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In 1995, there was Stefan Verstraeten, who read about Go in Shibumi and found an obvious opponent in me. I was happy to be reintroduced, after my uncle had given me an old Ravensburger set when I was 11 years old and I couldn't make much of the rules, abandoning it soon and deplorably enough. This time we worked ourselves through the rules and fought many a double digit kyu game. In our private little rivalry I mostly got the edge, which no doubt was essential for me to pursue more. Stefan had more noble motives for progress, I muster, though he didn't fail to beat me in official competitions later. We decided a club would be the best way to improve at this chokingly interesting game. Our senseis at the time were self taught amateurs of 6k strength but they still served as the best of benchmarks. I don't remember what they have been teaching us. Judging by what I currently perceive as 6k level strength, we must have learnt some pretty bad habits - sorry sempai!
Stefan and I started acquiring and reading many books. I believe his library is still bigger than mine, though giving away everything I had (but Invincible and a Gokyo Shumyo copy which I cherish) to the library of the club will have helped. We worked our way through quite a few inspiring books, participated in interclub and tournaments. There was the earliest of Internet efforts, gobase and the quirky IGS to which I've never been really drawn for some reason. There was the tiresome rec.games.go with lots of flaming and rare educational material.
In these times I approached the game from an opening perspective (see /fuseki experiments), as do many amateurs because they know the opening makes a difference for pros, the opening is where you can apply intuition most and because some authors, like Kajiwara, urged us to emphasize the opening. I was also drawn towards the concept of shape (see a static treatise on shape), as do many amateurs, because shape is a seemingly nifty way to get rid of the nuisance of reading. Also, I used to replay a lot of pro games, to get an instinctive feeling for the game. In short, I definitely used to substitute reading by set sequences and shapes. I am still unsure about the very nature of human learning. Is it biased towards imitation or towards logical reasoning?
A major change came when I read Killer of Go by Sakata Eio. It's a smashing book, making you eager to go and kill your opponent's groups. Suddenly, I didn't think the opening was so all deciding anymore: if you could read better than your opponent, there are always possibilities to kill groups. Also, it dawned upon me that doing tsumego is the key to reading ability.
In 2001, I had a friend living in my place (he was having his boat built in Ghent and needed a place to stay) and we played many serious games. We used a kadoban principle, stretching our abilities to the maximum. Afterwards I used to review and analyze my games. This is the time when I experienced most improvement. Since then, I keep the habit of review and analysis to discover mistakes.
I believe server Go came too late for me. KGS' style suited me better than IGS and I've been on and off ever since its existence, mostly because my passion for Go and music have proven to be mutually exclusive, in terms of time management and focus. Up until today I prefer live play much over online play. Somehow I can hardly bring myself to play long games online, while I can go on for hours in the club. In one of the more intensive go intervals, in 2007, I got acquainted with Minue and took lessons with him (see /studying with Minue).
In 2009 and 2010 I had a few eruptions of online play, and temporarily became fond of turn based play, notably on DGS. About this time I experimented with emulating a professional player. I chose Otake Hideo because he is known to build thickness first, then through attacking vulnerable opponent positions transforming it into profit. That's a way of playing I'd like to master. See /studying games of Otake.
I'm not playing competitive Go anymore and have stalled somewhere below the 2 dan level I used to foster. In 2014, inspired by Hushfield's journal of his go studies in China and wanting to explore the idea of /deliberate practice, I started playing again and study tsumego.
As you can read in my /teaching experiences I'm quite fond of teaching and I'm probably a better teacher than a go player. But something nags me about it: it's not quite right to be a KGS 1d teacher. Teaching ability is great but when teaching the wrong things well, that ability can produce very bad results. With newcomers I'm pretty confident in what I teach (see /recommended introduction but once people move to intermediate levels, how can a 1d be inspirational? Although authority may be established with rank, it's not necessarily a hierarchical position I'm after, rather the confidence that what I'm saying about the game of Go is actually true. With 1d being in reach for anyone playing lots of games mostly untutored, it's not a comfortable position for a teacher, whatever the educational prowess.
I still stand by my /Ideas on Improvement, though I tend to be more flexible and free in what to study or discuss with other players. I used to think there was an almost fixed path to become a good player quickly. I still think so, but it is much more fun and sociable to seize the opportunity and study or discuss whatever seems to be up in the air. In particular, since everybody seems to be crazy about fuseki, why resist ...
Still, many players are frustrated with their current level and want to improve, with positive feedback from victories. For this reason I've devised /basic laws of gamesmanship and am exploring the idea of /deliberate practice.
During the corona virus in 2020, I made another attempt at reaching a stable 3d rank. I decided to stop doing what I had been doing and change my approach. The essence: read, read, read. Tsumego: read. Study: read. Play: read.