I first encountered Go in my gap year at work, where I was writing bits of the operating system for the long-defunct mainframe computer company English Electric-Leo-Marconi. I was struck by the novelty of the game and immediately went to the limit of my teenage budget, constructing a board drilled with 361 pinholes with coloured drawing pins for stones.
With less than a dozen games of Go under my belt, I took up Bridge instead at University, but returned to Go a few years later. I founded the Corby Go Club, moved to Manchester, where I became the secretary and reached a weak 1-kyu grade. Marriage, children and other hobbies intervened and although I occasionally looked at Go books, that was it for some 30 years.
I had always valued in Go both the friendly community and the mental challenge from the huge range of strategic concepts. So come retirement from a varied life in I.T., I thought it would it would be fun to make one more push – from my supposed 1 kyu level and reach shodan. Big shock. Even after getting back into practice, I was just 5 kyu. In my absence, somebody had moved the goalposts, as seems quite clear from anecdotes, player graphs and Toby Manning’s earlier BGJ article “Why am I getting weaker?”
It has also been a surprise – after my 30-year gap – to find so many of the faces unchanged and the BGA membership, at its lowest level since records began. This despite the evidence from the website of a huge amount of effort and professionalism from those running the BGA. No doubt we have to blame the internet and other competition for people’s time, but I’ll see what I can contribute on this front.
I have found tournaments a joy, particularly the two-day ones (Irish Go Congress, British Go Congress, Scottish Open, Durham, Welsh Open, Belfast, Isle Of Man, Mind Sports Olympiad, Cornwall, Three Peaks, and London Open), which allow more time for socialising and local exploring. I recently took over the small Shropshire tournament  and hope to quietly develop that as an attraction for kyu players and chasers of Stacey points .