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.

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