Go in North America

Go is a relatively new game in North America, as it only started to become widely known in the early 20th century. It was originally played in North America by Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Go has since then gained considerable popularity, and many North American youth are becoming interested in the game.

Origins of Go in North America

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Go was originally played in North America by Chinese and Japanese immigrants in the late 19th century. The game traveled with them along the west coast, eventually coming north to British Columbia from California. However, Go was generally not noticed outside of these insular Chinese and Japanese (and smaller Korean) communities. North American knowledge of the game began to increase in 1914, when German engineer Edward Lasker (who would become an International Master of chess in 1950, and was a distant cousin of World Chess Champion Emmanuel Lasker) moved to New York. Edward Lasker had learned Go in Germany from Oscar Korschelt's articles, and was intrigued by the claim that Go was a game which could rival chess. In New York City he met some Japanese players at Chumley's, a restaurant in Greenwich village, and founded the New York Go Club together with Karl Davis Robinson and Lee Hartman (they would later form the American Go Association in 1937).

That same year (1914), Edward Lasker published his book The Game of Go which was later retitled as Go and Go-Moku, and is one of the earliest English-language Go books. The book helped spread the game throughout Canada and the U.S.A. In 1929, a small group of Chinese Go players met at a YMCA in Montreal, Quebec. Later, between 1935 and 1938, Harry Schwartz introduced Go to McGill University and later founded the Montreal Go Club.

In the late 1930s a man named John Williams met Edward Lasker in New York, and helped with Go activities there for 15 years. John Williams returned to Canada by 1959, and in 1970 he formed the Canadian Go Association with Harry Schwartz and Dr. Yoshio Tsuchiya (who started the Ottawa Go Club in the late 1960s). At that time the Canadian Go Association was a loose federation of all the Canadian Go clubs. Soon many major Canadian and American cities had their own local Go clubs.

The Present

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The American Go Association went on to produce newsletters, the quarterly Go Journal, yearbooks, and even its own ruleset. In 1984 a Cleveland industrialist named Roger B. White established the American Go Foundation, a charitable organization devoted to promoting and spreading Go in the United States. In the past, the American Go Association has received financial assistance from the Japanese Go Association, which has also sent Japanese professionals to American Go events. The first annual U.S. Go Congress, which is currently the largest Go event in North America, was held in Westminster, Maryland in 1985.

The Canadian Go Association also published newsletters, which eventually became the current Canadian Go Gazette In 1978, a mid-winter Toronto tournament became the first annual Canadian Open Championship. The winner of that tournament represented Canada at the first World Amateur Go Championship in the following year (The next Canadian open will be hosted in Vancouver). Since then, both Canada and the U.S.A. have sent representatives to other international competitions.

Three Americans have become professional players in Asia. James Kerwin through the Japanese Go Association in 1978, Michael Redmond through the Japanese Go Association in 1981, and Janice Kim through the Korean Go Association in 1987. Today, many strong youth players are appearing in North America. The Japanese manga "Hikaru no Go" and the popularity of internet Go contribute to this. As the lowest age range of Canadian players has dropped to 8-10 years old, and many local tournament winners are under 18, the future of Go in North America looks very promising.