Excerpts from the British Go Journal

#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)

Selection from Terry Barker’s Dictionary of Go Terms, #85 (Winter 1991), pg. 23

Bugger: One of the words often heard in British clubs. I couldn’t find this one in my Japanese dictionary.
Chess: Primitive game played in many parts of the Western world on a small board.
European champion: A good opponent for a Japanese eight year old.
First kyu: Colloquial for 3 kyu.
Fuseki: Boring part of the game that strong players have to go through to get to the fighting.
Hoshi: Famous Vietnamese player of the Minn family who had a city named after him.
Joseki: Fighting where both players pretend to know what’s going on.
Tesuji: Next to your previous move.

Immediately after is the article Go Trivia Continued by T. Mark Hall.

… I often read and re-read items on go in books and magazines, and sometimes there are interesting correlations between different authors’ articles. The latest thing I have spotted was from Issue 52 of Go World (…)

What caught my eye was a comment by Sakata that, at the end of his successful challenge for the Honinbo title, when he had finally stopped Takagawa’s run of nine successful titles, when Takagawa got up to leave the room there was a thunderous ovation from the spectators in recognition of Takagawa, for the fact that he had held the title for so long.

[However,] in Go World 41 (…) Takagawa comments that the round of applause was for the new Honinbo, ie. Sakata.

Which am I believe, Sakata or Takagawa? It’s easy to be modest when you’re that strong.


This isn’t an ideal thread for these, but:

Blog posts on the history of the Irish Go Association: 1990, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -9; 2001, 2001 EGC; general; newsletters 1990 and '91–93.

(Note that for some reason the URL of the 1993 article says history-from-1994.)

From 1990:

The number of players in Ireland is around 50, but half of these are beginners. We are only beginning the slow and arduous task of building up the number of dedicated players, but we hope Ireland will have some of dan strength in the near future.

Hmm. The population of the Republic in 1990 was about 3,500,000.

50 / 3,500,000 = 1 / 700,000.

I’d have to go looking if I wanted comparable 1990 statistics in other countries. The one comparison I can bring to mind is that there were 7,000 readers of the AGA E-Journal in 2005 in a population around 295,000,000. That’s 7 / 295,000 = ~ 1 / 42,000, a rather stronger concentration.

I think Britain’s diffusion is at a similar level to the USA’s.


BGJ #58 (April 1983), commemorating Cho’s displacement of Shuko as Kisei

I wonder what happened to British Go Week.

I’m surprised that the phrase doesn’t have a single hit on Sensei’s Library.

From the same issue (#59, June 1983) I noticed these diagram’s in Macfadyen’s Yose Corner.

The interesting thing isn’t so much the diagrams themselves as the fact that the letters seem to have been drawn on in pen or pencil. Note that the a in the top diagram is slightly different to the one in the second.

Also, the numbers seem to be stamped on top of the stones rather than associated with them, as you can see by how far off-centre the 2 is in the lowest diagram.

The logistics of printing Go diagrams in a barely computerised time period must have been quite intriguing.


From #60 (September 1983)

David Mitchell’s non-stop lightning Go record of 46 hours

Wow, and Macfadyen smashed it! (#61)


From 10: 30n on the Friday morning, [Macfadyen] kept on playing until 6:33 on Monday morning … a mind wrenching 68 hours and 3 minutes.

68 hours!


In between teaching games [at the European Go Congress in Edinburgh], the professionals staged what is believed to have been the first ever match between Chinese and Korean professionals (actually the Chinese were not technically professional, but it comes to much the same - Ed.).

The two round double header ended in a diplomatic 2-2 draw.

From #60, 1983.

The famous Japan–China Super Go matches began in 1985.