Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The goban nobody wanted

Last week I received my $10 goban. Short story short, I bid on an ebay auction but I never believed I would win :) Happy I did tho.

Some may think it's severely blemished, I think it has character. Contemplating whether I should work on restoring it or just enjoy it as it is.

Here's a few pictures (click to enlarge):

I need to wipe it off and try to get some better pictures, but before that I need new batteries for Jen's camera.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Summer: The season of Go books.

Last summer I went to London and got to visit several gaming stores who carried go books. This year I won't leave the country, but I've certainly managed to aquire even more go books this time around.

From left to right: Nie Weiping on Go, Direction of Play, Think like a Pro: Haengma, Art of Go series volume 1: The Art of Connecting Stones, Making Good Shape, Come up To Shodan, One Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems, 800 Tesuji problems and Cho Hunhyun's Kifu Collection 1988 - 96.

So far what I've spent the most time on and enjoyed the most is the kifu collection. It's great meditation for me playing out games on my goban. I'm not too worried about learning from this experience. I've come to a point where I'm most concerned with enjoying the time I put into go, and the fact that I average a game a week reflect that although I am obsessed with go, I'm not particularily obsessed with improving. Go has become sort of an esquisite spectator sport. :)

The two most interesting books of the bunch are Making Good Shape and Think like a Pro: Haengma. They really are treasure troves of ideas and show you how to think in purposeful sequences. The Haengma book uses examples from pro games and considering how sometimes the pros use the wrong haengma it's safe to say it's an advanced book. I would think dan players have the most to benefit from this book but kyu players will certainly admire and enjoy the contents as well.

The only slight disappointment in the bunch is 1001 life and death problems. The problems were a bit easier than I hoped but I suspect that is the point. Quantity solved and lots of repetition! Maybe I'll get around to that :) Now it's just so warm it's hard to be dedicated to anything.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Time to get stronger

Most people have different opinions on how to study go and how to get better. Some like to play and learn from playing, others like to read alot of books and some feel you need to be taught by stronger players. I used to be of the creed that would read theoretical books and hopefully be able to use my new knowledge in games to come. However, the players I played rarely played moves that corrosponded with what I learned, and I wasn't skilled enough yet to adapt ideas and strategies to fit my opponents. I am doing a little bit better these days, though I think I need to change the way I work to improve my game if I am to advance beyond this point.

I started out by saying many people have different opinions about how to study go. It does seem however that as players reach higher levels, their ideas on how to improve is less divergent (many pages on sensei, and other bloggers like Falling Stones' ideas on learning). Playing lots of games and studying life and death. Learn how to fight and improve your reading.

Dieter Verhofstadt's page on improvement and Benjamin Teuber's how to get strong have been very inspiring to me. I especially enjoy the entry about doing tsumego the proper way and plan to make that an important part of my study. Now, to take this inspiration and actually do something that will benefit me I feel I should make a schedule. But before I get started I want to make sure I have the resources to do this. I need some life and death problem books. Graded Go Problems for beginners vol 3 maybe, the Korean Problem Academy and Life and Death: Intermediate Level Problems maybe? Suggestions are very welcome :)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Playing to win

What's the point of winning a game? When you think about it a win against a player of equal strength means little in retrospect. It doesn't elevate you to a new level.. It doesn't necessarily teach you more than a loss might. Many will argue to the contrary even. So, besides feeling good, what does winning a game do for you?

Of course on an isolated level, winning is the ultimate goal of the game. But to me that seems of little value. So what if you win? He might win the next time. What does it prove? What are the rewards?

Don't get me wrong I have never enjoyed losing. Quite the contrary. I have gotten carried away and been ready to throw stones at a dear friend who waited and baited me into self-atari. There has been situations were I have felt the competetive urge. But more typically I have been content in doing a close game. I tried to win, but it stayed at that. It's like running a 100meter dash. Trying to run fast won't cut it. You have to push yourself every inch of the way and really give it your best. Coming in second isn't an option!

Now, this all became the truth for me when I played my first real life tournament. Suddenly I felt that it wasn't enough to play close games to defend my rating. I had to win at least 3 out of 5 games! I would get my first EGF ranking. Winning meant proving something. This determination did alot for my game. The first game was against an opponent I hadn't played for several months, and the last time we played he gave me 5 stones. I was a little daunted as I had to take white against someone who beat me with 5 stones last we played. But I needed to win, and I did. Second game I had to give 3 stones to a 15k. He resigned in the middlegame. Third game I played an even game against a player who was typically 3 stones stronger on KGS. I won by 70 points or so. Fight after fight, I outread and proffited and a couple of big groups I outright captured. I could do no wrong.

Next day. Even game against a 10k who I had played once, and beat convincingly before. Looked like a 20 point win until... I said pass. He didn't take long to show me how wrong I was to pass. what looked like a 1 point ko was indeed something much worse. It could've been a close game, but I could feel the blood drain from my face and the moves I made after that were poorly made indeed. This rattled me greatly. Game 5 was in light of this probably lost before it even started. And it was a bittersweet matchup, since it was against a good friend who had made a terrible tournament to that match.

But I feel I grew during that tournament. Attitude, mental strength and even the desire to win are crucial to be the best you can be. Even though my goal is improving to new levels where I can enjoy the game better, I have to want to win. I have to be willing to put a little more of myself on the line. Dare to let myself vunerable to disappointment. I think I will I will grow from this as long as I'm willing to get back up every time I take a fall.

Now, my next and most difficult hurdle is to build a desire to play :)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Teaching and being taught.

The go community is great. From the go teaching ladder to the beginners room on kgs, the willingness to teach others about go is very impressive. But something odd has happened to me and my friends on a couple of occasions. Some people get angry. Some people fight back. Worst of all, some people take the review very personally.

We have to respect that people of different cultures react to direct speech differently. This coupled with language barriers and we have a situation where you should think once or twice before speaking. Now. Some teachers are very blunt. So blunt that some may perceive them as rude. Of course the weaker player has done his best, and it can hurt his or her pride to hear this critisism. Don't let it get to you, you don't have to like the teacher to like the knowledge that is passed on to you.

When you teach, try to be mindful of how you put things. This sounds like common sense. But when being taught, remember why you are being taught. None of the comments are about you.. they are about the stones that are on the board infront of you. when you look at them, remove yourself from them and focus on why a move is bad, and how to avoid it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Know your enemy.

I suspect alot of people get rooted in one style of play. Aggressive fighting. Pure territory focus. Big moyos. I want to change it up a little.

I started this entry by saying know your enemy, but that is more an afterthought than my real point in this entry. People play go for different reasons. Some think it looks pretty. What we created between us on the board is peaceful and interesting. Some people are competetive and enjoy winning. Even better when it is an interesting and non-repetetive intellectual challenge, right? It is challenging. It is profound. And it is going to be interesting for the rest of our lives.

Whatever your inspiration for playing, a common denominator is the desire to get better, or stronger as we like to put it in the go world. Some people are lucky enough to just enjoy the game, not caring about winning or losing. These people don't wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, waking from a nightmare of misplaying a joseki in a crucial tournament. These lucky people... are not reading this blog (if anybody are). But for the rest of us who want to get strong. Dreaming of one day calling ourselves a dan level player. And I have realized that if I want to get better now, I have to try to be more versatile when I play. I have falling into the habit of playing big moyos. While many will argue this is a good style of play, I will say right now I am not good enough to stick with one style. I think my progress will be stagnant if I don't learn how to play territorial go, practise lots of invasions, do lots of fighting and play moyo games. Being able to adapt your strategy is a strenght, this much is obvious. But it is easy to adapt within the sphere of your own comfort zone. Try mixing up your openings a little. 3 star? Fine. Do you know what the purpose of the 3 star really is? Good! Move on to chinese. Bored with playing chinese since everybody else is too? Move to kobayashi. I think it was Kato Masao who spent a month playing one opening until he felt he mastered it totally, and then moved on to the next one. This is actually a great idea, but when you play any opening you should try to USE it correctly. http://senseis.xmp.net/?OverviewOfFusekiPatterns check it out. Find something you like and develop. If you worry about messing up your rank (I understand totally if you do) you can play free games, or open a second account for experimentation.

Some stronger players will probably argue that more important than opening study, or changing your style around, is studying the fundamentals. Do problems and study life and death. Of course. I can't stress enough the importance of fundamentals. But I think alot of double digit kyus play "the same game" over and over again. I know I want to try to go out and do this. Change my style. Add refinement and facets to my technique. To break the single digit kyu barrier ;) And I know it might be tough. Swallowing your pride and losing can be frustrating and difficult. Your confidence may waver, but don't let it. Your rank does not define who you are as a person. I think sometimes maybe you need to take one step back before taking two steps forward. Maybe.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Two concepts were presented to me today. One from the book pro-pro handicap go: "The handicap stones [in a 4 stone handicap game] are not effective for gaining territory with. Even more so than in a 5 stone handicap. You have to use the stones to help you fight".

It may seem obvious, but this is something I need to ponder and see if I can apply to my strategy.

Number two comes from browsing sensei's library on the subject of overplay. Personally I dislike overplay. I *try* to stay away from it, but I do overplay more often than I would like to admit. One situation is if I suspect overplay, I might be to eager to punish it and overplay my response to the overplay, which in turn makes my opponents move look like a stroke of genius ;) And of course being a weak player I don't know the proper plays in many situations and sometimes I play wild stones not rooted in the fundamentals.

Point is I always viewed overplay as destructive to yourself and others. I see players with little knowledge of any theory, little sense of shape, no sense of defense and no thoughts on what a "proper" move would be for the situation. They rush through the opening (some trying to trick with odd josekis while others just going for very simple lines of opening play, which is more admirable) just to start as many fights as possible and smother their opponent. Naturally a lot of strange play is seen with us double digit kyus. I used to think that after you have played a while, a certain amount of games, and you reach a certain point or rank were you realize your opponents aren't buying your overplays anymore. You realize they have better grasp of the fundamentals and you end up stuck at a point with little or no progress. Time to hit the books, in my opinion. But in a way that feels like starting over. I always thought I would try to play honte as I see it and try to develop my skill with proper play in mind. But let me qoute what I read that made me stop and rethink the matter:

"You don't learn much by playing underplays; you just lose a game by 10 points, and you aren't sure why. Playing overplays is instructive. When you get punished: you learn something. You'll never find the line between the two if you always play under it... And, if you overplay constantly, your overplays will get smaller and smaller as you learn, until you find yourself playing right on that fine line of "good play", or at least close to it" --Alex Weldon.

Very interesting idea. And coming from a 3dan who must know a thing or two about go this probably has much merit. I guess overplay should not be linked too closely to overly agressive play, or speculative invasions(tm). The "Charge of the light brigade" story from attack and defense has always been something I have thought of when thinking of overplays. One of my reasonings for why overplay is bad is because even though it might be punished, it will sometimes work. Psychologically the brain responds to this sort of random reward. This is how they model alot of online games. Give a small percentage chance of a very good item to drop, and we will continue doing the same thing over and over in hope of it happening again. Same thing with slot machines and other games of chance. Logically we know that we can't "win", since then the slot machines would lose money, and obviously they want to earn money on their investments.

But I will no longer be so arrogant and firm with this belief. I have to realize that the progress of a beginner to a stronger (albeit still weak amateur) player isn't as straightforward as when the fundamentals are more firmly grasped. With no experience of how go works when told what is correct, it is not unreasonable to ask the question "Why?". I would say that it is even a very good trait, considering future joseki study.

There.. That concludes my musings for today.. Soon off to the club! (if you are still reading at this point? my hat off to you)