delving into more, um, unusual subjects. Visit his home page for more information. All the new beginner books are available from Yutopian.
Next week: Six More Important New Works

YOUR MOVE: Readers Write: Missing Game Files?

Monday September 6, 2010

MISSING GAME FILES? “If its not a membership issue (MEMBER’S EDITION? 8/24 EJ),” writes Dennis Wheeler, “then maybe instead of looking for attachments, look for links.” That’s correct: the EJ no longer has attached files for Member’s Edition content; to access the content, either click on “link” and then save the .sgf file to your computer, or click on “read more” and then you can either download the .sgf file or use the online viewer to replay the game.

AGA’S 10-GAME RULE ASSAILED BY FENG YUN 9P

Monday September 6, 2010

The American Go Association’s 10 rated games requirement is again under fire, this time from Feng Yun 9P. In a lengthy posting to AGA chapters on Friday, Feng Yun – whose go school in New Jersey has trained many of the new generation of top players — said that the rule, which requires that potential participants in international events have played at least ten rated games in the preceding year, excluded her from play in the Bingsheng Cup World Women’s Weiqi Championship, a new international women’s tournament to be held in China. While extending congratulations to Canadian Cathy Li, who won the qualifier, Feng Yun said that “the AGA decision not to allow the top US women to compete is shameful.” There was no official AGA response by press-time Monday night; look for a follow-up report on the AGA website later this week and in next week’s E-Journal.

Categories: U.S./North America
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GUOCHEN XIE WINS BOSTON OPEN

Monday August 30, 2010

Guochen Xie (front left) won the Boston Go Open on Sunday, August 29, topping a field of 26. “It’s a really competitive tournament and no player won all four games,” reports organizer Ke Lu.  Three players were 3-1 in the open division, with Guochen Xie winning on SOS, Yunzhe Zhang runner-up and Jie Liang in third.  The top four in Division A: 1st: Eric Osman; 2nd: Rebecca Torrey; 3rd: Eva Casey; 4th: Danny Yoo.  Top three in Division B were: 1st: Bowen He; 2nd: Deguang He; 3rd: Marjorie E. Hey. Click here for more photos. photos courtesy Ke Lu.

Categories: U.S./North America
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WORLD GO NEWS ROUND-UP August 24-30: Han Zenki and Tsuruyama Atsushi Advance; Mukai Chiaki to Challenge; Olleh KT down to Eight

Monday August 30, 2010

Han Zenki and Tsuruyama Atsushi advance in Daiwa Cup: Surprising second round results from the Daiwa Cup have two of Japan’s top professionals being defeated by less well-known 7 dans.  The first was Han Zenki 7P who defeated current Daiwa Cup title holder Kono Rin 9P by resignation. The second was Tsuruyama Atsushi 7P who defeated O Rissei 9P by resignation.  Han became a pro 1996 at age 19, while Tsuruyama turned pro in 1999 at the age of 18. Mukai Chiaki to challenge Xie Yimin for Female Honinbo: In the final challenger-decision match for the 29th Female Honinbo, Mukai Chiaki 4P defeated Umezawa Yukari 5P by resignation, giving her the nod to challenge Xie Yimin 5P for the title. Mukai Chiaki is 23 years old, became a professional in 2004, and was promoted to 4 dan just this year. She is a student of Honda Sachiko. Her two sisters, Mukai Kozue 1P and Mukai Kaori 2P, are professionals in the Nihon Ki-in as well. The first round of the title match will be played on October 6th. Olleh KT down to eight as Yun Junsang 8P defeats Kim Jiseok 7P: In their sixth round game, Yun won by resignation over Kim in the inaugural edition of the Olleh KT Cup, which is a Korean professional tournament sponsored by the telecommunications company Olleh KT. This is their first sponsored tournament with total prize money of 700 million won.
- JustPlayGo; edited by Jake Edge

Categories: World
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EUROPEAN GO NEWS ROUND-UP: Romanian Masters, Leksand Open, Reporters Wanted

Monday August 30, 2010

TARANU WINS ROMANIAN MASTERS: Catalin Taranu 5p won the 2010 Romanian Masters, held August 25-29 in Iasi, capital of the Romanian province Moldavie. Artem Kachanovskyj won the first edition of the Iasi Cup, held August 27-29 in the same place.
SHIKSHIN NARROWLY WINS LEKSAND OPEN: Ilya Shikshin won the August 10-12 Leksand Open in Sweden, just a point ahead of Kyoungnang Kang.
EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENTS WANTED! The E-Journal is seeking correspondents to report on European go news; if interested, email journal@usgo.org
- based on reports on EuroGoTV

Categories: Europe
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YOUR MOVE, Readers Write: Dude, Where Are My Classified Ads?

Monday August 30, 2010

DUDE, WHERE ARE MY CLASSIFIED ADS? “Ever since you changed the format of the E-Journal from weekly to daily, I’ve been unable to find the classifieds,” writes Craig Brown. “I’ve even gone back to the weekly newsletter thinking this would help, but I don’t see the classifieds there either.  Have you discontinued this part of the newsletter, or am I maybe just not finding it?” The classified ads run in both the daily and weekly editions of the EJ and the complete list can always be found on our news page in the Go Classified section (click on the Go Classified tab at right). Ads appear in the next daily edition after initial posting and then in the next weekly edition (but not in subsequent weekly editions).

EYES OF WOOD, HANDS OF STONE, HEART OF PAPER

Sunday August 29, 2010

To play go,” writes programmer Reg Braithwaite, “one needs a huge amount of humility and patience. At first I thought I lacked these qualities, but then a funny thing happened: I purchased my first-ever mountain bike. In cycling, I receive regular positive feedback. I can measure my improvement with little things like occasionally feeling myself hit the balance point when working on a ‘1/2-1/4 to manual wheelie drop.’ Or popping the front wheel up onto a bench and driving the rear wheel up and under me. In go, I received no such affirmation. I play, I lose, and games are too long to be able to identify the specific mistakes without extensive personal coaching. I simply don’t know whether I am succeeding or failing when I make a move unless it’s a spectacular blunder.” Click here for the rest of Braithwaite’s thoughts on go, bikes and learning in Eyes of Wood, Hands of Stone, Heart of Paper, including Wood & Stones, his program to turn your iPad into a go board for playing face to face.
- thanks to Steve Colburn for passing this along

MYUNG-WAN KIM 9P MAKES THREE-PEAT DONATION TO AGF

Saturday August 28, 2010

During the August 7 closing banquet at this year’s Go Congress in Colorado Springs, Myung-Wan Kim 9P (r) again donated $500 of his US Open prize winnings to the American Go Foundation (AGF). “The American go community is very fortunate to have Myung-Wan Kim living and teaching here,” said Paul Barchilon, AGF Vice President and Youth Coordinator for the American Go Association (AGA). “And his support of our youth activities is a testament to his commitment to the future of go in this country.” This is the third consecutive year Kim has donated to the AGF, which promotes scholastic and youth go programs in the U.S. “I always want to do something for the go community in the U.S.,” Kim said in 2008 when he made his first contribution at the Go Congress in Portland OR. This year he has a new plan. “I think building the professional system is the most important thing the U.S. go community needs to do. I will work with Hankuk-kiwon (Korea Baduk/Go Association) to make that happen.”
- by Zhiyuan ‘Edward’ Zhang; photos by Gen Zhang