I used to send out what I called “Baby Reports” but that no longer serves the bill- he’s 11 for starters. None the less, I need to say something to someone about yesterday afternoon, because it made me so proud and happy with, of and for our son, Benjamin.
He spent the weekend home sick with a cold, major bummer, and so we were playing board games in the later afternoon on Sunday. I arrived during a spirited game of Aggrivation with Jean, then the three of us played the triangle-piece version of Blockus- YIKES, that’s a tough one! Even more fun than the square-piece original, a really terrific game in my opinion. Lets just say Benjamin won both games. Jean took a break to read, and Benjamin asked for a game of Go.
I had shown Benjamin the rudiments of Go, a favorite of mine and something I do better at than chess, some years ago. I went to Go in part because he could play me to a stalemate in chess, and I was neglecting my fatherly duty by not learning more Chess so I could teach him to beat me outright… or vice versa. :^) Anyway, he knew how to place the stones and make eyes and how to begin and end a game, so I was delighted when he wanted to play… but I had no idea how delighted I’d be!
So we start, he takes black (plays first) and a handycap of 1 stone, and as we play he very carefully constructs a “two eye” structure, something immune from attack. The two, separate, open spaces mean the block can always ‘breathe’, even if it was surrounded on all sides AND I’d put one of my stones into one of the openings… So I’m sketching out one whole side of the board and he’s carefully building something I can’t capture, and then makes a nice wall from that out to both sides so he’s got both of his corners and the side closest to him. His play is quite deliberate and, while not what I would have done, is effective and reasonable. And we’re having this great conversation about the game and how it plays and the costs and benefits of various moves. Suddenly I notice he’s holding the stones at the tip of is first and middle finger- the ‘real’ way you’re supposed to do it. Something I don’t do that much with the tiny stones in the small set I have.
So I ask, has he been playing at school? No, he’d read a Manga (Japanese-style comic book/graphic book) *ABOUT* Go, and it connected with what he already knew. He was making a great show of being a gentleman, and when we discussed his capturing a group of my stones, if I was so incautious as to put them at risk, he said, “Your stones will be well treated, but will likely count against you at the end of game”, or words to that effect- very elaborately polite. And some distance from, “I’m going to crush you!”, (or words to that effect) that he sometimes observes in playing other games.
So we finish the game and count up and although I’ve won, he congradulates me and tells me what an honor it is for him to play someone of my skill…
I have to tell you, I couldn’t be prouder of him- here’s this boy that I love, who’s gone off and read up on something and has brought that back to try out on his dad….It hardly gets better than that! Benjamin is so polite, so well versed in the essentials of what we’re doing, and genuinely enjoying his skill. He’s learned stuff I haven’t taught him, and though I have an edge, he’ll figure out how and why and give me a run for my money soon.
And soon comes next- he asks for another game, and given the mismatch of our previous scores: 41-101 I believe, I offer a handycap of 6 stones, which he takes. Another delightful game insues, in which he applies some of the sketching-out style of play that is typical of the early phase of a go game, rather than going straight to methodical building of solid structures. He’s visibly learning.
The point of the handycap is to allow the game to be competitive- either player should be able to win, and so it proves- I won again, but the score was 40-49 and we can either give him another stone, and he’ll likely beat me, or he can flourish at 6 and beat me eventually. His call.
This was so completely delightful that we went up and interupted Jean’s reading so he could tell her what we’d done. I was so proud of him!
Many happy returns of this day, Benjamin, and without cold symptoms too!