French Go Stage
Information on French Go Stage 2006.
The French Go Stage is a two-week event held every summer in France. I attended the 2003 Stage and will try to give you an idea of what it's like.
Many people I spoke to commented on the fact that the Stage is a really unique event. Nowhere in the world will you find an event quite like this. Despite the organised activities concerning Go, the stage is more like a 2-week long party, the thousands of Go games that are played are just part of the fun.
The stage has been running for a really long time. It is attended by people from all around France and a handful of foreigners. There were roughly 200 people there each week. Perhaps about 300 people visited the town at one point or another.
The stage was held in a tiny town called Belmont sur Rance in the South of France. This region is really something to behold, it is populated by hundreds of tiny tiny villages which transport you several hundred years into the past.
It takes place in a kind of "holiday camp" which consists of a few buildings with rooms for accomodation, a dining hall and a bar/common room.
During this time of the year the weather is really hot with little or no rain and bright sunshine everyday. Consequently most activities take place outside under the trees or on the patio.
A tournament runs for both weeks, these are "serious" games and you generally play one per day. Over the course of the stage I played about 10 tournament games.
These are study sessions where a group of players of similar strength discuss their games with a teacher.
Every day simultaneous games are organised against strong players (usually 4d and up). They are usually played against 2-6 weaker players.
Pair Go (one male player, one female player) is relatively new to me. Prior to the stage I had never really met many female Go players, but in France there are many female players and also many strong female players!
A Pair Go tournament was run for both weeks. The games are great for players and spectators alike. They were played with 30 minutes main time to keep them short.
This was the first time I came in contact with Petanque. It seems to be something of a national sport in the region (or in France?) and many, many games were played. It's a team sport, with three players per team. Each player starts with two metal balls (weighing about half a kilogram) and the aim is to throw these balls so that they land as close as possible to the goal.
Play alternates whenever one team surpasses the other team by being closer than any previous attempts. Points are scored for each ball that is closer than any of the other teams attempts.
The game is fascinating because it combines skill, chance, teamwork and strategy. It is enjoyable as a beginner or expert and many ad-hoc teams were formed for games.
Petanque also comes with a dual sport: Petanque kibbitzing.
I don't think a single game was played that didn't have its share of kibbitzing from the sidelines.
This is an interesting game that was also new to me. The game is played by several players (we often had 15 or more) who are divided into peasants and werewolves in a small village. Nobody knows who the werewolves are, but every night the werewolves kill a villager and that player is removed from the game. Play is controlled by a game coordinator who instructs the various players to sleep or wake up (close their eyes) and who informs the village of the night's events (i.e. who died!).
The villagers collectively decide to kill one of their own every day in the hope of killing a werewolf. The werewolves have to avoid being detected and the villagers have to use all their information to make sensible decisions about who to terminate.
Sometimes the werewolves (or a single werewolf) win the game by killing all the villagers, sometimes the villagers kill all the werewolves.
I really loved this game. It is played on 9x9 boards and is somewhat similar to a game of battleships.
Unlike normal Go, you don't see where your opponents moves are played and you have to "play in the dark". Each move is a normal move as well as a probe to detect enemy stones.
Three boards are required for each game. The two players each have a board and sit with their backs to each other. A game coordinator is required to communicate between the two players and keep track of the "real game".
Each player takes turns to play a move, the game coordinator will tell him if it is an illegal move (another stone present or a "dead spot") or whether he captured some stones with this move. The coordinator tells each player how many illegal moves or "probes" were made by the other player.
The Phantom Go strategies are very interesting because they are so different from real Go. Knowing when to pass is also quite difficult!
The final game of the tournament was great fun, because spectators can see the real game unfolding and are also aware of how much information each player has gathered.
I didn't play Psi-Go but it looks interesting. Whenever you make a move, your opponent is allowed to refuse your move, but if they do so they are forced to accept your next (alternate) move.
This adds a whole new dimension to the game and introduces all sorts of surprising ko-like situations and strange sekis that are inconceivable in normal Go.
As I mentioned before, the stage has a very festive, holiday atmosphere. Every night there is music, dancing and socializing around the bar. In fact, most nights see many people staying up into the early hours, playing Go and having fun.
I must say that for a rabid anti-smoker like myself the environment was a bit difficult because almost everybody here smokes.
Some days we made trips to a nearby waterfall in the river (it's a 15 minute walk) and enjoyed swimming in the pool there. There is also a swimming pool at the resort, but it's only for children and my attempts at swimming in 60 cm of water were quite frustrating.
Stage web site (A beautifull site by the way, with lots of nice pictures and drawings.)
John Leuner August 2003
DJ: I strongly, warmly recommend this workshop to all players wanting to improve, without regards to their level!
I took part in the 1984 stage (French) in Lumbin, near Grenoble. I went in as a 9k and after two weeks I left as 7k. (I was 31, then. Not really a youngster.) And I mean real 7k.
Teaching at the highest level was assured by Nakayama Noriyuki, helped by André Moussa 5D and Denis Feldmann (then) 2D. But any player stronger than you would have been your teacher! Really a friendly environment: but we were around 40-50 people then.
Side activities included pétanque, volleyball, backgammon, bathing in a sort of swimming pool, drinking pastis and perroquet and having a general good time. I made oh so many friends.
Good 'ol times, really!
- Louis Meckes J'y étais :-)
- Tim I'm the guy with the blue t-shirt standing on the right of the Pétanque picture.