What game has tens of millions of active players, is very popular in Asia, has professional leagues and professional tournaments all over the world and was originally dominated by the North American League? Not go, of course. It’s League of Legends, one of the most popular eSports, or organized video game competitions. We were tipped off to this phenomenon by one of the strongest amateur go players in the United States, who admitted recently that his go playing time has been cut into not only by work and family, but by his fascination with League of Legends. “As a mental and strategy game, it bears a close resemblance to go,” the player — who prefers to remain anonymous — says, although unlike go, League of Legends is a team game, with five players on each team. “Like the go world, China and Korea are dominating League of Legends now,” the player says. “However, because this game has such a big fan base in North America, there is a chance that we can come back.” According a Forbes report in August, “If there needed to be further evidence of the growing enthusiasm in the West for eSports, League of Legends may have just set some sort of unofficial record for most tickets to a live event sold in the shortest amount of time. In about an hour after they went on sale, tickets to October’s World Championship Final event in LA’s Staples Center were sold out.” And according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “Top (videogame) players can ultimately take home $18,000 a month or more.”
Kelsey Dyer was “pleasantly surprised to find go” mentioned in Clifford A. Pickover’s “The Math Book,” which chronicles discoveries and advances in mathematics throughout history. Picover “gives a rundown of the object of the game and its mathematical facets” and Dyer says that his favorite line is “While powerful chess software is capable of defeating top chess players, the best Go programs often lose to skillful children.”
Following his victories in rounds one and two of the Korea Prime Minister Cup, Norway's Jostein Flood took time out to give Ranka the following account of his recent game-playing activities.
This is my first visit to Korea. I came almost a week ago. I was selected as one of the BIBA group of players who were invited by Blackie--that's 9-dan pro Kim Seung-jun--to visit his go club and then watch the round of sixteen in the Samsung Cup. I saw a lot of very strong professional players from China and Korea, and a lot of difficult games.
I haven't been playing much go recently or studying the game very much. I've been spending too much time playing and studying backgammon. I'm one of the stronger players in Norway, and I've played in a lot of tournaments in Norway and some abroad, including the Nordic Open in Copenhagen and the World Championship in Monte Carlo. A friend of mine was the developer of Jellyfish, the first commercial backgammon computer program. Go is definitely the more interesting and fascinating game, but backgammon is a more social game, and it has a money element. Money is not the motivation for playing go--the game itself is so interesting that it isn't necessary to play for money. For backgammon there has to be some money component; otherwise the game is not interesting enough. Sometimes I play a little poker too.
Basically I don't think what place I end up in here is so important and how many games I win is not too important either. The important thing is to play interesting games, to enjoy the games, to meet many new people, and to have a good time. Although of course I would like to win as many games as possible.
Note: BIBA stands for Blackie's International Baduk Academy, and Jostein won one more game afterward to end with the fourth-highest finish among the players who started out in the lower McMahon group.
Go-playing university/college students under the age of 30 can still register for the qualifying prelim for the 12th World Students Go Oza Championship, which will be held February 24-28, 2014 in Tokyo. Sixteen students from around the world will gather in Japan to decide the world’s number one student player. There will be an online preliminary round on Pandanet to select the 16 student players. Click here for details. University/college students under the age of 30 are eligible to participate.
Nearly forty leaders met to discuss “spreading weiqi to the world” in Beijing on September 23. The summit gathered a number of heavyweights in the Chinese go community, including Ma Xiaoming and Xia Guozhu from China’s Association for International Friendship with Foreign Countries, Liu Siming, Wang Runan, Hua Yigang and Wang Yi from the Chinese Weiqi Association, Li Lizhen from the headquarters of the Confucius Institute, and Wang Ping from China’s National General Administration of Press and Publication. In addition, executives from different media companies were invited, including Window of Golden Street (WGS), Sina, eWeiqi, Sohu, Blue Focus and Qingfeng.
Both Ma and Liu emphasized the urgency of promoting go globally and praised the “Weiqi Travelling Worldwide” project, while Shao Qiang from WGS proposed the idea of a China-US Go Congress. The influential level of the summit attendees is the highest in many years, a strong indication of China’s interest in global Weiqi cooperation.
- Alice Zhang, translated by Rainy Han and Zhiyuan ‘Edward’ Zhang
Go author Jonathan Hop is working on a new project about Chinese culture and language. “I am trying to get funds to do a graphic novel,” Hop tells the E-Journal. In “Journey to the Middle Kingdom,” three modern-day kids travel back to ancient Chinese fairy tales. “The main character’s grandfather plays go and owns an antique shop,” Hop, a 4-dan from Ann Arbor MI and author of the “So You Want to Play Go” series says. “Go will make an appearance in the first book and I’m definitely going to have it in several others because the book series is a celebration of Chinese culture. I also may even teach the readers a little bit about go (because that’s what I do) if the series gets underway, but I gotta get the first book going.” With just 14 days to go, Hop’s Kickstarter campaign has raised nearly $1,200 toward the $10,000 goal.
Wei Qian lost to opponents from Romania and Czechia in the first and last rounds of the Korea Prime Minister Cup, but in between he ran off four straight wins to score the second highest finish in the lower McMahon group. He was in the middle of his winning streak when he consented to an interview with Ranka. Here's his story:
I was born in Shanghai, and I learned to play go because my mother thought it would be good for my mind. She arranged to have me coached. This was during the cultural revolution, when we weren't able to study normal school subjects, and I found go quite interesting. It was the one interesting thing I could do at the time.
After the cultural revolution ended, I stopped playing go and studied hard to get a university education: first a bachelor's degree in China and then a masters degree in electrical engineering in Australia. In Australia I played in local go clubs, and then when Pandanet started up I started playing on the net. Back in those days you had to buy the software, not like today when everything is free. But I bought it because go had become part of my life, something that was always with me.
I think go has helped me in my life. I work for a company that makes commercial refrigerating systems. I have to solve many problems in my work, and the go approach has helped me out. It teaches you to look for another way of doing something.
I played once for Australia in the World Amateur Go Championship, and also in the first Korea Prime Minister Cup. I've played in some Australian tournaments too, but mainly I teach kids. I live in Sydney. I have a small group of five or six kids who come to my home every Sunday, including my son, who is now ten. They're still kyu-level players. The strongest is about three or four kyu.
Go is looking up in Austrialia. Compared with ten years ago, there are more tournaments, and a lot more young people are starting to play. I'm really too old to come here--now I just play for fun--but I came this time so that I could also visit my family in China. I'd like to encourage other people to come in the future.
Ranka spoke with Vedran Vasiljevic after the second round.
Ranka: Please tell us about your go career.
Vedran: I've been playing for about ten years. A high-school friend taught me, in Rijeka. In the beginning I made very quick progress, but then I didn't have enough time to play constantly or enough money to go to tournaments. Rijeka is the world's third biggest carnival town, and one of the activities at the Rijeka carnival is playing go, so I used to go there. I've also been to two European Go Congresses: in Villach in Austria, and Groningen in the Netherlands.
Ranka: What other tournaments have you played in?
Vedran: I've played in various smaller tournaments: Trieste in Italy, Bled in Slovenia, Belgrade in Serbia, Zelenkovac in Bosnia. Compared with them, there are a lot of stronger players here at the Korean Prime Minister Cup, and the organization is better. I needed some time to get used to Korean food, but now I like it. I also like Korean culture. Korean people are always very open and very ready to help strangers. They're always smiling. And in Korea, compared with Croatia, everything is so big!
Ranka: What is your goal for this tournament?
Vedran: I would like to get at least two wins.
Ranka: Thank you.
Note: Vedran got his two wins in the next two rounds against opponents from Chile and Azerbaijan, and then added a third win in the last round against the player from Morocco. Well done!
Online registration for the 2013 Cotsen Go Open and 2nd AGA Pro Prelim is now closed. To register on-site in Los Angeles, come early this Saturday, October 26th; registration opens at 8a at the Korean Cultural Center (5505 Wilshire Blvd). “If you are not registered by 9:30, you will not be allowed to play in the first game,” organizers warn. The Cotsen features a number of unique attractions, including paying the AGA “one time rating fee” for all players who do not currently have an AGA membership, prizes for those who can solve certain go problems, one candidate will be selected for the AGA’s next professional certification tournament to be held later this year. Plus, Myung-wan Kim 9P, one of the organizers of the US pro system, will also be on hand to teach and play simultaneous games and local Southern California favorite and renowned US teacher Yi-Lun Yang 7P will also teach and provide game commentary. There will also be a pro game over the internet between Yi-Lun Yang 7P and another pro. Lee Hajin 3p and Kim Minhee 3p will also be there to do game reviews and simuls along with a late addition to the delegation, Kim Younghwan 9p. Kim (left) became pro in 1987. His nickname is “Younghwan Wizard” because of his ability to give more handicap stones to amateur players than any other pro, and still win. He is currently working as a baduk instructor and a commentator for Baduk TV. The tournament also features free lunch at a food truck (but only for those who pre-register) and two masseuses who will make the rounds “to ease the tensions that arise in your shoulders when you discover that your big group really doesn’t have two eyes.” There are also go club prizes of $1,500, to be awarded to top three clubs that have the most points overall in the tournament. Top-board games will be broadcast live on KGS by the E-Journal. photo: Cotsen with son Lord at the 2012 Cotsen Open; top right photo by Chris Garlock
Andy Liu won the October 12 Gotham Go Tournament in New York City. Liu Xiaohan was second and in 3rd place was Benjamin Lockhart, who qualified to play in the AGA Pro Select tournament in Los Angeles later this year. “We had a total of 82 players competing for $1500 in cash and prizes from all ranks!” report organizers Peter Armenia and Mathew Hershberger. Click here for full results and a photo album. photo: Benjamin Lockhart (l) plays Zhong Sichen in the final round; photo by Peter Armenia
The second year of the Pandanet-AGA City League kicks off this weekend on IGS. Play will start for all of the leagues at 3pm on Saturday, October 28th. “We have 17 teams for this season and play should be very exciting,” says Tournament Director Steve Colburn. “Watch some of the best players in the country vie off against each other.” Play will take place in the AGA City League Room; watch for more information on the Pandanet site.
Ranka talked with translator and interpreter Juan Samper after his victory over Natasa Malinic of Bosnia and Herzegoviina, one of three games he won in the KPMC. Here's what he said.
I learned to play seven years ago, in Bogota, after watching the movie Pi. The main character played go with his mentor, and they talked a lot about how the ancient Japanese thought of the go board as a microcosm of the universe. In fact go was one of the main themes in the movie. The characters were very smart, and I thought that if smart people play go it must be a difficult game, so I'll learn it and show everyone that I'm smart too. That's not exactly how it turned out, but I made shodan in about three years. and recently made 3 dan playing online.
The main go club in Bogota is the Salto del Mico, the 'Monkey Jump.' Its location is the Casa de la Historia--House of History. This is an establishment run by a well known radio personality who is also a historian and talks a lot about Colombian history. Her idea was that it should be a place for promoting many different cultural projects, and Salto de Mico became one of them. We meet every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Typically five to twenty players show up. We also hold national national tournaments there and sell go boards and stones that are made in Colombia. Because of the high cost of importing boards and stones from the Far East, two of our members invested some money, talked to some local manufacturers, and gave them the specifications for a go board, and now they manufacture the boards and make inexpensive plastic stones. I think the two investors have already recovered their investment.
Now there is also a go club at the National University in Bogota, which is the biggest university in Colombia. In the last few months that club has really taken off, attracting a lot of young people. There's also a club in Cali that is teaching young people, and there's another club in Medellin. All told I'd say Colombia has about 100 go players, of whom about 50 are active, at least from time to time. The big news is that a 12-yead old kid has just won the Colombian National Championship. His name is Juan Ramirez; he's our secret weapon for the future.
You can find out more about Colombian go here.
Ranka spoke with Lucretiu Calota just after his 5th-round game with the Korean player.
Ranka: Could you describe the game for us?
Lucretiu: I lost by resignation. I had some ideas, but he kept denying me. I found the game so boring--he just kept taking territory. I tried playing more open, but in the end his position was more solid. I couldn't attack, and then I didn't see that he could cut off some stones of mine. They died, and it was over.
Ranka: How about your other games?
Lucretiu: I'm more satisfied with them. I lost to Japan, but only by ten points. I won against Australia, Chile, and Denmark. The game with Australia in the first round was a big fight that became random after we both got into overtime.
Ranka: Please tell us something about go in Romania.
Lucretiu: There was a special situation in Romania back when it still had a communist government. There were no computer games, no dancing, and young people didn't have other things to do, so they went to culture clubs. They had chess clubs, contract bridge clubs, science fiction clubs, and when go came along, they started playing go. Most of the go players were in Bucharest. A lot of them were students at the same university. They would get together at the same campus, drink beer and vodka, and play go. That's how you get stronger. And we also had Radu Baciu. He was the first strong Romanian player--he got to 3 dan back in the 1970s. He was always ready to play go with anyone who wanted to. In the mid 1980s, when I was living in Braşov, I would come to his house in Bucharest and play go with him every day. I don't know what else he did. Now we are all forty years old. Well, Lucian Corlan and Cornel Burzo, the former children in the group, are thirty, but we all have other things to do. And Romanian young people are like young people in other countries, they play computer games. We had one promising young player until recently, but now he's a serious university student and doesn't have much time for go.
Ranka: Thank you and good luck in the next round.
Note: Lucretiu drew Jerome Salignon, the French player, in the next round and won to finish 8th.
“In the past few weeks we have started our chess/go clubs at Beverly Clearly, Irvington, and Grant High,” writes Portland, OR, go teacher Peter Freedman. ”Fritz [Balwit] and I are teaching at Irvington and we have 33 children. 8 have never played go before, the rest have been in the club in past years. They range from 2nd to 6th grades. I am also teaching go at Beverly Cleary, where the chess club coach has agreed to change his club to a chess and go club. We had 13 children at our first meeting and expect more to attend in the future. One child has had some exposure to go previously. The initial response by these chess-playing children is very positive,” adds Freedman. The chess and go program at Grant High, taught with Balwit, is also off to a good start. ”So far there are about 10-12 students coming, some of whom have played go before. We expect the club to grow, one of the Japanese language teachers has 180 students, and has invited me to present to her classes.” The busy Portland organizers also have programs or demos scheduled for three other local schools as well, and plan to create go teams and school matches once all the schools get rolling. “We’ve bought t-shirts for all 33 kids in the Irvington program, at a cost of less than $10 per shirt. Since parents pay $150 a year for the weekly, one hour club, we have raised enough money to support this,” adds Freedman. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor. Photo by Peter Freedman: Ansel Wallace (l), a member of the Irvington Chess and Go club, in his new club t-shirt.
The deadline for the American Go Foundation’s College Scholarship is just one month away. The program recognizes high school students who have served as important organizers and promoters for the go community. Read about last year’s winner here, and former winners here. For more information, and the application form, visit the AGF Website. - Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor.
Get the latest go events information.
Ranka spoke with Nurman Aylanç on the morning of the first day at the Korea Prime Minister Cup. He gave Ranka this account of his go career.
I learned to play go in 2003, the year they reopened the borders between North and South Cyprus. I live in the northern part, the Turkish part, where I teach music. There was a big joint concert to celebrate the reopening, through which I made contact with Dimitris Regginos, a music teacher from the southern part of Cyprus, the Greek part. We were both guitarists. He asked me if I knew about go. I was a chess player, but I had not heard of go, so he immediately taught me how to play. I liked the freedom of the game. It's different from chess, where all the pieces have to move in set ways. I studied hard in my first year and got to about 7 kyu, maybe 5 kyu. In 2004 I opened a go club. At first several people came to learn, but now we're down to just five. Two or them are Korean, and two are from Turkey, so I'm the only native-born Cypriot. There are more go players in the southern part of the island, about 15 to 20.
I've played in a couple of Korea Prime Minister Cups before. Every time I come I'm impressed by the improvements in the program and organization. They really make an effort, and it's been a good tournament every year. The only problem is the short schedule, playing six games in two days and then departing the next day, but I think most players understand that this is for economic reasons. My goals this year are to win half of my games and to become stronger.
Ten players showed for the Louisville Go Club’s first annual tournament on October 19 in Louisville, KY, including some players from the Cincinnati Go Club. An undefeated Chris Martin 4k (3-0, on right) took first place with Taylor Perkinson 6k (2-1 on left) in second.
- report by Asha Nagaiya
Is Capture Go merely a stepping stone to traditional go, or can it stand on its own as a viable game? In Memphis, two go players and teachers are working hard to answer that question.
The simplified rule set that master teacher Yasuda Yasutoshi 8P describes in his book Go As Communication has been used in hundreds of schools, after-school programs and libraries. Go players who teach Capture Go often hope to quickly move their pupils along to traditional go but Jay Jayaraman 9K and Graham Smart 9K wondered what would happen if a whole program focused just on Capture Go. They’re working with the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis (CIUM) where they’re teaching Capture Go to Chinese language instructors from CIUM-affiliated after-school programs in the Memphis area, who in turn will introduce hundreds of primary school students to the game this year. The program is currently active in 12 Shelby County elementary schools and will be adding more schools throughout the year, reaching an estimated 40-50 students per program. Jayaraman and Smart also plan to start Capture Go programs in middle and high schools in the area.
“We are not trying to teach go,” Jayaraman, the director of CIUM’s after-school programs told the EJ. “We are presenting 9×9 Capture Go strictly on its own merits, not as a ‘gateway game.’ We call the game we teach go, not Capture Go, so that children who become interested in the long-form game don’t have issues with transition. We hope that even students who don’t enjoy traditional go will have a little fun with Capture Go.” All students, not just winners, can earn Pokémon-style badges (created by Smart) to reward merit, encourage competition and create a sports-like atmosphere. Players will get badges for reaching certain goals, such as completing a certain number of games or playing at least one game with every other player.
The curriculum involves ten two-hour classes, presented as part of CIUM’s Chinese language and history program in partner schools. The American Go Foundation has provided 80 full size sets of stones and more than 200 9×9 boards so far, and Viz Media has granted permission to use Hikaru no Go anime and manga freely as part of their curriculum. Smart is also creating a series of introductory videos for use in the curriculum. The rule set is designed to be completely simple and solvable on the board. However, since the instructors are also new to the game, the organizers will serve as “experts on call” when the classes are taking place. Any instructor can send them a question, along with a picture of the board position if needed, and receive an immediate answer.
Jayaraman discovered the potential of Capture Go as a standalone game last summer when he served as the lead go instructor for CIUM’s K-12 Chinese Summer Immersion Camp. With 20 students ranging from five to eleven years old, he worried about losing them if the game seemed too complex, so he focused on Capture Go after discovering Let’s Play Go, Yasuda’s elegant yet simplified introduction to the game. Jayaraman and local player Wade Humbert “described Yasuda’s ‘Capture Go’ method and hoped for the best,” says Jayaraman. “To see a room full of children playing within thirty minutes of first hearing about the game was quite a treat. We set up daily classes, drawing upon the Freedman-Balwit curriculum available through the ‘Methods and Materials’ page on the AGA’s Teacher Resources site. To our surprise, only a handful of children showed any interest in advancing to traditional go, but they were all incredibly enthusiastic about Capture Go. Campers were actually excited about their homework! We held a tournament on the last day and combined homework scores with results to find the top finishers. Prizes included copies of Hikaru No Go and full size playing sets. It was a joy to watch their enthusiasm and progress.” Positive feedback from parents encouraged CIUM and the Memphis schools to expand the program into the school year. The Memphis program has four goals: reach the largest possible audience; re-envision go and Capture Go as team sports; engage parents, teachers and other stakeholders; strengthen ties with Confucius Institutes nationwide.
Jayaraman thinks one reason go more popular is that the go community has followed the top-down, expert-oriented teaching approach that has worked so well for chess. Unlike chess, however, go experts are few and far between. In addition, programs such as the middle school chess team seen in the recent documentary Brooklyn Castle have high infrastructure costs and are difficult to maintain. Chess-In-the-Schools spends millions of dollars teaching chess in New York City alone.
“There’s another pitfall in expert-based teaching methods,” Jayaraman believes. “Skilled go players often flood beginners with complexity, leaving them feeling hopelessly lost. But Capture Go is easy for anyone to learn. In our model, non-playing teachers and after-school staff receive basic instruction and then learn along with their students. Yasuda sensei never meant for Capture Go to be an introductory tool to regular go. The original program was designed to foster interaction using Capture Go as a great equalizer. Like him, we want to use Capture Go as a standalone vehicle for promoting the ‘four C’s’ — critical thinking, cooperation, competition and communication.”
- Roy Laird
“Thanks for the recent obituaries (In Memoriam: Philadelphia Go Players Hugh Albright and John Bender 10/10 EJ),” writes Bob Barber. “I think it’s a great idea to remember those with whom we’ve shared the game of go. I knew Hugh Albright very well from Congresses. He was perhaps 2 kyu when I was 10 kyu. He was always generous with his time. As I marched up to 1 dan, Hugh may have lingered at 2 kyu. We usually got in a game or two each year. I was at that lecture that John Bender gave at Congress. He looked like a model, and his companion looked like a model. And, he’d gone from zero to 4 dan in no time! I was very impressed. Now I read that he had large talents in other fields. Very sorry to hear that his intense life is over already.”