American Go E-Journal » Go Spotting

Go Spotting: Go and Polyominoes

Sunday July 25, 2021

by Xinming Simon Guo

My former math instructor, professor George Litman from National Louis University, recently invited me to visit his personal library. There, I found a mathematics book he purchased in 1995: Polyominoes: Puzzles, Patterns, Problems, and Packings. In the preface, the author, Professor Solomon Golomb, mentioned that polyominoes were first observed in patterns formed by 5 connected stones/markers on a Go game board in 1907.

Coincidentally, I also discovered these patterns in 2011 on the Go board, but I didn’t know they were polyominoes. In a Go game forum, I posted a puzzle about the possible shapes formed by 8 connected stones, which proved to be too challenging at the time. So I changed the difficulty level to 6 stones (Hexomino), and found all 35 shapes.

The unexpected discovery about polyominoes has led to the formal integration of these shapes into my Go and Math curriculum. The photo below captures all the shapes of pentominoes (5-stone string):

Photo by Jane online summer camp student Jane, 2020

By the way, there are 363 shapes of octominoes (8-stone string), a number arrived at by adding an extra stone based on 7-stone strings, removing duplicates, and counting the distinct shapes. No formula has been found yet to calculate the number of shapes.

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Go Spotting: Tokyo Olympics Google Doodle

Saturday July 24, 2021

Reader Michael H. reports that the current Google Doodle celebrating the summer olympics in Tokyo is a playable RPG that includes scenes of Go. “Google’s webpage recently updated to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics with the Doodle Champion Island Games. Visitors can play an in-browser old-school Japanese RPG complete with minigames and sidequests. While exploring the game I noticed one room with a floor goban, bowls, and stones – a game of Go! Continuing, I found another room featuring three more gobans – perhaps the meeting place of the local go club. There are two game being played, but although the protagonist remarks that the game looks fun, there is, unfortunately, no one available to play. I was glad to see go included as one of the many references to Japanese culture featured in this Google Doodle.” Visit Google.com to see the doodle and play the game.

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Go Spotting: In the Age of AI

Friday May 21, 2021

Xinming Guo reports that “Go and the story of Alphago are the introduction of PBS documentary In the Age of AI.” Guo plans to share the documentary with schools who participated in the Go and Math Academy’s “Go and Math Project,” and hopes to ignite more students’ interest in STEM. You can watch the full 2-hour documentary on Youtube.

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Go spotting: Counterpart

Friday February 19, 2021

The first episode of Counterpart has J. K. Simmons’ character Howard Silk playing go twice, taking black against the same opponent/friend, and losing both times. The board positions look realistic.
– Howard A. Landman

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Go Spotting: Hikaru no Go; Cyberpunk 2077

Tuesday February 16, 2021

Cyberpunk 2077
“While playing Cyberpunk 2077, a recently released RPG videogame, I was doing a mission and came across a game of Go on some barrels in the middle of a street,” reports Liam McFadden. “Oddly enough, as you get further away from the board, the texture switches from showing a 19×19 board to a 10×10. I’m not surprised that the texture changes to the smaller board size, but I find it interesting that obviously somebody knows enough about Go and cared enough to put this in the game, but then makes the lower resolution board a 10×10 rather than 9×9.”

Hikaru no Go
There is now a Chinese drama based on Hikaru no Go, reports Dave Weimer. Here’s a review. Also, on page 59-60 of Walter Mosley, Trouble s What I Do (Little Brown, 2020) is the following: “Talking to Twill was like playing a game of Go; words were like pieces that accrued on all sides until, in the end, victory was the child of sacrifice.”

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Go Spotting roundup: Darwin, the NY Times, Buzzfeed, Cyberpunk 2077

Saturday January 16, 2021

David Matson and Peter Freedman report an article published in issue 94 of Nautilus on understanding evolution through the lens of games, called Playing Go with Darwin.

Roy Laird reports on Go’s puzzle appearance: “#120 across in the Dec 20th NYT crossword puzzle: “Piece in the game go” – five letters, I wonder what it could be?”

Michael Goerss found two references to weiqi in 1636: The China Venture by Eric Flint & Iver P. Cooper. “A character showing photographs in China  (p. 188), ‘Here’s a print of you and your father playing weiqi.’ And in the epilogue (p. 426) while mentioning an omen in a letter, ‘This happened just as I was playing the board game Weiqi . . . with the Beijing minister of war.’

Goerss, along with reader Liam McFadden, also reported on the appearance of Go in the new video game Cyberpunk 2077. “Oddly enough, as you get further away from the board, the texture switches from showing a 19×19 board to a 10×10,” says McFadden. Goerss noticed this as well; “While the positions look like reasonable board positions, the board has ten lines.  However, stones are placed midway between intersections, too, which would make the board 19×19.  Maybe the graphics for a true 19×19 board were too hard?”

EJournal and Buzzfeed reader David Bogie reports on this list at Buzzfeed, book #28: “If you liked watching “The Queen’s Gambit”, you should read “The Girl Who Played Go”, by Shan Sa.”

-photos courtesy of Liam McFadden

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Go Spotting: Sanjuro

Tuesday December 29, 2020

“The movie Sanjuro has a couple of scenes with a nice go board in view,” reports Daniel R. Grayson. Sanjuro is a 1962 black-and-white Japanese jidaigeki film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune. It is a sequel to Kurosawa’s 1961 Yojimbo (Wikipedia)

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EJ Mailbag: 2020, Part 1

Monday December 28, 2020

A more-or-less random selection of go-related stuff that somehow we just never got around to publishing this year, but that we don’t want to forget, file or delete. Thanks to everyone who sent us tips and suggestions this year and we promise to do better in 2021!

The wild and crazy folks at Shut Up & Sit Down tackle go. Thanks to Peter Freedman for the link.

Understanding Chinese Culture via the Board Game Go
Ze-Li Dou tackles ancient Chinese civilization, Confucianism and Daoism through the lens of go, “examining how philosophical attitudes are reflected in Go by literary means, which will also illustrate the interconnectedness of literature, philosophy, history, and art in China.” Or, put another way, “Go is like a little stone found on the bank of our grand metaphoric river; a close inspection of its polish and patina may throw light on the nature and history of the river itself.” Thanks to Roy Laird for passing this along.

Go Seigen vs. Fujisawa Kuranosuke – Breakdown
EJ reader Geoff Pippin found this piece by a small Australian classical ensemble called “Nonsemble” on YouTube, about the famous 1953 game between Go Seigen and Fujisawa Kuranosuke. “The best part is that it is really an excellent piece!” says Pippin.
From the Nonsemble website: “A 30 minute work for chamber septet, using the moves of 1953 championship game of Go as stimulus for harmonic, rhythmic and melodic material. It’s an experiment in extracting musical ideas from abstract patterns and sequences, and allowing these ideas to develop intuitively into a large-scale work.”

Why Do People Love Games?
The Game Maker for The New York Times (Yes! There is a Game Maker) explains. “Although Go’s origin is unclear, many scholars speculate that it was created to teach tactics and strategy. When we enter the magic circle, we give ourselves permission to explore, to fail, to lose. When we stop playing Go, we carry that experience with us.” Thanks (again) to Roy Laird for the link.

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Go Spotting: Jeopardy

Monday October 26, 2020

Bart Lipofsky reports that on a recent episode of Jeopardy, aired on October 16, 2020, featured Go about two minutes into the segment. “‘Category: 2 letter words – The name of the game seen here,’ with a nice view of a stone being placed on the board,” says Lipofsky.

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Go Spotting: Rain Dogs; The Vegetarian

Friday October 16, 2020

Dave Weimer reports that in Adrian McKinty’s novel, Rain Dogs, the protagonist – a Northern Ireland detective investigating a murder – goes to Finland to interview the prime suspect. When he arrives, he finds the suspect playing Go. In a later chapter entitled “Kami no Itte” the suspect cleverly eludes trial.

Weimer further reports that on page 162 of The Vegetarian, by Han Kang (translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith. London: Hogarth, 2016. Winner of the Man Booker International Prize and one of NYT 10 Best Books of 2016), there is the following passage: “There’d been a time when she could spend hours like this weighting up all the variables that might have contributed to determining Yeong-hye’s fate. Of course it was entirely in vain, this act of mentally picking up and counting the paduk stones that had been laid out on the board of her sister’s life.”

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