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Alan Williamson: Go in Cambridge 1967-71

Alan Williamson, now living in Sussex, was a member of the Cambridge club in the early days. He has sent us material which casts light on many forgotten matters. Here is an edited version of his account of how he came to be a Go player, and the fabled "old days".

I did not immediately take up Go when I went to Cambridge in 1967. Some time during my first year the Peterhouse Go Society was formed by a history student, Richard Mather: most players were mathematicians and scientists. He must have been a persuasive person, because by the end of the year there were a dozen players in the college, including myself. We thought we were becoming quite proficient at the game. I remember the amazement we all felt when Jon Diamond and Tony Goddard came to a meeting and wiped us all out in a display of simultaneous high-handicap games.

I joined the university Society the following year. An annual feature was the "Go-Cuppers" between the colleges. [Alan provides details of a competition involving six colleges, teams of three with players better than 10 kyu barred - shades of a similar idea of ours earlier this academic year, which did not get off the ground and was replaced by a more individualistic Novices' Competition]. Jon Diamond had left, so Tony Goddard at 3 dan was our strongest player. I recall traveling to Oxford to watch the Oxford-Cambridge match, perhaps the first (? early 1969) - Oxford came out on top.

In 1969-70 the President of the club was the charismatic Graham Priest. Together with John "small father of nine" Robinson they formed a dynamic team which took the club into new areas. Cambridge hosted the third British Go Congress in March 1970. In autumn 1969 the names of Mo Amin and Paul Prescott are to be seen for the first time. Both made rapid progress in the game, and before long became key members of the club. It was Paul who tumbled Jon from his perch in 1974, to become British Champion for a single year; he also inaugurated the New Year London Go Congress [now the London Open] at the end of 1974.

Tournaments were a rarity. I recall getting up very early to leave Cambridge at 6 a.m. to attend the first Wessex Tournament in November 1970 - I still have memories of the fast driving provided by Jon Sweeney (renowned for his swindles). I myself left Cambridge and regular Go playing in 1971.

The late sixties and early seventies was a period in which Go flourished at Cambridge. The regular dissemination of Cambridge graduates throughout the country had a significant influence on the game in Britain. The number of national tournaments increased from one to several. The number of dan players increased from one (the late John Barrs) in the early sixties to twelve by 1969 and over fifty by the late seventies. They were interesting times.

Alan also mentioned John McLeod (now 2 dan), Toby Manning (now 3 dan), both still active players, John Tilley, the late Brian Castledine, and Richard Smith, of the old Cambridge guard.

(From Tesuji 34, 1996)