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 :)


O_Scientist said...

Great post, as usual. I have found that I do play to win, but I don't mind losing. And some games I even go in, expecting to lose (when I play a dan player for example) but I still play with the mind set to win.

And to my utter surprise, I sometimes even win a game like that :)

But if I lose, even if it's against a weaker player, I really couldn't care less, I see it as a learning opportunity and move on.

The desire to win is important though, i agree with you.


Gilgamesh said...

right :) I don't mind losing either, especially when it is deserved. (I am still somewhat bitter when I'm being tricked into losing.. but I'm actually getting better at dealing with that as well).

But wanting to win, as opposed to preferring a win, has shown to be very beneficial to me. I think self esteem and an objective look on my own strength would clear some of the hurdles that this attitude in some respects handle. But I think I'm getting to a position of mental strength strong enough to progress my go soon :)

thrashor said...

More than a desire to win, what drove me from double digit to single digit kyu level of play was an improved ability to really see what is going on on the board. Am I leading? Then reduce complexity and reduce aji. Am I behind? Then keep my options open and create aji. It is often easier to let your opponent lose the game than to try and win it with a risky onslaught.

It is nice to find another go blogger (of course I cannot limit myself to a single topic). Also, I am a Canadian of norwegian descent. Hei!

Gilgamesh said...

Hei! :) Yes, what you are saying is very important as well. Seeing that a group is healthy and being able to tenuki to a large point is also something a double digit kyu may want to try more often :) So many flaws to fix, and so few games played. One day :)

hdoong said...


your post rings true to me too. i do well especially in tournament games because i find myself applying myself very hard during these tournament games. the desire to win becomes greater because of the motivation for recognition.

to the contrary, my online games are extremely weak and it is not an exaggeration to say that i am about 4-5 stones weaker playing online. at first i thought it's an excuse that i give myself but after this long, i know that i simply cannot play online well without hurting my eyes and back too much. i don't think i have enough "respect", if i can say that, for online games to be able to give it the attention and thought it deserves, nor do i have as strong a desire to win as in a tournament or a serious, face-to-face game. i don't enjoy the feeling at all and now, i go on kgs to mainly to socialise and meet up friends.

winning is important. if not, why play? but losing can also be a lot of fun too :) but in the games that i play, the real fun is to explore and discover more and more about this very amazing game....

Gilgamesh said...

That's how it feels to me :) couple of stones stronger on a real board, and yet another 1-2 stones stronger in a competetive enviroment. Might be an illusion :) Makes me want to play in more tournaments