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Behind The Scenes

Where I share some tidbits of the organization and help other AGA chapters with starting their own club.

Starting a Club

posted Feb 10, 2012, 6:52 PM by Greg Smith


I have found Capture Go to be slightly more intuitive than the Stone Counting method. People can more easily recognize a capture than the subtleties of the end game in Stone Counting. I have created printable boards for both teaching methods. With Capture Go, I find that I can show someone the basics then let them loose with other beginners or start a game. Here's my method:

Explain that "if a stone is surrounded along the lines, it is captured. Diagonals don't count."

Take the 9x9 board, and show them a single white stone in atari in the middle. Ask "where would you place a stone to capture". It's better to give them a stone as you're saying this so they actually place the stone.

Then show them a single white stone in atari on the side. Same question.

Then a single white stone in the corner. Same question.

Then two stones in the middle, then on the side, then in the corner. Same question each time.

Then I set up a single white stone in atari in the middle and ask "if you were white, where would you place a stone to prevent being captured?"

Now they know go!

It takes 3-5 games for most people to start to get it, it goes pretty fast. If I play them, I use 5 stone handicap. Each game I *maybe* show them one thing (solid connection, diagonal/bamboo connections), but try more often to stay quiet. It's very easy to overwhelm. My first move is usually on side star point (3-7). And their first play is often attached on the "line of defeat" (2-7). I don't explain what's about to happen, but after I capture, I walk them through slowly and suggest to start again.

By game 10 they are beating me. When that happens one or two times, we dispense with capture go and play regular go "the winner is the one who has the most territory, surrounds the most empty spaces" and play to "the end, when neither of us can gain any more points". Of course, they don't know what that means exactly so I tell them when that happens (usually they ask, or they sit there stumped on where to move, or they move in a place where they lose a point). Then I show them scoring and explain territory. I don't explain those very deeply, just show them how to move the stones and count the spaces.

Posting Flyers

I use the flyers from AGA.

Direct link to word template, or here at the top level, look for the What Is Go? Poster

Here's my customization. I also put them in a stand-up acrylic display stand anywhere I'm playing so if people are interested, they can read about the game. I often ask "Have you heard of the game of Go?". In any advertisements I refer to it as "The Ancient Game of Go".

I have the AGA trifold of Capture Go with my website written on it.

I have business cards to pass out to anyone that looks interested. It has the website information and a plea to come learn or play and the AGA rules on the back. I put an email link on the website, not on the business card.

Carry business cards with you everywhere (5-10 is usually enough).

If someone is interested, they'll walk away usually with a business card, the tri-fold Capture Go, and the 9x9 board with Capture Go instructions on the back.


I would start with one 19x19, two 13x13 boards, and four 9x9. This requires 3 full sets of stones and will handle 14 people all playing at the same time. You can have a dozen printed 9x9 boards to hand out or use as well. This will handle 4 more people if no one uses the 13x13.

It all depends on your mix of skill levels. I end up teaching a lot of people at our club, so I use more of the small boards.

The AGF has one of the best deals on most teaching/club equipment for qualified programs, though I think there's not enough bowls if you split the stones up for use with small boards. You can supplement the bowls with Ziploc Smart Snap bowls from Walmart. Size "XS" bowl is great for this (6 for about $3).

Another option is the Go Kit Club Pack which is similar in cost with different equipment (laminated boards, plastic chips for stones, bowls for everyone).

I don't know of any other inexpensive equipment options for clubs.

Teaching Go: Elevator pitch

posted Jan 25, 2012, 9:06 AM by Greg Smith   [ updated Jan 25, 2012, 9:06 AM ]

From a post on L19 by BaghwanB:
Elevator-pitch answer to "How do you play this?". Goes like this:

This is an empty field and we are both running fence to see who can get the most. The stones are the fenceposts and you fill in the fence when you get pushed. To keep it interesting (and not turn into "My side, your side") you can pull out the posts if you surround them yourself.

Kinda rural-based, but seems to get the idea across to most people quickly. Feel free to use at your leisure. Any talk of "eyes" or "living groups" comes later.

Experiences teaching go, first impressions

posted Jan 22, 2012, 12:27 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Jan 22, 2012, 12:27 PM ]

I use my 9x9 "Capture Go" and 5x5/7x7 "Stone Counting" teaching board to teach others about go. You can print them out for free.

Age 3.5:

Did not really understand or seem interested in rules. Played "put the pieces on the intersections" instead. Occasionally showed a capture. Session lasted 5-10 minutes.

Age 6-7 - Korean-speaking student, English-speaking teacher:
Wanted to play "Stone-capturing" method, but it didn't infuse excitement. Plus the language barrier was too great to explain any subtleties.

We ended up playing capture go with an animated "CAPTURE!" from the teacher, eliciting smiles and laughter each time from the student. We played 2-3 games. The session lasted maybe 15-20 minutes. The student seemed to really understand the basic rules of the game.

Age 30-40, experienced gamers:

Over lunch, showed the 9x9 board started with a brief introduction "These are all the rules" and played a series of problems "where to capture, where to avoid capture". We then played capture go 2-3 times. (Before the game I usually start with handicap of 5 and play on the side star point (on a 9x9, that's on the 3-line). Student (as is usual) starts by placing an attached stone at the 2-line. When I attach, they rarely extend, that's when they lose, and then I show them the sequence slowly and note that they lost by 1) playing away from all their stones losing the ability to connect and, 2) not extending, starving the stone of liberties and a chance to survive. Usually by the fourth game, we're playing beyond the first capture and then I get a chance to show scoring. For most people, 4-6 games is enough to see the subtlety of the game and pique interest.

Then showed the "stone counting" method and we played on a 7x7 board. I captured the student's stones by placing a stone in one remaining eye. Then I explained two eyes and life & death. "Wow" was the response "I can see how this can get interesting". The session lasted 10-15 minutes during lunch and between bites.

We also talked about the balance required and the "yin and yang" aspect of give and take, a brief comparison to chess (battle vs. war, singular focus vs. whole board territory). Overall, the session was very well received by the three people at the table.

About complex

I no longer use "complex" in my description of Go. I'm influenced by Paul Smith's 2008 analysis "The Image of Baduk in the West: Marketing Baduk to the public in the United Kingdom" wherein he writes: "All this seems to add up to an image of Baduk as a game which is difficult, takes a lot of time and effort, and is perhaps somewhat elitist and only for very clever people. Perhaps the game is not often seen as providing a lot of fun or enjoyment."

I hope this helps in your teaching, too.

Do-it-yourself Magnetic Demo Board, finding the right color

posted Jan 7, 2012, 7:33 AM by Greg Smith   [ updated Jan 7, 2012, 7:37 AM ]

I've been experimenting with small magnetic white boards suitable for tabletop . They are available at Walmart for $5 - $15 in sizes from 8x11 to 17x22. Larger boards get more expensive quickly. These will fit well with my 1.5-inch demonstration stones.

They come mostly in white and silver. The first step is to find the right base color. I chose spray paint for its ease of use. Home Depot carries (among others) Rustoleum brand spray paint. There were two potential colors: strawflower and summer squash.
I chose "SATIN" finish because I felt gloss might enhance glare. Lowes carries valspar brand and there was one potential color (in stock locally): Hubbell House Golden Maize.

These board pictures are a comparison against a slotted board that tends towards beige/brown and a Tibetan Spruce "Shin-Kaya" board from YMImports that tends toward a golden color. I really like the Shin-Kaya board and was trying to get similar to that.

The first picture is the strawflower, the second is the Hubbell House Golden Maize, and the third is the Hubbell House Golden Maize and the summer squash. Again, the Shin-Kaya board is the same board in each picture.

Pictures are not good for getting colors correct because of the changing light and exposure, so I use the same reference Shin-Kaya board for each picture. To my eye, the strawflower is too biege, and the summer squash is too yellow.

The overall winner? valspar brand Hubbell House Golden Maize.

Do-it-yourself giant vinyl go board.

posted Dec 14, 2011, 6:31 AM by Greg Smith   [ updated Dec 14, 2011, 6:31 AM ]

I'm making a 9x9 go "board" for 2-inch painted wood "stones". Using the material from the DIY Internet Resources, I obtained two yards of felt-backed vinyl in ivory, a black Sharpie "Fine", a yard stick, pencil, and scissors.

Placing the stones end to end, I made sure the size would be acceptable. The stones are advertised at 2" but are just slightly smaller. So a two inch grid is perfect.

Cutting out the vinyl at 23 inches leaves plenty of room if I wanted to finish the edges. The end lines will be 17 inches apart. I didn't include and perspective compensation as many wood boards do, so my board is exactly square.

I drew small pencil lines for the corners so the grid would be approximately center. Measure both diagonals to make sure they are equal. If they are, the grid will be square. Then align the yardstick along each side and mark off every two inches.

Once you have the grid ends marked in pencil, you can draw each grid line with the Sharpie.

That's all I did for my first "giant vinyl board". The next one will be 13x13 for 2" stones. That'd be a total width of about 26 inches.

As I mentioned in the last DIY article: I am not crafty. If I can do this, you can too!

Need beginner boards for your club?

posted Nov 28, 2011, 4:54 AM by Greg Smith   [ updated Nov 28, 2011, 4:54 AM ]

If you want beginner boards for your club, I've put up a store page where you can get a Go Kit Club Pack: a set of 9x9 and/or 13x13 boards laminated on cardstock shipped and ready to go. Convenient and inexpensive.

Make Demonstration Stones, part 1

posted Nov 19, 2011, 8:57 AM by Greg Smith   [ updated Nov 19, 2011, 8:57 AM ]

I had two goals for this project, make some large-size nontoxic go stones (2 inches), and make some demonstration stones (1.5 inches with magnet). The biggest thing to note: I am not a crafter or DIY person at all. If I can do this, it probably means you can, too.

After a lot of research, I found 1.5-inch wooden domed discs for 13.2¢ in quantities of 100. Two-inch discs are 23.6¢ each in quantity 100. As an experiment, I went with the bigger 3/4-inch magnet.

I also researched non-toxic paint and finally went to local crafts store and purchased two candidates. On the left is Richart Washable Paint. On the right is Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint. Both are Certified ACMI-AP. The Richart is much less expensive--the bigger bottle was $2 while the small bottle of Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint was $1. As you can see, the Apple Barrel covered much better in one coat than the Richart in two coats.

I then set about painting the rest. The technique I settled on that seemed to work best is to paint the edges individually. Put paint on one side of the brush, then use the other side of the brush to paint the edge from top to bottom as shown (see the video below in "attachments").

Once the edges are complete for about 40 of them and set down all in a row on newspaper, then I painted the tops. One coat of black seems to be enough! On to the white. One the white I was able to use a consistent technique learned from the black batch. The first coat went much quicker.

You can see both the 2-inch large stones and the 1.5-inch demonstration stones here. There were lots of lines and streaks on the white stones, so they needed another coat. I applied the paint in three major batches to give the paint in one batch a little time to dry before applying the second coat. Dry time between coats was maybe 15 minutes (but working continuously on the next batch). There was just enough paint in the small bottle to paint 100 2-inch and 50 1.5-inch stones with two coats. As you'll see the picture below, the backs are unpainted. Overall 1-2 hours to dry semi-completely, there were still small beads of paint that were wet.
When picking up, some of the stones were painted to the newspaper. I just figure that it adds character.

Once dry, I needed to add magnets to the demonstration stones. After again researching supplies and seeing many references to E-6000 adhesive, I decided to try it. It apparently bonds to many different materials and the bonds is somewhat shock-absorbing (unlike Super Glue aka cyanoacrylate). Here's a somewhat "marketing oriented" video of its properties. The video was nice because it allowed me to see the viscosity of the adhesive before trying to use it (was it going to run? or glop on top? Answer: it glops and generally stays put).

I finally figured out to use a plastic knife to scoop a very small raisin-sized drop applied to the wood. Applied to about 20 at a time, then pressed the magnets, then glue for the next batch. Work in a direction where your arm/clothing doesn't drape over the glue drops and be especially careful about the new magnet snapping to the already placed magnets.

The E-6000 dries in 24-72 hours. So be prepared to let them sit for that long without being disturbed.

They ended up great! And if you don't have the requirement of non-toxic, I'm sure it will be simpler with spray paint. I'm going to teach my 4-year-old nephew go using the 2-inch stones. I used non-toxic paint because there's a baby in the house and the less dangerous these are to all inhabitants, the more likely they'll be out for playing.

A few more refinements: My brief time with them appears the white/black may mark each other when rubbed together. I may want to figure out how to safely finish these with varnish, polyurethane, or spray shellac. I'll investigate and report later.

Now, who makes a board suitable for 2-inch go stones? Answer: I do, in part 2. Stay tuned.

Do-It-Yourself Go Equipment Resources

posted Nov 14, 2011, 5:45 AM by Greg Smith   [ updated Nov 14, 2011, 5:45 AM ]

Want to make your own Large, Demonstration, or standard Go equipment inexpensively? Here are some internet resources for ordering parts and raw materials in the United States in low quantity. Comment below if you order and create!  

If you have a qualified teaching program (supporting teachers and organizers who want to teach Go to children in school, after-school programs, libraries and community centers), the least expensive place to get ready-to-play sets for playing is the AGF. The demonstration equipment, however, can be DIY'd for less using the suppliers below.

The least expensive ready-to-play full-size set seems to be this one at Amazon ($16) also available online from Toy and Game Warehouse or Target.


The least expensive stones are, you guessed it, the "Anti-bacterial Hi-tech" stones from YMImports. All of the options for stones are close to the same price.

Go Stones: YMImports: single convex or double convex
Glass: Wholesalers USA (17-19mm, a little smaller than standard)

Demonstration, Large, or Magnetic Stones

The currently least expensive wood/magnets are at Woodworks: Ceramic magnets glued to wood (magnets are 1/2" or 3/4", wood is 3/4" - 2-3/8" flat or domed). For example, the cheapest combination at 1-1/2" demonstration stones would be the 1/2" magnets and the 1-1/2" wood discs coming in at 17¢ total per stone, or 21¢ if you get to the $75 for free shipping (upgrade to the 3/4" magnets, get an extra bag of 100 discs, or E6000 glue). If you make more than one full set of "stones", you can get it a little cheaper. Total cost would need to include glue and paint.

Round flexible magnets are about the same as the ceramic above (10¢)

Wood types: flat, domed, round plug from a variety of vendors. All of these sell bulk at pretty decent prices.

Woodworks (craftparts.com)

Magnets from a few vendors. Most seem to be "Master Magnetics" brand.

Go Board

Paper: 9x9 CMGO PennGoSociety Boardgamegeek (free pdf files)
Blank Cardboard: 13x13 ($2) or foldable 19x19 ($4)
Blank Wood: 13x13 Blank 11-7/8 board ($2) (this is quality B/BB which will have some blemishes on both sides).
Vinyl with Flannel back: OnlineFabricStore.


Plastic food:  13x13 19x19 ($4) or at Walmart ($3)
Plastic: Chess n Games ($10)
Wood: "ORIENTAL WORLD ARTS" through Amazon ($20)

"Go Box" contents

posted Nov 1, 2011, 9:07 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Nov 1, 2011, 9:07 PM ]

To prepare for the first meeting, I feel like I need to be prepared to both play the game and evangelize for Go. I am prepared for both. Here is my "Go Box" that I intend for storing the materials and taking to meetings to make it feel as professional and organized as I can.

Here is a checklist of the Go Box contents:

6 Capture Go Trifold
6 9x9 giveaway boards/rules (8.5x11 standard paper)
6 AGA Membership Forms
1 Club Signup/email/library sheet

2 standard sets of stones
   Broken up into 4 sets each (8 total) for 9x9 play.
   Separated into Ziplock snack bags.

Printed boards:
4 9x9/13x13 reversible boards
1 19x19 board (slotted)

"Bowls" consist of the Ziplock SmartSnap "XS Bowl" 8oz.
   This holds (smallish) single-color stones for 13x13.
   And easily holds the 9x9 set.

19x19 "bowls" are the ziplock SmartSnap "S Square" 20oz.

Backup stones and 19x19 board
   (just in case. this was an 1970's era set bought at a garage sale)

"Go Library" books (six total)

Tabletop letter-size acrylic holder, 2-sided:
   Side 1: Customized "We Play Go" flyer.
   Side 2: Membership and payment information

Copies of "Way To Go"

Pens, Sharpies, Folders

Any tub that works for you and is big enough is great. I chose this size because it fits the slotted board, and it fits my (very small) car:
Sterilite 10-Gallon Stacker Tote Nickel Driftwood

Business Card 2011

posted Oct 31, 2011, 7:37 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Oct 31, 2011, 7:37 PM ]

I finally ordered VistaPrint cards under their "Free" Premium cards. I added a back side containing the rules.

I ordered the "slow" shipping (21 days under $6). If you look at previous posts, you'll see the general concept formulated. This post contains the final images that I used. You can use these pieces to construct your own business card.

Here's what's in this post:
640x640 AGA logo (original available here).
Card-sized rules without Background image.
Faded go board picture suitable as background on front (color) side.

Here's what the front looked like in the preview, note the go board image is tucked way to the right, it actually "bleeds" off the right side of the card and a little on top. It's positioned to cover "Club" and to expose "www.cmgo.org".
Details of the VistaPrint design and form are in another post.

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