Students learn an ancient pasttime
It is a game of skill, not of chance. It is a game where players fight for control and territory. It is a game where one wrong move can determine who wins and who loses. It is a game almost like war. It is the game of go.
On Dec 4, Mr. John Goon introduced the game of go to members of the Chinese Club. Onto a large, bright yellow 19x19 board hanging from the wall he placed black and white magnets to form the game's many strategic formations.
The object of the game is to surround the opponent's groups of pieces on all adjacent sides. When all the adjacent free spaces, called "liberties", of the group are removed, the surrounded pieces are removed from the board.
The ancient game of go, known as Weiqi in China and Baduk in Korea, has its origins dating back to approximately 2000 BCE in China. Go is played internationally, but is especially popular in the Asian countries of China, Japan and Korea.
Recently, however, the game has gained popularity through its appearance in the Academy Award winning movie "A Beautiful Mind", in online gaming rooms, and now even in a classroom at Blair.
According to Roger B. White of the American Go Association, "The game of go is the essence of simplicity and the ultimate in complexity all at the same time."
So how can such a simple game become so complex? Players fight a continuous battle, playing both offense and defense at the same time. Interconnected pieces that wind across the board and groups that have what are called "eyes" make encircling the pieces much more difficult.
Goon taught the students a form of go called "First Capture" because it is, as he said, "a good introduction for everybody." In this version, players rush to be the first to remove an opponent's piece from the board.
After a quick introductory demonstration by Goon, four groups of students began racking their brains, deliberating the next best move. What may seem like a random placement may be the first step in a drawn out stratagem and the opponent's demise. "It is a deep game. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it," Goon said. "Go is more strategically involved than chess."
Students like junior Stanley Wang, who has played the game before, enjoyed the rare opportunity to play. "It was a nice review of the rules and strategies," he said. "I haven't played go in a long time, mostly because so few people here actually play the game."
Junior Sam Wen is thinking about starting a club similar to the chess team, that focuses instead on the game of go. He hopes that more Blair students become interested in the game. "I thought it was nice that the club got someone to teach a traditional game that's not very well known nowadays," he said. "I thought a lot of people knew about the game, but I found out differently when I went."
Many more students attended the go session the previous year. However, only one session was held last year.
This year, the club invited Goon to come in on two consecutive days. Dec 4 was intended as the teaching session, whereas Dec 5 was intended as a playing session. The change was due to club member requests for more playing time. "Last year, we didn't have enough time to play," said junior co-vice president Yeelan Ku. "People had said they were interested in playing, so we had an instructional day for beginners and a day for everyone to come and play together."
Due to the school cancellation, the playing session has been postponed to Thu, Jan 9. The club expects a higher turnout then.
For the rest of the year the club plans to have a flower fundraiser, to participate in school shows, and to take trips to visit the pandas at the National Zoo and the dragon boat races on the Potomac River.
For links related to learning or playing the game of go, visit the American Go Association webpage or Goon's personal webpage.
Edward Chan. Edward Chan is a senior in the Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School. He is excited about his first year on the much-celebrated Silver Chips staff. At Blair, Edward participates in the Chinese Club (as co-Vice President) and Math Team. Outside of school, he … More »
Kevin Fang. More »