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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Master of Go

I can't believe that I haven't blogged about Go. I guess I haven't been playing it much lately. Go is the world's oldest board game. Also called Baduk (Korea), Wei'Qi (China), and Igo (Japan). If you like the kind of thinking involved in Chess, you will love Go. Go is far superior, in fact. If you think I'm putting you on, just try the game.

It may intrigue you to know that while computers can beat the world's best Chess masters, there is no computer which can beat even a mediocre Go player. Probably not even me! I believe the reason for this is that Go is more multi-disciplinary than Chess. A strong capacity for creativity will take you far in Go. Simply creating beautiful shapes can often be a winning strategy. This is what makes Go, for me, so appealing. The creative and rational functions of the brain are exercised equally. It's not all science as I belive Chess is for the most part.

My friend Andy Kim taught me how to play a few years ago. I'm not sure how it all started, but for some reason he showed me the game and we just kept on playing. He would always correct my moves and I learned gradually. I started buying books and playing online and in local clubs. We don't play as much as we used to and our games have become considerably more advanced, but I still like playing with him the most. He just left for Korea today and I asked him jokingly to bring me back a nice Go board.

Playing go is more like a conversation than a game. Your character comes out through the moves you choose and at what stage of the game you choose to make them. Some people are agressive, some are defensive. Some people think long and hard over each move, some lay their stones instantly. Some focus on strategy and probabilities, others focus on shape and symmetry.

There are worlds of philosophy that have been generated out of Go. Numerous proverbs teach insights about the game and life and armies have used Go concepts in battle. My favorite proverb is, "If you lose, take a break." This is true in life as well as in Go. After a close contest, all you want is to immediately play a rematch. When you start that game, your head will not be in the right place and you will probably lose. The ego needs a minute to heal (or at least sit down) and your head needs to cool off for a few minutes before you are ready to pick up the stones again. Same thing in life.

Finally, Go is also the subject of some great literature. Most notable among Go-related books is The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Another good book is First Kyu by Dr. Sung-Hwa Hong.

The point is, you should look into Go. It's a beautiful game. It stretches your mind, and maybe even your soul.

Here is a popular Japanese anime cartoon about a boy who learns Go from the ghost of an ancient champion:

1 comment:

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