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By Richard Bozulich
· The origins of go
The origins of go are concealed in unchronicled past of ancient China. There is a tangle of conflicting popular and scholarly anecdotes attributing its invention to two Chinese emperors, an imperial vassal, and court astrologers. One story has it that go was invented by the legendary Emperor Yao (ruled 2357-2256 B.C.) as an amusement for his idiot son. A second claims that the Emperor Shun (ruled 22552205 B.C.) created the game in hopes of improving his weak-minded son's mental prowess. A third says the person named Wu, a vassal of the Emperor Jie (ruled 1818-1766 B.C.), invented go as well as games of cards. Finally, a fourth theory suggests that go was developed by court astrologers during the Zhou dynasty (1045-255 B.C.). In any event, it is generally agreed that go is at least 3,000 and might be as much as 4,000 years old, which makes it the world's oldest strategic board game. Go probably evolved out of a method of divination practiced by the kings and shaman-astrologers of the early Zhou culture. One of these methods is believed to have entailed the casting of black and white pieces on a square board marked with astrological and geomantic symbols. Some fundamental go terms still in use today have astrological meanings. For example, the central point of the board is called tengen, "axis of heaven," and the eight specially marked points near the perimeter are called hoshi, "stars," the nine together making up the traditional "Nine Lights of Heaven," i.e., the seven stars of Ursa Major (the center of the Chinese astronomical system), the sun and the moon. The four quarters of the board are named after the four directions, each correlated to one of the basic trigrams of the "I-Ching" system. Beginning at the upper right and going clockwise, they are: Southwest (female, earth), Northwest (male, heaven), Northeast (hard, limit), and Southeast (gentle, yielding). The earliest mention of go appears in the "Analects" of Confucius, which was believed to have been written in the 5th century B.C., while the earliest physical evidence was a 17x17 line go board discovered in 1952 in a tomb of the former Han dynasty (206 B.C.- A.D. 9).
when he described a mountain in southern China: "Below the shallows of the north-flowing Hsun water. so that he felt neither hunger nor thirst. An interesting example of the gradual growth of supernatural ideas around the go board is given by Liu Tsung-yuen." There are many legends about people who by chance encounter an immortal." The word was applied to someone who was not only wise but ageless. The progenitors of such awe-inspiring figures are to be found in the shamans and diviners of early China." which made a deep impression on the Japanese mind." In Japanese. however. "Ranka. Uncanny things happened on mountaintops. and this cavern has screens. someone in possession of supernatural powers and able to wander through heaven and Earth at will. Their activities were intimately bound up with the birth of Taoist philosophy and thus with the development of go itself. Wang Chih was fascinated. was believed to acquire a type of knowledge beyond the ken of ordinary folk. There is a cavern at its top. go out to the north and you will be looking down on a great wilderness and on flying birds--all you will discern of them is their backs. When he awoke. When he got back to his native village he discovered that his family had disappeared and that no one even remembered his name. After ascending to the topmost cavern. making eighteen pathways. writing in 815." and it is often used as a poetic name for go. As he continued to watch he fell into a trance for what seemed like an hour or two. with red veins on a black surface. remote from everyday concerns. In China and Japan. the two old men were no longer there. One of the players gave him something like a date to chew on." This mountain can be ascended from the west. The first person to ascend here obtained a stone-and-board game on the summit. tells of a certain Wang Chih. suitable for go. their board resting on a rock between them. One day he went farther than usual and became lost. chambers and eaves. He wandered about for a while and eventually came upon two strange old men who were playing go. 2 . Under these eaves there are figures formed from flowing stone.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich · Go and the Immortals The kanji character for "sage" or "immortal" is composed of two elements which signify "mountain person. The old Chinese story. a woodcutter: "Wang Chih was a hardy young fellow who used to venture deep into the mountains to find suitable wood for his ax. He found that his ax handle had rotted to dust and he had grown a long beard. mountains were regarded as realms of mystery. and a person who spent years among the peaks. is the socalled "Mountain of the Transcendents' Go Game. He put down his ax and began to watch. and then west. the word "ranka" means "rotten ax handle.
grasses. Go Sankei muses. He also brought back a knowledge of go." Coxinga. go was one of the three major pastimes enjoyed by early 7th-century Japanese (the other two were backgammon and gambling). I am interested to see you playing go." · Go comes to Japan Go was probably brought to Japan from Korea by artists. Together they come to 360. without seeming to answer. There are no written records verifying the precise date of go's introduction into Japan. nothing will cloud our view of mountains. it is a go board. For those who see with their minds. After 18 years in China. the playwright Chikamatsu made use of this legend in a scene in his play "The Battles of Coxinga. "Old gentlemen. notices two old men with shaggy eyebrows and white hair absorbed in a game of go. The 90 intersections of each quarter of the board represent the 90 days of each of the four seasons." Go Sankei: "What are the rules?" Old Man: "The stratagems of war. From the vantage point of this board. In contrast to the documentary evidence from Chinese historical records. "But why should you two oppose each other as your sole pleasure?" "If there were not both yin and yang. they are merely go stones. who succeeded to her father's throne as the Empress Koken. "Can this be the pure world of enlightenment?" Carried away with curiosity he cries out. Fascinated." Go Sankei: "And the result of your contest?" Old Man: "Does not the good and bad fortune of mankind depend on the chance of the moment?" Go Sankei: "And the black and the white?" Old Man: "The night and the day. but according to the "Records of the Sui. Kibi returned with a cargo of artifacts representing his choice of the best of Chinese culture.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich In 1715. to bring the best of Tang learning back to Japan. scholars and former officials who migrated to Japan to escape political turmoil in their own land. the center of the universe is here. and for the eye that sees go stones. But the go board is like the world. called Go Sankei in Chikamatsu's play. speaks. "If it looks like a go board to you. Is there some special pleasure to be found in this contest?" One old man. the popular belief in Japan is that go was brought directly from China in the year 735 by Kibi no Makibi." the chronicle of a Chinese dynasty (597618). or trees of all China. He was sent to the Tang capital of Chang-an with a commission from Emperor Shomu's daughter. rivers. How foolish of you not to realize that we spend one day on each intersection!" "Extraordinary!" says Go Sankei. "there would be no order in creation." the old man replies. seemingly in perfect harmony with nature. 3 . popularly known as Grand Minister Kibi.
and they all employed go teachers for themselves and their officers. Yasui and Hayashi. he was so impressed with the latter's skill that he cried out "Meijin!'' This is apparently the origin of the term. It is said that sometime in 1578 while Nobunaga was watching Nikkai play. Nikkai was also awarded a stipend which began the government patronage that enabled go to flourish in Japan. some of whom believed that the study of its tactics and strategies was good moral and intellectual training for the operations of armies in the field. The holder of this office was the shogun's official go instructor. · The development of go in Japan In the 12th century. Nobunaga's successor. During this period. changing his name to Honinbo Sansa). Nikkai. Only the top player could become Godokoro. resulting in its establishment as a game worthy of the Japanese nobility. It is safe to say that while Kibi did not introduce go to Japan. and instituted the annual castle games played in the presence of the shogun. go was highly regarded by the warrior generals. the Godokoro decided pairings for the annual castle games and was responsible for all ceremonies connected with go. His government awarded stipends to the four go houses. Around the same time. it is probable that when he informed those at the Imperial court of go's popularity at the Tang court. The Godokoro was the top go post in the Edo-era go world. four go houses were established: the Honinbo (of which Nikkai became the head. held by Honinbo Sansa until his death in 1623. such as games played before the emperor and games with foreigners. Tokugawa Ieyasu united Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. he was responsible for its achieving the great prestige it has enjoyed here. in 1603. The three greatest Japanese warlords of the late 16th and early 17th centuries-Oda Nobunaga. Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu-were devotees of go. go was elevated to a special status. These houses competed in the search for the most talented players and devoted great effort to the study and development of go theory and technique in order to surpass each other. It continues today as the name of one of the top three professional go titles. won this competition and Hideyoshi decreed that from then on all other players should take black or a larger handicap from him. the warrior class supplanted the aristocracy as the effective rulers of Japan. who was Nobunaga's go teacher. organized a large-scale competition to systematize the rankings of go players. established the office of Godokoro. He also controlled promotions and the issuing of diplomas.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich While go was undoubtedly one of many games enjoyed by the upper classes of early 7th-century Japan before Kibi's return from Chang-an. 4 . Inoue. which meant that he would also be promoted to the ultimate rank of Meijin (master player). and until the 17th century the country was engulfed in almost continual warfare. In 1588. In addition. a high-ranking Buddhist monk. Toyotomi Hideyoshi. At the beginning of the 17th century.
if a player wins a certain percentage of an increasing number of games. and receiving royalties on books and videos. teaching amateurs. In addition. Professional go players can make substantial earnings through game fees and prize money from the many tournaments they compete in. · Go in China Despite having been invented in China. Around 1880. go has not always enjoyed a place of honor in that country. Every Saturday and Sunday. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). nowadays a leading sponsor of go in Japan. In July 1924. and the heads of the four go houses and their pupils found themselves adrift in a new world where ancient traditions were cast aside. he or she will be promoted to the next rank. interest in go was revived. The associations usually accept only youngsters from age 5 to 18 who show exceptional talent. only five are admitted to professional rank each year." It was not until 1981 that the current. go was out of favor with the zealous Red Guards. this time under private auspices. but. the usual way is to become an apprentice at the Japan Go Association or the Western Japan Go Association. these young students compete with each other in a rating tournament. although the Chinese government officially supported about 30 go players. they must work their way up to the upper echelons of the tournament. there are nearly 500 active professional players in Japan. they start out at the rank of 1-dan. To qualify as professionals. and professional go in its current form began. The game reached the zenith of its theoretical development at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). there were more than a dozen newspapers with go columns. To rise above this rank. they play against other professionals in a rating tournament.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich · Professional go in Japan Although go was always esteemed by the upper classes in China and Korea. it was in Japan that it achieved its highest level of play and became widely popular with the masses. Out of 48 aspirants. well-supported professional system was initiated. The system for gaining promotion is complicated. classed as "national sportsmen and sportswomen. in essence. and The Yomiuri Shimbun. The highest rank attainable is 9-dan. How does one become a professional go player? In Japan. making TV appearances. The system of government patronage it received was abolished in 1868. Today. was one of the first when it started publishing game records in 1885. Once apprentices have become professional. but the prosperity it had achieved was swept away in the 1860s amid the confusion resulting from the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Newspapers started publishing game records. By 1910. the Japan Go Association was founded. 5 . and it became feasible to make a living as a go player again. they can also earn money by officiating at tournaments.
have continued until the present. The rivalry between Japan and China took on a different character with the introduction in 1984 of the annual Japan-China Super Go knockout team match. On numerous occasions. Ma Xiaochun. his supremacy is now being challenged by a new generation of players. he consistently defeated some of the strongest Japanese players. 22. junior high and high school levels. How did the Chinese become so strong so fast? For one thing. so talented young players have a chance to compete for local and national titles at the primary. 6 . Chinese professionals say that they have learned a lot from Japanese pros who acted as tutors during the early years of the Japan-China go exchanges. However. have achieved significant successes not only in Chinese tournaments but also in international tournaments. Zhou Heyang. They also had available all the go theory that was developed in Japan over the last 400 years. 20. there is no gap between the playing strength of the top Chinese players and that of the top Japanese and Korean players. The (South) Korean Go Association was founded almost single-handedly in September 1955 by Cho Nam Chul. · Go in South Korea Although go was played in Korea long before it arrived in Japan. with the exception of a six-year suspension from 1967 through 1972. Nie Weiping was the first Chinese player to seriously challenge Japanese supremacy in go. he anchored the Chinese team in the Japan-China Super Go series to save China from defeat by beating the best players Japan could field. with about 100 professionals competing for them.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich Over the past 38 years. Japan's defeat was apparently so humiliating--nearly its entire team was wiped out by the 20-year-old Chang Hao--that the series was canceled. Go. In spite of the short history of China's professional go system. Regular tournaments and title matches were first held in the late 1970s. there are a number of big titles. In the late 1970s. In addition. Two other young professionals. They began in 1960 and. there has been an active go exchange between China and Japan. but in 1980 it was officially recognized by the South Korean government as an important cultural asset. Last year. he defeated Ma Xiaochun in a major title match. which the Chinese won more often than not. a new player. Today. who is only 21. however. The strongest Chinese players are Chang Hao and Ma Xiaochun. the foremost of whom is Chang Hao. called "paduk" in Korean. the government sponsors go in public schools. From the late 1980s. it is only since 1956 that it has been played professionally there. was traditionally regarded only as a pastime or a gambling game. consisting of goodwill tours featuring games between Japanese professionals and the top Chinese players. began to dominate the Chinese tournament scene. similar to those in Japan. In 1996. and Wang Lei.
But in 1920. A German engineer. including eight newspaper tournaments and three TV tournaments. he has become a hero in his native land where he has ignited a huge following. a ninth-dan. Because of Lee Chang Ho's spectacular successes in domestic tournaments as well as in the international go arena. But it had only about 50 readers and it was discontinued in about one year after publishing 10 issues. Meanwhile. In the United States. a Croatian port in the Adriatic Sea. His efforts have borne fruit. with about 200 members. Bruno Ruger resumed publication in Dresden. the German Go Association was founded. while in Europe the European Go Federation brings together go organizations from both eastern and western Europe. South Korea will be the preeminent go-playing country in the world. and from here the game spread throughout Croatia. the player who dominated the South Korean titles was Cho Hun Hyun. as did his compatriot Cho Chikun. is clearly the strongest player in South Korea and some think the strongest in the world. there are more than 120 go clubs. This club was apparently quite active. In 1937. Yoo Chang Hyuk. go has become increasingly popular in the West. In his youth. go had also established a foothold in Germany. It has been predicted that in 10 years. but instead of making his career there. only a nucleus of about 12 players were left. It was published continuously until 1943 and provided unity to all go groups throughout Germany and Austria. Large South Korean companies have poured vast amounts of money into international tournaments and a legion of young prodigies are emerging. 7 . he returned to South Korea with the intention of raising the strength of his countrymen. L. It was the first official nationwide go organization established outside of Asia and in 1938 it organized the first European Go Championship. somewhat like that of a rock star. This has caused a surge in the popularity of go in South Korea. The history of go in Europe began in 1900 with the founding of a go circle in a naval officer's club in Pula. Pfaundler published a go magazine Deutsche Go Zeitung. especially in the United States and Europe. From the middle of the 1970s. Slovenia and Austria. Based on this report. Cho studied in Japan. published a report on the game in a German journal around 1880. two introductory books on go were published around 1908. is also a disciple Cho Hun Hyun. His disciple Lee Chang Ho. representing almost every state. Around this time Prof.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich Today. · Go in Europe Over the past few decades. at the age of 22. He holds most South Korean titles as well as some important international titles. Another South Korean title-holder. there are more than 150 professional players competing for prizes in 16 different tournaments. but they held regular meetings in Vienna until around 1939. who had learned go from Honinbo Shuho while working in Japan. Otto Korschelt. In the aftermath of World War I.
the European Go Center was opened in Amstelveen. · International tournaments With the emergence of Chinese and Korean go players who were clearly as strong as the top Japanese title holders. Today. In 1958.000. but the winner's prize was 400. 8 .The magic of Go Richard Bozulich World War II effectively put a stop to most go activities in Europe. The biggest and most important event is the European Go Congress that includes the European Open Championship. the Tong Yang Securities Cup was transformed from being a solely Korean affair to an international tournament with a winner's prize of 120. Netherlands. It publishes books for beginners as well as teacher manuals and has had them translated into 16 European languages. the Ing Cup was established by Ing Chang-ki.000. two tournaments were founded by Korean companies. it became clear that a venue was needed in which all the top players in the world could compete against each other to determine who was the world's strongest player. In 1992. the European Go Championship was restarted as part of the European Go Congress. The center is more than a venue where players can meet for games: it is also the main center for popularizing the game throughout Europe.000 won (about 91. and is usually attended by about 500 players. dollars so it attracted a lot of interest. By 1960. go is played in 27 countries throughout western and eastern Europe. Switzerland and Denmark. It was founded and financed by Kaoru Iwamoto who held the Honinbo title for two terms in the 1940s.000. first held in 1988 and dubbed the World Go Championship.000 yen first prize.000 dollars). In 1996. go clubs had sprung up in Yugoslavia and by the 1970s it had spread to France. The first professional international tournament was the Fujitsu Cup. a Taiwanese industrialist. In 1990. The responsibility of organizing inter-European go activities falls to the European Go Federation. It also actively promotes go in elementary schools. This event was held only once every four years. offering a first prize of 200. This event is held every year during the last week of July and the first week of August. Each of these countries holds a national championship and the winner is usually entitled to go to Japan to represent his or her country in the World Amateur Go Championship. In this tournament top players from all over the world vie for a 20. The first was the LG Cup. but by 1953 go clubs had sprung up in both the Netherlands and Britain and there was enough interest to warrant annual European go congresses.000 won (about 152. the EGF organizes a tournament to determine the European who will play in the Fujitsu World Championship. The following year.000 dollars at today's exchange rate). thereby ensuring that go will be an important game in Europe as well as in Asia in the next century. and it has been held every year sincethen.000. Besides the go congress. It also organizes youth championships as well as many other tournaments. This year's congress will be held in Slovakia.
000 dollars prize for the winner. but Rui now lives in the United States. with its 36 million players worldwide.000. This last tournament is unique in that it is an open tournament in which anyone can compete to join the seeded players in the main tournament. all competitors in the preliminaries must pay their own expenses. held from June 8 to 11 in Oita. The organization there has 240 members. Madagascar. Since its inauguration in 1995. about 1. where she teaches go and competes in various international tournaments. who is indisputedly the world's strongest woman go player. there were players from 55 countries. but this year representatives from nine Central and South America countries took part. may even exceed chess in popularity. there is some prize money. the World Amateur Go Championship. which offers a 400. Guatemala. Two countries from the Middle East--Israel and Turkey--took part. There is also an international TV tournament in which the finalists from the TV tournaments in China. half of which are women. namely.000 won (about 304. In Africa. Korean and Japan play a knockout tournament for the TV Asia Cup.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich Quickly following on the heels of this tournament came the Samsung Cup. Each player must make a move within 30 seconds. However. The go situation in Madagascar is truly exciting. Since participating countries must have a sufficient number of members to form an organization. The games of this tournament are broadcast live in the participants' countries. but has 10 minutes free-thinking time. something previously unheard of in a professional tournament. Feng Yun. with five--Vietnam. sponsored by Japan Airlines. Indeed. go.000 dollars) first prize. For every win in the preliminaries. She has won this tournament three times. is held in Japan. the countries outside of Asia that took part were mainly from Europe and North America. dollars The big lure. Colombia and Peru represented for the first time. is the 400. and countries that one might not expect to participated. 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. it has been dominated by Rui Naiwei. 9 . has won it once. Argentina did send a player. There is also a world championship tournament for women called the Bohai Cup. were also represented. In the first championship. At the first championship in 1979. the increase in the number of participating countries shows that go has truly become an international game. · World Amateur Go Championship Every year. In this year's event. Both Rui and Feng are Chinese.000. Her go strength is on the same level as the top male professionals. North Korea and Yugoslavia. however. while her main rival. only 15 countries participated. go seems to be spreading in countries outside of South Africa as evidenced by Madagascar sending its first competitor.
Go playing was also one of the arts that many of the geisha of the Edo period mastered. South Korea took top place with eight straight wins. Kita's father was a famous doctor who compiled the first Japanese-German dictionary. The most famous was Sano Hayashi (1825-1901). Using this huge go board and stones." The United States took the eighth-place slot. By 1840 she had reached 1-dan and became 3-dan in 1846. and sixth-place finisher Kan Ying of Hong Kong China. Fifteen-year-old Diana Koszegi also managed six wins in this tournament. She was an active player until 1890. being nosed out by Hong Kong China on a point system called "sum of opponent's scores. she might try embarking on a professional career in go. Yoo Jae Sung of South Korea. Morocco. a game was played between Mayu Hosaka 2-dan and amateur Miyoshi Abe with about 150 people watching. but. As a child she showed sufficient talent for the game to be adopted by the Hayashi go house. being a woman was no handicap. 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. Not only was this novel written by a women. her mother gave her up for adoption to the Hayashi go school and Sano Hayashi became her adoptive mother. putting North Africa on the go map. she was posthumously awarded the rank of 7-dan. she was clearly the equal of most of her male rivals. Japan was second with seven wins. and. while North Korea and Chinese Taipei were third and fourth. for the second year in a row. Only a few women who played go professionally during the Edo period. and the game was clearly enjoyed by women as well as men.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich In past championships. when he died. As a go player. the winner was usually from China or Japan. The most surprising and impressive result of the tournament was the 10th place taken by a teenager from Hungary. Evidence for this is in the numerous woodblock prints of geisha featuring go as its main theme. Her two losses came from the eventual winner of the championship. when she died in 1950. while China also ended with six wins for seventh place. · Women in go One of the earliest references to women playing go in Japan can be found in "The Tale of Genji. However. also with six wins. the championship will be held in Sendai. Next year. Koszegi clearly has enormous talent. Canada took fifth place with six wins. Perhaps her most important legacy was in her disciple Fumiko Kita (1875-1950). After that. No doubt go was a popular pastime in the medieval court of the time. the only go players in it were women. respectively. She became 1-dan in 1889 and eventually was awarded the rank of 6-dan. 10 . We can expect the participation of at least one other country. but she says her first goal is to finish high school. this year. the highest rank ever attained by a woman at that time.
This result might lead you to believe that go would also be an easy game for a computer to play well. including the 1990 Women's Meijin title. who was the daughter of the great Minoru Kitani. The object of go is to control more territory than your opponent. She has won the Bohai Cup twice and has played in every final of that tournament that she has entered. with its different pieces and complicated rules. 2 player) and the late Reiko Kobayashi (nee Kitani) 7-dan. Its rules are few and simple.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich She became famous and earned great respect by winning five straight games against male opponents on three different occasions. and she has won the Bohai Cup. she is challenging Terumi Nishida 5-dan for the Women's Meijin title. She has defeated many top professionals in international tournaments. who is also a 9-dan. She has held a number of women's titles in the past. an IBM computer designed to play chess. She has beaten many top-ranked players in open tournaments. Her results. although the second strongest female player in the world. Chinese female players seem to be much stronger than their Japanese counterparts. only one or two women played go professionally. But it is not so easy. (considered to be Japan's No. She is unaffiliated with any of the major go associations. Kita is considered to be the mother of modern-day women's professional go. At present. 1977). go is played only with equal-valued black and white stones. 11 . Many feel she will develop into a top player. which would seem to make it compatible with the binary nature of computers. but now there are more than 50 female professional go players. Although she holds no title. Kikuyo Aoki 7-dan is another very promising as well as an ambitious competitor--she hopes to be the first woman to take a top open title. Unlike chess. 1963). Rui is clearly a cut above her. Rui emigrated to the United States a number of years ago with her husband. she was convincingly defeated. Virtually all female players who turned professional before World War II were taught by her. would seem to indicate that she is among the 20 top players in the world. Before the war. so her appearances are limited to the international open tournaments and others that she is invited to participate in. In spite of Japan's long history of women go players. and currently holds the Women's Kisei title. a chore computers excel at. a world championship tournament exclusively for women. indicating that. but each time she faced Rui. however. She is the daughter of Koichi Kobayashi 9-dan. She came close when she played in the best-of-three match for the King of the New Star tournament two years ago. · Go and computers The year 1997 was a bad year for world chess champion Gary Kasparov-he was defeated by Deep Blue. three times. The most stellar is Rui Naiwei 9-dan (b. One of the most promising postwar players is Izumi Kobayashi 3-dan (b. The other Chinese woman 9-dan is Feng Yun. so the best move in any position is simply the one that gives the player of that move the maximum amount of territory-a simple counting procedure.
so they would contribute little to increasing the strength of a go program. Thus. might be a game-losing blunder. quantifying a general concept of territory for go. heuristics will have to constitute a large part of the program. such moves. it will have to be programed to play intelligently. Moreover. One reason chess can be programmed to such a high level is that it is essentially a tactical game in which material gain is important. as chess programs do. The most sophisticated chess programs look ahead seven or eight moves to find the best way to give a material or a positional advantage. In other cases. These are the areas where computers.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich Indeed. Another factor that makes go more difficult to program than chess is the size of the board. is not easy. considering that go players routinely look more than 10 moves deep. such as the capture of a large group in one part of the board. fewer than 100 lines of computer code are needed to program a computer to play go. Clearly. it will not be able to rely on brute force. it would not make for a strong program. Ultimately. will translate into territorial gains elsewhere. material gains are strongly linked to strategic considerations. Strength in go relies too much on intuition and pattern recognition. But it is essential that they be played because they maximize the efficiency of other stones. there are moves that directly take territory. Add a few more lines to the program and the computer will be able to evaluate the amount of territory controlled by each side. the best go-playing programs are not much stronger than a beginner. there is no one dominating factor. It would be possible to compile heuristics for go. can be turned into territory elsewhere. moves must be made to maintain the integrity of a position. which a computer can understand. the local position could collapse. Such moves may seem to duplicate the work of the other stones in a particular locale." But to quantify the concept of territory is not so simple. In fact. as yet. The problem in go is that there are so many principles that constitute a good move. A tactical success. In most chess positions there are usually around 30 possible moves. and 95 percent of human players make oversights within a search horizon of three or four moves. In other words. On the standard 19 x 19 grid. In some positions. If a computer is to play go well. a group may not define territory. In go. But when it comes to tactics and strategy. certain kinds of defensive moves may not seem to have a territorial meaning. Of course. In chess the two main heuristics are material gain and mobility. there can be anywhere from 100 to over 300 possible moves to consider. have almost no ability. is impractical. if they are good. with skillful play. but it is hard to instruct the computer to recognize when such moves should be made. making exhaustive whole-board searches. 12 . Superficially. The most likely candidate that comes to mind for an evaluation function is "size of territory. however. but it radiates influence that. in the short term they let one's opponent get more territory. but they would give contradictory suggestions as to where a move should be played. but if they are omitted.
· Go online In the past. Most applied-AI tasks take place in the real world. There are a large number of players at all levels. Another site is the NNGS (No Name Go Server). There are a lot of advantages to playing go on the Internet. and new clubs are having a hard time attracting members. you can always find an opponent day or night. and Toshiba Corp. so you can easily find an opponent around your playing strength.msn.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich Because of go's complexity. Online go is starting to cut into the clubs where go players have traditionally congregated. Since go is played in different time zones. You can also play go on the Internet in Yahoo's gaming area (http://games. from beginners to professionals. but this is a "noisy" domain that makes problems difficult to solve. Go has many features in common with the targets of applied AI and it also provides a clean environment in which to solve these problems. This trend has not been so noticeable in Japan where most players are of the older generation and are not as computer savvy as those in their 20s and 30s. In spite of the decline in clubs. it could provide the vehicle to help make important advances in artificial intelligence. At peak hours. has just opened its own go server. Although I am skeptical that computers will ever be able to compete on equal terms with even moderately strong amateur go players. your only options would be to visit a go club or play with a friend at his home or yours. the challenge of go might provide the impetus for many of the future advances that will be made in artificial intelligence. and this is the age group that is quite knowledgeable about computers and finding its way around the Internet.yahoo. as time goes by. or the Internet Go Server at http://igs. this is bound to change. the Internet offers a third option--playing online. WWGo. these two sites are not designed for the serious go player and are best for beginners who just want to get a few games under their belts. there are no language problems.joyjoy. most players in Europe and the United States are about college age. Among Japanese-language sites. there may be as many as 800 players logged on. "San-san" is popular. 13 .net. but the most popular is IGS. so these organizations will no doubt be spending a lot of money advertising their go servers. There has recently been a decline in membership. however. the go population in the United States and Europe seems to be increasing dramatically because of the Web. There are a number of sites where you can play go. However. You do not have to worry about equipment: the online graphics are superb with easy to follow instructions.com). In contrast.com) and at Microsoft's MSN Gaming Zone (http://zone. A number of large Japanese companies are planning to launch similar servers. thereby promoting the popularity of the game. Today. But. And with the option of choosing from a number of computergenerated language modes. if you wanted to play go.
with all its advantages. IGS runs a "cybercamp" where children can log on and play games with each other. The Web has also been a boon for the propagation of go among children. © The Yomiuri Shimbun.The magic of Go Richard Bozulich Beginners can learn go on the Internet and weaker players can easily enjoy games with strong players who will instruct them. But whatever misgivings traditionalists such as myself might have about Internet go. Since participants can use a pseudonym on the Web. On the first Friday of every month. 1999 14 . and the anonymity of the Web does not lend itself well to human contact nor the friendships that so often comes from meeting an opponent face-to-face. beginners are spared the embarrassment of having their mistakes associated with their real names. like all games. Internet go seems to lack a human element. is a social activity. Still. pointing out their mistakes and suggesting better moves. Go. Also lacking are the tactile feel of the stones and the resonant click they produce on the board when fine equipment is used. playing go on the Web seems to be the wave of the future and is perhaps best way for go to become a major game in the West.