Anon Linguist

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This anonymous person is trying to be helpful and friendly, but also trying to be anonymous. Apart from appreciating the wonderful game of go in ever increasing depth, this person can give useful advice on matters of language. This anonymous person also plays on IGS, DGS and KGS, but sadly, due to the anonymity, you'll have to always wonder if that was really the fabled AnonLinguist you just played with.

As for my rank, it's on the rise. That's all that really matters.

05-07-2008: I dreamt I was playing in a tournament, and I made a mistake. It was a minor thing, really, and I'd seen others (in reality, not in that dream) get forgiven near instantly. But I was banned from ever attending a tournament again, and nobody wanted to play go with me anymore outside tournaments either, because I had made such a mistake!!!

Despised and unloved, I frantically sought for someone to play go with me, but it was all in vain. Even beginners stopped playing and told me to get away from them, even before I asked.

What a nightmare that was...


Watching a friend's game, I realize what an advantage online play brings. This friend is six stones weaker, so he makes mistakes and oversights which would embarrass me to play them myself.

I don't have to hold it in. I can cry out, sigh, gasp in shock and smack my forehead without worrying if either player notices. That's freedom, too.

Naturally, this doesn't go for voice chat, or when you have other people with you who know this friend and might share your sentiments.

Come to think of it, when was the last time you used your thinking time to go make a pot of coffee, take a quick shower, or feed the cat? For me, these things aren't quite so rare when playing online, but quite rare when playing in a live tournament.

Sadly, my cat does not play go at all, though he likes to watch when it's played live at home. I wonder if he'd pick it up more if I took him along to tournaments.


How does one sell go, anyway? The potential player seems to be turned off by hearing it's for people who got bored with chess ("too easy"), or by being told that getting good at go is work.

I've heard it said that people get good results by stressing it's fun, but I know that for me, the fun lies in not holding back. Not straining to put all my thinking power in one single aspect, not straining to focus on a small, single instance of complexity. Go makes me feel liberated exactly because my brain actually gets to work for a living, rather than find ways of doing "enough" which require little effort.

So in effect, to share go, I'm supposed to tell people that go has all sorts of aspects which are apparently attractive to others. Like saying that 15k is enough so long as you're having fun. Or that you can be a 1d without doing more than pattern matching, without reading a whole lot. Or that study is not needed, just play a lot of games. But from my perspective, those are terrible things to say!

I want to tell about the grace in finding efficient shapes. The beauty of sabaki. The fluidity of attacking to chase, not kill. The crossroads in the middle game, where you can choose paths freely according to your own style. The intricacies of joseki. The brilliant finds of tesuji. The probes into a player's uncertainty, pushing at the edge of your own reading while staying just barely near the limits of your opponent's reading. The wild excitement of being uncertain of making just that one extra point to win.

All these things, are meaningless to a new player. They're just a mass of words which mean nothing at all, until you get to know go better. How can a new player who can't even tell if he's leading or trailing by 50 points feel at all excited over just one point?

And then when I sit down to play with this new player, what do I do? To get past the initial confusion, you need to play at least 20 games, and by then there's still plenty of confusion left. The up-front investment needed to see the beauty at all, or even be able to believe it exists, is huge. So I'm forced to pretend the first few games where confusion over the rules prevails are great fun and highly worthwhile, even though deep down I think they're terrible, ugly, like comparing a Breughel to a toddler's wax crayon scratches.

But still, I needed to start from there, too, just as anyone else will. I don't look down on the person who does not know go (how could I? Ignorance is not a reason for contempt!) but the games played by someone like that are at best an unsanitary moment best cleaned away as quickly as possible, so that better things can take place.

But I can't say that, either. People _WILL_ think I look down on them, if I say that. So after lying about what attracts me to go, to attract others to go, I then have to lie about the fun we're having, to humor the new player who must play his first games against 'someone', because without that, how can he progress to the next level?

Having come past the initial confusion about the rules, I would say something about go problems, but most people I've tried saying that to ignored it. They don't want or like go problems. They just want to play, like one might sit down casually to some shooting game on his console, and if it's a win, fine, if not, also fine. Never mind reviewing.

Click, click, click, done. It's like half the game, or less. None of the deep thought. I spend time looking for gentler moves, hoping to teach by understandable example, but it doesn't work well. You don't get past barriers without critically analyzing your own play. You can't be good at go with a purely recreational attitude. You need drive, ambition, interest that carries beyond a moment's amusement.

How do I inspire that part of go in new players? How do I activate the love for this game? How do I tell a woman she's not too dumb by fault of gender? How do I tell a slacker that this isn't about satisfying me, but about satisfying himself? I can say these things plainly, and it just slides right off their minds. It's like I'm speaking poorly, or saying platitudes as meaningful as "how do you do?".

Sometimes, rarely, the above frustrations don't apply. Sometimes I find someone, and they see something which not only seems interesting, but the fire gets started right away. Those people seem to already have that without me saying anything, though, and when I tell them how I feel about the game, they merely feel confirmed. It's not as much a communication as it is echoing their own feelings.

The sales figures for go books, the number of players on all the world's go servers combined, the less than ten thousand who attend the USGC and EGC, and the declining number of go association members all point towards the rarity of this type of person, and in a way that's very special. But I still wish I could help someone who otherwise wouldn't feel that way, to make this someone feel the sheer love and joy I feel at being able to play this game, detached from all the matters of etiquette, of tradition, of cultural baggage, of social expectations ("board games are boring", "girls can't play hard games like this", "if it's hard, I can't do it", "this sort of thing isn't for our kind of people", "I hate games where you're supposed to sit in seiza").

I don't really know how to break through those barriers, though. I'm just having a great time exploring go, and I wish I could share that a lot more than I manage to.

Phelan: Just wanted to say I loved this post! :)

AnonLinguist: Muito obrigado.


Go is just like ...


Read Patresi's descriptions of early references in European literature. Most of them talk about "a kind of draughts", some are a little bit more generous with "a kind of chess", but especially in the presence of an illustration, translators were often willing to correct the author's mistake and explain it's really a kind of checkers.


Just ... no. It doesn't work anything like chess. Thinking chess-like thoughts while plotting a game of go makes you lose more often and by a larger margin. It hinders your go. You need to think in a new way, specific to go. It's like thinking checkers when playing chess. This does not work.


Yes there's surrounding, yes there is capturing, and neither work the same way. Othello isn't a bad game, or as simple as people think it is, but it's not the same as go, not even by a long shot.


If you put five stones in a row in a game of go, you probably aren't being as efficient as you could be, and it's certainly not enough to win. You can play this with the same set as Othello, too, if you're in the mood for it.


If I could fire every stone which is being inefficient on my board, or have a badly placed stone work harder to make up for it, maybe. When managing people, you can move your pieces after placing them, and you don't have to wait for anyone else's turn before you move. Most of all, they're not all identical. Every single piece you have to manage has its own little peculiarities, its own weaknesses and strengths, its own suitability and efficiency for each situation. Also, pieces can just move or disappear on you without warning, regardless of what you do, without breaking any rules.


This is a lot like management, except everything is more urgent, and deadlines are a little more lethal than usual. Another big difference is that lost pieces are much more likely to never be recovered.

A single battle.

The only part of go which really corresponds to battle is the setup of one's forces. The actual fights themselves, including their unpredictable outcomes, aren't accounted for. Sometimes a captured piece kills the surrounding pieces. Very distressing to the would-be master tactician. Worse still, sometimes your pieces are captured without being properly surrounded. You might feel cheated, but you still lose.

Well, then, like that game with the ...

No, you're wrong.


Go is like itself.


Another go dream:

I am walking through the local shopping centre, and I come across a friend who's a nurse in reality, but in the dream she's running a book store. In stock are all of Kiseido's books, plus a few more, and what's even more special is that they're all in my native language. They're even in a prominent place, as if they were very popular books.

The covers were all left the same, except the titles had been translated, too. I didn't like the titles themselves, but I loved the fact that my friend had them all in stock.

I wanted to have a few of them gift-wrapped, but then I woke up.



Practicing, studying and not progressing in rank.

It's painful on some level, but on the other hand it gives me time to stop and smell the roses. I never had the time to enjoy the superfluous empty triangle, and went straight past recognizing capturable chains on day one. It seems like I missed a whole world, there.

But now I'm stuck for a while, with lots of people above me, and lots of people below me. Part of me thinks it's alright, this lingering. I'm enjoying the game, I win some, I lose some. I read about styles, about people, I watch games above and below my level. Certainly I enjoy both.

It's not so bad, really, to hang around and not rush to the top at full speed. I still do the usual tsumego, review my games, and probably that will eventually take me away from this peaceful place, to higher and more fiercely contested places.

But quietly, I enjoy just being in the middle, and even though I know it won't last, I wouldn't really mind if it did.

I suppose I'm doing this all wrong, and should be feeling frustrated and annoyed about things I don't see, things I can't do, and my reading not being deep enough. I can't find it in myself to feel anything but contentment. What a nice game this is. I get to play it every day, too.

Ah, but then the past dozen or so even games felt too simple, too plain. I'm headed for the rapids again, alas. Will the next stop be this enjoyable? I sure hope so.

Anon Linguist last edited by on February 8, 2019 - 02:14
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