The Bear’s Mouth Go Club keeps ‘Go’-ing forward

The Bear's Mouth Go Club is a new club at Baylor that was created to play Go, a board game that originated in China. Photo courtesy of Isaac Echols

By Mariah Bennett | Staff Writer

The Bear’s Mouth Go Club is one of Baylor’s newest student organizations. Founded by Lubbock graduate student Isaac Echols, it is based on a 4,000-year-old board game that originated in China. The club meets from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m on the second Monday of each month in Sid Richardson Building Room 219.

Echols began creating The Bear’s Mouth Go Club in November 2020, and it was chartered in March 2021. Originally, Echols learned of Go from “The Math Book” by Clifford A. Pickover, but he decided to play the game for himself after witnessing the game in a scene from the movie “Knives Out.”

“The scene really resonated with me because my grandad and I grew up playing a lot of games,” Echols said.

Echols said he was also intrigued by the scene due to the mention of “beautiful patterns” in reference to Go. Echols said someone may be inclined to play Go if they have an analytical mind, like to strategize carefully and see all their options.

“As a mathematician, we love seeking patterns in life and as a competitive person myself, I was like ‘Oh, I’m hooked,’” Echols said.

Even the club’s name, The Bear’s Mouth Go, is a reference to a shape used on the board of a Go game, the tiger’s mouth. Other shapes include lion shape, one-space jump, knight’s move and ponnuki. The game Go originated in China, spread to Japan and then Korea. The game’s name differs in each country, from Weiqi to Igo to Baduk.

Go is played with two types of stones, one black and one white, on a 9-by-9, 13-by-13, or 19-by-19 board.

A beginner will usually start on a 9-by-9, and a 19-by-19 board will usually take 45 minutes to finish a game, Echols said. The less experienced player usually begins with the black stone, as the black stone holder makes the first move. There is also a handicap system built in, so players of differing skills can play together fairly.

The goal of the game is to control more territory or area on the board than the other player. You can also capture the other players’ stones by surrounding them on the board. Echols compared the stones on a board to something like sponges in the ocean, which need breathing holes.

“Point number one is stones don’t move,” Echols said. “So every intersection that is adjacent to your group is like a hole it can breathe through … once all of your breathing holes get covered, you end up suffocated.”

The Bear’s Mouth Go Club recently participated in a chartering ceremony, witnessed by Ewa Beach, Hawaii freshman Mayra Honda-Shimabukuro.

Honda-Shimabukuro went to the ceremony to represent her organization, the Baylor Hawai’i Club. She was not expecting to see a club surrounding Go, let alone students being aware of it, Honda-Shimabukuro said.

“I was really happy to see a cultural representation of a game, as it originated from China and I wouldn’t think that a lot of students would know about the game Go,” Honda-Shimabukuro said.

Echols said while patience is a quality needed to master Go, it isn’t one needed to enjoy the game itself.

“You can be a very analytical, careful person, or you can just do what looks fun or right and still have a good time,” Echols said.