History of Go in New Zealand

 The first record of people playing go in New Zealand is a series of articles published in a Dunedin Newspaper in 1902. Some chess players discovered Korschelt's book, translated it, made their own go equipment using marbles and boards with depressions, and taught themselves to play. the articles in the nespaper ran for more than a year but after that no record exists. Alas they had no lasting influence on the game here.

In the 60's and 70's there were groups of people playing among themselves. A club met at the University of Auckland from 1965 to 1968 and they arranged for the manufacture (and sale in shops) of go sets with square coloured stones. It required the arrival of Rob Talbot from England to bring a significant number of people together and to form the Auckland Go Society in 1975. the Auckland Go Society organised tournaments and arranged for the importation of plastic stones from Japan. There were two clubs in Auckland at this time.

A club was formed in Wellington in 1976 and a group of professional players led by Haruhiko Shirae visited the country. At the New Zealand Go Congress held in August that year it was decided to rename the Society to the New Zealand Go Society to include groups from the whole country.

The Otago University Go Club formed in 1977 with a small group of dedicated players. The second New Zealand Go Congress was held in Wellington. The first secondary schools go congress was also held in that year with 3 Auckland schools and one from Hamilton participating.

In 1978 the Dunedin Go Club formed with 10 regular players. A club was formed in Palmerston North and a match was played against the Wellington Go Club. A club was formed in Christchurch. The New Zealand Go Society adopted the Chinese rules of Go.

In 1979 New Zealand was represented at the first World Amateur Go Championships in Tokyo. Our representative, Graeme Parmenter, was a bit outclassed losing his first game in the knockout tournament. The first moves towards a national rating system were taking with the announcement of Ray Tomes' handicapping system. The first Go Fest was held in Christchurch. A Go Fest is a much less structured gathering of go players than a tournament.

In 1980 Graeme Parmenter was the first New Zealand Go Player to be promoted to 4 dan. No promotions have since been made to any higher rank.

In 5 years the New Zealand Go Society developed from a few isolated kyu strength go players to an organisation with 5 clubs, a regular supply of stones and books from Japan. The strongest New Zealand rank increased 1 stone per year during that time. The New Zealand Go Congress circulated around the country with strong attendance from outside the host city. This was an exciting time to be involved in a growing game.

Early Go in Otago (Written in August 1990)


The first regular go column ever to appear in a newspaper, anywhere in the world, was published in the Otago Witness, from February 1902 until March 1903! This startling discovery was made recently by Stephen Cardno, when he approached the Dunedin Public Library for information on go. The go column was a translation of the articles by O. Korschelt, published originally in a German magazine. The Otago Witness appeared every week, and beginning on February 5, 1902, a column on go was published alongside chess and draughts columns. The articles were initially translated by Mr John Mouat, chess editor of the Otago Witness, but the task seems to have been taken over by two players in the local chess club, Messers O. Balk and D. Forsyth. Of course, we can't verify that this was the earliest regular newspaper go column, but it is not an unreasonable claim, given that Japanese go was not a widely popular game at this time, and so may not have appeared in regular columns for readers. We make the claim inviting contradiction, and until a counter-example is produced, a New Zealand newspaper has the distinction of being the first in the world to run a regular go column.

Arthur Smith published a book in 1908 called 'The Game of Go', in which he states of Korschelt's articles on go "his work has not been translated". As we have shown, Mr Smith's statement was six years out of date, and we are pleased to be able to set the record straight. When Samuel King and George Leckie published their English translation of Korschelt in 1963 (The Theory and Practice of Go), they also appear to have been unaware that they had been preceded 60 years earlier by some games enthusiasts in the South Pacific!

It is not surprising that these later translators of Korschelt should have been unware of the Otago Witness go columns. Dunedin in 1902, although the centre of New Zealand commerce, was barely 50 years old as a city and only 40 years past the begining of the gold rush which gave it the wealth to raise a Victorian city in solid stone, the rival any in the Empire. It shows the innate appeal of the game that it should have made an appearance in the newpaper of a town which only a generation earlier could reasonably have been called a Gold-Rush town.

In one column the editor advises readers how they may construct a set, and suggests the use of marbles on a board which has depressions at each intersection to prevent the marbles from migrating! Perhaps somewhere in Dunedin, in a dusty attic, lies the earliest New Zealand Go set. Given the puns modern go players in New Zealand are subject to, imagine what these pioneers must have suffered. "Hey Forsyth! Any of you go players lost your marbles?!".