Go Big or Go Home
In dingy basements and private clubs, an ancient Asian board game becomes a cutthroat battlefield for brainiacs.
It’s a cold night in January 2012 and Peter Armenia is sitting on a Flushing-bound seven train, anticipating culture shock. For two decades, Armenia has played the ancient Chinese game of go, always wondering how his skills would hold up at a traditional Asian club. Tonight, he’s finally getting his chance.
“I’m ready to lose and embarrass myself,” says Armenia, a slender forty-eight-year-old man with short salt-and-pepper hair.
Asian go clubs are hard to find, as many aren’t even listed on the website of the American Go Association, the game’s governing body in the U.S. They aren’t highly exclusive, but Korean, Japanese and Chinese languages are preferred over English, and indoor smoking, drinking and gambling are common. Although Armenia knows the game, most of the players in his four-month-old go club are Westerners. Asian players are known for being stronger, but will the stereotypes hold true?
Armenia claims he isn’t nervous, although his rapid leg shake might s…
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