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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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vCity 1.0
Chapter 30

"Go is to Western Chess what philosophy is to double-entry accounting."

-- Trevanian --


I had no idea that Go was such a popular game, not just in Japan or even the PacRim, but worldwide. A quick check on the Web revealed several different sites and societies set up to discuss tournament schedules, strategies of the game, books on personalities, philosophies, etcetera. One can find an opponent at any level and play right over the Internet. There are computer programs with which one can play solitaire Go.

It is an ancient game that, according to different sources, either originated in China and made its way to Japan, or originated in Japan. It reminds me of the vCity itself: five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master. The game is simplicity: stones of black and white are placed alternatively on a board that looks like a big piece of graph paper with 19x19 grid. The object is to surround opponent's stones, thereby capturing them; or, to surround territory on the board and then consolidate that space against capture.

The Japanese seem to have refined Go to a high level of art. I see that there have been games in which grandmasters have resigned simply because they did not like the "flavor" of the way the game was progressing, even though they stood a decent chance of ultimately winning. There is something admirable -- if incomprehensible to the Western mind -- about conceding the game because it will not be beautiful.

The game of Go appeals to those who think strategically. I haven't tried a game, but it looks ultimately more exhausting than chess. With Go there does not seem to be any sense of progress at all, even though I have read much about beginning, middle, and end-games. It's not linear at all. A move that appears to be irrelevant turns out to be brilliant much later; what appears to be brilliant turns out to be irrelevant.

When you understand the game, said the Chairman, you will understand the move.

Okay, I think I'm beginning to see something. First of all, it is clear that the Chairman believes that he is the grandmaster and that I am a stone to be placed on the board. That is his mistake; he isn't looking at a big enough board. On the really big board, I am the grandmaster, and he is the stone. But never mind that.

So in this little piece of reality, I am a stone. But why have I been placed out in the middle of nowhere? Am I part of some grand scheme to capture territory? To surround an opponent? Or am I bait, to lure opponents into some response that will later prove to be their undoing? I don't know. I hope he knows what he's doing, and that this is one of those irrelevant moves that will later turn out to be brilliant.

I feel a grim sense of determination strike me. Play around with my life, will you? We'll see. I'm in a new game with new rules now, and I don't intend to be a stone for very long.

Or, is that part of his plan? Hmmm.

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