Celebrities who have played Go

Actors

Musicians

Authors

This page lists some well-known Europeans and Americans who have played Go. It does not attempt to list well-known East Asian people who have played Go, for instance, Kawabata, the Nobel Prize winning author of "The Master of Go", Morihei Ueshiba who started Aikido, and the Chinese painter Huang Bihong (1879-1955), who compared painting with playing Go in which a skilled player is good at building up living empty spaces.

Celebs

Philip W Anderson

Philip W Anderson

Dr. Philip W Anderson was Nobel laureate for Physics in 1977. He learnt Go while studying in Japan in the 1950s and also worked in the UK in Cambridge (1962-3) and Oxford (1993-4). He was awarded an honorary san dan certificate by the Japanese Nihon Ki-in at a tournament in Princeton in 2007.
Dan Barry

Daniel Barry

Daniel Barry, U.S. astronaut, was the first person to play Go in space, replaying the opening moves of a famous game with his Japanese crew-mate Koichi Wakata. His board, which was played on with BGA sticky numbers rather than stones, is now in the Nihon Ki-in's Go Museum in Tokyo. He holds an honorary 2 dan diploma from the Nihon Ki-in.
Jacob Bronowski

Jacob Bronowski

Eminent scientist and broadcaster Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974), famous for the series "The Ascent of Man", is known to have played Go and Chess with his young daughters in the 1950s.
Nolan Bushnell

Nolan Bushnell

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, named his company after the Go term. He also founded a company called Sente. Go is his favourite game as specified in this interview clip. As soon as he discovered Go his fascination with Chess left him (he had been number two board at University of Utah). As of August 2012 he is CEO of Brainrush and still plays Go online on KGS.
John Conway

John Horton Conway

John Conway is a prolific mathematician active in the theory of finite groups, knot theory, number theory, combinatorial game theory and coding theory. He has also contributed to many branches of recreational mathematics, notably the invention of the cellular automaton called the Game of Life.

He says that he invented the concept of Surreal Numbers, a term actually coined by Donald Knuth, in the course of analyzing Go while playing Jon Diamond and watching Jon play Tony Goddard at Cambridge University in about 1967.

A biography of him, including a picture of Jon and part of a Go game, is being written (as of December 2011).

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, came across Go from a Japanese colleague at Princeton in the early 1950s. There are references to him playing Go in the book "A Beautiful Mind" about John Nash, who was also at Princeton. Einstein was awarded an honorary dan certificate by the Japanese Nihon Ki-in.
Paul Erdos

Paul Erdős

Paul Erdős, 1913-1996, was a Hungarian described as the most prolific mathematician. According to the Washington Post's obituary his only hobby was playing Go.
Arman the Artist

Arman the Artist (Fernandez)

Arman Pierre Fernandez, 1928-2005, was a French-born Pop Art sculptor who lived in America in later life. His obituary reported that he played a bit of Go in his apartment after retirement.
Bill Gates

Bill Gates

Bill Gates was the chairman of Microsoft and played Go to some extent; it was mentioned on their web site in 1997. In his book of the same year, "Bill Gates Speaks", it says on p227 that he wanted to be best at Chess and also at Go, two of his many disappointments. Certainly many of his employees do play, such as Ya-Qin Zhang, MD of Microsoft Research Asia, who appeared playing Go in a magazine advert for the IEEE ("Dr. Dobb's Journal" March 2006).
Edward Lasker

Edward Lasker

American (but German born) Edward Lasker (1885-1981), a distant relation of Emanuel, was also a Chess master who played Go. He was a founder of the AGA and was awarded an honorary dan certificate by the Japanese Nihon Ki-in. He wrote Modern Chess Strategy with an appendix on Go, and in 1934 Go and Go Moku. In the mid-twentieth century, many English speakers first learned of Go from the latter. There are now many better introductions to the game, but it is still in print. Working as an engineer he invented the breast pump.
Emanuel Lasker

Emanuel Lasker

Dr. Emanuel Lasker, 1868-1941, was World Chess Champion from 1894 to 1921. He considered Go a deeper game than Chess and regretted only starting Go in his 30s. He was ranked number 5 in Germany at one time and a picture of him playing with the Dueballs is in the collection of the Lasker Society in Berlin.
Howard Marks

Howard Marks "Mr. Nice"

Howard Marks was a major smuggler of marijuana until his arrest, extradition and imprisonment, as described in his autobiography Mr. Nice. This book describes (page 54-56) how he had a Go set as a wedding present and played Go in London in the 1960s with a friend, Graham Plinston. Go also features in the 2010 biopic of his life.
John Nash

John Forbes Nash

Eminent mathematician and Nobel Prize for Economics winner John Forbes Nash (1928- ) was a Go player at Princeton. In the film "A Beautiful Mind" (where he is played by Russell Crowe), Nash plays Go at Princeton. He claims the game is flawed as he played a perfect game yet lost. The sound track to the film has a track called "Playing a Game of Go" and features vocal sounds by Charlotte Church. The book "A Beautiful Mind" is by Sylvia Nasar and has six Go references in its index.
Barry Simmons

Barry Simmons

Barry Simmons is a British quiz expert, best known for being one of BBC 2's "Eggheads". Barry, from Leeds, used to play Go regularly, at around 1 kyu level, and his son Mark was Under-14 Champion in 1989 and 1990.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

Alan Turing, 1912-1954, is best known for his early work on computability. In the second world war he worked at Bletchley Park as a code-breaker. He gave his name to the idea of the "Turing Machine", and to the "Turing Test".

He played Go at Cambridge in the 1930s and introduced Go to Dr. Jack Good at Bletchley Park; Good later played Go with mathematician Roger Penrose and publicised Go by writing about it in the New Scientist in 1965.

Andrew Hodges maintains a web site on Alan Turing, and has written Alan Turing: the Enigma.

A modern Go board is in the collection at Bletchley Park in recognition of his contribution.

Will Wright

Will Wright

Will Wright is the computer games inventor responsible for the SimCity and Spore games. He has been a fan of Go since his mother bought him a set when he was seven. He likes that Go has simple rules but deep strategies.

Many other scientists and computer experts have played or had an interest in Go, for instance Ralph H Fox from Princeton, Claude Chevalley, Lee E McMahon, Lise Meitner, Max Newman and John Holland.

Actors

Michael Culver

Michael Culver

The actor Michael Culver is the strongest British player on this page. He holds the rank of 1-dan.

He is shown here in the role of Captain Needa. Lorth Needa was captain of the star destroyer Avenger in the Battle of Hoth, and was killed after apologising to Darth Vader for allowing Han Solo's Millennium Falcon to (as he thought) escape. Once, in a period flying drama, he had to read a magazine and selected a copy of "Go Review".

Paul Giamatti

Paul Giamatti

American born actor Paul Giamatti (1967-) is noted as a Go player. He has appeared in films "Planet of the Apes", "Man on the Moon", "American Splendor" and "Sideways", among many others. He was interviewed on UK's "Richard and Judy Show" in August 2006, but did not mention Go.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams

Robin Williams, the American comedy actor, is known to be a big player of games, including computer and role-playing games, and is known to have bought a Go board and stones.

Several actors have been made to play Go as part of their television or film appearances. The most famous of these are Russell Crowe, Dick van Dyke, Mark Margolis and Lucy Liu. It is not known if any of the actors involved actually took to playing Go. American actress Olivier Wilde recommended to her director that Go featured in her 2010 movie "Tron: Legacy", as something computers could not do. Don Cheadle is another actor reported to be a Go player. Producer Michael Loceff is reported as 10 kyu and was responsible for Go appearing in the third series of "24".

The EGF has a full list of Go on Film.

Musicians

Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett

The late Syd Barrett (1946-2006) was the founder of Pink Floyd. He is reported as staying up late into the night in the late 1960s playing Go with then girlfriend, the model Lyndsey Korner. He was born in Glisson Road, in Cambridge, in a house now occupied by a 3 dan.

John Ellis

John Ellis

John Ellis (b 1952) is a musician, composer and designer who was with the Vibrators in the 1970s and later guitarist for the Stranglers in the 1990s. According to his website, a musical project of his was to be "The New Master of Go"; he says he studied the game many years ago.

Bert and John record cover

Bert and John

Musicians Bert Jansch (1943-2011) and John Renbourn (b 1944) featured Go playing on the cover of their 1966 album "Bert and John" and also on the reworking "After the Dance" in 1992. The booklet issued with the remastered CD version of "Bert and John" features more scenes from the Go game between the two performers (photos by Brian Shuel). Solo album "The Hermit" by John Renbourn also features a Go board. According to their friend Billy Connolly, the two still used to play between takes when making the 1992 biopic "Accoustic Routes".

The Mole's Record Cover

The Mole

Canadian DJ and record producer Colin de la Plante must know Go as his 2005 "minimal" electronic music record "One Foot Either Side of the Ladder" features dogs playing Go on the cover.
Haskell Small

Haskell Small

American Go player Haskell Small has composed a two piano piece called "A Game of Go" which is based on one of the games of Shusaku. It is available on a 7-track CD of the same name in collaboration with Norman Dello Joio. This has also been recorded on CD by Susan Grace and Alice Ryback. You can listen and watch the game on Youtube Part 1 (7:55 mins)   Part 2 (4:00 mins). Haskell's 2014 album "The Rothko Room: Journeys in Silence" talks about Go in the liner notes.
Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart

Most readers of this page will already know a lot about Rod Stewart.

When he was on tour with Geoffrey Gray as tour doctor, Geoffrey taught him to play Go.

We are also told Adam Faith was made, by his agent, to learn Go from Bob Hitchens.

One I, Two Eyes record cover

Raoul Walton

German modern musician Raoul Walton must know Go as he records under the name "Wei Chi" and has an album called "One I, Two Eyes" (2004).
Go record cover

Stomu Yamashta

Japanese composer and percussion/synth/keyboard player Stomu Yamashta (born Yamashita Tsutomu) produced three albums starting in 1976 as part of his "Go" project. The first album "Go" is based on a game of Go (play side 2 first). Steve Winwood and Michael Shrieve were the other named performers on that album.
The pop-rock band Creed is supposed to have had shots of Go-playing in a video from about 2000 or 2001. In the US, Elvis Costello released an album called "Taking Liberties", with a track "Black and White World", and another album called "Punch the Clock", but these are not about Go. The jury is still out on whether Forward Russia's album "Give Me a Wall", that features possible Go-related lyrics, is to do with Go or not.

Authors

Several authors either play Go or are familiar with it, as can be seen from their books. A list of novels and other books featuring Go gives reviews of some of the more substantial mentions of Go.

Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-, lives in Oregon and is a prolific writer of science fiction. Among her best-known works are the "Earthsea" trilogy, "The Wind's Twelve Quarters" and "Always Coming Home". The first of the Hainish Cycle of books is "The Left Hand of Darkness" and it mentions Go in chapter 16.
Joel Turnipseed

Joel Turnipseed

Joel Turnipseed is a keen American Go player and author of "Baghdad Express" about the Gulf War.

Further information on the Go-playing of those listed above will be welcomed by the webmaster, as will information on other Go-playing celebrities.

Some of the books, films and albums mentioned on this page are available from Amazon. You can also follow these links:





Last updated Wed Mar 19 2014. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.