Go and Goal (1. Seizing the Cup)

2007-01-25

1. Seizing the Cup

He was utterly exhausted. A few minutes ago, he just beat GoForDummies by a slim margin of 1.5 points. With that result, he seized the Cup of the famous and keenly competitive Go tournament sponsored by International Go Federation (IGF), which is now a branch under the United Nations.

Partly because of the advent of Internet and high tech, Go fervor has spread out all over the world, and penetrated into every class of the society, and every level of schools. To graduate from high school, the candidate must pass exams of math, physics, geography, history, philosophy, Esperanto (an internationally-unified language), and Go.

As Nobel laureates enjoy their fame after their awards, the bi-yearly Cup holders also enjoy the fame, the popularity, the admiration, in addition to a cash prize of one million Euros. To earn such glory, a contestant must first be able to beat a computer program named, GoForDummies, by giving it 4 handicapped stones.

Anybody on the street can send a registration fee of 20 Euros to IGF, and then play with GoForD. The game is not proctored. One can sit in front of his computer at home, asking his brother or his neighbor to come to help him to figure out moves. But as he advances to the next level, he must go to an IGF-designated place to play another 4-stone game. So, cheating in the first eligibility-test game will not help at all.

To be able to beat GoForD with 4 stones, the player usually is roughly as strong as a 1p in the 21st century. In the world, there are about 200,000 people who possess such strength. Usually, about a half of them will be interested in entering the tournament. The system of single elimination is used. One who is defeated once will be given one more chance to play with another player who is also defeated once. If one is defeated consecutively twice, then he is entirely eliminated.

This system requires the eventual winner to play about 20 games. Every game is held in an IGF-proctored place via Internet. Three hours for each player.

“Congratulations, Paul!” the IGF proctor greeted him via the intercom, “Should I tell the news reporters to wait for a few more minutes? A swarm of them are waiting for you in the lounge.”

Kathy had been the proctor for Paul for the past 10 games. She and Paul both graduated from the same high school. In fact, they both once belonged to the school’s prestigious Go club. She seemed to share Paul’s glory, beaming with heart-felt smiles.

At this moment, Paul should be excited, at least moderately happy. But he somehow was neither excited nor happy. A twinge of melancholy arose in his heart.

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