“Go”ing for the win

Syracuse Go club to host tournament April 20

MPH student Carl Beach (right) plays Syracuse Go Club member Kathy Perez.  Meg Houston (purple) is also a member of the Syracuse Go Club.

MPH student Carl Beach (right) plays Syracuse Go Club member Kathy Perez. Meg Houston (purple) is also a member of the Syracuse Go Club. Richard Moseson

— Every Monday night, people from all walks of life meet up at the dining area of Wegmans in Dewitt with one thing on their minds: to play Go – a strategy game, comparable to chess, that originated in China over 2,500 years ago. Even though the game is quite old, it has been gaining popularity in the United States each year, and this will be the sixth year that Syracuse’s Go club hosts the Salt City Go Tournament.

Go is known for being rich in strategy while having just a few simple rules. It’s a two player game, and both players place their stones (either black or white) at intersections on the board, which is made up of lines on a 19 x 19 grid. The object of the game is to create territories and surround a larger total area of the board with your territories than your opponent. Once a player places a stone on the board, that stone cannot be moved unless it is captured. The game ends when both players agree that there are no more useful moves that can be made. Players get a point for each unoccupied intersection and for each enemy stone captured within their territories. Whichever player has more points, wins.

Richard Moseson is a retired systems programmer who now organizes and coordinates the Syracuse Go club. He fell in love with the game in college, when he and a philosophy professor taught themselves how to play. He said he likes the game because of the depth of the strategies available. While the game of go has fewer rules than chess, it is far more complex, and go professionals and strong amateurs can still defeat the best computer go-playing programs.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the use of handicaps. With the assistance of handicaps, a beginner could play an advanced player and still have a competitive game. A player’s handicap is determined by his or her ranking. A player who has never played before would have a ranking of 30 kyu. As the player improves, he or she moves up to 29 kyu, then 28 kyu, all the way up to 1 kyu. Really advanced players can improve from 1 kyu to 1 dan, and the best players in the world have 9 dan rankings. Moseson said many players can play for their entire lives and never make it to dan level. He is a 5 kyu player after playing for roughly 40 years.

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