HolIgor/How I started go

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In 1975 I was a secondary school student. I played chess and international draughts. I was rather good but not brilliant. My strength was in good tactical sight based on the solution of several books of problems. My positional skills and reading ahead in calm situations were not so good.

At that time a popular science monthly "Science and Life" had a series of articles about the games of the world. This included 10 articles on go. The game seemed very interesting but I could not convince my friends to try it. Yet, the series of 10 articles were a very good introduction to the game. It covered briefly all aspects of go: rules, life and death, fuseki, basic joseki, tesuji, yose, shape. It had two examples of games, one on 13x13 board and one from a Honinbo title match. But above all it featured problems. 10 problems for each of the article. That made 100 problems altogether, from the simplest to very complex. The readers were encouraged to send their solutions. The prizes were few and quite simple: boards and stones, joseki dictionaries etc.

A lot of people in the former Soviet Union learned about the game from that series of articles. Many clubs emerged all over the country.

Though I read the articles with interest and even tried to play myself on a piece of paper or using a 9x9 draught board, it was not yet my time.

My next encounter with go was in 1981 when I found that my roommate in the dorm for post-gradute students had a self-made board and stones. He told me that he was playing in the club and that his level was about 8k. We played a game. I won.

Honestly, I've never been double digit kyu player in my life.

My dorm roommate married and moved away, so several years passed till I met go again.

When in the middle of eighties that second installment of the "Science and life" articles on go was published, a friend of mine proposed to send our solutions of the problems. Surprisingly, he kept a file with the articles from the old series. We refreshed our memory and tried to solve new problems. As the result I found in my mailbox an invitation to visit a local go club.

By that time I've bought 13x13 board and started to play with my friends. We played on 3/2 system and quite fast I was giving up to five handicap stones to my opponents. It is very important to have an immediate success. This encourages your play and sets you in the position of a predator, a super-rat.

So, I decided to accept the invitation from the club and go to the meeting of the newbies. About ten people came. We were tested by the club members on 13x13 board. I played a game on 5 stones with a guy about 1k strong. I won and refused to take 5 stone handicap against the next guy. Little did I know that he was a 4d player. The game was extremely difficult for me. His stones were well placed and seemed invincible. Each move posed a difficult problem. I had my first taste of a very strong player. His territory constantly grew and mine shrank. But in the end he lost concentration and I managed to cut killing almost everything. But that was just luck. I played one more game that day. It was on a big board on 8 stones against a low digit kyu guy. The game was OK, but in the end the shape of one of my groups turned out to be bad. It died and I lost.

The club organised a 13x13 tournament for all newcomers that lasted over several Sundays. I won. Till that time my strength was estimated as about 5 kyu. That's now the club ratings work. You play several games and the dan guys tell you that you are 5k. The number of weak players is limited, you can beat a 4 dan guy on 9 stones and lose on 5. That means that you are 5 kyu.

I played in the club for a about a year. The best result was a win over 2d in a tournament (even game). I thought that I grew to the 3 kyu level during that year. Perhaps, stronger. Yet, my knowledge of the game was very limited. My reading was not bad, but the shape and the strategy were very weak.

HolIgor/How I started go last edited by CharlesMatthews on May 10, 2003 - 11:10
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