History of Go in Canada

A BRIEF HISTORY OF GO IN CANADA by Pat Thompson (12/21/79)


The Game of Go came to Canada quite informally, one might almost say by a process of osmosis from several sources.


One source was probably the Japanese immigrants of a hundred years ago coming both from Japan and from California to our western coast. Simultaneously in 1881 a German named Korschelt, who had visited Japan, wrote an excellent German text on Go that became widely known and available; then in the early nineteen hundreds, Japanese students at Heidelberg and other German universities were teaching it to the European students, one of whom, an engineer named Edward Lasker, later came to America and strongly publicized the game both in Canada and in the U.S.A. Go playing in the States started in 1911.


By 1934 the American Go Association had been formed, with particular strength in the New York and New Jersey areas; by 1949 it had progressed to the issuing of an excellent Go Journal that appeared quarterly and circulated both in the States and in Canada. At the same time on the west coast, Dr. Walter Marseille of San Francisco was a well known promoter of Go.


In Canada in 1929 a small Chinese group was noticed to be playing at the Y in Montreal, but whence they carne or whither they went is not known.


Between 1935 and ‘38 Go was introduced at McGill Univ. by Harry Schwartz, who subsequently in 1948 founded the Montreal Go Club.


Quite late in the thirties John Williams, then living in Hamilton, encountered the game and made a trip to New York to make Lasker’s acquaintance. Lasker was by now writing books on Chess as his profession and playing Go for his recreation. During the next fifteen years most of the active players in the New York area were met by and a number visited by Williams and a few reciprocated with visits to the Williams’ home in Hamilton. Very highly regarded among the friends then made, were Karl Davis Robertson, Lester Morris and his wife Elizabeth Morris who was the perennial secretary of the A.G.A. All, unfortunately, are now deceased.


In 1952, Mr. Tadashi Adachi the President of Nihon Ki-in, who was also Finance Minister in the Japanese Cabinet arranged a most friendly visit in New York with the officers of the American Go Association. Periodically thereafter the Ki-in sent Go professionals on visits to the A.G.A. and after 1960 a number of these visits were also extended to Canada. Among other visitors, were Miss Tatsuko Masubuchi who came in 1953; while in ‘61 came the talented trio Sachiko Honda, Teruko Honda and Reiko Kltani (now Kobayashi). The following year came Miss Toshiko 0yama and Miss Kayoko 0zaki (now Hasegawa) who paid three visits to Toronto, which led to a visit to Tokyo by Mr. & Mrs. Williams the following year.


About two years later Toronto had the pleasure of a week’s visit by Mr. Ryuji Iyeda of Osaka, the secretary of Kansai Ki-in, the West Japan Professional Go Players Association and periodically other Japanese came as well.


Earlier, Williams had been moved abroad first in 1953 to St. Paul, Minn, where he found some men in the Math’s Dept. of the University of Minnesota trying to computerize the game, then to Hamburg, Germany, where he and Mrs. Williams maintained their Go contacts by playing at the Japanese Consulate. It is interesting to note that one summer in the mid ‘60’s while active in London, England, Williams frequently joined John Barrs, who, with half a dozen students was getting the London Go Club started. By 1969 it had grown into the British Go Association with fifteen member clubs. A most amazing growth!


In ‘59 the Williams returned to Canada, moving to Toronto where they found kindred souls, nearly all Japanese, playing mostly Shogi but some Go, at the Japanese Buddhist Church on Bathurst St. Soon there was an English language group regularly playing at the Williams’ home and then the group, by now called the Toronto Go Club, moved to the Toronto Central Y.


A few years later, after the Japanese Cultural Centre on Wynford Drive had been built, the Club moved and played there for a number of years but returned eventually to the Y.


Late in the ‘60’s, Dr. Yoshie Tsuchiya got the Ottawa Go Club started. Thru Tsuchiya’s access to certain facilities, a potential existed to exchange information far more easily between the clubs across Canada; this could make it easier to get the much desired uniform grading of player's strengths among the various clubs and also make more practical the spreading of knowledge of what clubs were playing and where and how to keep in touch with each other.


To realize this potential, in 1970, the three men Tsuchiya, Schwartz and Williams founded the Canadian Go Association, an unincorporated body, which they built into a loose Federation of all clubs across Canada, and periodically published and circulated to clubs both in and outside of Canada, information about each Canadian club and about each club’s stronger members.


Cross-border visits both ways with the States were now becoming common and the culmination was in Nov. ‘76 when a ten man American team including some of the States’ strongest players played in a Toronto tournament. Their presence and friendly encouragement were most effective.


Toronto’s mid winter Tournament was gradually becoming more important until finally in Dec. 1978, now under the auspices of the Canadian Go Association, players were attracted to it from Vancouver, Montreal, New York City and points between. For the first time, play was for two titles, the Canadian Closed Championship and the Canadian Open Championship, the winner of the former being selected to represent Canada at the First World Amateur Championship which was held in Tokyo the following spring.


During the year 1979 in Oct., play for the same two titles took place in Calgary; next year, Montreal will be the host.


The offices of the Canadian Go Association were moved to Edmonton, the home town of its current president and prompted in part because the Nihon Ki-in has organized and run in such a splendid style the First World Amateur Go Championship and is well on its way with the running of the Second, the C.G.A. decided to incorporate federally so that it will be better able to speak and to act for Canadian Go players to the world and, when the time becomes appropriate, be in a position to make a Canadian contribution to world wide Go activities.


Notable changes since:

- Got a website for the Canadian Go Association: canadiango.org

- Canadian Go Membership is free.

- American Go Association partnered up with the Canadian Go Association and created a professional system that includes some Canadians. They are not salaried, but make for some entertaining NA vs EU matches.

- Canadian Go Association is incorporated as of the 2010's.