A Go Player

One man's fascination with the world's best game

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The First Meeting

So I bit the bullet.

I went to the Tempe Go Club meeting. Bill, the president/contact, wasn't there. At first I wasn't sure that I had come to the right place. My daughter, her friend, and I all walked from a very distant parking lot to the student union building at ASU. We got there with about five minutes to spare, and there was no one there.

From my last post, you know that I didn't want to go immediately. Well, that fell by the wayside. Following the Fourth of July (coincidentally also in Tempe), I found myself playing against igowin with a zest and fervor that was truly frightening to contemplate (so I didn't).

For those of you who know nothing about Go, it has a ranking system that is very similar to those used in the martial arts. Which makes sense, seeing as how the two systems developed in the same culture. An absolute novice is given the rank 30 kyu (pronounced "Q"), and with experience decreases down to the rank of 1 kyu. Apparently somewhere around 18-15 kyu, one becomes a serious beginner. Past 1 kyu are the dans, which go from 1 dan (lowest) to 7 dan (highest). Again, similar to the dans which a black-belt in karate might receive.

Please note, all these rankings are amateur-only. There is a whole other set of dan rankings for professional Go players. And while there is much less difference between the dans of professional-level players (the ranking being based more on seniority than ability), a 1 dan professional should be able to beat a 7 dan amateur - even giving the amateur a handicap. That's what I've heard, anyway. Feel free to enlighten me if I am incorrect on this point.

In any case, after settling my daughter and her friend at the table with their fast-food dinner, I approached a long-haired college-age man who sat reading a book. As I got closer, I was able to see that it was a book on Go, and I knew I was in the right place. I introduced myself, and Wes (for that turned out to be his name), slowly looked up, as if from meditation, and said "hi" before returning to his study.

Eventually, a couple other people arrived: Kenny, who seems to be about my age or a little younger, and Wes, a silver-haired gentleman with a home-made board and stones that show the wear of great use.

It turned out that Wes seems to be the principal instructor for the group, and we played a few 9x9 games. I lost of course, but the experience of actually playing across from another human turned out to be so enjoyable, I know that I'll be back again on Saturday.

Afterwards, I let my daughter and her friend play in the five interconnected fountains that are centered in the plaza outside the student union. It was a perfect evening.


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