Category: Articles

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.

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WGW 34: The Value of Repetition

Weekly Go Wednesday: Issue #34

As most of you know, I own a majority of the English go literature that exists out in the market. And in conjunction with that notion, I’ve also reviewed quite a few books as I’ve progressed throughout my journey. What some of you may not realize however, is that one of the downsides to me trying to review books in quick succession means that I am unable to spend a lot of time absorbing the material. As a result, my growth as a player is not necessarily correlated with the number of books I’ve read.

Lately I’ve been really starting to see the detrimental effect of my poor reading abilities. I have found myself in numerous positions where I may have made strategically sound decisions and had aims that should have worked in actuality, but due to my weak reading skills I was unable to follow through or execute my plan properly. So after numerous frustrating games and irritation with my own growth, I’ve decided to take a step back in my studies.

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WGW 32: Seeing Results Now Now Now

Credit to Adavita-Vision

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #32

One of the things I’ve been dealing with lately is the narrow sightedness at seeing the fruits of my efforts as soon as possible. And as time has gone on, I felt more and more like my ability to play go deteriorated as each move became more rushed and every failure to gain easily recognizable profit (i.e., a large dead group in your moyo) only resulted in dismay and frustration with the game.

To be honest, I think a lot of this has to do with the culture that we are living in today. Everything is now now now! And in the case of most entertainment, such as video games, the results of what you do can usually be seen within a few minutes or even seconds. For example, in League of Legends, the moment you engage an opponent, there will be a clear outcome of whether your play was a good or bad one (i.e., you kill your opponent, your opponent harasses you more than you anticipated and you have lower health, you overextend and get ganked by the enemy jungler, etc.). However, with go, it’s the complete reverse.

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Erythen's Virtual Tour Through Mr. Kuroki's Shop

Though I’ve never explicitly stated this, one of my goals with this blog is to bring the most exciting and interesting stories about go that I think anyone with even only the slightest interest in go would enjoy while documenting my own journey. I try not to replicate the amazing work done by GoGameGuru and others who document the details of the professional world and serve as a better source for those intricacies of the go world.

So in light of that, I am really excited to introduce the very first guest post on this blog! For those who don’t know, there’s an active forum on go called Life in 19x19, and I came across a magnificent post on a tour of the shop of Mr. Kuroki (who owns the Kuroki Goishi Ten shop which sells high quality equipment). It reminded me of ChiyoDad’s post on yunzi manufacturing, so I immediately contacted the author and requested his permission to repost his post here on the blog in order to further spread word of his awesome trip. And since you’re reading this, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I got permission! So without further delay, hope you enjoy Erythen’s virtual tour through Mr. Kuroki’s shop!

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WGW 30: Tiny Habits

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #30

With 2014 being only eight days old, new year resolutions are still fresh and many people are off trying to pursue their goals (i.e., lose weight, get in shape, etc.). In lieu with that theme, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share a video that I was recommended recently. It’s a TEDxTalk by BJ Fogg on the topic of creating real and permanent change in your life through tiny habits.

One of the things that struck me about this talk is how BJ Fogg clearly delineates between goal setting in terms of long term change and short term change. And contrary to what most people think, being highly motivated only contributes to short term change and not long term change. But of course, the question you’re probably wondering is: how does this relate to go?

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Category: Articles

WGW 29: Why I Never Counted

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #29

As I’ve been working through my own issues or burnout and sense of confusion, I realized that a large cause of it is due to the fact that I have consistently avoided counting and making board position evaluations during my games for the entire time I’ve been playing. It’s finally caught up to me, so I thought I would write about this in hopes that it will help you avoid this in the future as well.

Here are my top excuses for why I didn’t want (or think I needed) to count:

1. “I am supposed to find the best move anyways and constantly strive to maximize my return, so counting or estimating territory is not needed if I’m simply outplaying my opponent.”

While there may be some merit to this type of thinking, it is flawed as a whole. If you’re constantly trying to maximize each move without considering how it impacts the board as a whole, how can your move be considered “maximally efficient” when it does not work in the whole board context?

2. “I don’t have time to estimate territory. I’m busy finding the best move.”

Just like in the first excuse, you can’t find the best move if you’re not aware of what it is you need to do to win. In addition, you have to keep in mind that go is more than winning local battles or establishing strong positions in a local context. Go is about how your positions work together _as a whole. _And whether you like it or not, estimating territory or judging the board position is key to forming the winning strategy.

3. “It is better to just find out the score at the end. After all, it’s more exciting and suspenseful when it’s a surprise right?

I’m sure everyone has had that experience of feeling like the game is close when in actuality you have like a 20-30 point lead. It’s a pretty good feeling right? After all, you actually ended up having a big lead instead of it being a close game! However, I’m sure there are just as many (if not more) occasions where the complete reverse happens. You thought you were putting up a good fight and it turns out you were losing since move 140. It’s a complete bummer isn’t it?

So if what I’m saying is making any sense at all, and you’re wondering how you can start incorporating counting into your games, here are a couple of ideas:

  • Play longer games. After all, you’re going to need time to get used to judging the board position at first. It might take some getting used to and may take longer than you might like, but with practice you should get faster over time. And before you know it, it won’t take much effort or time to figure out what’s going on on the board.
  • Practice estimating positions with an experienced counter. In other words, it’s not enough to simply estimate positions with a stronger player. After all, my counting skills might be worse than someone who is 8 kyu. So find someone who is strong at counting and get them to help you out. (For those who have no idea where to start, my sensei frozensoul on KGS excels in this area and can be a great help.)
  • Remember that you’re “guesstimating” and not calculating. Especially when just starting out, it’s really important to remember that our ability to count will be off by a decent amount at first. In addition, you don’t need to be accurate down to the last point. If you can even get a relatively accurate read on who’s ahead or behind and where the largest areas are coming from, that will be an excellent start. After that, it’s all about refining your technique till you’re a counting master. =)
    If you have any advice or ideas, be sure to leave a comment below. Hope this helps!

WGW 28: How to Play as White in 2 Stone Handicap Games

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #28

Welcome to a continuation of my series on how to play as White for beginner/intermediate players. Just like before, I would appreciate any additional insight from stronger players below to supplement my thoughts here. With that said, onwards we go: 2 stone handicap games.

Concern #1: “Black has two corners!! Ahh!!! Must overplay like crazy to catchup!”

First and foremost, two star points does not equal two corners. Black just has two positions setup on the diagonal corners. So stop panicking and breathe. What you have to remember is that it is only a 2 stone handicap. Yes. Only two stones. If you forgot what it means to give your opponent handicap stones, let me remind you: you are stronger than them. So play normally and establish your positions as you typically would.

Concern #2: “But it’s TWO STONES!!!!!”

Yes. I heard you the first time; but let me remind you that the two stones you are so worried about is a double edged sword. As you know, people’s strength can fluctuate a stone or two depending on the time and day along with the style being used; so what that means to you is that you need to realize that your overplays have a pretty good chance of being punished properly. As a result, you need to remember to just play calmly. Your opponent’s mistake will show itself eventually.

Similar to playing as White in even games, here are a few things to remember:

  1. Be patient. Two stones might seem like a lot, but there it is not a huge barrier to overcome. Play solidly and wait for your opponent to make an overplay and then things will start to turn in your favor.
  2. Two stones can be a double-edged sword. This is particularly true of two stone handicap games because there is no saying whether or not you will be playing one stone weaker or your stone will be playing one stone stronger. So avoid huge overplays because there is a good chance that your opponent will be able to punish it properly.
  3. Feel honored to play as White. I have a feeling this piece of advice will be staying throughout this series, but you really should feel honored to have the opportunity to prove your strength as White.
    I hope that this helps! Please be sure to leave a comment below if you have any additional comments or questions!

WGW 27: Stop Trying to Win in 50 Moves

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #27

After watching numerous kyu games over the last few months, there is a tendency that I’ve noticed among many kyu players that is not nearly as common in dan games: we try to establish a dominating position early in the game so that there is little to no possibility of your opponent coming back. In other words, it’s almost as if we would prefer to kill a large group in the beginning so that we can take it easy the rest of the game. And if we have any intention of getting stronger, we must get rid of this mentality.

A number of games out there lend themselves to that sort of mentality. For example, in League of Legends, if your team is able to score an ace (aka the opponent’s team has been killed and has yet to re-spawn) early on in the game, it can lead to a dominating position that can make for an easy win. Instead, go should be seen as a marathon instead of a 50 meter dash. There is no point in trying to sprint the first mile and gain a lead on everyone because what actually matters is your final time when you cross the finish line.

The primary reason this type of mentality is damaging for kyu players is that go is a game where you must prove yourself every time. In other words, no player (of approximately equal strength) would play the first 50 moves of a game, see a big moyo, and go, “Well, that does it. Game over. The moyo you sketched out looks so big I must resign.” So even if you manage to establish an advantageous position in the opening, failure to defend it or utilize your position correctly will often lead to a game reversal.

In addition, the pursuit of obtaining a huge advantage in the beginning can often lead players to making poor choices or creating a ton of weak groups (which translates to an epic disaster during the middle and endgame). Or, another common scenario would be starting a whole board fight that determines the fate of the game instead of simply establishing a favorable position.

My advice to you on avoiding this sort of mentality is this: stop trying to win in 50 moves. Just focus on keeping your groups strong, and play a balanced game. Your opponents will inevitably make overplays, and then you will have an easier time punishing their overplays and then gaining a winning position. After all, remember that you only need half a point more than your opponent to win.

WGW 26: How to Play as White in Even Games

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #26

A couple months ago, I had a request put in by fellow go player DecimoKing for an article on my advice on playing as White. This is the first part to a series of posts geared to provide some guidance to players who find themselves feeling burdened when playing White. Although this is definitely geared more for beginner/intermediate players, I would appreciate any additional insight from stronger players below to supplement my thoughts here. With that said, let’s get started with the first scenario as White: even games.

Concern #1: “Black is one move ahead! I feel like I’m behind when I’m playing White.”

The first thing to do is to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Now, what you have to remember is that this is exactly why the komi system was created in the first place. It’s always very easy to forget that you have komi. In other words, you already start with points when Black starts with none! So if anyone should feel behind, it’s Black! xD

Concern #2: “Black always gets these awesome moyos (i.e., frameworks) that are gigantic and fearsome!”

What you have to remember here is that you always have a choice of being more aggressive and breaking up Black’s formation early on in the game.* Will the game get more complicated? Yes. Will it involve a lot more fighting. Absolutely. However, what you have to determine for yourself is which situation do you hate more: a large moyo where you find yourself needing to invade and live or lose, or a game full of fighting that’s quite complicated.

*The only framework that White can’t truly stop without ending up in a disadvantageous position is the sanrensei; but if that is what you hate playing against, then the issue is more about learning a counter strategy to sanrensei as opposed to worried about playing White.

In summary, here are a few things to remember when playing White in even games:

  1. Be patient. Remember that the komi system was designed to compensate for the first move advantage. If you let yourself get caught up in the illusion of being behind, you’ll find yourself rushing into dangerous situations that will put you at a disadvantage early in the game.
  2. You can always steer the game in a different direction. If you really hate frameworks like the Chinese Opening and don’t know any counter strategies to them, go ahead and interrupt the formation before it materializes (aka approach the corner instead of taking a corner for yourself).
  3. Feel honored to play as White. Don’t forget that in go, playing as White usually signifies that who is the stronger player. After all, what color do you play if you give your opponent handicap stones? =) So if your intention is to become the strongest player you can possibly be, shouldn’t White stones become your best friend? xD
    I hope that this helps and please be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments!

Finding Time for One Game a Day

As many of you are aware, I recently started a discipline of playing at least one game a day. And while I am happy to report that I have been keeping up with it, it occurred to me that there are many people out there who would probably like to attempt something similar; but decide not to due to assuming that it would be too “time consuming.” So, I thought that I would go ahead and write about my experience on finding time for one game a day.

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