Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blog Rot! Tournament! Rank Plateau! Rank Breakthrough!

Alright, been a long time since posting. Still playing go though!

First up: Blog Rot!
Here's the tough part: I can play go or blog. Not many chances to do either, and when I've got one... well...

Also, I'm fully aware, that like most bloggers, I'm blogging to myself. If you are reading this, you must come to understand this brutal truth: you are just a figment of my imagination. And while you're in there, dust a bit, for God's sake.

Played the KGS January tournament recently. It was a swiss tournament, no handicap. Seeing as I was a lowly 12kyu, and the average KGS tourney player is.... higher.... it was going to a bloodbath. But, hey, I'd get a chance to player higher ranked players, who'd normally not play me (*cough* bastards *cough*).

And play me they did. A '-' rank (wtf? 7-4k, weird rank graph) a 3k, and s 2 dan. Scary stuff. Let's look at how it played out:

Game 1: The '-' rank:
A damned exciting game, more exciting than later analysis showed. There were major ko fights, exciting ladder reads and misread, just about everything you could ask for in a go game. I wanted to make a post entirely about it, maybe I will some day. Although I fought long and hard, towards the end I was being soundly beaten. Then something CRAZY happened... he ran out of time! In byoyomi! The winning player lost on time in a tournament! I felt really bad about it too, but it was kind of cool :)  I doubt he was happy.
We took nearly the full hour and a half, I barely had time to pee before the next game...

Game 2: The 3kyu:
I started by requesting that he not kill me too badly. Er... I don't remember anything specific at this point, and haven't time to analyze it. I lost by 80.5 points, although I may have hung in there... don't recall.

Game 3: The 2dan:
Holy crap. 12kyu vs 2dan, don't arrive late it may be over.
Holy crap.

Holy crap.

Anyway, in case you can't tell, I get intimidated by rank easily. Partly rational, but mostly overdone.
I was so befuddled by the rank intimidation and strange moves (strange to my rank level!) that I made lots of mistakes pretty quickly.

Heck, it even took me a full two minutes to figure out it was my turn (I was white, I though I had played black's first move via a misclick)!

Once I settled down I began playing with more of a steady hand. The 2 dan seemed to think my rank was wrong. His response after move 66 was amusing.

I've come to think so myself. It seems like, maybe a week or so ago, my effective rank shot up. Hell, I may even be 9k. At least 10k. I'm not sure what happened. More on that weird skill jump later.

Bruce Wilcox
I'm sure I've mentioned somewhere on here that I'm a big fan of the Go Dojo books/software (Contact Fights and Sector Fights) by Bruce Wilcox. I just found out that he has a KGS account (bwilcox) and plays regularly! He's a 2 dan on KGS. Pretty neat!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

LessonsFromGo 2: Fear

More generally, this remarkable aspect of go: The fact that through this discrete, deterministic game, even online with no opponent to see or hear, you can sense emotions: fear, confusion, shock, surprise, cockiness, desperation. 

It's remarkable. I began to notice this even at lower levels (like 18k), meaning it only takes a mild competence at the game to be able to detect opponent's state of mind.

This is similar to, but different, than individualistic play style, but that is a future post.

Fear: it's most often seen in handicap games, and in many ways a fearful type of play is the same as a conservative type of play, which is actually wholly appropriate when receiving a handicap (or being in the lead, in general). It's shown through things like falling back from fights, extra plays in your own territory just in case, things like that.

Intimidation: The opposite of the fear coin, it's usually the higher skilled player exercising this. Seen in wild plays, overplays, cutting everywhere, things like this. When your opponent is fearful of your skills, you can throw stones into their territory and be virtually guaranteed a response (making it free, essentially). If opponent is especially scared you can even get multiple responses to one play.

Shock and Surprise: This is one of my favorites. You can see this often when you capture or kill a group, usually by a sudden pause in play pace. This is different than a pause due to a tricky situation developing, often when a big group suddenly disappears, presumably due to a blunder. This surprise extends into shock when the next couple of plays by the surprised opponent are done poorly and without appropriate thought -- often playing a stone into atari (w/o other benefit) or similar silliness. I've been on both sides of this situation a lot. Man, that pause...

Cockiness, Desperation: Oddly, these two both look like intimidation: wild plays that do not look like they have a chance of success. The difference is context: if the player is losing it looks like desperation, if winning it looks like cockiness. If the player is of higher skill and/or giving a handicap, it can be considered intimidation.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

LessonsFromGo 1: Greed

What I'm really talking about here is an overplay.

Specifically, I'm talking about the situation where you are doing ok locally or globally (not losing terribly).

You are considering either a response or a sente tenuki move, and there is one or more sensible, safe moves that would yield a reasonable result.

But, you want more.  Maybe just a point or two, or maybe you are trying to kill or split an enemy group where you really don't have the strength to do so.

So you play just a little bit further than you probably should.

And you get punished for your greed, by being forced to fall back, lose your overplayed stone, or have it royally backfire, costing you dearly.

Now, there are situations where being greedy and playing further than the safe move:
1) You are severely losing (losing by a lot in the beginning or a little in the end... more than you may hope to make up by playing safely).
2) You are the stronger player and have given a handicap.

Really, these are the same situation: if you've given a handicap, you are already losing on the board. More importantly here, you can expect to launch into wild dangerous plays and probably succeed due to the skill difference. More on this in a future post.

My big problem lately is a greed issue: I keep making gigantic moyos that I can't possibly defend. So, instead of having a secure, decent sized moyo, I get greedy and try to take a huge amount, and inevitably fall to pieces.

DGS Addict!

Not much time for blog posting lately, not much time for KGS, but plenty of time for DGS!

It's just so darned convenient... little snippets of play whenever you have the chance. 49 running games may be too much though.

Squeezed in some KGS games (4), and had an interesting time:
-A weird mid-board seki between two walls, the type I only have ever seen in contrived diagrams.
-Two really cool ladder saves, where I placed a remote stone to save previously 'dead' stones, one of which the other player mistakenly played the failed ladder out three turns before resigning at move 133, the other of which (move 59) allowed the capture of another group too.
-A game riddled with fights for life and ko fights.
-A blitz game, extremely rare for me!

I tend to lose all the games I lost through some blunder or another, things I should have known better. This goes both for KGS (where I get tired, and/or overconfident) or DGS (where I'll play one move without thinking enough, usually from my phone).

I'm kind of curious to play more blitz, it's nice because it takes little time. I'm scared it'll screw my game up if I play too much though...

I'm over 12k now on KGS and DGS both.

I will start posting soon a series of posts on things I've learned from playing go. I'm not quite sure what to call it though. I will try to post the first tonight.