The 3rd Toyota & Denso World Go Oza Cup 2006
  On the weekend of January 14th and 15th, about 300 hardy people of all ages and ethnicities (provided those ethnicities were Asian and white) braved the bitter cold and rain of New York to gather at the Hotel Pennsylvania to flush away an entire weekend playing way, way too much go.  
  It's the ugliest hotel you've ever seen, there I've said it. At the last Oza, two years ago, I found it quaint. But now, returning to this ghoulish vortex was like reliving a vague nightmare, the kind where you can't see too well and you keep falling down and you can't pull your pants up no matter what, and also Jimmy Carter is there telling you to finish your homework for a class you thought you already took.  
  The top floor, where the tournament was held. About 30 seconds after I took this photo, the elevator doors opened and giant waves of blood poured out in slow motion. I mean, you gotta be kidding me.  
  Strange adornments on the wall, photographed here without flash to retain the natural lighting. Yes, this was the color.  
  And finally arriving at the cavernous set of rooms where the tournament is held. Great-looking poster. Hey, what are those kids doing back there?  
  Answer: Buying properties and charging rent for those who would deign to occupy said properties enroute.  
  Dave flashes some manner of clan sign, and Alex wears the Assyrian symbol denoting a bountiful harvest. Both are clearly ready to get started.  
  The first thing you notice -- besides the choking stench of old, unwashed men in fedoras and fanny packs -- are the herds of kids running around the Nerderarium.  
  The ones in yellow belong to Feng Yun's go school.  
  The logos on their backs always strike me as somehow aggressive ... that's a lizard getting its tail gruesomely chopped off by a mousetrap. The go diagram suggests a dead group, but need it be characterized quite so vividly? Why not eh, it's a vicious world out there, these kids might as well learn this early on. Like, at age 3.  
  Organizer Chuck Rollins stands to make an announcement while bulging.  
  Meanwhile, the little kids practice. There's something very eerie about seeing the look of serene concentration on children so young. It's also very beautiful knowing that such intense thought is going on inside these tiny heads.  
  So cute! Sugar gives you diabetes, Nutrasweet gives you cancer ... this must be the last non-deadly sweetness left in the world.  
  The first board was being replayed on IGS, and projected in the middle room. Whoa check out the Pantene ad in the foreground! Just noticed that.  
  See now, when I was a kid, we just made shadow puppets of dogs and doves. These little ninjas have the right idea though.  
  Again with the horns! This time on the unfortunate kid on the left.  
  And they were unbelievably aggressive! Fights broke out everywhere you looked; not real bouts obviously, more Backyard Wrestling than Bum Fights, but they were pretty into it. These two were in the middle of a monster battle.  
  A casualty.  

Special attention must be devoted to this tiny little kid. Two of his conversations are as follows:

Kid comes up to me: Do you like go?

Me: (joking, obviously) No, I hate it.

Kid: What? You hate it? Then why are you here? Why are you playing in the tournament? You're not making any sense. I'm going over there now [leaves].

see also:

Kid: How old are you?

Dave: I'm 19.

Kid: I'm 92.

Dave: What?

Kid: How old are you?

Dave: I just told you, 19.

Kid: I'm immortal.

  Luke (HappyGuy 6D) in a typically austere, aloof moment ...  
  ... but I caught him smiling later on! That's like catching a rare Pokemon.  
  Apparently girls play go now. Did a new law get passed or something?  
  Once the games started, everyone wore their own expressions of concentration, concern and clenchingly suppressed emotion. This was in the high-dan room, which was set away from the main Nerderarium this year.  
  Alex is in a pinch here ... check out his opponent, who totally knows it. Money in the background looking on like "damn son, what you gonna do now?" Great stuff. Turned out to be his only loss, though his 5-1 record was only good enough for third place.  
  In between games, there were all kinds of delays. People passed the time in their own ways.  
  I went spying on some sort of real estate convention that was happening next door. Couldn't understand a word, though I'm now somehow pretty convinced that I could be really rich without a whole lot of effort.  
  Pretty cool view though, one would certainly be forced to admit this much under threat of force.  
  Second day, Dave seems troubled ... he went 6-0 at the last tourney and took first place in his division, so why is he so concerned?  
  Here's why. After a crucial mistake, he's faced with this insanely difficult three-step ko as white, bottom left.  
  Dave wins the ko, but at what cost?  
  White loses nearly half the board, and the game. Dave finished at 4-2.  
  The top two games are played on a cordoned-off pedestal, with a nice board, and top notch stones and bowls. A dude sits next to each table broadcasting the game to the world via some sort of information superhighway.  
  As expected, Feng Yun 9d won the overall.  
  Here, I used the dichotomy of artificial and natural light to frame the top two contestants, evoking the halos of those blessed with god's ability and etc etc.  
  The trophies were awarded and a good time was had by all, except those who played very poorly and could not even return home with any sense of satisfaction whatsoever.  

See you in two years!


  PS: full-size pics available upon request. Just remember the magic word (or at least make one up).