The Saturday before last I convened with my old pal D.P.O’Hurley in my favourite opium den, and there we reinstituted our old ritual of imbibing overpriced beverages whilst talking bollox and throwing small round pieces of plastic onto a checquered board.
I am speaking, of course, of the venerable old Chinese game of Go. For those of you not in the Know about Go, I will elucidate. It is a contest between two sides, viz thems that haveth the black bits and thems that don’teth. They have white. Black’s job is to try to defeat white by means of placing his bits in annoying locations on the square board, which is made up largely of squares and some empty space in between. White must try to do exactly the same, except that his bits are of a different colour. Obviously.
The great thing about Go is that there are no rules. A player may thus place his bits anywhere: on the corner, in the middle, under the table, or deep inside a large soup tureen. Bear in mind, though, that some of these moves may be disadvantageous or illegal.
A game begins with a heated debate over who gets black, since black goes first. After all acrimony regarding the outcome of these delicate negotiations has died down, black slaps down his first bit. There then follows an enormously tedious stretch of alternate bit-putting-down which ends only when it is agreed by consensus that the game can go no further or the cafe closes and forces the warring factions out onto the street.
Much has been written concerning game mechanics, but I will only mention her that the general strategy is to get one’s bits into such a configuration that they are encircling the enemy bits, although it must always be born in mind that just one twattish misplacement can result in the entire edifice upending itself so that the hunter has becomes the hunted, and it is your very own bits that are now ‘in the bag.’
At the tactical level, there are only a few basic moves: the ‘round the back‘ placement, which is very annoying, and has no known antidote; the ‘Western Front Trench Foot Deployment‘, which is only used by idiots and people who think that Go is the same game as Othello; the ‘Flip-Flop‘, which occurs when one player has not been paying much attention to the situation.
Much of this will not make sense to the non-player, I am well aware, but to bring in an analogy, try to imagine a crossword puzzle in which there are no clues and you can put any letter down anywhere. Gibberish ensues, but then suddenly you notice than you can form the word ‘discombobulate‘ across the centre. This is almost completely nothing like a game of Go.
A game of Go usually ends when it is over. There are two recognised ways of judging when this has happened: first, the gentleman’s agreement. Here, the two expert players can tell at a glance that white hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance, usually because he has only three bits left on the board, compared to his opponent’s two hundred and thirty-seven. However, if things appear to be a bit more even, and the bits are all in strange snake-like coils, then another method is utilised. Here the two players harangue each other verbally or beat each other with rolled-up newspapers until one backs down and the other proclaims a dubious victory.
Well, the first game of the season between myself and O’Hurley resulted in the flopping out of a mildly non-victorious endgame in which a personage other than myself might possible have just scraped over the finishing line a tad sooner than me, as it were.
Last Saturday, however, an entirely different stripe of game ensued. Judge for yourself, dear reader, as you peruse the pictograph below. I am playing for the red team, and that terrible countenance bulging into view is none other than O’Hurley himself:
Yes, a clear case of victoryness for my good self, achieved by sheer bravado, three double espressos and a kamikaze attack along the Ypres salient.
Another, and slightly divergent and most certainly heretical, account of this epic battle can be found elsewhere.