The British Go Championship

Matthew Macfadyen has won the British Go Championship with three straight victories against Charles Matthews in the final. Go is the ancient board game that is the reason why so few Japanese and Koreans play chess. Simple rules - which dictate that the two players alternately place stones on a board to attempt to surround territory - leads to a game of astonishing complexity in which, at the highest level, intuition plays a greater part than precise calculation. Which is why computers can beat grandmasters at chess, but not at Go.

The diagram (right) illustrates the moves of the final game which gave Macfadyen, a six-dan player, victory over his three-dan opponent. The stones were played in the numbered order - but don't overlook the footnote, describing moves 57 and 136, which occupied squares on which pieces had earlier been captured. The first game of the match had been played on 12 July at the Daiwa Foundation in Regent's Park. The professional player Kim Seong June, acting as commentator, was thoroughly disparaging of Macfadyen's unorthodox opening play, but its effectiveness could not be denied.

By the time of the second game, which was played at Freud's Cafe in Oxford on 28 July, Kim Seong June was so critical of the play of the Englishmen that he summed it up as: "Like a game of chess - no strategy." Matthew Macfadyen describes the comment as "a typical Eastern attitude to the spectacle of European players concentrating their attention on attempting to do things which work".

Nothing worked for Charles Matthews when it came to the third game in Milton Keynes the Saturday before last. The match for the British title was the best of five, so he knew that a loss would bring the contest to an early conclusion. Macfadyen played Black - moving first - Matthews White.

Moves 3 and 11 are unorthodox. It is usual for the first move in a vacant corner to be closer to the corner, as 2 is. However, such play is characteristic of Macfadyen (even if professional players from the east do criticise him for it).

With moves 52 to 60, White succeeded in building a secure group of stones in a corner which formerly belonged to Black. But as a consequence, the white stones in the centre, including 6, were cut adrift.

For the remainder of the game, White struggled to surround enough territory, but had to leave his stones dangerously weak in order to do so.

When White threatened a capture with 132, Black sacrificed some stones on the lower side, and with 133-137 completed a wall surrounding 29 stones in the centre. Seeing no way to rescue these stones, Charles Matthews resigned.

Further information about the game of Go is available from the British Go Association. Write to the membership secretary: Alison Jones, 11 Briarview Court, Handsworth Avenue, Highams Park, London E4 9PQ, or view their web site:

http://www.britgo.demon.co.uk

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