The much anticipated world wide release of THE SURROUNDING GAME is tomorrow, Febuary 15, 2018.
“The rules of Go are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they almost certainly play Go.”
– Edward Lasker, Chess Grandmaster
(This is from the website [https://www.surroundinggamemovie.com/] and as most Chess players know, is a mistake. Edward Lasker was awarded the title of International Master, which is below that of Grandmaster, by FIDE, the governing body of world Chess. “Chessmetrics.com estimates his peak strength as 2583, a good Grandmaster by modern standards. The site also estimates his ranking as ranging between 18th in the world and 28th in the world for the nine-year period 1917–26.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Lasker] In addition, there is a dispute about the quote, with some attributing it to former World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker, a distant relative.)
The ancient game of Go is the most complex and elegant game ever discovered. Though the rules are simple enough to teach a child, the complexity that emerges has inspired millennia of study. For three thousand years, master players in East Asia have handed down the game as an art form to foster patience, creativity, and self-reflection. Today in the elite world of the pros, international tournaments offer hundred-thousand dollar prize purses, and top matches are broadcast on 24-hour “Go TV” to millions of fans in China, Korea, and Japan. But in the West, most people have never even heard of the game… until now.
THE SURROUNDING GAME follows the lives of three young Americans vying to become the first-ever Western professional players. Quirky, cerebral, and disillusioned with conventional views of success, they represent a new generation of players, on the doorstep of adulthood. As the competition intensifies and intricate patterns spill out across the board, the line between reality and imagination starts to blur. Their thoughts turn to anxieties about the future, and lead them on a journey through the game’s ancient past to ask what it means to live a meaningful life. Through an intimate portrait of these young players and interviews with the greatest Go masters of all time, the film explores the search for meaning that Go represents to its players, for whom the game is a distillation of consciousness itself.
THE SURROUNDING GAME (2017) is the first feature documentary about
the game of Go. Shot over 4 years in China, Korea, Japan, and the United States, the
film reveals the magical world of Go through the coming-of-age story of America’s
top Go prodigies.
Our protagonists Andy, Ben, and Curtis are gifted teenagers who have devoted
thousands of hours to the game. For them, Go is an escape to a world of pure logic
and mathematical beauty, a reminder of the ephemeral place human beings hold in
the universe. As they strive to become the first Western professional players, we
explore the search for meaning that Go represents to its players, for whom the game
is a distillation of conscious thought itself.
In East Asia, the game of Go is hailed as one of mankind’s great cultural
treasures. For thousands of years, masters and disciples have passed the game down
as a window to the human mind.
Now, for the first time, a group of Americans enter the ring, in search of a
prodigy who will change the game forever.
Go is the oldest board game still played in its original form.
Though its rules
are simple enough to teach a child,
the emergent complexity has inspired millennia of study.
In East Asia, Go is lauded as both art and national sport. Today, Chinese and
Korean students as young as five begin training in special Go academies; those with
promise sacrifice their high-school education, training for years to have a shot at
becoming professional players. In the elite world of the pros, international
tournaments offer hundred-thousand dollar prize purses and top matches are
broadcast on 24-hour “Go TV” to millions of fans in China, Korea, and Japan. But in
the West, most people have never even heard of the game.
Enter the American Go community: a ragtag group of gamers, Asiaphiles, and
aging hippies, captivated by the game. For decades, they have struggled to transplant
Go into American society with little success despite their burning enthusiasm. So in
early 2012 they take a gamble, striking a deal to launch the first Western professional
Go system. For the first time, America has a chance to compete on the world stage
against the Asian titans of Go… and everything rests on America’s top young Go
THE SURROUNDING GAME follows the lives of several top American
players, leading up to the competition to become the first Western professional.
Brooklyn-raised Ben Lockhart, America’s top white player, foregoes college to join
an elite Korean Go school. His close friend, Chinese-American Andy Liu, is the
strongest player in North America, despite little formal training. Introverted, quirky,
and deeply cerebral, Andy probes the limitations of his own mind in his quest to
transcend the tedium of normal society.
In the shadow of the game’s three-thousand-year legacy,
the American Go community descends into a small North Carolina town to crown the first American
pros. As they battle over the Go board, the players must confront deeper questions:
Can an intellectual art survive in the modern world? What drives their fanatical love
for Go, and why do they find greater meaning in the game than in real life?
Uncertain about their futures, they make a pilgrimage to meet the world’s greatest
living player, 99-year-old Japanese master Go Seigen.
Despite their diverging paths,
Ben and Andy face the same question: is a lifetime dedicated to Go truly worth
To escape the intensity of the American Professional Certification Tournament, Andy Liu (left) and
Evan Cho (right) play a game atop Chimney Rock in North Carolina.