The Many Faces of Go v.11
Go is a game of strategy. Two players compete in acquiring territory by placing markers on a smooth wooden board with a simple grid drawn on it, usually 19 by 19 lines. Each player seeks to enclose territory with his markers (called ‘stones’), much like partitioning a field with sections of fencing. Further, each player may capture his opponent’s markers. The object of the game is to enclose the most territory, a simple goal the leads to the elegant and fascinating complexities of go.
The History of Go
Go was invented in China between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. Legend has it that the Emperor Yao invented it to instruct his son in the 23rd century BC. Confucius mentions go in his writings in 479 BC, saying that even playing go is better than being idle. The earliest surviving game record is from around 200 AD (on a 19 line board). Go was popular and reached a high level of development in China in the 2nd through 5th centuries AD. Go remained popular in China until the Cultural Revolution, when it was frowned upon and discouraged. Since 1978, go playing in China has made a comeback, and the strongest Chinese players can challenge the strongest Japanese on an equal footing. Recently, go has been recognized as a sport, and is supported by the government.
Go came to Japan from China around 700 AD with the Buddhist monks. In Japan, go became popular with the samurai warriors. When the Shogunate was formed in 1602, Go was supported by the government, with four competing hereditary go houses developing the game. Strong go players were adopted into the four go families, and yearly competitions between the families were held for the Shogun. The Honinbo family was the most prestigious, and generally had the best go players. The last Honinbo gave the name Honinbo to the Japanese professional go association to be used as the title for a yearly tournament in the early 20th century. With the Meiji restoration in 1868, the government ceased to support the game, and professional go fell into a period of decline until the 1920’s, when the Japanese professional go association was founded.
Since the 1920’s, go has been supported in Japan through tournaments sponsored by newspapers and major companies. There are even go tournaments shown on TV. Top players earn several hundred thousand dollars a year in prizes. Most professionals earn their living teaching at go clubs, or writing go books. There are about 400 professional players in Japan and two professional go associations, the Nihon Kiin and the Kansai Kiin.
Go has been played in Korea for over 1500 years. It became extremely popular there in the 1990s, when the go prodigy Lee Changho became recognized as the strongest player in the world. Lee was born in 1975 and started winning Korean titles in 1991.
Japanese immigrants brought go to San Francisco in the late 19th century. The San Francisco Go club is over 100 years old. In 1937, the American Go Association was founded in New York. Go’s popularity in the USA grew quickly starting in the late 60’s, when Ishi Press started publishing English translations of Japanese Go books. Richard Bozulich, the founder of Ishi Press, continues to translate and publish books for Kiseido. In the 90’s, several other companies started producing go books, with Yutopian translating many books from Chinese. James Kerwin was the first professional go player in the USA, in the 70’s, but now there are enough go professionals living in the USA that in 1995 the first US professional go tournament was played, and in 1996, Jimmy Cha founded the US Professional Go Association.
In Europe, Go was played by Japanese immigrants in the 19th century. German chess players Edward Lasker and Otto Korschelt started playing go around 1900, after seeing a go column in a Japanese newspaper. Korschelt published the first western book giving the rules and strategy of go in about 1900.