Spirit of the Game

The recent ruling in the Transatlantic Go Tournament seems wrong: it puts technology ahead of the game of go. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. There may be circumstances I’m not aware of, but basically, the game between Mateusz Surma and Eric Lui was played online over KGS, Mateusz was ahead on the board in the late endgame, and the move he tried to play with 10 seconds to spare somehow did not make it to the server in time. The final ruling is that he lost on time. To me, this violates the spirit of the game.

In ultimate frisbee, the Spirit of the Game is a guiding principle of the rules. Players call and adjudicate their own fouls; if players disagree, play gets restored as best as possible to what would have happened without that incident.

“Spirit of the Game: Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play.” [Official Rules of Ultimate, 11th Edition]

Even at the professional level, where there are referees, the integrity rule allows players to overrule the referee when it’s to their own disadvantage:

“Any player or head coach can overturn any call made by an official if the official’s call favored the player’s or coach’s own team. Officials shall respect the integrity call. This allows teams to display sportsmanship and remedy an incorrect call against their opponent.” [AUDL Rule Book]

To me, go and ultimate share the same kind of spirit: highly competitive yet friendly play.

Mateusz losing due to a technical glitch makes the game of go subservient to technology. Technology enables long-distance tournaments, but that should be an incidental part of the match: the game is most important. When technology goes wrong, you try to restore the game to what it would have been without the technical glitch. And when a ruling is unfair, the winner should be able to overturn it. Integrity and spirit of the game are important, both in ultimate and in go.

Salt Lake Lions

Most of my tweets are about the game of Go. But you’ve probably noticed some about Ultimate Frisbee, as that’s my main way of getting exercise and staying healthy as I work on SmartGo. Fair warning: There will be more – the Lions are coming to town.

What is Ultimate? A non-contact team sport, played with two teams of seven on a football-size field. Ultimate is a fast-moving and fast-growing sport, fun to play, and exciting to watch.

Like in Go, competition in Ultimate is fierce but friendly, and there’s a terrific community of players. The spirit of the game is deeply ingrained in the culture of Ultimate.

Both Go and Ultimate recently started going pro in the US. The AUDL started two years ago, and this year it’s expanding to the West Coast: Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, and most importantly: Salt Lake City.

This is tremendously exciting, especially as I know many of the people involved in starting this franchise. I’ve played with them in pickup games and leagues, and they’re great athletes on and off the field. They run circles around me, but then, I’m twice their age. I’m confident they’ll match up well against the other teams.

Having a semi-professional Ultimate team in your home town enriches the community. But these teams need our support to get them off the ground. I’ve decided that Smart Go will do some advertising with the Salt Lake Lions, helping Ultimate and promoting Go at the same time.

The games start Saturday April 12. Tell your friends. Bring the family. Be there.