Sunday, December 19, 2010

KGS Analytics

Just a quick post: I found a neat little page that takes data from KGS and displays it in a useful format:

KGS Analytics



There's also what looks like a REALLY cool application to view in even more detail, but looks like you may have to brush op on your Japanese to do so: http://www.geocities.jp/msanpopo/kgs.html



Christmas wish: For Go Dojo software to be ported to iOS and/or Android!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Go Coma

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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

James Davies' Tesuji Book

One of the fantastic Elementary Go Series books.

The title 'elementary go series'  always throws me off -- I keep thinking it's for like 20kyu or thereabouts (the first book may be, I'm not sure). It's not. In fact, I'd say you'd just about have to be single digit kyu to really appreciate most of them. The reading on most of the problems taxes me, and I'd say I'm currently running around 8-7kyu.

I was surprised to learn so many new things in this book! I thought it'd be a lot of the same, but it's really not. Tesuji are categorized and named, and I've learned maybe a dozen 'new' moves reading this! Maybe not strictly all new, but newly categorized in my brain with a name, which really helps to recall it when you need it.

Loose ladders, knight's move nets, eye stealing tesuji (which only now do I really understand), tons of good stuff!

Just like the other books in this series I've looked at (Life and Death, 38 Basic Joseki, Attack and Defense (good look finding that last one!)), you really need to give it your full attention to grok the book. It's a small book but thickly laden with information.

I'd recommend doing what I did, which is to skim through all the cool new moves and come back to most of the problems later to 'cement' them into your brain.

Now I just need time to read it... or play... or post :P

If you are 20-15kyu, I'd recommend instead Graded Go Problems for Beginners (if you can find them!) and a good proverbs book or two.

Monday, July 19, 2010

OGS UP!

No explanations for outage though...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

OGS DOWN! Three days and counting...



OGS (online-go.com) has been down since Friday, and no word of what's going on.

You just get this message:
Bonjour,
Un problème technique sur un de nos serveurs nous oblige à bloquer tous les sites.
Revenez plus tard.
Désolé pour le désagrément,
L'équipe technique de nainwak. 

From Google Translate:
Hello
A technical problem with one of our servers we have to block all sites.
Come back later.
Sorry for the inconvenience,
The technical team Nainwak.

Or, from Yahoo Babel Fish:
Hello, Engineering problems on one of our waiters oblige us to block all the sites. Return later. Afflicted for the nuisance, L' engineering team of nainwak. 

This leads me one, inevitable, conclusion: lol, babelfish sucks :)

Well, to be fair, I always used to use Babelfish since AltaVista came out with it. It's just that Google's translation is so much better...

I'm very concerned about OGS, and lack of info. Some activity on lifein19x19.com (replaced godiscussions.com, which is officially dead at this time), but no explanations. On SL's OGS Status page, simply 'server maintenance', and no word since Friday.

Hope everything's ok, I really like OGS!

Friday, June 25, 2010

NOVA Go Congress 2010 Tournament

Been a while, but the next NOVA go tourny is coming, Saturday June 26th.



It's allegedly to prep for the 2010 Go Congress, which I will not be attending. My rational is simply: if I had the time and money to go to Colorado Springs, I probably wouldn't spend my time inside at a go congress.

This brings up the tragic circumstances of the 25th Go Congress in 2009:
  1. It was the 25th, which is a round number for people who value the number of digits on their hands, assuming there are 5 each.
  2. It was basically in my backyard. 
  3. Sponsored by by soon-to-be go club (although I've never attended a single meeting -- still plan on it!)
  4. Yet, was a few months before I picked back up on go seriously* (*casually), so I didn't know or care about it
Alas, maybe in 60 years it'll be back here.

I shall be at the tourny, and this time I shall bring a backpack fully prepared with the following items:
  1. FIVE t-shirts. Assuming there are 4 rounds, that is one t-shirt destroyed per round, with one to go home in. Each t-shirt will doubtlessly be clever and/or amusing to me.
  2. One Chronos GX Touch clock, hopefully preconfigured for tournament times, cause I can't figure that damned thing out in the time between matches. The word obtuse comes to mind (not me, the clock -- wait, maybe I do mean me)
  3. Power bars, at least 3. Hardly food, but will do in a pinch.
  4. One Netbook. Hopefully I will remember to get my G1 fixed up so I can get wireless via 3G if I have to. Wait... who am I kidding, we'll be in a basement of a GMU building. No cell, no wifi. Maybe I can study joseki or something with SmartGo (unlikely). Mostly it's there to record games in SmartGo, if I'm feeling up to it.
  5. Go books. Probably Go Problems for Beginners Vol 3 (please bring back into print!), maybe something else. 
  6. Maybe some printed kifu if someone objects to netbook.
We will see if I break 1 in 4 or if I sink to no wins... entering as 12 kyu again, we'll see!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Devil's Armpit

I'd like to show you a move called "The Devil's Armpit", but I don't have one.


I just envision that that'd be a good name for a move.

This is the move I that made me think of that. 

I have no idea why...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

KS Beginner's League I

Let's kick off this experiment!

The first and possibly last Killing Shapes Beginner's League.

(btw, registration is still open for a little bit, if anyone else wants to join as student (<15kyu) or teacher (>10kyu))

Interest seems split between KGS and turn-based, but average time commitment seems relatively low, so we will do what we can.

The general league period is 4 months, this being due to the main tournament being turn-based.

Let's look at what we have:

OGS Tournament

This represents the turn-based element. Timing is Fischer timing, 7 days initial and 1 day extra per move. This means that you can have 7 days you can skip in total, but you generally need to play about once a day. If you play only once a day, it can still drag out for four months. Most people seem to be in the same general time zones, so hopefully between this and conditional moves mean it won't take quite so long.

The tournament is double round robin, meaning you will have to play each opponent twice. It is also even and not handicap -- this should be much more beneficial to learning as you will have actual openings. Because it it even (and because I'm in there too -- this is unavoidable on OGS from what I can tell), it is unrated.


So, expect between 10 and 16 ongoing games on OGS just from this. If you do not want to participate in so many games, you certainly do not have to, but it's just one move a day, it shouldn't be that bad.

2-4 of those OGS games will be even against a stronger player (myself or another SDK teacher), the rest will be sub 15kyus.

This tournament will probably run 4 months, but you may be out of it sooner if you play frequently. It is semi-competitive, meaning you should try to win, where winner is highest ranking student in tournament room. First place gets a free coffee, reclaimable within any place 15 minutes from my house ;)

The tournament is open now and is invite only. Please go and join it. If you have any trouble, just let me know.



KGS Matches


I recommend you play between 2 and 4 KGS matches against other league member in the next 4 weeks. After that, we will decide if we continue this or not.

I will help coordinate these for you, possibly just putting you in contact with the other player. Each game may be rated if both players agree, or unrated. In any case, these should be even games.

Hey, it's an excuse/opportunity to play KGS, take it!

Time controls will be 30 minutes per side with 5 30-second byoyomi periods.

You will also be able to play 1-2 games against a stronger (SDK) player, either myself or another teacher. These will be unrated even games. There may or may not be a simul game between a teacher and students, we will see what time/will/technology provides. 

Game Reviews

You will get at least two games reviews. These should be games from league play, either KGS or OGS. Because your opponents are also submitting games for review, you will likely receive reviews from games your opponents submitted. If two opponents submit the same game, their commentary will be merged (you can coordinate together to achieve or avoid this outcome).

Steps to receive a game review:
  • The game should be in SGF format, including date, opponents, time etc. There are many free SGF editors, I believe Drago is a good one. SmartGo is by far the best (in my limited opinion), but it is not free (oh look, the price just dropped!).
  • You must put commentary in the file. Ideally, I would like you to explain your reasoning behind every move that you make. You must defend each move as the best move available to you at the time as you understand it. It would not hurt to put commentary about opponent's moves too. I would recommend you comment the file immediately after the game, if possible. If you want maximum results, review and edit your commentary again a day later. 
  • Feel free to ask questions in the commentary.
  • E-mail the SGF file to beginner.league@killingshapes.com, please include your name.
  • If you want the review to be private, please let me know. It would be best to at least allow it to be shared with your opponent, better the league, best to let it be posted. Much like Facebook, it'll be public unless you opt out. :)
  • Speaking of which, no one who registered requested privacy for e-mail addresses, I will take it to mean I can share then with other league members. This will ease KGS game coordination.
  • You should receive your review within a week, hopefully sooner.

What This Does For You


" Hey, wait a minute! I can play people on OGS and KGS (arguably!) now for free! And I can get reviews any time I want from the go teaching ladder! Screw you, I want my money back!"

Rebuttal:
  • This is free so, no, you cannot have your money back. 
  • This gives you an excuse to play these games on OGS and KGS, and sometimes that is really what we need.
  • Getting games on KGS is actually pretty difficult for anyone under 9 kyu, as you may have discovered. This is an excuse and a way to play people around the same skill level on KGS. You'll also get to play stronger players on KGS, which is even harder. (Sorry folks, I don't play KGS enough myself... not technically SDK on there yet ;) )
  • The game reviews will be turned around faster than you probably would get on TGTL, and they may have more focus on your specific needs. Maybe. Also, how many games have you submitted for review on TGTL? None? Ok then, now you have an excuse to get a review.
  • This blog will feature some more tutorials and lessons tailored around problems encountered in these games. This should help you improve.
I would wager that most of you have not spent much time reviewing games. Although it is true that it is good to lose your first 50 (or 100, depending on the proverb) games as quickly as possible (e.g.: there is nothing that replaces experience), this is not enough.

Worse, spending your time exclusively on playing can ingrain bad habits into your mind! The most efficient study methods balance play time, own game analysis, professional game review, proverb/general go reading, and doing go problems. You will improve fastest this way, and this is what we aim to achieve with the league, although I'm still not quite sure how.

Details pending! ;)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beginner League Registration Open

I am receiving interest in the beginner (<=15kyu) league, so I'm setting up a way to register.

Still no exact schedule right now, so let's first collect contact info so people can be reached when necessary.

Please send the following information to beginner.league@killingshapes.com:

  • Your usernames on DGS, OGS, and KGS. If  you don't have accounts on all three, now's a good time to make them. If you are making new ones, using the same username would be helpful. If you use different accounts for different board sizes (or any other reason), give your strongest account for use on 19x19 boards. If you have different usernames, please note the one that you want to join the league as.
  • An email address you can be reached at. Please note if you want this shared with the other league players or  not. Your email address will absolutely not be used for anything other than league mailings.
  • You real name (optional, but helpful)
  • Country (optional)
  • Time zone (hours offset from GMT)
  • Preference between turn based (DGS/OGS) and real time (KGS, other). You could prefer both or any as well.
  • Time per week willing to commit (we're very flexible on this, just want to know)
  • General notes (optional, private) about your background in go, e.g.: how long playing, rank history, learning goals, et cetera.
  • Go books owned, go books read, if any.
Once you register, you will be notified of league updates via email. You may also want to track this site's RSS feed or @killingshapes on Twitter.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Killing Shapes Beginner League: 25-15 kyu

I have been looking for a way to help early beginner players improve to medium beginner players, around 15-10kyu.

Being only 10-8kyu myself, I probably cannot help very people very much past 15kyu as they will start to be better than me at certain areas (remember: a rating is the reflection of a culmination of many different skills, you could be a good close-in fighter at a 7 kyu level but have the opening and endgame skills of a 15kyu, and be a 12kyu... and even that would vary based upon the game constraints (blitz, IRL, turn-based, etc)). I will endeavor to enlist the support of higher ranked players as well.

What is a go league? Well, traditionally it would be similar in concept to a tournament or other competition, perhaps with repeating 'seasons' that are something like a month or more in length. An inspiration for this concept is the Korean-style Insei League.

But, that's not exactly what I am proposing. This is more similar to a go club with league play and a strong emphasis on encouragement, teaching and learning. Although I'd recommend you look at the Korean-style Insei League FAQ for an idea of what that is, this is not that. Specifically:

  • If you want to go "pro", you wouldn't be looking at this. You'd have been 1 kyu before your classmates ever grew breasts and you were distracted by other worldly issues. You'd also likely be from a country where you weren't asked by passersby if you were playing "Othello".
  • You are interested in go as a game, as a hobby. You want to improve so you can enjoy the richer aspects of the game, and maybe so you can actually find an opponent on KGS ;)
  • You don't have a whole lot of time to devote to it, but can at least scrounge up maybe an hour or so a day, intermittently.
  • You like to learn new things, and see regular, measurable progress.
  • You would like to have some regular opponents who are around your skill level.
  • You can communicate in English (my Esperanto is rusty). Although if you think you cannot, consider that you may be wrong (you just read this, and you are in denial).
Given these player traits, the league would necessarily include turn-based go via DGS or OGS. I think real-time play via KGS (if not IGS) would also be a big part of it, because you can finish a match in an hour or so instead of months. Given the difficulty I have in getting solid blocks of time for KGS myself, I would expect to have to also include turn-based alternatives. We'll have to see how it shakes out.

My original intention was to provide a get-to-15kyu training regiment, which I guess I still need to do, but I think it'll be tied up with this.

The elements of training in the league:
  • Regular competitive even game play against league opponents around your skill level.
  • Occasional even game play against opponents 5-10 stones above your level.
  • The very occasional 'psychic go' match against opponents 5-10 stones above your level.
  • Game reviews by stronger players (either league teachers and/or the go teaching ladder)
  • 'Reading assignments' (tough, many good books are hardcopy only and some good ones (e.g.: Graded Go Problems for Beginners) are out of print.
  • Small tutorials focused on specific tactics and concepts, probably determined by specific problems players encounter during games.

The trick to all of this is getting a starting group of players, which I will admit, could be very difficult to do. On the plus side, the entry requirements are quite low: low rated players welcomed, light/flexible time commitments, no direct financial costs (notice qualifier ;) ).

I would expect to trickle in players for a while under light organization, until there is enough critical mass to start some more structured stuff.

Am I crazy? The invisible weevil that lives in my nose and tells me over and over me that I am the "Hand of Foot", and that I should collect marmots to shave and decorate says no... but I haven't listened to that dude for weeks now.

What are your thoughts?

Looking for 25-15kyu players and 10kyu and up players as teachers... sorry, I'm just not sure what to do with you 13kyus at the moment.


(I think anything referred to as a 'league' should have an Aquaman title awarded, but that may not be considered encouragement).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why I will NEVER play go again...

False headline. Sorry. Been too busy playing go to post, and I feel bad with another headline talking about how bad I feel about not posting.

But I don't feel bad about totally lying in the title. Hmmm.

So, what, no posts?


Yes, no posts. What have I been doing?

Playing DGS. And my new addiction, OGS. A lot.

Not playing KGS, not much at all. It's just a time thing.

Not that I won't play DGS/OGS for like 1-2 hours a night... it's just that it's safely interruptable. And distraction resistant (mindless tv can be on in the background).

I have lots of cool posts in my head. Lots of neat topics I'd like to post about. But I currently have no good, easy diagram system, which is really what I need. Past posts have included painstakingly built diagrams, either cropped screenshots from SmartGo, or downloaded diagram images built on sensei's (sorry SL, I hope I didn't make too many temp images that are kept indefinitely, orphaned...).

So, current status:
  • Rockin a high 8kyu on DGS, some losses pending but still think I'll be 7 kyu soon. Maybe.
  • Seriously waffling on 10kyu on KGS, not playing enough, playing too many of those rare games when tired.
  • Have a hilariously wrong 3.6 kyu on OGS (?!). I entered as 10 kyu, resigned once, won one even game against like a 6 kyu, and it JUMPED me to 3.6?! Weird. Needed to be careful not to start any new games, but, like a fool, started a handicap tournament while at this inflated rating. I shall be a 17 kyu on OGS soon enough...
 Things I really want to make posts on (you should see the number of unpublished posts I have...):
  • Third line cut: when it works, when it doesn't.
  • OGS (online-go.com)! 
    • Conditional moves, the good and bad.
    • Mini-tournaments!
    • Title tournaments!
    • Rapid server improvement, feature voting!
    • Pay to play? Sorta? (good, bad?)
    • Ugly board/stone graphics? But upgradeable! (But all still ugly :(  )
    • No reloads, but slow javascript?
  • Flavored stones: licorice, peppermint
  • Unlinked moves (e.g.: TENGEN, BITCH!)
  • Plateaus (nothing on top but a bucket and a mop)
  • gote-no-sente and sente-no-gote and gote-no-pants
  • Player styles, player combinations (do you and another player always end up in multiple ko fights? Giant moyo battles? Single game-deciding-semeai-to-the-death battles? Battle of the least-number-of-stupid-mistakes? Big group deaths, resurrections, deaths, resurrections, etc?)
  • Endgame mastery
  • Opening mastery
  • Cut whenever you can cut, even when you can't.
  • Ugly rules: extra (but necessary) rules that have been added to go beyond the three basic ones.
    • Bent four in the corner dead (makes a point difference when you don't have to "prove it")
    • Super ko
    • No shirts, no shoes, no sente

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2010 Cherry Blossom Tournament

April 3rd was the NOVA go club's annual Cherry Blossom Tournament in DC at the Sumner School.

I believe it was their 10th year at that location, my first. It was a very pretty building and was near Dupont Circle. Metro ride was less than fantastic, between the Nationals game, nice weather, and cherry blossoms, it was packed to the glass.

How did the tournament go? I entered as a 12kyu, which I thought might be sandbagging a bit (what with 10 and 9 kyu for KGS and DGS), but, sadly, it was not.

1 win, 3 losses, AGAIN.

Don't get me wrong, I love that one win. If it was 4 losses I'd be bummed.

The most interesting loss was to a newcomer who I gave a 17 stone handicap. To be fair, he was just 7 years old! It's a little intimidating trying to play against a 17 stone handicap... where do you even start?

He did well though, winning 3 of 4 games in the tournament -- I'll wager in 2 years he'll be giving me handicap stones.

So, my AGA rating is still -13.5, with no chance of shooting up any time soon. I do kind of fall apart halfway through the 45-minutes-per-side games -- I just get mentally exhausted and start making massive mistakes.

As usual, I started all of the games off (massive handicap game aside) pretty strong.

It was fun, I'll do it again next year if possible, hopefully much improved!

Before Tournament
Oh!

I also pioneered a new tournament protocol.

I carried an extra t-shirt, and would change shirts after each round.

I even put my nasty, sweat covered shirt on the air vents to attempt to dry them.

I'm a nasy, nasty man sometimes.

Next tournament (IRL or online), I'm carrying a fresh shirt for each round.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hane? You'll Put Your Eye Out!


I've noticed this for a long time, even around my current 10kyu-ish level, and it needs to stop.

Don't hane (Japanese for 'quick-turn', sorta; pronounced 'hah-nay', not 'hain') on the first line if you're desperately needing an eye! (Well, unless you have enough room)

Here's a generic scenario. You have four stones over the first line, and you only need to form ONE eye. And it's your turn. You'll have no problems!

BUT! If you try to hane, no matter how vulnerable the other side is, you have just killed your group.

Typical Hane on First Line
Normally you'd hane on the first either to:

1. Get a measly point or four in sente if the the other side is vulnerable and cannot directly block.


2. Get a measly point or two in gote in late endgame.


Suicidal Hane on First Line
The typical 'safe' hane on the first line you will do hundreds of times for every time you need to form a second eye on the first line with this little room to maneuver. As such, it's very easy to reflexively hane and kill yourself where you should have lived. This very thing happened last night twice in one game to my 10kyu KGS opponent, so I believe it's worth mentioning.

The Fatal Mistake



Opponent Throws in First (version 1, two parts)


Opponent Throws in First (version 2)



Opponent Hane (two versions)




What Black Should Have Done (two versions)




It's all just the stuff of basic life and death problems, just thought I'd throw in a reminder for this specifically!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Psychic Go

Psychic Go
Psychic Go? Really?

Like, shooting fireballs? Bending spoons? Bending fans?

Not exactly.

It's the term I use to describe a certain type of teaching game that I made up, but may already exist outside of my very limited knowledge.


It's specifically for DGS or other 'at-leisure' loosely timed formats.

The idea is simply this: along with each move, you send a comment that describes your current thought processes.

I would expect something like "I considered moves X, Y and Z because of this and that, and eventually settled on Y for this reason. I expect my opponent to consider A, B, or C, for these reasons, etc."

Good things to include:
  • Moves considered
  • Why the move chosen was chosen
  • Expected opponent followups
  • Do you expect this move to be sente or gote
  • Overall strategy
  • Board state (hot spots, aji, etc)
  • Current mental state
  • Score estimations, including possible deltas per moves considered
You tell your opponent everything you don't want them to know. Likewise, they tell you.

My original intent was as a teaching game between players with sufficiently disparate skill levels. A 'silent' teaching game has some merit, but does not seem as useful to me.

Seeing You Coming

One obvious problem with this approach is that the opponent will see you coming. How are you going to set up a cool 3 move sequence when he knows what you're doing after the first move?

A couple of solutions:
1) Go quiet on some moves, catch them back up after you affect your devious designs. They'll know something's up, which may actually be a good thing from a teaching perspective.
2) Play even, not handicap.

The latter requires explanation. Many teaching games are handicap (albeit not fully) because of a vast discrepancy in rank (e.g.: 3p teaching a 12kyu). To win in any handicap game, especially high handicap games, you have to pull off some pretty crazy moves, usually several move sequences. If they see you coming, this may radically change your ability to overcome the initial odds.

The other reason to play even is because even games are go -- handicap games are neat, but they don't feel like the real game, strategy is too different.

What In The Hell Was I Thinking?! Go
Similar to psychic go, but more of a self-teaching technique. Again, probably only for loosely time constrained games.

Make the exact same commentary (what moves you considered, general reading of board state, overall strategy, expected opponent followups, hot areas, etc), but just to yourself.

On DGS this can be done by recording your comments within  tags. I do not believe the private notes field is useable for this purpose. The h tag is nerve-wracking, because if you screw it up, the opponent sees your notes! So, use with caution.

A useful table from the DGS source/forums:
** Viewing of game messages while readed or downloaded (sgf):
 : Game  : Text ::         Viewed by            :: sgf+comments by : sgf only :
 : Ended : Tag  :: Writer : Oppon. : Others     :: Writer : Oppon. : any ones :
 : ----- : ---- :: ------ : ------ : ---------- :: ------ : ------ : -------- :
 : no    : none :: yes    : yes    : no         :: yes    : yes    : no       :
 : no    :   :: yes    : yes    : yes        :: yes    : yes    : yes      :
 : no    :   :: yes    : no     : no         :: yes    : no     : no       :
 : yes   : none :: yes    : yes    : no         :: yes    : yes    : no       :
 : yes   :   :: yes    : yes    : yes        :: yes    : yes    : yes      :
 : yes   :   :: yes    : yes    : yes        :: yes    : yes    : yes      :
 : ----- : ---- :: ------ : ------ : ---------- :: ------ : ------ : -------- :

Then you can go back and really see where you went wrong and why. You can't have better info for a post game review. Actually, the best post game review would be if both players kept this kind of commentary (albeit secret), then shared it at the end. Reminds me a bit of the useful info (albeit (word for the day!) at a higher level) from The Go Consultants.

Example Game
This is the original Psychic Go match between munin and I on DGS. The commentary may be less than rigorous, but it probably makes up for that in amusement value.

Alas, this game did not finish because of the other big problem with this type of commentary -- it takes so long to make it, that you put off making a move in the psychic games because it'll take too much time.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....
A huge benefit of making this sort of commentary is that (even the non-psychic variation) it makes you think about what you are doing. Yes, you should always be doing this, but it is easy to slack off during a game. Especially when the opponent is playing what seems like an obvious forcing move against you -- always consider the value of not responding predictably and playing elsewhere.

The title of this section makes me want to finish with words of poetic relevance (yes, wrong song, I know):

   



    It's your world and I'm just a squirrel
    Trying to get a nut so move your butt
    Cruise the dance floor, so move your butt up
    Pants in the air






As true today as when it was first preached over two thousand years ago.

Amen, brother, amen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Celebrating Rank Milestones


I remember back last August (8 months ago) when I started really studying go that, if I ever made it to SDK (single-digit kyu) status, I'd celebrate, maybe buy a nice go set or something.

There were a couple of things wrong with that idea:
  1. I thought it'd be years, not months.
  2. As I already have a reasonably decent go set (2" hiba table board, glass stones) that is never ever used, it would seem silly to get a more expensive luxury set that will also never ever be used
  3. Unlike, say, a birthday, or passing the bar exam, it's really difficult to say when you've reached a go rank milestone.
The latter is what I'm going to talk about. The basic problems are that
  • There are different rank systems.
  • Your rank can go up and down.
Different Rank Systems

There are all sorts of different rank systems, but there are only three I care about (look, another enumeration!).
As you see, my DGS rank has recently tipped over into SDK territory, which is a big milestone. Actually, it's the second time it's done this (it then dropped back to 10), leading to my next point.

Interestingly, this slice of the rank system differences is from Sensei's Library:

AGA KGS DGS
12k 11k 16k
 8k  8k 12k
 6k  6k  9k

My rankings:
13k 11k  9k


So... this makes no sense! According to the SL chart, DGS is several stones (3!) harder than both AGA and KGS! I'm 2-4 stones weaker on the other ones than DGS, that's about 5 stones off!

Possible reasons:
  • I play a lot more on DGS than I do on KGS, and exponentially more on either than the 4 games every quarter or so in an AGA rated tournament. So, maybe the other ratings are simply lagging behind.
  • Getting tired doesn't apply to DGS, if I'm tired I won't play. I get worn out in live games, and can fall apart (especially in the longer AGA tournament format).

Your Rank Can Go Up and Down

Sure, you'd expect it to go up and down, but with some rank systems (usually the online ones), the fluctuations can be quite rapid. You could be 10 kyu, then 9, then 10, then 9, then 10, all in one day. And this could go on for a while.

When do you 'celebrate' being 9 kyu? When have you made it?

For bigger, more official rating systems, it's easier because they are so slow to respond. You'll be 9 kyu for a while, until your next tournament or other ratings event. Even so, you could drop down below the 'milestone' on the next measurement.

For professionals, you get promoted, and it is all very official and nice. I think there may even be cake.

I can only imagine the consternation caused by this when you reach the big milestone, moving from a kyu player to a shodan!

Consistency of Play

I enter AGA tournaments now as 12kyu (although maybe I should do 11? I've still lost 3/4 in each of my tournaments...), despite being a comfortable 10/9kyu on DGS. Part of the reason is rank differences between the systems, but part is playing inconsistency on my part.

The one thing I've noticed in all of my losing games from the last tournament is that I wasn't losing for half to most of the game! Even the one I used the great wall on (which always starts behind because you have no territory), I caught up and was winning.

They all come down to a big mistake. Despite starting strong and commanding a lead (sometimes large ones), I end up doing something stupid. I attribute this to stress and/or mental exhaustion. There is a point in these games (45 minute clocks per side, long by my standard!) I simply give up mentally. I stop reading out moves, I play without thinking.

This inconsistency in my play has screwed up many a game. A lot of this is a performance issue, similar to sports or the like.

Obviously, on DGS, this is not a problem. I used to have a DGS-unique consistency problem where I'd play strong or weak, arbitrarily, every other move or so. This is because I'd both play at home where I can think about it, and play on my phone when I'm in a distracted environment.

I no longer do this (play on the phone), save to respond to simple forcing moves or wrap up simple endgames.


Hooray! I'm SDK!

Or... I'm not. Maybe I am.

Or... maybe not.

Which leads to the final point: does it really matter?



(yes)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yuan Zhou's Go Workshop

 Just got back from an all day go workshop (my first) given by Yuan Zhou (on SL and personal site), and graciously subsidized by the GMU-NOVA go club.

I had just purchased Yuan Zhou's book, How Not To Play Go, a few weeks before. I have already posted a brief review.

Pro Game Review

The first two hours was a review of a professional game, between Go Seigen and the then Honinbo as part of a jubango. I will post info on the specific game once I figure out which it was.

It was very interesting and well done. Usually when I review pro games, it's tough because I have no idea why half of the moves were made. Mr. Zhou carefully explained what the purpose was behind many of the moves, including playing out variations that were presumably in the players' minds as they deliberated on they're next move. I came out of it feeling I had understood the intention behind most of the moves, which is pretty rare for a pro game for me.

update: The game that was reviewed was Hashimoto Utaro v Go Seigen, game 3 of 10, 1946-10-08.

Game Replay and Review

After lunch we played a single 45 minute-per-side game with an equally matched opponent (which was sheer luck, as there were only 4 students available for the afternoon session). I actually managed to not fall apart after the halfway point and win a game.

Then we reconstructed much of the game purely from memory. I would have thought this impossible, but I was shocked at what we could do, albeit with both players helping and occasional assistance from a record keeper.

This was a fantastic exercise for me, I'd never really tried it before. The bad moves were immediately apparent because they were the ones you could not remember. This makes perfect sense! If you had a good reason to play the move, you'd remember it. If you had no good reason, then it's a bad move.

Finally Mr. Zhou reviewed our games with us. I must have spent 10 times the amount of time explaining (well, excusing) moves I had made then I did thinking about them before playing, especially since I'd effectively reviewed/replayed the game twice.

Having to explain or make excuses for your moves really makes you realize how much more care you should have put into them to begin with. Especially when I had to explain the purpose for a move, then shortly thereafter play in a manner contradictory to the original explanation.

I call these waffling moves squirrely moves, as this is the sort of waffling than makes squirrels into pancakes (ironically and confusingly enough).

The biggest things I learned from the review:
  • What I think is territory is only territory because other players at my skill level (myself included) do not know how to invade.  Moving up is going to require understanding what is invadable and what is not, and how to attack/defend this would-be territory.
  • Cuts and shapes I think are safe are not really safe, only safe because I'm playing those at my skill level. I was shown several cuts in my stones that would have been disastrous if made, but remained there uncut and unprotected the entire game because neither of us bothered to read it out. Also, I suck at reading third line atari's, I really need to work on it.
  • I can probably jump a few stones very quickly if I think and read more during games, and if I play / review some games someone my level versus someone 4-6 stones higher. I have a long way to go, but it may not be that difficult if done properly.
The other players were 2 dan level, and although they definitely made moves that were cryptic to me, they also made lots of errors (detectable to themselves after the game) that sounded similar in principle to the errors I make now.

The workshop was fun and useful, I'd do it again, but I think I would benefit mostly from simply spending some time studying and/or playing. I have not had time to do this lately, and my rank graphs really show it (I'm sure they show some natural plateauing as well).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Killing Shapes and Seki

Turns out, the killing shapes are not just for killing, also good at producing seki situations.

Seki
In case you've forgotten, seki is the mexican standoff (you know, like in Hong Kong movies... Mexican) of go.

Sorta.

What I mean is first-person-to-move dies, so no one moves, no one dies. A mexican standoff is more like mutually assured destruction. But, if you factor in this study then maybe I make sense.

Maybe.

Well, if they were cowboys at twenty yards and not Chinese at point blank doing something allegedly Mexican.

But I digress.

When a surrounded group has only one eye space, and it is almost filled (only one liberty remaining) with a killing shape, that group is dead. This is because when the group is completely surrounded, it is forced to take the killing shape by filling the last liberty. At that point, a nakade is played on the vital point, and the group will never enjoy a 3D Pixar film again (for at least one reason).

Killing Shapes and Seki

Turns out, a lot of times having a killing shape with two unfilled liberties surrounding it is enough to, if not kill the surrounding stones, at least make a seki.

To be more precise, if the intruding shape can me made to almost fill the eye space and still be a killing shape, it's dead. If the intruding shape is already a killing shape, does not almost fill the eye space (2 or more liberties remaining), but cannot almost fill the eye-space and retain a killing shape, then it's seki.

Not Seki
Black cannot directly capture the shape without entering into a killing-shape-almost-filled-eye-space scenario.

White can kill by playing a at any time (to create a killing-shape-almost-filled-eye-space). Black is dead.



Seki
Black cannot directly capture the white stones, because it forms a killing shape.

BUT, even when black's outer liberties are taken, white cannot capture black (ko threats aside) because extending to either a or b forms a non-killing shape. Black could directly capture and white could not prevent  his forming two eyes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

IRL

Am I abusing the IRL (Indy Racing League...er...in-real-life) acronynm?

Maybe.

Some may use OTB (over the board) instead, but I've never met one.

But it's rare enough for me that I treat it as a special thing. Online go is very convenient, and without it I'd be 28kyu (well, I'd be not playing). These days, for me, online go means drag-on go server. I love playing KGS, but I hardly ever have the solid chunk of time. Super rare is IRL play, not many people geographically convenient to me to play.

There are things that are very specific to IRL play: gobans, stones, how to place stones, time keeping, the viewing angle of the board, the irregular placement of the stones on the board, ability to track opponent's gaze, scoring, recording, ability to kill the other player with a Chronos, possibility of passing airborne diseases, et cetera.

Following the recent tournament posts, let's talk some IRL issues.

Holding a Stone

Holding a stone appropriately is, to me, much like using chopsticks.

Actually, I'm better at using chopsticks than I am at holding a stone appropriately. In fact, I regularly use my thumb and index finger to hold it, and have no regrets.

I'm considering using my middle finger and pinky finger, just to make it more difficult and to intimidate the opponent with the unnecessary difficulty of my grasp.

Actually, it's not that difficult to do, but in the heat of an intense IRL game, I sometimes revert to my simple monkey grip.




Placing a Stone


This is where it gets interesting. Many people (especially those who learned about go via Hikaru No Go) believe that you place the stone down with authority onto the board.

SLAM!

If you are the sort to do so, you could even get caught up in the sound of playing a stone, the tonal quality of the wood, that mysterious pyramid carved (why can't I find a link?) into the bottom of traditional floor gobans and how it affects this tonal quality.

And do you slide the stone into position, or place it directly on its grid point? Do you whack it down or simply place it?

I've played people who will sometimes WHACK it down as to make a statement. If this is meant to intimidate, it seems to have the opposite effect on me. I believe this is because I've only ever seen an opponent really WHACK it onto the board when they are in dire straits (as when I played Mark Knopfler to a draw with a double ko and a ham sandwich).

I never do this.

I'm not sure why.

Possibly because I'm extremely passive aggressive (e.g.: "I'll burn the whole building down").

Possibly because I'm lazy.

Mostly because I figure go is a very rational game, and the idea of emotion entering into it can only be a bad thing. Don't get me wrong, there are all sorts of emotional and dramatic elements to go, one of the reasons why it's great. But, ideally, you should never let it affect you while playing.

When I play IRL, I usually place the stone very quietly and peacefully onto its position, possibly adjusting surrounding stones (obsessive compulsive too?) if necessary. The Chronos GX Touch really helps me with this, I place the stone quietly and then lightly touch the sensor, (then maybe record the last two moves on the EeePc) and that's it. Maybe fold my hands in my lap and stare at the board, contemplating the one-ness of the absolute value of i squared.

To me, a dramatic playing of the stone only seems to signal weakness and/or fear. Like when a cat arches its back and hisses.

Nothing is quite as unnerving as a cool lack of emotional response, e.g.: Gnu Go.

As long as they can't see me sweating buckets...



Angle of Viewing and Stone Placement


This totally screwed me up first time I played IRL tournament after doing nothing but online for a month or so.

Both the viewing angle of the board and the not-quite-orthogonal placement of the stones made it very hard for me to read it for a game or so.

IRL gobans are not actually square -- they are rectangular. This is supposedly so that the effect of viewing angle is not quite as severe.

There is an OSX app (Sen:te) that shows stones as slightly offset. I'm not sure if this is good or bad...



Swallowing Stones


The technique here is to avoid it altogether.

My 2-year old can't play go at all, but even he can meet this one requirement.

Although... I don't trust him on that, I will not leave him with go stones unattended.

Still... they do look like Mentos, especially the ING stones...

Hmm...never seen a black Mento... chocolate? Licorice? Only one way to find out. This leads to next section.



Passing Stones


Haven't had much experience with this yet, but I will refer those interested to the appropriate Seinfeld episode.

There are two forms of this, one can be avoided by not Swallowing Stones, the other form of which can apparently be caused by global warming.

I can't make this stuff up. Luckily there are others to do this for me.





Adjusting Stones


Scrotal humor aside (although... I could write about doing this during tournaments as well), this means to adjust the stones on the board to a more orthogonal form.

This is a problem mostly for 1) online players and 2) obsessive compulsives. If you are both (possibly myself), then you are constantly fiddling with the stones.



Timekeeping


Is timekeeping necessary?

No, of course not.

Not until you play someone who will spend FOUR OR MORE HOURS on one game.

Then... yes. This is why game timekeeping was applied to go.

At the recent NOVA tournament, the amusing/enlightening advice given at the beginning was: "If you are young take twice as long as you are used to to make a move, if you are older take half as long".

I frequently fall into the trap of playing at the speed of my opponent. This means if they start playing fast, I do too.

That's one nice thing about recording IRL games, it keeps you from playing too fast.

Then there's all the issues about byoyomi and such. Canadian byoyomi (x moves over y time) seems to be most practical when you only have either a crappy egg timer, a sand hourglass, a wind-up chess clock, or a menstrual cycle for timing. Japanese byoyomi is more practical when you have either a digital clock or a dedicated time keeper.



Recording


So, this has only really come up recently, with more IRL stuff. As mentioned in recent posts, I tried recording some IRL games for the first time. Although I had kifu with me, I had SmartGo on the netbook, which worked surprisingly well.



Scoring


Scoring is much different IRL. Estimating the score during the game is an important skill that is valid in both for online and IRL playing environments formats (except, possibly, 'turn-based' (e.g.: DGS) where there is time to download and SGF and use a score estimator -- the ethical issues of which are worthy of a standalone post).

Score estimation, in general, is also worthy of a standalone post.

I'm talking simply of determining the score once the game is over.

Interesting digression: my first IRL tournament game, I was beaten down by a 15 year old girl.

I'd been playing so much online / computer go, that I didn't really think about the real purpose of scoring in a IRL tournament game: who won?

The exact score there doesn't matter. Not knowing this, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to determine the exact degree of my pummeling, even though all we needed to report was the winner, which was perfectly obvious.

More recently, in an IRL tournament, I lost by 0.5 points (I had been given a 1 stone handicap, so komi was 0.5 -- the board was dead even). This was according to the recorded game in SmartGo. According to the board though, I lost by 1.5 points. We spent some time trying to figure out how we go it wrong (not that we could, we'd already rearranged all the stones, and some edges contained both black and white stones), even though it did not affect the only part that mattered: who won.

Another future post: winning by a little versus a lot, and why size of victory margin cannot be used in ranking.

The trick with scoring IRL, is you end up rearranging the stones. Or, for ING scoring, filling the board with stones. If you didn't record the game, it's very very easy to mis-arrange (less so in ING scoring) the stones so as to change the score. In small-margin games, this could mean the win.



Gaze


One huge difference between online go and IRL go is gaze. You can tell where on the board the opponent is looking and vica-versa. Despite my lack of experience IRL-wise, (is my overuse of the acronym bugging you yet? It sure bugs me) I can already count several times where I purposefully looked at a different area of the board than what I cared about. 

I've even played in an area I wouldn't have otherwise (looked settled to me) because the opponent kept staring at it.

Very much like visually checking out a woman discreetly -- glance fleetingly, but make sure your attention seems focused elsewhere, while you process the visual information like a swimmer processes gulps of air.

I suppose you could lump visible emotional response into this too, but I won't. Wait, I think I just did.



Invalid States


More of a problem with raw beginners, but one big problem that can occur in an IRL game that can't (well, some rare exceptions aside) in computer refereed games is that the board can get into an invalid state.

I recall at least twice, as a raw beginner, I'd play a game then realize later that a group was not just dead, but completely surrounded (e.g.: no liberties) and still on the board. Possibly even having killed another group :)

What can you do at that point? Neither player saw it, you clearly both suck, start again.

I suppose ko could be a problem too.

The invalid state problem is not much of a problem after, say, 20 kyu (?) or so.



Nuclear Tesuji 


The nuclear tesuji is a skillful maneuver that, if performed correctly, can transform a losing game into a stunning victory.

No direct equivalent in online play (barring some sort of remote buffer overflow, perhaps).

There are escapers in online play, but I suppose you could do that in IRL too. This would be particularly amusing actually. Well, unless it was "I've got to go use the bathroom, can we stop the clock? I'll be right back...".

I could talk about sandbagging now too, but it's not really an IRL issue, and it'd make a good future post.



Sexual Bartering


This does not occur in go.

If it did, it may be more effective IRL, but that's hard to say.

I suppose it could make ko fights even more complicated though.

Stip go? Ewww.



Running Out Of Stones


I've never had it come up in go, but I have in other games.

If you have the official full complement of 181 black and 180 white stones, you are unlikely to run out (although that adds up to 361, the number of points on the board, this does not mean that you couldn't run out of them, in theory (because of capturing and removing from the board, to say nothing of ko fights)).

My guess would be, if you run out of stones, then you're doing it wrong. Possibly could occur if you are Swallowing Stones.



Drinking and Go


Unlike, say, video game murder or auto racing, go does not benefit from drinking (alcohol). Drinking and go are not good allies, although I suppose it could lead to an alternate form of handicapping.

In either case, not really an IRL-specific issue. Although, if you are at a restaurant playing go IRL and drinking you're being social. If you are playing go online and drinking then you are a filthy drunkard (and hopefully playing unranked games or a special account you reserved for such elicit purposes).

As for, non-alcoholic drinking and go, water is ideal. I drink coffee sometimes during tournaments, and it's arguable as to whether this is good or bad. I suppose it would be good if you planned on attempting IRL escaping, and wanted it to look convincing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chess


I used to be quite smitten with chess. Well, kinda interested in 90s, interested in go, say, 2003, but not really (just taking a board to Maui on my honeymoon, nothing big (no opponents, didn't break 20kyu)), then very interested in chess, say 2008-2009. then very interested in go, like, now (from Aug 2009 to present).

I went back and played some chess (Chessmaster 10) tonight after obsessing over go for the last 7-8 months and not having played chess since.

It seemed... foreign to me (irony not lost).

Chess seems all tactical, no strategy.

I keep thinking of the pseudo-proverb: "chess was invented, go was discovered".

Seems true.

So many elements of chess rules are arbitrary and weird.

Go's rules seem simple and pure. Granted, weird arbitrary things like joseki and patterns emerge, but they were not placed there, they are results of the simple, mathematical game rules.

I've heard of many people who've gone from chess to go and never looked back, I wonder if it ever happens the other way?

I suppose if you were raised playing go and suddenly discovered chess, it may seem novel.

Then again, I'm intrigued by all sorts of 'game' systems, from the classical good like go and chess and the classical bad like murdering and lawyering, to less-classical like Axis and Allies and Ticket To Ride.

Still, only go can boast things like the simplest core rules , the longest history, the hardest-to-solve (presumably) problem set.

Go is, truly, 'the grand game'.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Brief Book Review of Brief Book: "How Not to Play Go"


 I'd figured I'd post this since I just wrote it: How Not to Play Go brief review.

-----

This is a very short book. It consists almost exclusively of game reviews, three in total.

Both it's brevity and it's content (just game reviews?) made it a little disappointing for me, at least at first. Such a cool title, I expected something different I guess.

The good news is, the game reviews are excellent, some of the best I've seen. By best, I mean it's quite readable and understandable to me, a 10 kyu (maybe 12 kyu AGA?).

So, if you go into it knowing what to expect, it can be a good book.

In total it's only 32 numbered pages. Again, brief book. Check TOC below to see you how short the non-game review stuff is -- it's literally a few paragraphs.

But, if you are a kyu player and want some good, understandable game reviews, I highly recommend it!

Table of Contents

  • Introduction (1)
  • Chapter One: Common Misunderstandings (3)
  • Chapter Two: An 8 kyu game (5)
  • Chapter Three: A 4 kyu game (18)
  • Chapter Four: A 1 kyu vs, 2 kyu game (25) 
----
The weird thing is, at the recent tournament they announced that a half-price workshop ($50 instead of $100, I believe) will be given by Yuan Zhou in the near future.

The name sounded really familiar, and the reason is that I just read his book.

I'm continually shocked how this exotic game has so much representation in my immediate area: this guy lives here, the NOVA group is full of AGA board members, and Slate and Shell is in Richmond, my hometown.

I would just assume all US go stuff was in CA or NY. Kinda cool that a lot of it is not.

I definitely am bummed about missing the last Go Congress in D.C. -- a month or two before I got back into go. Oh well, it'll be back int 20 years, maybe!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chronos GX Touch

This is basically another tournament followup post.

In addition to recording the games on my netbook, I also used my Chronos GX Touch clock for a timer. It's pricey, but if you want the best chess/go clock, this seems to be it. Also, it's solid enough that, if in a pinch, you needed to kill someone with it, you could do so. And once you pick the brain, blood, skull, and hair out of the creases, it'd be good for another tournament.



For the first game, I used neither netbook or clock -- just the NOVA club's wind up chess clock (no byoyomi, you have to do it by hand -- I believe this is why they used Canadian byoyomi).

I must say, I love the Chronos. First time using it in a tournament setting. I had forgotten how to set it, and honestly the configuration of settings is pretty... confusing... unless you do it a lot.

I never hit byoyomi in the tournament (45 minutes per side is a lot... I got close a couple of times though). If I had, I'd have really loved the clock. Otherwise, we'd have to reset the analog clocks, and keep track of number of moves played (5 minutes per 20 stones (15 secs per stone average)). That sounds like a pain in the ass, and highly error prone. I couldn't imagine trying to determine a game like that on just time....

Anyway, even without the tremendous byoyomi pains-saving, it's still pretty nice. The analog clocks have squishy, unreliable metal pegs to press. The Chronos has nice touch sensors -- all it takes is a light brush of any finger.

I find it to be... a much more peaceful way of ending your move.

This concept (peaceful playing) will be followed up in the next post or two...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

IRL Tournament: NOVA's 4th Chinese New Year Tournament

TOURNAMENT!

In-Real-Life no less (I'm glad I'm getting a chance to use my IRL subscription, it's expensive).

Like the NOVA Winter Warmer, it was fun but grueling. Left the house at 7am, got back at 9pm.

Also like the Winter Warmer, I won only one of four, although this time I bumped my entry rank to 12kyu from 13kyu. Also, every competitor was close rank, no more than one rank difference.

But this time I recorded the games! (well, at least 3 of them).

I used my netbook and SmartGo (and a bluetooth mouse) to record the games. I also had printed kifu (from the earlier post) to use, just in case.

Table space was a problem, but the netbook's footprint is smaller than the 8.5x11" kifu, and a hell of a lot easier to use. Besides, SmartGo is the destination for the data anyway.

The cool part is, at the end of the game, instead of counting on the board, I can just press F11!

This (and the record) was crucial in the 3rd match, where I lost by one half a point.

Actually, in all three losses I had a solid lead at one point in the middle, made a stupid mistake (or 2... or 3...) and lost it all.

It's pretty consistent in live games with long times. At about an hour I get mentally exhausted and make moves without reading them fully. It effectively puts me 2-3 stones below how I play the first part of the game. Not sure how to counter it...

This tournament was different in that there were some sort of sponsors. This meant there was loot to be had. One of the people guilty of getting me into/back into go (dhogarty on DGS) won 4/4 and his rank band, and made off with all sorts of loot. He also entered as 9kyu, which quite officially makes him a solid SDK (single digit kyu).

Oh, and in the 4th round, I used the great wall opening (?!). This was foolish, as I am quite weaker at this opening than my normal, but I was so distracted by the fact that I could (got black and an even game in a handicap tournament) that I couldn't resist.

How long until I regretted it? After laying the first stone down (3-10) I looked at it, and regretted it.

To be fair, I was possibly leading in the middle...maybe. I killed no groups, which, with the great wall, is usually a sign of failure.

Sensei's Library: Killing Shapes

In case you haven't figured it out, the blog is named after the shapes that are used to kill groups that have only one eye. 

As usual, the best reference is Sensei's Library.

In fact, I ripped these images from there:
 
 
If you can almost fill the opponent group's single eye, with a killing shape, then it is dead.

The key here is almost fill. This means with one empty point still inside the eye, not two or more. This means that once the shape's outer liberties are filled, it will be forced to capture your killing shape. After it does this, it's your turn, and you can play on the vital point shown in the pictures.

In practice, the sequence of events is not played through, because both players can see this coming.

Additionally, there are other circumstances -- for instance, a bent four in the corner is also a killing shape, but only in the corner (I lost a game at tournament today because of this!)

So, know your killing shapes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Printable Kifu

I had a difficult time finding these for some reason, but I finally found them the night before the NOVA Chinese New Year Go Tournament.


But, I found them at this location, and have them here for your convenience: printable kifu!


    I will attempt to record my games at the tournament, either on paper or using my netbook and SmartGo (if opponent allows).

    Maybe this time I'll actually get my AGA rating...

    I will submit as an AGA 12 kyu (I did 13 kyu last time and was 1/4 game).

    Get Into Shape: Ponnuki

    You have to love the ponnuki, it's the epitome of 'good shape' in go, almost (but not quite) to the degree that the empty triangle is bad shape.

    Why is it good shape?

    Eye space.

    Eye space and efficiency.

    Eye Space
    First, let's look at the marvelous example of the ponnuki in the corner, the coolest living shape in go (IMHO).

    Barring a double play (from ko threat or sneaky-playing-while-you're-in-the-bathroom), this corner shape is alive. Obviously if white drops approach extensions down to the edge you must play to prevent being killed, but basically you're fine.

    White stones are here just to show how pinned in you can be and still be a-ok.




    Next, one of the most common and powerful locations for a ponnuki, the edge. Although not alive by itself, it is a complete eye. The lower gaps are safe because of the edge (opponent must approach). The upper edges aren't, but they are effectively miai -- you can lose one as long as you have the other.




    I was going to do a separate eye post (as a Beginner Tactics), but haven't done so yet. It helps to remember this basic definition though:

    The chain of stones surrounding eyespace must have no more than one enemy stone occupying it.

    Bearing that in mind, you can see that the ponnuki on the edge is ok as long as once one of the upper corners is taken by an opposing stone, you fill in the other (or verify it is cut-safe). Obviously we assume you will block peeps at the edge.


    Even ponnukis in the middle of the board are strong, but far from guaranteed eye space.

    So, in theory, these are not yet solid eyes because maybe the opponent could cut into more than one corner. Despite this it's still a rockin start at getting an eye, and will almost certainly end up being one.

    These are completed eyes based (again, barring double plays) on their being only two points left which are miai. But, at this point, it should all be fairly obvious, yes?


     Effeciency
    The best thing about the ponnuki is that it is not just powerful, but cheap
    At most it's 4 stones, but really, since a ponnuki often forms after capturing a stone, it's often effectively only 3 stones in cost.


    Don't Send Ponnuki-shaped Valentines Just Yet

    Of course, ponnukis have a seamier side as well. They often form in and around ko fights. Often a hanging connection is formed in the corner above the edge just to pick a fight. Can you believe that?