American Go E-Journal » Your Move: Readers Write

Your Move/Readers Write: Ratings matter; World ranking data

Wednesday April 18, 2018

Ratings matter: “I disagree with Bill (The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go #2  4/17 EJ),” writes Rick Mott.2018.04.18_2017GoCongress-IMG_8681 “After running tournaments for almost 30 years, I think 90+% of tournament players are motivated not by prizes, but by ratings.  I don’t know how to get the data, but I’d bet that most go players did well on the standardized tests we all took in school, and start to salivate when offered a test.  Pretty much any kind of test.  We love measuring ourselves.  One of most popular innovations at the New Jersey Open was posting updated ‘tournament ratings’ after every round.  The crowd loved it.” photo: at the 2017 U.S. Open; photo by Chris Garlock

World ranking data: “In a recent EJ article, Bill Saltman expressed his interest in a ‘chart which correlated amateur [ranks] from 30 kyu to 9 dan, country by country, go-server-by go server,'” writes Sebastian Pountney. “I think he will find that the material on this page, the results of a recent survey conducted on OGS, should go some way to satisfying his request. For a simple table of ranks see here specifically.”


Your Move/Readers Write: World rankings? Go study abroad? Janice responds to “Philosophical Reflections on Go”

Monday April 16, 2018

World rankings? “Janice Kim’s interesting reflections on ranks made good reading,” writes Bill Saltman. “What might also make good reading would be the first-ever (to my knowledge) chart which correlated amateur from 30 kyu to 9 dan, country by country, go-server-by go server. How does a German 1D compare in strength to an American 1D? What does 5k on KGS equal on Pandanet, or the AGA or French, Russian or Japanese rankings? And where would AlphaGo Zero fall if compared to professionals? Many questions; are there any reasonably quantifiable answers?”

Go study abroad? “I’m a self-taught high kyu/low dan recreational player based in Baltimore, and may be taking a professional break soon to travel, among other things,” writes Greg Lysko. “As part of that, I was thinking of trying to study go outside of the US, possibly in either Korea or Japan, for 1-2 months later this year. Are there programs available/easy for English speaking foreigners to sign up for in either country?”

Janice responds to “Philosophical Reflections on Go”: “Enjoyed this piece by William Cobb,” writes Janice Kim. “It did make me think: I don’t see go as being like death, as an analogy of equal weight to other go analogies. I think go is a conversation between two people, not like a conversation between two people. This has a ripple effect through the ages, even though I personally end. So maybe one could say, go is a connection point between the monads, not like the end of one of them.”

Email with your responses and/or suggestions.



Your Move/Readers Write: Tehran go club?

Saturday April 7, 2018

Tehran go club? Does anyone know of any go club activity in Tehran, Iran? Email


Your Move/Readers Write: More on Rob Ryder, including an sgf of Ryder-Go Seigen

Monday March 26, 2018

“Bob Ryder was 48 at the time of this tournament (From the Archives: The First International Amateur Go Tournament 1963),” writes Terry Benson. “He became one of the first western 5-dans and was president of the AGA in the 60s and early 70s. He was also a part of the Bell Labs research team which developed the transistor.”
And in a related note, Adrian Petrescu has transcribed the game between Robert Ryder and Go Seigen, saying “I thought you might find it useful for those who want to add another Seigen game to their databases.”



Your Move/Readers Write: Ukiyo-e at Shizuoka

Monday January 8, 2018

“I read your article about the Tokugawa Memorial Go Congress set for February 2017 in Shizuoka,” writes Erwin 2018.01.07_Ukiyo-eGerstorfer. “One additional bit of information that might be interesting to the readers of the American Go E-Journal is an exhibition of go-related Ukiyo-e — woodblock prints and paintings — in the Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum of Shizuoka that will take place from February 6th to April 1st, 2018. There was a go related Ukiyo-e exhibition in Villach, Austria in 2007 in conjunction with the European Go Congress but this one will be bigger and more exciting and taking place in a dedicated Ukiyo-e museum.”

“I have met one of the Japanese organizers of the go festival at the European Go Congress in Oberhof last summer and my impression is that this event is well worth a visit. They are very dedicated to that event and especially interested in international participation. You can reach Shizuoka from Tokyo by train (Shinkansen) in about 90 min and there are several trains a day.”

Image: Kubo Shunman’s “Outfit for the Go Game” 


Your Move/Readers Write: Remembering Joel Olson’s “wonderful smile”; Janice Kim on “An interesting story”; Board size mystery explained

Monday November 27, 2017

Remembering Joel Olson’s “wonderful smile”: “Reading about Joel Olsen’s interest in music explains an aspect of this old hand go player,” writes Terry Benson. “Every Go Congress, he was a regular at the gathering for silly go songs. There are four editions of the AGA Song Book, so it often took time for everyone to find the words to a song in whatever version they had. Two years ago Joel compiled a concordance to show where any particular song was in each of the editions. I emailed him this past spring expecting him to come to the2017.11.27_A Chess Novice Challenged Magnus Carlsen Congress in San Diego and enjoy his work. Sad that he didn’t get to sing one more time. He always had a wonderful smile which beamed happiness.”  

Janice Kim on “An interesting story”: “An interesting story has popped up, weaving together themes of learning, and human achievement in field of games,” writes Janice Kim. “My thoughts: It would be a little clearer what was going on to non-chess players, if they considered a random person who decided to challenge the Olympic gold medalist in the 400m hurdles after training for a month. 1) WSJ, you don’t have to create drama by suggesting Magnus winning is in doubt. 2) Magnus, I get it. I’d be curious too. 3) Max, you are definitely getting the silver.”

Board size mystery explained: “Having a collection of go-related art I can assure Greg Kulevich (Go Spotting: Art Institute of Chicago 11/12 EJ) that a board size of 25×17 was just the artist’s choice and not a usual board size at any time,” writes Erwin.Gerstorfer. “It might be surprising but hardly any depiction of Go boards in Asian art is coming even close to a 19×19 size, let alone that you find there any kind of reasonable board positions. Obviously Asian artists were more interested in the overall impression and not in depicting the exact details of the game.”


Your Move/Readers Write: More pro go news wanted

Wednesday September 27, 2017

“I love the E-Journal updates of what is going on in the professional go world,” writes Howard Cornett. “But I want more! Where are links to the game records? Is there any more detailed coverage in English somewhere? And an in-depth explanation of all the leagues and their rules would be great, too. Are they in English somewhere? I recently started re-reading the manga Hikaru No Go and want to be able to follow the professional go world like others follow football, baseball, or soccer. What resources are there in English? If not in English, what language will I have to learn or plug into Google Translate?”
Send your responses/suggestions to We’re always looking for reporting/translation assistance/support here at the E-Journal, as well; if you’re interested in being part of the team, email us at



Your Move/Readers Write: How to grow a go community?

Wednesday August 30, 2017

How to grow a go community? For the last couple months, I had been hosting a regular club on sundays to try and establish a go community in Wichita,” writes Billy Bloomquist. “I have a made a group on Facebook to try and publicize it, and so far I do have a few people I have taught and that have been continuing to play, so that’s great. However, I am reaching out to see if I could get any tips on how to expand this kind of thing/keep it visible in a place where hardly anyone knows of the game. A good list of learning materials for people starting from scratch could be helpful as well, just anything you think could be useful for me to invest in. I’d love to see it grow in popularity here in Kansas, and am willing to continue putting in whatever effort I can at least here in my city.”
Email your suggestions to



Your Move/Readers Write: Gary Kasparov on AlphaGo

Tuesday August 29, 2017

By Michael Bacon

Enjoyed the coverage of the Go Congress immensely! Could not help but poke a few of my chess friends in the eye while contrasting all the coverage it received with all the coverage the recent US Open did not receive on the organ of US chess, the USCF webpage. I’ve also been transfixed by Michael Redmond’s videos. The man is a national treasure!

Former World Human Chess Champion Gary Kasparov, who will always be remembered as the human who lost to a ‘machine,’ in his apologia for having lost to the computer chess ‘engine’ called ‘Deep Blue’ — not for having turned Kasparov a deep shade of blue, and a whiter shade of pale, I might add — writes about go in ‘Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins‘:2017.08.27_Deep Thinking-Kasparov
“The nineteen-by-nineteen Go board with its 361 black and white stones is too big of a matrix to crack by brute force, too subtle to be decided by the tactical blunders that define human losses to computers at chess. In that 1990 article on Go as a new target for AI, a team of Go programmers said they were roughly twenty years behind chess. This turned out to be remarkably accurate. In 2016, nineteen years after my loss to Deep Blue, the Google-backed AI project DeepMind and its Go-playing offshoot AlphaGo defeated the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol. More importantly, and also as predicted, the methods used to create AlphaGo were more interesting as an AI project than anything had produced the top chess machines. It uses machine learning and nural networks to teach itself how to play better, as well as other sophisticated techniques beyond the usual alpha-beta search. Deep Blue was the end; AlphaGo is the beginning.” (pgs. 74-75)

Please note the author capitalizes “Go,” but not “chess.” I find that curious as I have always capitalized “Chess.” (note: the EJ does not capitalize go, consistent with AP style) In addition, Lee Sedol, as all go players know, was not the “…world’s top Go player,” when he lost to the computer program known as AlphaGo.

2017.08.27_kasparov-bookWe move along to page 104 where one finds this:2017.08.27_Kasparov-playing
“The machine-learning approach might have eventually worked with chess, and some attempts have been made. Google’s AlphaGo uses these techniques extensively with a database of around thirty million moves. As predicted, rules and brute force alone weren’t enough to beat the top Go players. But by 1989, Deep Thought had made it quite clear that such experimental techniques weren’t necessary to be good enough at chess to challenge the world’s best players.”

Finally, on page 121, Kasparov, or his co-author Mig Greengard, writes this paragraph:
“More success was had with another method for allowing machines to extend their thinking into the hypothetical outside of the direct search tree. Monte Carlo tree search simulates entire games played out from positions in the search and records them as wins, draws, or losses. It stores the results and uses them to decide which positions to play out next, over and over. Playing out millions of “games within the game” like this was not particularly effective or necessary for chess, but it turned out to be essential in Go and other games where accurate evaluation is very difficult for machines. The Monte Carlo method doesn’t require evaluation knowledge or hand-crafted rules; it just keeps track of the numbers and moves toward the better ones.”

While reading I continually thought of former World Human Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker’s famous quote, “If there are sentient beings on other planets, then they play Go.”

Not chess; go!


Your Move/Readers Write: On AlphaGo, an air of defeat, and a haiku

Monday August 28, 2017

“At the recent US Go Congress I sensed an air of defeat among some of the players with respect to AlphaGo,” writes John O’Conner. “They gave 2017.08.27_alphago-lee-sedolme the impression that they consider the study of go to be somewhat of a dead end process because they believe that no one will ever be able to compete with AlphaGo. Well I think just the opposite, and here’s why. It is human nature to observe, study, and discover. We see this in astronomy, geometry, electronics, and really in any scientific area. It’s how we learn to live our lives. I believe that as we observe and study AlphaGo, we will discover new concepts that will lead to the defeat of AlphaGo. Of course those new concepts will be programmed into ‘BetaGo’, and the cycle will continue. So I think that this is perhaps the most exciting time to be playing and studying go, with the goal of being the first to surpass AlphaGo. I’ve re-stated it in the haiku below.”

AlphaGo is king
Wood, fire, earth, metal, water
So who will be next

photo: Lee Sedol playing AlphaGo in 2016