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China, Korea & Taipei Into Pair Go World Cup Semi-Finals

Saturday July 9, 2016

Rain and wind from the edges of Typhoon Nepartak swirled outside Hikarie Hall in in Tokyo’s upscale Shibuya neighborhood Saturday morning as the 2016 Pair Go 2016.07.09_Iyama-HsiehWorld Cup contestants gathered for the tournament’s first round. As is traditional at Pair Go events, the players were dressed up, many in outfits native to their countries, and the 32 players made a fine sight as they paraded, two by two, into the playing area. Promptly at 11a, the round began, and shortly thereafter, spectators crowded in to watch, deepest around top player Iyama Yuta and his partner Hsieh Yi Min.

Pair Go at this level is a deeply thrilling game, combining the beauty of go with the excitement of a team sport. Although players cannot betray any hint of their feelings or react to moves, there’s an unmistakable electricity in the air that comes from the intense focus of four players over the go board.

2016.07.09_NA-teamThere were no surprises in the first round, as the Central/South American team of Rosario Papeschi and Fernando Aguilar lost to hometown favorites Hsieh Yi Min and Iyama Yuta (above right), Oceania/Africa’s Amy Song and David He fell to Korea’s Choi Jeong and Park Jeonghwan, while Europe’s Natalia Kovaleva and Ilya Shikshin lost to China’s Yu Zhiying and Ke Jie and Chinese Taipei’s Chang Kai Hsin and Wang Yuan Jyun fell to Korea’s Jeon Yujin and Song Hongsuk.
On the other side of the draw, North Americans Sarah Yu and Eric Lui had no trouble dispatching Asia’s Pattraporn Aroonphaichitta and Nuttakrit Tarchaamnuayvit (left), Chinese Taipei’s Joanne Missingham and Chen Shih Iuan beat Japan’s Wang Jong Yi, Japan’s Mukai Chiaki and Ichiriki Rui defeated Europe’s Rita Pocsai and Ali Jabarin and Korea’s Oh Yujin and Choi Chulhan prevailed over China’s Wang Chenxing and Shi Yue.

After traditional Japanese box lunches, Round 2 began at 2:30. The playing room had been completely reset, the eight 2016.07.09_Ke-study-grporiginal boards (32 players, two pairs to a board) now shrunk to four. As play began, spectators again flooded in to watch, while hundreds more watched on monitors in an auditorium next door, where professionals provided commentary and children tried their hand at solving life and death problems in the Panda Sensei tent in the back of the hall.

Back on the boards, epic battles were playing out as the pairs fought to get to the semi-finals on Sunday. The North American team got into a major ko fight with Taipei’s Missingham/Chen early on that they had to win and never really recovered, though Sarah Yu later said “I really enjoyed the fight.” Korea’s Oh/Choi beat Japan’s Chiaki/Ryo, China’s Yu/Ke won over Korea’s Jeon/Song and Korea’s Choi/Park defeated Japan’s Hsieh/Iyama. So Yu/Ke will face Choi/Park and Missingham/Chen will face Oh/Choi in the semi-finals on Sunday. Latest results here.

Photo (l-r): Ke Jie, Nie Wei Ping, his son Ko Rei Bun and Yu Zhiying review the Ke/Yu Round 1 game while Michael Redmond looks on. 

- report/photos by Chris Garlock

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Categories: Japan,Pair Go
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Panda Sensei Tsume-Go Challenge Kicks Off Pair Go World Cup in Tokyo

Friday July 8, 2016

Thirty two players comprising sixteen teams gathered Thursday in Tokyo to launch the second Pair Go World Cup. First 2016.07.08_panda-sensei-chinainvented in 1990 by Hisao and Hiroko Taki to attract more female players to the game, Pair Go has grown steadily in popularity around the world and the Pair Go Association now boasts 74 member countries and territories.

After an elegant Japanese box lunch at the Cerulean Towers Tokyu Hotel in the Shibuya district, the players assembled for the draw ceremony to determine their first-round opponents. With a top prize of $10M JPY, organizers have attracted an impressive array of top players, including Ke Jie – Yu Zhiying (China); Iyama Yuta – Hsieh Yimin (Japan); Park Junghwan – Choi Jeong (Korea) and Chen Shih-Iuan – Hei Jiajia (Taiwan). Notable pairs from the West include Eric Lui – Sarah Yu (North America); Fernando Aguilar – Rosario Papeschi (Latin America) and Ilya Shikshin – Natalia Kovaleva (Europe). All games will be broadcast on Pendant. “I’m very excited to see top professionals and top amateurs gathered here,” said an obviously pleased Mrs. Taki, who then conducted a warm series of interviews with the players.

2016.07.08_panda-sensei-japanThe highlight of the afternoon was the Panda Sensei Tsume-Go Challenge, showing off the Pandanet Sensei life and death computer program, which has been developed over the last 30 years and on which many tsumego creators rely to check their work. In a dramatic timed competition, the professional pairs were given a series of high-level tsumego problems. They had 10 minutes to solve each problem; the first five pairs to hit the call button won the right to show their solution to the judges, led by the famous Ishida Yoshio, also known as “The Computer.” Correct answers were worth up to five points each, while wrong answers penalized the incorrect team two points. Onlookers crowded around the players as they raced to solve the problems, and it was quite entertaining to see top-level professional players wrestling with reading out problems in real time and often, just like amateurs, missing key moves that refuted their solutions. Perhaps not surprisingly, Pandanet Sensei crushed the contest, scoring 24 points; the Chinese team of Ke Jie – Yu Zhiying (top right) scored just 6 points to take second place and the Korean team’s 4 points was enough to take home third place. Acknowledging that the problems were tough and the solving time short, Ishida (at left, refuting a solution from Japan’s Iyama Yuta and Hsieh Yimin) admitted that “I had fun watching all the trouble the top players got into” trying to solve them.

The Pair Go tournament begins Saturday, with two rounds scheduled, followed by semi-finals Sunday morning and the final Sunday afternoon. All games will be broadcast on Pendant.
- report/photos by Chris Garlock

 

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Your Move/Readers Write: E-Journal Forum (Part 2); Where’s the 2015 Yearbook?

Monday June 27, 2016

E-Journal Forum (Part 2): In another response to Eric Osman’s query about a forum for responses to articles in the E-Journal, Steve Colburn also notes that the AGA has a sub forum on Lifein19x19.com. “This is for AGA stuff much like there is for other organizations. There are a few AGA officials who also read/comment on Reddit.”

Where’s the 2015 Yearbook? “I tried looking through the AGA website to find the archived zip file with all of the yearbook 2015 sgf files,” writes AGA member Shane, “but I’m having a difficult time locating it on your website. The news article doesn’t seem to link me to where to find the file and a website search for ‘year book’ didn’t yield much better results. Help?” In a related email, Dan writes “I am a member who cannot figure out how to download the 2015 Go Yearbook. Please advise.”
The Yearbook is only for AGA members, so it’s not posted on the website; look for your June 22 Member’s Edition of the E-Journal, which contains individual links to the game commentaries published in 2015, as well as in a handy zip file. 

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Rational Play? The Master of Go vs. AlphaGo

Monday June 13, 2016

by Andrew Feenberg

This is the story of two go matches. In March, Google’s artificial intelligence computer AlphaGo defeated world champion Lee Sedol 9P 4-1. This is considered a great triumph for artificial intelligence. Does it mean that AI is almost human? Or that humans have simply become machine-like? Another historic match in 1938 provides some useful perspective.

Games are ambiguous phenomena. On the one hand they are models of rationality. There are unambiguous rules, actions, and measures of success and failure. On the other hand games are social events, collaborative performances governed by meta-rules such as sportsmanship that contextualize the play. The players need each other in order to perform. They produce an object together through their combined efforts. The effect of this activity is to contribute to their own personal development as human beings. And we often qualify the product of their activity in aesthetic terms: a beautiful play in football for example.

Rationality as found in games is also a general attribute of the culture of modern societies. Modern societies contain many game like systems. Individuals act as players in these systems in order to get a raise, get a job, learn new skills, take a plane, avoid paying taxes, and so on. Thus games can appear as models of modernity and what happens with games can tell us something about what happens in modern societies in general.

This is why the Nobel prize-winning Japanese author Kawabata chose the game of go for one of his most famous novels. “The Master of Go” is based on a real match that Kawabata witnessed as a newspaperman in 1938. This was the last match of the old master Shusai and his challenger, called Otake in the novel. Each player represents an era. The old master represents traditional play, while his challenger represents modernized play, influenced by Western ideas. Traditional play is all about the human side of the game, deference, the notion of way or vocation as practiced in Japanese martial arts for example, and beauty, the beauty of the moves and the board as the game evolves. Modernity is about winning. Just that.

The novel recounts the game’s play as it reveals the characters and the historical background. The whole intrigue centers on a single move in the game, move 121. The reason this move is so important has to do with Western innovations introduced by the challenger and favored by the newspapers. In the old days the master would have regulated the flow of play, deciding when to start and end each day’s session. But the 1938 match was organized around time limits and sealed moves at the end of the day as in Western chess. Of course players are equal in the game play, but the traditional way of playing recognized the differences between the players in the world outside the game. Now the equalization internal to the game was being extended outward into the world of play. One can see how this might appeal to the challenger and to the newspapers, both of whom would prefer not to be subject to the whims of the old master. To the old master it seemed a lack of due deference.

As it happened, the challenger began to run out of time toward the middle of the game. To gain time to reflect on a difficult position in the center of the board he sealed a final move off in a corner. This trivial move required the master to respond away from the central struggle. The manipulation implied in this use of the time limits and sealed moves upset the master. He was offended and said that the beauty of the game was lost. As a result he made several mistakes and the challenger won. Modernity triumphs over tradition. But we are left with the clear impression that the old master was the better player of the two.

Kawabata wrote after World War II that he would only write elegies, elegies for the lost beauty of the old Japan. The novel is obviously a critique of modernization. But note that it is not about the contrast between rational modernity and the irrational tradition. There is nothing strategically irrational or inferior about the old master’s play. So the contrast of modernization and tradition is not about strategic rationality vs. irrational sentimentality. It is about the place of strategic rationality in the real world. Tradition is a set of meta-rules that contextualize and organize the rationalized sectors of social life such as games. Modernity extends the rationality of games into the real world. This has counterintuitive consequences. For example, in the case of the actual match the inferior player wins through manipulating the new meta-rules and upsetting his adversary rather than through superior play.

Here is the how Kawabata described his elegy for traditional go: “It may be said that the master was plagued in his last match by modern rationalism, to which fussy rules were everything, from which all the grace and elegance of go as art had disappeared, which quite dispensed with respect for elders and attached no importance to mutual respect as human beings. From the way of go the beauty of Japan and the Orient had fled.”

The losers of the two matches were Shusai and Lee Sedol. The winners were Otaké and AlphaGo. What do they have in common? If we understand games in all their ambiguity as both strategic exercises, rational systems, and also ways of self development and aesthetic achievement, then I would suggest that their reduction to mere winning is a disaster. The matches reveal the limits of modernity as a way of understanding and organizing human life. In reorganizing the social world around strategic rationality, modernity prepares the triumph of the machine.

This essay is based on a talk presented at the McLuhan Centre at the University of Toronto in early March. It has been condensed and updated. Feenberg has written extensively about Kawabata’s novel previously in his book Alternative Modernity.

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Categories: Computer Go/AI
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More than 200 set record at historic simul in Saint Petersburg

Friday June 3, 2016

Henceforth, May 21 will be a memorable date in the history of Russian go. On that date, more than 200 go fans gathered in 2016.06.03_russian-simulSaint Petersburg, Russia, for a massive simultaneous go game. The event took place on the street near architectural masterpiece the Kazan Cathedral. Even cold wind and drizzling rain did not deter players who turned out to challenge their country’s strongest go masters, including Alexander Dinerchtein 3P, Ilya Shikshin 1P and Natalia Kovaleva, who’s been European Female Champion. Some passersby got intrigued and played go for the very first time in their life, adding to the game’s fanbase. Every participant got a memorable souvenir and anyone who could defeat a master got an additional prize. Overall 218 people played on 191 boards, setting a national record. Click here for a video of the event (added 6/9).
- report by Daria Koshkina; photos by Mikail Krylov

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Steam moving ahead with first go client

Saturday April 2, 2016

Steam, the largest distribution platform for online games, is moving ahead with its first-ever go client. Developed by Hart Laboratories, Ancient Go was approved on March 15 through a process called Steam Greenlight, which uses community support to select games for distribution. Although a release date is forthcoming, once available Ancient Go will provide players with another digital arena in which to test their mettle. 2016.04.02_Steam Greenlight  Ancient Go
Coming on the heels of the AlphaGo – Lee Sedol series, the timing of Ancient Go’s introduction is fortuitous. Online interest in go spiked despite Lee Sedol’s 1:4 performance against AlphaGo. In Reddit’s r/baduk, members noted a 20% increase in subscribers, which grew to over 10,000 users. The Online-Go Server also noted a surge of new players. Comments left on the Ancient Go Greenlight site were enthusiastic about the new go client, which will run on Steam’s proprietary distribution system.
2016.04.02_ancient-go-preview_3DBoardBuilt on the Unreal 4 Engine, Ancient Go is visually appealing. The goban and stones are rendered well, and its interface is striking for its minimalism – perhaps even too much so. There is no window for chat and no time display is evident in the game demonstration. While the Unreal 4 Engine supports 3D graphics, there are no plans to extend 3D presentation beyond the tutorial section, at least through the initial release. Games will still be played in two dimensions. “The priority [for Ancient Go] is to be beginner friendly, rather than being feature full. The goal is “to draw in new players instead of compete with existing servers,” notes Christopher Hart, Ancient Go’s developer, who also mentioned that the client will emphasize “quick play on smaller boards.”
There are still many unknowns about Ancient Go and several potential drawbacks. Chief among these is the lack of SGF 2016.04.02_ancient-go-preview_Tutorialsupport which, although standard on all other clients, evidently did not make the “feature full” cut for the first release. Ancient Go will also only be available on Steam’s Windows-compatible platform, not its Linux or Mac OS X versions. At this time there is no information about the quality of Ancient Go’s AI. The developer has also not announced any plans to introduce life and death problems or community forum features to the client. How all of this will affect the Steam community’s response to Ancient Go is yet to be seen.
Bearing all of this in mind, the release of Ancient Go will still be cause for excitement. Steam, which is owned by the Valve Corporation, boasts some 125 million accounts and has proven a versatile platform for online gaming. Extending go to this platform is sure to introduce more people to the game, and if even only a small fraction of these develops a deeper interest in go, I think the effort will have been worthwhile. Ancient Go should prove a welcome addition to the online go community.
- Daniel Acheson
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Go Seminar held at U.S. Army War College

Tuesday March 29, 2016

To understand how China thinks about its’ rivalry with the United States, one needs to understand the game of go. That’s 2016.03.28_Baldwin 4 GO Game Event 4 Mar 16the message Dr. David Lai, a Professor of Asian Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, gave during a half-day seminar on go held March 4 at the U.S. Army War College, also in Carlisle.  More than 30 attended, about half of them U.S. Army officers.

The seminar was the idea of Colonel Jack Pritchard, Chief of the Strategic Wargaming Division of the War College. Colonel Pritchard, who had never played go, became intrigued by references to the game in literature on military and political strategy, including a monograph written by Dr. Lai titled “Learning from the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China’s Strategic Concept, Shias well as Lai’s recent article “China’s Moves and Countermoves in the Asia Pacific,” Parameters, Spring 2015. Col. Pritchard 2016.03.28_Baldwin 3 GO Game Event 4 Mar 16asked a member of his staff, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Travis, to organize a seminar that would introduce the game to other officers and civilians closely associated with the War College and affiliated programs.

LTC Travis, who has played go with the Carlisle Go Club, planned the event in consultation with Lai and two other Carlisle go players, Dr. Howard Warshaw and Dr. Fred Baldwin (above, right). The result was a four-hour session, divided between lectures and actual play.  Dr. Baldwin opened with a brief history of go from its Chinese origins to the present, emphasizing its appeal to strategic thinkers. Then, Dr. Lai applied go concepts more specifically to Chinese geopolitical aims. Dr. Warshaw followed this up with an explanation of the rules of go and fielded questions on go basics, including capturing, life-and-death, and scoring.

During the second half of the seminar, the officers and other go neophytes played against each other on 9×9 and 13×13 boards, during which Warshaw, Baldwin, Lai and four other frequent Carlisle-area players were available to answer questions.  Warshaw and Baldwin noted that the officers grasped the basics quickly, especially considering that none of them had ever played the game before.

The War College is the Army’s version of graduate school for senior officers, those at the rank of Lieutenant Colonels or Colonels. Speaking from a War College perspective, LTC Travis remarked that Col. Pritchard and he considered the seminar a success. He also indicated that it may be possible to incorporate an introduction to go into the school’s academic curriculum on a more systematic basis.
Edited by Noah Doss and Howard Wong; photos courtesy Donald S. Travis

 

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In Memoriam: Horst Sudhoff

Monday March 21, 2016

by Allan AbramsonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Horst Sudhoff, long-time friend of the U.S. Go Congress and go players all over the world, died at 84 on Saturday, March 18, peacefully and surrounded by his family, in Bochum, Germany.

We met at his first U.S. Go Congress. He loved to play rapid games, and we quickly became partners, playing late into the night during the week. He attended 20 straight Congresses. After each one, he drove thousands of miles in a few weeks, hitting virtually all of the tourist sights in nearby states. Horst touched every state but Alaska and Hawaii, and delighted in sharing what he saw in story after story.

Horst’s joy in go was unlimited. He once he told me that he had memorized over 10,000 tesuji. Indeed, his game was full of aggressive tesuji, and it took me several years to learn the patience to counter with a late probe at a weakness. He was about five Dan when we first met, able to give me three stones and still make me feel silly.

We talked about go, travel, business, investing, Germany, and his family. Pride in his children was foremost, and he never tired of relating all of their educational and professional accomplishments. My wife Helga and I visited the family in Bochum, and our families formed a lasting bond.

2016.03.21_horst-sudhoff-2009At his 20th Congress Horst said that it would be his last, and that it was time to explore more of Europe. So, to memorialize his final Congress, we agreed to play 100 “serious” games, and finished the last as appetizers were served at the banquet. We laughed, looked at each other, and declared that it would be a long time before anyone else came close to this record (or would want to)…

Later, we invited him to the 2009 Congress in Washington, DC, but when he arrived it was clear that Horst had some health problems. Sudden low blood pressure made it hard to walk, so after a while in the hospital undergoing diagnosis, he was flown home and his travels were over. We visited him in Bochum again, and his spirit remained high, along with his unbounded joy in life.

Horst Sudhoff was outgoing and warm with everyone, and made friends in many countries. Anyone who would like to contribute memories, stories, or photos may send them to me at allango1@verizon.net for a memory book for his family.

Allan Abramson is a longtime Northern Virginia go organizer and former president of the American Go Association. photo (top right): Horst Sudhoff shows off his sheaf of Self-Paired Tournament wins at the 2002 U.S. Go Congress (photo by Phil Straus); left: at the Abramson home in 2009; photo by Allan Abramson

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Humanity the winner at Deep Mind Challenge Match, Google Chief Says

Monday March 7, 2016

“The winner here, no matter who wins, is humanity,” said Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt at Tuesday’s press conference launching2016.03.08_google-press-conf the Google Deep Mind Challenge Match between Google’s AlphaGo and world champion Lee Sedol 9P. Alphabet is the parent company of Google. Hundreds of journalists crowded into the 6th-floor ballroom at the Four Seasons in downtown Seoul. Camera flashes exploded as Schmidt took the stage to proclaim that “This is a great day for humanity. Humans will be smarter, the world will be a better place.” Deep Mind CEO Demis Hassabis called go “The most elegant game humans have ever invented.” Hassabis, a go player himself, noted that because of go’s complexity, “It’s been a longstanding challenge for the AI community to master this game.” Lee Sedol, who a few weeks ago confidently predicted he would defeat AlphaGo, adopted a more circumspect approach this time. “Playing against a machine is very different from an actual human opponent,” the world’s Number 1 told the BBC. “Normally, you can sense your opponent’s breathing, their energy. And lots of times you make decisions which are dependent on the physical reactions of the person you’re playing against. With a machine, you can’t do that.” Indeed, asked about AlphaGo’s strengths, Hassabis sais that “AlphaGo will never get tired and it won’t be intimidated, unlike a human opponent.” Even so, Hassabis said, “We’re many decades away from a real human AI; we’re still playing games.” And Sedol turned a bit philosophical at the end of the press conference, quietly saying that “If I get defeated it might be negative for go, but it is inevitable in this modern life. But it won’t destroy the value of go itself.”
- report/photo by Chris Garlock; photo: (l-r): Hassabis, Lee & Schmidt

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Categories: Computer Go/AI,Korea
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Your Move/Readers Write: Computer Chess v. Go is Apples & Oranges

Sunday March 6, 2016

“Apples and oranges,” writes Chris Uzal in response to our 2/29 report, Chess Players Counsel Calm As Computers Close in on Go “Chess has not come to terms with the fact that the game is over. Kasparov lost almost 20 years ago. The most recent computer cheating scandal was last year. Chess players have been facing a brute force program whenever a computer is on the other side of the board. Go players will be facing an 2016.03.03_apples-orangesartificial intelligence. Chess players can give their judges tools to show the best move for a certain rating. Go players will not be able to distinguish human moves versus artificial intelligence moves. Judges will have no such tools. Go players online may soon be faced with a situation that any game slower than blitz will not be accepted. Go players who want a slow, deep game won’t bother with humans once they can gain access to the likes of AlphaGo. Human to human, real-life games will be either very casual, teaching or tournament. Go will become a more philosophical and sublime endeavor. Not necessarily a bad thing. There are too many players using their rank as a measure of mental prowess. People either do not know or do not care about the ancient greats like Shusaku or the not so ancient Go Seigen. Those are just ghosts if they are known at all. AlphaGo would be a welcome symbol of the summit for the game of Go. If you’re not AlphaGo, and you’re not, get back to studying life-and-death. Bottom line: I look forward to playing, losing and learning in the new artificial intelligence era.”
The first game in the Lee Sedol-AlphaGo match will be Tuesday, March 8, 8p PST (11p EST). The match will be livestreamed on DeepMind’s YouTube channel with English commentary by Michael Redmond 9p with American Go E-Journal Managing Editor Chris Garlock.

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