Excerpts from the AGA E-Journal

AGA = Australian Go Association
AGA = American (USA not actually all of the Americas) Go Association

1 Like


“I must chime in on the poker article flap,” writes Paul Celmer of the Triangle Go Group (NC), “I enjoyed the article and feel it in no way detracted from the E-journal.” However, Celmer, continues.

"The article and the reaction to it revive a line of inquiry I have often wished someone would pursue. That is, what is the mysterious and intriguing connection between go and poker? Many go players are passionate poker players, as can be seen by a post-midnight visit to many a Go Congress (our own go club here in North Carolina was founded by a fellow who had a weekly poker game for over 40 years).

Also, there is at least one pro-level go player that is also a professional poker player (and there was a strong AGA 7 dan here in North Carolina who left town two years ago to pursue a pro poker career. Wish we knew what happened to him…). In our local club, at least half of our go players are avid poker players."

“So what is the connection? Love of games and competition? That seems too broad, as there are many games that would fit this criteria. Love of gambling? Hmm. Possible. Of course, a gambling style can only take one so far, at least in go. I suspect it has something to do with the fact both games appeal to the holistic-thought habits of the typical go player. Unlike most games, both poker and go present a stimulating puzzle to both the mathematical and the intuitive sides of our minds. But this should be investigated further. And I bet I can figure it out if you will give me a hand. Who has a table, board, chips, stones, and cards?”

16 May 2005

The “pro-level go player that is also a professional poker player” alluded to was very likely Cha Minsu, aka Jimmy Cha, who “routinely earns $1,000,000 a year at poker”. In the process of research, though, I discovered that Janice Kim “placed 4th in the World Poker Tour Ladies Championship in 2008”.

By Rick Lindeman

(…) in the early nineties Kaoru Iwamoto set up continental go centers in Amsterdam, Seattle, New York City and Sao Paolo. Like Seattle, Amsterdam, and New York, Sao Paolo turns out to have a strong connection to Japan. When the city’s growth took off in the early twentieth century, Japanese workers were recruited to construct the railways that supported the development of the quickly growing metropolis, and they arrived by boat in large numbers at Santos, the nearby harbor city.

Today, with 18 million inhabitants, Sao Paolo is the third largest city in the world, after Mexico City and Tokyo. Although the railways have been dismantled, there are still over a million Japanese living in Sao Paolo, mostly in an area known as Liberdade. According to Paulistanos (as Sao Paolo residents call themselves), this part of the city is even more Japanese than Tokyo itself, and boasts no less than three daily Japanese newspapers. (…)

When I arrived at the Center I found a room full of older Japanese gentlemen at the boards, using the exact same go stones as those used at our own European Go Center back in Amsterdam. Upstairs from the playing room, I met Mr. Henri Iamashita of the Go Center, who was presiding over the Brazilian Championship, which doubles as a qualification tournament for the World Amateur Go Championship. The leading Brazilian, Ronaldo Yasuki, took a very respectable eighth place in 2000.

Around five thousand Paulistanos play go, according to Mr. Iamashita. In addition to the Go Center, where older Japanese gather to play go daily, there’s also a Chinese and a Korean club, and an annual tournament is held between these three clubs. Another thousand go players are distributed through the rest of Brazil. Brazilian go players also participate in international tournaments. Once a year the Center sends a delegation to the Latin America tournament, which includes countries from Mexico to Chile. Especially large delegations have gone when the tournament has been held in one of the neighboring countries, Paraguay, Uruguay, or Argentina.

CALVIN SUN TAPPED FOR KOREAN KID’S TOURNEY: Calvin Sun 3d has been chosen to represent the United States at next month’s children’s tournament in Korea, sponsored by the Korean Baduk Association. The 8-year-old is a recent top qualifier for the World Youth Goe Championship. “Calvin’s outstanding results in the 12th Redmond Cup Junior division confirmed that he is playing at his best right now and we are pleased to have him represent the AGA,” says AGA President Mike Lash. The annual Korean children’s championship is usually limited to domestic Korean players, but this year the KBA extended invitations to seven additional countries, the US, China, Japan, Taipei, Thailand, Russia and the Netherlands.

26 June 2005, nine years before Calvin became a professional (iirc one of the founding professionals of the fledgling AGA system)

By the way, in the process of looking through one of the July editions I discovered that

The Agon Cup, of which there is also a Chinese version, is sponsored by a Buddhist sect

This sect is Agon Shu, founded in 1954.

… scholars (…) have studied what they believe is a transformation of Agon Shū after the death of [founder] Kiriyama in 2016 by his successors, senior priest Fukada Seia and chief female disciple Wada Naoko, into a cult of its founder, with Kiriyama’s relics becoming increasingly more important than those of the Buddha, and with his messages from the spirit world received by some of the movement’s leaders becoming normative sacred texts.

Did someone say cult? No? I must be hearing things…

(Oh, and Shoko Asahara, organiser of the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack, was also once a member.)

GO LONDON: Go players planning to be in London in August will want to drop in on a 4-day go event at the Imperial War Museum. “The centre-piece will be a contemporary goban with the famous game set up as at the moment of detonation of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima with photos kindly supplied by the Nihon Ki-in and a dan certificate signed by Iwamoto,” (…)

“There will be workshops for beginners and stronger players. Yuki Shigeno 2P and Hiroko Shinkai 5P will be visiting.” Just a five-minute walk from Big Ben, the event runs from August 5-8; admission is free. The week before, the British Go Association’s 50th Anniversary Picnic in Green Park, London will be held

I think this event was organised by the Go promotion group ZenMachine, who have supplied photos from it on their site, which I’ve reposted in various threads.

1 Like

1 Like

PRO INTERVIEW: Nakayama on Starting Late
By Solomon Smilack
[8 August 2005]

Nakayama Noriyuki 6P wears a fishing hat and a smile wherever he goes. He is, in a word, jovial. Now in his 70s, Nakayama’s interest in go continues unabated, as if he is still making up for a late start. These days, travel is Nakayama’s only diversion, and he’s been a frequent and much-loved visitor to the U.S. Go Congress, where I caught up with him for an E-Journal interview.

Nakayama sensei began playing go when he was 15 years old, just after the end of the Second World War. He had watched the game often, and knew the rules, but had never held the stones himself. “Go was not a children’s game. Of all the Japanese pros, I probably have the latest start.” It was a serious time, Nakayama says, with the wide-scale destruction brought on by the war: “It was very hard at that time. There weren’t even buildings for a while.”

In his home town of Nagano, his mother’s father was known as the weakest player in the area. In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, his grandfather’s home had become the gathering place for the strong local players. One summer day, it was raining so hard that no one came to play. Nakayama pouts, imitating his grandfather. Glum, moping, and bemoaning the bad weather, his grandfather sat at the lonely board, then, lifting his eyes from the board to the young Nakayama, smiled, and eagerly motioned him to sit down. “You know how to play, don’t you? Let’s play.”

That day, his grandfather gave him nine stones and beat him ten games in a row. They played well into the evening, and Nakayama finally won the 11th game. “Come back tomorrow,” said his grandfather, “and I’ll give you 8 stones.” The next day they played with 8 stones, the following day with 7, and by the end of summer vacation Nakayama was holding white. His rank increased slowly but steadily, rising by a dan rank once a month, until he was the strongest player in Nagano.

Coming from a poor family, Nakayama had no means of traveling to Tokyo to pursue his go future. When he asked for his father’s bicycle, he was hard pressed to answer why he needed to go to Tokyo. “Are you going to go to Tokyo to get a job? Are you going to university?” It was hard to find work in Tokyo, and for a while he didn’t even have a place to live. Finally, he found a job recording professional games. So proud of his work, he switched to English to tell me, “I was a supreme game recorder.”

Nakayama began taking the Pro Test each year, and each year he failed. Finally, he pas sed on his ninth attempt, just before his 30th birthday, becoming the oldest player to pass the Pro Test. After a quick ascent to 3P, his rank increased slowly but steadily. Unlike most professionals, who peak by age 30, Nakayama’s rank increased once a decade: 4P when he was 40, 5P at 50, and 6P at 60.

Having passed 70 without a jump to 7P, he says he isn’t holding his breath for a promotion. While he still plays professionally, most of his income now comes from his work as an author. Between writing go articles for monthly publications and writing go books, he stays very busy both at his home in southern Chiba Prefecture and abroad. In his own words, “I live so far south, I almost live at Narita airport.” And it’s not far from the truth: Narita is almost a second home for Nakayama sensei, who has traveled overseas every year since he was 49.

Nakayama’s tale is living proof that dedication overcomes hardship and that hard work is rewarded. Like many, I have often thought that only those who learn go as children can grow up to be pros, and that even their careers will be over by 30. Nakayama’s story shows that the game can last a lifetime, and that careers can begin at 30. When’s the next Pro Test?

The 12 August edition offers some more context, as Aria von Elbe reports on bringing up the topic with Maeda Ryo. It’s strange to note that Aria, who was 17 at the time, will be around the same age now as Maeda was then.

Now 33, Maeda is a 6 dan professional with aspirations of one day winning a title, though he says he started trying “too late.” Reminded that Nakayama Noriyuki 6P, a fellow Japanese pro from the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo, started his pro career at 30, Maeda just laughs and replies in English, “Rare case. Only one.”

… surprised to hear the pros talking about Hikaru no Go. They were amazed at the series’ effects, noting how it has encouraged a return to proper manners among young players.

Nakayama sensei regaled us with a classic story about Tetsuya Kiyonari, who turned shodan over 25 years ago, and was keeping time for a professional game when Yutaka Shiraishi came back from lunch five minutes late. Yutaka apologized for being late and then proceeded to chide Kiyonari for not being more strict in discouraging tardiness. That evening, Kiyonari sat by Shiraishi and counted down the dinner break as if it was byo-yomi.

9 August 2005

“Go is making big footsteps in the world,” Tadashi Sasaki told the assembled go enthusiasts, “and is now played in 68 countries around the world.”

10 August

Solomon Smilack: It’s not only my first Congress, but my first time at a go tournament. As such, I was amazed by how endless the tables seemed, as they ran end to end across the main playing room. It was as if I was viewing a huge goban, where every intersection was marked with an Ing board, clock, and set of stones. The Ing tables are smooth. Very smooth. I was very confused by how the bowls function, but once someone revealed their secrets to me I marveled at their design. When a tournament begins, the loud buzz of conversations disappears, and is replaced with a quiet chorus of Ing clocks beeping away.

Same edition

What do you want? A friend of mine who is a strong player constantly reminds me to ask myself that question as I play. The idea is to contemplate the whole board situation, but the question is not only important while you’re playing a game. It’s also useful to ask it before you start playing. From listening to conversations here at the Congress, I’ve gotten the impression that ma ny players would answer by saying that their aim is “to get strong, to improve my rating.”

I think that’s a limited goal, which ignores some important aspects of go. Having “getting stronger” as your aim makes you focus strongly on winning. Go is designed so that almost all of us are going to lose about as often as we win. So if getting stronger is what we want, we’re going to experience a lot of frustration. It would be nice if pl aying go were – at least most of the time – a pleasant, satisfying and enjoyable experience. Since it’s difficult to experience go that way when it becomes very important to win, perhaps a different aim would have a happier result.

What if the answer to “what do you want?” is just “to play go”? If just playing becomes your aim, you’ll find many more ways to make the experience a good one. Undoubtedly, winning is fun, and getting stronger helps you to win, bu t perhaps becoming stronger should not be an end, but a means; a means to enjoying the game more, whether you win or lose. So when you sit down to your next tournament game, remember to ask yourself “what do I REALLY want?”

William Cobb, 11 August 2005

And a response published on the 21st:

“In response to William Cobb’s question, I realized there were a number of things I enjoy other than just ‘to win’ during my go games,” writes Dennis Sustare. "Aesthetics: I love the feel of the stones, the sound when I place the stone on the board, and the look of the board, especially during the middle game before things get too resolved.

A successful invasion: It is very satisfying to see an opponent’s area that I simply must reduce, then to throw some stones in there and actually make them live! The right tesuji: So often, it seems like there are several suggestive ways to play in a local tactical situation. When I look back later and decide that the play I made was the correct one, it fills me with joy.

Maintaining sente in the end game: It is just great to make a long series of end game moves that my opponent answers (and so depressing when it works the other way!). Especially when the margin of victory turns out to be just a couple of points."

Last week’s coverage of the US Go Congress included live broadcast of all three Masters games, Boards 1 & 2 for every round of the Ing and US Open, plus bonuses like the Pro-Am and Pro-Pro games, as well as the Pair Go championship g ames, for a grand total of 32 games broadcast on the IGS and KGS. (…)

We’re tremendously proud of this historic accomplishment

20 August 2005

Apparently there are black clams in India … and in Sweden …, and white slate from India … [however] no one was aware of any go sets made out of this stuff.

5 January 2007

The Long Island Go Club’s Andy Segal is not only steadily improving - already a strong 3k - but is also the world’s #3 ranked “Artistic Pool” or trick shot player … Among his many titles, Andy was the 2005 World Artistic Pool Masters Champion, and just recently was a member of the 4-man US team that competed against Europe in the 2006 Artistic Pool World Cup at the famous Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

15 January 2007

The first [of the classical Japanese go houses] to go was Hayashi, which merged with the Honinbo house in 1884, when Shuei, head of the Hayashi house, became the Honinbo heir. Yasui bit the dust in 1903. The Honinbo house continued until 1924, when it ceased to exist as a house with the founding of the Nihon Kiin. Shusai held on to his title of Honinbo until his retirement in 1938. The Inoue house vanished in 1961, with the death of Egeta Inseki. …

[This was due to] the house’s relocation to Osaka, which insulated the house from competition from the more modern go organizations sprouting up in Tokyo. This, combined with Egeta’s refusal to join the Nihon Kiin and his long life is the best explanation

CAN’T STOP THE MONKEY JUMP: A Beginner Studies the Pros: Go Vocabulary
by Motoko Arai

Go has a special vocabulary all its own. As my husband and I were going over masters’ games, at the same time we were also trying to read the commentary. But for beginners like us, the commentary just didn’t make any sense. Okay, so maybe we couldn’t understand certain things because of our skill level - that’s natural enough. However, the really shocking thing was we couldn’t even understand the words themselves. (We thought this was strange, but as beginners we decided to just keep reading. However, the more we read, the more we ran into these unknown words.)

“Umm…this black stone is called a nobi (extend), right? In the book?”
“Yeah. From the point of view of this stone attached to it, this stone is extending out. I guess that’s why it’s called nobi, right?”

“That’s what I thought too. If you attach a black stone to a black stone behind it, it’s called nobi. But I think that’s wrong.”

“Here’s the same situation - a black stone attached to the one behind it - but this time it’s not called nobi. They didn’t write nobi.”
“What do you mean?”

“It’s extending out just like before, but in the commentary this stone is called sagari (descent).”
“Okay, so what’s the deal with that?”

“That’s what I’m wondering. And look at this diagram. Again, the same situation with one black stone attaching to a black stone behind it, but this time they don’t call it nobi or sagari.”
“So what do they call it?”

“Narabi (stretch).”
“But that’s a completely different word.”

“Exactly! And here again - the same situation with the attached black stone, and here they call it hai (crawl). Hai!”
“What does hai mean here?”

“Who knows? And another… attach one black stone to another black stone and call it…oshi (push).”
“Hold on - hai and oshi? These are greetings! And wait - if it’s a supporting group or something like that, it’s not called oshi, but osu (push).”

“Yeah, there are books that call it osu as well.”
“What’s with these greetings - yes’s and welcome’s and thank you’s?”

“Thank You is also a Go word. In this book it says ‘Here, rather than a Thank You, the best thing is to tenuki (play elsewhere).’”

“You’re kidding! What on earth does that mean? Of course Go is a polite game and when you start you’re supposed to wish your opponent good luck and when you finish you should say “Thanks for the game”, but are there other little courtesies throughout the game as well? In the middle of a battle, do you really have to stop and say something like “Here’s to your health” or “My, it’s a lovely day”? Should we do that? Are we supposed to do that?”

Okay, so maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration. But still, it feels this ridiculous when you see all the Go words written in your own language and, as a beginner, you have no idea what they mean.

5 February 2007

1 Like

America’s first homegrown pro, James Kerwin 1P defeated the second, Michael Redmond 9P, according to the third, Janice Kim 3P - who comments “As I recall Jim defeated Michael playing white – an impressive feat”. Kerwin did it in the 1994 Houston Fujitsu Qualifier. Holding white, he opened with 2 3-3 points and won by half a point.

9 February 2007

Interestingly, Waltheri lacks this game but has two others between them, from the North American Masters 1996 and 1998, both of which were won by Redmond.

go4go has very little from Kerwin, and gokifu only extends back to 2000.

Perhaps someone with SmartGo or GoGoD can help us out in finding this game.

The North American Masters, by the way, ran from 1995 to 2006 with a hiatus in 2003-4. It has combined with the North American Ing Cup to form the North American Ing Masters, which ran until at least 2011. I don’t know the current status of that tournament as the AGA site link is dead. Until the hiatus, the NAM was exclusively won by Jujo (Jiang Zhujiu), three times by victory in the final over his wife Rui Naiwei.

Nobel Laureate Dr. Philip Anderson was awarded an honorary San Dan diploma by the Nihon Ki-in last Saturday at the New Jersey Open. The award was presented by Paul Anderson, President of Nihon Ki-in America. Dr. Anderson, a renowned physicist, first learned about the game in Japan in the early 1950s when he was teaching in Tokyo, and he took it up upon his return to the United States, playing at Bell Labs, where he both learned from and taught some of the seminal figures in American go.

In presenting the award, Paul Anderson noted that “such an award has only been presented previously to Albert Einstein, International Grand Chess Master Edward Lasker and astronaut Daniel Barry, the first man to play go in space.” In addition to recognizing Dr Anderson’s professional accomplishments, Paul said that the Nihon Ki-in diploma was awarded “in honor of the cultural aspects and international friendships fostered by go.”

12 February 2007

“The Chessboard Cherry Tree” tells the story of Oda Sayemon, a hotheaded feudal lord in old Japan who was noted for his bravery as a soldier, for his abominable play at go, and for his bad temper and violence when he lost.

"His most intimate friends among his retainers had tried hard to reform his manners after losing at go; but it was hopeless. All those who won from him he struck in the face with a heavy iron fan, such as was carried by warriors in those days; and he would just as readily have drawn his sword and cut his best friend’s head off as be interfered with on those occasions. To be invited to play go with their lord was what all his bold samurai dreaded most.

At last it was agreed among them that sooner than suffer the gross indignity of being struck by him when they won they would let him win. After all, it did not much matter, there being no money on the game. Thus Sayemon’s game grew worse and worse, for he never learned anything; yet in his conceit he thought he was better than everybody."

19 February 2007

David Mitchell, Sydney Go Journal #2, 2006

“Turn the goban around”?


The SmartGo app only has two games that Michael Redmond won vs James Kirwin, none in 1994 unless there’s some other name that it’s under.

I’ve never seen the website 1919weiqi before but it seems to have a game



1 Like

Nice work, detective!

ASK THE PRO: How To Study Go, Part 1
by Janice Kim 3P
(2 January 2006)

“Since I live in a country where go is a very very small phenomenon where can I find space to improve?” writes Zilli Nicolo from Italy. “How can I make myself a program or a schedule on how to reach my goal?”

It isn’t easy improving one’s go when you are pioneering it in your area, but here are some suggestions that even players with more developed go communities may find useful.

If you have access to the Internet, these days you can pretty much follow for free the same course of study as professional go students with access to go libraries. There are several places where you can find collections of professional go games. … Then you’ll want to find some life and death (tsumego) problems online …

Here’s how I would suggest you study. First off, I think that most people study in a way that isn’t too effective, because they do it backwards: they click through game records, and put stones down when they are solving life and death problems. You’ll want to do exactly the opposite: when you study game records, print them out and put the stones down on the board, and when you’re doing life and death problems, just look at the problem and try to solve it in your head.

A good starting schedule for a serious student would be to spend an hour or two a day with a methodical program of game records and tsumego problems, in a time ratio of about 2 or 3 to 1. First, decide what your first section of game records will be. Good ones to start would be game records of Go Seigen v. Kitani Minoru, or you can pick something like Sakata Eio’s games, or Honinbo title matches, whatever catches your interest. You may find at first it can take you more than an hour to go over a game record, but that’s okay.

When you go over a game record, try to guess what the players are thinking, and see how each move looks and how you would describe it – “I’ll bet he’s behind in territory so he’s going to invade or reduce that area – oh, so he went for the reduction, he made a one-point cap play to that stone on the third line.” At the end of the game you can try to think of a title, something that describes the theme of t he game, and make some notes about the game on the record. Here’s an example of one I did: “1984 12/20 1st Kisei title match between Takemiya and Kobayashi. The End Came Too Fast. Moves 81-87 looked like a really skillful way of handling a weak group. In this game Black seemed to wait too long to do something about White’s center framework, so White got too much…”

In those days we didn’t have game recording software to print from so I re-recorded games I took from books on my own recording paper by hand; it took longer but I think I derived additional benefits. Either way, you’ll end up making your own book of games you’ve studied that you can return to again and again, perhaps seeing something new each time. Notice you don’t need to read any game commentary to learn this way, and it’s probably better not to, as even “mistakes” and sub-optimal moves at this level contain go thinking and skill we can learn from, it’s more important what you see, not what someone else does.

Life and death problems are important because they help us learn to read and visualize in our heads – so it follows that trying different moves by putting stones down so you can just see if they work can only be of limited use. Every game is different so there’s not very much point in learning any one particular problem – the key is to train your mind so you can read out any situation. Sometimes you hear people say that they got a life and death problem “wrong” – this implies that they guessed at a solution without being really sure, and then looked at the answer and it didn’t match.

You should find problems that you can be absolutely sure you understand completely without ever looking at the answer, which means they will be “rated” considerably lower than what our “ranks” are, but never mind. Pros study 10 kyu problems all the time, the point is to get to the point where you can just see stones instantly arranging themselves in yo ur mind’s eye, not to solve a difficult problem that will never actually occur in a game. Difficult problems can be useful in that you challenge yourself to visualize a long or complex sequence, but if it’s too hard for you to do it in your head, there’s no point in just getting the answer.

We used to say as insei that you couldn’t move on to the next problem until you would stake your life on your answer, so you can see why I always smile a little bit when I hear someone say they got a problem wrong. If you have trouble, take more time, or do easier problems, but try to stay very focused and be confident in what you read. This is difficult and unnecessary to do for long periods, which is why you want to spend a lot more time on game record study than on your tsumego study.

1 Like

The fifty 2006 Shodan Challengers are our biggest crop ever and we’ll continue to track their progress as we draw ever closer to the US Go Congress in August.

6 February 2006

I wonder whether the Shodan Challenge is still going. It was initially a challenge to rise into the dan ranks by the time of the US Go Congress, becoming an annual event.

Since only a rather talented DDK can become a dan in that time, it evolved into a looser idea in which one would try to advance to a certain milestone of one’s own choosing, with the stronger challengers still aiming for the titular shodan.

John Howard’s words in this issue are a little too familiar –

A five kyu still trudging slowly toward shodan myself, I realize I know next to nothing about the game. I can spell it, I know who goes first and I know when to remove a stone from the board (though I have been known to forget the latter), but beyond that there is very little I know about go that I don’t doubt regularly.

I don’t even know how to spell it.

Is it Go? Goe? Goh? And with, as I call it, the “first capitalisation” go; the second, Go; or the third, GO?

It could also be argued that White moves first in a handicap game, although some people consider Black’s placement of the handicap stones as constituting a move. In addition, there were certain situations of etiquette in classical Japan in which White would move first in an even game.

The New Jersey State Board of Education has recognized 5th-grader Lionel Zhang for his outstanding performance as a go player. “We are proud to salute this young man’s 21st Century achievement in a board game several centuries old,” said Governor Richard J. Codey.

9 January 2006

several centuries old

Shame they couldn’t get a quote from “professional Go master Lee Changho”.

There’s quite a lot about Lionel’s endeavours in the journal at this time. However, he doesn’t seem to have stuck with Go in a big way since he doesn’t have an SL page, or indeed any hits apart from his attendance of a youth tournament in 2007.