Archive: 11/2012

The Importance of Endgame

So for those who don’t play on KGS, I actually managed to climb back up to 6k and hang on to it (knock on wood). As it is everyday, I had an urge to play a ranked game and decided to play against an opponent who is actually more along the lines of 5k but recently got downgraded to 6k. Although I was resistant to playing him at first, I decided to plunge ahead since I planned on beating stronger opponents anyways.

Let me just say this for the record: I never quite understood the importance of endgame until this game.

I mean, sure, everyone “knows” that the endgame is important. As I look at the people around me however, I realized that most kyu players tend to disregard this aspect of go since most of their games are contingent upon big battles which often result in early resignations. With that in mind, how could you blame them for not paying more attention to endgame?

As I’m approaching the mid-SDK range, the games that I have played have begun to take on a new form from the big battles I used to fight. While this makes me a bit nervous, this is part of the journey to becoming the strongest player I can possibly be.

The following game is one that I think many of you would find quite interesting since it consists of a rather complicated capturing race and is a great example of why a player’s endgame skill can be the difference between victory or defeat.

While he ended up resigning due to the capturing race, in reality this game goes down as a defeat in my book. Had I been more careful about my endgame, I’m quite sure that I would have earned that victory fair and square; but it is clear that my reckless endgame actually cost me the game. This game has really humbled my opinion of my abilities and reminded me how critical it is to:

  1. Practice estimating the score so that I do not have a distorted view of the game.
  2. Be more meticulous about my endgame moves since I only get a few opportunities to really practice it.
  3. Continue to practice my reading abilities so that I do not get caught in liberty shortages due to misreading.

Here’s to hoping I have learned my lesson.

North American Go Convention!!!

IntroductionDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Conclusion

Big announcement everyone! I am ecstatic to tell you about a brand new go event coming to the East coast!

North American Go Convention Logo

North American Go Convention 2013 (NAGC)

Here is a high level overview of all the exciting things you can expect:

  1. Game review sessions with professionals!
  2. Simultaneous games with professionals!
  3. Lectures from professionals!
  4. Multiple open tournaments for players of all ranks that are AGA rated and can be up to 23 rounds for kyu players and 17 rounds for dan players!
  5. Pair Go (Rengo)
  6. Blitz Go
  7. Lots of awards!!!
  8. And more more more!!!
    So if you’re even thinking about possibly going, go ahead and pre-register here because there is no obligation to commit to anything but you will at least have your name down early on in case spots for simul games or reviews from pros become unavailable due to high demand (which you know is inevitable). So don’t hesitate and hurry up and go pre-register! I’m already pre-registered for Gold Access in DC, but I’d also be open to going to NJ as well if given enough persuasion!

If you are going, be sure to let me know because I’ll definitely be there! Ahhhhh!!!! So exciting!!!!

IntroductionDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Conclusion

Resistant to Playing White

In my entire go playing thus far, I never actually found a real preference for one color over another… until recently.

I’m not sure if any other players share this concern with me, but I recently developed a resistance to playing White. As I sit here wondering how I got to this place, I can only come up with the following possibilities:

#1. I have no control over how the opening will play out.

Now this seems kind of childish, but I feel woefully unprepared to deal with the openings that my opponents tend to play. For example, a play that I know will always haunt me until I get familiar with it is the 3-4 opening. I have a vague idea as to how to deal with it, but I still feel at a loss when I think about it.

#2. I feel like I have to be more aggressive in order to nullify Black’s plans.

I recognize that with komi White does not nearly have the disadvantage that it used to have, but the idea of being one move behind Black gets under my skin more than I’d like it to.

That being said, perhaps all of this irrationality stems from the fact that I’ve recently begun to finally grasp the strategy behind go. My whole board understanding has grown and as a result I have a better idea how things fit together, but I think a side effect of this is I started realizing how much I actually don’t understand.

For those who aren’t aware, I have been working with the sanrensei for quite some time now and have developed quite a liking for it. Unfortunately though, sanrensei only really works as Black. I’ve tried playing sanrensei as White a few times, but the only times I win are when my opponents allow me to gain the initiative and outplay them tactically.

I know that this adverse reaction to playing White will subside in the future, and perhaps one of the best remedies for it is to simply gain better understanding of the different counter strategies to the popular variations that Black generally plays. It’s a pity there isn’t a book out there that deals specifically with this subject matter. If there isn’t one when I’ve become much stronger and gained a better understanding of the strategic elements of White, you can be sure that I will be posting articles on it to help fill the void.

One thing is for sure though, I want this feeling to disappear as soon as possible.

Things You Should Know Before Going to a Tournament

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #8

After my experience with the NOVA Pumpkin Classic Tournament, it occurred to me was that there were quite a few things that I wish I knew before going to the tournament. As a result, I wanted to pass on some of my lessons learned to you in hopes that you’ll find it useful in winning your next tournament.

  1. Don’t expect your opponents to resign. This may be more so in amateur tournaments than the professional circuit, but you have to remember that people are there for the long haul. These are not like the internet games you play where killing off a single group will cause a good portion of players to go running to the resign button.

  2. Be as familiar as possible with the format of the tournament. If at all possible, try and practice a few games online in the format you will be playing in just to make sure you have the hang of it. (I played Canadian byoyomi for the first time and it nearly cost me the game in the third round.)

  3. Keep an eye on the clock as much as much as possible. This is particularly true for people who are used to playing online since the clock is normally right in front of you and you might even have an alert to let you know if you’re running low on time (which would be useless in Canadian byoyomi). In my opinion, losing on time is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a player; so avoid it at all cost because it will eat you alive for the following rounds and possibly cause you to panic and rush instead of playing your normal game.

  4. Take a break after every round. At the bare minimum, I recommend walking out of the room and clearing your head for a few seconds so you are starting fresh every time. I didn’t do this for the first two rounds, but afterwards I washed my face each time to freshen up and it did wonders for me.

  5. Don’t expect to have a long and relaxing lunch. Unless you and your opponent are rushing to finish on time or happen to play quickly, the odds are pretty good that your game will eat into your lunch break.

  6. Expect the tournament to take all day and consume most of your energy. I was naive in thinking that the tournament would take half a day at most. In regards to my energy level, let’s just say I was ready for an activity that required low amounts of energy.

  7. Don’t forget that you’re there to have fun, socialize, and learn something as well. Although the victory and accomplishment were some of the high points that day, the opportunity to meet and talk with so many other Go enthusiasts is right up there as well.

As always, if you have any advice or tips from your own experience, please be sure to share below and I’ll add them into the list as they come!

Coming Up with Joseki On Your Own

You ever have one of those moments where you play an opening and wonder how far you deviated from the joseki? Well, when you had one of those moments, did you ever happen to find out that you managed to play the proper moves without any joseki knowledge? Because that happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of greatest moments ever because I felt that it was a sign of growth and understanding of why certain moves are played.

Check out the game record below starting from move 7.

Pretty neat huh? But here’s one thing I will say to my fellow go players who are trying to reach dan level: While I have been a big advocate of avoiding joseki study throughout my own growing process, I believe that I may have reached the point where joseki study can no longer be avoided. I must admit that I never thought I’d reach this point, but it seems that the time will be upon me very soon…

Back in Business!

I’m not sure if anyone else feels this way, but there’s just something about playing an even game with someone much stronger than you that tends to bring out the best moves in you. And although I did not know this at the time, my game with Tilwen is what I needed to regain my composure and leave behind the reckless go I had been playing.

After the game was over, Tilwen gave a fantastic review that really opened my eyes regarding vital concepts that I never quite grasped:

#1. Attack from far away.

#2. Contact moves are for defense.

This may be common sense for many of you, but I assure you that the simplicity of the concepts never occurred to me throughout my study of go. Perhaps it was simply the reinforcement I needed after much studying, but his explanations of these concepts really helped to solidify the concepts. For those who still find these concepts difficult to grasp, just read it over a few time for familiarity and I assure you that I will write an article on these to better clarify them for you.

Many thanks again to Tilwen for his help and advice!

Experimental Games

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #7

Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results. - Narcotics Anonymous

If we rephrase it into a go context, it might look something like this.

Insanity in go is playing the same level of moves over and over again, but expecting to gain a stone in strength.

That being said, this brings us to a critical aspect to getting stronger at go: experimental games.

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Perfectly Defeated...

So over the past week, my rank on KGS actually went up to 6k and I managed to defend it properly against a 5k. Good news right? I’m back at 7k now. (-.-) How does that happen you might wonder? Losing four straight games in a row. That’s how. Haha.

You know those times where no matter what you do (whether it’s fate or you just sabotaging yourself), you keep on losing? That’s me right now. Haha. I’ve gone through four straight losses and it’s been pretty pitiful.

I lost my first match to in a relatively normal way. Not on tilt quite yet, and then I decide to challenge him to a rematch. And then I get excited when I think that his group is killable, and end up losing my entire corner early on in the game. There goes my second loss.

From that point on though, it was like I was on a pure vengeful pursuit to win against him. I played him once again, and decisively won a number of key battles, and then I lose on time.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I then go off and challenge another 6k. This match is going great, because he’s in a killing mood too but I’m managing to outread him for most of the game… and then I failed to realize one of my sequences put a big group in atari and then everything died…


Ten Minute Games

I’ve played my fair share of ranked games lately, and one thing that I have noticed about myself: I do not like 10 minute ranked games. Although I’ve always considered myself more of less a fast player, I realized that I actually like (and need) to have a decent amount of time to think through what I’m doing. In today’s kifu, I found myself hitting byoyomi pretty quickly and then playing the later portion of the middle game and endgame in sudden death. And in my experience, that is the time where any mistakes made will usually turn the game around. I was scrambling to try and find the best moves without accidentally killing myself. Enjoy watching as I squirm and have only my instinct to help me make the correct moves.

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How to Study Tsumego

Empty Board by Eidogo

Go Problem: Black to play and win.

For those who are skeptical of the importance of the correct approach to studying tsumego, let’s consider the following:

  1. Your reading ability is the primary foundation for your go ability. If you can’t read worth diddly squat, don’t expect to get any stronger.

  2. It’s the most convenient form of go that is available to players if they’re unable to play an actual game. So why not make it an enjoyable activity that will help you get stronger?

  3. Finally, since most go players will spend a good portion of their time on tsumego, it is only logical that you would want to maximize the growth you’ll get from the time and energy you spend on it.

That being said. Let’s dive right into how one should properly study tsumego.

#1. As a rule of thumb, spend at least 75% of your time on easy problems.*

If you primarily focus on hard problems, there are three issues that will arise.

A. You will get frustrated because you are going to be wrong most of the time and will be unable to see why you’re wrong. Therefore, you will not learn or gain much.

B. Although you would think that learning how to solve hard problems would result in you being able to solve easy problems, this is rarely the case for tsumego.

C. Finally, you must understand that every game of go you play consists of a majority of easy to intermediate level problems, and then a handful of complicated situations. So instead of understanding the proper moves to make for most of the game and being a little lost for only a small part of the game, you hope to win a game where you make mistakes during the majority of the game and make the occassional correct move for a small part of the game? You might want to think twice about this approach if you want to win any games.

With that in mind, isn’t the only logical thing to do is train your intuition so that your basics become flawless? After all, once the basics become instinctual, you will not even have to consider the trivial moves that once plagued your mind. Instead, you will now be able to focus on more complicated situations that will ultimately allow to rise in strength and ability.

*If you’re wondering what qualifies as easy, it means that you can read out all of the variations in your head with minimal effort.

#2. If you use tsumego software, do not get in the habit of just playing things out because you can.

The short version of the rationale for this is that tsumego software permits you to be lazy by letting the software show why something is wrong. This is a habit that will not only fail to help you improve your reading ability, but will deteriorate it instead. For a more detailed explanation on this topic, visit this post.

3. If you do not understand why your variation does not work, stop and figure it out before moving on.

Although this piece of advice will be difficult to follow as you grow in strength, this is one of those things that will truly help to fill the void where you are not seeing the issue with your variation. If you take the time to properly understand which counter moves negate your solution, it will serve as a big boost to your abilities over time because you will begin to see variations you could never see before. And if you feel like you’ve tried everything (even though in reality you haven’t) and feel strongly that the book is wrong, get a stronger player to help you figure it out. I’ve done this a number of times and without fail, there was always one variation that I left out.

Well I hope that this will get you on the right path to studying tsumego. If you have anything you’d like to add from your own experience, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to revise the post with ideas that other players can make use of!