Stories from the Past

Steven Burrall - How I Learned to Play Go

How I learned to play Go: There was a kid on my block, when I was 10 and he was 12 years old, who read Siddhartha and became fascinated by Eastern culture. That led to a lot of additional reading and several new hobbies, including falconry and making clothing out of leather. He read about Go in one of his books, and bought a set somewhere, and taught himself to play from whatever instructions came with the set. He then taught all the other kids in the neighborhood to play, and for a while, it replaced slot car racing as the local pastime.

Richard Dolen- How I learned to play

When I was 14, I attended a summer camp and became friendly with the camper from Japan. After the summer was over, he invited me for dinner to his parents’ home in New York City.

His father turned out to be Nobel Prize winner Hideki Yukawa, then Visiting Professor at Columbia University. After dinner, where I had my first tofu, sashimi, tempura and other strange-textured foods, he showed me another strange object, a 6 or 8 inch thick go board with legs.

He invited me to play, but I told him I didn’t know how. He offered to give me 9 stones. I didn’t know what that meant and over-awed, politely declined. The next year, my High School Math Teacher told the class about this great game called Go. But again, too busy with other extra-curricular activities, I didn’t follow up on the opportunity to learn. Nine years later, in graduate school, a math professor posted a notice of a lecture-demonstration on the game of Go. With a clear memory of my previous unfulfilled contacts with the subject, I decided finally to learn what it was about. The professor, Morgan Ward was about 1-dan, and gave a blackboard talk explaining the history of the game and its rules. Very logical and clear–what could be simpler.
Then I went to the demonstration part of the program. He had invited some 3 to 5-dan players from the local Japanese Go club to come and play. But I was very surprised that what they were doing on the board had apparently absolutely nothing to do with the rules I thought I understood from the lecture.
Totally baffling. I began to get interested. A few days later, by coincidence, I saw two physicists playing go. They said they were just beginners, but I didn’t understand what they were doing either.
My interest being piqued, I finally got myself a board and a book (Arthur Smith) and taught myself. Later I discovered the Japanese go club and started playing there.

—Richard Dolen

Yunxuan Li

My favorite congress is the one in Santa Barbara last year 2011. I have only been to two congresses in all, the one in Santa Barbara and the one in Washington D.C in 2009. I didn’t really like the 2009 one because I was in 5th grade at that time and I almost didn’t know anyone that was there. However, the one in Santa Barbara was much better than Washington D.C. for me. Firstly, I live in LA, CA, so it is not that far away to drive to Santa Barbara. Secondly, the air in Santa Barbara is really fresh since it is near the ocean. which I love very much. Thirdly, I got to know a lot of Go players through the past 3 years. So this time when I went, I wasn’t as lonely as last time. I had a lot of fun playing with my friends, eating with them and talking with them. It was a very enjoyable. I won three plaques as well. One was for the 1st place of the 2D division; one was for the champion of youth team tournaments and another one for the 1st place of the diehard tournament in Dan division. The time I had in Santa Barbara was so fun that when it was time to leave, I felt really sad. After I got back home, beautiful memories from SB often came to my mind .

Mark Rubenstein

One of my favorite experiences at a Go Congress was last year in Colorado Springs. I didn’t have a partner for Pair Go, and wasn’t planning on playing in the tournament. But then this adorable little girl asked me very politely if I would like to be her partner. Of course, I said yes!

We didn’t win, but that hardly mattered. I almost felt like a proud father watching her play.

Where else but over a Go board would she and I have ever met? We shared a wonderful time in silence, and I have no doubt that if we meet again and play each other, she will be giving me a sizable handicap!

Mark Rubenstein

How I learned Go!

Bart Lipofsky The University of Florida was much smaller in 1965, around 15,000 students. I was a graduate student in physics when one on the professors, Billy Thomas, discovered a go set manufactured by the Lowell Toy company. The local department stroe had stocked a few of them and Dr. Thomas began hosting a weekly Friday night game at his home. The Lowell go set had a folding cardboard goban, plastic stones (flat on one side), and a pamphlet describing the rules.

2006 congress

2006 Congress – An Historical Perspective

Only after the event we who were consumed with the day-to-day logistics could realize that this Congress will also be seen as an historical turning point in American go. And not because this was perhaps the best organized event with unarguably the handsomest staff ever.

I expect the real story that will emerge was not who put out the fire on the Ejournal laptop, but the emergence of a new generation of young and very powerful American players. At the start of the tournament all the expectations were that professional 7D Mingjiu Jiang would coast to the open title, with his only potential rival being Jie Li, who was the odds-on favorite to repeat as Ing Amateur champion. And in fact the two did meet in the final round of the Open, with Mingjiu winning a tremendous battle by a half point. But it didn’t matter - that game was for second or third place.

Early in the week I watched the playoff games for the Redmond Cup between two 15-year-olds - Curtis Tang and Andy Liu, and was impressed by the power of both their play. Tang won both games convincingly and Ifelt sorry for his opponent, who played quite well, and hoped he wouldn’t become discouraged. I needn’t have been concerned - Andy proceeded to race through the top section of the Open, winning all six games with a devastating attacking style. In the crucial fifth round game against Mingjiu Jiang he invaded everywhere, creating ko situations in once secure positions all over the board, and wound up defeating the pro by 20 points on the board. Andy had used scarcely one hour of his two allotted whileMingjiu was in byo-yomi, and the stolid pro seemed visibly shaken as his position disintegrated with the slight 15-year-old, still with plenty of time left himself, setting up a blitz pace at the end. Similarly in the Ing Cup, 17-year-old Zhaonian Chen (darkmage on kgs) won the title after dispatching Jie Li earlier in the week.

There were at least five other new teenagers playing regularly in the top dozen boards besides 17-year old Eric Lui, who seemed eclipsed by the new stars. And just a few years earlier we were calling Yuan Zhou “The Kid” – he now seemed among the older of the top players.

Charles Alden