Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Go Essay!

As cliché as it sounds, it was love at first sight. The smooth curves of the bi-convex stones, the satin sheen of the board, and the sheer simplicity of the game all attracted me. Go itself is a paradox: there are really only three rules, yet it is an intricate game. Beneath the facade of simplicity lies deep strategy and countless millions of permutations. It is a highly mathematical game, yet mathematical genius does not lend itself to strength. Of course, I did not believe this when I started playing in my junior year. It seemed like just a fling. It's a silly old game, I said. I'll master it in a year, I said. And a year later, here I am, still a middle ranking player: 5 kyu by the American Go Association standards. I failed to reach my goal, but that hardly means I failed completely.
Go was an attempt to connect to my culture, my heritage, my past. It embodies so much of Eastern culture, as well as philosophy. Go is a representation of life, which, at the premise, is simple, yet we derive so many complexities from it. This is similar to Taoist philosophy, which preaches the simplicity of life. Go is rooted in the history and soul of East Asia. Growing up Asian in America, I am caught in a conflict of culture. Of this culture clash arises a persistent and awkward struggle conform to both identities while still assimilating into American culture. In short, I abandoned a part of my heritage for an awkward identity that did not fit. I drew apart from my culture for too long, because in the end, I am Chinese and always will be. I should never have allowed myself to let that go. My parents told me, all the time, to be proud of my five thousand year heritage, but I did not realize its importance until much later on. And now that I do understand, I try to connect back, but its like attaching a severed limb. I can only hope the endings can heal and again become a part of me..
Yet I have learned much more from Go than just cultural lessons. Go teaches life. Beyond the typical lessons about dedication and perseverance, Go has taught invaluable lessons. It punishes greed; a greedy move may result in losing much more. It teaches sacrifice; sometimes one will have to give up something to stay alive. And in the end, it's not about winning, or capturing your opponent; it's about maintaining balance and harmony with your opponent's moves.
However, the most important lesson I learned from Go is humility. After a few winning streaks, I began to think I was “pretty good” but the truth is, I wasn't. I quickly became arrogant and overconfident, but when this happened, I began to lose . And I continued to lose, until I managed to suck up my pride and listen advice from stronger players. This pertains to life as well: sometimes, my pride gets the better of me, but I need to remember that no matter what I do, there will always be someone above me. No matter how well I play, I will never be a match for the masters of old. It's a bittersweet, yet reassuring feeling.
Maybe it started off as a harmless pastime. But it surely isn't that way anymore. Go has allowed me to improve pattern recognition skills as well as combinatorial game theory, but beyond that, it's given me much insight into not only my heritage, but into life itself. Go is life.

1 comment:

O said...

hey i wrote my college essay about go as well


A group of soldiers is behind enemy lines being attacked by the enemy. They are weaving in and out, hiding behind trees trying to escape to safety. A few get cut off. It’s too late to save them. When I play Go, this is what I see.
Go is a strategy game that was created 4000 years ago by a Chinese emperor in order to sharpen the mind of his successor. Go is much more than a game to me. It is my passion, it is my drug, it is my Om.
I started playing Go after reading a Japanese comic book called Hikaru No Go. After playing for four months I started to enjoy some of the nuances of the game. I started a small Go club consisting of three members and two Go boards. It slowly grew. Now we have over 30 members and about ten Go boards. We competed in “The 1st NYHSGA Spring Team Tournament” and our school took third place in the city. Playing and teaching Go are some of the few things to which I am truly dedicated.
One of the aspects of the game that appeals to me is the simplicity of its rules. Go is played between two players. They alternate placing stones down onto a 19x19 grid. The object of the game is to claim more territory than your opponent. That’s all there is to it.
The simplicity of the rules allows for an almost infinite amount of ways achieving the goal. Each player‘s personality reflects in the way he plays. Some people play aggressively, trying to capture all of their opponent’s stones, while others are more docile and try to pressure the opponent just enough to win. I try to win by as many points as possible. The large board allows for an unimaginable number of positions. The size of the board and the lack of a single path to victory, such as capturing a king, make this game very difficult for computers to master. In fact, the strongest Go-playing computer is only as strong as someone who has been playing for a year. Its simplicity makes every game unique.
The simple aesthetics of Go are another reason why it is so enjoyable. It is all about pattern recognition. The many arrangements of black and white stones are burnt as images into a player’s head. At the end the game resembles the Yin and Yang because of the balance between the black and white stones. The clacking of the stones against the board is relaxing as well. If players are playing quickly, you can hear a steady rhythm in the placement of the stones. When people are playing slowly, the clank of the stone serves to break the beautiful silence of a high-level game.
Go is release of stress; it is a hobby; it is a transient work of art just like the Buddhist mandalas that are destroyed shortly after being created.