History of the British Go Journal

(Based on article in BGJ100 by Francis Roads)

Jon Diamond (John at that time) and some other Go players active in Cambridge proposed to the BGA committee (as Council was known then) in 1967, that there should be a regular BGA publication. A prototype had already been produced, now known as BGJ Issue 0. It had been typed and duplicated, on three stapled foolscap leaves, in the manner all took for granted in the days before word processors and photocopiers. All the material was technical; problems, professional games and joseki, and all was given in algebraic notation, as they had no means of producing Go diagrams.

Committee meetings in those days were dominated by the first President, John Barrs. On the whole he was against the idea. He thought that the journal would be troublesome to produce regularly, and in this respect he was subsequently proved to have been correct. He was also unimpressed with the standard of Issue 0, and for this point of view he also had some justification, as there were typing and other errors, and the general presentation was not such as to impress any outsiders. It was later thought that his most serious objection was that he had not thought of the idea himself.

It was decided to continue with the Journal with Jon Diamond as Technical Editor and John Barrs as Supervising Editor. This gave John carte blanche to change anything he did not like (Jon: which he never did). Issue 1 had both a heading and a date (Summer 1967). It was priced at one shilling and sixpence (7.5p for those who do not remember old money) and ran to 14 pages. It was possible to turn up at the London Go Club, as it then was, and be conscripted into joining the team that was sorting out and stapling the pages together, before being allowed to play Go. Apart from the technical material the issue included an explanation of the grading system then in use, which was numerical, and divided each of our current dan and kyu grades into two. There was no Ishi Press in those days, and there were only two Go books available in English, plus the now defunct magazine "Go Monthly Review" (later "Go Review"), so despite the now quaint-seeming algebraic notation, the BGJ filled an enormous need for technical material.

Issue 2 boasted a heading in large blue letters, which represented the cutting edge of reprographic technology at the time (Jon: a rubber stamp using blue ink, mostly wielded by John Tilley). It included news as well as technical material. This included the 9th European Go Congress in Staufen in Germany and an advert for the forthcoming first British Go Congress. There was also a list of the BGA's 15 affiliated clubs, which is worth reproducing here: Beecham Laboratories (Surrey), Bradford University, Bristol, Brunel University, Cambridge University, Glasgow University, Harwell, Liverpool University, London, Middlesborough, Monmouth, Newcastle, Oxford University, John Ruskin Grammar School Croydon and Winfrith (Dorset).

Issue 4 was the first to include graphic go diagrams. This was physically cut and pasted from Matsuda's Go Letters (from the USA) and other Japanese books/magazines, and it made a big improvement. But it was in short supply, and algebraic material still appeared. Reference to the graphic diagrams was also normally made algebraically. Issue 5 (June 1968) was the first with a photograph. The 30 who attended the first British Go Congress are pictured outside staircase 9 of Jesus College Oxford. It was also the first issue with full board diagrams.

Issue 8 was something like the present journal. It was lithographed to a high standard, and adopted the now familiar A5 format (actually half foolscap until Issue 19). It had 16 pages. Graphic diagrams were no longer a problem, and algebraic notation had been abandoned. The editorial included an apology for "The regrettable delay in this and the previous issue". Such apologies were to become a familiar feature. Andrew Daly, then of Reading Go Club, took over as editor for Issue 10 in December 1969. Apart from some advice about handicapping, there had been little in the way of non-technical articles hitherto. This journal contained a two page article entitled "How to Win Converts" by Francis Roads.

How Go was developing at this time can be gleaned from the fact that issue 11 listed 24 clubs and no fewer than six books available in English. Issue 13 carried on its front page the sad news of the sudden death of John Barrs in January 1971. Although he had built it up more or less single-handedly, he left the Association, and indeed the Journal, well enough established to continue to grow. Issue 15 reports the European Go Congress held in Bristol with 41 participants. The editor once again apologises for late issues, and announces his retirement as editor. The following Issue 16 for March 1972 is the one and only edition that has Francis Roads named as editor (apart from a credit for helping on Issue 67). This had not been the intention, but the person whom the committee had appointed to do the job had done nothing. As the then President of the BGA, Francis felt that the buck stopped with him and so edited the thing himself.

Enter the Bristol Go Club. Bristol is one of the BGA's most venerable clubs and in 1972 it excelled itself by volunteering to take on editorship of the BGJ as a club responsibility. The BGA Committee eagerly accepted the offer. The first three editions are credited to the club, but after that the editing rotated amongst four editors (six club members), while others assisted. This arrangement lasted from Issue 17 to Issue 40 in February 1978. It represented the first time the BGJ appeared regularly and to a high standard. From Issue 19 onwards the Go kanji appeared on the masthead, although the first time it accidentally appeared upside down. Issue 20 had the innovation of a crossword puzzle. Issue 22 had a cartoon on the front cover. The 16th British Go Congress, then many years in the future, is taking place at Earls Court Exhibition Centre. Amidst the thousands flocking to the event stands a pathetic tramp selling second hand chess sets and being moved on by a policeman with the words "Hop it, Bobby Fischer!" Events proved this view of the future somewhat optimistic, subsequent editors have rarely published cartoons.

Issue 25 (October 1974) was the first since Issue 5 to have a photograph on the front. It shows Paul Prescott playing the match in which he defeated Jon Diamond to take the British Championship for the one and only time. John Tilley looks on as match referee, with the Japan AirLines banner in the background. 1974 was a good year for the BGA: as well as generous sponsorship from JAL, the "Open Door" programme was made for BBC TV. Surprisingly its transmission does not seem to have been recorded in the Journal.

The opening of the London Go Centre is reported briefly in Issue 28 (July 1975), but the picture of Mr Iwamoto and Stuart Dowsey at the opening ceremony had to wait for the next issue. Issue 29 was also the first to have a commercial advertisement on the back cover, for Games Workshop, and the first to have 20 pages instead of the previous 16. In Issue 32 we find an acknowledgement of a continuing problem with the Journal. Although its appearance had by now been very regular for some time, there had always been a long lead time in its production, so that up-to-date news had been difficult to convey to members. From May 1976 a telephone news line was established at the London Go Centre, relieving some pressure on the Journal. Issue 33 was the first with a coloured card cover.

In the editorial of Issue 39 (January 1979) we read that "it is time for Bristol to bow out of the job". The new editorial team was a group of London based players. As you may imagine, there was a little more than the quoted phrase reveals. The London group was a group of people who felt that the BGJ had got into something of a rut. There was indeed little innovation, and as the Bristol team included some kyu players, occasionally interesting errors would evade the editorial eye. The London team convinced the BGA Committee that they could do the job better, and the Bristol team was, to put the matter bluntly, given the sack. Main editors included David Wells, Frank Pratt, Jim Barty and Alison Cross. Alison was listed as the main editorial contact from issue 44 to 54, though she missed working on issue 49. From Issue 45 Matthew Macfadyen joined the team and worked continuously through to Issue 66. He was the editorial contact from issue 55 to 61.

In 1979 only three issues appeared; the same happened in 1982 and 1983. Furthermore one noticed that as time went on the number of names on the editorial team dwindled. By 1983 the only names appearing as editors were those of Matthew Macfadyen and Andrew Grant (Issues 58-60), after Jim Barty stopped his long period of involvement. Mind you the BGA Committee was probably pleased to only have three issues to pay for in 1983, following a loss making European Go Congress in Edinburgh. November 1980 had seen the publication of Issue 50, but apart from printing the number in large characters, little else was done to mark the occasion. Issue 53 in March 1981 had an experimental plastic covered cover, and Issue 54 was the first with the now familiar glossy card cover.

In 1982 an indirect contribution to the Journal's development was the starting of the BGA Newsletter. The telephone service had closed with the Go Centre in 1979, and the problem of the Journal's long lead time was now compounded by some late appearances. The Newsletter once again took pressure off the Journal by giving members news about tournaments and events that was never more than a week out of date when they received it. This left the Journal free to concentrate on its primary functions as an archive of go activity in Britain and a provider of supplementary technical material. By that tine there was plentiful technical material available through Ishi Press books and Go World magazine. There is always debate as to what sort of technical material the BGJ should include, especially at what level of player it should be aimed.

By 1984 (issues 62 - 68) the name of Ian Meikeljohn is beginning to appear with increasing frequency as one the editors. Ian was the first editor with professional skill as a publisher, and with one of those newfangled word processors to boot. In this year the glossy covered cover was abandoned as an economy measure, but the number of pages was maintained at a fairly steady 28 or 32. There is no doubt under Ian's editorship the presentation of the Journal reached new heights of professionalism. In its content and in particular the matter of balance between news, technical and chatty material, it took on the appearance very similar to that of today. What it did not reach was new heights of regularity of appearance; there were three issues in each of 1984 and 1985 and two only in 1986, the fewest ever in the journal's existence. Possibly it was Ian's desire to reach very high standards that contributed to the delays. He worked alone on Issues 68 and 69.

Andrew MacPherson took over as editor in 1987. Like Ian he was well equipped with up-to-date technology. He produced a good 32 page Issue 70 for summer 1987, helped by Matthew Macfadyen, but then seemed to lose interest. A somewhat apologetically named Winter 1987-1988 issue followed. By way of compensation for its late appearance it had 38 pages, the most ever. Another striking feature was bird-loving Matthew Macfadyen appearing on the cover looking like a peacock with a tail of plant fronds. No further issue appeared until Autumn 1988. The consequence of this was that the London Open and some other events were either not reported in the Journal at all or only in summary (missing reports).

Brian Timmins was already Membership Secretary and at the time there was debate as to whether he could do both. Nevertheless he started as editor, eventually losing his other role, but for a while fulfilled both responsibilities with unparalleled conscientiousness. To start with however, the Journal took a backward step, as Brian had no access to the hardware available to the previous two editors. His first issue (apart from an earlier credit on Issue 62) was Issue 72, with a switch back to coloured cover, but a poor typeface. In 1989 the BGA bought him the tools to do the job properly: computers, printers and a scanner. Since then the Journal has appeared with greater regularity than at anytime since the Bristol era, and with hugely improved content both in terms of quality and quantity. Issues have regularly contained between 40 and 60 pages, but never was promptness sacrificed to content. Brian's success has been due to in large measure to his skill as a manager. He has successfully delegated many of the functions the previous editors have tried to fulfil themselves. He also built up a list of regular contributors, such as Tony Atkins reporting news, Richard Hunter producing technical material and Andrew Grant writing on the history of Go in Japan. The floppy disc revolution, followed by the email one, removed the need to retype articles too.

The coloured card reverted to matt white card for Issues 89 to 92 and from 101 onwards. Issue 100 was a special edition with a competition-designed cover and special articles such as the history of the BGJ by Francis Roads. Publication of a 68 page BGJ Index, produced by Jochen Fassbender in Germany, was also part of the celebration. Since then the Index has been kept up to date, but in its electronic version only. At Issue 118 Brian finally put the keyboard to rest and his achievement was recognised by life membership and the presentation of a wine goblet at the AGM in Ipswich in April 2000.

David Woodnutt, from Buckingham, took over with the Summer 2000 Issue. With a background of graphic design, he introduced a new cover design and page layout to further enhance the Journal. This was all achieved using the latest desktop publishing technology that even allowed contributors to see camera-ready proofs of pages before printing. Issues regularly have 60 or 64 pages. Issue 121 introduced another enhancement in using full colour printing on the cover to show off digital photographs to their best and to take the Journal into the 21st Century in fine form.

Andy Brixey took over from edition 133 at the start of 2004 and at the start of 2005 he passed the job on to Jenny Radcliffe. Barry Chandler took over at the end of 2006 and held the job until the end of 2009. Cartoons appeared again from issue 143.

In 2010 Pat Ridley and Fred Holroyd took over as co-editors, however after producing one edition Fred decided there were too many demands on his retirement time and stepped back.

BGJ Editors and Issue Numbers

(Members of editorial teams in parenthesis)

Jo(h)n Diamond0-9
John Barrs1-5
Andrew Daly10-15
Francis Roads16 (67)
Bristol Go Club17-19
G. Bayliss20
R.D. Hays21, 25, 29, 33, 38
A.H. Smith22, 26, 30, 34, 37
J.M. Cumpstey23, 27
R.C. Stone24, 28, 32, 36
P.Toby Manning31, 35, 39 (61)
David Wells40-43 (43)
Frank Pratt(40-42) 43 (44)
B. Dackombe(40-43)
Mark Hall(40-43)
Peter Hinds(40-43)
Jim Barty(40-43) 44-57
Alison Cross(40-43) 44-48, 50-54
Adam Pirani(40-43) (44) (48)
Matthew Macfadyen45-61 (62-66) (70)
Andrew Grant(57) 58-61 (63)
Ruth Farwell(65)
Ian Meikeljohn62-69
Andrew MacPherson70, 71
Brian Timmins(61) 72-118
David Woodnutt119-132
Andy Brixey133-135
Jenny Radcliffe136-139
Barry Chandler140-150
Pat Ridley151, 153 on
Fred Holroyd152

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