Go in Europe

Go has been mentioned in European writings since (at least) the 16th century. Scholars learned of the game through trade routes with Asia, and the game was relatively popular among chess players. European knowledge of the game began to flourish in the 20th century, and today it is enjoyed by thousands of Europeans.

Early European Go

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The earliest reference to Go from England is in the third edition of Purchas, his Pilgrimage, which was published in 1617 by Samuel Purchas (and possibly contained manuscripts already written by Richard Hakluyt between 1598-1600). In 1616 Ernest Augustus, duke of the early German state Brunswick-Lüneburg translated a paragraph on Go in China by Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci to German in Das Schach- oder König-Spiel ("The Chess or King Game"). Roughly translated, it reads:

They also have another fine game which they play like that: It is played by many of them with two hundred tiles, some of them white and some of them black on a board with around three hundred squares. Using these tiles, everyone tries to hunt and enclose the other player's tiles in the centre of the board to boldly get the other's tiles. The player who has captured the most squares on the board will be awarded the victory at the end. This game is much liked and heavily used by Officials in the regiment. They often spend the whole day playing it. Those who are experienced and devious can play one game for a complete hour. Someone who is experienced and well trained in this game, is very well respected and preferred to others although he is not good in other things. Yes, and some use them to learn this game, according to the usual customs - for the reason of learning from the teachers and spending the time of their whole lives learning the theory of the game.

In 1694 Professor Thomas Hyde from the University of Oxford, who was an expert on oriental languages and the history of games, published his masters work De ludis Orientalibus libri duo ("Book About Oriental Games II") which included seven pages about Go. He learned of the game from Michael Shin Fo-çung (or "Chinfocum"), a Chinese legate to England, in 1687.

In 1710, German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (who is credited along with Sir Isaac Newton of inventing infinitesimal calculus, and also of inventing the binary system) wrote at article about Go which included a picture of the game in Annotatio de quibus Ludis (roughly "Annotation about Games," as comically illustrated here by Russ Williams). Leibniz learned of the game from the writings of Nicolas Trigault, a French Jesuit missionary to China in the time of Matteo Ricci. In the article, Leibniz writes:

Men are never more genius than in inventing games, and the philosophers should take profit from this for perfectionizing the art of arts, this is the art of thinking.


Go is unique, because the players (so it seems) don't blow off each other's stones, but just confine and enclose them, so the winner is who takes the opponent's mobility without murder and bloodshed. This happens in other games also, but only contingently, here neccessarily.

[Translated from German to English by André Aÿ, Leipzig]

In 1799 the auctioned collection of Dutch-American merchant Andreas Everhardus van Braam Houckgeest from Christie's auction house in London, England, was catalogued as containing "a printed essay on the game Whey Ky [an alternate spelling on the Chinese name "Wei-Ch'i"], with a game board [or "gameplan" or "board scheme"] and two pots [bowls]." In 1876 and 1877, British diplomat and sinologist Herbert Allen Giles (who was appointed as professor of Chinese at the University of Cambridge in 1897, and refined the Wade–Giles Mandarin romanization system in 1912) wrote of Go, mentioning the "Yao Myth" and dating the game to ca. 2350 BCE.

Modern Era

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Japan's Honinbo Shuho was one of the first Asian Go players to seriously teach the game to foreigners. He gave fifty josekis and some fusekis "suitable for foreigners" to Oscar Korschelt, a German Engineer. In 1880 Oscar Korschelt wrote a detailed article on Go, Das Japanisch-Chinesische Spiel 'Go' ("The Japanese-Chinese Game 'Go'"), which was published as a book a few years later (an English translation of the book was published in 1966 as "The Theory and Practice of GO"). Korschelt is credited as being the first person to try to popularize Go outside of Asia. It is because Korschelt learned Go in Japan that many current Western Go terms come from the Japanese language. Because of the Korschelt's articles, the game became known in Europe, especially in Germany and Austria among chess players. In 1905 chess player Edward Lasker learned about the game from Oscar Korschelt, and later popularized Go in North America.

In 1908, errors in a German Go book by R. Schurig motivate Leopold Pfaundler, an Austrian physicist, to publish Das chinesisch-japanische Go-Spiel, eine systematische Darstellung und Anleitung zum Spiel desselben ("The Chinese-Japanese Game Go, a systematic presentation and instruction to play it"). The book sold well and was read by Austro-Hungarian marine officers. Go circles developed in Austrian cities Graz and Vienna. From 1909-1910 Pfaundler published the German Go Journal, the first Go journal written outside of Asia.

The first substantial English-language Go book, "Goh or Wei-Chi" was published by chess author Horace Cheshire in 1911. It indicates that Go was played at the Hastings Chess Club in England by this time. Organized European Go events began in the 1920s in Poland and in the 1930s in Germany (The German Go Association was founded in 1937). In January 1931 Felix Dueball the strongest German player, was invited and financed by Japanese multimillionaire Baron Okura (who founded the Japanese Go Association) to live in Japan for 12 months with his wife and train there daily. Go was played by scientists at the University of Cambridge, including Alan Turing (who later became known for his cryptanalysis work) in 1935. World War II halted most European Go activity, but the popularity of Go continued to spread after the war.

Many Europeans became interested in the game during the 1950s. John Barrs, a Go enthusiast and Olympic weightlifter who learned about Go in 1929, founded the British Go Association in 1953. The first annual European Go Congress was held in West Germany in 1957. By 1965 John Barrs estimated that 2000 people in England knew how to play Go, and there were about 100 members in the British Go Association. The British Go Association was helped with the teachings of three Japanese players: Yoshio Kaneko, Teiji Hosono, and Yoshiro Akiyama. Then the game gained large exposure in Great Britain when Dr. Good from the University of Oxford wrote an article about the game in the "New Scientist" magazine. In 1966 the European Go Congress was held at Avery Hill College in London. On January 26, 1978, at the Kansai Ki-in in Japan, Manfred Wimmer from Austria became the first Western professional Go player (In 1991 he introduced Go to Madagascar, and Kenya).

Popularity of Go in Europe continues to grow. The European Go Federation (which was formed with the European Go Congress in 1957) currently has 35 member countries, and dozens of tournaments are held across Europe each year. The European Go Cultural Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, was opened on May 9, 1992. It was mostly founded by Japan's Iwamoto Foundation, which also opened four other Go centres in the world (in New York City, Seattle, Sao Paolo and London). British amateur Mathew Macfadyen has won the European Go Congress (which is currently the largest Go event outside of Asia) 3 times in the 1980s, and Alexandre Dinerchtein (a Russian who became a professional in the Korean Baduk Association in 2002) has won the European Go Congress 7 times since 1999. Although most Europeans have had minimal success in international tournaments, there is a very active Go community in Europe and many strong players continue to appear. Many European countries send representatives to international tournaments such as the World Amateur Go Championship, the World Youth Goe Championship, and the International Amateur Pair Go Championship.