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When I first...

When I first started to learn the Game of Go there was very little available in the English language about the game. A book that was in print at that time was Dr. Edward Lasker's "Modern Chess Strategy with an appendix on Go." I immediately bought the book and this provided me with a beginning. Later, in the early 1950's, as I became involved in the New York City Go World I met Lasker, who was one of the stronger players in the area.

Lasker had first learned Go back about 1907 when he was an engineering student in Berlin. His parents had wanted him to study medicine, but he opted for engineering as that provided him the opportunity to study in Berlin. His real interest at that time was Chess and Berlin provided the opportunity to study and improve his game.

He first became interested in the game by watching Japanese students play the game and, as he wrote; "with astounding perseverance and passion." He used to visit a cafe to play chess and one evening there was a Japanese who left his newspaper. Lasker and his friends, by looking at the kifu (game record - editor) in the paper began to appreciate the complexity of the game and this started his study of the game.

After graduation Lasker worked in England until the time of World War I and then came to the United States. Lasker was a world class chess player and was quite active in tournaments during the 1920's. Samples of his games can be found in various books about chess activity of the time. I believe, though not sure, that he taught the game to a cousin of his, Emanuel Lasker, who at one time was the World Chess Champion. In any case Emanuel Lasker became very interested in the game and developed into a fairly strong player.

Edward Lasker wrote a book, "Go and Go Moku," first published in 1934. This book was of much interest as it included a famous game between Junichi Karigane and Honinbo Shusai. that was played in 1926.

Lasker and Albert Einstein were friends. One time Lasker visited Einstein in Princeton and presented him with an autographed copy of "Go and Gomoku." In exchange Einstein gave Lasker an autographed copy of one of his papers on relativity. Several years later the autographed copy of "Go and Gomoku" showed up in a Baltimore used bookstore. Someone told Lasker about this and asked what he thought it about. Lasker, said: "That all right. I left his relativity paper on the subway."

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Robert A. McCallister

The author Robert A. McCallister can be reached at: mailto:robertmc@ntelos.net

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