Baduk (Go) Evening, 9 February 2016

Written by: Ian Simm  |  Posted on: February 18th, 2016

Celebrating the Lunar New Year with the British Go Associationbaduk (5)

At the first meeting of this, the 60th anniversary year of BKS, we welcomed 4 members of the British Go Association, whom we had supported from our grant scheme in recent years. Our Chairman, in his opening remarks, also welcomed the new Minister and Chargé d’Affaires at the Republic of Korea Embassy in London, Mr Kim Deuk-hwan. Sadly, we were also saying farewell to the Director of the Korean Cultural Centre, Mr Kim Kab-soo, who with his colleagues had supported the society most helpfully over the past 3 years. The Chairman took the opportunity to present Director Kim with a gift to mark our appreciation.

Toby Manning, treasurer of the British Go Association, then gave an introduction to the game, one of 5 recognised by the International Mind Sports Association. The name used in Europe derives from the Japanese igo, meaning ‘surrounding game’: the name in China, probably where the game originated, is wei qi with the same meaning, and in Korea it is known as baduk. It is in East Asia that the game remains strongest, and where the top earning professionals come from – probably the leading player in the world at present is Lee Sae-dol of Korea. We heard that there is in Korea a television channel devoted to baduk.

Go is a game of market share, not annihilation, stressed Toby Manning, though it can be ‘quite violent’ – not, we should point out, in a physical sense! He also pointed out that it is a game of ‘perfect information’ where both sides know the same amount and there should be no element of luck involved. The objective is to obtain more territory on the board than your opponent, and it is not possible to play for a draw – although such an outcome is theoretically possible.

For many years it was thought that, although the rules of the game are very simple, computers would be unable to compete with human Go experts, but very recently Google have developed an artificial intelligence-based approach which was able to beat the European amateur champion, as reported in Nature in January 2016. The programme will take on Lee Sae-dol soon – a challenge whose results we await with interest.

The British Go Association is over 50 years old and now has 50 affiliated clubs and 400 members; the game is also gaining popularity across Europe. After Toby’s exposition, some of us tried the game – in my case at least on a small scale and a very basic level. I’m not sure that I am yet hooked, but the experience was certainly very interesting and I’d like to learn more.

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