Fair Oaks Elementary School Go Club (FOGO) students recently won the Junior School Cup in an online national (plus Canada) school team ‘Go’ tournament and had its youngest players ever, two third graders, and the most girls ever, half of the players. They also set a new record for the most points earned in the Junior Division.
Go is a 3,000-year-old game that is wildly popular in Asia that focuses on strategy and thinking ahead. Go is played on an empty grid where two players take turns placing black and white stones on the intersections, surrounding territory. The further into the game one goes, the greater the complexity of play.
The Fair Oaks contingent has competed in the online national school team Go tournament now for three years in a row. Additionally, the team, led by Fair Oaks teacher and Go Club advisor Vincent Eisman, earned enough points to place fourth in the school sweepstakes. There were more than 90 teams competing in the tournament.
Last year the FOGO team took second place by less than one point.
“We beat Cary Chinese School by more than five points this time – they beat us by just hundredths of a point last year,” Eisman said.
There were also Oakdale High School students who competed in the tournament, placing fifth place in the intermediate division.
The students competed against elementary, middle, and high school age opponents.
“Incredible work for these third through sixth graders, and the OHS team, to accomplish so much in a continental tournament across five times zones – we must include Nova Scotia – with such busy schedules,” Eisman said. “I’m proud of all of them, not only for what they’ve accomplished, but for who they are. ‘Go’ is a game of considerable concentration, with mind set against mind. Under tournament conditions placing the first stone is nerve-wracking. How much more must that be the case for a third grader challenging a high schooler? I’m impressed with these young people.”
The Fair Oaks students who comprised the Junior Cup Championship team were: Emma Boggs, Marisa Bruner, Sophie Eisman, Peter Hamilton, Savannah Hinkel, Aahil Hussain, Nahek Hussain, Casey Juliussen, Ashlyn Marler, Madison Marler, Natalia Loosli, Zarin Loosli, Megan Swarthout, Isaac Salas, Nick Toledo, and Lane Trapp.
“The game contributes to the development of mathematics skills, character development, and mental rigor,” Eisman said in a prior interview with The Leader. “It contributes to character development because the game has an inherent etiquette code. Based on the traditional Japanese values of courtesy and respect, this code promotes respect for seniors and elders, expression of friendship before and after game play, and correct posture…
“Players always end their play by thanking each other for the game, usually initiated by the loser. It is funny, but the kids often take on a different personality when playing the game. Whereas you often hear accusations of cheating or expressions of disappointment when playing other games, when they play Go they’re very supportive and tolerant of one another,” he said.
Of note, Eisman was named the American Go Foundation’s 2008 Teacher Of The Year.
He started the Go program at Fair Oaks in 2005 and made his own game boards out of plywood. He later received a grant from the Oakdale Educational Foundation to further the Go project in his class. From there, the game’s popularity spread rapidly across campus and his students began to bring their friends in at recess and lunch to play the game.