Friday, September 30, 2005

Feng Yun

Last night, I drove up to Middlebury, VT, with another go club member, to attend an event with Feng Yun. First a lecture and a demonstration, and then the highlight of the evening, she would play a simul.

I knew the simul was just for Middlebury players and strong visitors, so there was no way I would play in it. But miracles do happen and she ended up playing more players than had previously been announced. Both me and the other player of my go club were able to play, what joy! To play the second strongest woman player in the world! Who would have thought that would ever happen!

She was amazing. She played twelve of us, most of us got 9H. The few strong players, like the 4d and 5d, only got 2H. She did not have any problems with any of us, the only one who made her think a few times was the 5d. For all the others, we would put down our stone, and she would reply instantaneously, seemingly without thinking. And yes, she beat all of us. Easily too.

What a great experience! I learned a lot too, just watching her play. When I play in a handicap game, I tend to overplay a lot, hoping that my opponent won't punish correctly. But she didn't overplay at all. She just plays slow, thick moves, building up a strong position, and patiently waiting for mistakes. Then she pounces. Very effective. Showed me how much I still have to learn. Like I didn't know that yet, but it was even clearer while playing her.

Now I am even more committed to studying more and more, so I will get stronger. I might get addicted to this game! Wait, I am addicted already. Well, then I can be even more addicted. Here is the final position of the game. I had 9H and nothing died, but she had a lot more anyway. Amazing!

Time to do some problems!

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Beware the jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

My favorite opening the last few months has been mokuhazushi (3-5 point). It can lead to some interesting variations, of which the Taisha definitely is the best. I still remember the first time some one hit me with the Taisha. He totally crushed me and then in review told me 'Beware the Taisha! The joseki of a thousand variations.' That got my attention and soon I started looking into the taisha. And playing it of course, with varying degrees of success. I have to modestly admit that I am getting better and better at messing up the taisha, so I am making progress there.

When browsing through Sensei's Library some day, I discovered that my favorite opening had a name. Well, kind of. A fun name too, some one named it Jabberwocks!

This inspired me to see whether the Jabberwock user id had been taken on KGS. To my utter surprise, nobody had grabbed it yet. I couldn't resist the chance to become a Jabberwock, so that's me now. Decided to use it as my very own wacky openings account. Mostly jabberwocks, but I might experiment with others too.

I wanted to experiment anyway, having heard from people that it's hard to get games with a question mark rank. It was unexpectedly easier than I thought it would be. I just put up a game offer and waited to see what would happen. My first ranked game was against a 5k, who utterly destroyed me. Rank was still a question mark after that. Second game was against a 19k, who couldn't quite crush me, and this got me my first rank, a [12k?] Still a question mark, but at least a rank attached to it. (the average of 5k and 19k, which made sense). And yes, I know I could have played ranking bots, but I wanted to see how hard it was to find real people to play. Not to mention that bots are just boring.

I have played a few more games, bouncing up and down in rank, it seems not too hard to find an opponent. I tend to get an offer within 5 or 10 minutes of putting up a new game, even with a question mark rank.

And to illustrate the success of the jabberwocks opening strategy, it was recently played in the last match for Oza challenger decision match, by Yamashita Keigo against Nakaonoda Tomomi. What a great game that was! Jabberwocks won Yamashita the priviledge of challening Cho U for the Oza title. I am looking forwards to their matches.

Tomorrow, Feng Yun will be at the Middlebury, VT go club. It will be wonderful to see her in person. Who would have thought that one of the only two female 9p's in the world would come to Middlebury, of all places.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Yay for Self Atari!

It has been one of those weeks. Somehow I have managed to put myself in atari not one time, not two times, but three times!!! Pretty amazing.

First time was a brilliant sequence I had worked out. I had totally read out how it would utterly destroy his position. The only tiny oversight was a self atari somewhere on the way... So instead I ended up utterly destroying my own position... Sad.

Second time was in a game where I was behind anyway, and I made it even worse by playing a rather big self atari in early yose. At least it wasn't the game. I still resigned in disgust at my own play.

Third time was a funny game. His group seemed to be weak, so I decided to try to kill it, cleverly disguising my eye stealing moves as normal yose moves. And yet again, I totally missed an obvious self atari. This wasn't even one in a brilliant sequence of moves, it was a totally obvious and direct self atari... He took, and I was 30 points behind. Bad, bad, bad!

I still finished the game, it was only 30 points after all. I managed to steal some points here and there, and ended up winning by half a point! Pretty amazing. The ironic thing was that he played a dame as his last move, instead of the one-point move that was still on the board. That cost him the game. Oh, and in review I realized that that black group I was targeting wasn't even weak enough, so I should just have let it alone. Sigh.

I have been thinking about why I manage to play self atari so often, and I realize that it is purely a matter of focus. If I am focusing on my game, and paying attention, I almost never make stupid mistakes like that. I just make normal mistakes :-p But when I am chatting, and web surfing, and reading email, and dealing with kid interruptions, then I suddenly get hit by self atari's. I wonder whether there is a lesson to be learned from that. A lesson about actually focusing on my games, even if they are on line ones...

My current study still mainly considers of replaying / memorizing pro games and doing problems. And problems. And problems. And more problems. We studied the family of L groups (L, L+1, etc) at go club last week, so I am entering a bunch of L group problems to use with Uligo. I want to practice them over and over, so that some one could wake me up in the middle of the night, hand me an L group related problem, and I will sleepily and automatically know the right move. At the moment I know just enough to be able to mess them up nicely. Even more so after studying them.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Learning from the Masters

I have been replaying and memorizing some pro games, but I felt that I wasn't doing enough yet. Most of my pro games I have gotten from GoBase, this Go News Page and from GoGameWorld for commented games.

A few days ago, I suddenly realized that I have lots of paper sources with pro games too, which I have conveniently been ignoring. Mostly because it's so much easier to just sit and click instead of actually getting out my goban and my stones. I decided that this maybe wasn't the right attitude and that digging up those paper sources would not be a bad idea.

I looked at my go book shelf and first thing I found was Learning from the Masters: Kyu Level Commentaries on Professional Games Volume 2. This looked as good as any to start with, so I put my goban somewhere where baby couldn't reach it and started replaying the games, while reading the commentaries, and exploring variations.

Very different from just clicking. There seems to be a certain feel and flow to the stones, which I miss when I just point and click. I am kind of hoping that doing this on a real board will help me to internalize good play more easily, but even if it doesn't, there just is a lot of enjoyment to be found in this exercise. The touch of the stones, the sound of putting them down on the board.

I like the level of comments on the games, they have helped me seeing all kinds of things which I would not have noticed by myself. I think this is going to be very helpful. I managed to memorize the first 56 moves of this game without putting much effort in it, I am not going to work on memorizing the rest of the game, but will get new games to play through and memorize at least the first 50 moves.

Of course, i am also still doing problems, slowly working my way through my new Chinese books. I am now halfway volume 4 in this collection of tesuji problems which means they are not as easy anymore. Still very do-able though, I think I'll do fine with this intermediate level. We'll see what happens when I reach the volumes with the hard problems.

I finally managed to beat my husband with 6 handicap! For the longest time, I would give him 5H and I would easily win, or I would give him 6H and he would always win. But over the last few days, I have played him twice with 6H and won! He doesn't like losing, so we'll have to increase the handi to 7 now. My ultimate goal is to be able to let him win by 0.5 every single time I give him 9H. Then he doesn't have to complain about losing his games with me anymore. Let's just hope that he won't get as obsessed with go as I am and would start to work seriously on improving :-D

Friday, September 16, 2005

Chinese Go Books

I had visitors, so couldn't be on line as much. Luckily I just got a shipment of go books from China. Thus I could put a problem book open on my lap while pretending to be socializing :-) I have worked through the first two volumes of this problem collection, and am really good at recognizing 'B to play' and 'W to play' in Chinese now. I can do one of those books per day, but I am sure my problem solving speed will slow down in the next few volumes.

I also worked through the first volume of Lee Changho's Life and Death Collection which took me a lot more time. It will be a while before I have done all those volumes.

Made a start in 800 Quick Tesuji Problems but I can tell already that this is going to take quite some time too. Great problems though.

Can you tell I am very happy with my new Chinese books?

Some one asked about the Korean Problem Academy books, wondering how useful they are because of not having answer diagrams. I have found that the problems do take longer because of not knowing the answers for sure. But I think that that is a good think. It forces me to really read out the problem, as opposed to dropping a stone at a vital looking point, hoping for the best, and checking the answers. Now I read out most variations, and I also read out a lot of other moves, to prove to myself that none of them works. Sometimes I find a second move which seems to work, and I have to look more into both 'correct' moves, to figure out which is the real correct one. The lack of answers forces me to read deeper and more carefully, which in my opinion is a good thing. I would recommend those books to any one.

Just out of curiosity, I used joncol to look at how many games I have played on KGS so far. I am up to 544 games now on my NannyOgg account, of which I have lost more than half. I seem to have a much easier time winning as W, my winning perc as B is only 40 %. Makes sense of course, I just thought it was interesting. I have played 248 different opponents, which is quite amazing. Just think back 10 or 15 years, and it would have been almost impossible to play that many opponents in less than a year. I play 1.37 games per day, but that's only counting KGS, the number would be higher if I included all my KGS accts and my dragon and little golem accounts.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Little Golem

December last year, I dusted off my go board and played a few times. I thought I would really want to start playing more regularly again. Life kept getting in the way though, so I knew it wouldn't happen. I decided to check out the AGA web site, to see whether there was a club any where close by. No, there wasn't but lo and behold, there were go servers! Places where people were night and day, willing to play go. I had no idea that such a thing existed!

It took me a few weeks to get one of those go servers working with our firewall, and I was thrilled when we finally got it done. The one I managed to get working was KGS, so that's how I ended up primarily on there, although I do have an unused IGS account now too. Later, I found out that KGS most likely was a better fit for me anyway, so many people there willing to help weaker players and to review games. I had seen turn based servers mentioned, but I felt they wouldn't satisfy my immediate cravings for playing as much go as possible.

Fast forward a few weeks, when I played in my first real life tournament. I met another go player, who invited me to play on Dragon Go Server I checked it out, and suddenly I realized that this would enable me to play even more games, especially when I didn't have time to play a full game, I could always fire off a few moves on Dragon. I played for a while and found Dragon to be a perfect complement to KGS.

I had heard people talk about Little Golem but I had never checked it out myself. Till a go friend gently nudged me in the direction of that server, and I found another turn based server, but this one is based on tournaments. There are always tournaments going on, you just join and wait for the next one to start, usually within a day. So it is like dragon, but more competitive. I have been playing there for about a week now, and have been having a lot of fun. I have found that I shouldn't sign up for too many tournaments, I now have more than 50 simultaneous games going, although a bunch of those are fast 9x9 ones. I even *gasp* ended up joining in two small chess tournaments. Don't tell any one! I suck at chess anyway, but thought it would be fun to play a few games.

Today I finished my first Little Golem tournament. Came in second place out of four, with same number of points as first place, but he had played tougher opponents, so he won. Yes, I do like Little Golem!