The American Go Foundation Newsletter
Vol. 1 Number 1 Fall 2008

Reach And Teach!

Welcome to the first issue of Sensei , a newsletter for Go teachers. There are at least 150 active programs out there, and dozens more started this fall. We want to help you “reach and teach”: to introduce Go to more students in your community and to help those who want to become stronger. We'll bring you the latest news about equipment, materials, programs and other resources. We want to help you get to know each other, too -- to share ideas and experiences. In fact, we hope most of our content will come from you. Please write to with your best program idea, the coolest thing that happened in your program, or anything else that might be of interest to other teachers like you.

The AGF Lesson Plan Cooperative

To link Go to core curriculum elements, nothing beats a well-organized lesson plan. The AGF has established a Lesson Plan Cooperative to help teachers share their best and most effective ideas. You'll find ideas, links to useful sites and even detailed lesson plans that connect Go to core curriculum areas. Join the community effort. Send us your best plans and we'll include them too!

The One Laptop Per Child Project

What would our world look like if every child in it could have their own computer? MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte and his colleagues plan to find out with the One Laptop Per Child project, whose lofty goal is nothing less than putting a rugged, inexpensive, software-packed, Internet-enabled computer in the hands of every child. Built-in software is limited, but over a hundred programs have been written for them, and one of the first things children learn to do is how to download new applications. Thanks to the hard work of a team in Uruguay, children world-wide can now download the "PlayGo" program, which enables two children to play with each other from within wireless or internet range, and plays well enough to beat any beginner . AGF Vice President Paul Barchilon has been working with the software developers to improve the program. OLPC's mission is to provide a means for learning, self-expression, and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education. Children are by nature eager for knowledge, but many countries have insufficient resources to devote to education—sometimes less than $20 per year per child (compared to an average of $7,500 in the United States). By giving children their very own connected XO laptop, OLPC is giving them a window to the outside world, access to vast amounts of information, a way to connect with each other, and a springboard into their future. And they are also helping these countries develop an essential resource—educated, empowered children. The XO computer is available on through a “Give-One-Get-One” program – when you buy one, OLPC also gives one to a needy child in a developing country. Check out for more info. An XO laptop could just be the perfect Christmas gift for your child -- and another child somewhere in the developing world, whose life will change forever.

New Go Puzzles For Beginners

We are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and materials, and we'll tell you here about the best of what we find. We will also maintain and continually update the AGA's Teaching Pages . What's your favorite website, curriculum, resource or idea that we've overlooked? Let us know and we'll put it up. Meanwhile, we want you to know that now you can download about 200 Go Puzzles for the absolute beginner, thanks to Paul Smith and the British Go Association. Smith developed the puzzles for the BGA, and recently agreed to let the AGA publish them online for the first time. They seem so simple that there is no answer sheet; but if you think there should be one, let us know, and if you have questions please write to

Make Your Own Demo Board

While we're on the subject of equipment, we want to mention, for those who may have missed the EJ article, that 2008 AGF Teacher of the Year Vincent Eisman offers clear instructions showing how to build your own demo board , using commonly available household and office products. Recently, Eisman's school had a safari-themed book fair, and his class decided to decorate their door in a way that connects the theme, reading and Go; here is the result. To read more about the “Safari Door” click here . The AGF is also working on a source for inexpensive demo boards, which may be available in the spring.

Wonder Go

Seattle-based WonderChess has added a prize-filled version of Go to their product line. In WonderGo , when a stone is captured, the player removes the hollow stone from the board, opens it, and claims a prize inside. Candies, stickers, or small toys provide immediate gratification. Children as young as four can successfully be taught both “First Capture” and Go with the new system. "We introduced WonderGo to provide a compelling and unique Go teaching set for young children," explains CEO Michel Alvarez. "We also wanted to provide a pathway for this classic game from Asia to capture the imagination of children in this country." WonderGo can be found in our new online store; matching funds for qualified programs can help them purchase the set. WonderGo was chosen as Creative Child Magazine's Top Children's Board Game in 2007, and one of Dr. Toy's Best Products 2007. It was also selected as a "Top 10 Board Game" by the NY Times' in 2007. -- Excerpted from The American Go E-Journal, 11/3/08.

Go Book Fair?

Many teachers organize book fairs, in which students order from a catalog and the teacher places a bulk order. Have you considered organizing a Go book fair for your class or program? AGF-approved programs automatically qualify for a 15% discount from most vendors, and depending on the size of the order, you may be able to negotiate a larger markdown, especially on books from their original publishers. Students can shop online and give you their orders; you compile them into a master list, contact vendors for your discount, and place the order. The discount also applies to equipment.

A New Cyber-Sparring Partner

Beginning players often enjoy and benefit from sparring with go-playing software. It's the ideal opponent – always available; doesn't gloat or sulk; and frankly, not very strong., Free downloads have been available for years, such as the GnuGo project and free small board versions of commercial programs like Handtalk . IgoWin's auto-handicapping system estimates the user's strength, making it easy to see progress. Leela Lite , a relative newcomer that “combines recent advances in Go programming and further original research into a small, easy to use graphical interface”, is also available now. Do your students use any of these programs? Or would they be interested in checking them out? We'd be interested in their impressions.

Coming soon: AGA Starter CD 5.0

A newly revised and greatly expanded version of the "AGA Starter CD" is in production and will be available early next year. The AGF produced and distributed Starter CDs for years as a standard part of the Starter Set, offering beginners many resources from the AGA website in an easily accessible form. Why bother? It turns out that some children, and even some adults, have limited or no access to the Internet, or they have a dial-up connection that makes downloading painfully slow. Starter CD 5.0 contains hundreds of files, more than 300 MB of them -- videos, reading material, commented game records, famous games, software and more, mostly things you won't find anywhere else. Even if you've spent time exploring the vast AGA site, we're sure you'll find something you've never seen before. Teachers are free to make copies for students, and many do. Pre-order your copy today.

Annual Program Survey

As you probably know (most of you were invited to participate), we recently conducted our second annual survey of active teachings programs. This year, we also invited those of you whose programs are inactive to share your experiences, and about a dozen of you did so. Perhaps the most striking result is that 72 active Go teachers responded, exactly twice as many responses as we received last year. Average enrollment per program is down a bit, but nonetheless, at least 900 students will learn Go this year through your efforts. Last year, there was a clear consensus that the Classroom Starter Set should include some full sized equipment. We responded by replacing three of the six 13x13 vinyl boards with 19x19 boards (13x13 on the reverse), and you seem to appreciate that. Last year, there were slightly more programs in middle and high schools; this year the distribution is more even, showing that more elementary school students are learning. Many of you offered specific comments, and we are reading them carefully to see what we can do to help you more. Keep that feedback coming in; just write to any time with a question, comment, concern, or offer of help.

AGF Launches Teacher Store

Go programs now have easier access to the materials they need than ever before, thanks to the AGF's new Teacher Store , which opened in October. We do not sell to the general public because we value the contribution of commercial American Go vendors, and we don't want to compete with them. We want to help teachers like you get the equipment you need to teach your students. We offer equipment in all sizes as well as other resources; it's one-stop shopping for Go teachers! At least that's the goal; if you need something that isn't there, let us know at, and we'll try to do something about it.

Your Story Here . . .

We hope you enjoyed the first issue of Sensei . We also hope that you will send us your stories, ideas and comments. They will help us make the next issue even better.

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Managing Editor: Roy Laird
Associate Editors: Paul Barchilon, Terry Benson

Text material published in Sensei may be freely reproduced, as long as you credit " Sensei : The American Go Foundation Newsletter" as the source and hotlink to the AGF home page if possible. Articles appearing in Sensei represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the American Go Foundation.