The Beginnings of Steven’s Go Career

In December of 1977, Steven, who was in Montreal for the holidays, was visiting a local bookstore (Classic's, for Montrealers of my generation, the one on Ste-Catheine St West, near what used to be Ogilvy's Department Store, and which closed its doors long ago following a labor dispute) where he came across Iwamoto’s now-famous Go for Beginners (Penguin edition). On seeing the cover of the book, which displays a photograph of a game entering the middle phase. Steven was immediately overcome by an intuitive feeling that go was his kind of game. At that time in his life, Steven was in a game-learning mood. He had already spent some time learning bridge, poker, and dominoes. And now, he saw an oportunity to add go to this collection.

What made him buy the book ($1.95) and begin, unknowingly at the time, his go career, was that the book contained a table of go clubs listed by country. Steven immediately wrote to John Williams, who was listed as the contact-person in Toronto, where Steven was a student, to obtain the address of the local club.

It was also during this same Holiday period that Steven bought his first go set. The one he bought, which was a magnetic set, had the standard 19 x 19 board, but the physical dimensions of this board were smaller than those of the standard size sets that experienced players buy. Of course, in those days, well, come to think of it, those days are very much like these days (nothing much has changed really), go sets were not that easy to find. Steven was lucky that sets were available at the Game and Toy Department at Eaton's Department store (the one in downtown Montreal next to Christ Church Cathedral, and which closed its doors in 1999, like the other stores in the Eaton's chain). Steven paid $13.50 for this set, which, by the way, he still has.

Finally, by January, 1978, Steven was ready. He had the chance to read the introductory book on go that he had bought during the Holidays, and he may even have had the chance to replay some games on his small magetic go set. At any rate, on January 8, he crossed the threshold of the doorway that led into the halloweed room of the Toronto Go Club, which was located in the old downtown YMCA (since demolisghed) where go players assembled on Sunday afternoons to play. It was there that Steven played his very first games of go.

At first, Steven’s go career got off to an uncertain future. As a beginner, he was naturally playing the usual 9-stone handicap games, the obligatory, entry-level game format for beginners, and, as one can expect from a raw beginner, he was being slaughtered, nay, decimated by his opponents who (shame be onto them) were not taking the time to explain to Steven his mistakes. Discouraged, and pressed by the time he was taking away from his studies, Steven stopped playing sometimes in the second half of February.

About two years later, in early 1980, back in Montreal and having DEFINITELY more time on his hands, Steven decided that he would try his hand at go one more time. He was determined that, at the very least, he would stick it out long enough to learn and understand the fundamentals of the game. Ever since that fateful moment in time, Steven has never stopped playing go.

Steven’s Go Statistics

The foundation of Steven’s go statistics is one that was marked by tentative beginnings. At first, Steven simply kept track of the number of times he went to the Montreal Go Club. This was soon followed by the number of games he played each time he went to the club. He then began to record the names of his opponents, but not always, and he then began to record, at least, more often than not, whether or not he won the games he played. At the same time, he sometimes recorded the handicap that was associated with each game.

All this to say that the development of Steven's go statistics followed an evolutionary path. As the reader will discover for himself as he reads on, the state of Steven's statistics grew as time went by, it did not take shape in one dramatic moment of self-realization.

Steven had no idea, in the early months of 1980, as he jotted down his go activities (games played, the number of times he went to the club, and so on) that these were the baby steps that were destined to lead to a body of statistical detail that easily dwarfed anything Steven could have imagined during this formative period. Who would have guessed that these early fumblings were nothing less then the illustration of the old proverb Great things have small beginnings.

By June 1st, 1980, however, Steven could claim, with a certain degree of justification, that he now had in place the rudiments for what would eventualy constitute the foundation of his go statistics. (Note)

For each game he plays, Steven records the following four items of information:

  • The date on which Steven played the game in question.
  • The name of the opponent with whom Steven played. (Note)
  • The color of the stones that Steven played with, or the number of handicap stones he took or gave, if any.
  • Whether or not Steven won the game.

(The very last time Steven did not record any one of these four items was on October 22, 1980 when Steven failed to record the handicap of the game he lost against an unknown player (an unknown player is one whose name was not recorded). Actually, to be technical, this statement, about October 22 being the last time he failed to record one of the four items of information, is not quite true. On several occsions in the future, Steven would sometimes leave out the names of his opponents, not the names of those players whom he knew, but rather, the names of those players whom he did not know. A good example would be those times when Steven visited a club in a town he did not feel he would ever visit again. (For example, in August, 1981, Steven went to New York City where he had the chance to play go at the New York Go Club almost every evening. He played 28 games during his stay in New York, but he recorded the names of only two players. Why just two players? Because he was sure that he would never have the chance to play with these players again) Consequently, asking for the names of these players did not seem to be worthwhile. Besides, asking strangers for their names might be considerded as being rather forward, maybe even impolite).

(However, all this is now in the past. The last time Steven accepted to leave unrecorded the first and last names of an opponent was on October 29, 1995). By that time, steven

After each session of go-playing, Steven records this raw information in two places: in a yearly agenda book and on the index cards of his opponents. The agenda book helps Steven to keep track of his games in chronological order and it is the all-important source of his raw data. The index cards were useful at first as a means for allowing Steven to measure his progress vis-à-vis his opponents. This last function has long since lost its importance, but Steven has never abandoned the practice of recording his games on these cards.

(Note, however, that the use of these cards is reserved for those players whom Steven feels he will play with again on an ongoing basis usually because they live in the same city as he does and attends the same go club. Steven does not use these cards for those players with whom he plays on the Internet).

In May of 1982, Steven decided to compile his statistics in a table format. After deciding on the number of tables and on the layout of each one, he selected the month as the basis for each compilation. Ever since then, Steven compiles his statistics on, or shortly after, the 1st of each month.

In the spring of 1994, Steven transferred his statistics to his newly bought computer. He created two database files: one to contain information on all his games, in chronological order; and the other one to contain summary information of his games with all his opponents. These computer files have allowed Steven to create charts based on his statistics (real neat).

What Constitutes a Game of Go

In order to determine which ones of the many games that Steven plays may be included in his statistics, Steven eastablished the five ctriteria listed below.

  • Each game must be played on a 19 x 19 board (games played on 13 x 13 boards, 9 x 9 boards, or any other dimension for that matter, are not counted).
  • Each game must be played within a 9-stone handicap range, for either player (games beyond 9 stones are very rare).
  • Each game must be played between two players, and only two players (this means no Zen Go, Rengo, or Pair Go; and obviously, this criteria prohibits the counting of byes as either a legitimate game or as a legitmate win -- just wanted to dispel any lingering thoughts on this matter).
  • Each game must result in a victory for one of the two players involved in that game (in other words, if a game is interrupted before it ends and neither player is willing to concede defeat, then the game is not counted.Typically, such a situation may arise between the official rounds of a tournament).
  • Neither the game nor the win associated with a bye is counted.
  • (Tied games are treated as losses. In the early part of his go career, Steven treated those games in which his opponent and he had not settled on the value of the komi and which ended in a tie, as losses. (There's a certain logic at work here: afterall, if a game is not won, then it must be lost). Not long afterwards, Steven stopped the practice of recording the result of such games as a tie. A new practice evolved in which, if, prior to the beginning of a game, Steven and his opponent had not settled on the value of the komi for their game, and, also supposing that their game ends in a tie, then, in such cases, rare though they be, theses games are counted and recorded as losses. Steven has no idea whatsoever of the number of games he counted as losses even though they are in fact ties (in other words, Steven did not lose these games, he just did'nt win them)).

Over the years, Steven has been plagued by a persistent and nagging dilemma: Should he or should he not not count the games he plays against computers? So far, Steven has been able to put off having to make a decision on this matter by simply abstaining from playing any 19 x 19 games against these machines.

(However, to be perfectly honest, at some point in his carrer, Steven has probably played a game or two against computers, out of curiosity (no, these games were not counted). This would have been at a time when he would not have been fully concious of the wider implications of such an act—from the point of view of the integrity of his statistics—of playing against a machine.)

Why the reluctance to deal with this issue? At the heart of the matter lies the issue of a missing standard in the ranking of computers. When Steven plays against a human, he knows that he is playing against someone who is ranked at a certain level, and that the hancicap, if any, that is given to Black will produce a game whose outcome will be fair, more or less, to both players. But against machines, there is no such standard. The ranking of these machines varies, and it varies not only over time but also from machine to machine. This can produce lopsided results. In such a situation, for example, how would players evalute the significance of a statistical analysis that would be made of, say, victories?

Another factor that militates against the inclusion of games played against computers, a factor just as important as the one on the lack of a standard of ranking, is the fact that computers don't have names. One of the items of information that is recorded on each game is the name of the opponent. This allows Steven to determine whether or not he has played with the same person before, or in this particular situation, with the same computer.

Go Tournaments

Steven has been involved in a total of 156 go tournaments either as a participant (123), a director (21), or simply as an observer (12). (Actually, the total is 155: for Steven was both the director of, and a participant in, the 21st Quebec Open (1999).

(In case you are not aware, there is a page dedicated to the statistics on the games that Steven played in his tournamnets. You can click on this link to open this page. (In case you not aware, the shortcut key of Alt + Left Arrow will redirect you back immediately to this page).

Participant (123 Tournaments):

  • 13 Canadian Opens: 1980, '83, '87, '88, '89, '90, '91, '92, '93, '95, '97, '01, '08.
  • 14 Quebec Opens (Montreal): 1981, '82, '83, '84, '89, '90, '91, '92, '93, '99, '06, '07, '08, '09.
  • 28 Winter Tournaments (Montreal): 1981, '84, '86, '87, '88, '89, '90, '91, '92, '93, '94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '08, '09, '10, '11.
  • 14 Ottawa Opens: 1983, '84, '85, '86, '87, '88, '89, '90, '91, '92, '93, '94, '96, '97 (this event was not held in 1995, nor has it been held since '97).
  • 6 Ambassador's Bowls (Ottawa): 1986, '87, '89, '90, '91, '92 (this event was not held in 1988, and has not been held since 1992).
  • 7 Embassy's Cups (Ottawa): 2004, '05, '06, '07, '08, '09, '11.
  • 7 Chinese Community Go Tournaments (Ottawa): 1990, '92, '94, '95, '97, '98, '01.
  • 5 Ontario Opens: 1982, '85, '86, '87, '89 (this event has not been held for a while).
  • 5 U.S. Go Congresses: 1987, '89, '90, '91, '93.
  • 5 U.S. Opens: 1987, '89, '90, '91; Day-Off tournament in '93.
  • 4 Toronto Opens: 1986, '90, '92, '93.
  • 4 Concordia University Go Tournaments (Montreal): 2003, '04, '05 (twice).
  • 2 Montreal Chinese Cups: 1988, '89 (this tournament only lasted for two years).
  • 2 Montreal Korean Community Opens: 1999, '00.
  • 2 Heritage Games Go Classics (Ottawa): 1993, '94 (this event has not been held since 1994).
  • 1 Montreal Open: 1988 (this tournament only lasted for two years, 1987 and 1988).
  • 4 Other tournaments: (Rochester, 1992; Kingston, 1993; Vermont, 1993; Montreal Express, 1998).

Director (21 Tournaments):

  • 2 Canadian Opens: 1985 (with Paul Dumais); 2003 (with André Labelle).
  • 16 Quebec Opens: 1985, '86, '87, '88, '94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05.
  • 1 Montreal Open: 1987 (with Mario Carrière).
  • 2 Winter Tournaments (Tournoi d'hiver): 1985, '92.

Observer (12 Tournaments):

  • 7 Quebec Opens: '80, '10, '11, '12, '13, '14, '15.
  • 4 Winter Tournaments: '12, '13, '14, '15.
  • 1 Canadian Open: '12.

Steven’s Other Go-Related Activities

In the years and months that he has been playing go, Steven has made a number of contributions to his "hobby," besides merely playing go and compiling statistics. Have a look below.

Member of the Following Organizations:

  • Association québécoise des joueurs de go (Quebec Go Association), since 1980.
  • Canadian Go Association (CGA), from 1982 to 1992, (on and off since).
  • American Go Association, 1986 to 2003.

Officer in the Following Organizations:

  • Vice-President of the Association québécoise des joueurs de go (AQJG) (Quebec Go Association), 1984-1989, 1992-2012.
  • Board member of the Fédération québécoise des jeux récréatifs, an umbrella organization of leisure-related associations, including go, in Quebec, 1984-1988.
  • Board member of the Canadian Go Association (CGA), 1987-2007.
  • Vice-President of the CGA, 1987-1988.
  • President of the CGA, 1988-1992.

Trips to the Orient:

  • Korea, 1990, as member of the First Canada-Korea Go Friendship Tour.
  • Japan, 1991, as guest official at the 2nd International Pairs Tournament.

Books Edited:

  • Strategic Fundamentals In Go (Yutopian Enterprises, 167pp, 1999, read about it here). Steven was responsible for the editing, layout, and diagrams.

Computer Applications Written:

  • Go Tournaments 1.0 (June, 1999. See the Freeware Applications page at this Web site.)
  • Go Games 1.0 (August, 1999.)

Articles Written:

Below readers will find articles penned by Steven on a variety of go-related topics that appeared down the years in the Canadian Go Gazette, the official organ of the Canadian Go Association which normally appeared quartely and which is no longer in operation; Ranka, the official organ of the World Go Federation, of which Canada was a founding memeber; and a number of various stand-alone articles.
  • Touch and Go, A Rejoinder, an article on when a move should be considered played in a game (Canadian Go Gazette, Winter 1986, pp. 2-3).
  • Annual reports to Ranka Yearbook on go-related activities in Canada, since 1988 (except for 1993).
  • A History of Go in Montreal, (Ranka Yearbook, No. 5, 1989, pp. 76-83).
  • You can view and download the PDF version by clicking here).
  • International Amateur Go Events, (Canadian Go Gazette, Winter 1992, pp. 23-29).
  • New Go Rules, an article on the new rules of the American Go Association, (Canadian Go Gazette, Spring 1992, pp. 6-11).
  • 2nd International Amateur Pair Go Championship, Part I, (Canadian Go Gazette, Spring 1992, pp. 24-30).
  • 2nd International Amateur Pair Go Championship, Part II, (Canadian Go Gazette, Summer 1992, pp. 19-23).
  • Sakata in Montreal, (Canadian Go Gazette, Fall 1992, pp. 10-13).
  • Chronique du jeu de go, an eight-part article on the fundamentals of go (in French), published between April/May (1993) and August/September (1994) in Récréation Québec, a bi-monthly publication of the Fédération québécoise des jeux récréatifs.
  • The International Go Federation and Ranka, (Canadian Go Gazette, Vol. I/II 1995, pp. 23-24).
  • The AQJG is Now Present on the Information Highway, (Canadian Go Gazette, Vol. III 1995/96, p. 10).
  • Guide in How to Apply McMahon Scores in a Swiss-McMahon Tournament, (Canadian Go Gazette, Vol I 1996/97, pp. 19-26). This guide may be viewed and downloaded in its PDF format. You may interested in viewing a summary sheet on making adjustments to the McMahon scores click here to view (To view these documents, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. This software is free and may be obtained from Adobe's Web site by clicking here.)
  • The A B C of Go, a book review (June, 1997, read it here). It may also be read at David Carlton's Go Bibliography Site). (N.B.: At David's site, the front and back covers of the book are not displayed). Biographical information on Walter de Havilland, the author of The A B C of Go, was added in March, 1999.
  • The Origins of Canadian Byo-Yomi, (Canadian Go Gazette, Vol II 1997/98, pp. 8-11, read it here).
  • This article also appeared in the Ranka Yearbook (No. 15, 1999, pp. 88-90) under the title The Origins of Canadian Overtime. You can view and download the PDF version by clicking here.
  • Canada’s First Published Book on Go, (Canadian Go Gazette, Vol II 1998/99, pp.14-20, read it here).
  • How to Use the Chinese Method of Counting in the Game of Go. You can view and download the PDF version by clicking here).
  • How to Organize and Direct a Swiss-McMahon Tournament. You can view/download the PDF version of this document by clicking here. This will direct you to the website of the Canadian Go Association. On the page that will open, which should be entitled Documents, (if not, then on the page that does open, you may have to click on About the CGA/Documents), you will find a section devoted to the articles on go that have been written by Steven Mays. The reason that you are directed to the website of the CGA is because there is not enough room provided by the Internet Service Provider that houses this website on Steven's games.
    (Alternatively, you can also download this article from the website of the AQJG by clicking here). This will open on the page entitled "Les publications sur le go au Québec").
  • Abe Ravinsky: 1927-2012. You can view and download the PDF version by clicking here.
  • And countless reports on various tournament activities and other sundry matters.

After reviewing all this activity, it’s no wonder that some have been overheard saying to Steven “Steven, get a life.”

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