Some students at Fair Oaks Elementary School recently participated in an online 10-week long Go tournament against more than 70 teams, where almost all were middle and high schools, as well as some private Chinese schools. The Fair Oaks students participated on four different teams garnering second place in the junior division of the School Cup, only 0.15 points behind first place, as well as individual silver and bronze medals.
The event was called the Ing School Team Tournament, sponsored by the Taiwanese Ing Foundation, the American Go Association and the American Go Honor Society.
All matches — four team rounds plus four individual rounds, for a total of 80 games played by 12 students — were played online. Fair Oaks teacher and Go coach Vincent Eisman said he believed that Fair Oaks was the only public elementary school that participated. Fair Oaks had four teams of three students each from fourth through sixth grades.
“Go is gradually spreading to schools and individuals across the district,” said Eisman. “I am hoping within the next couple years to have an annual district-wide tournament, eventually inviting schools from various parts of the county.”
All four of the Fair Oaks teams (a JV team, two intermediate teams and a novice team) also worked to earn the school a congeniality award, given to teams that show outstanding spirit and etiquette — a very important element of the game. All of the Fair Oaks teams earned between fourth through seventh places in their divisions, with each division having at least 16 teams.
However, where the Fair Oaks students really excelled was in the individual competitions. The JV silver went to fifth grader Lane Trapp; Intermediate silver was won by fifth grader Jacob MacDonald; Intermediate bronze went to sixth grader Alida McKeon; Novice Division 1 silver was earned by fifth grader Emma Boggs; Novice Division 2 silver was won by fourth grader Madison Marler; and the Novice Division 2 bronze went to fourth grader Megan Swarthout.
“I’m really proud of these students,” Eisman said. “They fought hard, often against significant odds as when they played higher level players without sufficient handicaps.”
He noted that most of the games were evenly matched, but a number of matches had the Fair Oaks students playing opponents at a higher level of play. But the kids encouraged one another the whole way.
“Under normal circumstances playing this game is a nerve-racking experience, as it is a match of two minds working to outdo one another,” Eisman explained. “When you place a fourth grader against a high school kid who is at a higher level, it becomes a David versus Goliath situation. After fourth grader Megan Swarthout played an opponent more than 10 stones (levels) stronger than her in the first round, losing by only 15 points, I thought I’d give her the ‘fighting spirit award.’ But then it turned out that throughout the tournament our kids would regularly have to face their monster opponents. Through it all they held their own.”
Two of the Fair Oaks students have also been personally invited by the American Go Honor Society to serve as “externs” (interns through e-correspondence) for future tournaments and online events.
Eisman said he hopes that this summer some Oakdale kids will be able to attend the American Go Association’s Go Camp West. This year it is being held at UOP in Stockton. The AGA specifically chose to hold the camp at UOP this year to make it accessible to the many Oakdale kids who play Go.
“Such an event would equip these kids with the training and strength to increase the overall effectiveness of our club to teach others,” Eisman said. “Something I look forward to, as I am often overwhelmed by the number of beginners I have. The camp will have professional Chinese and Japanese teachers and I will be camp director.”
Also of note, Eisman has been made into a comic character in a strip for a children’s Go site called Tiger’s Mouth. He plays as “Iceman” when he plays Go online and so that name was used for the teacher in the comic strip, who also is made in Eisman’s likeness.