1.- The machine to learn to think.
Go is probably the oldest of the games that are still being played nowadays and although there is enough information to consider it as old as four or five thousand years, its origin could be certainly deemed more remote. With a Chinese origin, the legend attributes its creation to Emperor Yao, who reigned between the years 2357 and 2256 B.C. or to Emperor Shun (2255-2205 B.C.) who could have made up the game to educate his son San Jun. However, in its ancient origins, it is rather possible that Go did not originate as a game but as a sophisticated calculation instrument, more complete and complex than abacus, or as a guessing system related with astrology and astronomy, as can be deduced from the board structure and the name of some of its points.
In fact, Go is played on a square board with nineteen vertical lines and nineteen horizontal lines that form 361 crosses or intersections, which are the points where the stones are placed. The stones, which are 180 black ones and 181 white ones, sum up also 361, which are the days of the moon year in the old Chinese calendar. But there is not only this coincidence: on the board, there are nine points remarked, which are named "hoshi", which means "stars", included the central point which is named "cenit" (Tengen). On the other hand, there are also references of this type at the I Ching, and even in the oldest Go manual which has been conserved, Qijing Shisan Pian, published between 1049 and 1054, not only this is affirmed, but also that the four corners of the board represent the four year seasons, and the seventy-two perimeter points, the seventy-two weeks of the moon year. Go has also relationships with Taoist philosophy and its importance in old China was so great that its practice was compulsory for the education of nobility and the masters in this art, were so respected that they received the title "Sei" (saint man) or "Shing" (wise man). Go, however, has come to us only as a game, although, as we will see later, still keeps an important echo of the age-old philosophical essence that originates it. It is specially popular in China, Japan, Tibet and Korea, and is a game played by thousands of people around the world, and its strategy has lately been applied in the military field, in business managing, and politics, besides its traditional use in the educational and pedagogic field. It is starting to be known in Europe at the end of the 19th century, and in America at the beginning of the 20th. In Spain, Go starts to be introduced in the 70s and there are already several associations and clubs in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Bilbao..
2.- How is it played?
Go is played on a board as described above, using white and black stones, all in the same shape and value. At the beginning, the board is empty, and the players (one plays with black stones and another with white stones) place their stones alternately one by one on it. The stones cannot be moved again, once they have been placed, and the game lies in the trial of both players to occupy the biggest part possible of the board with their stones. At the end of the game wins whoever has got the biggest part possible of the board. It is then, a strategy game, where the development resembles a whole war or the establishment of an empire, rather than a battle, like chess. Its rules are so accurate and essential that they have not changed once in its five thousand years of history. So what does this enigmatic game have to fill so many million people with passion for so many thousand years?
Jorge Luis Borges, in a poem titled "Go" says:
"Today, the ninth of September of 1978,
I had in the palm of my hand one small disc
of the three hundred sixty-one that are needed for the astrologic game of Go,
that other chess of the East.
It is older than the oldest writing and the board is a map of the universe.
Its black and white variations will exhaust time.
Men can be lost in it as in love and day.
Today, the ninth of September of 1978,
I, myself, who am ignorant of so many things,
know that I do not know one more,
and I thank my poetic inspiration for this revelation which will never be mine"
On his part, the famous chess player Emanuel Lasker, comparing chess and Go, and asserting that chess was perhaps the most complex game created by the human mind, said: "Chess restricts to the Earth inhabitants, but Go, in some way, overcomes this dimension. If there are some rational beings in some other planets, they sure know Go". And this fascination of Lasker over Go can be perfectly understood because this age-old game is also, over the bare simplicity of its rules and its inexorable logic, one of the most subtle moral thinking systems that has been invented by men.
3.- What does Go teach?
All the games teach something, and all are, in some way, "imago mundi", symbol of reality. But perhaps none becomes such a perfect metaphor of human life as Go. As an old proverb says, if you consider it as a simple amusement, Go is only a game, but if you consider it as something more than a game, Go is much more than a game. And, in fact, Go is a polysemic structure that has many different approach levels. It is, in some way, a machine that teaches us to think, but also teaches us to behave in life and know ourselves. Each game represents a project that we have to carry out and that we have to contrast with reality, which is the opponent. And in this fight against difficulties that the opponent represents, there will be unexpected qualities. It is not enough to be intelligent, it is necessary to be cautious, constant, to be able to value the situation justly in every movement. It is not only intelligence which is concerned, as if it were a mathematic problem, there are also other emotional and psychological factors. We could say that in the development of each game the basic features of every individual are overt, its personality, its virtues, and its faults. Learning to play Go means learning not to make mistakes. When one loses a game, it is not because the opponent has played specially well, but because we have played badly. The opponent has only done what is correct: punish our mistakes and take advantage of our weaknesses. In the game, as in life, we have learnt to act correctly, to do what is needed to do. And that without any dogmatism, because, in the dialectic structure, which Go is, "good" and "bad" are not absolute categories. A move is not good or bad itself; it is adequate or inadequate in relation with its surroundings. But, apart from this mirror function, the deepest Go level has also valuable philosophical implications. In fact, the game also represents the fight between black and white (the old "ying-yang" of Taoists) and it is therefore presented as a theoretic model, as an abstract representation of the internal laws of reality. Unlike other games, in Go, "absolute victories" are never possible. At the end of the game, the board is not "white" or "black"; it is white and black. White will prevail over black, or black over white, but the totalitarian utopia of "sweeping away the opponent from the board", of making him disappear is not possible. It is as if the game would make us see the double structure of reality and the strategy of its behaviour: life is composed of white and black, bad and good, light and darkness, truth and lies, pleasure and pain
As Mr. Antonio Machado said:
"The best among the good ones
is that one who knows that everything in life
is a matter of measure:
a little bit more, something less"
Go is then a constant lesson of balance, stress and harmony of the adversaries. It teaches us to be as careful as bold, as ambitious as modest. It teaches us to be persistent in the development of a project, but also teaches us to be able to change the strategy on time, not to go on fighting for something which is lost, and at the same time, not to give up the fight until the last hope is exhausted.
4.- Some pedagogical experiences
We said at the beginning that the legend attributes the invention of Go to the desire of Emperor Shun of educating and training his son Shan Jun. And although it may not be true, it certainly is that Go is a first quality educational and pedagogic instrument and so has been considered in China, Japan and Korea from ancient times to nowadays. Being able to play Go at certain levels gives points for the access tests for Japanese and Korean Universities and, in Korea, Go can be studied at University as a specialty. In Spain, because of the ignorance of the game and its very recent introduction, there are very few pedagogical experiences carried out but, the ones realized, some of which we will next explain, have had a highly constructive result. In Barcelona, for example, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia offers since 1995 three four-month Go subjects as free-election subjects in its study plans: "Initiation to Go" (one credit), "Go I" (one credit) and "Go II" (two credits). The teachers of both subjects are Antonio Juan Hormigo and Pau Bofill, both from the Computer Architecture Department, and the experience was successful from its first edition in which more than one hundred and twenty students took part. In Secondary Schools some interesting activities are also being carried out. We should name as a pioneer experience, the Go courses which the teacher José María Pérez Orozco started to teach in 1985 at the I.E.S "Tartessos" in Camas (Seville) and which is teaching now at the I.E.S. "Rodrigo Caro" in Coria del Río (Seville). In Seville there is also an important task to point out which Manuel Sánchez Castro, teacher from the I.E.S. Virgen de los Reyes, is developing from 1990-91, and there once a year, he organizes a course of Go and championships among the students of the school. At other educational levels, some experiences were carried out, as the Go courses leaded by María Luisa Porres at the Cultural Centre Joan Miró in Móstoles from 1995 addressed to youngsters and adults, or the interesting activity carried out by José Manuel Vega at the City Play-Centre of San Juan de Aznalfarache (Seville), addressed this time to the youngest, where the children who took part, apart from playing, learnt also to make boards and pieces. In all the cases, the teachers in charge of this activities remark the interest of students, its high educational efficiency and its great pedagogical value, because besides beginning such an interesting and complete game as chess can be, students learn and develop with Go some other skills and attitudes: development of attention and concentration, calculation skills, decision-making criteria, skills to choose an option among other many possibilities and also, as aforesaid, values like carefulness, sensibility, balance, responsibility, persistency, respect for the opponent, etc.
5.- Go in Andalusia
The first group of players in Andalusia appears in Seville at the end of the seventies, but the most important divulging fact is undoubtedly the celebration of the Spanish Go Championship in this city, organized in 1985 by the Spanish Go Association newly-constituted at that time with the support of the Town Hall of Seville. This Championship, of which winner goes to Japan every year to take part in the World Championship invited by the Japanese Go Federation, was a meeting and contact point for many Andalusian players which so far did not know each other. As a result of this activity and with the arrival of José Manuel Vega in Seville, the regular Go activity gets more dynamic, establishing in Seville the Go Club "Blanco-White", whose members meet to play every Saturday from 8:00 (P.M.) onwards at the famous bar "La Carbonería" (Levíes Street, 18). Go Championships start to be regularly celebrated and more recently, starting from this core, the Andalusian Go Association has been legally established, with an aim to divulging the game in this Region and get together the followers who live in the different Andalusian provinces. The Andalusian Go Association is a non-profit-making organization directed to the development and spreading of the Go game, being created according to Article 22 of the Spanish Constitution, established in the Association Law of 191/64 of the 24th of December, Royal Decree 304/85 of the 6th of February and other legal dispositions. It is entered and approved in the Provincial Register of Associations of the Autonomous Region Government Local Office of Andalusia in Seville, with the number 7.230, 1st section, as well as its corresponding fiscal identification number, which is G91003335. The Andalusian Go Association has a web page in Internet and its address is http://spain.european-go.org/andalucia/ where you can find information about the game and about the Association itself and its activities, as well as other links, news and interesting addresses. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org; normal mail can be sent to the P.O. Box 9090 (41019 Seville). People interested in contacting this Association can also do it on Saturdays at "La Carbonería" as we have aforesaid, or at the telephones +34 619 39 49 05 and +34 699 29 44 22..
6.- The cooperation with the Local Government of Seville
With the desire of stimulating and spreading this ancient game, the Andalusian Go Association contacts the Local Government of Seville, which desiring to spread a different cultural and leisure option, establishes an agreement with the Andalusian Go Association by which, the Culture and Sports Section of the Local Government of Seville undertakes to sponsor several sets of material, such as stones, boards and manuals, but the AGOA must carry out, as a compensation, a series of courses of initiation to the Go game in different villages of the province of Seville: Valencina de la Concepción, Castilleja de la Cuesta, Coria del Río, Tomares, Lora del Río, Olivares, San José de la Rinconada, Puebla de Cazalla y Dos Hermanas. The courses have been addressed to people of all ages, setting up the registration with groups of a maximum of fifteen participants and a minimum of ten, and this registration has been filled in all the cases.
Francisco Díaz Velázquez
Directive Staff of AGOA
(Translation by Auxi Gómez)