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. 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)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Last night coming home from the club, I checked my mail before going in and found a packet from the wonderful woman who owns the Shodan Challenge blog. My very own copy of Lessons in the Fundamantals! She is too sweet, and I am very grateful. I borrowed it from a friend for a week or so, but I have in no way studied it to the depth I wish.
Been peeking in it off and on today. Thanks Nanny!

Also got the books I ordered a couple of days ago. I am a very happy camper.

Friday, July 29, 2005

actually, scratch that. Just ordered the two tesuji dictionaries and on a friends recommendation "Pro-pro handicap go", which I am very excited about. Notice myself playing too much like a normal game in handicap situations, and after being shown some nice handicap openings and such I realize it's a different ballgame alltogether. If this book can make me lose a handicap stone or two against the stronger club players, it would be delightful.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Was just about to mail in my order for the two volumes that are ou in english of the Fujisawa Tesuji Dictionary.
. But on closer inspection to my account, that is not happening for another paycheck.. *sigh*

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Yesterday I played two games. First game was pretty aimless and I lost by 22 points due to letting an invasion out in to the open, and letting my opponent close off his/her moyo too easily. Played decent shape and it wasn't too horrible, but my timing wasn't really any good and the fourstar opening got the better of me. I decided to play again. And I was calm and had no expectations to the match. I decided that I would stop and think and play according to theory I had been reading on earlier (was reading Utilizing Outward Influence, chapter 3: Strong Players Seize Control of the Center)

So I made a less than ideal pincer. After this point I stopped and thought about the problems I had looked at earlier. Direction of play. Building thickness.

Here I got a a bit of freebie sente when he closed the ko as soon as I ataried. Naturally I wanted to cap off the top so that I could call it my moyo.

Here his desire to make a base/ensure life was very beneficial to me. He got a large corner, but what I was getting in return wasn't even in proportion. So I went to approach his corner at 35, and the reply was exactly what I hoped, yet not at all what I expected. I was sure that he would give me a loose pincer and try to force the corner upon me and make a position in the middle to try to get some center influence for himself. I jump to 37 and I am content. He extendes to 38 and I cap him wishing to perform a standard moyo erasing sequence. Not 100% happy with this sequence, but as the followup goes, it worked once again too perfect.

The invasion came where I expected, and I gave him every point he asked for. I was more than happy to.

The game continued on for another 140 moves or so, and the exact outcome isn't important.

It was a bitter-sweet game, since it became close to the perfect game for me. I love moyos. If black I usually play shimari corner, extend to the side and hope timing is right to make that box shaped moyo by a one-space jump from that extension. But in this game I felt that I was being helped along every step of the way. I see flaws in my plays.. big ones, but instead of being exploited I was helped to cover them up. I will try to remember this, and the most important part to remember is that I should never be expected to get this kind of help again. What was pleasant about this game was that I was relaxed, calm and reflective throughout it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Vacation over.

Ironically, even tho I thought I'd be spending more time on improving my go during my vacation, the opposite was actually true.

Even tho my kgs progress has been abyssmal these last months, I am making progress at the club. A friend of mine who I have the lead in our games recently has progressed to 13k kgs territory, while I'm closer to falling to 17k. And even tho I have the more wins lately he is a little bit stronger.. but not 4 stones. Need to play more online.. 1 game pr. day would be alot better than maybe 1 pr. week.

Friday, July 01, 2005

"Do not pride yourself on victory, do not complain about defeat. A junzi is modest and generous; it is typical of vulgar persons to give way to irascible and furious expressions. It is good for the best players not to exalt themselves and for beginners to have no fear. Be calm and breathe regularly. If you do this, your battle is already half won, while if your face reveals your disturbance, you are already losing. No shame is worse than that due to change of feelings, no action is more base than to cheat others.
[...] When the pieces are counted [at the end of the game], do not worry
about knowing the real extent of [your] victory." - Qijing Shisanpian, ch. 13, in WANG RUNAN (ed.), op. cit., p. 19.

Beautiful. I shall try to embrace this fully. Nothing to fear. There is no pride in winning and there is no shame losing. All I want is to improve myself. Know when to fight, and when to avoid fighting. I shall try to be more balanced when it comes to go. It will be hard, but I will work with myself until there is no anxiety, no fear and no negative emotions tied to this game.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ok! Heading off to the club. Personal goal for the night, try something new and make a few experimental invasions. Also work on confidence. Strenght is born from it, or so I hear.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

so I've been reading Get strong at invading. I must say the play is elegant, and it has helped me understand better how invasions work. What I do expect tho, is that I will need alot of experimentation and that my play will probably even decline for a period. Hardest part for me is to prep for invasions without it being so painstakingly obvious that my opponent closes all gaps. Maybe I should make an account to just drill through alot of games and get it into my fingers. Won't do me much good at OroBaduk, since I only get games with 4kyus, 3dans and 6dans there :P

Thursday, June 23, 2005

So.. The books I got in London.

First day I bought the board and the book Intermediate level power builder. It's a chatty book, kinda classroom setting where students suggest a move, and the teacher explains what's wrong with it and what to really do. Not bad. Reason I bought it was mostly due to it was one of the few from that store I wanted.. Was afraid I wouldn't get any other books. All in all though, it is fairly decent. The day after I came back and bought Essential Joseki by Naiwei Rui. I like it. More comprehensive than 38 joseki and more beginner friendly than the big dictionaries. This was Village Games, in Camden Lock.

Then a couple of days later I found Chess and Bridge. Picked up Get strong at Invading (loving it), Get strong at tesuji (also good) and The Endgame by Davies (which looks interesting so far).

Later that day when we went to the Brittish Museum, we saw a store called Playing Games (which I knew about, since I had read about it at the Brittish Go organisation's list of suppliers) and there my girlfriend and brother decided to get me the bowls as an early birthday present. I picked up Reducing Territorial Frameworks and Utilizing Outward Influence (probably good, but a bit tricky atm.. might just need to work with it longer than a couple of minutes at the time).

So. Intermediate Level Power Builder, Essential Joseki, Get strong at Invading/Tesuji, Endgame, Reducing Territorial Frameworks and Utilizing Outward Influence. Will write about them as I've read them to some extent.
Last week I was in London. You can't really buy any go related things here in Norway (one store I know that has a basic set and some replacement stones), so I went a bit overboard. Here's a couple of pictures of my new set I picked up (bought the bowls and the table, the stones I had)

Here some links to additional pictures:

Close up
With stones laid out
topside view

And lastly.. My new books :D
Hi.. I have been a Livejournal user for many years now.. At least 5. And I've probably made about 5 posts during those years.. but a couple of days ago I stumbled over and realized that if I blogged about something I am passionate about, I would actually write. So here it is.

I learned the rules a couple of years ago. But I didn't play much (due to something Nachtrabe talks about in his blog at senseis, we call The Fear of Playing Go) not due to the fear of losing, or any silly thing like that.. but just fear of playing in general. Still a bit haunted by it, and my progress is slow due to it. I did pick up go again january this year. Thanks to a friend of mine who is dragging me along in his slipstream. Fiercely competitive and at the time slightly stronger than me. This is good. I would not be playing if not for him. My KGS rank says 16 now, but I do believe 15 or maybe even 14 (on a good day) is more appropriate. So instead of learning from experience, I have become obsessive about theory. I love it. Joseki and shape are two things I particularily fancy. Not saying I'm good at either, but I am pleased whenever I make a good sabaki play, or I get to use a fun joseki variation.

Ok. Introductions have been made.. I am Gilgamesh on KGS. Pleased to meet you.