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Go Wizardry

All About the Many Aspects of Go
We have millions of friends around the world... and they all play go!

Effective Go Promotion

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When I first learned how to play go, the game was virtually unknown in the United States. There were few go clubs, and only a handful of books had been published about go in English. We have come a long way since then. It might be interesting to take a glance back at the major promotional developments that got things to this point.

Of course, go is the national game of Japan. The Japanese love go and are proud of the long line of genius players that figure in the history of the game over hundreds of years in their country. Consequently, they are eager to have others around the world learn about go in Japan and its relation to Japanese culture.

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The Nihon Ki-in (Japanese Go Association) launched the monthly magazine Go Review in 1962 as a major effort to promote go internationally. It was originally published in both English and German so as to appeal to European readers as well as speakers of English. It is interesting to consider that Japan had only signed a formal peace treaty with the US in 1954, and the country was still devastated from the war. It was only in 1964, when the Japanese hosted the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, that Japan was considered to have rejoined the international community as a full-fledged member. So the Japanese advanced go into the rest of the world before it took its own place culturally.

There was a treasure trove of material about go published in every issue of Go Review. The articles offered top level analysis, but they were often crudely translated. Still, people intrigued about the game were glad to have the chance to glimpse the world of professional go. Every month there was a feature article about a major title match game, such as from the Meijin or Honinbo tournaments, as well as many others. It was also great to be able to learn more about the major players, like Sakata Eio, Fujisawa Shuko and Go Seigen. Up and coming young players, such as Rin Kaiho, Kato Masao and Cho Chikun, were also introduced to the rest of the world through Go Review.

Therefore, it was a great disappointment to learn that Go Review was going out of existence after 1975. Not only for amateur go players around the world, but for Richard Bozulich and John Power, who had spent years publishing translations in Go Review, as well as original books. They decided to do something about it and started Go World magazine.

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Go World was in many ways a step up from Go Review, especially in terms of literate English. And John Power, as editor, made a valiant attempt to cover all of the games of the seven major title matches in Japan, along with other games, players and championships around the world. There were also instructional articles, problems and a smattering of other interesting material. I produced translations and original articles for Go World, too. But one thing that always bothered me was the academic focus of the magazine. Go is a game, and like chess in the West, it had always had a sporting aspect to it. Go World drained it of that aspect, turning it into a bloodless, intellectual exercise.

Whether my opinion is correct or not, Go World could not be sustained purely on its intellectual appeal. After a yeoman’s effort that produced 70 issues over the years, Go World was laid to rest. Although I had my disputes with those behind the production and distribution of the magazine, I was sad to see it go.

On the other hand, Go World was also a throw-back to a bygone era. The promotion of go in paper form could not compete with the new digital products. I suppose that there will always be a small segment of the go public that will want to read works in paper form, a mass audience for go will never be achieved without an effort that includes all of the forms of promotion available in this age of computer dominance of culture.

Which brings us to www.GoWizardry.com. I started this website along with Mark Lass in August 2011 in order to show the world just how much was packed into the issues of Kido magazine that I had loved to read every month. We have tried to include as much of the wide range of material that appeared there over the years. I hope that we have succeeded. To my mind, taken as a whole, GoWizardry is a good representation of what Kido was to Japanese go players.

Kido was discontinued in 2000. The reason was simple: Kido was originally launched in 1924 as the masthead publication of the Nihon Ki-in. As such, it was produced by and for professional go players. By the turn of the century, that format was obsolete. Not only in relation to the transmission of technical information about go, such as innovations in common lines of play, but the make-up of the professional go community. China and Korea had emerged as powerhouses in the game, and the video age had produced a plethora of titles aimed at the media. The Oteai (the professional ranking tournament of the Nihon Ki-in) was eliminated as a result. (It is beyond the scope of this essay to explain this in detail, but the fact is that for professional players, only winning a title has any real meaning. Today, few professional players ranked less than 8 dan are able to win a title. Therefore, if a player manages to win a title in Japan, that player is automatically promoted to 8 dan.)

GoWizardry has to change, too. Rest easy, visitor to this website. This does not mean that GoWizardry is about to be disbanded. Far from it. We plan to expand the range of the things that we offer here. In the coming months we will explain more about that. Keep tuned.

It is with that in mind that I have gone back to the first articles that I read in Kido and that excited my imagination so much. I translated a wide range of that material, which we have posted in the several months previously. It has taken a great deal of work to do this, but I wanted, once and for all, to show exactly what those articles contained.

Now it is time to take it to the next level. As they say in show business, "The past is prologue." Or in the vernacular: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

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