Andrew Feenberg has made illuminating and interesting points comparing and contrasting the recent match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, and the novelized match between Shusai and Kitani in the book The Master of Go.
There are differences in the modern feeling of go, and what go traditionally has been, and it is all about the details; the ones we focus on, and what they mean, are up for debate.
Feenberg suggests (Rational Play? The Master of Go vs. AlphaGo), as some observers in the book do, that move 121 was the central issue, a move away from the main center battle in order to take advantage of the time rules. Kawabata does spend a bit of time on it, but I’d say therein lies the issue for the Master: it’s not a central issue to the game itself.
For that reason, it may have the appearance of a modern attempt to take advantage of ‘fussy’ rules in order to win a game, at some cost to the meaning of the game. In fact, it may be much more insidious than that :), it’s a ‘modern’ way of extracting the maximum number of points whenever you can, without emotional involvement in what appears to be happening on the board at that moment as a battle between two human opponents. In this sense, the modern game is bringing a new, more nuanced sensibility to the concepts of “tempo” in games, specifically “sente” and “gote” in go.
The Master himself allows that it’s a question of timing, and his opponent may not be able to make that small forcing play later, depending on how the center battle goes. It possibly does throw him, as he later misses a crucial timing issue in that center battle (at this level, questions of who is the inferior player I think can’t be shown through one game, or one move in one game, and are beyond the scope of what can be argued through them). But this detail of what the Master actually said is lost as well, perhaps deliberately as it’s subtly suggested that the Master himself is now trying to “justify” an (ugly) move in an attempt to preserve the beauty of go, as if we have a lock on definitions of beauty, and 121 isn’t it, and the players themselves are telling us things about the game that they don’t understand.
If this were a modern game, there would be no question that White would lose a game without komi; there’s no reasonable chance that one top player can spot another Black no komi, the Master is almost certainly going to lose such a game precisely because of tradition. It’s interesting to me to note our human tendency to focus also on the score beyond winning and losing, as if the players would care if it was a 3 or 4 or 5 point loss, and play accordingly. Observers often say a resignation or a bigger loss is somehow indicative of a greater difference in skill exhibited between the players. It’s rare for someone to see that a great player, seeing he or she was behind, would make plays that were arguably better, but perhaps riskier and result in a greater loss.
Focusing on another detail, I’d hesitate to call this a ‘Western’ influence, although perhaps Kawabata appears focused on ‘outside’ influences and is feeling it from the West, and China could be considered west of Japan, or not being looked at, depending on where one is standing :). The way of thinking behind move 121 to me has clear roots in an outside, fresh perspective of analysis through objective territorial counting that Kitani’s great collaborator in the modern way of play, the player who came to Japan from China, Go Seigen, brought to the table.
A more compelling analogy to me would be between Go Seigen and AlphaGo, and the big question still to be answered is if AlphaGo will bring us a rich body of work like Go Seigen did, so much so that it’s said you can do nothing but study the games of Go Seigen 10 times and become a professional shodan, or if we’ll have 10 tantalizing clues of what AlphaGo was thinking at a point in gmaespacetime.
Much thanks to Mr. Feenberg, and the American Go E-Journal, for bringing such thought-provoking pieces right to me with my morning coffee!
Iowa City, IA: Seeking players to form a go club in Iowa City. All strengths welcome. Contact: email@example.com
This year’s US Go Congress organizers have lined up “an exciting ‘Computer Go Afternoon’” reports Chun Sun. “We are honored to have Yuandong Tian from Facebook Research, who will present ‘DarkForest: A DCNN-based open source Go engine,’ on the afternoon of August 4.” Also lined up is John Tromp, who has calculated the exact number of legal go positions, and who will present a lecture on the subject on August 4. As previously reported, Google Deepmind is coming to the Congress this year as well. In addition to giving the opening keynote on Saturday, July 30, Google Deepmind’s Aja Huang and Hui Fan 2P will also present an “AlphaGo Insider” lecture on August 4th’s “Computer Go afternoon,” focusing on the developer community. “After these exciting presentations, DarkForest will play Andy Liu 1p at 3 handicaps,” Chun Sun adds. As the new “JustGo” live recording/broadcasting app will be demoing around the lounge and playing room.
The American Go Yearbook 2015 Member’s Edition Collection has just been published. One of the benefits of membership in the American Go Association is the Member’s Edition of the American Go E-Journal, the largest English language go publication in the world. The Member’s Edition includes game commentaries and other special content and the annual Yearbook collects it all into one handy online document. Once selected in the online Yearbook, game records or PDFs open up quickly and easily for review or download. We appreciate our member’s support of the AGA and hope that they will find the Yearbook a valuable and useful resource. Click here now to join the AGA and begin receving the Member’s Edition. Special thanks to the Yearbook Production Team: Myron Souris, Games Editor; Justin Hall, Assistant Online Editor.
- Chris Garlock, Managing Editor
The 39th Canadian Go Open Tournament will be hosted in Mississauga and Oakville, Ontario this year from July 1st to July 3rd over the Canada Day weekend. Participants will have a chance to view the Canada Day fireworks and dazzling cirque shows at Mississauga’s Celebration Square (7 minutes drive away from event venue) after a day of playing Pair Go on Friday.
The six-round main tournament will be hosted on Saturday and Sunday in Oakville. Lectures for both beginners and advanced players and simultaneous game with professional players will be scheduled in between games. A casual four-round lightning Go will be hosted on Saturday night. The tournament will end with a traditional award ceremony and banquet. For detailed schedule and more information, please visit the Golden Key Go School’s website.
The price for the three-day event is $85 for adults and $60 for children. Door price will be $10 higher. Register now for three days of fun.
- Joanna Liu
July 2: Sacramento, CA
Davis/Sacramento Summer Quarterly
Willard Haynes firstname.lastname@example.org 916-929-6112
Get the latest go events information.
Ichiriki wins 7th O-kage Cup: The final section (last four rounds) of the 7th O-kage (Gratitude) Cup, a tournament for players aged 30 and under, was held on the bank of the Isuzu River and at the Alley Ki-in in Ise City in Mie Prefecture on May 14 and 15. The sponsors are a group of tourist-trade shops (many of them recreations of Edo Period buildings) in Gratitude Alley, the street leading up to the Ise Shrine (later in the month, this area was the site of the G7 summit).
The players who made the final, Ichiriki Ryo 7P and Anzai Nobuaki 7P, are fellow disciples of So Kofuku 9P. Anzai is the older, 30 to Ichiriki’s 18, and won the 2nd and 3rd terms of this tournament, but Ichiriki has recently developed into one of the top players of the post-Iyama generation. Taking black, Iyama beat Anzai by resignation after 183 moves and won this title for the thirdtime in a row. First prize is three million yen.
The level of competition was quite high, as the 16 players in the final section included two former holders of top-seven titles, Murakawa Daisuke, who wonthe Oza title, and Ida Atsushi, the previous Judan, the second-place-getter in
the Honinbo League, Motoki Katsuya 7P, and women’s triple crown-holder Xie Yimin. As it happened, all these players were eliminated in the first round.
Iyama close to defending Honinbo title: The challenger Takao Shinji 9P made a good start in his challenge for the 71st Honinbo title, winning the opening game, but nothing has gone well for him since.
The second game was played at the Honkoji Temple in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture on May 23 and 24. Iyama turned the tables from the first game. Playing white, he attacked severely and seized the initiative, then fended off Takao
’s attempts to get back into the game. Early in the game there was a spectacular trade that gave Takao a large area but also gave Iyama a lot of ko threats. Iyama made good use of them to secure a large territory of his own. Still fighting continued, with Iyama making an unexpected but severe invasion. Takao was ahead in territory, but Iyama’s constant attacking paid off. An unusual feature of this game was that Iyama twice made a tortoise-shell capture; it’s rare for one to appear in a pro game, let alone two. It’s proverbially worth 60 points, twice as much as a ponnuki. Late in the middle game, Takao made a last-chance attack on a white group, but Iyama found a clever move to settle it and nursed his lead to the end. Takao resigned after 230 moves. Incidentally, the 24th was Iyama’s birthday (he’s now 27); he gave himself a good birthday present.
The third game was played the Old Ryotei Kaneyu in Noshiro City in Akita Prefecture on June 2 and 3. (“Ryotei” is a term for a traditional Japanese inn; here “Old Ryotei” has been incorporated as part of the name. This inn is a palatial building made completely of wood; it has been registered with the government as a “tangible cultural property.”) In contrast to the second game, the players made a solid and steady start. Inevitably a fierce fight started in the middle game, with a ko attached. Iyama played strongly and forced Takao to resign after 207 moves.
The fourth game was played in the Olive Bay Hotel in Saikai City in Nagasaki Prefecture on June 13 and 14. This was the most fierce game of the series so far, with fighting starting early in the opening. Playing white, Iyama cut a large group into two and killed both parts of it. Takao resigned after move 128. The game finished at 2:44 pm on the second day, Takao had two hours 33 minutes of his time left and Iyama had one hour 48 minutes left.
The fifth game will be played on June 29 and 30.
Murakawa becomes Gosei challenger: The play-off to decide the challenger for the 41st Gosei title was held on May 18. Murakawa Daisuke 8P (W, right) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 4.5 points, becoming the Gosei challenger for the first time. This gave Murakawa revenge for losing the play-off to decide the Kisei challenger to Yamashita three years in a row. He will be the second player to try to put a dent in Iyama’s septuple crown. The title match will start on June 25.
The 2016 Pair Go World Cup will be held on July 9 & 10 in Tokyo. Sixteen of the world’s best male-female pairs have been invited to compete for the top prize of 10M JPY. The star-studded field includes Ke Jie – Yu Zhiying (China); Iyama Yuta – Hsieh Yimin (Japan); Park Junghwan – Choi Jeong (Korea) and Chen Shih-Iuan – Hei Jiajia (Taiwan). Notable pairs from the West include Eric Lui – Sarah Yu (North America); Fernando Aguilar – Rosario Papeschi (Latin America) and Ilya Shikshin – Natalia Kovaleva (Europe). All games will be broadcast on Pendant. Click here for details.
The Syracuse Go Club had its largest turnout ever for a weekly meeting on Monday, June 13, when 14-year-old Zhangbokan “Tony” Tang 7d played a simul against all comers. Tang, recent winner of the Maryland Open, faced 17 opponents, giving handicaps ranging from 4 stones (for 1 dan players) to 13 (for 20 kyus) — seven other players chose to watch. Only three of his opponents emerged victorious, but a good time was had by all. Tang, who is staying with a host family in Syracuse for three more years until he finishes high school, is about to return to China to visit his family for a few weeks, but he will be returning in time for the US Go Congress, accompanied by his teacher Weijei Jiang 9P.
- report/photo by Richard Moseson
Demo board for sale: Full size magnetic demo board made in China for sale.The board is in great condition (see photo). The magnetic stones are used, but most of them are in good condition. Price: $100 plus shipping. Email: email@example.com
Go magazine & books: Go Review Jan 1972 to Spring 1977; Go World 1-78; The American Go Journal vol. 9 no. 1 (Jan 1974) to Fall/Winter 2002/2003, plus a couple of mimeographed predecessors; about 30 Ishi Press books (numbers on request); the Ranka 1976 yearbook; a small stack of Japanese and Korean publications, including two copies of Ahop Jul Baduk, a booklet about 9-line go; and some non-Ishi books like Lasker, Korscheldt, the Treasure Chest Enigma, and a couple of go proverb books. email firstname.lastname@example.org
Redmond Responds: “Andrew Feenberg (Rational Play? The Master of Go vs. AlphaGo) clearly knows his stuff,” writes Michael Redmond 9P, “but I think it’s confusing that he leaves the challenger’s name as Otake. I was told that Kawabata just happened to choose that name, and it probably has nothing to do with Otake Hideo, who was a young player at the time. The challenger was Kitani Minoru, of course.” Redmond adds that he disagrees with Feenberg’s comment that “in the case of the actual match the inferior player wins through manipulating the new meta-rules and upsetting his adversary rather than through superior play.” Redmond says that “I would not call Kitani or AlphaGo the inferior player,” and adds that “I think most pros would agree with me when I say it was Honinbo Shusai who tended to manipulate the old traditions to take more advantage than any of his predecessors did. The new rules were in part an attempt to keep the match fair.”
Feenberg Strikes a Chord: “Andrew Feenberg‘s article, Rational Play? The Master of Go vs. AlphaGo, struck a chord in me,” writes Joel Sanet. “I can remember decades ago feeling great admiration for Otake Hideo when he said that he would rather lose the game than play an ugly move. Today I am learning how useful the empty triangle can be.”
China’s Baoxiang Bai (right) defeated Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Cheng Hsu to win his second world amateur championship with a perfect 8-0 record. Korea’s Kibaek Kim was second, and Chinese Taipei’s Chia Cheng Hsu was third. Benjamin Lockhart of the US was 13th, Manuel Velasco of Canada was 28th and Emil Garcia of Mexico was 36th. The tournament took place June 5-8 in Wuxi, a city of six million located slightly northwest of Shanghai. Full results here. Click here for more WAGC reports on Ranka.
“In the 1949 movie ‘Stray Dog’ Toshiro Mifune plays a homicide detective looking a criminal,” writes David Matson. “Ten minutes before the end he scans a room for suspects. The two men who best fit the description are both in their late 20′s, wearing white linen suits and white hats with wide black bands. Both men are reading newspapers. One man has an open-collared white dress shirt with no tie, sunglasses and a watch on his left wrist. The other has a crew-neck sweater with horizontal stripes. I watched this on Hulu, viewed on a small laptop, but I think both newspapers showed go game diagrams (different games).”
Where’s the 2015 Yearbook? “Last year you published the 2014 Member’s Edition Collection of Games, including a zip file of all files,” writes Joe Maia. “I didn’t find a similar page for the 2015 Game Collection. Are here any plans for a game collection (with zip file) for the 2015 Game Collection?”
The online 2015 Yearbook — the Member’s Edition Collection of Games, Commentaries & More — is in production now; members should keep an eye out for a notice about publication soon. If you want to get the Yearbook and the weekly Member’s Edition, click here to join the AGA now.
Seeking Go Players in CA: “Trying to find Igo players (any strength) in Marin County, California,” writes Myoun Korin, “Cities like San Rafael, Corte Madera, Mill Valley, Fairfax,etc.”
Click here for Where to Play Go across the US, including clubs in California.
It is a strange and very bitter feeling. I finished in 9th place at the 37th WAGC, a very disappointing result. Before the tournament, many people close to me said that I had the level to take 3rd place, and with luck, that I could finish even higher on the podium. Even myself, I had the same illusion, because Satoshi Hiraoka, the representative of Japan and twice winner of the WAGC, had been defeated by players from Europe, but I had never lost against a European. In the end, my sense of pride and lack of practice cost me dearly.
I had quite a difficult draw, because at the end I had the third highest SOS despite my three defeats. Starting from the third round, my opponents where all higher than 6-dan, excepting the final round. After having beaten the USA’s Benjamin Lockhart (7-dan), I was drawn against the winner of the tournament, China’s Bai Baoxiang, in the 4th round. He is considered to be one of four titans of amateur go in China, and his level is at least 4 or 5 professional dan. He turned down many chances to become a professional because he makes a good living from the many amateur tournament in China which have high prize pools. I tried with everything, but he had a solid victory without leaving me the slightest chance. It was the first time in 10 years that I had the feeling of losing a game without creating any problems for my opponent. Very sad. For the 5th round, my opponent was the player from Hong Kong (6-dan). He took a lot of territory but was unable to resist my attacks. With 4 wins from 5, I regained my confidence and was on track for a podium finish.
The turning point came in the 6th round. After losing to Taiwan, Japan’s Satoshi was without any significant victory. I was convinced that I was bound to defeat him, and that he would undoubtably make some blunder and I would have an easy win. In the game, my play was completely unbalanced. I could not recognise myself. I started to wake up when he had almost enclosed his gigantic moyo. Despite my tesuji in his centre, contrary to my illusions, he responded well and I was lost. Later, Mr Satoshi lost by not more that 2.5 points against Bai Baoxing because of bad yose. Actually, he is very strong. If I had appreciated his level, then I would have played differently against him in my game! After this defeat, I had said goodbye to the podium.
Round 7, is the game against my old friend Cristian Pop (7-dan) from Romania. Cristian made his usual moyo but I brought the game under my control. Then, at the crucial junction, I played the losing move, an instinctive play without a second of reflexion. Cristian took advantage of a ko and a good threat to take back control of the game. The last round was against a Belgian player and I won easily. Thanks to my high SOS, I took the 9th place but it was really a mediocre result and I felt a little ashamed. After the championship, I had the impression that the level of amateur players had progressed globally. The European players also had very good results. Notably the Ukrainian Andrii Kravets took 4th place ahead of Japan.
Even if it was a disappointing tournament for me, I met many new friends from all around the world. Notably I established a good relationship with the administration of the IGF. I hope that I can contribute more to the development of Go in the world because of my ability with languages (Chinese, French, English and a little Japanese). I hope that I can train a little more so as not to drop down in level, and I hope to make a better result if I am able to represent France again.
Based on the original report in Revue Francaise de Go, which includes game records and pictures.
More AlphaGo effect: “My uncle teaches math at Colorado Mesa University and asked me to give a presentation about go and AlphaGo,” writes Sirocco Fury Hamada. “Dr. Edward Bonan-Hamada’s mathematical modeling class at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, CO is interested in mathematically modeling human reasoning. He asked me to teach his students about go so they could understand it and think about the math behind AlphaGo. It was a small class, just seven students, but they asked great questions and are very interested in go now. A lot of them expressed interest in wanting to learn more about it and playing it online or with each other. AlphaGo is creating interest in go in unusual (or not) places!”Go classifieds work: “The classified ad you ran for me (books, semiprecious stones, and kaya bowls for sale) was an unqualified success,” writes Donald Garratt. “All the items have been sold! Thank you. I will contact you in the future when I am ready to sell some more go equipment.” Go Classified ads are free; email us at email@example.com
by Andrew Feenberg
This is the story of two go matches. In March, Google’s artificial intelligence computer AlphaGo defeated world champion Lee Sedol 9P 4-1. This is considered a great triumph for artificial intelligence. Does it mean that AI is almost human? Or that humans have simply become machine-like? Another historic match in 1938 provides some useful perspective.
Games are ambiguous phenomena. On the one hand they are models of rationality. There are unambiguous rules, actions, and measures of success and failure. On the other hand games are social events, collaborative performances governed by meta-rules such as sportsmanship that contextualize the play. The players need each other in order to perform. They produce an object together through their combined efforts. The effect of this activity is to contribute to their own personal development as human beings. And we often qualify the product of their activity in aesthetic terms: a beautiful play in football for example.
Rationality as found in games is also a general attribute of the culture of modern societies. Modern societies contain many game like systems. Individuals act as players in these systems in order to get a raise, get a job, learn new skills, take a plane, avoid paying taxes, and so on. Thus games can appear as models of modernity and what happens with games can tell us something about what happens in modern societies in general.
This is why the Nobel prize-winning Japanese author Kawabata chose the game of go for one of his most famous novels. “The Master of Go” is based on a real match that Kawabata witnessed as a newspaperman in 1938. This was the last match of the old master Shusai and his challenger, called Otake in the novel. Each player represents an era. The old master represents traditional play, while his challenger represents modernized play, influenced by Western ideas. Traditional play is all about the human side of the game, deference, the notion of way or vocation as practiced in Japanese martial arts for example, and beauty, the beauty of the moves and the board as the game evolves. Modernity is about winning. Just that.
The novel recounts the game’s play as it reveals the characters and the historical background. The whole intrigue centers on a single move in the game, move 121. The reason this move is so important has to do with Western innovations introduced by the challenger and favored by the newspapers. In the old days the master would have regulated the flow of play, deciding when to start and end each day’s session. But the 1938 match was organized around time limits and sealed moves at the end of the day as in Western chess. Of course players are equal in the game play, but the traditional way of playing recognized the differences between the players in the world outside the game. Now the equalization internal to the game was being extended outward into the world of play. One can see how this might appeal to the challenger and to the newspapers, both of whom would prefer not to be subject to the whims of the old master. To the old master it seemed a lack of due deference.
As it happened, the challenger began to run out of time toward the middle of the game. To gain time to reflect on a difficult position in the center of the board he sealed a final move off in a corner. This trivial move required the master to respond away from the central struggle. The manipulation implied in this use of the time limits and sealed moves upset the master. He was offended and said that the beauty of the game was lost. As a result he made several mistakes and the challenger won. Modernity triumphs over tradition. But we are left with the clear impression that the old master was the better player of the two.
Kawabata wrote after World War II that he would only write elegies, elegies for the lost beauty of the old Japan. The novel is obviously a critique of modernization. But note that it is not about the contrast between rational modernity and the irrational tradition. There is nothing strategically irrational or inferior about the old master’s play. So the contrast of modernization and tradition is not about strategic rationality vs. irrational sentimentality. It is about the place of strategic rationality in the real world. Tradition is a set of meta-rules that contextualize and organize the rationalized sectors of social life such as games. Modernity extends the rationality of games into the real world. This has counterintuitive consequences. For example, in the case of the actual match the inferior player wins through manipulating the new meta-rules and upsetting his adversary rather than through superior play.
Here is the how Kawabata described his elegy for traditional go: “It may be said that the master was plagued in his last match by modern rationalism, to which fussy rules were everything, from which all the grace and elegance of go as art had disappeared, which quite dispensed with respect for elders and attached no importance to mutual respect as human beings. From the way of go the beauty of Japan and the Orient had fled.”
The losers of the two matches were Shusai and Lee Sedol. The winners were Otaké and AlphaGo. What do they have in common? If we understand games in all their ambiguity as both strategic exercises, rational systems, and also ways of self development and aesthetic achievement, then I would suggest that their reduction to mere winning is a disaster. The matches reveal the limits of modernity as a way of understanding and organizing human life. In reorganizing the social world around strategic rationality, modernity prepares the triumph of the machine.
This essay is based on a talk presented at the McLuhan Centre at the University of Toronto in early March. It has been condensed and updated. Feenberg has written extensively about Kawabata’s novel previously in his book Alternative Modernity.