Wednesday, November 29, 2006


You know when you are staring at a problem, reading and reading and not finding the right answer? Lately, I just stop reading and skip it, coming back to it the next day. And surprisingly enough, the answer will suddenly be there and totally obvious. Amazing how the human mind works.

After a short stint of getting too addicted, I again have totally given up on blitz games now. (Last time a friend was my downfall, but not going to happen again) I do not play unless I know I can actually think and have some time. If not, I do problems or any other studying. Or hang out on KGS and be social ^^.

Both sendol and minue told me blitz was not good for me, I am trusting their judgement, even if the blitz period was fun while it lasted. Some day I'll play a lot of blitz again, but first need to get myself strong.

There is a Dec 9th tournament coming up in Vermont, will have to decide at what level to enter. Ranks are such a pain, I'd rather just play and not think about rank at all.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Yilun Yang's Workshop Lectures

Just read the new Yilun Yang book, his Workshop Lectures, Volume 1. I had read his Fundamental Principles of Go before, and was very impressed with that one. So I was looking forward to seeing his workshop lectures.

Last night, I took this book up with me as bedtime reading. It didn't take me long to get totally caught in the book, but sadly I fell asleep. First thing this morning, before even taking a shower or eating breakfast, I picked up the book again and read the rest of it. Best word to describe it: 'Wow!'

It is divided in three chapters. The first one talks about 'When to tenuki in the opening'. It gives excellent general guidelines for when you can tenuki and when you cannot. It did clear up a bunch of things for me, some of which I kind of knew but never saw verbalized so well, some which gave new and exciting insights. I will have to read it a few more times to really internalize all the information he is giving in a very concise manner.

The second one is about 'Choosing the direction of attack'. Again, very eye-opening, very enlightening, very clear. I think this is the chapter I am most excited about. I do like attacking, but I don't always think clearly about best direction or best way. This will help me better to figure out direction of play during attacking. He gives a lot of examples, will have to sit down with my goban and play them out to get a better feel for this all.

The third and final chapter talks about 'Playing complicated joseki'. He states that memorizing sequences is not important, what is important is to know the rules for contact fighting and how to apply them in messy situations. In that case, if your opponent plays a non-joseki move, you won't be lost, but you will have tools to deal with it. He uses the taisha as an example. He shows a typical sequence and what to do when opponent diverges from it. How to think to find the best play. This is another chapter I will have to study more closely.

I can only give this book a big thumbs-up, it is excellently written and full of valuable information. I also bought his Workshop Lectures, Volume 2, and very much looking forward to reading that one. But I'd better first have breakfast and a shower ^^

Using Thickness

Episode 42 in the saga 'Things I should know, but still mess up'. It's amazing how hard it can be to actually use the knowledge I have in the right way. Today's episode is about thickness, how to use it , how not to use it. My last teaching game against minue was a perfect example of how not to use it.

This was the position:

W just played the marked stone. Pretty clearcut, B has lots of thickness and needs to use it. My kyu mind immediately came to the conclusion that I should use this thickness for fighting, and I'd better split the two W stones and get them into trouble. I sometimes get carried away by my natural aggression.

I totally and utterly missed the bigger picture of driving W towards my wall. The obvious direction of play. The only direction of play.

minue622 [7d?]: so here,
minue622 [7d?]: A is better, (to drive white toward wall)
minue622 [7d?]: also, A is (pincer + corner enclosure)
minue622 [7d?]: very efficient move

This is one of the possible continuations.

Black allows White to break the bottom area, so that she can build on the left.

The game continuation was a lot uglier:

Black got a few points of overconcentrated territory and was not happy. Let's see again what went wrong.

minue622 [7d?]: in this game,
minue622 [7d?]: main focus is B's left side,
minue622 [7d?]: not b's bottom right territory
minue622 [7d?]: this stone is strong?
minue622 [7d?]: i mean, these black wall is thick?
NannyOgg [-]: yes, it seems very obvious now
NannyOgg [-]: i was just thinking SPLIT him , and not thinking whole board
minue622 [7d?]: fundamental reason is that u have this wrong "fixed concept"
minue622 [7d?]: ==>
minue622 [7d?]: i spent alot of stones to make wall,
minue622 [7d?]: so, i have to defend this area as my territory always
minue622 [7d?]: correct way of thinking is --> I spent many stones to make influence. and i can use these wall Either to make my territory efficiently , but, depending on situation, I can use them in a different way, (to attack white ,driving it toward my wall)

Yes, all sounds perfectly reasonable, now I just have to make sure to use it correctly in my games. Taking this as today's main lesson to ponder.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Even a Moron...

Remember the famous Kageyama quote 'Even a moron connects against a peep.'?

Last night, I was playing a game where I decided to go creative. Should just have played the simple connection. But nope, I wondered 'What happens if I play there instead?' I'll tell you what happened. I died. A totally miserable and unnecessary death. Painful. Good reminder to go back to basics.

Minue: 'Basics moves are "Basic" becuz they are usually best or better (most of time) than the other moves in Go. Basics doesn't mean something "low level" , but "Usually pro-ish move". Those moves are the first things to consider. We reject basic moves, when we have "Strong reasons" for it.'

In hindsight, naturally my reasons cannot be considered strong, even if they seemed like a good idea at the time. Yet another episode of 'Die and learn!'

Off to go club now, study session time! During our Thursday meetings we play, on our Saturday meetings we focus on studying.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back To Studying

OK, I spent enough time wallowing in self pity. Today, I actually went back to serious studying, or at least, as much as I could with constant kids interruptions. First studied a bunch of positions from Cho Chikun's Life and Death Dictionary to cover some l/d. The rest of the day, I spent reviewing pro games, mostly to get the bad effects of the mindless blitz out of my head. No idea whether it works that way, but I enjoyed going through them.

The best thing, I didn't play any mindless blitz. Will log on to KGS now and might play a game, but will try to actually think while playing. Unlike last night, when my focus was non-existing, even in my slow game. Heck, I might even do more go problems, now that I am back into studying.

Didn't use any painkillers again today, which sure does help. I just ignore the pain now, seems effective enough :)

Stupid Leg

I am still majorly annoyed by the way the pain killers and visitors interfered with my go playing last week. Today, I didn't take any pain killers, but my go still sucked. Solved it by playing mindless blitz games, not a good habit.

Tomorrow, will have to study for real. A friend told me reassuringly: 'Soon all your friends will stop visiting and the pain will go down and then you can study tons of Go and get STRONG!!'
Looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kate's Very Own Goban

A go friend had this set, and gave it to Kate. It has the required 'tiny stones'.

She is thrilled.

This week, friends have been driving me to go club, since I haven't dared climbing into my monster van yet. Having only one usable leg is a pain. I also have discovered that go study isn't that effective if you use pain killers and get lots of visitors ^^. This weekend, I finally have been getting in some real games. I will have to sit with my leg elevated for weeks more, so I hope to get more go study in over the next weeks.

Friday, November 10, 2006


I was looking for a goban with tiny stones for Kate, and came across this editorial quote about the game 'Go is probably one of the world's most intimidating games, one which conjures up images of players gleefully setting out for blood as they devise militaristic board moves.'

Interesting way of putting it :)

More Shodan Musings

Yesterday, I talked to a friend about similarities between go and martial arts. He had an interesting observation. I told him 'I am getting closer to the once coveted shodan. Although now that I am getting close, shodan seems pretty weak and no big deal anymore, i still have soooooooooooooooo much to learn!. He replied: 'WOW That's really awesome. And yes that's exactly how i feel about the shodan issue in budo too. In Japan no-one cares about shodan....all it means is that you're actually a student of whatever art you study rather than just someone checking it out. People only say things like "i have sandan" or "I have godan". If they're only shodan they say that they are "studying jujitsu" and if they're under shodan they don't talk about it. Pretty different from here where everyone just quits after shodan.'

Looking at the AGA ranking histogram, many people seem to quit after reaching shodan in go too. Is it because they reached the goal they set themselves? Do they lose interest and quit go? Or they stop studying, or maybe the stones are so far apart at that level that many people don't want to go through all the work to get stronger? The thread about 'Shodan... and then?' on has been interesting to read. I like the way Chiyodad expressed himself: 'Shodan is nothing more than a beacon to guide the first leg of your journey. After you get there, you find a farther destination and carry on. You had better be enjoying the trip because I suspect that every destination will really turn out to be nothing more than a road-sign that says "You are here". '

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lots of Study Time

Good news and bad news. The good news is that I will have lots of time to sit around and study go. The bad news is that I broke my leg ^^

It's not a bad break, mostly a big annoyance. I have a splint and crutches now, and am supposed to sit around and rest a lot, keeping it elevated. Perfect opportunity to get more studying in then I usually can do.

Will have to spend some time making up good stories on how I broke my leg, since I am sure lots of people will ask. Would be nice to have some variety :) Last night on the server:

NannyOgg: I broke my leg!
friend: How did you manage to do that?
NannyOgg: Well, I was hiking through the woods, and met this bear...
NannyOgg: But you should see what he looked like after this!
friend: Really?
NannyOgg: No, but it does make for a pretty good story, doesn't it?
friend: Yes, it sure does.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The $2.41 9x9 Go Set

Ash asked about the 9x9 board I am using for Kate, and I thought the answer would be useful enough to spend a post, instead of burying it in the comments.

A KGS friend made a 9x9 board for us. It is made out of plywood, has the lines drawn on it and has varnish applied to it. Simple, cheap and practical.

I am showing it here next to my normal goban, to give you an idea of the size.

I know iceman has done something similar for his go club at school. But if you don't want to go through all that, there is an even easier and cheaper solution.

When I was researching what to put in my Ancient Game of Go II Geocache, I was in contact with Anton Ninno of the Syracuse Go Club. He told me about the $2.41 go set he had developed. He sent me a pdf file of a 9x9 board, which you can print and use to play. For 'stones', you can use nickles and pennies. Forty nickles and forty-one pennies give you a cost of $2.41 for the whole set. Of course, can use anything else for stones too. For my cache, I went to Staples, and had the goban copied on cardstock, so it would be a bit more durable.

Yutopian has a somewhat nicer version of a 9x9 board. It is laminated, 9x9 on one side, 13x13 on the other. I haven't seen it, so don't know the quality, but I did see that the corresponding 13x13/19x19 one got good reviews.

Hope this helps.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

9x9 as Teaching Tool

We have been playing 9x9 high handicap games with Kate. Today we added the challenge: Try to kill every single W stone. This is after a discussion with minue. He said: 'L&D is the conceptual basis of Go, and concept of territory is just a derived one from it. So mastering L&D of stones is first thing to do. I want to let her practice basic Atari and killing problems in 9H game. Go is a game about "how to ensure survival of my present and future stones and prevent survival of opponent's present and future stones." If we do that job well, more territory is gained just automatically as a side effect. Sacrificing to gain more territory, giving up my weak stones is a sort of trade between death of my present stones and survival of my futher stones'

Interesting, makes a lot of sense. I never had thought about using 9H on a 9x9 board that way. It is fun to set up ways for her to kill stones :) She even often figures out the vital point of a group. And one game, she saw a W group had miai for life and she decided 'If I play here, he can play there and he will live. But if I play there, he will play here and live. So he will live anyway. OK, I will resign.' ^^ And she did. And went off to play a computer game :) Nice to see how she didn't get upset about losing, she was very matter-of-fact about it. I have been telling her how she is supposed to lose half of her games, and looks like she understands and accepts that.

Here she is setting up go problems for her 5 years-old brother, who is utterly uninterested in go. Fun to see how she made up her own problems, and made sure to keep them simple for him. He never wanted to do them, but she got her father to solve them instead ^^.

I hope sharing the way we teach Kate, will help other people who are teaching beginners. And I have to say that I am utterly fascinated by the way she is picking up the game and is figuring out things. It is cool to watch her alternate making amazingly good moves, and nonsense ones.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Teaching Kate

Finally! The day arrived that one of my kids actually is interested in go. Kate is still very enthousiastic about playing, let's hope that it will last.

Interesting concepts are popping up while teaching her. She knows about ladders, but I never had shown her geta (net) yet.

I put this on the board for her, and asked her to capture the W stone. She immediately made a ladder and captured it that way.

Next question I posed to her, 'What if I play a ladder breaker?' We first checked whether and how the ladder breaker broke the ladder.

Then I asked her whether she could find a move to capture the W stone, even if there was a ladder breaker. She came up with those two.


Not bad, Kate, not bad. And fascinating to see what she came up with. Both her moves worked great. I showed her the basic netting move in addition to those, and she immediately grasped why it worked. So cool!

She has her own KGS id now and is enjoying playing me and some friends on line. When she plays me a lot of her kibbitz consists of 'DIE DIE DIE DIE!'. She sure has the trash talking down, I wonder where she got that ^^

She was playing a friend on line and it was funny to hear her talk while playing. Some quotes:
  • I must take my territory!
  • Uh oh! He has more territory, and I can't solve that! Wait! With my handicap I can! Here i can make one eye and here another one! He made me TWO eyes!!!!!!!! (after generous non-killing play by W :)
  • Uhoh, mommy! He is invading again! Oh no you won't! I shall kill you before you even live!
  • Oops , I played a bad move, oh well!
  • See! I just sacrificed a stone!'
  • Wait , I'll do the same trick, sacrifice! (while trying to kill)
She figured out a snapback (W set it up for her) 'Hmmm, if i play here he can take me, but he would only have one liberty left' This impressed me, until the next game she missed a 15 stones capture of W stones in atari ^^.

She started against him in a 9H game on a 9x9 board. She was very impressed. 'WOW! I didn't know you could do something like that! I got EVERY single bit, grass, silver, gold!!!' (I have told her that the Chinese have proverb saying corner is gold, side is silver, center is grass.

Can you tell I am excited about her playing go? I realize it might not last more than a few weeks, but I am enjoying it as long as it will last. She told me 'I learned a lot about go by playing capture go. I never wanted to play real go, because I thought it was boring. But now I see how much fun it is to grab lots of territory!!!'

Thursday, November 02, 2006

About Winning

Shygost had an interesting viewpoint in one of his reviews. He was talking about attacking a group and said: 'Not only do you not have to kill, you don't have to win! In chess , you have to win, but not so in go. If you win more than half of your games, they increase or decrease the handicap, and you are back to losing. You are not supposed to win your games. You are supposed to just enjoy, get some good thinking in there.'

Interesting, makes a lot of sense. Not that I thought go was all about winning anyway, but I never had looked at it in exactly this way.

My 7 years-old daughter has started to play more go, she desperately wants her own goban with tiny stones. She plays 9x9 games at club now,and is mostly out of the self-atari phase ^^ I hope she will stick to it. Two more weeks of club play and she will get her very own goban.