American Go E-Journal

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Monday February 8, 2021

The American go community is always eager for reports of local tournaments, mentions of go for our Go Spotting column, new tools or study resources, and any go-related news. Please submit all your stories to our E-Journal Article Submission form, which allows us to better manage your article submissions, improve our workflow and publishing turn-around time. You can still get in touch with us by email for any inquiries related to the E-Journal or your subscription at journal@usgo.org!
Letters to the editor can also be sent to journal@usgo.org; please include “Letter to the editor” in the subject line. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity.

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ICYMI: Kim Eunji 2p’s AI cheating incident; Playing Go with Darwin; Remembering John Conway

Monday March 1, 2021

Kim Eunji 2p’s AI cheating incident
Thirteen-year-old professional Go player Kim Eun-ji was suspended from competing for one year in late November after she admitted to using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance her gameplay in an online Go competition. The Korea Baduk Association took the punitive measure against Kim Eun-ji, a 2-dan professional Go player who had been considered a genius in the Korean Go scene and the youngest professional player, for violating the rules as a professional Go player and on ethics which stipulate that a player cannot receive outside advice in official competitions. Fellow Korean pro Yeonwoo Cho devoted one of her videos to the incident.
– Excerpted from a report in The Korea Times

Playing Go with Darwin
In Playing Go with Darwin (Nautilus 12/16/2020), David Krakauer writes that “Meditating on some subtleties of (Go’s) strategy can, I think, illuminate our understanding of the strategic character of evolution.” He adds that “Go today has become an epitaph on the tombstone in the cemetery of human defeat at the hands of algorithmic progress” and says “Charles Darwin was very likely the first person to have understood nature in terms of a game played across deep time. I have wondered how much further the Chess-playing naturalist might have taken this metaphor if, like Kawabata, he had studied Go.” It’s a fascinating article about how new research elevates evolution from a tactical process to one of strategic possibility. Thanks to Peter Freedman for passing it along.

John Conway

Remembering John Conway
John Conway is one of Three Mathematicians We Lost in 2020 (The New Yorker 12/31/2020), and midway through the story there’s this:
At Princeton, he could usually be found not in his office—which resembled a mathematical apothecary shop hit by a tornado—but in the large and somewhat soulless common room of Fine Hall, the massive looming tower, on the edge of the Princeton campus, that is the home of the mathematics department. The common room would come to life only in the mid to late afternoon, just as things were revving up for the daily “tea,” a small box-cookie reception roughly marking the time when most classes had ended and a few seminars were about to start. Conway would often hold court there, hard to miss, a cross between Rasputin and a Middle Ages minstrel, loudly talking philosophy and mathematics, playing the board game Go, or engaging in some other kind of mathematical competition, surrounded by adoring and admiring students, faculty, and visitors.

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New AGA Chapters for February 2021

Monday March 1, 2021

The AGA is regularly asked for new chapters around the country. These are the newly registered chapters from February 2021:


Midway Go Club – We are located in Chicago with meetings upcoming. They are Online for now. Will be at the Japanese Culture Center at 1016 W BELMONT AVE – CHICAGO, IL 60657 – Contact William Shehan

Members should check their information from time to time. If you are not receiving the EJ make sure your email is up to date. Chapters can always update their current chapter through the AGA Membership Manager if they have changed.

The Power Report: Ueno wins Women’s Kisei; Chunlan Cup

Monday March 1, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno wins Women’s Kisei

Ueno Asami

Ueno Asami, who is still a teenager (she turned 19 on October 26) has confirmed her ranking as the number two woman player in Japan by becoming a dual title-holder again. In the 24th Women’s Kisei best-of-three title match, she made a bad start but fought back to take the title from veteran player Suzuki Ayumi (aged 37). In the final game, Ueno scored a decisive win, capturing a group when Suzuki made an overaggressive cut in an attempt to maintain territorial parity. After the game, Ueno revealed that she prepared for the third game with intensive study of life-and-death problems, including competing with her younger sister, Risa 1P, to see who could solve 100 problems more quickly—she won three times out of five. On the morning of the game, she followed her usual routine before a game of skipping rope: 777 times (it took her about ten minutes). First prize is 5,000,000 yen (about $48,000 at $1 = 104 yen). She lost this title to Suzuki last year; she also holds the Senko Cup. Results:

Game 1 (Jan. 21). Suzuki (B) by resig.
Game 2 (Jan. 28). Ueno (B) by resig.
Game 3 (Feb. 8). Ueno (W) by resig.

Chunlan Cup

The quarterfinals and semifinals of the 13th Chunlan Cup were held in January (Details of the first two rounds are given in my report of August 25). Like all international events these days, games were played on the net. As in many international tournaments, the final (schedule not yet decided) will be Korea vs. China, pitting the world’s top-rated player, Shin Jinseo 9P of Korea), against Tang Weixing 9P of China. On the site “Go Ratings,” Tang is listed as no. 32 in the world; this is a little hard to understand, as he won the 24th Samsung Cup in 2019 and the 8th Ing Cup in 2016. Results follow.

Quarterfinals (Jan. 18): Ke Jie 9P (China) (B) beat Hsu Hao Hong 6P (Chinese Taipei) by resig.; Tang (W) beat Park Yeonghun 9P (Korea) by resig.; Lian Xiao 9P (China) (B) beat Byan Sangil 9P (Korea) by resig.; Shin (W) beat Fan Yuting 9P (China) by resig.

Semifinals (Jan. 20): Tang (W) beat Ke by resig.; Shin (B) beat Lian by resig.

Next: Kyo to challenge for Judan title; Ichiriki shares lead in Honinbo League

Not too fast, not too slow

Saturday February 27, 2021

by Fred Baldwin

William Cobb’s reflections on taking time to think about Go moves (Empty Board, 2/17) prompted me to, well, think.  I share his feelings about “speed” or “blitz” Go.  If you enjoy it, fine, but it’s not my thing and never will be.  Whether online or playing face-to-face, my mistakes usually result from playing too fast.  Up to a point, slower is better for me – worth a handicap stone or two where the quality of my play is concerned. 

But only up to a point.  Having too much thinking time once threatened to spoil my pleasure in the game of Go. It happened like this.  
Back in pre-Covid days a good friend and I often played on Sunday evenings at a local Panera.  We usually could time our games to end about when employees were closing the doors to new customers but before they needed to start cleaning tables.  Now and then, however, we’d still be in the middle of a game.  On those evenings we’d take cell-phone pictures of the board and any captured stones, make a note on whether Black or White would play next, and a week or so later, we’d pick up our game where we left off.   

One evening it occurred to us that we didn’t need to wait a week to finish our game.  With the board position captured on both our cameras, we could each set up the game on our Go boards at home.  We’d text moves to each other and respond at leisure.  It would be slower than face-to-face play but far faster than, say, correspondence chess.  What could go wrong? 

Technically, nothing.  The process worked fine.  However, I found it seriously stressful. At Panera we almost never used a clock, relying on our mutual instinct to decide when “slow” was becoming “too slow.”  At those times, I could tell myself, “OK.  I haven’t read this out the way a 9-dan would, but I can’t keep my opponent waiting. I’ll plunk down a stone and hope for the best.” 

At home that line of reasoning didn’t apply.  With no one across the board from me, I could take lots of time without keeping anyone waiting.  In the restaurant, especially with closing time approaching, a less-than-optimal move (not to say “dumb move”) seemed excusable.  At home, with lots of time for reading out sequences, mistakes began to feel embarrassing, almost shameful. As a result, I spent a lot more time on every move.  I may have played somewhat better than I usually do, but I enjoyed the game a lot less. I learned that my own Goldilocks game time is “not too fast, not too slow.”  “Too fast” means I make even more mistakes than usual, while “too slow” makes me feel ashamed to play so badly.  

William Cobb might point out – patiently, no doubt – that a Zen-like mindset might help me transcend that kind of puritanical self-criticism.  That thought somehow just makes me feel worse. 

The Power Report: Korea wins Go Legends National Competition; Ing Cup

Saturday February 27, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Legends Yoda (l) & Kobayashi (r)

Korea wins Go Legends National Competition
This is a special event that was held in January in conjunction with the 22nd Nong Shim Cup. It pitted teams with two former stars from Korea, China, and Japan against each other, with the games, which were not official, being held on the net. It was won by Korea with 6-2; China came second with 5-3; and Japan came third with 1-7. Prizes from 1st to 3rd were: 50,000,000 won (about $45,000, at $1 = 1100 won), 25 million won, and 15,000,000 won. Note that I didn’t have access to all the details of the games.

Round 1
(Jan. 15) China vs. Korea; Cho Hun-hyun 9P (Korea) (B) beat Chang Hao 9P by resig.; Lee Changho 9P (Korea) (B) beat Nie Weiping by 15.5.
(Jan. 16) Japan vs. China; Nie (China) (B) beat Yoda Norimoto 9P by 4.5; Chang beat Kobayashi Koichi.
(Jan. 17) Japan vs. Korea; Lee Changho 9P (Korea) (B) beat Kobayashi by 8.5; Cho beat Yoda.

Round 2
(Jan. 22) Japan vs. Korea; Cho beat Kobayashi; Yoda (B) beat Lee by 1.5.
(Jan. 23) Japan vs. China; Nie (W) beat Kobayashi by 4.5; Chang (W) beat Yoda by resig.
(Jan. 24) Korea vs. China: 1-1

Ing semi-finalist Ichiriki

Ing Cup
Japanese go fans were encouraged by the outstanding performance last year of Ichiriki Ryo in international tournaments, especially his three successive wins in the 9th Ing Cup, which took him to the semifinals. However, managing your time skillfully is part of the challenge when playing in this tournament, and here he got into trouble, leading to a 0-2 loss to Xie Ke 9P of China. The time allowance is three hours per player, with no byo-yomi. However, you can buy extra time twice, at the rate of 20 minutes for two stones. Ichiriki was doing well in both games but had to buy extra time twice in the first game and once in the second game. He commented: “I’m still not strong enough at converting a lead into a win. Things didn’t go the way I wanted, including my management of my time.”

In the other semifinal, Shin Jinseo 9P of Korea, currently the world’s top-rated player, beat Zhao Chenyu 8P of China 2-0. Dates for the final, also best-of-three, have not yet been decided.

Incidentally, the Nihon Ki-in does not recognize Ing Cup games as official games, because of differences in the rules, such as buying time with stones instead of having byo-yomi. Also, the Ing Rules recognize suicide moves, which can be used as ko threats. Ironically, this rule was not applied this time, as the games were played on the net and the software couldn’t be modified in time.

Semifinals (best-of-three)
Game 1 (Jan. 10). Xie Ke (W) beat Ichiriki by resig.; Shin Jinseo (B) beat Zhao Chenyu by resig.
Game 2 (Jan. 12). Xie (B) beat Ichiriki by 3; Shin (W) beat Zhao by one point.

Next: Chunlan Cup; Ueno wins Women’s Kisei

Registration opens for the sixth New York Go League

Saturday February 27, 2021

Registration is open again for the New York Go League! Now in its sixth iteration, players can expect to play one round robin game per week with players of similar rank over the two-month league. The organizers continue to hope that organized competitive play can endure even during the pandemic and plan to offer small prizes to the winners of each division, which in the past have included discounts for New York Institute of Go lessons and programs. Registration is open to anyone with a stable rank with any association or online go server.

The New York Go League is organized and run by the New York Go Honor Society, with the first iteration beginning in May of 2020 with over 80 players. Registration for the league will be open until March 13th and the league will officially begin the week of March 15th. Interested players can click here to read the rules and regulations, and click here to register.

Chinese Weiqi Association publishes Chinese-English Dictionary of Weiqi Terms

Friday February 26, 2021

Bob Bacon reports that earlier this month, several Chinese news organizations such as Xinhua Net and SINA English reported that the People’s Publishing House and the Chinese Weiqi Association have jointly published the Chinese-English Dictionary of Weiqi Terms. With 643 definitions over six chapters, the dictionary took seven years to compile and was first used during the World Weiqi Summit in Rizhao, China in 2019. “‘As a spiritual symbol of Chinese culture, as well as an internationally recognized public product with positive effects, Weiqi has special requirements in terms of language. It has its own way of thinking, terminology paradigm and communication mode. An important aspect of the Chinese Weiqi Association’s goal is to promote a unified and standardized Weiqi language,’ said Lin Jianchao, chairman of Chinese Weiqi Association.” Informal sources indicate that while the resource is not yet available publicly, it will be made available soon.

2021 South Central Go Tournament On-Line draws 76 players

Friday February 26, 2021

From 2016 to 2020, there were five consecutive South Central Go Tournaments held in Dallas over the weekend preceding Presidents’ Day. In 2021, because the pandemic rendered in person play unsafe, the tournament was held online February 13 and 14. Altogether there were 76 players – 16 in the Open Section ranging in strength from 8d to 3d, and 60 in the Handicap Section, ranging in strength from 3d to 24k. The online format allowed wide participation; 73 players from the USA from 16 different states, two players from Canada, and one from Vietnam. There were 28 players aged 13 and under, and 17 double digit kyu players.

The champion in the Open Section was Alexander Qi, who was also the top player aged 13 and under. Kevin Yang finished second, and Zhixun Zhao took third place overall but captured the title of 2021 Texas State Champion as the highest placing Texas resident. “We were delighted to bring together such a wide range of players from so many places and with such a mix of Go experience,” said tournament organizer Bob Gilman.

-report and photos provided by Bob Gilman

The Power Report: New restrictions on players; Pro catches virus; Iyama dominates Kisei but Kono survives first kadoban

Thursday February 25, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

New restrictions on players
As of Jan. 1, new rules came in effect at all three branches of the Nihon Ki-in limiting the freedom of players in order to insure no one resorts to help from AI programs. Players engaged in games are not allowed to leave the building even during lunch and dinners breaks. They are not allowed to use smoking corners during the game either. Each playing venue has a rest area. Just for the record, lunchtime is from 11:45 to 12:30, and the dinner break is from 5:30 to 6:15. The Kansai Ki-in has not followed suit because it doesn’t have enough space to provide rest areas.

Kisei: Iyama plays first

Pro catches virus
On Jan. 8, the Nihon Ki-in announced that an unnamed professional had become ill with COVID-19 on Dec. 30. The Ki-in did extensive tracing of possible contacts at the Ki-in and concluded that there were no problems. The Ki-in also took medical advice to strengthen its preventive measures.

Iyama dominates Kisei but Kono survives first kadoban
This year Kono Rin made his second successive challenge to Iyama Yuta for the Kisei title. It is actually his fifth best-of-seven with Iyama, as he also challenged for the 39th Meijin title in 2014, the 41st Kisei title in 2017, and the 74th Honinbo title in 2019. The four matches above, including the 44th Kisei, were all won by Iyama 4-2.

The first game of the 45th Kisei was played at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo on January 13 and 14. In the nigiri, Kono drew black. Iyama took the lead, but he made an attempt to capture a black group that threw the position into confusion, giving Kono a chance to take the lead. After a spectacular trade, however, Iyama just managed to hang on to his lead. Kono resigned after White 244.

The second game was played in the Shokoji Temple in Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture, on January 22 and 23. When the players and officials arrived for the game, they found that the city had just had its heaviest snowfall for 36 years. In some places, the snow was 120 centimeters deep. It was a little cold, but the players praised the refreshing clearness of the air. Playing black, Iyama built a lead in the opening, but Kono struck at a chink in his armor, leading to a large-scale life-and-death struggle. Iyama came out on top in the fighting, so Kono resigned after move 143. Already his challenge was in trouble.

The third game was played at the Olive Bay Hotel in Nishiumi City, Nagasaki Prefecture, on February 5 and 6. In the middle game, Iyama (white) played a fiendish move that none of the players following the game predicted. This move enabled him to take the initiative and secure the lead. Kono resigned after 186 moves. The pressure of his bad performance in this match seemed to be affecting his other games: as of mid-February he had yet to win a game this year and his score was 0-6.

The fourth game, which was a kadoban (a game that could lose a series) for Kono, was played at the Hotel Kagetsuen in the town of Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Feb. 16 and 17. Taking white, Kono got off to the better start on the first day. Iyama went all out on the second day and seemed to catch up, but his aggressive play left some chinks in his armor that were exploited by Kono. Using the threat of an attack on a thin black group, he built up a large center. Iyama resigned after White 212.

Next: Korea wins Go Legends National Competition; Ing Cup

A new Winter Olympic sport?

Monday February 22, 2021

According to AI analysis, cooler areas of the board are lower priorities for play, but when Audrey Wang and Milan Mladenović took to the icy waters of Walden Pond for a game last Saturday, it was a real challenge finding hotspots.

“Milan and I played for over 15 minutes and he resigned,” Wang reported on Facebook. “The first few minutes were intense but after that my body settled in and got used to it. It’s really not that bad. Milan and some other people do this every Saturday at Walden Pond, inspired by the Wim Hof breathing technique and his ice training. It’s believed to be really good for the body.”

“This is my first time in ice water,” said Wang, “but I was in cold water before and it was better than previous times because my hands were not in the water and I was really only half in the water this time.”

“I did it this time for art, not for health benefits,” she added. “But my body felt amazing afterwards. Victory also tastes better when it requires extra work.”

NOTE: Wang and Mladenović are in a pandemic pod; observers were socially distanced. The AGA strongly urges masking and social distancing for everyone’s safety.
photos by Ken Lucas