Category: Articles

Look Both Ways Before You Play

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #16

Crossing by Matt Eaton

As every player progresses, one of the skills that clearly shows signs of improvement is the ability to read ahead. Whether it is only one or twenty moves more, this gives a player a significant advantage if he/she is able to read further than his/her opponent. However, one of the things I’ve noticed in my own progress is that the attempt to read out longer sequences can sometimes causes you to forget a the most important purpose of reading: analyzing multiple variations.

During the opening of a game I played recently, I chose a rather complicated joseki that was dependent on having the ladder in my favor. After much thought and reading, I confidently concluded that the ladder worked in my favor. As my opponent played out the joseki, I delightfully plodded along as I thought that my opponent had not read thoroughly enough and that I would soon greatly profit from his mistake. When the time came to play out the ladder, I watched in horror as my opponent chose the opposite direction… which conveniently worked in his favor.


Whether you like it or not, being able to read 100 moves in a sequence is only good if you can do it for multiple variations quickly. We are all aware of that time is almost always a factor so we must be careful of how we manage our time. As a result, here are some tips for how you can increase the effectiveness of your reading abilities:

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Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #15

Credit to ptblank

I recently had the pleasure of discussing a game with frozensoul and DeepSnow, when DeepSnow said something that made me laugh:

“I count on kyu players to outread themselves.” - DeepSnow

While it was funny at the moment, it didn’t take long before the truth of the statement dawned on me.

For those wondering what he is talking about, DeepSnow is referring to the tendency of kyu players to automatically play conservative moves in anticipation of some crazy tesuji (even though it doesn’t exist).

There are two primary reasons for why players do this:

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Reviewing Your Games

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #14

Proofreading - Credit to TitanWebMarketingSolutoins

While nothing can replace the experience of playing games, one of the greatest mistakes that players make is to play games endlessly without any mind as to why they are winning or losing. There is nothing wrong with this approach as a whole, but it is contrary to the whole notion of getting stronger. After all, how can anyone learn from their mistake if they never knew it existed?

The one thing we have to remember as kyu players is that we often fall victim to being ignorant to fundamental go principles. It’s not so much that we’re not aware of them, but applying them in our game is a completely different story. Often times in the middle of a game, we will think one way and will not realize our mistake till later on. As a result, an extremely important aspect of getting stronger is to review your games.

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Even Games with Stronger Players

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #13

Whenever a player says that they’ve hit a wall in their growth, the first question I would ask every player is: Are you playing any even games with stronger players? That’s right. Are you putting yourself in a precarious situation where defeat is practically guaranteed? And before you go rushing off to write your rebuttal in the comments, here me out in the following Q&A:

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The Follow-Up Move

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #12

Blue Waterfall

Like the flow of water down a waterfall, every player’s goal is to have their territory pervade into as much of the go board in the most efficient way possible. As kyu players, we often attempt to do this with moves that either look or “feel” right. We are compelled to play these moves for a variety of reasons (i.e., we saw a professional do it, we heard some proverb that we follow without regard to the situation, etc.), yet we often find ourselves grumbling and frustrated when our work is laid to waste or even killed off.

While part of the issue with our plays lies in our lack of understanding behind the purposes of each move, I have often found that we are also just as guilty for an important and often overlooked piece in our in our play: the follow-up move.

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Estimating Territory

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #11

Credit to David R. Tribble

Counting (i.e., estimating territory at any point in the game). Although this is a skill that many would say is critical to improving the consistency of your games, this is probably the skill that is most avoided by go players all around. For those who are not aware of the benefits of counting, it boils down to one simple principle: It provides guidance as to how aggressively/defensively you should be playing.

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Category: Articles

Fighting Spirit

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #10

Tsuna and Reborn by Electra

In almost every game in the universe, as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over till it’s over!” Players are always forced to play it out till the end regardless of the how poorly they are doing. Granted, players can always quit in the middle of the game; but this is generally considered to be poor taste. While every game of go can theoretically be played out to the end, the ability to resign as an honorable method of admitting defeat brings about a critical component of a player’s success in the game: fighting spirit.

If you remember a few posts back, I was in a miserable slump where I was on a losing streak and playing one reckless games after another. With each progressing game, every move became less about the fight for victory and more about mercilessly trying to kill groups while weakening my own. It is the worst form of go possible:_ emotional go that hopes the opponent will make a mistake_. shakes head side to side

While the games I played were not necessarily eye-gouge worthy, it ultimately culminated into the shipwreck that is the game below:

Without any context, the game looks as if White resigned a won game for the sake of sandbagging his rank or helping Black gain rank. Yet, the truth is that my vision had become so clouded with defeat that losing the small group in the lower right corner caused me to feel as if I had lost the entire game. I didn’t even bother to estimate territory, which would have clearly told me not to resign. As you can see, my fighting spirit was not only broken; but there was practically nothing left.

If you’ve ever seen, read or watched anything of the epic genre, you’ll notice that no matter how strong, smart, or talented they are, the critical element that always allow them to triumph at the end is their fighting spirit. In other words, when things get tough, their fighting spirit is what allows them to find a way out and ultimately succeed. The same can be said of go: no matter how good you are at the various aspects of go (e.g., life and death, tesuji, endgame, etc.), it is all irrelevant if you do not have the fighting spirit to back it up.

Taking a page from the esoteric school of energy, we are all born with different levels of spiritual energy. With that in mind, it would not be far fetched to believe that the same can be said of our fighting spirits. There are some who are born with an excess of fighting spirit, and others who are extremely meek. Fear not though, this is something that you can change. It will require a great deal of deep introspection and the help of those close to you, but I assure you it can be done.

The key concept to keep in mind is that your fighting spirit is intricately tied to your personality and perspective on life. In other words, you are essentially trying to change yourself. On the upside though, the reward you will gain from this endeavor is one that will not only impact your ability and enjoyment of go; but it is one that will have a profound impact on the rest of your life.

Weekly Go Wednesday was built on the idea of weekly articles to help players improve and understand various aspects about the go. After much thought and consideration however, I realized that most players have little interest in what a low SDK has to say in regards to improving at go. As a result, until I have proven that my methods work and gain a the respected dan rank, this will be the final issue of Weekly Go Wednesday for now. Till next time!

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.

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!

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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