U.S. Go Congress to bring hundreds of players to campus

July 5, 2019 By Lisa Hildebrand

Four hundred enthusiasts and professional players of the ancient game Go will take part in the 35th annual U.S. Go Congress from July 13 through 20 at the Memorial Union. Professor of Public Affairs and Political Science Dave Weimer is leading the event, which is sponsored by the Department of Political Science and Center for East Asian Studies.

Conference logo featuring an illustration of the Madison isthmus as a Go board

One of the four classical arts of China, Go is the world’s oldest continuously played board game. Until the recent breakthrough by Google’s DeepMind, Go was thought to pose a challenge to artificial intelligence that would not be met for many years. DeepMind’s AlphaGo Zero mastered Go through self-learning in four months; it mastered chess in four hours.

“The intrinsic beauty and challenge of Go, along with its deep cultural significance in China, Korea, and Japan, have attracted players from around the world,” says Weimer, who in 2018 taught the lead course of a First-Year Interest Group on Go. Weimer, who usually teaches courses on cost-benefit analysis and quantitative methods, taught a Go course for many years at the University of Rochester.

During the Congress, sponsored by the American Go Association, participants will compete in the U.S. Open and other tournaments. They will also receive instruction from 19 professional players, including delegations sent by professional Go societies in China, Japan, and Korea.

The public is welcome to participate in two Go Congress events:

  • Myungwan Kim, a highly ranked professional player, will hold a workshop based on his experience teaching a version of Go to children with autism in Korea. He will describe the game he developed, discuss the positive results he has observed, and help attendees prepare to teach the game. He will offer his workshop on Tuesday, July 16, in the Humanities Building, Room 1651, at 1 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.
  • Two distinguished Go teachers, Toshifumi Mizuma and Yuto Tajiri, will lead a workshop on teaching beginners. During the last session (Tuesday, July 16, from 3 to 4:45 p.m.), they will observe their students teach beginners how to play Go. The workshop welcomes people who would like to learn how to play Go to attend this session. Those interested may contact Mark Rubenstein (mark@evanstongoclub.org), the workshop coordinator.

Weimer hopes his second stint directing the Congress is even more successful than his first one, when he was featured in a 1992 Sports Illustrated story. “That issue of Sports Illustrated was the magazine’s 29th swimsuit edition, which is always an interesting tidbit to share with colleagues and friends,” he says.