Go: It’s All About the Game

I’ve been remiss in sharing my recent appearance on Gateworld’s 100th podcast a few weeks ago where I talked about my new Stargate SG-1 book as well as giving my thoughts on the latest in the franchise, Stargate Universe.  Their site really does cover all things Stargate and the Omnipedia has been a constant help for me, first with Four Dragons and now with The Drift. The site’s worth a visit if for no other reason that to discover how Stargate fans really do come from all over the world in every shape, size, color and philosophical background. The fandom is outstanding and thanks to Gateworld, I’ve made some extraordinary friends for life. Though there’s certainly different preferences series-wise, everyone shares a fondness for not only the esprit de corps of the different teams, but also that touch of ‘awe’ one gets when considering the WHAT-IF’s which make up the basis of Earth’s mythlogies, religions, and even our origins.

That’s certainly what drew me to want to write in the Stargate Franchise and Four Dragons is a perfect example of how, when you connect a few dots from our past, stories can unfold in unpredictable yet hopefully intriguing ways.

If you’re already deep into the book (available online now, at bookstores September 16th),  you’ve discovered what Lord Yu is doing with Daniel once he’s captured.  The old System Lord forces Daniel to play an ancient Chinese game called Weiqi—we know the game today by its Japanese name:  Go.  In doing that I took a look back at ancient Chinese history, and Lord Yu’s place in it.  While playing the game, Lord Yu interrogates Daniel about his memories gained after he ascended, trying to eke out information.

Go is the oldest board game still played, created almost three thousand years ago (mind you, Lord Yu is quite insistent that he had a hand in its creation, but to find out more about that, you’ll have to read the book!).  According to Wikipedia,

The game is played by two players who alternately place black and white stones on the vacant intersections of a grid of 19×19 lines. Once placed on the board, stones cannot be moved elsewhere, unless they are surrounded and captured by the opponent’s stones. The object of the game is to control (surround) a larger portion of the board than the opponent.

Placing stones close together helps them support each other and avoid capture. On the other hand, placing stones far apart creates influence across more of the board. Part of the strategic difficulty of the game stems from finding a balance between such conflicting interests. Players strive to serve both defensive and offensive purposes and choose between tactical urgency and strategic plans.

Go… or Weiqi as Lord Yu insists we call it, is a game about strategy.  It’s a game about controlling the board, overtaking the opponent’s positions, and ending up with the most pieces on the board.  The game can go on for hours if the players have the skill.  Trust me, it sounds a lot easier than it is.  A former student of mine, RJ Alban, was kind enough to sit me down one evening and not only teach me how to play, but WHY it’s played.

And really, that’s what the game is about.  PLAYING not winning.  Sure, there’s an eventual winner, but it’s the experience of matching your opponent on the board round for round as your stones chase across the grid which provides the thrill of the game.

If you’re interested in playing, there’s a ton of options.  There’s online play, down-loadable games, and yes, there’s even iPhone apps. Tournaments are played all over the world and Go players take their competitions seriously.  While the game may take a bit to learn, once you do, it is highly addictive!

Here’s a simple tutorial on how to get started:

Lord Yu has captured quite a few of Daniel's white stones - Trouble ahead!

Now, when you read the book, you’ll note that I took a few small licenses with how Yu plays — hence the four dragons.   As I went through the different scenes of Daniel and Yu playing, I found it much easier to keep track of where they each were in the game (Black for Yu, White for Daniel), by keeping a board up next to my writing desk.  The dragons are a writer’s artifice and since I didn’t have any available, I used four jade pawns from a chess set I had bought in Hong Kong in the 80’s (yep, while the island was still under British rule – man, I feel old!).  Still, most of how Daniel and Yu play is a fair representation of the game, though to find out who wins, you’ll have to read the book!

PS – For those with iPhones (or iPads), take warning:  the app IS addictive!  Not a day goes by when I’m not playing at least a round or two.