I’ve always wanted to check out the Seattle Go Center and finally a business trip gave me the much desired opportunity. While in the end I didn’t make it to the actual location, I got to spend a couple of enjoyable hours hanging out with members from the center. This was possible thanks to a Seattle Go Center event for the Seattle Cherry Blossom festival .

The festival was taking place at the Seattle Center right next to the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop. It was pretty easy to find and after a quick lunch, I walked up to second level of the Seattle Center and saw a bunch of smiling folks playing 9x9. A few were even dressed up in traditional Japanese attire! As I approached, a gentleman asked me if I knew how to play and I said I did. He asked my rank and I responded 5 kyu. Interestingly everyone was surprised and he said I was stronger than all the volunteers there. Then another member quipped that wasn’t quite true, and that Lucy was a 3 kyu.

She was in the middle of teaching several adults as well as children how to play. She said she was interested in a game. While I waited, I taught a couple of kids the rules on a 7x7 board. After supervising their first game, Lucy came over with a 19x19 board and we started. She’d been studying seriously for just over a year and was hoping to reach shodan by summertime. Given the level of her play and her access to strong teachers through the Seattle Go Center that seemed like a perfectly reasonable goal.

The game was going pretty calmly until I invaded (perhaps a hair too early). The invasion kicked off a running fight which she was able to control and that more or less turned the game in her favor. An ill considered ko by yours truly widened the gap and after I gave up on that, my endgame feints simply wasn’t going to narrow it.

While my opponent thought the outcome would be close based on the board, due to the large number of captures I was pretty confident that I was behind by much more than komi. Still, I had a lot of fun, it’d been a while since I’d played an even game over a real board.

After the game, I lingered briefly as the volunteers started breaking things down and packing the equipment. I asked whether they were excited about the upcoming AlphaGo matches and everyone smiled and said they were. It sounded like the Seattle Go Center would hold another special event at their location for members to follow the live stream. I definitely felt a twinge of envy. Watching Ke Jie face AlphaGo with a bunch of Go nuts sounds like a heck of a good time.

I suspect I’ll be back in Seattle at some point in the future and I fully intend to stop by the actual location next time. Based on my wonderful interactions with the Seattle Go Center members, I’d say it’s worth checking out if you live nearby!