Coin Flips

Posté par northlecale le 27 décembre 2017

Chess scandals are normally sidelined into the mundane digital media of the twitlogscape, but the last few weeks have seen one hit the broadsheets. What happened exactly? FIDE, that well known bastion of impropriety and honour, awarded a World Championship event to Saudi Arabia which eventually rejected any participation from Israel and grudgingly admitted Qatar and Iran. This is totally against the statuates of FIDE which all its nations are also supposed to be abiding by. Protests are naturally thin on the ground, despite the scandal the flipside is the hefty coinage. Money talks, and here it probably said something about there not being a problem for this and that, but it forgot to mention Israel. So the end result is pretty terrible. How can you have a World Championship when you actively exclude countries which are entitled to compete in that championship? Is the perpetual religious strife of the Middle East really an excuse to allow this to happen? Okay, Chess isn’t exactly a theatre for morality, but the idea that some members can be forgotten about whenever it is (in)convenient is a bit much. What about Go? Well in Go you have the routine exclusion of North Korea on a pretty regular basis for its ongoing diplomatic situation. Visas are refused. I suppose the ongoing state of near war and lack of diplomatic contact is somewhat similar. Does it mean that the IGF is any better than FIDE? Well I think for 2 reasons that it probably does. Firstly, there is usually little choice as to where events are actually going to be hosted – Japan / China / South Korea are always going to be the primary source of sponsor money. Furthermore, from my memory, the IGF issues an apology each time this happens. Indeed, I was actually quite taken aback that the Japanese chair expressed some displeasure about his government’s decision. I wonder what FIDE will say? In any case, it only illustrates once again the complete folly of man, particularly when poisoned by quasi religious beliefs.

Anyway, going back to coins. The highlight of the year for me was probably the DeepMind feat of learning from zero. Go, Chess and Shogi were totally taken apart with no prior knowledge, except the various techniques which they effectively suggest in the neural network layers – ladders is an example I believe. I am particularly interested in the progress of the Leela version of AlphaZero – – which is running away at the minute. I believe the initial mode at the minute is trial run, but regardless, today it is roughly dan level, despite what looks like immense lapses of reason when you observe it playing on KGS. It’s kind of mind blowing just how successful this project can be, even it does take a whole shit load of processing power and distributed resources to train it to that level. (Other reproductions exist – Viking and Pachi are also having Zero versions) I think it’s going to make an interesting new opponent/analyst to add to my current choices of and Leela 11.

All of which brings me back to that classic but lazy little excuse for making a blog post, the New Year’s Resolutions! What is my plan for 2018? Well, play less and study more is one thing. I have been falling too often into my bad habit of playing to pass the time – which is now getting more and more uncomfortable, since it’s in a darkened room waiting for a child to go to sleep, and with a child protection taped over my keyboard. So, 10 second blitz has to say goodbye, slightly longer time limits for me. Analysis of games is an absolute must, but how to actually put that into practice I am not sure. The ICC-2018 is my little tournament challenge for 2018, try to play something vaguely interesting enough that my brain has to depart to pastures new. Real life tournaments – well that depends on babysitting, but I’m hopeful for at least some kind of visit to Dublin and the Confucius Cup. Go Tourism, rather than Go Playing is more my thing right now. Translation projects seem out of the question right now, nothing else useful in Romanian or French seems to be lying around to try. Maybe some other kind of writing might be in order? Anyway, 2018 here I come.

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Competitive Drive

Posté par northlecale le 1 décembre 2017

The competition is perhaps the focal point through which many Go players meet and indeed exist, I shall contend that it is even more important as a driver than the club. We meet, we play, we fight, we talk, we live, we hunger. To keep us all active, there are, or should be, many layers of competition. We don’t want the same people to win all the time. Therefore a smart organisation organises a wide range of events – team, youth, club, state, province, senior, and indeed women’s. I used to argue with a friend that there belief that women’s only tournaments were sexist, whilst pair-go was to be extolled was simplistic and probably wrong. They are now playing in the IAPGC. The first Sotetsu (?) cup gave out hairdryers, cooking utensils, hoovers, makeup kit … that kind of thing, to the women taking part. This did raise a nerve for some. Yet, the competitions don’t have to be that way inclined. Pampering the community is a good thing, but it does rather ought to be done so diplomatically? Having experienced the IAPGC first hand, it did raise my anti-establishment haggles somewhat. A smartly dressed hetrosexual world free from all forms of non conformist behaviour, an iron fisted schedule with some crazy fancy dress urges hurled in, a Dutch theme park extroadinaire; I could entertain all these images up to a point. Yet the whole event is simply to promote Go, or rather Pair Go, which is a vehicle for women to play Go. Creating an event were countries are pampered, women are pampered, weak players are pampered, it is strategic genius after all. So I do feel it is an event which deserves praise rather than poo-pooing. Raised on the international stage we feel special. Women’s events are to me not at all disimilar, so long as there is the proviso that, or the understanding that, they do not exist because women are not able to compete with men, in the same way that junior events do not exist because juniors are not able to compete with men and women. Having been to both, I think they are enjoyed equally without degrading anyone involved in them.

Don’t throw the keys out of the pram.

Don’t throw the keys out of the car.

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A dilemna of bears

Posté par northlecale le 4 octobre 2017

Bears are supposed to be grouchy creatures. Scientists put that down to all that honey giving them a diabetic profile, but the lack of wifi in the woods is probably equally frustrating. Pandas are supposed to be grumpier than your normal brown bear, and after being disconnected  from IGS 10 times in the space of a couple of hours, I really feel for them. The problems of these creatures are just not fully appreciated. Let’s stop with the Alexei Sayle influenced monologue for a moment though – what I’m trying to say is that the PGETC has, and probably always will, managed to annoy me in some way. Out of pride, pleasure, or ambition – whichever – I want to play for Ireland. Yet there I am in an arena that is about as attractive as the smell at the back of Paris Go Club. Disconnections, lag, people not turning up on time, people not turning up, a client from hell, glued to the screen for 3 hours to eat up everything else you could have done with your evening – it’s a combination of frustrations for me. There isn’t even a reward for a podium place in the minor divisions, you’re just an afterthought, as are the moves played perhaps. Anyway, Ireland’s campaign kicked off again last night with a draw to Kazakhstan and I am sitting on the bench watching, because I just don’t have time to go back in there. Maybe I’m better off that way. The scoreline suggests so. 2-2. A draw is not a loss.

Publié dans Baduk, Go, gossip, Weiqi | Pas de Commentaire »

Can KGS come back to life?

Posté par northlecale le 4 mai 2017

For years now KGS has been suffering from a dripping death in popularity. New players generally prefer OGS because it is easy to set up and use. KGS lost players with each new update of Java because they couldn’t work out how to connect to the server any longer. The top echelon of players departed to new servers. Even Go Federations started to switch over to using OGS – look at France, Sweden, UK, hey – even Ireland. Now though, it looks like it will finally have an HTML client. I don’t remember when wms started working on one, or when I realised that he would never finish one. New clients are coming. GoUniverse or ShinKGS are 2 decent examples right now. Can it bring the players back – perhaps not, but it will at least even out the share of beginners who choose between KGS/OGS to learn to play on.

Publié dans Baduk, Go, gossip, Weiqi | Pas de Commentaire »

Of Wizards and Men

Posté par northlecale le 1 novembre 2016

About a month ago I rediscovered John Terry’s blog about go and the promotion of go. It contains quite a lot of interesting articles, even if it is slightly infected with a grudge against the American Go Association‘s leadership or officialdom, and indeed the use of the word Go as opposed to go. A week ago he wrote an interesting piece about John Power and his legacy in the promotion of the game.

Go Review is dead. Go World is dead. What is left?

To my mind, only go is left. And that is what I promote.

I wish that more people would understand this. Promotion requires an active interest in the sporting aspects of a game.

John Terry doesn’t strike me as an expert on promotion, his video idea was a bit of a dead duck, but he makes some interesting points in his blog. How many opportunities get squandered because we think communication and promotion means sending an email? How can we adapt to a world were the printed medium is commercially inviable – there are no subscriptions we can make to english language publications about Go now. What is the key starting point to getting people interested? Can we be stand offish and hope to entice people with the resources we have, or do we have to decamp to the schools to catch (indoctrinate) them while they’re young? They are big questions; questions which don’t interest most players since they prefer playing instead.

Recently I volunteered as a sort of proofreader for the EGF‘s news feed. As I understand it, the article authors fight over whether to write Go or go. The material is more relevant and vibrant than any of that which has sat on its site for many a year – yet it still remains stand offish. There is no official advert saying « Contributors wanted from Turkey, Ukraine, UK… » – instead you have something of an authorship clique. Viktor Lin is seemingly intent on publishing sporting material – i.e. articles about the games themselves – which should be great. I wonder though, how many people actually read and appreciate what they have on the website? Is it going to be enough to draw interest and sponsors in the new era of the EGF? Time will tell. For now I feel that the new culture is still missing something in terms of inclusivity.

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Rational Play

Posté par northlecale le 16 juin 2016

Rather a depressing idea isn’t it? Reading an article such as Rational Play in the AGA EJournal leaves me wondering why they need to see a computer program in this light. Is it really so bad to have waved goodbye to some of the outdated ideas of the Edo period at the expense of home-taping killing the Music industry? (And by the way EMI, up yours something Rotten.) No. These days having longer than 15 minutes to spare for a game of Go is a rare occurrance. One way to continue playing is to choose an opponent who doesn’t mind if you escape. I have found that Leela is just such an opponent. Not being quite up to the standard of AlphaGo, and currently retailing for freem it lends itself to being rather a reasonable opponent for myself. So far, whilst sipping a coffee of a day in work, I have progressed up to the mediocre level of 2-kyu. That’s means I have managed to beat Leela when it gave me 7 stones. Not such a hard thing to do I suppose, but I am in no rush for the stressful levels that await me higher up the scale. After a while I might even get in some decent practice against it.

Publié dans Baduk, Go, gossip, Weiqi | Pas de Commentaire »


Posté par northlecale le 5 mars 2016

I thought that it was worth taking the time to thank John Doyle for his newsletter initiative. You can read follow it on his own website CorkGo or on the GoogleGroup. He’s aiming to give everyone a summary of the upcoming events in Ireland for the next month. Hot on the list for March is the Confucius Cup, which my son decided we weren’t going to this year. Maybe he is right, he can enjoy the snow at home.

Rory Wales has also put together an archive for all the newsletters on the IGA website, I can recommend reading them for the nostalgia.

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Romanian History

Posté par northlecale le 9 novembre 2015

The reason I started this blog was to record the history of Irish Go. However here we have something a little different, a brief diversion to Romania in 1989. In other words, I have begun a translation of the work of Radu Baciu’s work Go In Competition. I suppose that this is a manual which would normally be left by the wayside as having little to no significant value in terms of instruction. Nevertheless it is historically a very important piece in the development of Go in Romania, and I at least find it quite an interesting piece of work in terms of thinking about the game. You can find the initial Version 1 here at It contains 7 contemporary games, an introduction and a glossary.

Publié dans Baduk, Go, gossip, RaduBaciu, Weiqi | Pas de Commentaire »

The year of unfinished business

Posté par northlecale le 2 mai 2015

We all know that feeling. Suddenly you notice that your eyes are sore, the primal energy seems to have gone from your body, tiredness is the only thing left, and you realise that, despite all your best intentions, you just didn’t get a thing done today. Somehow, 2014 seemed to go that way for the Irish Go Championship. It is not for me to guess as to why it happened, but it just never seemed to finish. To begin with, only 6 players actually turned up for the Top 8 that year. It was something along the lines of that one slept in, while the other just forgot about it. So, what with a quarter of the games out of the way, you’d imagine that it might motor along to a quick completion. Far from it! It is true the championship league was, whilst not strictly speaking finished within the period the rules allowed, completed well before Christmas. The 3-game final just simply didn’t appear. There was one game that was played, but months passed, 2014 turned to 2015, and as I sit writing here, despite promises to get around to playing it, we are into May 2015, and it just hasn’t happened. Both players are, strangely enough, still playing in the 2015 championship, which is still in progress, and nearly running to schedule. So we have to imagine that the final will eventually be played, it is just a case of when. For now, the record is a year of 17 months – how long will that run on for?

Postscript – the committee adjudicated the result on the 31st of May. (spoilsports)

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