(Sebastian:) Is Go hard-hearted? It appears to me this way when I look e.g. at how an illegal move is punished by forfeiture. This may also be a reason why so few amateur women play Go.

SnotNose: I guess my answer depends on how you define the game. If we take the game to be the very strict set of rules under which pros play or tournaments are run, then maybe I might say you have a point. But, on the other hand, I don't know how these formal matches can occur without strict rules. So that leaves us with a vacuous statement that it is hard-hearted because it has to have strict rules.

On the other hand, if we speak more generally about the casual game as it is played in clubs (and maybe sometimes on the internet and certainly on SL!!) then it need not be heard-hearted at all. The degree to which it is depends on the players. I play all sorts of games with different people. The "rules" (culture would be a better word) under which we play varies by opponent. I know against some that it is to be a very serious game, no undo-ing, no teaching, just try to beat each other and look as mean as possible doing it (joke!). With other people, it is very relaxed. We can undo. We can talk about the game as we go. We can teach each other variations, etc.

So, the game can be what you make it. In and of itself, it need not be hard-hearted or anything in particular, really.

This gets close to the question "what is Go?" The game means different things to different people. Most of the rhetorical errors made by lots of people I interact with at the club are due to assumptions made about what kind of game I am playing. They say, "why didn't you play there, punish him, and end the game?" Well, I could have but I wasn't playing that kind of game!!!

(Sebastian:) Nice statement! I don't think I can top that. But I'd like to comment on what you said on the women page:

By the way, I could also argue that it is not "hard-hearted" at all. Afterall, there are so many opportunities to recover from previous misplays. In that sense, the game is quite forgiving :)

One friend of mine says: Go is all about mistakes. (Maybe I should write this in another page.) You can have the greatest ideas 99% of the time. If you make one mistake you easily lose a group of 30 points. And then often your only hope is that your opponent makes a mistake of similar size. I, personally, have a problem with such situations in real life, and one of the reasons I play go is to learn how to cope with them. But I do think that it makes the game less appealing as a recreation for many people (among them most of the women I know).

SnotNose: Only very recently did I come to terms emotionally with the fact that Go is about mistakes. What helped me was reading pro commentaries and, in every one, the losing move is pointed out and a winning alternative is provided. Often, they see the losing move for White, then Black makes an error and his move becomes the losing one, and back and forth. Fascinating. Even pros do it. Why? Because we are human and Go is too hard for us (happily). To me this is fantastic. I'd rather not play a game that I know could be played perfectly by someone. I'd rather have all the possibility of the unknown and mystery. In fact, one reason we appeal to non-quantitative ideas (thickness, influence, aji, etc.) is that we can't figure the game out quantitatively. But all these other ideas are imprecise. This opens the door to all kinds of philosophy and metaphor and emotion and that makes the game very rich and deep. What a joy! So, when I make a mistake I try (and often succeed, though not always) relaxing and thinking "well this is part of the package and it is better this way." And then I pull myself together and patiently wait for my opponent to let me back in the game with his mistake, which usually comes. Mistakes and patience...that's what it is all about (for me). In between I'm busy doing all those ordinary things like reading and counting the score, making and using aji, making and using thickness, and the like. But those are just to pass the time until there is a mistake and then the patient waitting for the next one :)

Sngrfxz: What does hard-hearted even mean? That you get punished for breaking the rules? That happens not only in all other sports, but in most other areas of life. Is it that when an opponent makes a mistake, you take advantage of it? In which sport or game does this not happen?

(Discussion about women has been moved in its place)

(Sebastian:) You raise two questions:

What does hard-hearted even mean?
Well, one thing it means is what I just wrote in the previous paragraph: Go is, at least to a large degree, about mistakes. (Maybe this page should start with that. The illegal move rule is only a side aspect.) This is more so than in most other games.
In which sport or game does one not get punished for breaking the rules?
There is a decisive difference in how hard you get punished. If, e.g. in the America's cup, a boat violates a rule then they have to do a penalty turn around a marker. They'll have to try hard to catch up, but they still have a chance of winning. This is what I would call fair. Disqualifying a player because of a silly mistake does, at least for me, not increase the joy in a game. That's what I call "hard-hearted". Is this really necessary?

Hans: There is another aspect of "hard-heartedness": I often made the experience that if I am leading in a serious game I feel a sort of pity for my opponent since he (or she) is losing. Sometimes I hesitate winning the game decisively by killing a big group or making a big intrusion in the territory of my opponent because I can feel with him/her. I even remember a game where I did not grasp the opportunity to win and later made some mistakes and lost in the end. So, in order to win and play your best go you have to give up feelings like pity or compassion for you opponent.

(I mainly speak about serious games at a tournament, but in a less strong sense what I said is also true for "casual" or friendly games.)

May be hard-heartedness is not exactly the right word. In my opinion not playing the best move that you see (which may be a hard blow for your opponent) also shows a sort of disrespect for the game. Who wants a victory because the opponent did not play his best go?

(Ensuing discussion moved to Playing for as Narrow a Victory as Possible.)

Robert Pauli: I'd say that you're hard-hearted if your opponent breaks the rules, it's plain obvious that it's in no way to his advantage if undiscovered, and you don't let him undo it. If the rules don't give you that option, they're hard-hearted as well.

Parallel discussion moved from illegal move:

SnotNose: At first I thought that requiring Cho Hunhyeon to forfeit after such a move was cruel since it is an obvious slip and no one seems harmed if he is permitted to replay his illegal move. (Replaying a legal move, no matter how dumb, is a very different thing, which should not be permitted in pro competition.) But upon further reflection, I think it is the right thing to do. There is something indescribably comforting about a system that permits no errors whatsoever. For one thing, it prevents someone from intentionally playing an illegal move just to shake things up. (Not saying this would be common but I wouldn't put it past someone for doing it. All kinds of borderline tacticts get used in the heat of competition.) For another, Go is a game that should be played carefully. Perhaps it is right that someone be punished for being so careless.

Warp: I agree that although in friendly games you should not be such an a**h*** to demand victory if your opponent makes an illegal move by mistake, in tournament games (specially in important ones) clear and strict rules should be imposed. Imagine the controversy if someone makes an illegal move and presses his clock. With all the fuss, some time will pass in the opponent's clock. What should be done in such case? The opponent's time set back by some amount? A time penalty for the player who made the illegal move? Something else? I think that immediate forfeit is a good solution which avoids most controversies.

(Sebastian:) I agree that if it's the rules, then people in a tournament should obey them. But I'm questioning why the rules need to be so hard? Why not just give the player an appropriate penalty? SnotNose, I agree that there is comfort in clear rules and beauty in perfection. But forfeiting a game is not beautiful. (Who would not want to know how the game would have continued?) It is as beautiful as a computer program that consistently crashes whenever someone enters a wrong key, or a piano that does that in the midst of a performance.

SnotNose: Hmmm, beauty has many forms. I'm struggling to find words here but there is something beautiful about a system (call it "culture" if you like) that involves humans but has harsh penalties certain kinds of (very stupid) errors. All kinds of (only sightly less stupid) errors don't require forfeit but will lead to defeat. Other errors are small enough that they may not lead to defeat but they put the error-maker at a disadvantage. So, there is a hierarchy of errors, the more stupid your error, the more quickly and irreversibly you lose. So, in this system ("culture"), you'd better be careful and patient. You can't be stupid, even if it is stupid in a non-thinking way. There's something there I like. I would never want it applied to my casual club games. But, I would gladly enter a competition under those rules and enjoy the challenge of being very careful.

Here's a wacky example just to show you my perspective. If someone set up a tournament where we had to play Go but all stones must be placed using only our feet, I might try it, just for the challenge of it. I know it will be very tempting to grab a stone by the hand but if I do that, I lose. Okay, that might be fun (for a little while anyway). And, if I had some kind of foot fetish (which I don't!) maybe I'd find this foot-Go game very beautiful. Well, replace this "foot" idea with this "no illegal move" idea and we have the situation under discussion.

Lastly, I don't know what an appropriate penalty for an illegal move would be anyway. But, let's suppose one had been set (say, 3 point loss and replay of move; or, say, loss of move = pass). If those had been the rules, I doubt I would argue that the rule should be that an illegal move should forfeit the game. I'd never think of that. So, this whole forfeit idea isn't one I feel strongly about. I just don't mind it as the rule. It doesn't bother me. There are so many pro games I don't care much that this one didn't get finished. But I can understand the perspective of someone who feels differently.

TJ: When playing on a go server, a timed game, I find that any mistake for which I grant an undo puts me off my game. I have plans, things I'm pondering, ideas I'm mulling over...then my opponent puts himself into a snap-back with which I can kill a 30 point group. My attention narrows immediately, concentrating on that huge game-winning snap-back, forgetting all else while deciding if the immediate situation is as good for me as I think it is, or if I've missed something. Then they say "misclick, sorry", or just ask for an undo. I grant it. Now, what was I thinking about before that, again? I hate undos in anything but a teaching game, doubly so if there's a clock involved at all. I don't think it's hard-hearted.

Hard-heartedness last edited by Sebastian on October 27, 2004 - 10:00
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