Monday, August 29, 2005

The Monkey Jump

Remember back in the days when you first got hit by the monkey jump? The devastation it would wreak on your territory. When the only thing you could do was put down stones in a vain attempt to stop the damage, but you weren't very successful?

And then the sense of power you felt when some one showed you how to stop it properly? Not only did you now know how to deal with the monkey jump, but you would have it to hit other players with. I still remember how it was nice to know everything there was to know about the monkey jump. Life was good.

For a while, I did all the things right, according to what I had learned. Until one day, my opponent managed to wreak havoc anyway, because he was able to live in my territory, even after being cut off. That hurt! And slowly I started to realize that my standard reply for the monkey jump didn't always work. And even more slowly, I figured out that it had to do with which stones were in place and which weren't, and how he could push farther if certain stones were missing. Life wasn't as simple anymore.

A few weeks ago, we did a study session on monkey jumps at our go club. We studied the normal monkey jump, the small monkey jump, which I never even had contemplated using. Looked at which one to use under which circumstances. Looked at when one point jump might be better. How to follow up on those. I felt that I knew a bit more now, but not nearly enough.

I was thrilled when I found that a whole book had been written on the monkey jump. Perfect! Now I could learn even more about it and I would be enlightened again.

Last week, it arrived, and after making a few false starts in it,using it as bedtime reading, I finally got to sit down and really study it yesterday. Was amazed at the depth of coverage. Was confirmed in the belief that I know nothing. Now I still know nothing, but I am more aware of some of the things I know nothing about. At least I now know which replies to contemplate when replying to the monkey jump. I now know which variations to read out, and that sometimes even a diagonal play is better than a monkey jump. I read more in depth about the value of a monkey jump. Yes, the average is 9, but as always, it all depends.

Still have to do the problems in the book, which look like they are going to be harder than I thought a monkey jump problem could be. This is all so fascinating! I keep discovering new layers in go, layers I didn't even know the existence of. One thing which got reinforced to me when reading the book, is that it all comes down to reading out moves and variations, and getting better at that. Even although my reading has improved since I started seriously studying, it still is nowhere near the level where I want it to be. Heck, plainly it just sucks.

I guess on of my main study goals should be improved reading, which could be accomplished by doing a lot of problems. I had kind of slacked of on my daily Many Faces of Go problems, but back to doing 50 of those every day again. Doing lots of other problems too, some day this should pay off, right? I have reached new heights in my Many Faces of Go problems, I have hit problems up to level 142 over the last few days, where only a month ago, my average level was from 60 to 80. Maybe there is a tiny bit of hope for me.

Back to doing problems!

Monday, August 22, 2005


Yes, aggression. I have never been a very passive player, but I seem to have gotten a bit too aggressive lately. Which has lead to some nice fighting, but also to quite a lot of lost games. It's hard to find the balance between aggression for profit and aggression just for fun. I am slowly starting to see it, but it looks like I only learn the hard way. Yes, I should cut whenever it's feasible and advantageous. But no, I shouldn't cut just for the sake of cutting. I should have a bigger plan and a follow up for my cut. If I don't, better not to cut, but to play something else. Something that is part of my bigger plan.

As I said, slowly learning this, but still having too many games where I get totally drawn into a local fight, losing track of the whole board situation. And if I would at least win the local fight, that would be something, but I often manage to lose the local fight AND the whole game. But on the other hand, I do have a lot of fun fighting!

Working on attacking for profit now, as opposed to attacking for fun. Seems contrary to my playing style, so I better change my style to reflect my new philosophy. Not promising it will work all at once, but at least I will be trying.

Last night played a nice game where the stones seemed to flow really well. Still a bunch of glitches, but less than normal. So maybe there is hope for me. Some days I think this is taking way too long, on the other hand, I am enjoying the playing and studying tremendously. Who cares is it's taking longer to get to shodan than I thought it would? At least I am slowly getting stronger, at least part of the time :-) Of course, I do realize that shodan is only going to be the start of the journey. So much to study, so little time!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Four Color Go

Last week at go, we played four color go. Yes, four people, one goban, four colors. And each of those people plays for themselves, no teaming up like in rengo. It is ok to temporarily team up to kill one player. Boy, did I find that out the hard way :-p

Everything you think will work, suddenly doesn't work anymore. You have to consider your stones to be in atari when they have three liberties left, because now it can be killed by your opponents. Playing thick and like a beginnner suddenly seems to work much better than making nice shape. And there is way more social stuff going on than even in rengo, because you can change which people you work together with to kill sutff.

I started out playing very aggressively and opportunistic, taking anything I could, playing atari wherever it seemed fun. Later, I switched to more territorial, but I had a nice number of captures by then. Everything went just fine till I forgot about the '3 liberties might be dead' rule and played not as solid as I should have... That was the end of that group.

Another interesting development is that even if a group dies, nobody wants to play to take away the second to last liberty, because then the person who goes after you gets all those stones to capture. So you end up with a lot of giant seki's on the board.

It was a fun experiment, we might do this once a year or so. The weakest player ended up with the most points, our dan player ended up with the least. Yes, interesting game.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Handicap Go

After playing in the Boston tournament, I have started thinking more about handicap go. Things really are different when there are a bunch of black stones on the board already. I have found that there are quite a few books on handicap which look at it from the view point of the weaker player. But there aren't many resources for the White player. It seems that you are supposed to know what you are doing when you are white. Which isn't always true for me yet. The one which seems to go into white's mind most is 'How to Play Handicap Go' by Yuan Zhou. It's a very good book, and has gotten me interested in his other book, but it is out of print at the moment.

I have decided that I need to practice giving handicap, so I have quite a lot of dragon games going where I give handicap. Some are going well, some are not. There definitely still is a lot of room for improvement! I also have been giving handicaps to stronger players, both to see how they use their handicap stones and to practice giving handicap against some one who actually knows what he is doing.

Playing handicap as black seems easier, although it's amazing how I can get nine stones and still be pushed around by the stronger player. I played my first 9H game with my teacher Sendol where he let me win by 1.5. Yes, let me win. He clearly was playing this as a teaching game, trying to keep the margin small. He set up tons of testing situations, some of which I passed, but most of them I didn't even notice till he pointed them out in review. You know, where he showed out for almost all of his groups 'See, this is how you could have killed it'... It was a fun game. And shows me yet again how much I still have to learn. At the end of the game he remarked 'I didn't have a chance'. Gotta love his sense of humor :-p

At our go club we now have an official handicap table, which gets adjusted after three wins. Now I just need to work on getting down the handicap I get. My highest is still 9H against our dan player. My sole goal in life is to decrease that to 8... And then to 7, and so on. Last week we played our first 'official' handicap game, which I won by 22. Only two more wins :) I find that I play better in real life than at the server, I am sure it's all about focus.

Our club's 5k used to give me 7H for the longest time when I just got back into go. Now I am down to 2H against him, and I think I might be able to play him even soon. Last week he beat me at 2H, but that was purely one of those stupid mistakes on my part, I felt good about the rest of the game. You know, where you look at something and think that something must be possible there and should you defend? and then kind of forget about it... That mistake cost me about 30 points and I lost by 25 or so.

The Iwamoto tournament is over. I played one game a week for eight weeks in a row. I won 5, lost 3, and ended up as #21 out of 81 players in my division. An ok result. It was fun to participate, I will enter it again next year. In a higher division though, I would hope.

The ratings of the Boston tournament have been updated on the AGA web site and I am 9k AGA now. So I guess I officially have made it into SDK territory. At least for the AGA. Now I need to get there at KGS, where the ratings are stronger.