Goro Hasegawa, Creator of Othello Board Game, Dies at 83


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Goro Hasegawa in 2007. He was credited with creating the game Othello, which has sold tens of millions of copies and is played worldwide.

Credit
Kyodo News, via Associated Press

Goro Hasegawa, who is widely credited with creating the board game Othello, which has sold tens of million of copies around the world since its introduction in the 1970s, died on Monday in Japan. He was 83.

The death was confirmed on the Facebook page of Benkt Steentoft, the event manager of the World Othello Federation. He did not specify a cause.

Othello players take turns placing discs on a green board divided into squares, eight across and eight down. Each disc has a black side and a white side and is placed within a single square, and each player takes one color. When one player’s discs occupy spaces on either side of another’s disc, it is captured and flipped over, its color changed to that of the surrounding player’s discs. The player with the most discs of his color on the board at the end of the game wins.

Othello is similar in some ways to Go, an ancient game of Asian origin that involves placing black and white stones on a large board to surround an opponents’ stones. It is also quite similar to Reversi, a British game that enjoyed a spurt of popularity in the 1890s. Othello is a licensed brand, so contemporary imitators often call their versions Reversi to avoid copyright infringement.

Whether Mr. Hasegawa knew about Reversi when he thought up his game is unclear. Most accounts say that he was an avid Go player, and that he first tried a version of Othello with milk bottle tops in his hometown, Mito, in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

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Goro Hasegawa of Japan was credited with creating the board game Othello. He is said to have come up with the idea as a child.

Credit
Mattel

The name of the game — perhaps inspired by Mr. Hasegawa’s father, Shiro, an English literature aficionado — is derived from the title of Shakespeare’s tragedy about a black general’s fear that he has been betrayed by his wife, who is white.

The game struck a chord in Japan when it was first mass-produced by the Tsukuda Corporation there in 1973. Mr. Hasegawa promoted it by organizing tournaments, serving as the head of the Japan Othello Association and helping to broker a licensing deal with Anjar Corporation, an American company that assisted in make the game global. For decades Othello has been advertised with the slogan “A minute to learn … a lifetime to master.”

Othello is played in dozens of countries and remains popular in Japan, where games are sometimes televised and matches are covered by newspapers, much like chess or bridge in the United States. Fans have included Walter Cronkite, Barry Manilow and Pope John Paul II. Since its release, the game has sold more than 40 million copies, according to the website for the Toy & Game Inventor Awards.

The World Othello Federation will hold the 40th annual championships in Mito in November.

Mr. Hasegawa was born on Oct. 19, 1932. He worked for a medical company before Othello’s success, and afterward wrote books on Othello strategy.

At the time of his death, he was living in Kashiwa City, Japan. His survivors include his wife, Hideko; two sons, Takeshi and Shinya; and a granddaughter.

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