Excerpts from the British Go Journal

The British Go Journal is freely available here, with the exception of the most recent four issues, covering the past year (the BGJ is currently published quarterly), which one must be a BGA member to view.

The BGJ began publication in 1967, 24 years after the founding of the British Go Association in 1953.

Index of issues 1–112 (1967–98)

Here’s how one issue began fifty years ago.

#14 (June 1971), pg. 5, Tokyo Go Newsletter (Stuart Dowsey)

Every master player has his own peculiar habits and idiosyncrasies that appear while playing major tournament games. Here are some of the weird ones.

Hosai Fujisawa is a large man who appears to be sloppy until you see him play. However at the board he still likes to relax and sits happily with his shirt-tails hanging out. His thinking is so deep that he keeps on meditating, even talking to himself, while visiting the toilet.

Sakata is more nervous, preferring to give up his lunch so that he can sit through the break studying the game. When concentrating he unconsciously takes off his socks and sits there barefooted. He gets into a squatting position and during the last seconds of byo-yomi exclaims ‘maitta’ (I’ve had it) as he must play his yose stone, as if invoking some religious ritual.

Rin Kaiho is still young so he doesn’t display so many peculiarities and he have to be content with his pulling his knee up under his chin when under pressure.

It is said that Go Seigen prays to the ancient Chinese gods with every game whether he loses or not. However, how true this is I don’t know.

The most famous player for his tournament style is Kitani Minoru. Of course he has now retired due to a weak heart but, in the old days, he would bring seven articles to aid his game all wrapped up in a carrying cloth (furoshiki). He needed: 1) a pair of walnuts, which old Japanese click together in the left hand for relaxation; 2) a pot of honey, which he would lick for nourishment; 3) a nyoibo, a Buddhist priest’s staff to hit his shoulders with and to hold in order to came his mind; 4) eyedrops; 5) special plasters and liquids for dabbing on his back and shoulders to cool his muscles; 6) tissue paper which he often shredded to pieces while playing; and 7) a special cup for his tea. Everything was arrayed about him in a circle before he could devote himself to the game.


You would a perfect candidate, like a Go Journal chief editor, to work for a Go association except two things,

It does not pay well probably

1 Like

#15 (Autumn 1971), pg. 4, Ishida wins Honinbo Title

The trend towards youth in professional Go has been emphasised this year by the success of 22 year old Ishida Yoshio, 7 dan. He started the year by a successful defence of his Nihon Kiin Championship. He has since firmly established himself as the current leader of professional Go by beating Rin to take the Honinbo title, and four days later winning the decisive match of the Professional Best Ten final series against Kajiwara, 9 dan.

Ishida is known among the professionals as ‘The Computer’, and specialises in half-point winning margins. Even the professionals were impressed by his confidence in announcing this margin in the decisive 6th game of the Honinbo series, which he won to take the series 4–2. He caused more comment, perhaps, for the way he lost one of the games of the Pro Best Ten final. Kajiwara, playing White, has just captured a ko, and Ishida, after due thought, recaptured it and went to close the door, as it was becoming cold. Much to his regret, for he was looking forward to the ko fight, Kajiwara was awarded the game and Ishida disqualified for breaking the rules of Go! Nevertheless he came back to win the series 3–2.

European Go Congress held in Bristol

The 15th European Go Congress was held in Badock Hall, Bristol University, from 21st August to 4th September. This was the first time the Congress had been held in Britain since 1966, and we were pleased to have not only the strongest entry ever for a European Congress, but also the honour of entertaining the Lord Mayor of Bristol, who opened the Congress. Of the 41 competitors, 31 were of first kyu or higher strength, although most of the stronger German players could not come. (…) The handicap tournament proved by far the most successful ever held at a European Congress, as more than 120 games were played.

I wonder why the German players couldn’t attend.

New Material available from the British Go Association (for members only)

Go ties. These are in Navy Blue, Maroon or Green, with the ‘Go’ character printed in gold. (£1.15 each)

Has anyone ever seen one of these ties?

British Dan Holders

The following members, normally resident, in Britain, are recognised by the BGA as being of Dan strength:

4 dan : J. Diamond
3 dan : A. Goddard (promotion to 4 dan under consideration)
2 dan : A. Daly, J. Fairbairn
1 dan : [10 others]

#16 (March 1972), Go by Candlelight

On February 22nd Woodford Go Club visited Imperial College for a match over 6 boards. A power cut took place during the match but the players were well prepared with auxiliary lighting. Woodford won the match by 4 games to 2.

The likely cause of this power outage was the 1972 miners’ strike (9 Jan. – 28 Feb.).

Odd Notes on Go, J. T. Fairbairn

At the beginning of the Meiji era (1868–1911) in Japan there was a greengrocer by the name of Yaochō, who was supposed to be a skilful Go player. The greengrocer often used to play Go with a famous sumo wrestler and, wishing to flatter him, he always purposely managed to lose. This became well known and nowadays Yaochō is used in Japanese to denote any “fixed game” or “double cross”, in Go or otherwise.

List of Clubs

At the time of writing there are affiliated clubs at Paddington, Kensington, Woodford, Redhill, Reading, Harwell, Oxford, Cheltenham, Bristol, Colchester, Cambridge, Norwich, Nottingham, Stafford, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, York, Edinburgh, and South Queensferry.

#17 (June 1972), pg. 9 – Interviews with the World’s Top Go Players

From Kido 1968, questions by Fukuro Ike, translated by J. T. Fairbairn

No. 1 – Go Sei Gen 9-dan – Part 1.

Go Sei Gen was sitting smartly in the orange national dress of China that everyone knows through Chiang Kai Shek. He gave his answers easily and promptly, often laughing like a young man. Go Sei Gen seems to put the stamp of commonsense on any question, and I often regretted my question. He is perceptive and deals with everything lucidly.

Q. 1. Do you think racial or national characteristics are reflected in Go styles?

A. I don’t think so, there’s no connection.

Q. 2. Before a game do you work out which fuseki you will play?

A. Playing Go is not like painting a picture in that you can’t do just what you want by yourself. It’s a mutual effort, isn’t it? Even if you do work out a plan your opponent may not follow it. Therefore, usually I think it is important to study some representative fuseki in a broad context.

Q. 3. For you, how important is instinct?

A. I respect it. When I was in good condition I have had 4 hours left on my clock, simply because I’ve been playing by instinct, although I’m not really sure whether this can in fact be called instinct. Kada and Shoji Hashimoto, among others, will use up all their time in about 60 moves then play the rest in 1 minute byoyomi. That really is instinct.

Q. 4 Are your bad moves, doubtful moves, etc. more numerous when you play by instinct, or without it?

A. When you’re playing by instinct bad moves are rather rare. At least, fatal mistakes are. There are many people who think for an hour then still make a bad move. That’s because there are so many possibilities of making a mistake. It’s very difficult. You often lose by making on overplay or by retreating too much when you hesitate in a won game. This is probably the result of an extraneous impulse which interferes with your instinct.

Q. 5. What do you think people mean when they say “I’ve lost my touch”, or “I can’t find the right move”?

A. By studying or by experimenting we accumulate various positions in our heads, and when we encounter a position not included in these, we lose our way. In such cases we are prone to make the worst move.

The interview continued for another nineteen questions.

BGA Annual Subscription

Club members: 20p
Unattached members: 30p
Overseas members: 50p

1 Like

Not what you are looking for, but a go tie nonetheless :slight_smile:




#18 (October 1972), Visits to London by Professional Players

On Thursday, 1st June, Mrs T. Ito (professional 4-dan) and 25 other amateur players visited London on a sight-seeing tour of European cities. They very kindly spent the evening playing British players at the SCR at Imperial College. (…)

On the 4th August we welcomed an even more illustrious party, consisting of Mr. Iwamoto (9-dan, ex-Honinbo), Miss Kodama (2-dan) and Mr. Yoshida, editor of Go Review and a strong amateur player. During the six days of their visit they spent the daytime seeing around London and its environs (…) and devoted the evenings to teaching games (…)

Monday, 7th August, was advertised as “weak players’ evening”. Mr. Iwamoto took on ten kyu-players at once, defeating nine of them.

If it’s hard to imagine that Iwamoto was beaten by a kyu, even in a simul, consider that he was already seventy years old.


Promotion within the kyu grades is done by the relevant clubs, but promotion to a Dan grade may only be confirmed by a full meeting of the BGA to consider written evidence supporting such a claim. Applications should be sent to the BGA secretary.

This sounds archaic, but I don’t know when a more modern system was introduced.

A Pub Lunch

During his recent visit to England, Richard Gledhill and John Tilley took Iwamoto to Gordon’s Wine Cellars just off the Strand. As the Japanese have never seen brown bread we tried to persuade them to have their sandwiches made with brown. Only Mr. Yoshida, editor of GO Review, took the plunge. Miss Kodama and Mr. Iwamoto ordered theirs in white. Mr. Iwamoto explained, “Professional players always take the white pieces.”!!

Segoe’s death was also reported:

Kensaku Segoe, 9-dan, died on July 26th. He was 83. For some time he had been incapacitated by illness, but his death came as a great shock. (…) Segoe visited Europe with Hashimoto just over 10 years ago and his many friends will miss him.

#19 (January 1973), pg. 6, Wood You Believe It?

The B.G.A. were interested in a letter received by Derek Hunter recently from Robert H. Rushmer of Massachusetts, U.S.A. It seems that Mr. Rushmer has met with difficulties in obtaining the sort of equipment he requires at reasonable expense, as has been considering ways of making equipment, particularly a board, and of materials which could be used. He recalled a sort of wood called kwila which he saw at Hollandia, or what was formerly Dutch New Guinea, and is so enthusiastic that I cannot do better than to quote from his letter:

“It is the colour of dark caramel. … This wood has a deep-reflective radiance about it. It will never shrink, warp, crack, check, or shake. I made a small frame for a picture with it and all that was ever done to it was to rub it with another piece of kwila for the final finish. You would swear it had been sized and waxed to look at it. The reason I think of it in terms of a go-ban is that this piece rings like a xylophone when tapped … This would be a break with tradition, but a board made with that wood, and inscribed with the 19 lines in bright yellow, would certainly be a marvel! And it would last for three lifetimes. The piece I have is crowding 30 years old, and apart from the fading of the (natural) yellow deposit, it has not lost one bit of the original natural lustre in that time. Its only care is to rub off the dust now and again. It has never had one milligram of artificial finish – wax, laquer, varnish or whatever. When the sun hits it, it is ablaze with the deep, radiant, reflective richness.”

Starting a Go Club, pg. 7 (Francis Roads)

The most promising areas for Go clubs seem to be anywhere where computers are programmed, science and maths departments of universities, and other research establishments. (…) founding a Go club without such a focus as the ones I have mentioned is a much harder and longer job. (…) arrange things so that the potential convert asks YOU for information about the game (…) Arrange to be seen playing Go, or reading “Go Review” if you haven’t an opponent yet, in a common room or similarly public place. (…)

In review of the difficulties in obtaining equipment, it is well to emphasise from the start to your recruits the ease with which equipment can be made, using buttons, graph paper, etc. If making your own equipment for use by beginners, make only quarter-boards to start with, as beginners learn more quickly if progress to the full board is delayed as long as possible.

Anyone who wants to start a Go club must be prepared to spend a long time teaching beginners, many of whom will drop out, and playing boring games against very weak opponents. As soon as possible get a regular meeting place, even if it is just someone’s front room. One wants to make Go playing a habit, and to have a time and place where people know they can ‘drop in’ without warning. (…)

As soon as you can persuade five people to pay 20p, affiliate your club to the B.G.A. and start a programme of activities. Members tend to take more interest in a club that they feel is ‘doing something’, so start by asking your nearest club for a match. Don’t hesitate to ask because the club may be a very large or strong one – they will probably be only too pleased to help a new club. (…)

Another date in your calendar could be to invite a strong player to your club for a lecture or simultaneous display. The BGA secretary can arrange this if necessary. Never hesitate to take part in BGA Tournaments, however weak your players. (…)

As soon as you have something worth reporting you will, of course, contact your local newspapers and radio station. (…) I have found local (as opposed to national) media very co-operative, and prepared to publish almost anything they are sent. Local papers like photographs, especially if they show children or an attractive female playing Go.

Public libraries often keep registers of local organisations and diaries of events, and usually you only have to ask to get the Go club listed. (…) Many libraries stock books on Go, usually those by Lasker and Smith. However, show a little enthusiasm, and they may be persuaded to buy some or all of the Nihon Ki-in and Ishi Press books on Go. (…) If you can afford to present a book to the Library, they will usually let you inscribe it with the name and address of your club.

Libraries (…) will often display a poster about Go – suitable ones are available from the BGA. (…) Some local organisations, eg. Women’s Institutes, Young Conservatives, etc., find it difficult to find enough speakers to address their meetings. Here is a good opening for the Go-propagandist, armed if possible with some sort of demonstration board. Naturally, one will vary one’s approach according to the audience. For example, at the W.I. one would be discussing mainly the social and traditional aspects of Go, always bearing in mind that one’s real target was the husbands and children.

However, never expect too much immediate result from publicity ventures. (…) There are enormous barriers of apathy and ignorance to be overcome in creating a Go-conscious public in a particular area, and it should be looked on as a gradual process over a period of years. Your own efforts to gain publicity may well bear fruit years later, perhaps after you have left the district!

#20 (July 1973), pg. 9 – Go Etiquette (Mark Hall)

When one plays Go, in Britain or abroad, one should follow the normal standard of etiquette in playing. This standard is, of course, Japanese. This need not be rigidly followed, but it is only polite, especially when playing Japanese, to observe these rules.

First, there is the custom of bowing before the game. This is usually coupled with the word ‘onigashimas’ which means ‘if you please’. This is not always done by the Japanese but should be followed in major and tournament games.

Second, to take a move back without your opponent’s permission is not only rude to your opponent but allows you to check a situation without having read it out in your head. Don’t be so lazy.

Third, you should always thank your opponent after the game. This seems such a small point that you may wonder why I mention it at all. It is important because it can leave bad taste if your opponent hardly bothers to admit your existence after the game. Finally, always clear your own stones away, moving your opponent’s to one side or to the other side of the board. This is normal in Japan but not so in England. It may seem impolite but it is to avoid both players putting their hands in the same bowl.

All these are not important but it does leave an exceedingly good impression on visitors from Japan and it sets a good example to beginners and players in your club.

As an English player, I must say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone bow or heard any player say onegaishimasu. Nor did anyone instruct me in stone-clearing etiquette.

#21 (September 1973), pg. 2, The BGA Greet Mr. Takagawa

The Japan Air Lines sponsored and staged a most entertaining and educational Go session. This was held at the Hanover Grand Hotel Banqueting Rooms, Hanover Street, London, on Wednesday, August 1st.

Place of honour was given to the greatest of all modern Go players, Mr. Takagawa. Mr. Takagawa gave comments on a game between his fellow countryman, Mr. Nakaoka, a 7th Dan Professional, and the British Champion, John Diamond. (…)

There were approximately 100 people in attendance, representing 10 of the major Go Clubs in this country, and a couple of overseas visitors from Amsterdam.

Note that he is always referred to as Mr. Takagawa, never merely Takagawa. This was the style of the time.

#22 (January 1974), final page – How the Japanese Record Games (J. Tilley)

There is a wide range of opinions in Europe as how best to record games. In Japan, the algebraic notation is not known. I personally find it misleading, clumsy, and hard to understand.

The Japanese use score pads with the board about six inches square. Black moves are recorded with a blue biro, White moves with a red biro. The strange European habit of circling stones is alien to the Japanese.

With a little care it is possible to keep a very neat score indeed.

In big tournaments the time-keeper does not use a chess clock. Instead, he keeps track of the time taken for each move. A complicated form helps him do this. Players have to ask him how much time they have used. The reason for this must be historical, stemming from pre-chess clock days.

#23 (July 1974), pg. 3 – News from Japan (The Ishi Press)

Kerwin Arrives: James Kerwin, a promising 27 year-old American 4-dan, arrived in Tokyo with his wife on January 4th. He is planning to stay in Japan for several years of intensive go study under professional teachers.

English Team in TV Match: October 10 is Sports and Recreation Day in Japan, so NHK, the Japanese National Broadcasting Corporation, decided to stage a special go match between an English team and a team of Japanese high school girls. The English team consisted of Stuart Dowsey the captain, Alan Stout representing the London Go Club, and Peter Westlake, the Minister at the British Embassy in Tokyo. The teams played rengo (relay go), each player have ten moves at a time and 30 seconds per move. Unfortunately the English side allowed a large group of stones to die and the Japanese schoolgirls were triumphant.

A History of the Ishi Press (pg. 9)

This year, the Ishi Press, Inc., the international English-language go book publishers, is six years old. Since the start, they have sold more than 22,000 go books (10,000 in 1971 alone) to the burgeoning go population in all parts of the world. The present-day organisation is well established, a far cry from the shoestring days of 1968.

That year saw an unlikely partnership form between Richard Bozulich, an American 3-dan (…) and Stuart Dowsey, a wandering Englishman (…) Bozulich had a manuscript he wanted to publish (…) They borrowed from everywhere to finance the first book “Modern Joseki and Fuseki, Vol. 1” by Eio Sakata and continued to pour money into the company for the next two years. (…)

It was named The Ishi Press, “ishi” being the Japanese word for stone. (…) They registered the name and business in Berkeley, California, but operated almost entirely out of Japan. The books were stored in a house that Bozulich was sharing with Nagahara-sensei until the floor began to collapse. Later Bozulich got his own house and used the upstairs room as a warehouse. He used to lie awake at night looking at the curve in his ceiling.

It’s interesting to see that even in the early '70s, fifty years ago, John Fairbairn and Richard Bozulich were already established figures of the Go world.

Bozulich is 84 or 85. Fairbairn, it seems, chooses not to reveal his age.

I wonder, have Go publishers simply aged with Go publishing from its advent in the West?

Great that you present all those excerpts from British go history, although it feels a bit as an overkill: 11(extensive) posts in 7 hours.

You consider the quotations spam?

No, not spam.
Just too much in a short time. Love your enthusiasm though.
Really interesting views into the past.
Please go on but make it a series in which you present one issue a day.
Don’t overfeed your audience.


Some interesting trivia.
Rod Stewart was in his younger day a very good football player who almost became a professional. Chose for music because that was more fun for him. Making music and getting drunk instead of a spartan lifestyle.
Once his manager threw 25 footballs on stage while he was performing and he kicked all into the audience.

1 Like

Paul Prescott gives us another interesting insight into the issue of ranking players before accessible computing made Elo and Elo-like systems practical at a national level.

Note, though, that the USCF adopted Elo in 1960 and FIDE in 1970, six years before this article was published. This is natural as Elo rating was invented for chess.

#31 (March 1976), pg. 11 – BGA Gradings (Paul Prescott)

Some time in 1974 the BGA decided that it was spending too much of its time discussing the gradings of British players, and accordingly appointed a grading sub-committee (Andrew Daly, Jon Diamond, Paul Prescott) to take over this work. This is an attempt to explain what we do.

The BGA has historically controlled the grades of dan-level players, and this means that we have to monitor the results of all players of 1 kyu and above. We therefore keep a list of strong players together with our estimates of their strengths – not always the same as the published grades, for we may consider, for example, that a player has been over-rapidly promoted to 1 kyu by his club (the BGA doesn’t control kyu rankings), or perhaps a dan player may not have played for some time causing us to treat wins against him with suspicion. Then at our periodic meetings (approx. every six weeks but very variable) we review the performance of everyone on the list and usually promote one or two.

Experience showed us that players tend to have very selective memories when submitting lists of their own games for promotion, and their estimates of which games they had played were serious tended to be highly correlated with whether they had won them or not. We therefore resolved early on that we would give the greatest weight to tournament games or serious games played with clocks, and treat other games more as background evidence. We considered a minimum time limit to be 45 minutes each, and decided to give greater weight to longer time limits.

1 Like

There is a long and interesting article in #47 (January 1980), on pg. 19, by Stuart Dowsey, entitled Nihon Kiin – The Early Years.

It took nature, in the form of the Great Kanto Earthquake, to force the three main rival go associations of Japan: Honinbo, Hoensha and Hiseika, to sink their differences and found the Nihon Kiin in 1924. The new body, containing the largest number of professional go players every gathered under one banner, set out from the start to dominate the conduct the conduct of go in Japan.

For the first time there were regular promotion games for professionals in the form of the ‘Kettei Teai’ (Fixed Matchplay) with two games a month. This was quickly upgraded with newspaper sponsorship to the ‘Oteai’ (Great Matchplay) which consisted of eight games in the Spring and eight in the Autumn. At first the oteai was modelled on ozumo (Japanese wrestling), with the participants split into teams representing East and West and into divisions A and B according to results. In 1927, during the heyday of this system, the East team led by Suzuki beat Segoshi’s West team. The individual prize of ¥500 (this was the time when you could buy a house and land for ¥1,000) for the best performance went to Maeda Nobuaki. It was through the oteai that new stars began to emerge: Murashima, Kitani, Maeda and later Go Seigen, who had been discovered in Peking by Segoshi. The importance of the East–West system did not last but the importance of the oteai in professional life has continued to this day. It is the only way in which professionals can gain promotion and thus improve their earning power.

Segoshi is an alternative reading of 瀬越, the surname of the player more often called Segoe Kensaku. It is sometimes considered incorrect, despite being, in the words of Wikipedia, “attested by furigana in some books he authored”.

I’m reminded of the debate on how to read 秀行. Fujisawa himself reportedly preferred Hideyoshi, but he became widely known as Shuko.

Peking, as you probably know, is the city renamed Beijing in 1958. To quote Wikipedia again: “It became obligatory for all foreign publications issued by the People’s Republic on 1 January 1979. It was gradually adopted by various news organizations, governments, and international agencies over the next decade.”

The Oteai was abolished in 2003 and replaced with a different promotion system.

1 Like

A later part of the article discusses the Atomic Bomb Game.

Finally, against all odds, it was decided to hold a proper Honinbo match again in the summer of 1946 even though the war was proceeding badly. Iwamoto became Hashimoto’s challenger and because of the danger of bombing in Tokyo it was decided to hold the games in Hiroshima. Iwamoto playing White won the first game. Then came an air raid warning and the rumour that a new type of large bomb might be dropped on Iwakuni naval base nearby, so the second game was moved to the outskirts of the city. It started on August 4th and continued into the 5th and 6th. The players sat down to continue the game on the morning of August 6th. It was 8 o’clock, the stones already played had been laid out and Iwamoto settled down to think while Hashimoto strolled in the garden. Suddenly there was a bright flash, 30 seconds later an enormous boom, followed 5 or 6 minutes later by a terrible blast which shattered the windows, scattered the go stones and blew the doors of the house in. The first atomic bomb had just been dropped. The players survived, shielded from the full effects by a low hill. The game was almost over so they replaced the stones and played on. Iwamoto knew his position was about and eventually accepted defeat at about midday. Still unware of what had happened, the enormity of the tragedy gradually sank in as streams of casualties and homeless began to pour out of the devastated city centre past the house they were in.

The third game and the rest of the series were postponed until the war ended shortly afterwards. Then the go world began the painful process of reconstruction. The postponed Honinbo Title match resumed in November 1946. Under rather pressed circumstances the players agreed to play two games in the first week, rest for a week and play the final two games the following week. The result of 3-3 and in the case of split decision the Kin was to adjudicate. Many people found this result unsatisfactory so in August 1947 the series was restarted. Iwamoto won the next two games and thus became the Third Honinbo and the first title holder of the postwar era.

By the way, this issue also has an article on pg. 25 called Forum – 5 Points Komi? which contains some kind of mathematical justification – which is above my comprehension – that five points komi is too low, ending “The conclusion therefore, is that the 5 points komi adopted by the BGA, and the 5½ adopted by Japan are inadequate. I think that the BGA should lead the world in advocating 6½ or 7 points komi.”

I take this comparison to Japanese komi as implying that Japanese scoring was in use, rather than the AGA rules currently – to my great regret – common in this country. 6.5 point komi didn’t become mainstream in Japanese professional Go for almost another twenty years.