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From My Go Career (2)
By Dr. Edward Lasker
(Go review 1961, N° 9)


Mr. Kitabatake one day told us that a Japanese mathematician was going to pass through Berlin on his way to London, and if we wanted to we could play a game with him at the Japanese Club. Dr. Lasker asked him whether he and I could perhaps play a game with him in consultation, and was wondering whether the master – he was a shodan – would give us a handicap. “Well, of course,” said Mr. Kitabatake.
“How many stones do you think he would give us”? asked Lasker.
“Nine stones, naturally,” replied Mr. Kitabatake.
“Impossible!” said Lasker. “There isn’t a man in the world who can give me nine stones. I have studied the game for a year, and I know I understood what they were doing.”
Mr. Kitabatake only smiled.
“You will see,” he said.

The great day came when we were invited to the Japanese Club and met the master – I remember to this day how impressed I was by his technique – he actually spotted us nine stones, and we consulted on every move, playing very carefully. We were a little disconcerted by the speed with which the master responded to our deepest combinations. He never took more than a fraction of second. We were beaten so badly at the end, that Emanuel Lasker was quite heartbroken. On the way home he told me we must go to Japan and play with the masters there, then we would quickly improve and be able to play them on even terms. I doubted that very strongly, but I agreed that I was going to try to find a way to make the trip.
Early in 1911, I graduated and obtained a position with the Allgemeine Elektrizitaets Gesellschaft in Berlin. Every once in a while Emanuel Lasker asked me “What about our trip to Japan”. Well, after I had been with the Electric Company about a year, I said to my boss: 
“Look, Mr. Zaudy, there are 41 engineers in this department. I am not conceited enough to think that I am better than any one of them. But I don’t see any reason why I should not have a fair chance for advancement. Won’t you help me to be transferred to the company’s foreign department – to Tokyo, for example?”. After a lengthy argument the boss agreed to speak to the chief of the Foreign Division of the A. E. G. However he came back to tell me that the company employed in that division only English people, or Germans who could speak English fluently, because that was the commercial language of the world. I did not know a word of English, and so I should forget about my idea.
I was not so easily discouraged. I said “ Why nor send me to your London Office then? I will study English very intensively there and you won’t have to pay me until you feel that I know the language well enough to get along.” After a few months they actually accepted my proposition and in September 1912, I left Germany to live in London. I learned English and hoped for the time when I could ask to be transferred to Tokyo. But in 1914 the world War broke out, and all my plans came to naught. As a German citizen I became a civilian prisoner of war, and I owe it to a lucky coincidence that I did not have to spend five years in a concentration camp. I had won the London chess championship in May 1914, and it happened that the secretary of Sir Haldane Porter, who was in charge of all “Aliens Affairs”, was a chess fan. Through his intervention I obtained the permission to go to America.
In New York I met two men who knew the game of Go. One was Mr. Karl Davis Robinson, and the other Mr. Lee Foster Hartman, the editor of Harper’s Magazine. But when I went to live in Chicago and did not return to New York until 1925, where we formed a little Go Club with Mr. Robinson, Mr Hartmann and a few others who we had interested in the game. Some German players who had immigrated here after the war also joined, and gradually we developed into quite a lively group of Go enthusiasts. We met once a week at Lee Chumley’s, a well known restaurant in Greenwich Village. In 1934 I wrote an elementary book on Go which Alfred Knopf’s publishing house brought out, and many new addicts were brought into our circle through the book. At Princeton University I played a good deal with the mathematicians – Go seemed to appeal to the mathematical mind particularly – and today one of America’s strongest player is Dr. Fox, professor of mathematics at Princeton university. Other mathematicians who went from Princeton to various American universities kept up the game and made new friends for the game. Today the American Go Association has the names of four or five hundred players dispersed throughout the country, and every year I receive new inquires from people who want to know where they can obtain Go sets and books on the game in English.
I owe the acquaintance of a number of outstanding Japanese to the fact that I wrote a book on Go. In the thirties Dr. Ichiro Hatoyama, then Minister of Education, visited New York and gave me the pleasure of a game, and a few years ago I had the honor of receiving at my house Mr. Juichi Tsushima, who brought with him several other prominent Japanese visitors. He later came to visit our Go club and kindly offered to have the Nippon Kiin issue master certificates to the strongest players among us.
Interest in the game was further greatly stimulated by visits by master Fukuda and the charming Tatsuko Masubuchi who showed us that even lady players of rank can give the best of us five and even six stone handicaps.
I believe that we American players will improve much now that we have the unique opportunity of meeting Japanese players of master strength regularly at the recently inaugurated New York Branch of the Nippon Kiin. Of very great help to our students would also be English columns and books. A friend of mine, to whom I gave nine stones only a few years ago after teaching him the game, Mr. Morris Cohon, had a book of former Honinbo translated for himself, and he now plays well enough to beat me as often as I beat him, certainly a tremendous improvement relatively, though I am not sure whether it means much in absolute terms. Yes, Go is a difficult game.

Dernière mise à jour le 15/09/05

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