The 32nd US Go Congress 2016

My flight to New York was on the 29th of July, and I was pretty excited about participating in the 32nd USGC in Boston. In the beginning of June, I suddenly decided to go to the USGC. Professor Daniela asked me “What are you going to do during the summer vacation?” and she told me that going to the USGC would be a good experience for me. At that time I was considering what to do in vacation. About a month later, the Korea Baduk Association put an announcement that they would support two professionals who participate at the USGC. I naturally applied as it felt like the right sequence in a joseki. In the end, I and Dahae Lee 4p were selected.

us_go_congress_2016_01The US Go Congress is the biggest Baduk event in North and South America. It is held once a year and spans one week. About 600 Baduk players participated in this year’s event. It included a big variety of activities such as US Open Masters, US Open, Women’s Tournament, Evening League, simultanous games, Crazy Go, Pair Go, game reviews and lectures. I thought that the program satisfied Baduk players. The USGC is a utopia for Baduk players.

I checked out the congress website to get some information before going there. There was various information. Among lots of events in the congress schedule, Google Deepmind team’s lecture ‘The story of AlphaGo’ caught my attention. I really wanted to listen to the lecture.

-July 30th

‘Opening Ceremony’ and lecture ‘The story of AlphaGo’ were scheduled at 7pm. I had some free time before the event began. So I decided to take a short trip around Boston and I spent some time in downtown and at the world famous Harvard University. After my short sightseeing trip, I headed to Boston University to register for the event and listen to ‘The story of AlphaGo.’ There were many volunteers in the event place to help all participants. I entered auditorium after finishing a simple registration process. There were a large number of people talking gathered in small groups in the auditorium.

After a while a speaker announced that the event will be started. The event was started with AGA president Andy Okun’s speech. us_go_congress_2016_04The auditorium became gradually quietened the moment his speech began. The highlight of the evening was of course the talk about AlphaGo. Aja Huang said that his manager David Silver told him one day in 2014 “Aja, we start a Go project”. It was the starting point of the birth of AlphaGo. He explained why it is so hard for computers to play Go. Firstly, the search space is very wide, secondly, it is very difficult for machines to evaluate who is winning. He subsequently explained about AlphaGo’s tree search weapons. The first weapon ‘policy network’ inputs point of possible play, the second weapon ‘search’ us_go_congress_2016_05selects the best one after checking variations and the third weapon, the ‘value network’ calculates the winning rate of each situation. When the AlphaGo project began in 2014 March, it was merely 3kyu but nevertheless it became as strong as a top professional playing defeating Lee Sedol in March 2016. The amazing thing is that AlphaGo keeps improving even nowadays.

Many Go players were concerned about the existence of Go players after words about a very strong Baduk AI were spread. However we still play Baduk in the world. We found a strong pleasure of Baduk from high impact (?).

-August 1st

us_go_congress_2016_02The US Masters and the US Open started in the auditorium in the morning. The auditorium was filled with excitement. The US Open Masters is the main tournament with the biggest prizes. Total 44 professional plays and strong amateur players competed for the prizes. Many professionals have commented top games during the tournament for the participants.

The US Open is the main tournament of the congress. Many players participate in the US Open and really enjoy the tournament.

-August 4th

us_go_congress_2016_03The North American Pair Go Championship was held on 4th of August. I was looking for my partner to participate in the championship. I asked a Chinese girl who impassionedly played Baduk with me to make a team. However she said she already had a partner and politely refused my offer. So I gave up the Pair Go. On the day before the tournament, another girl came to me and said her partner will not be able to play, so I eventually had found a partner. On the day of the pair go tournament, a funny thing happened. The Pair Go coordinator asked my partner “who do you want to play in a team? You applied tree times with different persons.” Fortunately she decided for the stronger player.

-Last day August 6th

On the last day special events were held. It was an auction. A pair of Baduk bowls with signatures from Aja Huang and Fan Hui, as well as a Baduk board with professional players’ signatures were up for an auction. We rooted for them when the prize for both items kept increasing. The items were sold at a high price.

I really enjoyed my time at the US Go Congress with wonderful Baduk people. It was an unforgettable experience to me.

Good bye USGC 2016.  See you next year!

On Sojin