Interview With a GO Player | Pt. One

        Here at the GameOfGO app we realize that many, in our Western audience, have little exposure to the game of GO, and likely have not even met a single GO player. To help remedy this we decided it would be a cool idea to interview an avid GO player, who not only plays GO at a high level, but also grew up with GO culture his whole life.

        Fortunately we were able to find such a GO player rummaging around on some internet GO forums. His name is Bob Song, a 23 year old Comp-Sci student at the University of Auburn, who was more than happy to take our interview. Bob grew up in ChangChun City, Jilin Province, China, and has an official certificate stating his amateur 5 dan status in GO! He has been living and studying in Auburn since 2018.

        This is the first part of a four part interview article series, where I probe Bob’s mind on everything GO. His first hand experience and knowledge is priceless and worth every minute of the read for any newbie or seasoned GO player looking to expand their knowledge about GO.

The GO Interview

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GOjiBroccoli: Hello Bob!

So, what is GO?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Hi.

GO, is not the verb “go,” it is a board game that has a rich history. The rules are simple, but it is difficult to become a master of Go. In China we have a saying, Go is like life. You can call it “GO” “Weiqi” “Baduk” or “Wooden-Fox.”

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GOjiBroccoli: "Wooden-Fox"

That’s interesting.

What does that mean?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Wooden is GO board, Fox is the animal fox.

Means GO is attractive like fox (fox means beautiful women in Chinese culture).

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GOjiBroccoli: Why is GO like “life” in China?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Life is uncertain,Go is uncertain

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GOjiBroccoli: When did you first learn to play GO?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: I learned GO in 2005. However I didn’t learn that consistently. I left GO in about 2007, then came back in 2011.

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GOjiBroccoli: So you were 8 years old when you first learned?

Who taught you?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Yes, about 8 years old.

A teacher taught me to play GO.

In my family, my father can play GO.

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GOjiBroccoli: Are you better than your father at GO?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Right now, yes.

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GOjiBroccoli: How good would you say you are at GO?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: I am an amateur 5 Dan

Not senior 5 Dan.

My teachers are senior 5 Dan.

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GOjiBroccoli: What’s the difference?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Senior 5 Dan is more experienced. They have competed with elder players to receive the rank. I have only competed with people my age.

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GOjiBroccoli: To me 5th Dan seems impossibly far away! Haha, I would say I’m like a 10k maybe. So would you be considered a professional GO player?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: No.

Not good enough.

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GOjiBroccoli: What do you have to do to be a pro?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: In China, you have to compete with amateur 5, 6 dans, who have been training in the likes of Beijing and Shanghai for years. They are young but they are on the senior amateur players' level.

And you have to be in the top 20 out of 400~600 people (male) and top 5 in females. Some Chinese GO fans criticize the top 5 in the female-pro qualification contest as too easy.

I am familiar with the pro-GO business in China. So I know how tough it is to be a pro in China very well. I have known some people, who are my age, in my hometown of ChangChun. They abandoned school, and went to Beijing to try to become a pro.

Ultimately money paid, but no progress.

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GOjiBroccoli: Sounds like quite a risk!

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: I have seen a kid who went there (Beijing) at the age of 9~10.

He was much stronger after he trained with pros. However he could not make it.

One of my teachers went the same road. But he couldn't make it either.

Since it is intensely competitive! Some people don’t become pro until 27.

Like Qingquan Yu 6 Dan, he went to Beijing very early as a kid.

And participated in pro qualification contests for years. He couldn't pass it by the normal age. Typical GO pro qualification contest age limit is 25. So he couldn't become a pro by 25, luckily, the policy has changed a bit. So that seniors who are over 25 could participate, and if you become the champion in the senior group, you will be qualified as a pro.

Yu made it! At the age of 27.

But Yu would not do well in pros.

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GOjiBroccoli: Wow! I would imagine that if you could win, it shouldn't matter how old you are? Or if you’re male or female.

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: For now, it wouldn't matter how old you are, or if you are a male or female.

But, if they couldn't be very competitive, what's next for senior pros anyway?

Many quit professional rank in China because they couldn't do well in pros.

An example could be: if we think becoming a GO pro in China is like being accepted by Harvard. The next step is what are you going to do? Even if you are a great student at Harvard. How will you make sure you will be able earn a lot of money in future?

Or the likes of Hollywood, not everybody is Will Smith. In Go, very few people can be competitive on an elite level. You always see the likes of KeJie. But the rest, and majority of them, couldn't keep up.

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GOjiBroccoli: Who is KeJie?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Ke Jie, the best GO player in all China. As old as me!

He had 8 GO World Champion titles. So basically, in China, if you can't be competitive on elite level, you can’t make money.

Making money by playing with other pros, and participating in big contests.

This is the basic dream of all pro players. However, in reality, if you couldn't be that good (Especially in China, Japan, Korea), if you are over 20, and couldn't make world champ, then your career is done.

18~25 The age to achieve goals in terms of GO pro players.

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GOjiBroccoli: WoW! Sounds like stiff competition.

Have you played your hand in reaching the pros?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: No, not now. I don't have to become a pro, and I am incapable of becoming a pro.

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GOjiBroccoli: But you still compete?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Well, I compete casually now.

Have you looked up information on the UEC Cup Computer Go Artificial Intelligence world championship tournament?

CrazyStone, old like dinosaur.

Aya, veteran.

BSK, won zero games last year.

DaPangGo, won 3 games out of 7 last year.

ChaoRan, the strongest among these 5.

Stopped by "LeelaZero" in last year's contest!

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GOjiBroccoli: Oh wow! What’s the UEC?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: The school, University of Electro Communications, is associated with the tournament organization.

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GOjiBroccoli: Are there a lot of AI GO tournaments?

Is this similar to the International AI GO Competition that happened at the end of 2020?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It's similar, but the competition level is nowhere close to last year.

Based on participants, you will see likes of MyrtleGo,TianGo, and Golaxy aren't on the list. Even the best among them, ChaoRan, was stopped by "LeelaZero" last year.

And less money for reward. Arguably last year was one of the strongest on the level of competition.

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GOjiBroccoli: I don’t remember ever hearing of chess algorithms being as popular as GO algorithms are today.

How extensive would you say is the relationship of AI and GO now?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Artificial intelligence is way bigger than GO AI itself. It is a technology that is specifically effective on GO, but in a neutral perspective. Artificial intelligence has a lot of other applications for people to discover.

However in Go, currently scientists are aiming to find the way to solve GO completely. Which in Zermelo principle, there is a way to not lose in a two-player board game. So scientists are trying hard to discover newer algorithms in order to reach that goal.

The upcoming achievement in GO AI is any program who can find a way to not lose a game, then it means basically GO is solved (the way to stay away from losing is found by bots). But we don't know how long it will take.

Until the time some program achieves the best in GO, then the GO game itself is done for computers.They can publish a paper to state the achievement, but the algorithm itself is still working on GO specifically.

To apply the algorithm in other fields is much better. Also we can see the value until the time GO algorithm can be applied to other things, then we can say it is a phenomenal algorithm that solves a lot of problems in general.

Currently it is still very limited, only GO AI uses the algorithm to play GO.

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GOjiBroccoli: What is the Zermelo principle?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Zermelo principle is a theory that in a 2 person board game there is a way that you can never lose the game.

In game theory, Zermelo's theorem is a theorem about finite two-person games of perfect information in which the players move alternately and in which chance does not affect the decision making process. It says that if the game cannot end in a draw, then one of the two players must have a winning strategy (i.e. force a win).

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GOjiBroccoli: Wow, that would be amazing! Do you think such an idea exists for GO?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It exists, but it's not possible to achieve it now.

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GOjiBroccoli: How will we know when it is achieved?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: When the time comes, AI will find a way to win at GO without losing any games. Then we will see it.

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GOjiBroccoli: I’ve heard that there are more possible games of GO than atoms in the universe. Could it be possible that we might think an AI has solved the game simply because we can’t live long enough to watch it play through every possible game?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: No ,not exactly, AI developers like Dr. JinXing (Golaxy developer), Dr. XiaoChuan-You(Golaxy co - developer) stated current AI is no where close to "perfect."

This is what Dr. XiaoChuan-You said:

“Today’s AI is infinitely far from perfect.

It is normal to lose a certain move to someone.”

Unless a brand new algorithm comes up, the current algorithm is not going to lead GO AI to "perfect."

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GOjiBroccoli: Why is that?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: According to Golaxy developer Gang Luo. First of all, GO itself is a game of complete information.

According to Zermelo's principle, there must be a way to guarantee not to lose. The shape of this question determines that GO has an upper limit. Secondly, the current various algorithms are essentially a combination of nonlinear fitting + mcts, and there is a ceiling in the algorithm of this framework. The height of this ceiling is much lower than the previous factor.

That's why a new algorithm is needed.

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GOjiBroccoli: Could you explain that in more layman terms?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: So now if you have a GO AI with a certain algorithm, and you trained so hard, and it reached the best of your algorithm. However AI still loses games, then you need to think about, “what should I do to avoid losing?”

You have already done everything in this method (algorithm). So there is no room to improve significantly based on this algorithm. Then you will have to change it. As for the limit on this algorithm and the limit of GO.

It means the current GO AI's algorithm has an upper limit. Using this algorithm can bring AI to reach a certain level. But AI still loses, that's why you need to have another algorithm to be able to not lose.

Like how photographers never stop developing skills and techniques, in order to have the best photo (most realistic); but I have not seen the best photo yet?

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GOjiBroccoli: What are mcts anyway?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Monte Carlo Tree search.

In computing, a Monte Carlo algorithm is a randomized algorithm whose output may be incorrect with a certain (typically small) probability. Two examples of such algorithms are Karger–Stein algorithm and Monte Carlo algorithm for minimum Feedback arc set.

The name refers to the grand casino in the Principality of Monaco at Monte Carlo, which is well-known around the world as an icon of gambling. The term "Monte Carlo" was first introduced in 1947 by Nicholas Metropolis.

In statistics, linear regression is a linear approach to modelling the relationship between a scalar response and one or more explanatory variables (also known as dependent and independent variables). The case of one explanatory variable is called simple linear regression; for more than one, the process is called multiple linear regression. This term is distinct from multivariate linear regression, where multiple correlated dependent variables are predicted, rather than a single scalar variable. (linear fitting)

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GOjiBroccoli: Whew 😅 that’s intense!

Ok, so Interesting. What would happen with the game of GO if it was ever solved by AI? A game as old as GO, I would expect it to stick around.

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Hard to say. AI’s may leave GO, or other programs are gonna concentrate on teaching how to play GO, instead of being the best in GO.

Since if any program reaches GO's upper limit, then others will do the same if the first program's method is released to the public

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GOjiBroccoli: Do AI and computers help players become better at GO?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Yes, but more importantly is how to use it. Nowadays a lot of people use superhuman AI’s.

But when speaking of their GO skills, I have seen these people have not improved significantly, even if they use superhuman bots. Their will to improve is more important than using tools. Plus the right method and constantly practicing (Well, not "right" method, right should be a suitable method for yourself).

Like nowadays people study philosophy, they can use the best or the most advanced resources, but it doesn't mean if they use them, that they can become Hegel.

It is more difficult to find the "will" than "enjoyment.” Most people enjoy how good bots are, but to improve their own GO skills with them, it is another thing.


Say:

GO upper limit: 100,000,000,000

Current superhuman AI: 100,000,000

Current human GO upper limit: 10,000,000

People who have a will to improve by using AI: 1,000,000

Post GO AI era GO players: 100,000

Or...

Not enhancing GO skills by using AI: 90,000


Basically you know what the major difference is. Using AI doesn't mean you can improve your GO skills, but not using AI doesn't mean you can't improve. What determines improvement is will+ method+ constantly practicing.

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GOjiBroccoli: Indeed! Will+method+constantly practicing. I like that!

How do you think the ancient GO masters would respond to modern AI playing GO?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Ancient GO masters are indeed strong!

Even if the rules are different from nowadays.

But they must be very happy with what today's AI’s have achieved.

Some people have already used AI’s to evaluate ancient games.

And a lot of stuff from ancient people played unthinkably well based on AI’s evaluation!

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GOjiBroccoli: Wow! That’s amazing!

Do you think we’ve lost something in contemporary GO? As compared to ancient styles and practices.

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Enjoyment and Creativity alone.

Ancient Chinese GO masters didn’t play GO for a living. Nowadays, people play GO for a living and for enjoyment. So skillswise people are better, but more people take it too seriously. And with AI’s, it has put an end to a lot of ideas on new moves.

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GOjiBroccoli: On the other hand AI has revealed never before discovered strategies.

Would you say that is true?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: AI revealed new moves. On the one hand it improved human GO overall, on the other hand everyone learned to play like that. So basically, AI also restricted people's creativity. Right now with AI moves, you don't have to think of "the way I can trick my opponent." Previously if you had new ways to play, you could hide it and your opponents wouldn't know it. Now, anything can be run by AI’s…

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GOjiBroccoli: Is it true the AI’s have played more games of GO than all of humanity throughout history? Thereby playing games we’ve never even seen before??

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: They do self-play games. In one day they can produce hundreds and thousands of games. So it will surpass human overall games easily.

Likes of Golaxy, who produce about 20k self-training games everyday, 7.3 million games a year. And you know how good Golaxy is, so they can make money via their service to run their AI. They can use the money to buy more hardware to train, so I expect they can produce even more games per day than before!

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GOjiBroccoli: But at 361! (361 factorial # of moves), it would still take the lifetime of the universe to play every game, even with 7.3M a day? Wouldn’t you say?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: 7.3 million towards the number of GO variations is nothing.

However, as far as we know, Golaxy is intensely strong with the current algorithm.

That's why to find a way to not lose is way harder, since more training and new algorithms are needed.

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GOjiBroccoli: How would human intuition square into that? Like could a human still have access to something that computers never will?

🤔 [I suppose that if a computer could hard calculate every possible move, then intuition wouldn’t matter. But since computers still cannot calculate to that level, would human’s intuition still find a way to surprise the machines?]

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Currently the human is behind the computer.

And MCTS+linear fitting is the current superhuman AI algorithm.

This algorithm already outperformed humans.

No way humans can find the way to not lose.

And even mcts algorithms can't stay away from losing.

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GOjiBroccoli: Yes.

But remember when Lee Sedol won that one game against AlphaGO. The world cheered! We want to believe that some part of us, non-analytical, can be tapped into to beat the machines. I suppose now AI is way far advanced than AlphaGO. But, in theory, if an AI can lose, then couldn’t the spirit of humans tap into some miracle intuitive force the machines could never have?

Or do you think that’s just wishful thinking?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It's not about wishful thinking.

To play an even game with superhuman AI nowadays... it is not possible to win against it. Likes of AGZ are much much weaker than current bots. But if you take a look at Fox Go server you will see professional players are playing handicap games with bots, and sometimes it wins, sometimes it loses. Typically by 2~3 stones.

Get rid of the stones advantage, human wouldn't have a chance.

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GOjiBroccoli: Yes, until we start plugging our brains into quantum computers! Haha

How has AI impacted your GO playing experience? Do you use the AI GO tools?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Well, I use AI all the time. And even if quantum computers can be used for casual games, if the algorithm is still mcts, then it wouldn't improve bots' ability very much.

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GOjiBroccoli: Do these MCTS algorithms help with the fact GO is too big to hard calculate? So like a kind of simulated intuition?

Are these random algorithms neuro-networks?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: The algorithm is complicated, and they produce neutral networks.

But it has an upper limit. The likes of Fineart, and Golaxy are approaching towards the limit. Ultimately more AIs will approach towards mcts's limit. But they still lose games.

Another disadvantage of MCTS and linear fitting is It costs a lot of money.

AGZ [AlphaGo Zero] cost millions of USD.

KataGo,over 1 million USD.

Fineart has a 100k PC training center.

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GOjiBroccoli: Wow! But in 20 years it will only cost a hundred bucks. Haha

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It depends on hardware... Quantum may cost more.

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GOjiBroccoli: Indeed.

How did you feel when you saw AlphaGO beat Lee Sedol 4-1 in 2016?

Just about a decade after you first learned to play GO.

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Well, I am happy with the performance.

But I know human's last fort is gone. Computer outperformed humans in chess...

Then Go.

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GOjiBroccoli: I know. What’s next?? 🤷🏻‍

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: But computers haven't approached GO's limit yet. Go's limit is too far away

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GOjiBroccoli: Considering human’s processing capacity, it is amazing how good we really can be at GO. How would you explain that? (I mean if a computer was limited to the processing capacity of a human brain, it would be pathetic.)

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Frankly, nowadays a common computer with MCTS algorithm can easily beat humans. Like Zen program, Running on a laptop or PC, Then it can beat human. Previously a lot of people thought computers needed a lot of visits (calculation) to beat humans. Now you only need a few. Basically algorithm MCTS fulfilled this role. If you notice the program CrazyStone. Who is not going to use mcts...

Appeal letter revealed the method:

{ Crazy Stone is based on Crazy Zero. A generic implementation of the Alpha Zero algorithm. Crazy Zero can also play chess, shogi, gomoku, renju, othello, ataxx, breakthrough, kalah, twixt, and ultimate tic-tac-toe.

Crazy Stone was programmed from scratch, in C++. Its learning uses cuDNN directly. And does not use any deep-learning framework.

Part of the computer power used for training the neural network of Crazy Stone was provided by NVIDIA’s Inception program for AI startups. Which offers $100,000 of AWS credits. }

CrazyStone is not going to beat other programs without MCTS, or Deep learning methods.

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GOjiBroccoli: But you wouldn’t say a human brain is using the same level of processing capacity? Human brains are slow right?

So slow, imagine how bad a computer would be if it could only process a few thousand bits a second?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It is difficult to say same capacity, since human can't calculate fastly, that's why an ordinary laptop can outperform human.

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GOjiBroccoli: Yes.

Which is why I’m saying it is amazing that we can play GO as good as we can. Since our brains are so slow. Don’t you think?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Well, human GO is still improving. But it is amazing that computers spent years to surpass humans. Because of MCTS. Without MCTS and Deep learning, Computers wouldn't surpass humans.

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GOjiBroccoli: That’s amazing.

What’s the most likely program to replace MCTS? For GO

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: No idea. Only that GO AI developers are seeking it.

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GOjiBroccoli: Do you think playing GO helps you with your thinking skills?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It helps me to think things in general... not Calculus. haha

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GOjiBroccoli: Or linear algebra, haha.

Would you say playing GO is good for our health? Mental or Otherwise?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Very Good for brain health!

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GOjiBroccoli: I thought So! Have you thought about making a GO playing algorithm?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: I don't have enough knowledge and enough experience on it. And it needs a lot of money. But more importantly, the purpose of making a GO AI either becomes relatively "free" to people, or to having a commercial product.

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GOjiBroccoli: Well, you’ll need lots of money if you want to build it to compete with other AI. Could always build one just for fun. Haha

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Nowadays all these AIs are supposed to be strong, they're not going to be weaker than a human. If someone can find GO's upper limit, then people may not be interested in it as much as they are now.

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GOjiBroccoli: Well, like tea. The aesthetic is a large part of it.

I actually like to drink Green Tea while I play GO. It helps me focus and makes the game a sort of relaxation.

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: I drink water while playing GO

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GOjiBroccoli: HaHa (why am i not surprised)

How has your experience been with GO in America? Obviously not very many Americans know about GO, has it been difficult to find people to play?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It's very difficult to find people to play GO in the USA, strong players are in CA, NY, Seattle.

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GOjiBroccoli: Naturally. Nobody in Georgia?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Should be in small towns, but I usually go to Atlanta.

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GOjiBroccoli: Is your primary interest in GO, now around AI mainly?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Well, I am interested in GO game itself. Computer GO outperformed human, and I like computer GO games. And I always want to improve my GO skills.

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GOjiBroccoli: Yes. They are very fascinating.

Could you explain more about what it is you like about the computer GO games? What’s so fascinating about them to you?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: I like GO games since I have been playing it for a long time. As long as high level players display their skills, I will be very happy and eager to pay attention to it; no matter if you're a bot or human. If you are a strong player, then I will like it.

Some people are loyal to open source GO software. But for me, as a GO fan,

I like all types of strong GO programs and strong players.

Likes of Golaxy, who provide people with high level bot services, and people can use it. They also use well-known open source software. Then it will become a competition, but ultimately it makes the Game of GO better.

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GOjiBroccoli: This may be a more difficult question than it sounds, but who do you think are the top GO players?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: This is a good reference: https://youtu.be/oRvlyEpOQ-8

HuangLongshi, Shixiang Xia and Xiping Fan, are the 3 greatest GO players in ancient GO history.

Hon'inbō Shūsaku, Hon'inbō Jōwa, Hon'inbō Dōsaku are regarded as the 3 best GO players in Japanese GO history.

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GOjiBroccoli: Wow! Thanks! Great list of the Top GO players in history. They’re all very amazing.

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Achievement in the game is one of the things, Another is the influence.

Jowa is a bit dirty, his way to become honinbo was irregular.

That's why he had to accept the challenge for his title. But his ability is uncountable. Typically honinbo had to win enough games, Jowa, asked people to support him, and then he will be the honinbo.

In order to have enough supporters, he promised to some that he would give 8P to them. And also he said, “I am not going to be honinbo permanently, in 6 years, I will vacant it.”

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GOjiBroccoli: What is the honinbo?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Aka 9P, the best player!

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GOjiBroccoli: 9P, is that like 9Dan?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Whoever had it, had the power to rule the entire system.

This is reputation wise, but more importantly whoever gets it whoever can be in charge of everything in Go Like an administer

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GOjiBroccoli: 9P? What does it stand for? What would 3P be?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: 9P stands for the best player.

Rest of these are not as good as 9P.

So a lot of people want to be Honinbo.

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GOjiBroccoli: Is it a ranking system?

How does it compare to Dan?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: It is a ranking system.

1P-8P is the same as nowadays.

9p is called Honinbo. We just call 9P, 9P today.

But at that time, 9P means more than a rank.

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GOjiBroccoli: I’ve never heard of the P system.

Where is it used? It’s not the same as Dan?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: P means professional, D is amateur.

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GOjiBroccoli: Oh! Wow! Ok. Silly me. It all makes sense now. See, I thought even pros are ranked as Dan. So like a 9Dan pro would be a 9P, or Honinbo?

Go Player Interview avatar

Bob: Honinbo is in ancient Japanese history.

Now honinbo is a professional GO title in Japan. The last traditional honinbo died in 1940. After that, traditional honinbo is gone.

There is a lot of difference between modern honinbo and traditional honinbo. Honinbo's history goes back to 1677. Hon'inbō Dōsaku is the first honinbo. He established the ranking system and how to get rankings. So traditional honinbo has good sides and bad sides.

Good side is, it means you're the best player among your era. Bad side is, whoever becomes honinbo can determine other’s ranks, and everything in professional Go.

Especially the last traditional honinbo.

He was not the strongest player, but because he was honinbo, he can decide when he plays, who he wants to play with, and he can discuss his games with his students.

Whenever he felt uncomfortable with a game or not confident in a game, he can pause the game and take it to discuss with his students. He also can determine who should have a certain rank, or who should not have a rank. Not based on how strong others are.

After he passed away, the honinbo title became a championship title that everyone can have a chance to become. Nowadays honinbo is whoever beats the former champion, is whoever becomes the new honinbo. And new honinbo has to accept the upcoming challenges. The title is on the line once a year. Of 7 games whoever wins 4 of them, is the new honinbo. Traditional honinbo is unlike this.

Traditional honinbo can decide when he wants to play. Who he wants to play. How many games he wants to play. And can discuss games with students. Plus he was in charge of the entire professional system. Whoever's rank was determined by him, not others.

For example, if you are good enough to be 8P, but if the current traditional honinbo doesn't want to give you 8P, then you can't be 8P. It was about Japanese GO politics.

Modern honinbo has no right to determine other’s ranks.

And not allowed to avoid challengers.

And not allowed to discuss games with others.

And has to defend title once a year until someone dethrones them.

Go Player Interview avatar

Traditional honinbo, as long as you are alive, you will be the honinbo.

Hon'inbō Shūsai is the last traditional honinbo: 👉

He was strong, very strong, but not the strongest.

He applied all his rights to win games.

Especially when he played with Go Seigen. He played this game for 12 times, ultimately beating Go Seigen by 2 points.

Go seigen was dominating until move 160.

And the move 160 was not from honinbo Shusai himself, he discussed the game with his students and one of his students found the move. In his last game, his retirement game, he paused the game 4 times. And it took 6 months to complete the whole game. And he couldn't discuss the game with his students, due to the new rules from the challenger. He was also sick, badly sick, went to the hospital for 2 months. Ultimately he lost. He was dominating until move 130. Even though honinbo Shusai is strong, but he was not the "strongest " in his era.

Multiple people beat him before. Even though his nickname is "undefeated honinbo!"

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GOjiBroccoli: WOW

I guess the true Honinbo today would be AI then. Hahaha 😂

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Bob: Well, his nickname is indeed "undefeated honinbo." But his ability was declining since his last 3 games spent 17 years in total. The first game with Karigane Junichi, was a big game.

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GOjiBroccoli: Impossible to see every move.

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Bob: He paused a lot. Remember he is powerful politically.

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GOjiBroccoli: I like pauses. Haha... I would have made a good Honinbo!

At least when playing human players, I think pauses are good.

But not getting tips from one’s students. The game should only be played from one's own mind.

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Bob: Well, "undefeated" is the key. He doesn't want to lose.

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GOjiBroccoli: That’s a lot of pressure.

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Bob: Well, a lot of people hate honinbo Shusai.

All the time he played with someone, he would use all the rights to win. Until the time he couldn't. Like the last game, the challenger would not allow him to take the game outside.

And he had to stay with the challenger. Ultimately he lost. Such as, multiple people beat him before. He never gave them a chance again. They may have a mental edge on him.

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GOjiBroccoli: Dang. Well, I can at least respect the sense of honor the Honinbo Title is meant to elicit.

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Bob: Well, he doesn't want to lose. He is smart. He knows the right time to play the right game. And it makes him more popular. Especially the Go Seigen game, it was game of the century.

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GOjiBroccoli: Sounds a lot like heavyweight titles in modern boxing.

The title champion can choose who he’ll fight.

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Bob: But they couldn't duck someone for too long.

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GOjiBroccoli: I think they still have to defend their title ever so often or lose it.

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Bob: WBC is doing the same thing as honinbo Shusai did.

Deontay Wilder never fought any "elite " fighters. And he falls when he couldn't KO opponents. Honinbo Shusai, he spent 10 games without playing big games. Whenever he plays, a lot of press would report it.

So it's good for the press, and it made him more "undefeated." If he play fair games, without getting help from his students, he could lose all 3 of his big games. Honinbo shusai should be top 3 players in his era. He is strong, but he was old too, and his "ego" is "stay undefeated." So, he definitely will try to use everything to win.

He became honinbo by defeating 10 top players! But it was years ago. He became honinbo in 1908, 6 years later, he is legitimately "honinbo shusai." He played his first big game in 1926. The second big game in 1933. The last one in 1938.

Well, Shusai's honinbo title was given by someone… in 6 years he beats most of his opponents. Nihon Ki-in received the honinbo title in 1937, when the time honinbo Shusai was about to pass away. The reason why he did it was because he couldn't find a student to inherit his status. His best student passed away. But more importantly, initially, honinbo Shusai has the rights to give players ranks. Now Nihon ki-in is the one who can give people ranks. That's why people don't rate honinbo Shusai highly.

A fun fact about Honinbo Shusai. He was not good at playing even games with elite level players, but he is very specialized in handicap games. He usually can win against 6-7p players with 2 stones. So a lot of Japanese learned his handicap games. He is like human KataGo on handicap games! His style is Bold and unrestrained.

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GOjiBroccoli: Wow, the last OG Honinbo.

End pt 1

This is the end of the first part of our interview series on the Game of GO. There will be two more continuations on this informative interview with Bob.

Tune in next week for the second part!

Thanks for reading!

You can discuss our interview in our Discord, and even give Bob a shout out. He is always happy to talk anything GO, with anyone!

Thanks Bob!