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The Game of Go “Gentlemen should not waste their time on trivial games -- they should play go.” -- Confucius, The Analects ca. 500 B. C. E. Anton Ninno Roy Laird, Ph.D. antonninno@yahoo.com roylaird@gmail.com special thanks to Kiseido Publications

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the game of go

The Game of Go

“Gentlemen should not waste their time on trivial games -- they should play go.”

-- Confucius,

The Analects

ca. 500 B. C. E.

Anton Ninno Roy Laird, Ph.D.

antonninno@yahoo.com roylaird@gmail.com

special thanks to Kiseido Publications

slide2

JAPAN CHINA KOREA

Go has several names. The Chinese call it wei-chi, also spelled weiqi. In Korea it’s baduk. Westerners generally use the Japanese word term i-go, or just go, because Japanese pioneers like Kaoru Iwamoto supported American go in the early days.

slide3

THE MOST POPULAR GAME

  • IN THE WORLD TODAY
  • Millions of fans in Japan, China, Korea
  • Top players earn millions
  • International tournaments pay up to $400K
slide4

THREE CLASSIC GAMES

  • BACKGAMMON: Man vs. fate
  • Element of chance
  • Risk/gambling (doubling cube)
  • CHESS: Man vs. man
  • War paradigm
  • “Perfect information”
  • Attack -- Total victory
  • GO: Man vs. self
  • Open paradigm
  • Share -- victory by one point
  • “Personal best”
slide5

THE ULTIMATE MERITOCRACY

“Go is the one game in which . . . everyone starts out equal, everyone begins with an empty board and with no limitations, and what happens thereafter is . . . only the quality of your own mind.”

-- William Pinckard, “Go and the Three Games “

in The Go Player’s Almanac

slide7

Go boards are made

of wood. The pieces

are called stones.

The best stones are made

of clamshell and slate,

but glass stones are

less expensive. Good

stones are usually kept in

wooden bowls. The

lids are used to hold

any captured stones.

slide8

Players take turns putting stones on the

361 intersections made by the 19-line grid. Black goes first. Nine handicap points are used to balance players of unequal skill. Each intersection is a point of territory, and each captured stone is also worth one point.

slide9

Go players hold the stones between their first and middle fingers, like chopsticks. They snap them down on the board with a sharp click.

slide10

The goal is to surround more points of territory than your opponent. Players may surround and capture their opponent’s stones.

slide11

To be safe from capture, a group of stones must have two eyes, meaning two or more, separate empty intersections inside its walls.

slide12

Players stake out the territory they want,

and then they fight and build walls to keep it.

slide13

The game is over when neither player can find anything else to do. Beginners often find it difficult to know when a game is over. Each player rearranges the opponent’s territory to make counting easy.

slide14

GO AND CHESS

  • A Comparison
  • Larger board, more plays per game

(200-300 vs. 50-60)

  • Strategic vs. tactical
  • Simpler rules; all pieces are equal
  • Becomes more complex as pieces fill the board
  • Blends competition with other elements
  • Win by one point, not total destruction
  • Universal ranks -- any two can play
  • No stalemates or draws -- a winner every time
slide16

DEPTH OF COMPLEXITY

Árpád Élo

43 levels

slide17

COMPUTERS CAN’T PLAY!

Go is so complex that the best programs routinely lose to talented children. Computer programmers call it “the last refuge of human intelligence.”

slide18

HANDICAP: THE GREAT EQUALIZER

Because the board is empty at the start of the game, the stronger player can give his opponent a “head start” to even things out. Nearly any two opponents can play a game that either of them could win..

slide19

COMMERCIAL PROGRAMS

  • Strongest ones are 6-8 kyu
  • Best ones make studying fun -- problems, games
  • Record and study your own games
slide20

UNIVERSAL RANKING SYSTEM

  • Similar to martial arts, golf
  • Rank yourself by playing ranked opponents
  • All serious players know their rank
  • Honest players will lose half of their games
  • Ultimately players compete with themselves
slide21

GO ETIQUETTE

  • Play to the opponent’s right hand
  • “Thank you for teaching me”
  • Prisoners in the lid
  • Count the opponent's territory
  • Return your stones to the bowl
slide22

GO ON THE INTERNET

  • FREE!
  • At least 1000 online any time of day or night
  • Anonymous play
  • Ratings are 3-5 stones lower
slide23

FREE SOFTWARE

  • Igowin -- http://www.smart-games.com/igowin.html
  • Handtalk -- http://www.yutopian.com/go/
  • GnuGo (open source) -- http://www.gnu.org/software/gnugo/gnugo.html
  • Game collections -- www.usgo.org/resources/internet.asp
slide24

TIME CONTROL

  • Regular time plus overtime (byo-yomi)
  • Asian style: x periods of y seconds each
  • Canadian style: x stones in y minutes
slide25

INTERNET GO SERVER

  • The original -- since 1991
  • 500+ participants online at all times
  • Many strong players
  • Simulcast important tournaments
  • Everyone sees everyone
slide26

KISEIDO GO SERVER

  • 400-1000 players of all levels at any time
  • Room-based environment
  • Java-based -- runs on everything
slide27

OTHER SERVERS

  • YAHOO! GAMES: 250-500 players at a time, including lots of beginners and others who like to play on a 9x9 board.
  • ASIAN SERVERS: Some sites in China, Korea and Japan are enabled -- to varying degrees -- in English
  • TURN-BASED SERVERS: Leave a message with your next move instead of playing in “real time”
  • Find them all at www.usgo.org/resources/servers.asp
slide28

ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS

  • Play quickly -- “lose 100 games”
  • Play stronger opponents
  • Ask for comments
  • Avoid repetitive thinking -- just try something
  • Keep your stones connected -- separate White
  • Think before ignoring a stronger player’s move
slide29

Go is at least 2000 years old, probably much older. No one knows where it came from. Some people think the board and stones were originally used to foretell the future, or as a calculator.

slide30

“When you and I discuss philosophy, it is as if we play go. If you do not answer, I will swallow you up.”

-- Zen Master Hongzhi ca. 700 A.C.E.

Painting with 17x17 board

ca. 690 A.C.E.

slide31

attributed to Kano Shoei (1519 - 1592)

THE FOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

During China’s “golden age” (the Tang and Song dynasties ca. 700-1400 A.D.) the cultured person mastered four skills: painting, calligraphy, lute-playing and go.

slide32

THE “MINISTER OF GO”

Tokugawa Ieyesu, the first shogun, established four “houses” to study go and compete in annual “Castle Games” of great national importance. Each year’s winner became the go-doroko (“Minister of go”), occupying a cabinet-level position in the government.

slide34

Go became a common theme in 19th century ukiyo-e prints. Here, Tadanobu, a famous samurai, fights off his enemies with a go board.

slide35

In this scene from The Tale of Genji, two women reminisce about the brief relationships with the Prince while playing go, and find peace.

slide36

General Kuan Yu, the hero of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, plays go while a surgeon attends his battle wounds. This ukiyo-e is by Katsushika Oi, daughter of the great Japanese master Hokusai,

slide39

WITH GO MAKE FRIENDS

This scroll, commissioned by an American traveler in Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square, uses the traditional Chinese four-character proverb format to say that when friends play go, their playing strengths and their friendship both get stronger.

slide40

CHAIRMAN MAO ON GO

“[War is] like a game of weiqi . . . Strongholds built by the enemy and bases by us resemble moves to dominate spaces on the board.”

-- Selected Military Writings

slide41

HENRY KISSINGER ON GO

“Chess has only two outcomes: draw and checkmate. The objective of the game . . . is total victory or defeat – and the battle is conducted head-on, in the center of the board. The aim of go is relative advantage; the game is played all over the board, and the objective is to increase one's options and reduce those of the adversary. The goal is less victory than persistent strategic progress.”

-- Newsweek, 11/8/04

slide42

CITICORP CEO JOHN REED ON GO

“Competition . . . [is] about positioning yourself wisely over time, not wiping the other guy out on specific products. I approach competition like the Chinese board game go. You see where the other players have put their chips, and decide where to put your chips.”

-- John Reed, Chairman, Citicorp

Harvard Business Review December 1990

slide43

THE WAY OF GO

  • Troy Andersen
  • Global Local
  • Owe Save
  • Slack Taut
  • Reverse Forward
  • Us Them
  • Lead Follow
  • Expand Focus
slide44

The Master of Go, Yasunari Kawabata’s poignant chronicle of this historic 1938 game between the last honinbo and a brilliant young upstart, won the Nobel Prize for literature.

slide45

A BEAUTIFUL GAME

Russell Crowe plays brilliant, unstable mathematician John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, Oscar-winner for Best Picture of 2001. In real life, Nash is a charter member of The American Go Association.

slide46

Trevanian’s 1979 best-seller chronicles the life of Nicholai Hel, orphaned during WW I and raised by a Japanese go master to become the world’s most accomplished assassin.

slide47

The Go Masters, an epic tale of an enduring friendship between two great players -- one Chinese, the other Japanese -- during World War II , brought Japanese and Chinese film teams together for the first time. It achieved wide popularity but is not currently available.

slide48

In Pi, a cult classic, a demented mathematician tries to find a formula for the universe, using a go board.

slide49

HIKARU NO GO

In this popular “coming-of-age” story, the ghost of a famous player guides our hero to the pinnacle of the go world -- or does he?

slide50

GO IN AMERICA

Chinese immigrants probably played the first games in North America among themselves here in the 1800’s.

slide51

Japanese professionals such as Kaoru Iwamoto 9-dan helped early US players, and The American Go Association was formed in 1937. Most major US cities have go clubs.

slide52

THE IWAMOTO CENTER

Mr. Iwamoto was in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. After seeing the results of first atomic bomb, he vowed to spread international peace and understanding through go. He established Go Centers in New York, Seattle, Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro.

slide53

IT’S A BIG CHALLENGE

The number of possible go games has been estimated at 10761 (OMNI, June 1991), far more than the number of subatomic particles in the known universe.

slide54

RATINGS

  • Estimate based on current performance
  • To get a rating? Play in a rated tournament
  • Online ratings -- 3-5 ranks lower
slide55

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR RANK?

  • Beginners start at +/- 30-35 kyu
  • Kadoban -- win three in a row = -1 rank
  • >1 kyu = shodan (black belt, “new master”)
  • 7-dan is the highest official amateur rank, but some 7-dans are stronger than others
  • Pro ranks (Japan, China, Korea): 1-9 dan
slide56

WHAT ABOUT EVEN GAMES?

  • Evenly matched players choose for color -- one takes a handful of stones, the other guesses “odd” or “even” by placing one or two stones on the board: the winner takes Black
  • Black pays White 6.5 points komi for the privilege of making the first move
slide57

GO IN THE WESTERN WORLD

  • Did not transfer to Western culture
  • “Outside the box” -- non-Western thought
  • Lacks a decisive ending
  • No culture-specific spinoffs