This past Sunday I was able to make it out to the Ottawa Chinese Go Club for the first time in years. My four year old daughter accompanied me which was good since my wife was craving some quiet time. She was well behaved and bring her should let me attend more club days than otherwise.
When I arrived I played a gentleman named Charles. I think it's a different Charles than the one listed as the contact for the club. We played two games. The first he gave me two stones handicap and while I lost before the end game I didn't do that badly. Next we played three stones and I did even worse.
It's funny, because I remember most often playing this gentleman the few times I attended the club six years ago. I wonder if he is unofficially the club's greeter, someone who plays new faces to make sure they don't sit out from intimidation.
Later a bunch of college kids showed up. They were all room-mates and had just picked up the game last month. What a difference. Not knowing how long they'd been playing and just knowing Charles said that I was stronger than them I gave the young man I played, Ben, three stones. Once that game was clearly going very bad for him we restarted at four stones and I tried to teach him. I am not a fan of the burnt hand way of teaching and didn't want to smash him game after game. I taught ladders, nets, corners-side-middle, etc.
I invited them to check out the Advanced Study Room on KGS and really hope to attend the next club meeting. Having someone to play closer to their level than Charles may be helpful. I have a gut feeling that having a range of strengths to play against is useful.
As for myself I think I will just keep doing problems and playing. I don't think I've incorporated more than 25% of the information I've been getting in reviews into my games. While I will continue to look for reviews after games I feel a definite lack of practical experience holding me back.
Last night I played an automatch on KGS. I chose a low rank difference to try to practice everything I'd been learning in reviews.
Which I will recap now since I've been worried about forgetting.
The most common advice I've been receiving in my games is to improve my direction of play and avoid making weak groups. I constantly put myself behind, even against weaker opponents. This is what happened in my last game and it was only because my opponent was so much weaker (my rank isn't accurate in KGS yet) that I managed to win the game. He let me take the entire center because he was afraid of me.
I've been receiving different suggestions for further study. One reviewer recently suggested I learn the most common joseki for the 3-3, 3-4, and 4-4 stones. I had been avoiding joseki study based on apparent common consensus about how studying joseki can be bad until you are ready. Since it was getting suggested to me I thought I could start.
I've played through the joseki on Gobase.org and during self-review I try to look at which joseki would have been the best.
In my last review my opponent suggested that I study the games of MilanMilan on KGS and forget joseki. It's true that in my last game it wasn't joseki weakness that got me in trouble.
I think I will take a middle ground. Now that I've at least seen to common joseki I can stop trying to memorize them and just start recognizing them in game.
This is my current understanding. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong:
Until I have mastered the basics of Urgent Moves before Big in obvious game positions I don't need to study joseki or invasions beyond gaining experience through play. If I am making the better directional moves than my opponent but coming out behind in joseki it should be enough to win.
I've really enjoyed playing in the two leagues, CLIG and ASR, because it gives me a reason to play. Lately neither league has been very active and I've had to seek out random games. On KGS this means automatch, which I don't really like. My rank is still inaccurate and I don't like seeing people frustrated because they were over-matched. This has even happened in ASR games where it's always even. People see 15k? and are surprised when I play better than 15k.
In one game my opponent lost 4-5 stones early in the game and resigned. I'd much rather play free games against a bunch of people in the ASR room.
I did manage an ASR game last night. My opponent underestimated me because of my rank and then was frustrated by some poor play and resigned. He didn't even stick around for a review. Fortunately I was able to get the game reviewed, as well as the automatch game I'd played. I wish there were more people playing pickup games in the ASR room, but otherwise it's my favorite place on KGS. Being able to get my games reviewed has been great for improving my play.
I'm not sure if I should continue this blog or not. Is anyone reading it? It seems like Sensei's library is much quieter than the last time I was posting here.
I had a chance to play in another game in the CLIG Handicap League. It was against another 11k. Based on my previous victory we played even. Even if that's too little and I lose I won't be bothered. The Handicap League is all about improving so that you can reach 9k and enter the main league. Whether I win or not doesn't change my level.
It turns out that even was appropriate. I lost by a half point. It was actually a very simple and stupid blunder. My territory was completely enclosed while my opponent had a single gap. If I'd pushed he would have defended. I would have gained no points and he would have lost one. Because the game was so close it was the difference between winning and losing.
Of course, everyone can look back at their lost games and pick one or two mistakes that made the difference. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes and not rationalize a loss by pretending you never made them. It is something I fight. I imagine it's the same for most people. I lost a game but I'm really stronger because this move was just a mistake. Treat the mistake like an uncharacteristic slip and you learn nothing. Even uncharacteristic slips are a mistake in concentration.
On the upside, I'm pretty sure I'm around 11k in strength. I feel I've really improved since August. It can be hard to tell since I'm mostly playing even games against stronger opponents. However, we review the games after and I've been playing enough that it's sinking in.
I can't wait for my next game.
Dieter: Indeed, SL has become a quiet place but regardless I don't think anyone is particularly interested coming-of-dan stories. I think we may have reached the point where more people are publishing on the net than people consuming content. There must be economic activity to be found in readership soon. This slightly mean remark is coming from a writer without much readers myself. I write because I love writing. Whether I will draw any attention, depends on whether my content is of interest to others.
But hey, you got me reading (and writing). Your 4th paragraph is very true and an insight that promises growth. I've written about that attitude in Dieter Verhofstadt/The Philosophy Of Mistakes. Good luck!
Coyote: Even worse, this isn't even a coming-of-dan story. I don't have specific plans to reach any rank. My only plan is to keep playing Go and to always improve.
Fortunately it is possible for people to consume multiple blogs. The question is, do I need people reading this to make it worthwhile?
TheBigH: I'm reading it :]
Well, August ASR league has come and gone. I moved from Delta to Gamma III where I've been losing every game I've played. I'm still having fun and learning a lot. I even had two games against a KGS 5d. Currently I'm advancing out of Gamma III purely on my activity level. I sincerely hope I've just played the stronger players in the class and will face someone more my own level.
Actually, that's not true. I want it just to make myself feel better by winning. I can always win by playing weaker players. Getting reviews from stronger players is much more worthwhile.