Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Suicide Club

Suicide Club
For the feint of heart, I advise against seeing this film

I decided to stop my planned study period which was anything but that and return to playing last week, only to find no time to play. When I did return, I became haunted by strange games. The strangest was against a (20k?) player who gave me a 9 stone handicap, then proceeded to feed my stones like I was starving, letting entire groups die through bad play (I have only now started contact fighting. In the past I have avoided contact as much as possible, given my low skill). When the game was well over, he continued to invade... and die. If we had continued, the entire board would have been cleaned of white stones. Very strange. I checked in today to see if his rank has popped up to around mine, and then see that he had just overestimated when giving me the handicap. To my surprise I saw that he is now a firm 22k. My only guess is that he was either very tired or very drunk. That game killed my excitement about engaging in battles on the Go board for the night.

I don't want be an overly aggressive player, but I think it is wise to go through a period of contact fighting to develop the skill, then pull back a bit and try to play more balanced. I used to avoid contact fighting like the measles and would lose many points based on that cowardice. I'd much rather lose then while I go down swinging.

At long last my financial drought has eased a bit and I was able to buy 2 Go books. It is clear I learn nothing on my own and can't wait to get these books. When I first started to take Go seriously a few months ago, I ran across a professional player offering lessons. I took a lesson about once every week for about 4 lessons. While the lessons target your individual faults and strengths, the short time of the lesson limits what you can learn. If a player could afford to take 3 to 4 lessons per week, the lessons would be superior to any book, I feel. However, I could barely afford one lesson per week and the money would have been much better spent on building a Go book library. That is not meant to weaken the credibility of my teacher. I think he is an amazing teacher, but I don't think beginners on a budget should start with that route. Later on, it is probably the best way to improve your game. In the beginning, I think it is best to sit down with a book and just learn.
For those of you just starting to build up your Go library, check out Chiyodad's recent blog about on the subject. (For yourself or to check someone off of your Christmas list)


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pro Games

The usual way that I review pro games is to download them from a source such as Gobase.org and then review them at a later time. In doing so, I can review them at my leisure, with the handicap being that I don't take enough time between each move. The best way that I have found to study pro games is to watch them live via internet broadcast.
On the Oro Baduk server you can find many live broadcast games from all three great countries of Go (Korea, China, and Bhutan.. no.. just kidding.. Japan.) This evening I watched a Japanese game between a 7d and 9d pro. The pauses between each move give you plenty of time to think about why they played where they did, where the next stone might be played, and each players overall strategy. Of course, I am about a 29k player, so I can guess a few moves in the opening, and that's about it. The best part is that in the games I have watched, commentary is made by high-ranking amateur dan players. While the commentary itself is in Korean, Chinese, or Japanese, the commentary is followed by a link which opens a small Gibo, complete with interactive buttons, to view the possible moves to follow. As the game progresses, it is very interesting to see these possible strategic ideas and be able to replay them at your own leisure. The stones themselves are the universal language and one need not worry about the characters on the screen that aren't understood.
Here is the an example of the number of games being broadcast at the time I am writing this entry:

At some point, the pauses between each move may get a little long, but armed with the power of speakers, you may surf the web or study what you have seen in the game so far at Gobase.org and wait for the next stone sound the click.
While I was on the server, a 9dan Korean pro logged on, the user name starting with Cho, and at first I thought it was Cho Chikun. Alas, the name ended with a "B". If anyone knows who it may be, let me know (not that it is some great mystery like the hot dog bun/hot dog count... I was just curious.)

I thought I would finish this entry with a quote from The Korean Times article of Go Etiquette: The following is an example of how the old Chinese book Yi Lu (弈律, ``The Rules of Baduk’’) regulated the players’ manners.
``Telling lies by saying that a group will die, feigning joy or sadness, feigning surprise or entreaty, or disturbing the other person’s mood is punished by 50 light lashes. This type of trickery is about aiming to cause the opponent to make a mistake by thinking that there is no other move here so that he plays elsewhere. Lying by saying that `that group will die’ is referring to a group as dead when it is not clearly so and, in fact, is a trick to make him make the last move elsewhere. Feigning joy refers to saying `I have won, I have won’ when the game is not yet over, and is a trick to cause the opponent to lose his attention on the game. Feigning sadness is showing a loss of fighting spirit by saying `that is hopeless’ in a game one has not yet lost, and is a trick to reduce the opponent’s attention on the game. Feigning surprise is suddenly noticing something and exclaiming `Ah so’ and is a trick to make the opponent treat one lightly.’’

Try getting your online server to give you 50 lashes!

The Korean Times has, what I think is weekly- article on an introduction to Go in the Arts and Leasure section.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

win... lose.. or DRAW?!?

scene from the film 2ldk

While on Dashn I received a challenge from HJS3689 (28k) with no handicap. On Dashn, even the 30k players beat me down to a pulp of Go stone dust, but since the challenger selected a "fun" game, I decided it could be a good losing experience, I mean, learning experience. I was very surprised when we reached the heart of the middle game and the score was about even (by my very unskilled judgement). During two small skirmishes, my opponent overlooked his liberty count and I killed two small groups, taking the lead. All was well, but in the back of my mind i repeated, "you need to secure the top right group... you need to...." Well, I didn't.... and he killed it, negating my lead. At the end of the game I couldn't tell who was ahead. When the score was tallied, it said.... A DRAW!!??! Shock! Horror! (yes, I have been watching British movies.) Evidentally my opponent had removed the komi, making a draw possible. I hate ties. I can't stand watching a 2 hour futebol match that ends in a 1-1 tie. I like even less playing a long game of Go that ends a draw. Pluh!
I was happy to obtain a draw against a 28k Dashn player. We will have to see if I could do the same in a contended match.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Down from the Mountain

My first game back took place against Moscowvip (24k) on the Orobaduk server. I immediatley noticed how different my playing style is. Each stone had a little more thought and an intended purpose (not that each stone was placed where it should have been, but at least I thought it should go there and had a reason for it). The game might have been closer if I had any invasion or contact fighting skills, but given that I do not, I was left with only Reduction as a fighting tool.

The game ended at 98 to 67, the victory going to Moscowvip. I was happy with my play after such a long break, and starting off so mediocre in the past made a small improvement much easier. Though my opponent was a 24k on the Orobaduk server, my guess is that the Orobaduk 24k is roughly equal to a 29k on KGS. I am barely 29k, if not 30k, on KGS and lost by only 27 with no handicap. This would make sense when also taking into consideration that Orobaduk ratings start at 25k. I have learned a little about shape from Joseki and think it is time to finally start learning the art of contact fighting. No matter how the remainder of my games go this weekend, it is good to be back to playing, learning, losing, and wondering if I will ever get better.

Monday, November 14, 2005


It has been about a month and a half since I have played a game of Go on any server. I stepped aside to spend time studying, with the intention of returning stronger. My time was restricted in unexpected ways such as a long power-outage from Hurricane Wilma and a lot of little things here and there I had to take care of. Sadly, I had much less than an hour a day to study. In that time, I went over joseki patterns and tried to learn good play and strong shape from them. I had hoped to buy a few Go books and pick up new skills and knowledge but Hurricane Wilma brought unexpected expenses. Even with that, it was nice to take time to learn what I could, and now I am happy to begin to play again. Thinking about my rank before I left, around 28k, I wondered if I had gained any this month and a half, and was reminded Bodhidharma's journey to China and his meeting with Emperor Liang.
Bodhidharma (Da Mo in China, Daruma in Japan) was a Buddhist monk from India who set out to China to pass on further teachings. Many people think that Bodhidharma brought Buddhism to China, but that isn't so. Buddhism had been there for some time, but the number of enlightened teachers was few, if any. When Bodhidharma arrived in China he was granted an audience with Emperor Wu Di of the Liang Dynasty. Emperor Wu Di is famous for his large Buddhist temple and monastery projects and patronage of Buddhism all over China. Upon meeting Bodhidharma he asked, "In my vast building projects and patronage of Buddhism, what merit have I gained?"
Bodhidharma replied, "None, whatsoever."
The Emperor wasn't pleased.
And so I imagine myself face-to-face now with a Bodhidharma of the Go world when I ask, "With the study of the Opening, and joseki patterns, what strength have I gained in this month and a half?"
I imagine the reply would be, "None, whatsoever."
Though I have learned more of the game and have a better understanding of heavy/light shape etc., my guess is that this will have little effect on my immediate rating or ability. Thankfully I do not play Go for this reason and enjoy playing and studying as a journey, and not as some fixed goal or rank. That attitude will come in handy in these next few days. Let's hope I fair better than Emperor Wu Di.

Over the weekend, while visiting relics of Buddha Shakyamuni, Nagarjuna, Marpa, Milarepa, Atisha, Tsongkhapa, and many other Buddhist saints, I had the rare honor of being blessed by a Tibetan Rinpoche, who said a blessing while holding a relic over my head. Though it won't help me much with Go, it crosses oceans in the few things more important.