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Go And Hex

2007-09-30

I have been playing board games on www.Littlegolem.net since 2003. It was Hex that attracted me there. And it was Herb who introduced me the existence of Lg as well as Hex.

Herb and I both lived in Berkeley, California in 1975. A group of Go players, including Herb and myself, would play Go till 11 pm on every Wednesday night (or Thursday?) at the lounge of Faculty Club on the greenery campus of the University of California at Berkeley.

Herb was the president of the club in 1974. He recommended me to take over his presidency. At that time I just passed my Ph. D. qualifying exam, the pressure was relieved. So, I took his offer. At the night of election, nobody contested me, so I automatically became the president.

The president had the duty to show up early at the club to take out all the Go sets (stored somewhere inside the Faculty Club). During game playing, he had to go around players to solicit monetary contributions (so that we could pay the rent). And at closing he had to put away all the Go sets. So, it was a lose/lose volunteering job.

Herb was able to recite up to more than 200 decimal places of pi. Originally, I did not believe that. So, one day I grabbed a piece of paper, asked him to recite up to about 50 decimal places, and I recorded them down. Then I asked him to repeat. Yes, behold, indeed, he did without a single error.

After 11 pm, sometimes Herb and I would go to a hamburger stand nearby. Speaking for myself, I would choose the hamburgers over a 12-course banquet. Mmmmm, their hamburgers were soooo juicy and tasty, with tomatoes, fried onions, pickles, etc. tucked inside that I even am salivating now at the moment of writing (as a vegetarian).

While we ate, Herb and I would play 19x19 Hex games on papers with black and red pens. Herb gave me 4 handicap stones in the beginning phase of my Hex learning, and it was still a piece of cake for him.

Sometimes, instead of to the hamburger stand, we went to Herbís apartment directly after 11 pm. A group of 6 or 7 Go players would continue to play Hex games while semi-lying or crouching on the rug inside his apartment. If my memory serves me correctly, it was also Herb who taught Hex to John and Ned.

John was a mathematician-turned cab driver, and Ned was a physics-majored undergraduate. Three of us were about Lg 2/3d, and Herb was about Lg 6/7 kyu in Go at that time. Soon, four of us became the strongest Hex players in the Hex group. According to my estimate, our ratings were about Lg 1750.

There did not exist such a fancy thing as clocks. A player was allowed to contemplate as long as she wanted to. She could even white out her regreted moves. Thus the idling player usually struck up some conversations with other fellow idling players. The adjourning time of game playing usually was about 4 am, or sometimes the sun appeared on the east horizon, smiling at us.

Hmmm, good old times.

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