How To Lose At the Game of Go: Play Like Me

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In my youth, I played chess. I was just teen girl in khaki shorts and a red T-shirt with a braid hanging down her back who would live to stare at an opponent dead in the eye and say “checkmate”.  

I use to have fantasies of becoming a chess master. Movies like “Searching For Bobbi Fischer” were my bread and butter. In college, there was a cafe with chessboard and I used to hang out there. I was one of the only women who played seriously.

Usually the only female opponents I met played to impress their boyfriend and expected him to lose if he wanted to get laid that night.  Of course, guess who won those matches.

The few times I did play those type of women they whined at me “stop playing so mean!”

This puzzled me.  I followed the rules, what was mean about winning?  They’d get rather dismissive and one women in particular leaned forward and said, “Who are you trying to impress? Which guy?”

It ticked me off so much.  She couldn’t conceive of the idea that I sincerely liked the game and played for myself and to improve.

Long story short, I eventually left chess behind. Not because of her or anyone, but because I discovered a new game, one from the far east, that converted me. I discovered the Game of Go.

What started my interested was actually this anime:

 

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“Hikaru No Go” is the story of a boy who comes across a Go board haunted by a thousand year old Go Master.  Soon the spirit convinces the boy to play for him. Everyone soon believes Hikaru is a Go prodigy. Over time, Hikaru starts to develop his own passion for the game and become strong in his own right.

I was so hooked in college that I searched various thrift shops until I found my own Go board.  I got a few other anime geeks to play against me. At first, they enjoyed it. They were stronger. However, once I started to regularly defeat them they lost interest in playing.

As with chess, I found it hard to find women to play against.  Even my female friends who loved Hikaru No Go, had no interest in the game or the strategy.

Everything changed when I moved to Japan and met my Go teacher.

 

I have played over a hundred games with him and still can’t play him as an equal.  I started at a 9 stone handicap and after over five years I still play at a six stone handicap.

What that means is that six black stones are placed on the board to even up the game since he is much, much stronger.

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This was the start of the game. There are only two white stones on the board, but I already have eight stones down.  It’s the only to have a fair fight, even then I’m outmatched.

In Go, the stronger player always is the white. This is because black had the advantage of going first.

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Look at how the white is hunkering down and fortifying his territory.

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I have a good chunk of territory in the left, but that’s only because my Go teacher allowed me to redo a move that was a critical mistake. I would have accepted the error, but he wanted me to learn. I feel like I have my own “ghost” helping me out here.

 

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White seized the top and bottom and works to cut a swath through the middle. We played at a Go Salon in Tokyo.  There were many elderly women around us. It was mostly men, but it was nice to see so many serious and strong female Go players.

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See that white stone that’s closest to the foreground. That shut down my black’s attempt to invade the white’s territory.  It was a deadly move.

On the left is our endgame.  On the right is when we’ve moved pieces around to make counting easier.

I took over 80 spaces and the white got 54.

Even though I won, it doesn’t feel like a true victory because he let me redo three critical moves.  Of all are games, I’ve only won twice without his help.  If I include the times he advised me than I’m 10/100 in victories.

 

Anyone else enjoy Go?

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