Monday, July 18, 2005

Tournament Time

This was a tournament filled weekend. I played in two KGS tournaments (Asian day time and American daytime), in the open division, because I have had my rank turned off for a while now. The open division means that every one can enter, and pairings are random. This was an elimination tournament, so the moment you lose, you are out. I knew I wouldn't make it to the end, but figured it would be a good way to play stronger players.

In the Asian one, I made it to the third round, where I had to play against a 6k. So that was the end of the tournament for me. In the European one, I got a 3k for my first game, so that was the end too. I lost that one by only 34.5, which I thought wasn't too bad. Looking back, I did too many nonsense moves though, I should give up on making those.

Yesterday, I went to a real life tournament, in Boston. I decided to enter as AGA 8k (my official AGA rank is 12k at the moment). I figured I could do ok on that level. Well, I did play 2-2, but it was a lot harder than I expected. Because the tournament is rather small, I only played handicap games. Which isn't too bad, apart from the fact that I ended up giving high handicap 3 out of 4 games. If you add up my handicap stones, I gave a total of 25 stones over the day, and received 3. This seemed a bit unbalanced. Oh well :-)

First game was against a 15k, I gave 7 handicap. This game was just a mess. Too many weak groups, and one super heavy group, which he managed to kill. Wasn't hard either. Can't say that this was my very best game ever. Giving 7H is just really hard, I felt too overwhelmed from the beginning.

Second game was against an 18k, I gave 9 handicap. Better game, but she played very solidly. Making iron pillars the moment I played close to a corner. Connecting all of her stones as much as she could. She made some mistakes, but nothing big enough. There was a lot of aji in a certain position, but I couldn't figure out how to make use of it. A friend later told me how I could have done it, too bad. That might have given me the game. Even although I lost this game, I still feel I played better than during my first game.

It was halfway the tournament now, and I had lost all my games so far. I started to wonder whether I should have entered as an 8k, or whether that had been overly optimistic. On the other hand, high handicap games are so different from normal games, maybe I shouldn't worry too much yet, and hope for some more reasonable games next.

Third game I got lucky, finally I received some handicap. I got 3H from a 5k and it was really easy to win. He kept making nonsense invasions late in the game though, I think hoping for a mistake. At some point I was so tired of them (and my time was really low) that I just gave him 10 points in a corner, so I could live easily with the rest of my group, instead of preventing him from connecting, but being able to stir up more trouble. By that point I was around 50 ahead, so I couldn't care less about those corner points, just wanted the game to be over. End result was 35 points or so. Phew, I finally won a game!

Fourth game was yet another high handi game. I gave 9H again, and kind of expected to lose again. I made too many mistakes, but luckily, he made more. I ended up winning by 30 or so, but I don't feel I played that well. Mostly that he made more mistakes than I did. But hey, I'll take the win.

After the game, my friend came over and pointed to a position 'Why didn't you play here? That would have killed B!' I told him I didn't because B was dead already. My opponent agreed. We both considered it a dead group. Of course, it turns out that yes, there was a way to live for B, just one that the both of us hadn't seen. That's why we aren't dan players yet :-) It was on the board for ages too, I think at least 150 moves. Bad, bad, bad.

I feel that my play this tournament wasn't as good as it should have been, I think giving high handicap so many times kind of threw me off. My best games were my second against the solidly playing 18k, and the third against the 5k. The first and fourth game still had too much room for improvement. Learning opportunities.

The other members of our go club did well too. They both played 2-2. Looks like we all entered at the perfect playing level.

After the tournament, there was a blind go exhibition. That was fun to see. Mind boggling how he could do that though. We stayed for a bit, but then had to go back home. It was a long day, but I am glad we went. Hmmmm, wonder when the next tournament within driving distance will be...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Teach and Be Taught

One thing that has struck me in the go world, is how willing stronger players are to share their knowledge with weaklings such as me. An amazing number of players on KGS have helped me out, reviewing my games, giving pointers towards getting stronger, so many people giving lessons in the teaching ladder room. So much knowledge and such willingness to share.

Naturally, I have been reciprocating the favor towards weaker players. And I have discovered that I very much enjoy teaching people, endlessly talking about go, helping some one get stronger, give them insights about their play and how to improve it. I have joined The Go Teacher account on the Dragon go server. It is a group teaching account, teaches players from about 12k to 30k. It has been enjoyable to teach there, but it also has been very valuable and teaches me a lot. It helps to deepen my own understanding. It is very useful to verbalize things you were only aware of on a more intuitive level. Not only that, but reading through the comments of the other teachers has helped me too.

I take paid lessons too, with Sendol and zalmoxe. Sendol is an amazing teacher. I love the way he can change the whole board situation by putting just a few stones differently. He also is fond to point out the huge move I missed, first time playing it out and showing me why. After that, every few moves he might go back to it. 'Still'. Makes me more aware of looking for moves like that. And more aware of how bad it was to miss this particular one :-)

Fun to compare teaching styles, most people seem to develop their own style over time. Where one of my old teachers tended to use a lot of yelling when she got excited, another one wouldn't do more than say 'tsk' at a particularly bad move, making me think for myself why this was a less than optimal move. Yet others will say 'This is no good.', taking away my move and showing how much more effective just one space to the left would have been.

Today, I managed to beat The Many Faces of Go for the very first time on level 10 (the strongest level). I hadn't been playing it at all for ages, somehow robots just aren't as much fun as playing humans. But I was curious to see how I would do against it, since I felt that I had gotten a bit stronger since then. And yes, I have gotten stronger. I beat it by thirty something today, and didn't even have to focus that much on the game. It was a day time game, with the compulsory 5,000 kid interruptions. So I am happy about knowing that I can beat TMFoG now, guess I can start using it for handicap practice. Although that is more fun on people too. I might just keep using it for problems and joseki study.

Talking about problems, I have done at least ten thousand problems since January this year. Of course, a lot of those are simple ones (Korean Problem Academy and such), but it still feels like a quite respectable number. Guess I should do my daily problems for today, haven't done much yet. I also want to work more on memorizing that Honinbo game, I have 200 moves or so down.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Memorizing Pro Games

A few months ago, Nachtrabe got me interested in memorizing pro games, but somehow I never actually sat down and did it. Well, I half heartedly started on one, but life and other go studies kept getting in the way, and I don't think I can still do more than 30 moves or so of that one, if that much.

Then last week, two things happened. First, we finally got IGS working with our firewall (had to set up some proxy stuff) so I could watch the last game of the Honinbo finals. It was quite an experience, very intense game, and it was a lot of fun to discuss moves while they were being played. Black (Cho U) was ahead most of the time, but White (Takao Shinji) managed to pull off a .5 win with extremely skillful play. I spent most of a night watching the game, but had to go to sleep at 5am or so. The game was still in full swing when I logged off.

The next morning, I wanted to know who had won, and spent quite some time web surfing trying to figure it out. Amazing how even CNN doesn't cover important events like the Honinbo finals! Finally found a Japanese newspaper which had covered it and then used Babel Fish to translate it. Now I had closure. Of course, still had to find the kifu and play the game, but at least I knew who had won. I had hoped for Cho U to win, because that would have given us one or two more games.

Second thing which happened was a few days later at go club. Our dan player was talking about the game, and commenting on it, and playing it from memory! He said he hadn't even tried to memorize it, just had been replaying it so many times, that it got stuck in his mind. Hmmmmm, well, if he could do that, I figured I should be able to do that too.

I seriously started memorizing this game a few days ago, and even although life and other studies still are getting in the way, I have been able to memorize the first 150 moves so far. Shouldn't be too hard to memorize the rest. The game has amazing depth, every move has so much meaning. And I have to admit that it just is fun to memorize it. I am also hoping that it will help me with memorizing my own games, which I have been wanting to do for ages. I can sometimes recreate the first 20 to 40 moves or so, but that's it. And I am not able to do that every game anyway. So much to work on, so little time!

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Last night, I played a game in the Iwamoto Tournament. I have been doing about average in this tournament, winning 3 out of 6 games so far, placing me 42nd for the moment. I like that number anyway :-)

The game was going ok for the most part, apart from helpfully making him fix his shape at some crucial point, and some other less than optimal moves. My big mistake was giving him way too much of the center though, way more than I should have given him. Which made the game extremely close, even although I didn't realize how close. We were fighting one of those one point kos, when he passed, even although he still did have ko threats left. He thought I was ahead, so it wasn't important anyway. He was shocked when he saw the end result. Black +0.5. Yes, he was white. Gotta love those half point games.

It was a fun game, full of learning opportunities, as usual.

The Wings Go Club June league is over, I never got around to playing six games, only played three this month. Still tied for third place, so not too bad. I will try to play six games again this month.

I really like having my rank turned off at KGS. Suddenly I was able to beat 10k's who I had never beaten before. I feel stronger already :-)

Finally finished the first volume of my Korean Problem Academy books I had been working in it on and off, but never sat down and methodically did a bunch of them every day. Three weeks ago, I finally did and book one is done now! I think there are about 700 or 800 problems in them.

They don't have answers, which I first wondered about, how useful they would be because of that. It turns out I didn't have to worry. I actually think it is better not to have the answers because it forces me to really read out every sequence, and to be extremely sure about the right answer, as opposed to slapping a stone at the vital point and hoping for the best. Which is the way I often do the problems where there are answers available. Yes, I do realize that is not the best way, but sometimes it is mightily tempting.

With those problems, I have to actually sit down, concentrate and decide which solution is the best, and why another move does not work. Most of them I can do pretty fast, but some do stump me for a while. I do believe this helps to improve my reading power though.

This week at go club we had a beginner whom I gave nine stones. He turned out to be much less of a beginner than I thought he was, so that was a pretty hard game. I did manage to win, but only barely. I lived where I shouldn't have and killed some things which shouldn't have been killable. Always interesting to play against high handicap. I started a bunch of high handicap games on Dragon just to practice it more.