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, 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!"

  • 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

  • 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 (! 
    • 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