The Ideal Go Environment

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What is your idea of the ideal place to play Go?

Do you play outside in the sunlight, or by candlelight (or outside at night, by candlelight)? Do you like to hear music while you play? Do you prefer a large room, or small? With other people around, or just you and your opponent? What do you like to wear when you play? Do you have a "lucky charm" or some other item that you enjoy keeping nearby? Do you have any rituals associated with play? Do you prefer to talk with the other person, or remain silent? For those who play in Go clubs, what are the buildings like? What accomodations have been made to suit the players?

Obviously, the answers to these questions will vary from person to person. My responses:

I think the ideal goban would be located in a room near a river with many large windows. I prefer a comfortable, stable environment (playing by the fire is especially nice), with some quiet music, sans lyrics. I enjoy classical music, but to get away from the sway of adagio vs. forte, I often play ambient techno (the best of which maintains a relatively constant volume, tempo, etc).

I like having a lot of space around me when I play, but living in a basement apartment as I do, this is tricky. The same is true about sunlight. I tend to wear the same thing all the time (jeans and a t-shirt), and it suits Go just fine. I like to drink tea, partially because I enjoy the taste and partially because of the cultural association.

I don't mind having a conversation during play, but I appreciate having an opponent who recognizes when I'm trying to concentrate. I enjoy having other people around, althought mostly so far it's been people who don't know how to play (and it makes me feel smart).


--Stefan: Our go club is in just about the worst possible environment. It's a rather noisy bar, with some loud alcoholists around, the waitress still doesn't remember our names and messes up our tabs, and there isn't enough light. The music is of a degree of bad taste that has become pretty rare these days, and it's usually the same 60 minute tape all evening long. When you leave, your clothes stink of cigarette smoke up to the point where my wife has decreed very specific conditions under which I am still allowed to enter the bedroom. As the place is being redecorated in January, we have high hopes that it will be even worse afterwards.

As you can imagine, being used to these conditions, we're pretty near invincible in the national interclub competition. :-)

Not to mention those petty clubmates who whine about the playing conditions as an excuse for losing. #:-7 --Dieter

TakeNGive: The Seattle Go Center has a "tatami room", very nicely done in traditional Japanese style, centered on a big block floor goban and expensive stones. It is beautiful to look at, but so far I've been too timid to play in it.

Much of my playing is done in artsy coffeehouses, where the owners' taste in music is ecclectic and loud. Not ideal, but as Stephan has observed, tournaments are a cakewalk in comparison.

Given a choice, I prefer lively music played semi-quietly -- Bach, Vivaldi, Public Enemy, RATM, local band [ext] Biznautics, and the soundtrack to Pi are all frequent choices at my weekly jubango at a friend's home. I don't mind a little conversation while I play, and I'll sometimes comment on the board as I try to analyze it -- "Hmm, I think I'm a short a liberty... not sure, it might turn out ko..." -- which seems to make me less nervous. (Is this a bad habit? Few other players seem to do it.)

I recently discovered a wonderful cement block fountain in my town, built to resemble a stream cascading down a mountain. People love to clamber over it, jumping from block to block. Weather permitting, I'm going to try playing a game on the top block.

I hope you don't end up with people clambering over your game, jumping from goban to cement block. The Pi soundtrack features a track from Autechre; the album from which this track is taken, Incanabula (I think that's the proper spelling) is marvelous, especially for Go.

-- Scartol

DJ: This is a job for me... proper spelling is Incunabula (Latin for "band, wrapper", literally in- inside, and cunabula, dim. for cunae, cradle).
The word refers mostly to XV Century books, made at the dawn of the printing era).
The Autechre recording was released in 1994, and on the cover the word was also written (In cuna bula).
This was for the precision.
And, while I am at it, you know what my favourite (and of course really baaaaad) place is...

Dieter's top 3:

Nacho: My normal playing environment is quite similar to Stefan's... only we don't have waitresses to look at. Even the part about the same tape being repeated all night long...
It has its good parts, though. You get to know the regulars there, and there are some funny characters. If I was a comedian, I would have plenty of great material there. And, most importantly, I think it somewhat helps to improve my game. That's because you have to improve your concentration, or you have to learn to play well without concentration, in order to adapt to the environment.
In fact, that last statement is just a lie I tell to myself, I just can't stop playing, so even if I don't like it I have to go there.

Snappy: I got you guys beat as far as distracting club environments. I normally have BlueWyvern looking over my shoulder quoting [ext] Meet the Feebles, [ext] The Brak Show, or [ext] Mitch Hedberg. It is absolutely impossible to concentrate under these conditions.

BlueWyvern: You forgot the bit about what if Snoop Dogg played go.... "Kosumi fazzoomy, up in this <censored>."

Snappy: I also forgot the bit about your mom, but we won't go into that.

IronChefSakai: I like to play go in skate parks. It makes it more interesting because the skaters randomly maim you with their skateboards during play. Also playing with a traditional goban (complete with ashi) while on an airplane is fun. If you hit turbulence it could turn the game around in your favor! Just swear that you can rearrange them correctly because you "memorize games as you play them." Makes sure to rearrange in your favor. Also, when the drink cart comes buy, bump the goban really hard and blame it on the flight attendant so you get free booze.

Tamsin: Last week, I enjoyed a game of go in the garden of my Japanese host Kobayashi Memoru (no relation to Koichi or Satoru!). His garden is deep in the countryside, with beautifully shaped trees and colourful koi carp in the pond. In the distance you can see fields and mountains, including Fuji-san. His wife kindly served us green tea and sweets.

Also, if you go to Kamakura to visit the Great Buddha, you might like to stay at the Youth Hostel in Kamakura Hase. The manager, Yashino-san, likes to play go (is Japanese shodan) and has a beautiful floor-standing goban with shell and slate stones. It was a real pleasure to kneel on the tatami mats in the meeting room and to contest a game with him.


  • The ceremony house of the [ext] "Japanse tuin" used to be a big - maybe unrealistic - objective in the period I lived in Hasselt.
  • Now, I'm beginning to rediscover Gent - my list there is still in a embryonic state.

XCMeijin I've got 4 perfect environments:

1/ Beside a waterfall. The sound of crashing water is like static from a television. Sure, it's annoying at first, but at least the sound is uniform. Also, they won't be able to hear me muttering my plans, he he he...

2/ Library. Nice and quite study environment. Even better would be playing in a Go library, like the ultimate repository of go books, articles, documents etc. so u can search it up when ur stuck on a move :P

3/ Wide screen monitor at home with computer. With a huge screen, it's as if the board is hanging before your eyes and enlarged. Maybe play in a cinema! Sure, it's not as personal as a real board and stones, but it'd be a great experence.

4/ In bed. Only with the person I love, of course ;D. "Oh, baby, yeah! Take this: Iron pillar (tetchu)!" Lol. Waterbed or Futon? Maybe futon, less wobbly :D.

Also see: GoodThinkingMusic

The Ideal Go Environment last edited by on August 15, 2009 - 18:53
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