Saturday, April 30, 2005


Today, I went to the Vermont AGA Spring Tournament. It was perfect!

The drive up there took longer than anticipated, so I did stress a bit about arriving too late. Luckily things did work out, I was late, but the organizer knew I was coming, and had saved a spot for me. He set it up so I could play him for my first game.

I decided to enter as an 11k, which turned out to be just right. He was 2k, so I got nine handicap stones. I played a nice, solid game, he was muttering something about me playing too strong for an 11k. I proved him wrong when I managed to play a brilliant sel-atari in yose though... 25 points worth of self atari! At least it was sente :-p Thanks to that, I ended up winning by only ten or so.

Second game was against an 8k, where I got three handicap stones. The game went well, till I neglected one of the basics, the one where you keep your weak group connected or alive... So I ended up with a nice, big, but very dead group. I thrashed around for a bit, made my opponent think, did a series of very nice tesuji's. But in the end, I was just one tiny liberty short... So I resigned. Was a fun game anyway, with all the fighting. And my opponent turned out to be a KGS player, who I had played before! When he realized who I was, he immediately asked me about the hedgehog song... Such a small world :-)

Third game I had to give eight handicap against a 19k. Quite overwhelming. The board was just so majorly dominated by all those black stones. She played nicely, and solidly, and didn't let me get away with much. I still played a decent game, and in the end lost by 8. I was happy about the way I had played that one, even although I lost the game.

I did realize that I must have been about 19k when I started playing again last December. So I have improved quite a bit if I can give eight handicap now, against the level I was only four months ago. That felt good.

Last game I gave three handicap against a 14k. My last official AGA rank was 14k (in January), so I was curious to see how that one would turn out. I started out behind (obviously :-) He built nice big territories, I built smaller territories. I started reducing his territories, he allowed me to. I poked and prodded, and slowly his territories got smaller, while mine got bigger. Not only that, but I ended up with about half the center. As in a nice big open space in the center, not one of those mostly-dame centers. Pushed him around in the end game, and ended up with a 33 points win. Another game where I was happy about playing against my own old rank, and seeing that I must have improved a bit.

All together, there was a nice variety of opponents, and I think I played pretty decently. Two wins an two losses make me an official 11k AGA now.

Good things I did
  • Paid attention to my endgame, kept sente during most of it and managed to score quite a lot of points that way
  • Didn't just reply to opponents move, but evaluated it and thought about whether I needed to reply or could tenuki
  • Counted a few times during every game, and ended up pretty close to the final score
  • Tried to keep sente as much as possible. Not perfectly yet, but at least I was aware of the issue, and was looking to get and keep sente
  • Didn't let the stronger players get away with much overplay
  • Did more creating than i did destroying.
Bad things I did
  • The 25 points self-atari has to be put on the top of this list. Still can't believe I did that! OK, I can believe it, it just annoys me, yet at the same time amuses me. Great learning opportunity!
  • Didn't pay enough attention to connections, which lost me the second game
  • Totally misread a life/death situation in that second game. I need to do more tsumego!
So overall, there are more good things than bad things. I had a wonderful day, met wonderful people, and played pretty decent games. And I am officially an 11k AGA now!

The only bad thing of the day is that I got lost on the way home. Three full hours on Vermont 'scenic roads'. In the dark, in the rain, in the fog. Oh joy!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Life is Good!

Things seem to be falling into place. At least some of the time :-) Once in a while I even make a good move.

I won the Wings Across Calm Water Go Club April League!!! It was a shared first place. It's just a fun and friendly self paired league, but still happy about winning. Maybe there is hope after all :-)

Also managed to win a game against a much stronger player, one who usually wipes the floor me. Most likely a fluke, but I'll work on making it happen again.

And third good thing, I am going to a real life go tournament! Tomorrow, in Vermont, which is pretty close to where I live. Just need to figure out which rank I will enter at. I played our local AGA 5k at 5 stones for the first time this week, and beat him twice. Easily. But my KGS ranking still is only 15k, but I have not been playing many rated games. Mostly free so I can experiment. Oh well, I'll decide tomorrow.

Of course, I still lose tons of games too, but every one of those has presented a bunch of nice learning opportunities. Sometimes a bit painful learning opportunities, but I can only blame myself for getting into those messes :-) I am just having so much fun playing, that losing doesn't seem to matter. Enjoying the game does matter, and I sure do that every single time I play.

Monday, April 25, 2005

I have always had problems with the website. The stones won't display for me, and it is just very annoying. It seems like such a wonderful resource, and I can't use it!

I know you can download them, but that didn't work as easy as I had hoped either. So I decided to look into trying to solve this issue. I found some pointers to java problems with the site using windows XP, so I went to the web site and downloaded the very latest version of java. Spent some time installing it today, and lo and behold, suddenly the stones were visible if I changed the stone size at the start of a problem. Not optimal, but better than nothing.

Was extremely happy, till suddenly all the stones disappeared again! How annoying. Tried all kinds of different things, and I am now at the point where it sometimes works, and sometimes it doesn't. Well, I guess it's better than it not working at all. I just wish what makes it work or fail, so I could recreate the right circumstances. It is a very useful collection of problems, I think it will help me a lot.

Down to 14 minutes at the Korean Problem Academy level 1. Still made four mistakes though. So at least I reached my time goal, now I just need to reach my perfection goal. And then, on to level 2 of course. I did 60 level 2 problems today, it will be a while before I can do those as fast as level 1. Will be a good challenge.

Got two new go books in the mail today. One about the Chinese opening, which I desperately need. I so totally hate playing against chinese, often do disrupt it while it is still building. But I recognize that that isn't the right way to deal with it, I should be able to play against it, or to play it myself. This book will help me.

The other book is called 'Direction of Play' and just from reading the intro, I could tell already that it is going to be very useful.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Creation versus Destruction

Yesterday, I played a good game against our local 5k and got promoted to only 5 handicap against him. Was feeling good about that, till I started playing my nightly KGS games. First two were just fun and friendly games, but my play totally sucked. I had a lot of kid interruptions, but I don't think they were the whole picture. For the third game, the kids had gone to bed anyway, so can't blame them for that loss :-)

Lost three out of three. Not good, so I started thinking about them. Some analysis made me realize what had happened. A few days ago, I played a few games where my opponent built a nice big moyo, and I would either invade incorrectly, or be too late to invade. So I vowed that wouldn't happen again. From now I would make sure my opponent was not going to make huge moyos.

So I played to disrupt the opponents development, but paid almost no attention to my own positions. Which got worse and worse. I would jump in at the wrong time, wrong place, wrong tesuji. Reduce the wrong way. Everything wrong! I felt so annoyed with myself.

But it did teach me to not just go for destruction. Creation is ok too, even if the opponent is creating things. So today, I changed my playing style. I did my own thing, and let him do his own thing. I got behind (he was better at creating things),but in both games, he made some mistakes I could use. And lo and behold, I managed to win both of those games! Even although he had a whole side both times. Amazing how well that worked. And he was a stronger player too!

Now I have to find the balance between creation and destruction. I think my last two games were not enough of reducing moves and such, but I still came out ahead.

Down to 16 minutes at the Korean Problem Academy level 1. Still made six mistakes. But I am getting closer!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Go Geocaching!

After seeing the The Ancient Game of Go cache, hidden by Anton Ninno of the Syracuse Go Club, I decided that I would love to hide a local go cache too. It took me a while, but with some help from Anton, I got it all together.

As a little side note, for people who have no idea what the heck geocaching is, it basically means using a GPS to find caches hidden all over the world. We got our GPS last August, and have been hooked ever since. More information can be found at

On Sunday, I took my ammo box and the baby, and hiked up on one of our local mountains. It was a lovely day. Saw lots of chickadees and other birds, heard the distant sounds of frogs in a pond, and I enjoyed the solitude. I have to admit that I did do a bunch of joseki in my head while hiking, but that's only appropriate for a go cache, right?

Found the perfect hiding spot, took coordinates, and went home to list The Ancient Game of Go II. The box has the usual trading items, and I also put in 9x9 boards copied on card stock, which can be used to create a $2.41 simple go set. There are flyers about go, with the rules of the game, and an explanation of capture go, to get people started. It also contains links to the AGA and some go web sites.

Looking forward to having people find this cache, and maybe get them interested in playing go.

Last night, I played a guest on KGS, who seemed a bit stronger than I was. In the middle game, he started making mistakes though, and even although I still was behind, things were getting closer. It must have worried him, because he disappeared. Annoying, but I had a good game up till that happened. I guess it's a risk of playing guests. But I also have had very good experiences playing them, so I'll just shrug and find some one else to play :-)

Today, it took me 24 minutes to get through the first 200 problems of the Korean Problem Academy. So there is some progress, but I still make way too many mistakes. Good exercise!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Playing fast or slow?

I have been trying to play a bit slower lately, actually sometimes thinking BEFORE putting down a stone. I tended to just put down a likely stone, without really evaluating all the options. It's good for my reading, because I read out more sequences now than when I was just plunking down random stones. But I have found myself over-thinking things too much sometimes, spending lots of time to make a very sucky move. Oh well :-)

One thing I am starting to realize, is how the choice of joseki influences the rest of the board. I knew that was true, but never really 'saw' it while playing. I still have a hard time seeing it while playing, but at least I am starting to recognize it in hindsight. Geez, did I really have to use that fancey and fun joseki, which then utterly destroyed the influence of one of my other stones? Couldn't I just have used the simple version of the joseki, which would have been fine?

Some games I am playing ok, other games, I get too caught up in local fights, and ignore the whole board situation. And there have been too many games, where I lost the game within the first 10 moves, looking back at it. Lots of room for improvement :-)

Still doing problems, working my way through Graded Go Problems for Beginners, Vol 3. It is not going as fast as I would want it to go, guess I am not patient enough. Some one gave me a nice problem challenge yesterday, about the Korean Problem Academy. He said I should be able to do level 1 (200 easy problems) within 15 minutes. Without mistakes too. I looked back at my notes, and the last time I did level one, it took me 26 minutes, and definitely was not spotless. I was curious to see how I would do now.

Found out that not only had I become slower at them, but I also made more mistakes. I think trying to do them fast made me first click, then think. And I don't think that's what this is all about. This is a perfect exercise for me. I ended up taking 30 minutes, and made way too many mistakes. I guess I am going to work on this every day now till I do get it perfect :-)

Monday, April 04, 2005


I seem to have made a jump in reading ability. Not sure how it happened, but suddenly, I am able to see things that I wasn't able to see before. While doing life and death problems, I now actually read more of the sequence before jumping in with the 'likely move'. This has increased my problem level in the Many Faces of Go considerably. Of course, it has slowed down the tempo in which I can do my daily problems, but I think that is a good thing in this case.

The scary thing is that I find myself playing sequences out in my head when there isn't even a go board near. I go to bed thinking about go, and I wake up to myself going over a bunch of joseki in my head, getting really annoyed with myself when I can't picture a certain move perfectly or am forgetting a certain continuation. I play sequences while driving my van. I consider the merits of good and bad shape while loading the dishwasher. Yes, I think I can consider myself officially obsessed now :-p

Of course, I still have tons of room for improvement, and of course I still do way too many moves where I realize one micro second later that this was a big mistake. But it still is nice to feel some progress happening.

By the way, thanks to Tristen's advice, I stopped holding go stones in my hand while playing. Yes, it does make a difference, it helps me to prevent some of those 'I wasn't thinking' moves. Not all of them, but obliterating even a few of them does help my game.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


My ranking finally seems to reflect my progress. I was so tired of being an eternal 16k, that I played a bot with less than proper handicap, and won, so that finally made me jump to 15k. Of course, I immediately went on to lose my three next games as a 15k, but hey, at least I learned a lot.

My DGS ranking went to 13k for a day or so, but now is up to a more reasonable 15k. I still feel that I am getting stronger anyway, reading is starting to get easier. I know much faster when I have gotten myself into trouble :-p

I find myself replaying sequences and joseki while driving my car. It has, at least once, resulted in me arriving at a different destination than where I was supposed to go. I think I am officially obsessed :-)

Some games, the stones seem to have a flow of their own, and they just magically move to the right places. Of course, in other games, they manage to move to just the wrong places. But at least I do have some games where I can feel the flow happening :-)

Took a break from contact fights, but I have had quite a few opportunities in my games where I could have used the info. So will go back to it, maybe tonight or tomorrow. I like the way Bruce Wilcox gives very mathematical rules for all those contact fight opportunities. I know it will help me a lot in my play.