Today my Go friend and I boarded the 12:03pm express train from Penn Station to Boston. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, while waiting in line my friend walked me through one of his latest OGS games on his phone and our interaction was overheard by another friendly US Go Congress bound traveler. A shodan, this was also their first time to attend a congress. The three of us ended up sharing a section in the quiet car for the pleasantly uneventful four hour trip.
Our AirBnB was only a thirty minute walk from the Boston Amtrak station so we opted for a leisurely stroll. My friend, having lived in Boston a few years for school, punctuated the walk with landmarks and recollections. The brownstone and tree lined streets were calmingly picturesque and in what seemed like no time at all we had arrived. The AirBnB was acceptable so we quickly dropped off our stuff and headed over to the congress venue, the George Sherman Union at Boston University.
In the registration line we ran into some friends from the New York City Mostly Go meetup, Haichen (7D) and Yingzhi (5D). At the registration desk we were asked a couple of simple questions before receiving cool T-shirts, our name tags, and a goody bag. My name tag is pictured here on the right. I’ve never participated in an official AGA tournament so I had to estimate my rank based on my online results when I registered a few months ago. It may be off by a stone or two now as these days I’m a 5 kyu on DGS and I’m pushing 6 kyu on KGS, but we’ll see just how well those online numbers translate to a tournament game over a real board with generous time limits.
After checking in, we were pretty hungry so we wandered about 10 minutes away to grab some pizza slices. Unsurprisingly we were surrounded by friendly faces from the congress with the same idea.
We got back to the venue a bit early to grab seats close to the stage for the opening ceremony. Attendees began to filter in and I noted the relative diversity of the crowd. I fall into the stereotypical male technology professional Go enthusiast bucket but it was clear that, at the US Go Congress at least, the mysteries of Go appeal to a much bigger tent.
The opening ceremony was kicked off by the AGA president Andy Okun who noted it was easily the most well attended US Go Congress ever (601 registered by the evening of the 30th) and he then thanked the 32 Go professionals in attendance. This was followed by several shorter presentations covering logistics and the various new event formats like Relay Go. Unexpectedly The Surrounding Game directors Will Lockhart and Cole Pruitt jumped on stage to announce the completion of their film! It sounds like they’ll be submitting to a variety of film festivals soon and I really look forward to enjoying the film in the not too distant future.
The highlight of the evening was of course the AlphaGo keynote jointly delivered by Aja Huang and Fan Hui. While very little new information was presented, they both communicated many humorous and inspirational anecdotes about their own journeys with AlphaGo. It was quite clear that both presenters had a deep love for Go and despite the emotional ups and downs which I think have been felt by the global Go community with respect to AlphaGo, in the end I believe it has only intensified interest in this beautiful game and this year’s US Congress is certainly evidence of that.
After the presentation my friend and I mobbed the stage with the other attendees and I snapped a couple of shots. We then headed back to our AirBnB to rest so that we could play our US Open games tomorrow with our full faculties.