If you haven't heard already, there is a US-targeted documentary being developed about go, named "The Surrounding Game". It was funded with Kickstarter, where it received almost double it's requested funding. I was happy to add my backing to the Kickstarter funding, and extra happy when I received my swag :)
It's coming out this summer, and looks like it's going to be pretty cool. This will be a great tool for go advocacy, and an entertaining documentary to boot!
Back this time last year, my rank charts plummeted on my turn based servers (OGS, DGS) because I'd let work take a hold of me and let many dozens of games expire. My rank dropped into the abyss.
Outside of a few weeks though, I did not really stop playing. I kept playing turn based games, the occasional (increasingly rare) live KGS game. The occasional re-read of go problems on the shitter. Sort of a tepid go commitment.
Now, about a year later, I can see the results: rank rot.
I'd have told anyone who asked (which was no one, btw) that my rank was 6-7kyu. I was wrong. It was... er... possibly more like 9-8 kyu. For IRL tournaments, which I haven't attended since then, it was probably less, since I played 3-5 stones less there. Who knows.
I recently started playing KGS, and realized I was around 8 kyu. Then I realized this correlated with my turn-based ranks too (maybe even worse!).
So, question is: how do I get back? More importantly, how do I break through the ceiling I'm at near 6 kyu? I ask this rhetorically, perhaps, since I don't really have the time to devote to this wonderful art. Been trying to get my physical shape together since then, it's very time consuming.
Let me rephrase: what's the most time efficient way of improving my rank?
I do believe that this fuseki is inferior to traditional openings, if only because professionals do not use it. Also because I tend to consistently do worse with this fuseki than if I'd tried a normal opening.
But, I will say, it is fun, and definitely a thing to try if you're playing even against a weaker opponent. Since my massive rank drop on OGS due to all my games timing out, I'd been playing lots of mis-handicapped ranked games against much weaker opponents (like 20kyu, I estimate I'm still about 6kyu on OGS). I kind of feel bad about it, but what can I do? That's what my rank is.
Oh well, back to the Great Wall (of Death).
The breakthrough I recently had, besides lots of practice with it, was rereading Bruce Wilcox's material on it from Go Dojo: Sector Fights. Although you must remain flexible with this opening, one thing to aim for after the wall is built is to play inside (on the board sides opposing your wall) and try to create a massive moyo on these sides.
The problem I always had was that you are almost guaranteed that the opponent will not let you do this by invading on that side. The breakthrough for me was realizing that, according to Bruce, this is your goal. You want the opponent to invade, and by make such a huge moyo this is almost guaranteed.
His idea was that this type of playing allows you to control the fight by constantly attacking the invaders and utilizing you running and attacking to attack the corners. You're not likely to kill the corners, but you are likely to reduce them and split them from each other.
This leaves the opponent with many separated groups, and you with one giant group and possibly some other groups that can be easily joined with it. You may lose the big moyo, you may not, but you retain control of the game most of the time, and with steady aggression you can often turn this into a win. In Bruce's Sector Fights thinking, your stones all work together, the opponents are split and do not work together. This theoretically makes each of your stones work harder.
It's a scary opening to play, since you start so far behind in terms of potential territory. It's been working out fairly well for me (against much weaker players, granted) and it's definitely fun to play.
People often try to interfere with the building of the wall, but that's fine, that's where the flexibility comes in.
Maybe I'll discuss it more later if I ever get time (unlikely), but the Go Dojo material discusses it better than I can anyway.
(Oh, the "of Death" part I added because you end up playing a very aggressive game where you are constantly chasing and trying to kill the other groups. If you aren't killing or threatening to kill enemy groups after playing this fuseki, you will probably lose).
Here's an in-progress game (just waiting for pass/resign). It shows a situation where one of the giant moyos actually got completed (bottom). Of course, this was against a 21kyu I think, so... yeah.
I could not create the side moyo at the top, but I was able to take the corners instead (flexibility). It's all one big black group except for the upper right corner. Was able to reduce lower left corner fairly well, even without white invasion. Click image for SGF.
I went into a 'go coma' for about four months, which is to say, I stopped playing go entirely for a while.
Work got too busy (still too busy). It was bad timing because it coincided with my entry into the Insei league (signed up a month or two before, Sept was the first month it came active again). So instead of a minimum of 12 games I clocked in... er.... zero. So, that sucked, the entry fee isn't cheap either.
With that bummer fresh in mind, I kind of stopped playing turn based daily (I'd long since stopped playing the more time demanding live KGS games). I was using vacation time for a while, but when you stop playing the games daily, it's really easy to fall behind.
The result? I lost like FORTY games due to time. My rank plummeted, mostly on OGS. My actual rank no doubt dropped a stone or two due to lack of practice, but since I've recently resumed I think I'm getting back.
Just as I was getting back to playing daily, OGS went down for a week -- hardware woes. Hopefully it's fixed and back up for a while now.
I still occasionally imagine that having an iPad would be the ultimate go machine, for turn based and KGS. But a few Google searches show that this is probably not true -- there is no acceptable KGS client, and SmartGo Kifu does not seem to be the same as SmartGo for Windows, so I'm not sure how good it would be for analysis. If the software ever gets together though, it would a super cool way to play!
Time is still tight for me, and will be for a while probably. I'll at least try to play daily turn based, and maybe the occasional KGS match.