Finding Happiness and Fun in Go Again

During my game review for the first match of the month, I had a disturbing revelation. As Inseong was talking about my mistakes, he then commented on how attacking was one of the most pleasurable aspects of go. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off in my head as I realized what had been missing from my games all this time: I had forgotten how to attack.

As I sat there, I thought, “Me? Not attacking properly? Not enjoying the attack? How far have I fallen?”

Needless to say, it got me wondering if this was what was wrong with me over these past couple of weeks; but what’s funny is that life had something else in store for me as well. Though I didn’t know it at the time, something that I had volunteered to help out at was happening the same weekend: the Smithsonian Folklife Festival was about to give me the wake-up call that I needed.


At first, with me being down lately, I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant to go as the day crept up. Before I knew it though, Saturday was upon me and I was sitting down and teaching person after person. And with each person that sat down, seeing their eyes light up as they learned the rules and enjoyed their time was really heart-warming for me. Out of all the ones I taught though, there was one in particular that I want to mention here.

A young girl (probably around 6-8 years old) and her mother decided to stop by to learn the game. As I taught the rules to the girl and proceeded through my own curriculum of how I believe go should be taught, she picked it up with relative ease. And with each new milestone in learning the game, her eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face that I can only describe as absolutely adorable.

Fast forward a bit, and I decide that she’s ready to try an actual game of go. I had commandeered the big 9×9 magnetic board (with huge pieces) that is used for demonstration at the time. So as one can expect, there was a bit of a crowd around us by the time our game started. I gave her 7 stones as a handicap and we started playing.

To my utter surprise, she ignored most of my overplays and played such calm and beautiful moves! If I tried to hane on one stone, she would ignore me and just connect her stones together only to leave me in dismay. And before I knew it, she killed my entire group and owned the entire board.

Now, while another person might have found it to be embarrassing, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the crowd what it looked like to get demolished and to explain that resigning was an honorable thing to do in this game. This got quite a big laugh of course. And as I turned to the girl and her mom to tell her how she did an incredible job crushing me, she beamed with happiness and pride that made the entire spectacle entirely worth it.

The reason I’m writing this is because it’s really easy to get caught up in the competitive aspects of go. After all, most players who end up playing this game long term are usually playing to become the strongest player they can possibly be. But after my experiences these last few days, I’m reminded of the fact that there is far more to go than simply gaining that next stone.

Though it’s easy to forget, finding happiness and fun in go is just as important (if not the most) when taking that next step in your journey as a go player. I’m not quite out of the woods yet in regards to my own slump, but I can tell you that this weekend was the ray of light that I needed as I start to make my way toward the end of the tunnel.

  • saxmaam


    • Ben

      Thanks. I was hoping someone would appreciate this post!

  • Marek Jasovsky

    welcome back 😉 although now I am less sure if I have enough courage to play with you 😉

    • Ben

      Thanks! I’m not quite out of the woods yet, but it feels like things should start getting better. And pish posh on your last statement, it shouldn’t change anything. Challenge away!

  • Tomer

    I’d love to hear more about how you think go should be taught. It seems to me that every time I try I end up either getting them to play a game too early, which just ends up confusing them, or going through too much theory first and boring them. :-

    • Ben

      You’re not the first to have told me that today. Haha. I will go ahead and write up a post on that and hopefully have it up and online soon!

  • Machinato

    This is your best posting ever. Really, it is superb and I sincerely thank you for it. By the way, a couple tournaments back I was paired to play with a little boy in Kindegarten, only 5 1/2 years old. Of course I initially “took it easy on him” but in short order he both ignored my purposeful errors, played his own game, and totally destroyed me. I don’t know if I am that bad or if very young boy is “that good”? This child beat me on a 19 x 19 board, his very 1st tournament, and ended up winning 3 of his 4 games. I thought maybe the chicken place had slipped drugs into my lunch!

    • Ben

      Thanks Rob! I remember that game actually. Haha. It was the tournament that we met at! So funny to think about it now. Glad that you enjoyed the post!

  • Sphaso

    Fantastic story Ben! It also reminds me of that part in Aji’s Quest where Aji ends up in an eagle nest and teaches the younglings to play Go. When he finally climbs out he finds that he enjoys Go much better.

    • Ben

      Thanks Sphaso! And what a perfect reference to Aji’s Quest! It definitely helps to be reminded of the social interactions and joy that can come out of go instead of always being caught up in simply trying to get stronger. Hope that all is well with you!

  • Thomas Rohde

    Nice, thank you!

    • Ben

      You’re welcome!