American Go E-Journal » Go Spotting

Go Spotting: Beyond the Visible – Hilma Af Klimt

Wednesday June 10, 2020

Larry Russ reports that in this documentary about the Swedish artist and mystic Hilma Af Klint, from about 1:15 to 1:30 at the beginning of the documentary there is a Go board with bowls in the room where the speaker is being filmed. The documentary can be rented to view online here.

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Go Spotting: This Is How You Lose the Time War

Saturday June 6, 2020

Adam Anaya reports that “Go is referenced many times in this creatively entertaining novella. ‘She decides she would describe it using terms from Go: You place each stone expecting it may do many things. A strike is also a block is also a different strike.'” This Is How You Lose the Time War was written by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, and was one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019.

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Go Spotting: The Order of the Stick #1203

Sunday May 31, 2020

“There’s an amusing Go reference in the latest Order of the Stick, a Dungeons and Dragons style strip I’ve followed for years,” reports Mark Gilston. The storyline involves one of the characters finding a Go stone, whereupon another character recognizes it as a piece from a lesson that devolved into some confusion over what the game of Go was called in the vein of Abbot and Costello’s Who’s on First? Read it here.

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Go Spotting: The Rise of the Phoenixes

Monday May 11, 2020

“The one minute trailer for the 2018 Chinese historical drama The Rise of 
the Phoenixes: Season 1 references Go four times,” reports Joel Sanet. “The first time shows a beautiful woman looking downward then cuts to a single black stone wobbling on an otherwise empty go board. The second time shows two men talking. One says, ‘Are you going to let one stone destroy your entire Go Board?’ The 3rd time shows a man placing the 3rd corner stone but it’s white! (Were the rules different back then or were the film makers just being lazy?) The 4th time is similar to the 3rd. The 3rd and 4th time go appears are preceded, separated, and followed by action scenes so at the least it is being used metaphorically. Hey, that’s better than just window dressing!”

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Go Spotting: the Economist

Saturday May 2, 2020

Dave Weimer reports that the April 25th to May 1st issue of The Economist includes an obituary for mathematician John Horton Conway on page 82, who died at age 82. He taught at Cambridge and Princeton, and was famous for inventing the Game of Life, which was widely played after it was published in Scientific American in 1970. He discovered “surreal numbers” and made contributions to a variety of fields in mathematics. “He seems to have been a bit eccentric,” says Weimer. “The following passage caught my attention: ‘Or, ensconced in some hallway nook, he would just observe a game. It had been while watching Go players that he realized each game contained many sub-games; and this had led him, first, to surreal numbers, and second to the light-bulb thought that playing games was not a distraction from mathematics. It was mathematics.'”

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Go Spotting: New York Times obituary for Nobel prize winner Phillip Anderson

Thursday April 2, 2020

The obituary for Philip Anderson, a Nobel prize winning physicist, appeared in the New York Times March after his death on Sunday at the age of 96, report E-Journal readers Dan Kastenholz and Larry Russ. Anderson was a professor at Princeton University and consultant at Bell Labs in New Jersey, which had an active Go scene in the 60s and 70s. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977, and his obituary – authored by Scott Veale – ends with a mention of his being a “first degree master of the Japanese board game Go.” An anecdote describes a conversation Anderson had with economist W. Brian Arthur in the 1990s: “‘Well, I play a bit of Go,’ he said,” Professor Arthur recalled. “I pressed him. ‘Are you any good at it, Phil?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘How good?’ ‘Well, there are four people in Japan who can beat me.’ Then a long silence. ‘But they meditate,’ he added.”

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Go Spotting: Devs

Tuesday March 31, 2020

Carol Geary reports that in the latest episode – Episode 5 – of Devs, a drama miniseries available on Hulu, one of the main characters flashes back to her childhood playing Go with her father. The series stars Sonoya Mizuno as Lily, the character in the flashback, and Nick Offerman as her employer at a tech company called Amaya with a mysterious quantum computing division called Devs.

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Go Spotting: Smithsonian Magazine

Thursday February 20, 2020

This month, Smithsonian Magazine published an article called Great Board Games of the Ancient World; naturally Go is included, though towards the end of the article, along with Mancala, Senet, the Royal Game of Ur, Mehen, Backgammon, the Game of the Goose, and others. Thanks to Steve Zilber for spotting this article.

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Go-Spotting: Seattle Asian Art Museum

Monday February 17, 2020

Go was part of the February 8-9 grand re-opening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, following a $56 million renovation of the 1933 art-deco building.  On prominent display was a large Chinese decorative screen (artist uncertain) featuring the four classical arts required of aristocratic gentlemen: playing the guqin (a stringed zither-like instrument), calligraphy, painting, and playing go (right).  Thanks to Steve Jones, South Sound Go Club, Tacoma WA.

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Go Spotting: Brain Myths Exploded

Saturday January 4, 2020

“In Lecture 24 of her course Brain Myths Exploded (available at The Great Courses.com) entitled Does Technology Make You Stupid? Indre Viskontas uses Go to support her thesis that the answer to the title question is no,” writes Joel Sanet. “After spending about a minute and a half (at minute 23) describing Go in which she calls it ‘the most complex game ever devised by our species’ and ‘the pinnacle of human intelligence,'” she points out AlphaGo’s defeat of Lee Sedol. However, in defense of her position she also mentions Fan Hui’s statement that playing against AlphaGo has made him a better Go player.”

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