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:

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?



  1. I totally agree - there's no question about the volatility of one's rank, but I do notice: there is a point on your rank chart where you seemed to spike. What caused that? I've been playing for about a month, and have been told I play like a 15(ish) kyu (KGS ranking), but I can't break 20k through gameplay. [honestly, I think I'm shooting myself in the foot by playing so late at night] Just curious about what you've done that seemed to help.


  2. You reminded me of something, I may go back and re-edit my post to include 'consistency' of play, as well as the weird differential in my ranks (especially since DGS is supposed to be 'harder')

    The spike in the DGS chart is due, I believe, to the nature of DGS, possibly combined with my relatively rapid improvement versus the slow gameplay of DGS.

    The deal with DGS is, games can take MONTHS. If you are improving two stones a month, this has a weird impact on your ongoing games.

    On top of that, if you mis-judged your initial rank, it'll take a month of so for that to be corrected.

    Take one or all of these, and you can see some explanations for the 'spike'.

    Look at my KGS rank (side of page) for a more even upswing, as it updates faster. You'll also see a leveling off which is a combination of a little actual plateauing and lot of non-playing and/or playing when tired.

    Sound like excuses? Well, yeah, a little.

  3. notyourfrog/myfrog: as far as what helps:
    -consistent play (I *will* update this post)
    -do more go problems: graded go for beginners series is excellent, their 'rank' suggestions on the front are quite too high I think
    -don't play more than analyze/think/do problems, or you'll just cement bad habits (imho)

  4. I recently wrote on Shimari about achieving a rank goal (15k in my case) and whether worrying too much about rank is actually bad for your game. My feeling is that I should focus on improving my true strength, and the various ranks and ratings will eventually catch up with that, but their real purpose is just to help me get an even game.

    The inconsistency between DGS, KGS and AGA (or EGF for me) ratings is partly due to the different pools of players. Like IQ, your rating measures how strong you are relative to a specific group of people. There are many beginners and people who play casually or quickly on KGS, so the mean strength of that pool is low. People who show up to Go tournaments, on the other hand, are likely to be fairly strong or they wouldn't bother entering.

    DGS is a strange one as some people play very serious correspondence-style games with lots of analysis and one or two moves a day. Others play slow-motion blitz games, clicky clicky. So the strength is all over the place, and as you say, people can improve many stones within a single game. DGS doesn't continually readjust ratings in the way that KGS does, so the effect on your rating at the end of the game depends on the difference in ratings at the start of the game. This can lead to some crazy results!

  5. What a great blog :)

    I'll follow this one a bit more closely. As a fellow opponent of yours, I can guarantee your DGS play is definitely SDK now, and I would suspect your KGS rank without the real time tiredness / pressure / stupid move syndrome you describe would be more like 6 or 7k

    Congrats on SDK-ness from me anyway, you're closer to 8k (-) than 10k (+) now already :)

  6. As topazg is my highest ranked regular opponent, I'll take that as official approval of SDK-ness, at least on some ranking system somewhere.

    Perhaps there shall be cake!

    Hmm... come to think of it, if I'd simply tracked rank in hexadecimal I'd have been SDK already for some time...