Did AlphaGo make a social breakthrough for the West?

It seems to me that the highly-publicized match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol has brought Go into a new light for many Western citizens.

Before those 5 famous games, I had been only vaguely conscious of Go, believing that it was primarily the domain of scientists, programmers, pretentious sandal-wearing hippies, and anyone else who believed that playing a semi-obscure game of antiquity would automatically upgrade their social position to a bona fide member of the intelligentsia.

Anecdotally, I never bothered to learn anything about Go until that match. Since then, and especially since the AlphaGo documentary, several of my chess playing friends have broached the subject without prompting. We have had great conversations about Go regarding the development of Google’s program and the overarching philosophies of the game compared to Chess.

So my questions are thus:
Has anyone else noticed a recently increased awareness and appreciation for Go in Western culture?

Do you think AlphaGo made a social breakthrough for Go in the Western world?

If so, what do you think is the best way to capitalize on the momentum of this recent publicity?

Do you think Go in the Americas and Europe will ever occupy the same station as it does in certain parts of Asia, rivaling the popularity of our local Chess variant?

Side note about Chess: I always thought it was the height of arrogance for Americans to simply anglicize the name of the game’s progenitor (Shatranj), as if no other modern version existed.

I was unaware of the existence of go before the Lee Sedol match. Made me start playing :slight_smile: I doubt that it’ll ever come close to being as popular as chess in the Western world, though.

EDIT: Especially since the occasion on which it suddenly became famous was “computers are better at this than humans now”.

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I’ve known about Go for quite a while, but I only learned how to play and continued on and off for a few months, then dropped it. Many years later I randomly run into the news about an AI playing Go and that caught my attention; after following the famous Lee Sedol matches I got into it immediately! I have also noticed that Go is now more popular at least at some level. I had some friends asking me about it when they saw me playing on the phone, and also at work some people interested about AI knew about it.

Also, in the alpha go documentary at the end credits it’s stated that short after the Lee Sedol games there was a shortage of go boards reported all over the world so… there you :slight_smile:

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I think it did increase peoples awareness of it. And a few did get interested in playing it. But at least here in America, I think intellectual games have a stigma. As being not cool. Geeky. It is quite a hurdle to get people playing who might enjoy it if they gave it a chance. Also there are so many other things like cat videos and people falling off skate boards to take up our spare time.

On a side note I enjoy square dancing and contra dancing, which when people dare to try it they actually find quite fun! But getting people over the stigmas is the real challenge.

An example above… Yes its a shout out!


Is the calling for the benefit of the people watching? Because the dancers seem to be doing the moves ahead of the call…

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The calling is so the dancers know what to do. I rewatched a portion of the video and noted the calls do come prior to the movement. There are 68 calls in main stream square dancing and another 30 in plus. (In plus the calls are more several more movements and more complicated and fun) In a singing call dance the calls are sung and tend to repeat at certain points. In whats known as a patter, they can call whatever they wish.

I strongly encourage my fellow GO players to look into it. Square dancers are friendly folk, we call it friendship set to music.

I will include a couple more to show a patter. And a different singer.

and a larger dance in Sweden. Yes itś danced around the world including Japan, and Taiwan.

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Maybe I will look into it once I have memorized all the common Joseki in Go (another kind of “square dance” if you take my meaning) :grinning::+1:

EDIT: Before anyone says anything, yes, I realize that it is not the “squares” but the vertices which are of greatest import to the game of Go. I also realize the lines on a goban traditionally make spaces that are slightly rectangular and not perfect squares. I also realize that the game stones are generally not anything even resembling a square.
I stand by my pun.


Apparently that shortage in go equipment extends to go literature as well. I’ve had a couple of books on order for more than three months. I had to phone the supplier just to confirm that my order hadn’t fallen through a crack somewhere.

“Enquiring minds want to know.”

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I understood the pun without explanation! :rofl:


I like this forum :grinning:

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AFAIK this is only true for Japanese Go boards, not for traditional Chinese boards; and I don’t know about Korean boards.

(If anybody knows more then please correct me.)

Also, it’s “Go”, not allcaps :wink:
(Only mentioning this b/c your writing “GO” could be understood as an acronym or as SHOUTING.)

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Fixed, cause I’m not a shouter.


The influence of the AG vs. Lee Sedol match in spurring interest in go has been widely noted, I think. Yes, it was probably a breakthrough, or at least the largest publicity event we are likely to see. Furthermore, AG has become an icon of AI in my opinion, as I wrote in a recent thread (AlphaGo as an Icon of AI), which means that it will continue to exert some residual influence in terms of bringing go to people’s attention.

However, the number of go players had already increased enormously in the U.S. before the advent of AG. When I first played go in the late 1960s and early 70s, it was almost impossible to find anyone who had ever heard of the game here in the Washington, D.C. area. Now there are 3 AGA clubs in Northern Virginia (and I don’t know how many in Maryland). The best way to capitalize on this surge of interest in the U.S., IMHO, would be to establish go club in middle schools and high schools. Many, if not most, such schools have chess clubs, but few if any have go clubs. However, I do not think go will ever attain the same level of popularity as chess in the West. The tradition is lacking, and something in the nature of the game, perhaps the immobility of the pieces, seems to have less appeal to the Western mind.


Not just the Western mind. As I understand it, Shogi is more popular than Go in Japan.


… or perhaps the fact that it is much harder!

While Shogi and Chess share in common that they have moving pieces, they also share in common they they have a smaller board with much smaller game tree…



While I agree with you here, and I could be wrong about this, I think chess is actually less and less popular these days. I’ve been surprised quite a few times hearing people they’ve never learn how to play chess, and not only from younger people but well grown ups and educated people (I know education has nothing to do, but usually are more interested in this type of things).

On the other hand other casual board games are growing in popularity, so I guess people don´t “have the time or patience” to learn and devote themselves to just one game even if at least to a certain extent.

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Thank the Internet for that. Seems most people in my part of the world choose artificial (and purposeless, IMO) life in cyberspace over real-world skills and social exchange.


Well I am sure many people would view us spending MONTHS learning to place stones really well as purpouseless as well :smiley: so you know… Each to his own. :slight_smile:


I guess my point is I believe games like Go and Chess develop a person more fully than Farmville and Candy Crush.

And there are other cool skills on the wane as well. Music, art, dance, building things. Their decline is just symptomatic of a population that prefers cat videos and click bait articles to fill their free time.

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Yeah, people like to think that THEIR hobby is more wortwhile and honorable than other’s… Makes them feel better about themselves.

No, sorry :smiley: I don’t mean to sound salty, but really let everyone enjoy what they like. And honestly candy crush is a fun game and requires quick decision making and often a good level of reading as well. I played a bunch it was fun. You do not need to diminish what other people like for fun, and a go player is not a better person than a candy crush player by default…