Before Go, Cobb wanted to be an architect. He wanted to build houses, museums and towering skyscrapers long before he wanted to build a game.
When Cobb meets Mal for the first time, he wants to build her everything. A box with his heart in it, a house for their future, and a Go game that will never stop leaving purposeful pockets of space just for Mal's stones to occupy. (With other opponents, his territories kill their stones. Mal is never just an opponent, even when they play each other. She's Mal.)
The stress of exams and Go tournaments leave Mal frayed and sad and needing more help than Cobb can offer. (Even if for Mal, he would offer the world. Sometimes it's not enough.)
When Mal leaves, tears in her eyes, all Cobb has is the wreckage of his game and the key to the box she took with her.
What's galling about Eames isn't that he picks a new playing style every time he plays; Eames is just irritating in general. What makes Arthur especially furious – furiously jealous and furiously upset – is that Eames is good enough to do that without losing any of the edge in his game.
Eames cycles through different playing styles like changing underwear. One week he's building solid dependable shapes that hide deft surprises like Yusuf's and the next he's crafting elegant, exacting games like Arthur's.
What makes Arthur hate him, sometimes, is that that he never takes Arthur's game seriously enough to play as himself. No one except Arthur knows how beautiful Eames' games could be.
(Of their first match together, Arthur remembers every move, every formation, every aji that materialised into a move that compromised Arthur's position, and every yosu-miru that was killed before Arthur could learn anything.
Mostly, what he remembers is the way it made something sing in his blood.)
Eames has never played as himself since.
Eames kind of starts playing Go by accident. He used to be in the Shogi club until one day, while wandering around his high school festival, he says lazily to a girl playing Go against a solemn-faced boy, "If you move your stone to the upper left komoku instead of takamoku, you'd be able to avoid being completely humiliated."
The boy on the other side of the board glares at him furiously. Despite the thick glasses, and hair gelled to within an inch of its life, he's ridiculously, intensely attractive.
"Play me," the boy demands.
Eames grins, and sits down.
After the game, the boy catches up to him and he's still wearing his angry face, but somewhere beneath that, he looks amazed and Eames wants to see that face for the rest of his life.
The boy asks, "What was that?"
"What was what?" says Eames, grinning.
"Don't fuck with me," says the boy and drags him off to talk to Dom Cobb.
(Eames lost by one and a half moku, but it didn't feel like losing at all.)
Ariadne is new to Go, and incapable of sitting in seiza without cramping up. Cobb says it takes muscle memory to learn, Eames snorts and says it was more like getting used to losing all feeling in your lower limbs every time you play.
Yusuf just smiles calmly and passes her a hot compress with a wink. "Preparation for all eventualities," he says, "is key."
It's the best advice anyone has ever given her.
(Well, bar the time Arthur had said, "Slow down, Ariadne. Think," and Ariadne had thanked him by narrowly winning with a three stone advantage. She's going to force Arthur reduce his handicap to two stones, soon.)
Week by week, she's improving. Week by week, she's catching up to Cobb and his memory of Mal's perfect formations.
She's never going to be Mal (they play too differently), but someone's going to have to remind Cobb that Go exists without Mal (and that he can exist without Mal, too).
Yusuf's first love will always be chemistry, but Go comes a very close second.
(His cat possibly doesn't like to be third, but what can you do? Life is life, and his cat will always forgive him. Eventually.)
Yusuf likes Go the same way he likes chemistry. There is an art to being a great chemist. A decent chemist knows all the combinations he can make and all the formulas others have tried and tested. A decent chemist is good at reproducing these combinations, good at tweaking them for improvement.
A great chemist creates anew. A great chemist knows everything the decent chemist does, but instead of following in someone else's footsteps unthinkingly, he questions their processes, he thinks about change. He experiments with derivatives and discovers new routes. His methods are groundbreaking and innovative and what he does is untried, but he is never unprepared.
A great chemist doesn't ignore rules, but the great chemist already knows they don't always apply.
Chemistry isn't too different from Go.
Saito knows he's got the best team.
No one will see them coming.