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Go as part of curriculum at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College: an interview with Dr. James Sterrett

Wednesday October 16, 2019

As the Chief of Simulation Education at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Dr. James Sterrett uses games and simulations in a variety of ways to teach students. In an interview conducted last month by Chris Ghorbani, Dr. Sterrett described his introduction to the game, as well as how and why he uses go in his classes. From starting in college with a friend “on a home-made board using bottle caps as the stones,” he now uses go to demonstrate the concepts of design elegance. In his class on Training with Simulations, students play go for 30 minutes before discussion on the depth and utility created in the game by just a tiny number of rules. Students use this as inspiration to design and develop their own training games, trying to achieve elegance with their own new game requirements.

Dr. Sterrett describes one of his favorite things about go as being the discussions it provokes in his classes, describing them as “wonderful – not just of strategy, operations, and tactics inside Go, but people wind up drawing parallels between the situation on the board and various situations in current affairs, history, or even their own lives.” He continues in the interview to discuss the game, the rise of AI, and comparisons between go and other games he uses in his curriculum, including kriegspiel and chess. “Go teaches strategy, operations, tactics, and weaving them together to achieve victory,” says Dr. Sterrett. “The lack of a clearly defined center of gravity in Go ensures the players must define it by their decisions, much as in grand strategy. Thus, Go is a superb tool for honing a strategic mindset and seeing the links between the levels of war.” 

Dr. Sterrett concludes by thanking the go community for continued efforts to spread go, and hopes that it is still played thousands of years in the future. Click here to read the full interview.

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The Power Report: Tang wins again in Samsung Cup; Kisei leagues; Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

Wednesday October 16, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Tang wins again in Samsung Cup

The 2019 Samsung Cup (the 23rd) was held at a Samsung training center in Taejon, Korea, from August 30 to September 6. It culminated in a best-of-three final in which Tang Weixing 9P of China beat his compatriot Yang Dingxin 9P 2-1. Apparently Tang had been in a bit of a slump recently, which explains why he was rated only no. 28 in China, but he has always done well in this tournament. After making his international debut by beating Lee Sedol 2-0 to win the 2013 Samsung Cup, he took second place in 2014 and 2017, and in-between won the 8th Ing Cup in 20126.

Japan had only three participants in this 64-player tournament: seeded players Iyama Yuta 9P and Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) 8P were joined by Cho Sonjin 9P, who won a seat in the senior division in the qualifying tournament. All were eliminated in the first round. Actually Iyama had a very good position against Tang Weixing, so much so that the Japanese team captain Ryu Shikun commented that the game was “hard to lose” for him. However, complicated fighting continued during byo-yomi and Iyama slipped up with move 171. He resigned after move 180. Actually Tang is known for his tenacity and has a good winning percentage in games in which AI programs adjudge him as being behind. Kyo lost to Li Qincheng of China. Li won the 3rd Globis Cup in 2016 and the 28th TV Asia Cup in the same year. The latter win earned him promotion from 2-dan to 9-dan, the biggest leap in rank any professional has made. Cho Sonjin lost to Tao Xinran 7P of China.

Kisei leagues

Kono wins S League

The final game of the S League, played on Sept. 26, was like a final, as the winner would win the league. Taking white, Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) by half a point. Kyo, on 3-1, had held the sole lead in the league going into this game, so this was a come-from-behind victory for Kono. Kyo didn’t even have the consolation of taking second place, which would have got him into the final knock-out section; as he was ranked no. 4, he was pipped by no. 3, Takao Shinji. Four players ended up on 3-2, but there are no play-offs in the Kisei leagues, so Kono, ranked no. 2, took first place.

The A League was won by Ichiriki Ryo 8P who scored seven wins in a row. Cho U was in second place on 4-3; both these players will move up to the S League. Three other players ended on 4-3: Yo Seiki 8P, who came third, Shida Tatsuya 8P, who came fourth, and Shibano Toramaru, then 8P, who will drop to the C League. This is one of Shibano’s rare failures recently. The B1 League was won by Yoda Norimoto 9P on 5-2 and the B2 League by Motoki Katsuya 7P on 6-1. Motoki beat Yoda in the play-off. The C League was won by Suzuki Shinji 7P on 5-0.

The challenger will now be decided by an irregular knock-out. The first game was played on October 9 between Suzuki and Motoki. Taking black, Suzuki won by 5.5 points; next he will play Ichiriki; the winner will play Takao; the winner will play Kono Rin in a “best-of-three” in which Kono starts off with one win. It is very hard for someone beside the winner of the S League to become the challenger. Results in the S League since my last report are given below.

(July 14) Kyo Kagen Gosei (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 5.5 points.

(August 6) Kyo Kagen (W) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig.

(August 22). Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Yamashita by 6.5 points; Murakawa Daisuke Judan (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.

(September 5) So Yokoku 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji by 2.5 points; Yamashita (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke Judan by resig.

Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

Ten-year-old Nakamura Sumire picked up her third official win in a game played on September 16. In a game in Preliminary C of the 59th Judan tournament, playing white, she beat Furuta Naoyoshi 4P by 1.5 points after 235 moves. The players are both members of the Kansai branch of the Nihon Ki-in, so the game was played at its headquarters. The game was not going well for her, but she pulled off an upset in the endgame. This is actually her first win in a tournament open to all professionals and her first experience of a three-hour time allowance, which is the mainstream for pro tournaments. On September 30, Sumire played her first game in the main section of the 23rd Women’s Kisei tournament; as detailed in my report of August 22, she set a record by becoming the youngest player to reach the main section of a tournament. The game was played in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya in Tokyo. She faced a tough opponent in Mannami Nao 4P, who until recently held a women’s title, the 3rd Senko Cup. Sumire has an aggressive style; she attacked early and seized the initiative, getting a promising game. However, her momentum led her to make an overplay that let Mannami counterattack and stage an upset. Sumire resigned after 227 moves.

On October 2, Sumire played a game in Round One of Preliminary C of the 76th Honinbo tournament. Taking white against Yamamoto Kentaro 5P, she won by resignation after 232 moves. From here, nine successive wins will give Sumire a seat in the league that starts in autumn 2020. Sumire’s official record is now 4-2, which is not only eminently respectable but is also evidence that her selection under the new system was not premature.

Sumire is quite possibly the most popular Nihon Ki-in player just now, so she is often invited to go events. She played an exhibition game at the 9th Hankyu Railway Go Festival in Osaka for Enjoying the Cool of the Evening, held on August 14 & 15. A game pitting Sumire against Hane Ayaka 1P, the daughter of Hane Naoki who also became a professional this year, was one of the main attractions. Taking white, she won by resignation after 150 moves. On move 24, she played an AI innovation, which impressed the commentator on the game, Kobayashi Satoru 9P.

Sumire played another exhibition game at a festival, held on August 25, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Nihon Ki-in Hiroshima Prefecture Headquarters. Taking white, she played her first game with Fujisawa Rina, holder of four women’s titles. Sumire went on the attack in the middle game and at one stage was doing quite well–an AI program rated her winning chances at 85%. However, she made a bad threat in a ko fight, so the tide turned against her. She resigned after 187 moves.

Finally, Sumire played two games in a preliminary round for Kansai women players of the 14th Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp Tournament, an unofficial tournament. In the first round, she played another game with Hane Ayaka (W), which the latter lost on time. In the next round, she lost by resignation to Miyamoto Chiharu 1P (W)

Tommorow: Shibano to challenge for Oza title; Son wins King of New Stars; Cho U wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

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Go Spotting: How AI could change science; 9 Dan Girl; A Wise Man’s Fear

Tuesday October 15, 2019

How AI could change science
“This interesting article about AI and its applications from the University of Chicago uses AlphaGo as an example,” writes Alicia Seifrid. “For example, when someone programmed the rules for the game of Go into an AI, it invented strategies never seen in thousands of years of humans playing the game,” said Brian Nord, an associate scientist in the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics and UChicago-affiliated Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. “Maybe sometimes it will have more interesting ideas than we have.”  

9 Dan Girl
“Bold and strong-willed Yu Ruiwen makes it her lifelong challenge to prove her worth of playing Go” in the 9 Dan Girl manga by Yoshinori Kisaragi, Ri Yin Quing Kong and Bai Ri. “The story of a girl building an outstanding winning history in a game dominated by men,” says Manga Rock. “None of the action of Hikaru and only 15 chapters up so far,” David Bogie. “Translation is a bit crude.” Also available here.

A Wise Man’s Fear
“In the second book of “The Kingkiller Chronicles,” by Patrick Rothfuss, I think called “A Wise Man’s Fear,” they play a game with stones,” writes Eli Strongheart. “They aim to play a beautiful game. I’m fairly certain its Go.”

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The Power Report: Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; Ueno reaches Ryusei final; New members of Honinbo League

Tuesday October 15, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo

The play-off to decide the challenger for the 38th Women’s Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 29. Ueno Asami, the women’s number two at present, takes a fairly relaxed approach to her games: she doesn’t check up what tournament she’s playing in until the game is over. Perhaps this is to avoid putting extra pressure on herself in important games. However, there was a label at the entrance to the playing room reading “play-off to decide the Women’s Honinbo challenger,” so she could not avoid knowing in advance. It did not affect her play, however. Taking white, she beat Suzuki Ayumi 7P by resig.

Ueno has had a spectacular start to her career. Born on October 26, 2001, she set a record for the youngest woman titleholder when she won the 21st Women’s Kisei in 2018 (she was then 16 years three months old) and defended the title this year. However, her challenge to Fujisawa Rina for the Hollyhock Cup earlier this failed, so she has not yet won a title match with multiple games. Ueno: “I’m happy to be able to play another match with Women’s Honinbo Fujisawa Rina. You can play up to five games, so I won’t get discouraged even if I lose two in a row. I’ll do my best and try to have fun.”

The first game was played at the Kashoen inn in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, on October 9. Taking white, Fujisawa Rina won by 3.5 points. The second game will be played on October 27.

Ueno reaches Ryusei final

Ueno Asami seems to be enjoying the best form of her career, which is saying something, since she already has some impressive achievements (see Women’s Honinbo article above). She has turned in the best performance by a Japanese woman player in a tournament open to both male and female players. First of all, she did well just to reach the final section of the 28th Ryusei tournament, which means making the best 16. At this point, she shifted to high gear, beating Takao Shinji 9P in the first round and Murakawa Daisuke 8P in the quarterfinals. The latter win made her the first woman to reach the semifinals of an open tournament. She was not finished, though. She defeated Kyo Kagen 8P, securing a seat in the final with Ichiriki Ryo 8P. The final was played on September 23. In the middle game, Ueno (B) cut off a large white group and took away its eye shape. Around move 180, the players following the game in the pressroom thought that White was on the verge of resigning. At this point, perhaps, the pressure got to Asami, for she blundered with 181, a move that let Ichiriki save his group by making a shape that’s called “living with a false eye.” His group had one ordinary eye and two long tails that linked up with a shape like a false eye but which could not be put into atari.

For Ichiriki, this was his second successive Ryusei title and his 16th successive win (the winning streak ended with his next game).

Note: In my report of July 3, I mentioned that Ueno had become (probably) the first woman player to top the list of most games won. Starting on June 7, she maintained that place through the summer. In recent weeks, she has shared top billing with Shibano Toramaru, but she is still number one as of October 4.

New members of Honinbo League

The four vacancies in the 75th Honinbo League have been decided and we have yet another leapfrog promotion for a low-ranked player for winning a seat. On August 15, Shida Tatsuya 7P (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resignation; he will play in his first league ever. Two seats were decided on August 22. Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Seto Taiki 8P by 4.5 points and Yokotsuka Riki 3P (B) beat Ida Atsushi 8P by 3.5 points. Ichiriki made an immediate comeback after being eliminated in the previous league. Yokotsuka will make his league debut and earned a promotion to 7-dan (as of August 23). The final seat was decided on September 12 when Kyo Kagen 8P (W) beat Suzuki Shinji 7P by 7.5 points. Kyo will be making his debut in the Honinbo League.

Tomorrow: Tang wins again in Samsung Cup; Kisei leagues; Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

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Upcoming Go Events: Tel Aviv, San Diego, Middlebury, Washington DC

Monday October 14, 2019

October 17-19: Tel Aviv, Israel
Israeli Open Go / Baduk Championship
Shavit  info@go-mind.com +972-54-4500453

October 20: San Diego, CA
Yilun Yang Lecture
Ted Terpstra ted.terpstra@gmail.com 619-384-3454

October 26: Middlebury, VT
Second Annual Vermont (and Friends) State Championship
Peter Schumer schumer@middlebury.edu 802-388-3934

October 26: Washington, DC
NGC Pumpkin Classic
Gurujeet Khalsa gurujeet.khalsa@nationalgocenter.org 703-626-0777

Get the latest go events information.

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The Power Report: FineArt wins computer AI go tournament; Hane takes Gosei title; Shibano wins Meijin title

Monday October 14, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

FineArt wins computer AI go tournament

The 2019 China Securities Cup World AI Open, a tournament to decide the world’s top go-playing computer program, was held in Rizhao City in Shandong Province, China, from August 21 to 25. Fourteen programs from China (8), Japan (1), Korea (2), Chinese Taipei (1), Hong Kong (1), and Belgium (1) took part. Fine Art (China) showed overwhelming strength, beating Golaxy (also China) 4-1 in the final. Third place went to HanDol of Korea and fourth to Leela Zero of Belgium. Japan had high hopes for Globis-AQZ, but after coming third in the first section of the tournament, it was beaten into fifth place in the knock-out stage. This tournament was just one part of a large-scale go festival with various kinds of tournaments for amateurs and professionals. The AI tournament was in its third year. DeepZenGO of Japan won the first tournament and Golaxy of China the second.

Hane takes Gosei title

The fifth game of the 44th Gosei title was played at the headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 23. The challenger, Hane Naoki 9P, had made a good start by winning the first two games, but Kyo Kagen had fought back to win the third and fourth games, so for the first time in five years the title match went the full distance. The game started at 9 a.m. and finished at 6:19 p.m. There was a fierce fight involving a ko, but Hane came out on top and forced a resignation after 150 moves. He made a comeback as Gosei after a gap of eight years (he won the 36th title). At the age of 43, Hane is the oldest titleholder, but, unlike perhaps in Korea or China, this doesn’t cause much comment in Japan. For the record, this is his 9th top-seven title and his 25th overall. First prize is worth 8,000,000 yen (about $74,500).

Shibano wins Meijin title

The 44th Meijin title match was another rare title match not involving Iyama Yuta. The title holder was Cho U (aged 39), who made a comeback last year, taking the title from Iyama. The challenger was Shibano Toramaru 8P, aged 19, who is the top teenaged player in Japan. After losing the opening game, Shibano won four games in a row to take the title. He turns 20 on November 9 (two days before the scheduled seventh game if the match had gone the distance), so he became the first teenaged Meijin, in fact, the first teenager to hold a top-seven title. Briefly, the course of the match was as described below.

The first game was held at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo in Bunkyo Ward on August 27 and 28. The challenger (white) took a big lead, but the titleholder played a do-or-die move and pulled off an upset.

The second game was played in Cho U’s hometown of Taipei. Cho (white) took the initiative in the opening, but he made a miscalculation on the second day and had to resign after 195 moves. Shibano commented that he was relieved to pick up a win.

The third game was played at the Gifu Grand Hotel in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, on September 17 and 18. Shibano won by resignation after 234 moves. So far, white had won all the games.

The fourth game was played at the Takarazuka Hotel in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture, on September 25 and 26. Taking black, Shibano won by resignation after 233 moves.

The fifth game was played at the Atami Sekitei, a traditional Japanese inn, on October 7 and 8. Taking white, Shibano won by resignation after 252 moves. This made his score 4-1, so he took the title.

Shibano set a couple of significant records with this victory. At 19 years 11 months, he is the first teenaged Meijin, as mentioned above. The win carries with it an automatic promotion to 9-dan (as of Oct. 9). Shibano reached the top rank in five years one month, which is a new speed record (the old record was Iyama’s seven years six months).

Shibano has been setting records since he became a pro. When he was 17 years eight months old, he won the 26th Ryusei title and last year he beat one of the world’s top players, Ke Jie, in the 4th Japan-China Ryusei play-off. In person, he’s quiet and unassuming, but on the go board he is aggressive and always looks for the strongest move. He’s well informed about AI go and plays a lot on the net, especially with Chinese players. He’s said to play up to 30 games a day.

Tomorrow: Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; Ueno reaches Ryusei final; New members of Honinbo League

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Alexander Qi wins first NYGA Monthly Tournament

Monday October 14, 2019

Alexander Qi 4 dan, with a 3-1 record, won the dan-division championship at the New York Go Association’s first NYGA Monthly Tournament, held on October 12 in Little Neck, NY. Twenty-eight players ranked from 21 kyu to 4 dan competed in a 4-round, handicapped AGA-rated tournament.

Niel Li and Toranosuke Ozawa also finished 3-1 in the dan division, but tied for second place with lower SOS scores. Su Jiayang 1 kyu,won the higher kyu division, while Lucas Yang 15 kyu won the lower kyu division.

Starting next year, the NYGA Monthly Tournaments will become the qualifying competitions for the NYGA Grand Final, a season-ending championship featuring the top eight players of the NYGA Monthly Tournaments This annual event will feature live broadcasting and professional commentary. Further details will be released on the NYGA’s website and social media.

The NYGA Grand Final will have a single-elimination format, played by the top eight players with the highest NMT rankings at the end of the season. Players earn NMT ranking points by competing in the 12 NYGA Monthly Tournaments starting January 2020. The Grand Final is expected to take place in the third week of December 2020.

The grand prize for the champion is $500+, subjected to increase from sponsorships and donations.

Felipo (Zhongfan) Jian, Tournament Director

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2019 Congress broadcasts posted to AGA’s YouTube channel

Friday October 11, 2019

The broadcasts from the 2019 US Go Congress in Madison, WI have now been published on the Official AGA YouTube channel – check out the playlist to access pro commentaries on the Pandanet-AGA City League Finals and all seven rounds of the US Masters, featuring Yoonyoung Kim 8p, Yilun Yang 7p, Mingjiu Jiang 7p, Jennie Shen 2p, Ryan Li 1p and Stephanie Yin 1p, as well as various special interviews. If you want to jump to a particular segment, just head to the comments section and choose the corresponding timestamp. These videos were originally broadcast live on Twitch; if you want to support more future broadcasts, please subscribe and become an AGA member. Thanks again to the E-Journal’s 2019 broadcast team and special thanks to Stephen Hu for producing the videos for our YouTube channel.

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U.S. Go Congress survey

Wednesday October 9, 2019

The single biggest Go event in North America each year, the U.S. Go Congress draws hundreds of Go players from across the country for a week of events, and attracts thousands of viewers to broadcasts of the top boards. Whether you’ve ever attended a Congress or not, organizers would like your opinions on a few basic questions so that they can make next year’s Congress – set for August 1-9 in Estes Park, Colorado — an even better event. Click here now to complete the survey.

2019 U.S. Go Congress; photo by Chris Garlock
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Still time to register for Cotsen Open

Tuesday October 8, 2019

Over 100 are already registered for the 2019 Cotsen Open, coming up October 26-27, 2019 at MG Studio in downtown Los Angeles. The Cotsen Open features thousands of dollars in prizes, an extremely competitive Open Division, live commentary on top board games, masseuses to massage players during their games, free food truck lunches to all those who pre-register on both Saturday and Sunday of the tournament. And, as always, everyone who pre-registers and plays in all 5 of their matches has their full entry fee refunded. Pre-registration closes on Tuesday, October 22nd; register here.
NOTE: The E-Journal still has a couple game recorder slots available; game recorders — who must have their own laptops — receive EJ caps, $25 per game and the chance to observe top-board games at close range. Email journal@usgo.org if interested.

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