Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hikaru no Go

One day while searching on Netflix for some cartoon movies to rent for the kids I came across the Hikaru no Go series. I knew almost nothing about Go at the time, though I did learn the basic rules when I was in high school. Since I never had anyone to play against, I had pretty much forgotten about the game until seeing this anime series. Strangely, Netflix didn't have the first disc available so I ended up starting with the second disk. My kids both really liked it as did I so I ended up just buying the series from Amazon. I really liked the way they dramatized all of the games and it had the nice effect of inspiring all of us to give the game a try. After having Chinese food in Flushing, NY one day I tried to drop by a local Baduk club. It wasn't very English friendly, unfortunately, but the proprietor was able to point me to a local Korean grocery store when I asked where I could buy a baduk board. We found the store without much trouble and picked up a cheap go board. I searched online to remind myself of the rules and went through the exercises on Hiroki Mori's site, the Interactive Way to Go.
I also used this teaching guide but it turned out that after watching Hikaru no Go, the kids had sort of picked up the rules already. I didn't bother explaining eyes, but they do manage to sort of play games. I actually found that using a chess board (9x9) in Go was the best balance. Much smaller than that and it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense and of course bigger than that is too much to handle for them. But at 9x9 I can play Alyssa with a 4 stone handicap and if I correct obvious mistakes where she misses that I'm about to capture a large group because she's failing to make an easy connection, she gives me a pretty good run for my money. It's surprising how easily they seem to grasp basic defensive plans. Strangely, enough they can play games with each other and (after correcting major oversights) Richie seems to usually get the upper hand over Alyssa. I've tried to teach them about scoring the game but they seem to lose sight of the goal of the game sometimes and will typically make "dead" moves near the end of the game as they start running out of open space to fill. They also seem to prefer building long walls and prioritize taking prisoners over taking space. Well anyway, I don't try to instruct them much, I'm just having them play as many games as I can right now.

Richie and Alyssa both enjoy playing. We got in a few games over Thanksgiving at Ben and Christine's house.

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