WGW 35: Stop Overthinking

Weekly Go Wednesday: Issue #35

Lately I’ve been piling up topics that I want to write about, but I found myself constantly pushing them off as I wanted to write the perfect article for each and every topic. Similarly, I’ve also realized that when it comes to playing games, I often find myself sitting there thinking about the multiple factors that go into whether or not I’m “ready” to play a game (i.e., how much time do I have, what if my opponent takes forever in byoyomi, what if I have to resign early, what if I’m not actually ready to play and make silly mistakes, etc. etc. etc.).

Today’s topic is kind of counter-intuitive since after all, go is a thinking game. However, I think that especially when it comes to amateur players, it’s actually really important not to overthink things. Because even though we make plenty of stupid moves from the lack of thinking, I think there are a large number of occurrences where players end up making bad moves or not enjoying the game as much as they should due to overthinking.

To some degree, there needs to be a level of acceptance where the dice will fall where they will fall. Once you’ve reading a fair number of variations, it is useless to sit there and worry that you missed the one variation that would reverse the game in your favor. After all, you’re on a clock and your growth as a player is measured by the number of games you play and not by the number of perfect moves you make. Or in the instance of my blogging, I could spend hours upon hours trying to write the perfect article; but that would mean I would almost never post and it would take much longer for me to get out the messages I have in my head.

Another instance where overthinking is bad for the go soul is when players play against someone stronger than them. Or well, actually, perceive players to be stronger than them. For example, the mere fact that the number next to a player’s username is higher is often enough to make players worry about some magic tesuji. As a result, they end up playing inferior moves or “safe” moves for fear of “stronger player-suji.”

And in my case, I know that I think overthink when it comes to actually playing go. For example, I’ll login to KGS and look at the Open Games tab. I’ll gloss over the open games and see if there are any opponents around my level since I don’t usually enjoy playing handicap games for rank. And then I’ll consider the time conditions. And once I do that, I click on the challenge and look at my opponent’s profile to see what kind of player they might be. Are they German? Korean? Russian? Nah I’m not in a mood to get challenged at every move. Or wait, let’s see how they played in their past games… And then usually before I know it, they accept a challenge from another player and I’m relieved of the burden of playing a game I might lose…

That was rather lengthy huh? Well that’s what goes on inside my head and a classic example of me overthinking things. And to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if other people suffered from the same kind of anxiety when it comes to playing games. After all, what if I lose? What if I play poorly and people see? And on and on and on….

So hopefully the next time you find yourself overthinking, I hope that you’ll remember this post and realize that there is only so much you can do before it’s just not worth worrying about. Think and play to the best of your ability. Don’t overthink it. In turn, I will stop being so paranoid about each and every game I play. And finally, I will just write more each week instead of trying to craft a perfect post. Off to not overthinking!