American Go E-Journal

He Xie 9P On Mastering the Fundamentals

Wednesday August 13, 2014

He Xie 9P furrows his brow as though studying an especially knotty life and death problem. He cocks his head slightly, thinking. The seconds tick by, the silence stretches out nearly a minute. I’ve asked him his favorite thing about the game of go and now I see why his playing style has been described as “calm and cool like water.” Finally, he says, “The rules are very simple but the variations, starting from an empty board, are immense. Cosmic.”

Born in Qingdao, China in 1984, Xie – one of the strongest players in China today — learned go at the age of 6 from his father, improving so rapidly “that my dad could not beat me,” Xie said in an interview Monday afternoon at the US Go Congress, where he’s a visiting professional. Xie turned professional at 11 in 1995, and was promoted to 9P in 2012. Well-known for an intense work ethic when it comes to studying, Xie stressed the “crucial importance of the fundamentals” to improving, including studying life and death and endgame.

“These are the core techniques of go. Only after you’ve mastered the fundamentals can you think about the middle game,” Xie said quietly but firmly. “You cannot be weak in any part of your game. At the same time, you must study and research the opening. There are many new variations in the opening” that need to be explored. Then comes playing games, “and it’s extremely important to review your games.”  Online go has made it easier than ever to get a game but Xie doesn’t play online much himself, although he says that it’s given players around the world more access to a “treasure trove” of go resources, from game records to live broadcasts of professional games. “It’s a good thing,” he says, that’s contributing to a much faster spread of new ideas about the game. Go Seigen himself, the master go player who just celebrated his 100th birthday recently, “has always stressed the importance of trying new ideas, of experimenting.”

While professionals “realize they must spend time on all aspects of the game,” Xie said there are many amateurs who play “simply because they enjoy the game; they play for the love of the game.” For such players, it’s enough to “focus on studying the part of the game that interests you the most.” But for those amateurs who really want to improve, Xie said that studying life and death problems is the surest way to get stronger. Studying endgame is also key, he said, although there are not as many books or other resources on the subject.

Asked about the future of go in the United States, Xie, who’s visiting this country for the first time, said that while go has thousands of years of history in China, Japan and Korea, “the United States has been catching up quickly, thanks to online go spreading information so much more quickly,” adding that he’s happy to see the recent increase in interest in the US and Europe. Asked about whether computer go will ever attain professional strength, he smiled and said “It’s possible,” although he noted that while programs have done well at 9×9 the increase in complexity to 13×13 and 19×19 “is exponential.”
- Chris Garlock; photo by Phil Straus; translation by Daniel Chou

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Top Congress Tourney Leaders Emerging at US Open & Masters Division

Tuesday August 12, 2014

Leaders are beginning to emerge in the top tournaments at the US Go Congress as the weeklong event takes the traditional mid-week break. Only a single player, Mark Lee, is undefeated after five rounds in the US Open Masters Division and 34 players are undefeated in the rest of the US Open field (click here for latest crosstab results)

Tuesday began with the third round of the US Open and the fourth round for the US Open Masters Division and finished strong with Crazy Go and the fifth round of the Masters Division, as thunderstorms moved into the city, prompting game recorder Nathan Borggren to report that “A rainy day is turning into a rainy night, clouds are moving in front of the buildings, lights are coming on all over the skyline; looks like one of those nights Batman has his work cut out for him. White has left the room.” Yilun Yang 7P gave live game commentary on Board 1 of the US Open Masters Division morning game as well as on Board 2 of the 3rd round from the previous evening. After the morning US Open round, professionals gave well-attended game reviews (right), simuls, and lectures throughout the late morning and all afternoon. The afternoon saw another round of the Women’s Tournament, as well as the advance of Jim Fienup 3k in both the 9×9 and Lightning Tournament playoffs. Check out EJ photographer Phil Straus’ Tuesday Photos Facebook album.

Crazy Go dominated the main playing room Tuesday night, with around 100 attendees throughout the evening and even some new crazy games the tournament hadn’t seen before, invented on the spot. Stay tuned for a full Crazy Go report on Thursday with photos and game profiles. The third round of the Midnight Madness tournament was scheduled for late Tuesday night; it takes place every evening around 12am midnight in the main playing room. The sign-up sheet is on the tables outside the main playing area.

Day Off Photo Contest: The E-Journal is very pleased to announce that we’re sponsoring our first-ever Day Off Photo Contest for sight-seers out and about in the Big Apple on Wednesday. Send us photos from your Day Off adventures and we’ll tweet and post them! Photos must include a go board; an iPad is ok if we can see board. Show us go in NYC! Send photos to journal@usgo.org.

Wednesday Highlights: The traditional 4-round Die Hard Tournament will be held Wednesday in the main playing area. And watch for these stories tomorrow (follow us on Twitter @theaga):
- Game Theorist Frank Lantz on why go should be “A little less Tang Dynasty and a little more NASCAR”
- He Xie 9P On Mastering the Fundamentals

Self-Paired Tourney Off to Slow Start

Tuesday August 12, 2014

Just 80 games have been played so far in the Self-Paired Tournament at this week’s US Go Congress, considerably off the event’s usual blazing pace of hundreds of games a day. Part of the challenge is likely the wealth of other opportunities, like pro simuls, lectures and New York City attractions, but another reason may have been a delay in the reporting system. That’s now in process and we’ll post updates as results become available. Anyone interested in playing in the Self-Paired Tournament will find results slips — and the box to turn them in — at the table just outside the main playing room. Any game can be part of the Self-Paired if the opponents agree. Games entered into the Self-Paired Tournament are AGA-rated and players are eligible for prizes in a number of categories, including most wins by a kyu player over a dan player, most dan player wins over a kyu player, most-improved and so on.- report by Karoline Li; photo by Chris Garlock

Expanded Field Showcases Women’s Growing Strength

Tuesday August 12, 2014

As a testament to the growing number of women who play go, the Women’s Tournament has nearly doubled its size this year. “The first Women’s Tournament I directed in 2007 had just over 20 players,” says long-time TD Lisa Scott. “This year there are 40 women playing at least one game in the tournament.”  The current iteration of the Women’s Tournament started up in 2007 at the Lancaster Go Congress. Rounds 1 and 2 were played on Sunday and Monday. Round 3 is scheduled for 3p Tuesday (but players are free to reschedule their games as necessary during the day with permission of the TD and their opponent): 5 players are undefeated so far: Chen Jiahui 5D, April Ye 1D, Amanda Miller 8k, Marion Edey 10k, and Alexandra Platz 13k. The Round 4 final will be held Friday.  The tournament promotes go among women, but Scott adds that it also “helps make friends and connections in a 500 person event.”
- report by Karoline Li; photo by Kevin Hwang; photo: Susanna Pfeffer and Hisayo Miyazaki play in the second round.

AGA Game Database Test Version Online

Tuesday August 12, 2014

A beta version of the American Go Association Game Database (AGAGD) is available for testing and review this week. The AGAGD includes every game record in the AGA database, more than 130,000 since 1991. You can search by player or tournament. Player info includes complete tournament history, who you’ve played over time, and detailed info about your rating with a history graph of your progress; the blue line is your rating, the light blue on either side is your sigma (or variance in your rating). Tournament info includes wall charts and complete round-by-round results. Comments and suggestions are welcome: email them to journal@usgo.org

US Go Congress Packs in a Full Schedule on Day Two

Monday August 11, 2014

The second full day of this year’s US Go Congress began with the second round of the US Open and third round of the US Open Masters Division (click for cross-tabs). Feng Yun 9P and E-Journal Managing Editor Chris Garlock reviewed Masters Division games with audio commentary on KGS (available free on KGS Plus; look under “Recent Lectures” under USGO5; there will be live pro commentary on the Masters again Tuesday morning on KGS beginning around 10a EST). After the round, players could get their games reviewed by professionals, and after lunch there were many pro lectures and simuls to choose from. The game review by He Xie 9P of China was so popular that the audience spilled out into the nearby hallway (look for our interview with him soon). The ever-popular Lightning Tournament in the evening attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd “divisible by 6” said a happy Keith Arnold, directing as usual. The unusually mild weather outside the Hotel Pennsylvania drew many players into the streets of midtown Manhattan for meals or sightseeing while the go action continued on the boards on the 18th floor of the hotel. The EJ continued its social media coverage throughout the day by tweeting photos and updates of many Congress events in real time; keep up with breaking news at the 2014 US Go Congress by following us on Twitter @theaga and Facebook at American Go Association.
- report by Chris Garlock; photo by Phil Straus; see more in today’s Phil’s Photos album on Facebook.

Lightning Tournament Zips By

Monday August 11, 2014

“This tournament is in no way authorized or sanctioned by the American Go Association,” announced Lightning Tournament Director Keith Arnold to the 70 players assembled in the main playing area of the US Go Congress for the popular annual speed go event. “In fact, the Pro Dinner has been scheduled for tonight specifically so that there’s no chance the professionals will see us play like this.” Arnold explained that while “it’s permissible to try to win on time” — each player has 10 minutes with no overtime — “it’s illegal” to play bogus moves, although he noted that the rule “isn’t enforceable” and that anyone getting too caught up in the rules “is taking this way too seriously!” He rapidly assigned the players into tables of six divided by playing strength and stones proceeded to fly at great speed. After five rounds in just two hours, 13 players emerged victorious as table winners. Several have already been table champions in the 9×9 and the 13×13. Dan table winners are: Zheng Xiangnan 7D, Xinying Jiang 6D, Will Lockhart 5D, Daniel Liu 5D, Cherry Shen 5D, Amy Wang 3D, and Eric Yang 1D. Kyu table winners are: Ben Peng 1k, Yukino Takehara 1k, Jim Fienup 3k, Jeff Wu 5k, Joe Suzuki 7k, Sean Davis 10k, and Kevin Wu 12k. Zheng Xiangnan, Ben Peng, and Jim Fienup are also table winners in the 9×9, and Jeff Wu is also a table winner in the 13×13.
- report by Karoline Li; photo by Phil Straus; updated to reflect delayed result entry for table winner Sean Davis 10k.

Iwamoto North America Foundation for Go Takes Next Step

Monday August 11, 2014

Further details of the Iwamoto North America Foundation for Go (INAF) were announced Saturday during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 US Go Congress. “Go builds strong ties between people and countries,” said Nihon Kiin Chairman Norio Wada (left). “This is an exciting and encouraging next step,” said AGA President Andy Okun. INAF is a nonprofit corporation formed by Nihon Kiin in collaboration with the American Go Association (Nihon Kiin & AGA Ink Deal for Iwamoto North America Foundation  11/25/2013 EJ). The official start date will be October 24, when the Foundation’s first Board Meeting is held in Tokyo.  The missions of INAF are to foster, promulgate, and develop the game and culture of go in North America, according to the vision and wishes of the late Japanese go master, Iwamoto Kaoru. It will provide grants to support such promotional activities for go as teaching events, cultural exchanges, educational activities in schools, and public awareness programs in North America, including the establishment of a new East Coast Go Center.
photo: Nihon Kiin President Norio Wada and CEO Masaki (far right), along with the three North American Board Members of INAF: Andrew Okun (center), David Weimer (left), and Thomas Hsiang (second from right). They’re holding a fan inscribed “Each day is a life” by Yoda Norimoto 9P. photo by Chris Garlock

Bigger Tiny Boards: 13×13 Tournament Report

Monday August 11, 2014

Go is played on big boards, on little boards, and boards in between; last night was the night at the US Go Congress for those who love the 13×13. Directed by veteran 13×13 Tournament Director Jim Hlavka, 40 players split into eight tables by rank, with round-robins at each table yielding eight table winners. Throughout the rest of the week these finalists will play off in a single- elimination series to choose the kyu and dan champions. Winner of their tables and vying for the dan championship are: Gabby Su 5D, Forest Song 5D, April Ye 1D (at right), and Eric Wainwright 1D. Playing off for the kyu championship are: Anthony Long 4k, Jeff Wu 5k, Ann Wu 10k, and Eric Hookay 13k.
- report/photo by Karoline Li

US Go Congress Main Tournaments Get Underway

Sunday August 10, 2014

The main US Go Congress tournaments got underway Sunday morning as some 260 players started their clocks in the US Open and another 40 players began the Masters Division of the US Open. While the Open is still six rounds played each morning (except Wednesday), the Masters Division is a 9-round event, with an additional three rounds being played Sunday, Tuesday and Friday nights. This new format replaces the 4-round North American Masters Tournament (NAMT) and the 4-round Strong Players Open. Eligibility in the Masters Division is limited to professionals, 7 Dan or stronger players and NAMT qualifiers. Prizes total over $11,000, including $5,000 to the first-place winner and additional prizes to the top three NAMT scorers within the Masters Division. Click here for the Masters Division crossgrid, which includes results available through Sunday night’s second round. The E-Journal broadcast top-board games live on KGS and those game records are available on the crossgrid as well. Jennie Shen 2P also did two audio game commentaries with EJ Managing Editor Chris Garlock on KGS and those are available free on KGS Plus; look under “Recent Lectures” under USGO5; the 8/10 11:04a game is the AGA City League game between Simon Yu (Seattle) and Bill Lin (Vancouver) and the 11:26a game is the Masters Division Round 1 game between Matthew Hu and Qiyun Zhu. Monday’s live broadcasts start around 9a EST on KGS; the pro game commentaries are scheduled to begin around 10a on KGS. Keep up with breaking news at the 2014 US Go Congress by following us on Twitter @theaga and Facebook at American Go Association
- report/photo by Chris Garlock