Anglo-USSR Telephone Match

British Go Journal No. 41. May 1978. Page 8.

Alison Cross

This historic event, sponsored by Japan Air Lines, took place at the London go Centre on Friday 14th April. A four-man British team played a team from the Leningrad Go Club in a match lasting 10 hours. The result was a 2-2 draw.

The idea for the match was conceived at the European Go Congress in Rijswijk, Holland last summer. Valeri Astashkin attended the Congress to play in the European Championship and approached Matthew Macfadyen with the suggestion of a telephone match that would give more of his countrymen a chance to play opponents outside Russia.

After an exchange of letters and telegrams the match was fixed for April 14th. Japan Air Lines London office offered financial support to the British team and also covered the distribution of publicity. Without their generous help the match would have been merely a pipedream.

Telephone contact with Leningrad was established early on Friday morning and the match began at 10am. The moves were relayed using algebraic notation and there was no real language problem, although the quality of the telephone line was initially poor. The time limits were 1½ hours per player and 1 minute byoyomi, but so much time was consumed in relaying the moves that it was not possible to conclude all the games.

The games on Board 1 and 4 were unfinished as the time available ran out. On neither board could the players agree that either had a decisive advantage, and so, unusually, draws were agreed.

A press reception was held in the early afternoon which was attended by representatives of the Mainichi Shimbun, Soviet Weekly and the G.P.O. who drank sake dispensed by a girl in a traditional Japanese kimono.

Several radio stations announced the match and later reported the result and the London evening papers also reported the event.

From every point of view the match was a great success and the British players hope to repeat this venture with clubs from other countries, including Japan and America.

Board Black White Result
1 Valeri Astashkin, 5-dan Jon Diamond, 6-dan Agreed drawn
2 Tony Goddard, 5-dan Giorgi Nilov, 5-dan White won by resignation
3 Alexander Vasilov, 4-dan Matthew Macfadyen, 5-dan White won by resignation
4 Adam Pirani, 3-dan Boris Surupov, 3-dan Agreed drawn

Black: Alexander Vasilov, 4d, USSR
White: Matthew Macfadyen, 5d, UK
Telphone match.
The game-file in SGF format.

Matthew Macfadyen played the most interesting game of the match against Vasilov. In these brief comments, Matthew concentrates on the territorial potential of the positions, rather than the tactics, and on the concept of commitment.

Figure 1 (1-100)

  • White 34: After 33 both side have fairly secure corners. How, if at all, should white expand his upper side? As soon as white commits himself to making a large territory there, Black can make forcing plays building* his own positions on the right and left sides. Black's prospects on the right are better, because I can attack his 5-11-13, so I played 34 and 36 to nullify his potential there.
    * [BGJ omitted 'building'.]
    34 allows black to make territory on the lower side, but he must make some territory on the lower right, and I preferred to commit him to this territory first, allowing myself forcing sequences such as 46-52, so that I can play flexibly in the centre.
  • Black 37 was locally a reasonable play, but a more interesting approach would be to play 37' at A, inviting white to commit himself to a large upper territory. If white answers with 38' at B, then the sequence black 40, white C, black 37, white D, black 41, white E might follow; This is not disastrous for white but it leaves him very little to work towards. I would probably have answered black A at 81 on the left side.
    Diagram 1
    BGJ only listed the moves in words, it did not have this diagram.

  • Black 41 is poor, he is unduly worried about White's upper territory.
  • Black 45 was still misguided, the right side is now more important. Notice that although white has lost his own prospects for a large territory, black has sacrificed his prospects on the left and right sides, and weakened his upper left group, which is barely alive.
  • Black 59 and 61 are vulgar.
  • White 64-72 were also very bad. White's centre wall looks impressive but it is black's turn and he should do something about it. A better approach for White would be start a fight on the left, with a sequence like 76-89.
    If White had not committed himself on the lower side, Black would have to be more careful of his lower left group.
  • Black 77 & 95: Black protected at 77 and 95, but these plays are timid; with the strong Black position on the middle lower side he could afford to be weaker.
    After 75 I (Matthew) had the initiative again and the successful sequence to 110 wrapped up the game.
Figure 2 (101-173)

The yose was uneventful. Play stopped at 173, but all the large points have been taken. Black is about 20 points behind, and resigned.


This article is from the British Go Journal Issue 41
which is one of a series of back issues now available on the web.

Last updated Thu May 04 2017. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.