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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Go Play: Play Go

For MT
The game is believed to be 3,000 to 4,000 years old. Its ardent fans in Moscow say, however, that it couldn't be more contemporary.

"I am a businessman, and Go helps me a lot in my job," said Vadim Filippov, a young man with long brown hair tied in a ponytail.

Filippov said the principles that guide the game -- "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket," "Don't burn your bridges behind you" and "Don't force your way through an open door" -- also work in many real-life situations.

"Go improves your vision of the world as a whole," said designer Oleg Popov. "And it is also filled with self-discovery because it shows your inability to concentrate and lack of self-confidence."

The two are members of Kitai-Gorod, one of several clubs where Moscow residents meet regularly to play the ancient Chinese board game of Go. The rules for the two-player game can be learned in minutes: Players take turns placing black and white stones on the intersections of a large grid and then try to capture the opponent's stones by surrounding them. The objective is to control more territory than your opponent by preventing your stones from being captured.

While understanding the rules is easy, it can take a lifetime to fully comprehend Go, said Marina Kolesnikova, an official with the Russian Go Federation. She said serious Western players should live a few years in China, Japan or South Korea to compete at the same level as Eastern players.

"It is a normal thing in Eastern countries to send children to special Go schools instead of kindergartens," she said, adding that she believed Go skills could not only help a person's career but also prevent Alzheimer's disease.

While millions of people regularly play Go in Asia, only several thousand people play in Russia, she said.

Go comes from the Japanese name for the game, igo, which means "surrounding board game."

The charm of the game is that even a bebeginner can play against a skilled player in a match that is interesting for both.

Grigory Tambulov / For MT
Kitai-Gorod Club is one of several where Muscovites meet regularly to play Go.
Viktor Kabanov, a physicist, shows up every Wednesday at the Kitai-Gorod club to play and converse with other fans of the game. He said he became interested in Go 30 years ago after reading an article about the game in a technical journal. "I made a board and found some black and white buttons as my stones, but there was no one I could play with," Kabanov said.

At the club, Go boards and stones are available for rent. It and a handful of other Go clubs in Moscow rent and sell sets.

The shortest possible game lasts 30 minutes, but Kitai-Gorod members often play for several hours. Some 20 to 30 players can be found poring over the Go boards Wednesdays on Luchnikov Pereulok. The players' enthusiasm is infectious.

"I was fascinated by the game," said Markus Krupp, a manager with an international company, who has been playing Go for about a month after learning about it and Kitai-Gorod on the Internet.

"It is about tactics, about war, about balance and many other different things," Krupp said. "When I play, I forget the world around me."

Alexander Bitman holds the Russian title of Master of Sports in chess but said he preferred Go. "It is a strategic game like chess, but the two games are as far apart as the West and the East," he said. "They are different in spirit and mentality, and they even taste different, if it is possible to say it this way.

"The purpose of Go is not to destroy the enemy but to create a territory. Intuition and imagination play a huge role here, so if a computer is capable of beating the best chess players, it cannot win against Go players."

Where to Play

Kitai-Gorod Club, 4 Luchnikov Pereulok, M. Kitai-Gorod, Wed., 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Contact Viktor Kabanov, 926-208-0501.

Tea Floor 108 Club, 19 Bolshaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa, 2nd floor near Gelikon-Caffe. M. Biblioteka imeni Lenina or Tverskaya, 2 p.m. to midnight daily. Contact Viktor Yenin, 903-010-8030

The Tea Culture Club in Hermitage Garden, 3 Karetny Ryad, bldg. 7, daily from 10 a.m. to midnight. 650-2458.