WGW 38: I Want to Play Go Like That...

Part I - Interlude - Part II

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #38

Though some of you may hate me for delaying Part II of my 1st Washington Open Baduk Championship series, the funny thing is that the Weekly Go Wednesday series actually fits in perfectly with the story. So hold your horses for one more day, and let’s dive right into this shall we?

So where were we? Ah yes. I had finished off the first day of the tournament with the second to worst record you can have: 1 win with 2 loss. To compound on that embarrassment, I won one and then proceeded to lose each game afterwards with each being a more epic failure than the last. After all, it would have been way better if I had lost the first two games and then won the last one. Then at least I could feel like I improved over the day instead of the epic plummet that actually happened.

Usually when I undergo a shocking disappointment like I did that day, my first reaction is to try and figure out what went wrong. After all, it wasn’t as if some freak accident happened where I hallucinated and put the stones in the wrong place. No, especially with go, there are no such things. So for the rest of the day, I kept thinking about what went wrong. Many things crossed my mind…

The first (and most self-pitying) of my thoughts was the simple fact that I wasn’t actually 3 kyu. KGS and the AGA might have ranked me as 3 kyu, but maybe the statistics were biased and overly generous since I did not play often enough to get an accurate measurement of my strength. So perhaps I was really more like 4-5 kyu when it came to the competitive scene. But after trying to entertain that thought a bit longer, even I realized how absurd that notion was.

Since that wasn’t it, the next thing that I came up with was the fact that I lacked the stamina to survive tournaments. In other words, I might be able to play one serious game a day and then a few casual ones; but in a tournament setting with all the pressure and intensity, I ran out of steam and could barely win one game. After all, I had stopped playing ranked games (aka serious games with strangers) and was probably more out of practice than I was willing to admit at the time.

Okay. That made sense, but I concluded that it could not be the only reason. After all, being tired doesn’t explain the self-destruction that occurred as the day went on. After all, it’s not as if I just made a few bad reading mistakes, it’s like my brain decided to take a vacation and I was playing like a mad man. So there must be more…

Ah. Could a part of it be arrogance from the fact that the last full tournament I played in (NOVA Pumpkin Classic) resulted in me have a perfect record and getting 1st place? And in hindsight, I had not really prepared for that tournament, so perhaps I subconsciously thought that this tournament might be similar. Maybe I could just wing it and do well like last time. Not necessarily win, but at least do well. You know?

Well, that was about how far I got with my introspection when I arrived in a nearby conference room to see Park Sohyun (3p) playing a teaching game with one of the VIPs.*

*To give some background on this story though, the VIP she was playing a teaching game with was actually an insei when he was younger. So while he was older now and out of practice, there was no doubt in my mind that he was pretty strong (i.e., he only took 2 stones for the game).

I didn't want to take a picture of her from the front at this time because I didn't get a chance to ask if it would be okay and she was in a middle of the game.

They would play for like 30-40 moves, and then he would have a question for her and they would rewind the game back like 20 moves or clear off an area of the board to talk about a particular sequence or concept. And then the game would resume another 30-40 moves before the same thing happened again.

I could not understand anything they were talking about since they spoke in Korean. However,as I watched the game unfold, I would watch as her moves exuded with power as they came down on the board. And at the same time, I watched as the VIP tried his best to hold his ground against her while ending up with this very over concentrated groups that she would harass while continuing to gain a greater advantage on the board with each move.

The weird thing is that it’s not as if I had never met a professional or seen a professional play against an amateur before. Yet for some reason, her moves captivated me in a way I had never quite felt before. As I watched in awe, each and every move came flowing down with a grace and beauty that I can only describe as surreal.

Hikaru No Go Anime, Kuwabara Hon'inbo (Epsiode 29)

Hikaru No Go Anime, Kuwabara Hon'inbo (Epsiode 29)

“This…” I thought, “The way she plays… I want to play go like that…”