My Go Career

I started playing Go in the spring of 1986, when I was 15. I became interested because there was a club at my high school run by a math teacher named John Lee, and I didn't like that everyone there could beat me. Once I was hooked, my father, who was around 3 kyu at the time, started playing with me every weekend. We started at 23 (!) stones, and worked our way down at about the rate of one stone per week.

During this time I read all the go books I could get my hands on, and (starting when I was around 12 kyu or so) spent all weekend every weekend playing at the New York Go Club, which was then a little upstairs room of the Keystone Restaurant, a greek diner at 2nd avenue and 26th street. My first game at the NY Go club (like so many other players') was with Mario. Spending all weekend every weekend playing go was good for my game, but bad for my social life -- my girlfriend got bored and dumped me.

One day in the summer, when I was around 8 kyu, Sakata Eio, honorary Honinbo and one of the greatest players of the century, visited the club. He was tired, said his translators, and only wanted to play one game, with the youngest player in the club. At 15 years old, that was me.

Wow. I played him on 7 stones (which was absurd, he could have easily at 7 stones have crushed a shodan who in turn could have crushed me at 7 stones -- I tried to put down 9 but he kept sliding them off the side star points until I got the idea). He tried his hardest to make it close, but I stubborly forced more and more points on him in the endgame and ended up losing by over 10. Me & that game ended up being part of a series in Igo Club (a popular Japanese go magazine) called something like "Go Geniuses of the World." As a big overgrown baby 8-kyu I was nothing like a go genius, but still, it was extremely exciting and encouraging.

Anyway, I kept studying and playing, and I reached shodan about 9 months after I started playing, and was 3 dan by the time of the US Go Congress in 1987.

At the `87 Go Congress, I met Janice Kim, then newly promoted professional shodan. She moved to New York, and accepted me as her student. In the summer of `88, I was the US representative to the Ing World Youth Championship (Paris), and came in eighth (ahead of the Europeans, behind the Asians :). I had the interesting experience of being handed a consolation box of apricots by Chang-Hao, before the game started. And also losing to Mok-jin Suk, a little Korean boy who had to sit on folded up blankets to be able to reach the far side of the go board. I met lots of nice people in Paris, including a Maitre Lim, who wrote some words of wisdom (176k .gif) for me in four languages.

In September of `88 I moved to Japan to study go in the house of Oeda 9-dan. By the time I got there, Michael Redmond had moved out, so it was basically Ryu (now Tengen), Endo (now 3? dan), Kurotaki(now 4? dan), me (now 6 dan :), and Kato Ryo (still Insei). At Oeda's house we studied go, played go, gave go lessons to amateurs, and played ball games in the park across the street. And played in the insei tournament every weekend (except Ryu, who was alreay pro).

The best I ever did in the Insei league was to get promoted to B-class just in time to get into the ichijijyo-sen, or semifinal professional promotion tournament. My record in that tournament was something like 2 wins and 12 losses (and I was happy about it!). The top four finishers in the ichijijyo-sen would join the final promotion tournament along with the 12 players in A class, and the top couple of finishers in that tournament would be promoted to professional. All of which is to say, becoming professional is hard.

I finally quit trying to become a professional and returned to the US in January of 1990. I came to realize in the end that there was a vast gulf between my own mental state and the one I would need to become a professional. A successful go student must sacrifice everything for go, and (un)fortunately by the age of 18 I already had some baggage I wasn't willing to part with.

On a more practical level, I realized that becoming professional is not a Good Thing unless you are willing to live in Japan or Korea forever: you give up about five years of your life and then you still can't make a living if you move back to the West. Worst of all you can't even play for fun any more!

So in 1990 I moved back to New York, and started school. I haven't played much go since then. Eventually I'd like to start playing seriously again, though catching up to John to win the U.S. championship is going to take a little work...

More as details as released.