The Magic of Go

World Amateur Go Championship

Every year, the World Amateur Go Championship, sponsored by Japan Airlines, is held in Japan. At the first championship in 1979, only 15 countries participated. In this year’s event, held from June 8 to 11 in Oita, there were players from 55 countries, with five-Vietnam, Madagascar, Guatemala, Colombia and Peru represented for the first time.

In the first championship, the countries outside of Asia that took part were mainly from Europe and North America. Argentina did send a player, but this year representatives from nine Central and South America countries took part.

In Africa, go seems to be spreading in countries outside of South Africa as evidenced by Madagascar sending its first competitor. It was also reported by the South African representative that a large number of young people in the townships are regularly going to Johannesburg to take part in classes for beginners. The go situation in Madagascar is truly exciting. The organization there has 240 members, half of which are women.

Two countries from the Middle East-Israel and Turkey-took part, and countries that one might not expect to participated, namely, North Korea and Yugoslavia, were also represented.

Since participating countries must have a sufficient number of members to form an organization, the increase in the number of participating countries shows that go has truly become an international game. Indeed, go, with its 36 million players worldwide, may even exceed chess in popularity.

In past championships, the winner was usually from China or Japan. However, this year, for the second year in a row, South Korea took top place with eight straight wins. Japan was second with seven wins, while North Korea and Chinese Taipei were third and fourth, respectively. Canada took fifth place with six wins, while China also ended with six wins for seventh place, being nosed out by Hong Kong China on a point system called «sum of opponent’s scores.» The United States took the eighth-place slot, also with six wins.

The most surprising and impressive result of the tournament was the 10th place taken by a teenager from Hungary. Fifteen-year-old Diana Koszegi also managed six wins in this tournament. Her two losses came from the eventual winner of the championship, Yoo Jae Sung of South Korea, and sixth-place finisher Kan Ying of Hong Kong China. Koszegi clearly has enormous talent, but she says her first goal is to finish high school. After that, she might try embarking on a professional career in go.

One of the big attractions at this year’s championship was a giant go board 40 meters square with each of the black and white styrofoam stones measuring two meters in diameter. Using this huge go board and stones, a game was played between Mayu Hosaka 2-dan and amateur Miyoshi Abe with about 150 people watching.

Next year, the championship will be held in Sendai. We can expect the participation of at least one other country, Morocco, putting North Africa on the go map.

Basics of life and death (2)

go tactics

As I demonstrated in my last two columns, it is hard for an isolated group to live if it lacks sufficient space to make two eyes. Therefore, expanding its space will make it easier for the group to live. Here is an example.

The black group in Diagram 1 doesn’t have enough room to make two eyes, so it must expand its scope. If Black plays 1 in Diagram 2 and follows up with 3, the space that Black controls is large enough to make two eyes no matter how White attacks.

However, Black 3 in Diagram 3 is a mistake. White will play the hane-placement combination of 4 and 6, and the black stones are dead.

Here are some more examples.

go tactics

The area covered by the four black stones in Diagram 4 is quite limited. However, if Black extends to the edge with 1 in Diagram 5, his stones get sufficient space to make two eyes. If White 2, Black plays 3 and his stones will have no trouble making two eyes. That is, if White A, Black B gives his stones two eyes on the left and on the right. If White B first, Black plays A.

Playing at the edge with Black 1 in Diagram 5 is essential. If Black tries to make eyes by expanding along the side with 1 in Diagram 6, White will take the vital point at 2. Even if Black continues to expand with 3, Black has insufficient space for making two eyes after White blocks with 4.

go tactics

If Black continues with 5 in Diagram 7, White hanes with 6. Black plays 7, but he does not have enough room now to make two eyes. White makes a placement at 8 and the black stones are dead.

In the position in Diagram 8, Black has two moves that will enable his stones to live. The best move is for Black to expand with 1 in Diagram 9. If White blocks with 2 Black plays 3. White might try to reduce Black’s eye space by playing a hane at 4, but Black will block with 5, and the four spaces he controls at the edge is sufficient for him to make two eyes.

go tactics

Black can also live by descending at 1 inDiagram 10, but this move results in loss. White blocks with 2 and gains an extra point of territory on the left compared with Diagram 9. Still, Black is unconditionally alive when he plays 3, since he controls a four-point eye space.

The three black stones in Diagram 11 must expand their space to live. Black 1 in Diagram 12 is the obvious move, but Black must follow this up by playing on the vital point of 3. His stones are now unconditionally alive.

go game

Turning at Black 1 in Diagram 13 seems to give black control of almost nine points, but even if he reinforces with 3, White can still kill the black stones by making a placement at 4, then playing a hane at 6.

Try these two problems:

In Problem 1, Black must defend his endangered marked stone, but an ordinary defensive move does not work.

In Problem 2, Black will have to sacrifice some stones if he is to make a living group in the corner.