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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.”

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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

 

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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.”

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Categories: Go Spotting
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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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