Category: Articles

Diving into Handicap Games

As I dive further into handicap games, I’m beginning to gain an appreciation for them. Instead of being something I used to detest and feel powerless to play against, I see each game (regardless of whether I’m Black or White) as an opportunity to prove that I can elevate my game another notch.

When playing as Black, my goal is to maintain a proactive role while keeping an eye on the connections between my groups while ensuring that my attacks are generating profit at the same time. I do not let overplays scare me into spreading myself out to thin which only serves to White’s advantage. In addition, I always try to remember that I don’t need to kill White in order to win. I am already ahead, as long as the territory I gain is more than White is getting, my victory will be assured.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when I’m white, my goal is is to aim for any weaknesses in my opponent’s strategy and position and exploit them while trying to catch up one point at a time. Contrary to my prior approach to playing white in handicap games, the goal is not to make numerous overplays in hopes of the opponents making some tragic mistake.

In addition, one of the hardest things I have found about playing White in handicap games is that the feeling of being behind can become very difficult to handle at certain points in the game. In fact, I feel like for most of the first half of the game, it’s pretty much an uphill battle the entire time. The crucial point in victory often comes when there are more stones on the board and you can utilize your reading and planning abilities to finally turn the tide.

Anyhow, those are my findings for now. Looking forward to see what else awaits me in the depths of handicap go!

How to Keep Studying Interesting

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #25

Credit to Gagful

Whether you like it or not, studying is one of the most important aspects of getting stronger at go. While some players are able to simply learn everything through playing and reviewing, this is often reliant on stronger players or even simple luck of figuring out what is wrong with your moves or thinking process. As a result, there is no telling how fast you will improve.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most dreaded aspects of trying getting stronger for most players. After all, it reminds us of our school days where homework and projects were a drag and no one ever wanted to do them. So, as the last installment of Weekly Go Wednesday (at least for the time being), I thought it would be best to leave you with my thoughts on how you can keep your study of go interesting so that you can continue to climb the ranks.

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Your Rank is Dead to Me

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #24

Tombstone Credit to WPClipart

In every player’s journey, there comes a point in every player’s growth where their opponent’s rank begins to impact how they approach each game. To clarify, I’m not simply referring to overplays in handicap games as opposed to calm and balanced moves in even games. Like many of my other thoughts on players’ growth in go, today’s topic deals with the impact their opponent’s rank has on them.

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Mental Resilience

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #23

Credit to Examiner

Imagine a world where boxing was a sport of non-contact sparring. No blood was ever shed. No KO’s that make you wonder whether or not that person will be okay afterwards. People would crowd around in excitement to watch as two people ran circles around each other shadowboxing the air. After all, that’s why people pay money to watch mixed martial arts (MMA) fights and all right?

Whether you like it or not, one of the reasons that keeps people coming back time and time again to sports like boxing and MMA is that people are putting their skills and pride to the test. With each match, there is an intensity that keeps the audience on their toes when to fighters get into an all out hitting match or whether the underdog will manage to make a miraculous comeback with a perfectly timed uppercut.

If go were simply about surrounding territory with no ability to capture stones, the game would never have gained the popularity it did nor existed for nearly as long. And while you might not get a brain concussion by playing go, the blow of a devastating match can have cause players to even give up the game as a whole. With that said however, there is a critical skill that is essential to every player’s long term success when it comes to sports and games like boxing and go: mental resilience.

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Finding Time for Go

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #22

Credit to Lifehacker

When I first started playing go, it was right around the time I started graduate school. Like most other enthusiastic players, all I wanted was to spend every waking moment studying and playing the game. Unfortunately, in the mad dash of trying to do well in school and find a job, I couldn’t find the time to keep up with go the way I wanted to. As a result, I ended taking a break from go.

With graduate school behind me, I have to say that I’m not any less busy than I was before. In fact, I might even argue that living on my own while having a full time job and strong obligations to the people around me has caused me to be even busier than before. So the question becomes, how do I find time to continue my study of go?

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Letting Go of Winning and Losing

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #21

Zen (Credit to Forbes)

Winning and losing. Two basic concepts that what makes much of the world go round and round. After all, if every game ended with no conclusive result, who would want to play that game? People like the feeling of a conclusion, even if it is only a speck of dust in the scheme of things. So, of course, how does this apply to go?

As I discussed last week, one of the methods I recommended to avoid going “on tilt” was to let go of the emotional attachment to winning and losing. Most of you will scoff and me and say, “Ben. That is impossible! Even the infamous Stone Buddha has been known to lose composure in games! How could you expect us amateurs to do better than he?” Well, it starts with a detour into a more fundamental philosophical question: Where does your happiness come from?

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Going On Tilt

Weekly Go Wednesday #20

Credit SilverOakCasino

For those who are not familiar with the realm of poker (or gambling in general), going on tilt refers to a emotionally wild state where a player is prone to make irrational decisions and often ends in their unfortunate demise.

To illustrate, imagine that you have a straight flush (5-6-7-8-9), which happens to be second best hand that a player can have in the game. Mathematically speaking, the odds of your opponents having the royal flush (which is the best hand) is so slim that it’s practically not worth mentioning. To sweeten the deal, none of your opponents have any idea that you have this amazing hand and you’ve reeled them in for a ton of money. When time comes to show the cards, you find out that the impossible has happened: one of your opponents has the royal flush and cleans you out.

In a fit of rage and frustration, you go to get more cash and start to play wildly and bet aggressively in an attempt to win back what “should have” been yours. Over the next few hours, not only do you fail to win any money back, but now you are in a bit of debt and in the most terrible of moods. That is what going “on tilt” is. And it is no different with go.

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Playing Against Yourself

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #19

Hei Jia Jia vs. "Bai" Jia Jia Credit to GoGameGuru

Whenever you sit at a goban and prepare your next move against your opponent, it is only natural that you view your opponent as an obstacle to overcome. Yet, I recently received a rather thought provoking concept: imagine as if were playing against yourself.

You’re probably wondering, “How could that possibly help? After all, if that’s so helpful, shouldn’t I just setup a goban and play myself 24/7 and then I’ll become 7 dan eventually?” Well, it doesn’t quite work that way, but I’m glad you asked.

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To Resign or Not to Resign

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #18

As most of us are aware, the game of go is rather unique in the sense that it is considered honorable to resign. Unfortunately, when it comes to kyu players (particularly mid-SDK’s and below), I have found that resignation is the bane of their existence. Instead of resignation being a quiet acknowledgment of their opponent’s strength, it becomes a self-imposed obstacle that prevents kyu players from getting stronger. If you don’t believe me, read on.

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Numb and Detached Go

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #17

As players pursue to gain another stone in strength, unless they are some kind of genius, they will eventually hit roadblocks and obstacles that will cause them to become frustrated and possibly even numb and detached from their go.

For those who have never experienced this before, each move you play feels as if you are plodding towards your impending doom. With each move your opponent makes, the anxiety of feeling behind creeps up on you almost every game. In some cases, you just feel at a loss for what to do anymore. And with each defeat, the cycle continues to spiral down and down.

As someone who is going through that phase right now, I will be the first to admit that it is a really difficult situation to be in. On one hand, you desperately want to improve in order to deepen you appreciation for this magnificent game. On the other hand, your spirit has become stiff and numb as you start to forget what it felt like to enjoy a game of go.

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