My U.S. Go Congress Trip

I just finished up my trip to the U.S. Go Congress in Williamsburg, VA. This was my first Go Congress and I find the comparison between this event and programming conferences interesting.

First of all, the Go Congress has nothing to do with Golang the programming language. This is an event for players of Go, the strategy board game, also known as Baduk (Korean) or Weiqi (Chinese).

The Go Congress was intense. A typical programming conferences lasts 3-4 days, often with a few days of optional tutorials before and/or after the main tracks. The Go Congress lasted a full 8 days, with a sort of day off in the middle.

Programming conferences typically run from 9(ish) in the morning until 5-6pm. There are sometimes social events in the evening, but probably not every evening.

The Go Congress pretty much ran for 12 hours a day. The main tournament ran from 9-12am. Then lectures, pro reviews, pro simuls (play a pro simultaneously with 5-6 other players and get destroyed) and other events would go on from 1-5pm. And then in the evenings from 7-9 we’d often have additional events, including more tournaments (pair go, women’s tournament), more lectures, pro commentary on matches, etc. Oh, and remember that day off I mentioned? There’s an all day tournament offered that day called the Die Hard Tournament. I decided to sleep, do laundry, and go to a climbing gym instead.

And of course at any time during the day you could engage in pickup games, of which I played several. On most days I was doing something Go related from about 9-9 with lunch and dinner breaks. One afternoon a group of us went out to a coffee shop and while there was some social talk we ended up reviewing a couple games on people’s iPads too.

So if you think programming conferences are the height of nerdy intensity you have no idea what you’re talking about. Go Congress is much more intense.

Some of my Go Congress highlights included:

  • Meeting my Go teacher In-Seong Hwang in person for the first time. In-Seong runs the fantastic American (and European) Yunguseng Dojang online go schools. In addition to a number of great lectures, he also did reviews for us students in the evenings. He’s quite funny online, and even more so in person. Sign up for AYD or EYD today!
  • Meeting and hanging with so many other Go players, including quite a few fellow AYD members.
  • Watching In-Seong play the Facebook ELF AI. His concentration and focus over the three hour game was amazing.
  • Playing Eodeokdung Lee in a simul and losing. He’s young enough to be my son and strong enough to school me big time. He’s also a friendly guy who was a pleasure to play against. I hope to get my revenge at next year’s congress.
  • Yang Yilun‘s When to Tenuki lecture. He and In-Seong were by far the best presenters I saw. Mr. Yang’s lecture was thoughtful, clear, and full of well thought out examples. I will definitely be using what I learned in my games. Mr. Yang offers lessons online, and based on this lecture, I would expect him to be a great teacher. I look forward to seeing him at next year’s congress.
  • Getting something right during a game review given by Ding Wei. Prior to the review, I’d looked at this person’s game briefly. He had a question about a particular moment and I said something to the effect of “you have to play 3-3 in the upper right corner, that’s the best move.” Then during the review Ding Wei agreed with me. It’s really nice to have my thinking validated by a much, much better player. I also got my own game reviewed by Ding Wei. I really would’ve loved to have 30-40 minutes with him. He had a lot of helpful feedback and he did a good job of explaining why a given move was a mistake. I would seek him out for more reviews at future congresses, for sure.
  • Mingjiu Jiang‘s commentary (and clowning around) on one of the Masters tournament games.

The lowlight was losing 5 out of 6 games I played in the tournament. This was particularly frustrating since I lost my first game early by making a really, really, really dumb joseki mistake. Then I lost two more games where my opponents offered me numerous chances to take a win. I’m definitely 9 dan at throwing away a won game. On the plus side, playing a variety of new opponents in serious (long) games helped me clearly identify weaknesses in my play.

Next year’s conference will be in Madison, WI. This is both closer to home and it’s a city with much better vegan options than Williamsburg, VA. I’m already looking forward to attending!

Image Credit

My Go boardby Matt Ryall

Licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Original source via Flickr

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