Finding Happiness and Fun in Go Again

Dur­ing my game review for the first match of the month, I had a dis­turb­ing rev­e­la­tion. As Inseong was talk­ing about my mis­takes, he then com­mented on how attack­ing was one of the most plea­sur­able aspects of go. Sud­denly, a light­bulb went off in my head as I real­ized what had been miss­ing from my games all this time: I had for­got­ten how to attack.

As I sat there, I thought, “Me? Not attack­ing prop­erly? Not enjoy­ing the attack? How far have I fallen?”

Need­less to say, it got me won­der­ing if this was what was wrong with me over these past cou­ple of weeks; but what’s funny is that life had some­thing else in store for me as well. Though I didn’t know it at the time, some­thing that I had vol­un­teered to help out at was hap­pen­ing the same week­end: the Smith­son­ian Folk­life Fes­ti­val was about to give me the wake-up call that I needed.


At first, with me being down lately, I have to admit that I was a bit reluc­tant to go as the day crept up. Before I knew it though, Sat­ur­day was upon me and I was sit­ting down and teach­ing per­son after per­son. And with each per­son that sat down, see­ing their eyes light up as they learned the rules and enjoyed their time was really heart-warming for me. Out of all the ones I taught though, there was one in par­tic­u­lar that I want to men­tion here.

A young girl (prob­a­bly around 6–8 years old) and her mother decided to stop by to learn the game. As I taught the rules to the girl and pro­ceeded through my own cur­ricu­lum of how I believe go should be taught, she picked it up with rel­a­tive ease. And with each new mile­stone in learn­ing the game, her eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face that I can only describe as absolutely adorable.

Fast for­ward a bit, and I decide that she’s ready to try an actual game of go. I had com­man­deered the big 9x9 mag­netic board (with huge pieces) that is used for demon­stra­tion at the time. So as one can expect, there was a bit of a crowd around us by the time our game started. I gave her 7 stones as a hand­i­cap and we started playing.

To my utter sur­prise, she ignored most of my over­plays and played such calm and beau­ti­ful moves! If I tried to hane on one stone, she would ignore me and just con­nect her stones together only to leave me in dis­may. And before I knew it, she killed my entire group and owned the entire board.

Now, while another per­son might have found it to be embar­rass­ing, I thought it was the per­fect oppor­tu­nity to demon­strate to the crowd what it looked like to get demol­ished and to explain that resign­ing was an hon­or­able thing to do in this game. This got quite a big laugh of course. And as I turned to the girl and her mom to tell her how she did an incred­i­ble job crush­ing me, she beamed with hap­pi­ness and pride that made the entire spec­ta­cle entirely worth it.

The rea­son I’m writ­ing this is because it’s really easy to get caught up in the com­pet­i­tive aspects of go. After all, most play­ers who end up play­ing this game long term are usu­ally play­ing to become the strongest player they can pos­si­bly be. But after my expe­ri­ences these last few days, I’m reminded of the fact that there is far more to go than sim­ply gain­ing that next stone.

Though it’s easy to for­get, find­ing hap­pi­ness and fun in go is just as impor­tant (if not the most) when tak­ing that next step in your jour­ney as a go player. I’m not quite out of the woods yet in regards to my own slump, but I can tell you that this week­end was the ray of light that I needed as I start to make my way toward the end of the tunnel.

  • sax­maam


    • Ben

      Thanks. I was hop­ing some­one would appre­ci­ate this post!

  • Marek Jasovsky

    wel­come back 😉 although now I am less sure if I have enough courage to play with you 😉

    • Ben

      Thanks! I’m not quite out of the woods yet, but it feels like things should start get­ting bet­ter. And pish posh on your last state­ment, it shouldn’t change any­thing. Chal­lenge away!

  • Tomer

    I’d love to hear more about how you think go should be taught. It seems to me that every time I try I end up either get­ting them to play a game too early, which just ends up con­fus­ing them, or going through too much the­ory first and bor­ing them. :-

    • Ben

      You’re not the first to have told me that today. Haha. I will go ahead and write up a post on that and hope­fully have it up and online soon!

  • Machi­nato

    This is your best post­ing ever. Really, it is superb and I sin­cerely thank you for it. By the way, a cou­ple tour­na­ments back I was paired to play with a lit­tle boy in Kinde­garten, only 5 1/2 years old. Of course I ini­tially “took it easy on him” but in short order he both ignored my pur­pose­ful errors, played his own game, and totally destroyed me. I don’t know if I am that bad or if very young boy is “that good”? This child beat me on a 19 x 19 board, his very 1st tour­na­ment, and ended up win­ning 3 of his 4 games. I thought maybe the chicken place had slipped drugs into my lunch!

    • Ben

      Thanks Rob! I remem­ber that game actu­ally. Haha. It was the tour­na­ment that we met at! So funny to think about it now. Glad that you enjoyed the post!

  • Sphaso

    Fan­tas­tic story Ben! It also reminds me of that part in Aji’s Quest where Aji ends up in an eagle nest and teaches the younglings to play Go. When he finally climbs out he finds that he enjoys Go much better.

    • Ben

      Thanks Sphaso! And what a per­fect ref­er­ence to Aji’s Quest! It def­i­nitely helps to be reminded of the social inter­ac­tions and joy that can come out of go instead of always being caught up in sim­ply try­ing to get stronger. Hope that all is well with you!

  • Thomas Rohde

    Nice, thank you!

    • Ben

      You’re wel­come!