News from the American Go Association

October 31, 2005
Volume 5, #95

In This Issue:
How Do I Read Sgf Files? Rating Absolute Beginners
THE PLAYING LIFE: Learning To Love The Handicap
THE TRAVELING BOARD: Losing and Winning in Hangzhou

JIE LI TAKES 5TH TEXAS TITLE: Jie Li 9d, extending a winning streak in five Texas Opens that is now 25-0, won the 2005 Texas Open yesterday, collecting the top prize of $1,500. Thirty three players participated in the 2-day tournament: 10 in the Open section (5 rounds) and 23 in the Handicap section (7 rounds). Robert Cordingley organized the tournament at Camp Allen in Navasota and Jeff Shaevel was the Tournament Director. All five Board 1 games were broadcast live by E-Journal Managing Editor Chris Garlock on IGS, with hundreds of players watching worldwide, and updates, photos and games (commented by Jie Li) were posted daily on the AGA's news page:
      Complete results:
Open (10 players): 1st: Jie Li 9d, San Diego, CA, 5-0, $1500; 2nd: Kyung-Sik Kim 7d, Houston, TX, 4-1, $750; 3rd: Dong Soo Kim 6d, Houston, TX, 3-2, $350.
Handicap (23 players): 1st: Joo Cho 7k, Katy, TX, 6-1, $200; 2nd: Hwi Soo Cho 10k, Katy, TX, 6-1, $100 (son of Joo); 3rd: Jonathan Sobieski 13k, Houston, TX, 5-2, $50. Youngest player: Stanley Sun, 23k, Houston, TX 4-3 (9 yrs old) won a go book donated by Barnes & Noble.

WALDRON TOPS LEFLER MEMORIAL: Phil Waldron 5d drove down from Ottawa, Canada to top the group of 4-game winners at the First Annual Greg Lefler Memorial Go Tournament on October 22 in Roche ster, NY. The other winners were Max Peterson 5k and Matt Duell 10k. Christopher Sira organized and directed, with assistance from Chuck Robbins; 39 players (8 dan, 31 kyu) participated. Special guests included Lefler's mother, brother and sisters, Alice Koroski, PJ Koroski, Elizabeth Koroski, Melissa Lefler, and Jamie Sabo. In addition to setting the date for next year's Lefler Memorial Tournament (10/21/2006), Sira announced plans to create the Greg Lefler Memorial Library, which will lend out go books and materials. The Library is off to a good start with a major anonymous contribution of books to the collection that Greg had already started. For more info, contact Sira at

LIMITED SPACE IN OTTAWA: Though free and open to all, space is limited at the November 6 Embassy of Japan Go tournament in Ottawa, Canada. Contact Charles Chang at for latest details. The 3-round tournament will be held in the auditorium of the Embassy of Japan, beginning at 9A. Check for info.

FINAL FOUR FOR JUDAN CHALLENGER: The tournament to determine who will challenge Cho Chikun 9P for his Judan title is in its final stages. Takao Shinji 9P and current Honinbo has won the winner's division. Three top players remain alive in the losers' division, one of whom will get to play Takao for the challenger's role. These are Cho U 9P, Kobayashi Satoru 9P, and Yamashita Keigo 9P. Both Kobayashi and Yamashita were sent to the loser's division by Mimura Tomoyasu 9P, who then lost to Takao and will play Cho next. Cho was defeated earlier by Yamashita and, if Yamashita now defeats Kobayashi, will have a chance at revenge.

CHO U TAKES FIRST GAME IN OZA TI TLE DEFENSE: Yamashita Keigo 9P and current Tengen recently defeated Cho U 9P and current Oza in the Judan tournament, but in the Oza title match where Yamashita is the challenger, Cho was successful in the first game, winning with Black by resignation last Friday. You can download this and other games from the site. Cho is also the current Meijin and most recent winner of the NHK and the NEC Cups. Yamashita holds the Tengen title.

STRONGEST WOMAN TOURNEY REACHES SEMIFINALS: The four semi-finalists in the 7th annual Strongest Woman tournament in Japan include Kobayashi Izumi 6P (the well known daughter of Kobayashi Koichi 9P and winner of many titles), Konishi Kazuko 8P and two relatively younger players, Xie Yimin 2P and Izawa Akino 3P. Some other well known players have been eliminated, including current Women's Kisei (for the fourth time) and four time winner of the Wo men's Honinbo Chinen Kaori 3P and Suzuki Ayumi 3P, who won this tournament last year and was defeated by US amateur Jie Li 9d in the Seimitsu Cup earlier this year. Chinen was defeated by Xie and Suzuki by Yashiro Kumiko 5P, current Women's Honinbo, who then lost to Izawa.

SO & KOBAYASHI TOP PRO WINNERS: So Yokoku 8P has been joined by Kobayashi Satoru 9P at the top of the list of pro game winners in Japan with 38 victories so far in 2005; both players have a winning percentage of 76% with 12 losses. Yuki Satoshi 9P is right behind with 37 wins and 17 losses, followed by Kono Rin 7P with a 35-9 record and Cho U 9P at 34 and 21. The amazing teenager Iyama Yuta, now 7P as a result of winning the Agon Cup, is next with 33 and 12. Tops in Korea at the moment is Choi Cheolhan 9P with 56 wins and 25 losses for a 79% winning percentage. In second place is Park Yeonghun 9P with 53 and 26, followed by Cho Hanseung 8 P at 51 and 19 and Lee Sedol 9P at 50 and 19.

GUO WORKSHOP PHOTOS POSTED: Photos by Eric Osman from the recent workshop with Guo Juan XP in the Catskills workshop have been posted online at:

MEMBERSHIP UP IN OCTOBER: Membership rebounded slightly last month, increasing to 2,033 members, an increase of 23 over September. Full, Limited, Sustainer and Youth members were up, along with Chapters, while only Sponsors dropped slightly.

FREE YEARBOOK OFFER RENEWED: Just in time for the holidays, you can now sign up to get the forthcoming 2005 American Go Yearbook and get a free copy of the 2004 Yearbook. The annual Yearbook, now in production, features the best of the weekly E-Journal: game s, reviews, columns, reports, photos and more (including original material produced especially for the Yearbook!). The Yearbook also includes a CD with every game and article published in the E-Journal, organized in an easily accessible and searchable format. This offer applies to new or renewing Full memberships, but you must join or renew no later than November 30 to receive the free 2004 Yearbook. Make an efficient move: get two years worth of great go material for the price of one! Join now at

COMING UP FRIDAY: A red sandalwood go board with tortoise-shaped drawers.stones made of painted ivory.Peter Schumer reports on a rare exhibit at the Nara National Museum in Japan. PLUS: Bob Hearn's Top 10 go books and all the latest go news!

YOUR MOVE: Readers Write

HOW DO I READ SGF FILES? "I'm an AGA member in Olympia, WA, and I thoroughly enjoy the E-Journal," writes an E-Journal reader. "The game records attached to the Member's Edition of the E-Journal are sgf files; do I need software to read them and if so, where can I find it?" Yes, you need a program that reads sgf files, many of which can be found at

RATING ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS: "What rating does the AGA recommend assigning an absolute beginner?" wonders Richard Moseson in Syracuse, NY. "I think 30 kyu is a reasonable number," replies Bill Cobb, author of The Book of Go, "and it's a fairly common starting point. Ratings can be adjusted during the tournament if it seems needed."

THE PLAYING LIFE: Learning To Love The Handicap
by Brad Woodward 21k
       I think a lot of up- and-coming players look at taking a handicap as having to wear "training wheels", and seek to play an even game as soon as possible, thinking it will be more fun and interesting. I learned just the opposite at the recent Greg Lefler Memorial Tournament.
       Imagine you're fighting in a gladiatorial arena against an enormous brute. Since you're a 98-pound weakling, the ringmaster hands you nine weapons to even the odds. Would you hand them back and say you preferred to experience what a "real fight" would be like? And even if you take the weapons, your chances are probably less than even because you're not skilled in their use.
        I have no idea how to properly use handicap stones. I try to wall off as much territory as possible before my opponent destroys me. The stronger players say I keep getting lost in the "Bermuda Triangle" There is an entire skill-set that goes with using hand icap stones properly that, if learned and used, will be of tremendous benefit when you are ready to play even games. You learn how to attack with star point stones, fight off moyo invasions, make the opponent live small, attack while building thickness, win while you're still ahead and-most importantly-not to be intimidated by your opponent.
       Once you've gotten the hang of taking a handicap, you switch sides and play White, as I did in Rochester (although I wasn't as ready as I would have liked to have been). You learn that it takes an entirely different skill-set to win when you start off trailing by so many points. And when you realize your opponent hasn't learned to use those star point stones yet, you'll be very grateful for those handicap games you played as a 24 kyu. And as you work on building your skills as White, you'll understand and appreciate why those higher-ranked players are asking you to take the handicap.
        Check out Woodward's Go Blog, "The Axis of Heaven" at

THE TRAVELING BOARD: Losing and Winning in Hangzhou
by Jon Hartsel 1d
       Judging strictly by the numbers, Team America's performance in last week's Hangzhou International Amateur Go Tournament in China was hardly a rousing success: our two teams placed 21st and 22nd out of a field of 22 teams. I personally managed to barely miss dead last by placing 67th out of a field of 68 entrants. But success is not always measured in wins and losses, and the importance of the participation of the American Go Association (AGA) in its first international tournament (simultaneously with another tournament in Korea) cannot be overestimated. The AGA's appearance and President Michael Lash's ste llar diplomacy throughout the week helped expand the global reach of the AGA and strengthen relations with the Chinese go world, and will probably lead to other invitations to similar events in the future and cooperation on other fronts. On a personal level it was a very enriching trip for the members of the AGA delegation who had never been to China, and for all of us it was a real thrill to be playing go among the top amateurs in the world.
      Mike reported last week (Report From Hang Zhou, China, 10/28 EJ) on the first-class event put together by our Chinese hosts and the only additional "color" I can provide was the impressive fusillade of victorious-sounding marching music from a 25-piece Chinese military band as we entered the hotel for the opening banquet. The Hangzhou Go Association is quite an ambitious organization: they are currently building a 34-story tower! This may say as much about the frothy real estate market in China as it does about their ambition to be a go powerhouse, but it is quite remarkable nonetheless and left us wondering how much of a 34 story tower you could fill with go-related activities and dreaming of the day the AGA has its own shiny skyscraper full of American go.
      One of the biggest surprises was how blurry the line is between professionals and amateurs among top international players. The field we were up against included at least one former professional, some Taiwanese kids who had already passed the professional entrance exam and will officially be professionals next year, and a North Korean team that consisted of three of the best go players in a country with 500,000 go players but no professionals (yet). The strength of the field was further illustrated by the fact that the individual champion Hu Huangqing, a Hangzhou local, went on to defeat Chen Zude (9P) in an exhibition match after the conclusion of the official tournament.
       The fairly leisurely pace of the tournament allowed for plenty of time for sightseeing and relaxation by Hangzhou's famous West Lake. After struggling through three matches while still jet-lagged on the first day, there were thankfully only two matches on each of the next three days. One unfortunate result of the way the pairings were set up is that members of the AGA delegation often had to play each other; out of nine games each of us played as many as five games with our fellow AGA members. Since there were no handicaps, those "internal" games ended as expected with the higher AGA-rated player winning. Ned Phipps (7d) and Kevin Chao (5d) were the only AGA members to come up with the elusive "external" victories, netting one each. That said, there were a number of close-calls and exciting matches, and if the go stones had fallen another way the U.S. teams could well have ended up with more "external" victories. I had a particularly close match with a player from Hong Kong who used to live in California where he said he had a 2d AGA rating.
      North Korea narrowly won the team tournament with their three team members placing 2nd, 4th and 6th while the Hangzhou team was close on their heels, placing 1st, 3rd and 10th. An interview with the North Korean coach in the Hangzhou Daily News shed some interesting light on the North Korean go world. The North Korean Go Association started in 1989 and a go school was opened soon after. Some North Korean youth have studied go in China with professionals such as Ma Xiaochun since the level of domestic coaching talent in North Korea is low. Indeed, the paper mentioned that each member of the North Korean delegation bought 6-7 go books while they were in China to bring back with them. The three members of the North Korean team are ranked 6, 7 and 8 out of the coach's estimate of 500,000 go players in North Korea. It seems to me that it is only a matter of time before some of these top North Korean amateurs turn pro and start to make waves on the professional go circuit.
       Unlike North Korea, the US is fortunate to have several resident professional go players, which certainly will raise the level of our strongest amateur players. It seems just a matter of time until some of Feng Yun's students mature into strong amateurs that will be able to give even North Korea a run for the money.
       Hartsel lives in New York City.


November 2 & 5: Tempe AZ
Arizona Rating Tournament,
William Gundberg 480-429-0300

November 3-6: Lancaster, PA
Yang Workshop
Sam Zimmerman 717-892-1249

November 4: Washington, DC
Yuan Zhou 7d Monthly Friday Lesson
8:30P, basement (room 15) of the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church, 9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda. Bring game records to participate ($5), or observe for free. Don't have a game? Come early (official opening time 7P) to play and record a game.
Haskell Small

November 5: Piscataway NJ
Feng Yun Go School monthly AGA rated game
Feng Yun 973-992-5675

November 6: Ottawa, Canada
Embassy of Japan Go tournament
Charles Chang 613-722-0603

November 12: Syracuse, NY
Syracuse Fall Ratings Tournament
Richard Moseson 315-682-7720

November 12: Cleveland, OH
Case Western Reserve University Fall Tournament
Paul Jacobs 216-402-3071

November 12-13: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Sabaki Go Championship 2005
Luke Chung

November 19-20: College Park, MD
17th Mid-Atlantic Regional Go Championship
Steve Mount 301-405-6934

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