The Surrounding Game

Behind each move lies a world unknown

"The rules of Go are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they almost certainly play Go."

- Edward Lasker, Chess International Master


The ancient game of Go is the most complex and elegant game ever discovered. Though the rules are simple enough to teach a child, the complexity that emerges has inspired millennia of study. For three thousand years, master players in East Asia have handed down the game as an art form to foster patience, creativity, and self-reflection. Today in the elite world of the pros, international tournaments offer hundred-thousand dollar prize purses, and top matches are broadcast on 24-hour "Go TV" to millions of fans in China, Korea, and Japan. But in the West, most people have never even heard of the game… until now. 

THE SURROUNDING GAME follows the lives of three young Americans vying to become the first-ever Western professional players. Quirky, cerebral, and disillusioned with conventional views of success, they represent a new generation of players, on the doorstep of adulthood. As the competition intensifies and intricate patterns spill out across the board, the line between reality and imagination starts to blur. Their thoughts turn to anxieties about the future, and lead them on a journey through the game’s ancient past to ask what it means to live a meaningful life. Through an intimate portrait of these young players and interviews with the greatest Go masters of all time, the film explores the search for meaning that Go represents to its players, for whom the game is a distillation of consciousness itself.

project history

Directors Will Lockhart and Cole Pruitt are experienced Go players and co-founders of the American Collegiate Go Association. We began pre-production in Spring 2012, spurred by the launch of the first Western professional Go certification system. In June 2012 we launched a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter, and began following Ben, Andy, and Curtis as they advanced through the competition. With the support of many of the world's major Go organizations, most notably the Shanghai Ing Foundation, we filmed extensively in Japan, China, Korea, and the United States through 2013. Along the way we gained access to the preeminent Go institutions of East Asia, and captured the first Western interviews with many of the strongest players of all time.

The film debuted at the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs, CA, on April 3, 2017. After screening at film festivals and playing theatrical shows in select cities, the film was released on VOD/DVD on February 15, 2018.