Archive: 12/2012

So Far So Good...

Contrary to my previous attempts at abstaining from ranked games, I’m happy to report that I have kept to that promise thus far. I won’t say that it hasn’t been difficult, since I can’t help but stare at the numerous opponents I could be playing. Nevertheless, the free games that I’ve been playing have helped to abate that desire. In addition, I’m also very happy to report that my apprehensiveness at playing White has diminished significantly since that last post.

In regards to my study, I’ve been working on studying more on shapes and how to attack properly. The free games have been great because they allow me to experiment with the concepts I’ve been exposing myself to, and as always, having stronger players review my games afterwards give me a better sense of how far off the mark I am when attempting to apply X Y Z principles.

As I’ve began to enter the realm of mid-SDK ranks, I am beginning to see that the terrain of each game has begun to deviate from the go I was familiar with before in the lower kyu. For example, many games in the past were often determined by large captures. Nowadays, I have noticed that failure to take direction of play and whole board strategy into consideration generally ends poorly for me. It’s not to say that my reading abilities are good enough as they stand, but the other intricacies of the game (e.g., leaving behind aji on purpose, solid knowledge of joseki, etc.) will soon become critical to master if I am to take the next step.

Yuan Zhou Monthly Workshop

Yuan Zhou explaining a game (Credit to (TriangleGoClub)

After many months of almost going and then not being able to, I am happy to report that I finally made it out to one of Yuan Zhou‘s monthly workshops. This post is slightly overdue since I went to the November one; but it comes at a right time since the December workshop is right around the corner!

For those who have never been to a go workshop, here’s a high level overview of what you might find:

  • In depth review of a game (usually a professional one)
  • One round of games (with a main time around 45 minutes)
  • Game reviews for the games that were just played

As I arrived at Yuan Zhou’s house, I nostalgically recalled the two lessons that I had taken with him in the past. They seemed so long ago, but I was glad that I was finally back to seriously study the game. As I walked towards the entrance, I felt a little apprehensive as I wondered whether I would be able to gain anything from this workshop since I am so weak; but before I could have any serious doubts, I was greeted by Yuan Zhou and welcomed inside.

I was happy to see that Nate had already arrived, and promptly sat myself next to him as I was told to work on the life and death problem on the board. As we sat there staring at the board, Nate made a comment that made me laugh,

“Two years after Shifu told me someone named Ben might be coming who was close to my level, you’ve finally managed to show up.”

After everyone had arrived, it was time to see if the students had figured it out. As luck would have it, since I was the weakest player there, I was to give the first response. Recently, I had been exposed to some of the quirkier life and death problems that required atypical moves just as making the empty triangle descent and such; so I ended up choosing that move even though I couldn’t quite see the end of the sequence. Sure enough. I was wrong. Haha. Eventually a stronger player gave the right answer, and so we finished up the explanation and moved on to the review of the professional game.

The game we were reviewing was one of Ishida Yoshio and Rin Kaiho‘s games from 1974. Before we even began looking at the kifu however, Yuan Zhou launched into a fascinating explanation of the history behind the game: Go Seigen & Kitani Minoru, the Super Six, the terse feelings of having a non-Japanese player hold both Meijin and Honinbo titles, and so on. While some may wonder how relevant this is to getting better, it is like a cultural tour of this game we all devote so much time to that many often overlook. And if you still aren’t convinced, knowing the history behind the entire game made for a much more exciting review since you have an understanding of the players and how high the stakes are.

After the exciting game review, we had lunch and then proceeded with the afternoon game. Since we had an odd number of players, one of the players recorded my game while I had the opportunity to play. I felt kind of badly that I was playing and the player had to record, so in the future, I think that I would not mind being the recorder instead so other players can play instead. Anyhow, here’s the game record from that afternoon.

After all the games were finished, Yuan Zhou reviewed all of the games. If there’s something I learned from that experience, you tend to remember your lessons a lot better when other people are watching the review and seeing the mistakes you made. For example, the one thing that I will remember forever is the Elephant’s Eye (which I’ll write more on at another time). In addition, being able to have both sides of the game reviewed really helps to open you eyes as to what was supposed to work and what wasn’t supposed to work. On top of that, getting to see the game reviews for everyone else’s game was also very helpful.

Although I started out skeptical of what I would gain from the workshop, I am now a huge fan of them. Since most of players will never have the opportunity to be an insei and study go at that level of intensity, I really feel that go workshops are like one day insei experiences. Everyone who attends is committing their time and money, and you can be sure that everyone wants to make the most out of it. In addition, they are spaced out in such a way that you don’t have to worry about information overload. In fact, that’s exactly what you want since the time apart from each workshop allows you to absorb and apply the things that you learned so that you will have new things to learn the next time around.

I highly recommend Yuan Zhou’s workshops if you ever have the opportunity. The next workshop will be December 16th, 2012. If you’re interested in attending one of Yuan Zhou’s monthly workshops, contact him at Hope to see you there one day!

Book Review: The Nihon Ki-in Handbook of Proverbs

Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Ponnuki

Basic Information

  • Title: The Nihon Ki-in Handbook of Proverbs (Volume One)
  • Author: Translated and Edited by Max Golem
  • Publication Date: March 19, 1999
  • Page Length: 163 pages


  • This is a fantastic book for players who want to be exposed to lots of different concepts without being inundated with dense diagrams and explanations.
  • The book covers a very broad range of material that makes it a valuable purchase for those who have a difficult time with some of the other more dense material.
  • Appropriate for 20 kyu and stronger.
  • Recommended for all players.

Real Life Rank

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #9

Credit to Adam Howell

For those who have never played in a in-person tournament before, the idea of a “real life rank” may seem foreign. I assure you, however, that this is something you’ll want to give some thought to before you enter your first tournament.

As most of us know, a majority of go players have gained their strength through online play. As a result, common sense would dictate that their rank online would be what their rank should be when they enter a tournament. While some may disagree with me, personal experience has taught me that this is not the case for the following reasons:

#1. Your online rank is generally a representation of you on your best days.

Yes. I realize that your rank includes your losing streaks and bad days as well. Ultimately however, people play go online when they feel like playing. It’s a voluntary choice and they can voluntarily choose to stop if they feel that they are having a bad day. Tournament play is completely different in this regard. Unless you plan on leaving early, you are going to have to play every round regardless whether you’re feeling off or not.

#2. Online ranks are inflated.

Think about it for a moment. How many times have you played games where opponents resigned after the first fifty moves because they lost a group? In fact, I would say that a large number of ranked games online are won by resignation. This means that there are many times where the game may have been reversed if the opponent was willing to try harder and finish the game in its entirety.

#3. Tournament games and online ranked games are on completely different levels.

Two reasons: attitude and stamina.

A. Your opponents will be on a completely different level than before they are here to stay. They are here for the long haul and want to have the best record possible, so don’t even think for a moment that you can just kill a group and get an early resignation. In other words, every victory you have will be a proof of “winning a won game” or “reversing a lost game.” There will be no easy victory.

B. Unless you happen to be one of those players who plays games that are on average of 45 minutes long and multiple games in a row, I would honestly question your ability to handle multiple rounds where both players will most likely be using all of their time and then some. On top of that, you will need to be able to play multiple rounds of this intensity regardless of whether you’re having a good or bad day.

While Sensei’s Library has a table (which can be found here) that seems to argue that AGA ranking and KGS ranking are identical, I have found that you are generally one stone weaker than your KGS rank in AGA tournaments. The only exception to this rule however, is for seasoned tournament veterans who are accustomed to the environment and have consistent play regardless of whether it is online or tournament. Most of the time however, I believe most players will fall into the first category.

As a final word of caution, do not forget that the combination of the pressure of the tournament, the need to actually keep track of your time, and the unknown true strengths of your opponents make for an intense battleground. It would be wise not to be to think too highly of yourself.

Watching Dan Games

So I currently have the pleasure and exciting opportunity to be participating in an all week training for Adobe CQ5.5, but that means that there is very little time for playing go. =(

In order to satiate my go craving for the day, I’ve actually started watching dan level games and trying to predict where I would go and understanding why they play the way they do. Granted, I know that I do not have the reading ability that they possess and thus will not be able to understand things entirely; but I think that it has been a fun exercise for me to improve my ability to analyze the whole board position when I have more time to play.

Meanwhile, a big shout out to my friend Scotist who had a fantastic winning streak yesterday! Great job man!

Ranked Games Retreat

Scenic Imagery of Stones - Credit to YellowStonePackTrips

When I woke up this morning to check to see if my ASR class had changed, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was actually promoted to Beta II!!! Definitely wasn’t expecting it and I’m sure it was because of the need to fill in the class after people were either demoted or dropped. Nonetheless, this is great news for me because it means that I’ve managed to graduate two classes since I started in July! Although it would be nice to be promoted to Alpha class next month, my goal for this month is to simply stay in the Beta class for now.

With the upcoming North American Go Convention (NAGC) in February 2013, I realized that I am extremely motivated to find out how strong I can get before the tournament/professional event. More often than not, I have found that although it is always exciting to hear professionals give lectures, I was always too weak to really appreciate their commentary and insight.

As a result, I have decided on a new route of study for the month of December: no ranked games. The reason for this is because no matter how hard I try, I am still stuck in the state where ranked games still cause a bit of anxiety regarding its impact on my online rank. Although I hope that this will no longer be an issue one day, I know that this impacts my ability to try new things and simply play better go instead of trying to win.

“But Ben, you’ve tried this before! And you failed miserably every time!”

You are correct and incorrect at the same time. This time around, instead of simply going on “sabbatical” from playing go, I will primarily focus on league games and any free games that stronger players would be happy to play with me and help me review afterwards! With this approach in conjunction with my study of the game, I’m hoping to see results by the month of January.

If this works out well, I may even continue doing this till the NAGC! But like many things in life, one step at a time. Wish me luck!