June 2003. Summer is not even there officially but it is already hot in Belgium. When the sun gets tough, the tough get playing tennis. Today Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne qualified for the final game of the French Open. An all Belgian final ! This event stimulated me to write about Go and Tennis, two games I adore and which I often find strikingly similar as far as attitude is concerned. Dieter
Just as in Go, tennis players want to play like the pros. A typical game consists of an exchange of long powerful topspin backhands and forehands, occasionally topped with a killer volley. Then the odd guy shows up. He has been playing for years but he has a terrible style. His second service is "lower hand" as we say, he slices his backhands and his forehand is flat. The powerful topspins of the better player make him run across the court. The odd player notices, however, that the other misses a few smashes. So he starts luring him towards the net, and then lobs. It doesn't matter how good the lob is, because his opponent fails anyway. The straight guy gets angry, frustrated, loses his cool, loses the game, and complains to everyone who wants to hear it that this odd guy has an awful playing style. He decides never to play such guy again. It was an ugly game indeed. The solution, however, is to learn how to smash.
Likewise, if the opponent takes territory and allows your making a perfect moyo, then he invades and you fail to kill him, you can be as angry as you want, you only have to blame yourself for not having sharpened your killing ability.
First set 6-1, second set 4-2. I'm a break ahead, easy win. Time to relax now. Oops, double fault. Oh, nice forehand, well why run. Darn, lost my service. He wins the tie-break, the next set and the game.
First set 6-1, second set 4-2. I can't lose this. No, I mustn't lose this. It would be shameful to let this one slip away. I crack my nerves, my muscles freeze up and so does my game.
There are two basic approaches in tennis. The rule says: he who doesn't bring the ball in the opponent's camp after the ball has bounced once in his own camp, loses the point. So, you can concentrate on bringing the ball into his camp and wait for his mistakes. Or, you can focus on playing the ball so that the opponent has a hard time bringing it back. We can speak of the balance of safety and aggression. Those who emphasize safety will usually develop a beautiful style. Those who focus on aggression will develop a severe attitude.
In Go, playing good moves is not enough. One has to develop a plan and look for sequences that fit into the plan while discovering the opponent's plan and thwarting it. On the other hand, good plans will always crash on bad moves.
I think that the easiest way to become 1 dan is to filter out bad technique (peep where you can cut) and strategic mistakes (play too close to thickness). However, one has to start making plans and discovering the opponent's to get beyond that rank, I feel.
One reason why very good tennis players don't cramp when they're trailing 6-1 5-2 or serving for the match against Serena Williams is that they take it one point at a time. They don't think about "Gee, if I drop the next game I lost serve four times in a row" or "If I can hold my service for the rest of the match, the game is in the bag". All they care about is trying to score the next point.
Likewise in go you shouldn't get worked up about the five blunders you've made in the game, nor think how "surely he will resign if I pull off this invasion". Just look for a good move.