Excerpts from the British Go Journal

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


#53 (June 1981) – Letters, pg. 21

Leiden, 5th May 1981

Being a member of the British Go Association, I feel the moral obligation to reluctantly admit the rediscovery last Friday of of the oldest mentioninghe of the game of go in ye Englif linguadge, barring possibly existent translations of Ricci and Trigault. Launched by the diligent studies of Theo van Ees, that eminent, distinguished and nevertheless renowned scholar, I was able to dig us the work of Samuel Purchas (Purchasius from our country as Hyde has it) in the introductory paragraph before the chapter on go which position may be the cause that Sam was never mentioned again by Falkner, Bell, Murray, Boorman nor Palkinghorne – able to malignantly snatch away the work of Purchas from sight before the tremendous efforts of Theo, in the Leiden Universiteits Bibliotheek.

Don’t thank us, don’t even make us honorary Overseas members, just do us the return favour of discovering a more honorable 17th century Dutch quote than the 1665 goof.

Sincerely, Jaap Blom

The quote in question, from Samuel Purchas’ 1617 ‘Relations of the world and their religions observed in al ages and places discouered…’ reads as follows:

“They have another play which makes the skilful therein well esteemed, though he can do nothing else, with two hundred men, some white, some black, on a table of three hundred divisions. This is used by the Magistrates.”

The Hyde mentioned is Thomas Hyde, author of the 1694 two-volume Latin work De Ludis Orientalibus Libri Duo (“Two Books on Oriental Games”).

The full title of Purchas’ book, as printed, is

PVRCHAS his PILGRIMAGE. OR RELATIONS OF THE WORLD AND ITS RELIGIONS OBSERVED IN ALL AGES AND Places difcouered, from the CREATION unto this PRESENT. IN FOVRE PARTS. THIS FIRST CONTAINETH A THEOLOGICALL AND Geographical Hiftorie of ASIA, AFRICA, and AMERICA, with the Ilands Adiacent. Declaring the Ancient Religions before the FLOVD, the Heathnifh, Jewifh, and Saracenicall in all Ages fince, in thofe parts profeffed, with their feueral Opinions, Idols, Oracles, Temples, Priefts, Fafts, Feafts, Sacrifices, and Rites Religious : Their beginnings, Proceedings, Alterations, Sects, Orders, and Succeffions. With briefe Defcriptions of the Countries, Nations, States, Difcoueries, Priuate and Publike Cuftomes, and the ??? Remarkable Rarities of Nature, of Humane Induftrie ??? the fame.

Wikipedia gives an even earlier publication date of 1614.

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On pages 195-201 that book seems to clearly describe go.

My Latin is very rusty (to put it mildly), but I think I can make out some parts:

“The Chinese surrounding game”

“This war game, (representing war between the Chinese and the Tatars,…”

“An eye”


#55 (March 1982), A Page from the Archives (pg. 19)

This article was written by the late Irving Fink of Yugoslavia, and distributed at the European Congress in Zagreb in 1974. It contains an interesting eyewitness account of the origins of go in Europe. (…)

In 1914, just before the beginning of World War I, I was midshipman on the fast cruiser “Admiral Spaun”. My ship was at the time stationed at Pula 1, the main port of the Austro-Hungarian navy. I used to spend my off duty evenings playing chess in the Navy club, where there were always a lot of Kibitzers, and there I met Lieutenant-Commander Artur Jonak von Freyenwald 2. He rather praised my game, and invited me into his ship to show me a Japanese game – go, which he said was more interesting than chess. Of course I accepted his invitation, and after a series of lesson I daresay I improved rather quickly.

With great will and energy did Jonak strived to acquire new converts to his game, mostly among younger Navy officers. In a short time he attracted a number of enthusiastic go players. They in their turn attracted yet more players, until it became rather like an epidemic. Go was played on board ships, in coffee houses, in Navy clubs etc. Soon go sets with glass stones and a folding board were available in a Pula bookshop. It was Jonak who did most to spread the game, and for his devotion and tireless activity he got the name “Jonak, god of Go”. – After Jonak’s death in the war, our go club had no leader anymore. Flames of the “go-fire” in Pula died out and winds scattered the sparks of the glowing fire. There had been over 200 active go players in our club, and I think it was the strongest, and certainly largest go club in Europe, at least before 1918. (…)

1. Pula is a well known Yugoslav port in the North Adriatic.
2. Lieut. Cmdr. Artur Jonak von Freyenwald was born in Salzburg (Austria). When I met him, he was first officer in the minelayer “Kameleon”. In 1914 he was on the cruiser “Kaiserin Elisabeth” in Tsingtau, where he became addicted to go. In 1918 he died in Boka Kotorska, now in Yugoslavia (South Adriatic coast) when some mines accidentally exploded in a minelaying operation.

The city of Tsingtau is now better known as Qingdao.


I can’t get enough of this stuff.


#57 (December 1982) – News, pg. 14

The idea of offering a large sum of money to the author of an effective go playing computer programme, as a publicity exercise was mooted (…) The current scheme is that a prize of £10,000 be offered for any programme that can beat the British Champion on 13 stones within the next 10 years. Further details will be published in these pages as soon as someone has been found to guarantee the money.

Japan: A rundown on the top tournaments:

Kisei: Fujisawa Shuko still holds the title (…)

Meijin: Cho Chikun finished crushing Otake 4–1 in October. Players who find it regrettable that professionals rarely try to kill each other’s groups can look forward to seeing the reports of this match in Go World with relish.

Honinbo: Cho Chikun beat Kobayashi Koichi 4–2, finishing in August. In another section of the preliminaries (…) Otake was busy with the title matches for Gosei and Meijin when his crucial match with Awaji Shuzo happened, so he is out of the league for yet another year. It seems ridiculous that Otake, who has been in the title match for Meijin for 7 of the last 8 years, has never even been challenger to the Honinbo.

Judan: Cho Chikun (heard that name somewhere?) will defend his title early next year. (…)

Gosei: Otake Hideo managed to beat Cho 3–2 just before their Meijin match started.

Tengen: Kato is defending his only title (not for long?) with success (…)

Oza: Hashimoto Shoji dethroned Kato last year, but Kato has come back to challenge him.

Kato in fact went on to lose the Tengen, to Kataoka Satoshi, but the prediction turned out to be correct anyway as that same year he won the Oza (which he would retain for another seven editions!) and in 1983 added the Judan (which, admittedly, he lost immediately to Kobayashi).

Soviet Union: A party of go players from Osaka including several of their stronger professionals recently visited Moscow. It seems that some of the rumours of the strength of the Soviet players have been optimistic, since none of them were able to defeat the 9 year old boy wonder in the Japanese part.

I did some research and it seems most likely that this boy wonder was Yamada Kimio (b. 1972).

Other professionals of similar age are Ryu Shikun (b.'71), too old; and Hane Naoki (b '76) and Takao Shinji (b '76), too young.

Yamada is the youngest brother of two other professionals. He becamea pro in 1989, reaching 9p in 2006. He reached the finals of the 2000 Samsung Cup, won the 1997 Oza, and challenged for the 2006 Honinbo amongst other accomplishments.

He set a new record in 2007 for the fastest time to reach 700 career wins (18 years, 7 months) and the best winning percentage when reaching it (71.6%).

From the same edition, pg. 19, The Art of Coarse Go:

The little things that mean so much…

As a matter of principle always take back at least three moves in the course of every game, but remember to wait for your opponent to answer it before your snatch your stone back.

Always say ‘atari’ if it’s only one stone but never if it’s twenty.

When thinking where to play remember to hold a stone hovering over a likely point and take care to obscure as much of the board as possible from your opponent’s view (a particularly effective irritant when it is not actually your move).

Rattle your stones in the bowl whenever your opponent is trying to work out a semeai.

If you are forced into a game with a complete beginner make sure you kill all of his groups (weakies need toughening up).

Never resign.

When you spot that you’re at least 50 points behind carry on playing out the yose nice and slowly (paying particular attention to the one point ko). But when it’s finally over and the opponent is reaching for his prisoners, remark brightly “Don’t let’s bother to count this one…”

Always nod sagely when your opponent makes a particularly mediocre move.

Keep alert during dame filling time – this can be a very pleasing way to win.

If you’ve got a good ten point lead moan loudly when filling in the dame “Oh I think you’ve won this one” or “I played really badly this game”.

Next issue: the art of coarse tournament Go

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Compare the rates a little over ten years later, for the 1983 membership:

Student member £2.00
Club member £4.00 (20p in '72)
Unattached members £6.00 (30p in '72, currently ~£30.00)
Overseas member £7.00 (50p in '72)

The UK suffered very high inflation in the 1960s and '70s.

This was a cause of large-scale industrial unrest in the then-massive public sector (due to wages not being raised fast enough to keep up), and the two facts together were major contributors to the success of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party in 1979, which governed on an anti-socialist platform for eighteen years, defining the economic political consensus for much of this century.

The BGJ #79 (Summer 1990) has a very amusing comic piece, beginning on pg. 10, entitled The Masters of Go.

It begins thus.

The Masters of Go
(looking back to the year 2025)

This is the story of a clash between two outstanding figures in the history of go, the account of a title match full of incident and drama, with the outcome in the balance until the very end. But before the story unfolds, we must devote a few paragraphs to setting the scene, to showing what was the background to such a match in those times.

It was in the first decade of the twenty first century that double ended tournaments began to appear in all serious sports and games that set one competitor against another. The principle was that while the strongest competitors were working their way through one round after another, by defeating ever stronger opposition, the weaker players would be losing in one round after another against ever weaker players.

Eventually, in complete symmetry, the top two players would enter the final to see who was the strongest of all, while the bottom two players would enter another final to see who was the weakest of all. The two concluding matches were known respectively as the upper and lower finals.

There’s also an interesting description of the Korea of the time in the second half of the edition, in the article Baduk, by Andy Finch (pg. 22).

… baduk (go) is a fact of life here, and it’s hard to find a place in Seoul where a baduk club cannot be seen. Literally every block has its own Gi Won, or baduk house, in which you can easily get a game of baduk, changi (similar to shogi) or even mah jong. In fact the club I go to most often, though looking a little run down, often contains professional baduk players who’ve come for a rest, and who play mah jong instead. This is a slightly strange feeling, reading an article by a dan player, in a magazine, while he’s playing mah jong on the next table!

There are at least three baduk magazines, each of which boasts six million readers (perhaps the same ones), and which contain the latest news, games, problems, articles – and of course, baduk advertisements.You have to get used to the fact that everyone knows of the game, and most people can play it. Therefore there are a number of shops selling only baduk items, and every bookshop has its own section of baduk books. This is true freedom, being able to browse through such books, even if they are written in one of three different foreign languages.

Many of us have had the experience of reading Life and Death etc. on the train, secure in the knowledge that no one will dare say anything. Not so in Korea. Reading a baduk book is a sure way of opening a conversation, wherever it is, and I’ve found myself playing in shops and marketplaces, where of courswe there’s always a spare board. “Never mind the oranges missus, I need two eyes.”

Also, on pg. 32–33 you’ll find information about Go in Canada.

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From BGJ #80 (Autumn 1990), pg. 12 – Random Go, Matthew Macfadyen

The Ing timer is a device imported from the far east which bears a superficial resemblance to a chess clock, but its main function is that after the game is finished a subtle random element can be introduced to the results: each player has to press a button on the timer, and if it responds by going “beep” more than seventy-three times then that player has lost, regardless of the position on the board.

At this time, by the way, only two of 38 (?) listed non-school clubs were declared as non-smoking.



I also found this linguistic note, in Whisper Protect?, Brian Chandler (pg. 24).



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Relevant photo from ZenMachine’s page:

Atom Bomb Game event at the Imperial War Museum London

I didn’t find this in the BGJ, rather on the BGA site, but this is the best place for it.

from #82 (Spring 1991), Professional 9x9 Go, pg. 14

from Komi, pg. 19

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There’s also a discussion of the introduction to Britain of Canadian overtime, or as it’s called here simply “overtime”. I loathe Canadian, especially 30 / 5 which is almost impossible to play under at any level of quality.

From the article Overtime and Flexible Komi (Andrew Grant), from the second half of the edition, pg. 26 (which also addresses komi bidding):

At the recent London Open, instead of byo yomi a system of “overtime” was used. This was not the first time overtime had been used in Britain – I introduced the system at the Milton Keynes tournament in September, and it was also used at Bournemouth (…)

For those who haven’t yet experienced overtime, the procedure is quite simple. (The numbers marked * are a suggestion only, and should be determined by the tournament organiser beforehand.) The values used for the first overtime period may be reduced for the second or subsequent periods. [the dreaded “progressive overtime” – bugcat]

(1) When your flag falls at the end of your allotted time, stop the clock.

(2) Count out thirty* stones from your bowl and keep them in a separate pile. (You are advised to cover your bowl or keep it beyond easy reach.)

(3) Turn your clock back 5* minutes and restart it.

(4) You must play all the stones in your pile before your flag falls again, otherwise you lose on time.

(5) If you have cleared your pile and still have time left, you may retrieve your bowl and play extra stones while your time lasts. (…)

(6) If your flag falls again before the game finishes, repeat the above procedure, and continue until the game ends.

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This one I’m not sure if it’s in the players interest or not to do this. It doesn’t sound like the Canadian overtime I’ve seen where once you play your last stone you start your next batch of stones and new time (unless I’m misremembering - eg on pandanet or ogs.)

What I mean about the disadvantage is that one could just use their remaining time in a period to read or count the game with no worry of timing out since the 30 (or how many) stones have been played, and playing more when they don’t count detracts from the ones you have to play in the next period. (Unless I’m misreading it)