Saturday, January 14, 2006

Feng Yun, Chinese 9 Dan Go Pro And the Toyota/Denso North American Oza

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

A 9 Dan Go Pro, Feng Yun, is in the New York Times today because the national Go championships are happening this weekend in NYC. I am a fan of the game and often refer to its arcane rules when writing about international politics, Asian-style.

From the New York Times:
For Feng Yun, who spent 18 years on China's national go team, the two-hour exhibition did not pose much of a challenge. Facing financial analysts and schoolgirls, she won nine matches, losing the other two only after offering substantial handicaps. Nor will Ms. Feng, 39, meet anyone of her caliber at the Hotel Pennsylvania this weekend during the Toyota/Denso North American Oza, a two-day tournament that begins today in New York and in Las Vegas.

"I expect I will win," she said in a tone less cocky than matter-of-fact. Ms. Feng turned professional at 13 and, competing mostly against men, became the second woman ever to reach 9-dan - the ninth degree, go's highest ranking. Organizers of the Oza ("throne" in Japanese) expect more than 250 competitors in New York, but only one other professional, and a 1-dan at that. For Ms. Feng, the toughest part of playing go these days may be finding a worthy opponent. America, she explained, is "the desert of this game."
I happen to know Feng Yun! She is the Go Goddess online. I have chatted with her in Go chat rooms in the past. She invited me to visit her school but I couldn't because it is just a tad too far away, right now.

She is a marvelous, hard working person. Intellectually delightful, on whatever subject, for she is also a genius. Indeed, her gaining the laurels of professional Go status at 13 is an amazing achievement and few women can beat her in this game and many men, ditto.

She is passionate about the game and reads deeply into the philosophy and cosmic meaning of this deceptively simple but terribly difficult game.

There are oases: players meet at the New York Go Center in Midtown, at a Korean café in Fort Lee, N.J., a floating house game in Brooklyn. It also has a cult following in math departments (it made cameo appearances in the films "Pi" and "A Beautiful Mind") and among computer scientists interested in artificial intelligence. Go has simpler rules than chess but is so complex that no one has devised a computer program that can defeat a talented amateur, let alone Ms. Feng. Computers have, however, helped to overcome problems of geographical isolation, and players compete on go servers online.
I used to hang out at It is worth a visit, they explain the game and have interactive practice pages that are great at tutoring beginning Go players.
Go has a much higher profile in East Asia. In China, weiqi, "the surrounding game," was historically considered one of the four arts that a cultured gentleman should master.
The Chinese government is in no hurry to clue our own diplomatic corps in the fine arts of this game for obvious reason.

I first learned of it in Germany from a physics professor who played with some Japanese mathematicians. We would all drink tea at first and then end up drinking beer. The game gets to be rather a riot at that point (heh).
Between private lessons, mostly taught online, and weekly classes scattered around New Jersey and in Flushing, Queens, Ms. Feng has managed to recruit more than 100 students. A few sought her out after becoming fans of "Hikaru no Go," a Japanese comic book about a young ruffian possessed by the spirit of an ancient go master. But most are Asian-American children whose parents esteem the game of go, even if they do not play it.

"You can win by not being overly aggressive," said Bonnie Liao, whose 10-year-old son, Lionel Zhang, has studied with Ms. Feng for four years. "You do not learn that from the typical Western culture."
First, Hikaru no Go is also a fine Japanese anime which I happen to have and adore watching. Has a tremendous amount of Go information, it was launched by the Japanese International Go Insitute because the game is fading fast in Japan and is considered stodgy and stale while China, Taiwan and Korea have all re-embraced the game and are playing it with tremendous frevor and it is harder and harder for the Japanse to hang onto the various Go titles like the Honinbo or the Meijin.

Hikaru no Go has been licensed to an American company so I hope to see it on American TV. If it sparks interest in this incredible game, this might benefit us in the future because, as you can see from my primitive, simplified Go map above, the international Go game we are playing, we are losing. For despite the seemingly splendid position of some of our stones across the valuable Middle East and Eastern Europe and Japan, we are actually losing becuase to place our stones there, we had to alienate many allies and the the places the stones are in are very precarious because the native population in most of those squares hate our guts and fiercely resent our presence!

Which is why "slow going is better than rash hurry" is an important lesson. From Yahoo:
Pakistani officials on Saturday angrily condemned a purported CIA airstrike meant to target al-Qaida's No. 2 man, saying he wasn't there and "innocent civilians" were among at least 17 men, women and children killed in a village near the Afghan border.

Thousands of tribesmen staged protests and a mob set fire to the office of a U.S.-backed aid agency as Pakistan's people and government showed increasing frustration over a recent series of suspected U.S. attacks along the frontier that appear aimed at Islamic militants.
So, we just bombed the border of Pakistan in our efforts to suppress the peasants there and this has stirred up tremendous fury against us in a country we must hold or else: Pakistan. We no longer go in like real men and fight, we use robots and other things that are inhuman so we can do it from afar. This increases the fear, rage and pure hatred of the USA. It is rapidly becoming totally toxic for us to go into these areas we "hold" and this is why winning hearts and minds is what it is all about. We are rapidly losing our grip on South America and parts of Africa for the exact same reason! And into this void steps China.
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