Long time no post!
I just created Imagist/Difficult Problem 2.
I just signed up for the Philadelphia Fall Open tournament. Despite recent improvements, I am still a bit behind where I want to be for this tournament. Nevertheless, I have signed up as 1 dan! There are a few reasons for this:
This all leads me to the conclusion that I can probably make it to 1 dan AGA strength, but it also means that I will have to work very hard over the next few weeks. I've drawn up the following study plan:
I finally got past the barrier I've been stuck at for a while! It took me by surprise; I have been busy the last few days and haven't played much.
I have been trying to gain a more calm approach to selecting moves. Despite struggling to read out every move before playing it, I usually just get enthralled in the game and start playing entirely by intuition.
However, during my lesson with Yilun Yang yesterday I played particularly well, enough that he commented on my improvement. And the thing was that I wasn't particularly awake or well-focused. Rather, I simply was reading out the moves, consciously comparing my options in a calculating manner unlike my usual intuitive play. When playing even games, I slaughtered my opponents, taking an early lead and playing steadily until my opponents began to thrash about trying to catch up. The overplays that are common at my level suddenly made sense to me and I was able to refute them cleanly.
When I got past a barrier around 8k, I had a similar experience, but the amount of improvement overnight is much greater this time. It's days like this that are the reason I play go.
So I'm back down to 3k and it seems I'm there to stay. My goal was to be shodan by August, but that's clearly not going to happen. I'm taking comfort in the fact that the Philadelphia Fall Open is not until September 22-23, so I still have a bit of time to prepare for that.
I think my difficulty is that I am, for the most part, an intuitive player. When I need to make a move, I rarely read out any variations in-depth, and even when I do, I often end up discarding my well-read out sequence for another one that "looks better". The trouble isn't that I don't know that this is a problem, it's that I don't have the self-discipline to make myself read out every move even when I know I should.
I know that if I can break that bad habit, I'll be a force with which to be reckoned. I have made it this far mostly on intuition, so I know that I've got enough intuition to carry me well into the dan levels if I can temper it with the good habit of reading and analyzing.
Finally, I broke 2k on KGS today! 3k has been the hardest rank yet, though it is to be expected that each rank will get harder. I even was so discouraged that for a little while I turned off my rank on KGS so I could just focus on having fun rather than worrying about improving. However, this last few weeks all the things I've been working on clicked, and I've kept a very high win percentage since I went back to being ranked (31 wins and 14 losses).
I have been studying Go Seigen's games, specifically focusing on how he uses thickness to attack. I've also intensified my study of life and death. Lastly, I've started asking myself whether all my groups are stable and how I can make my opponent's groups unstable before every move.
As a result, my game has become pretty severe; all my victories lately have been decided by my attacking a weak group for profit or making a big kill because my opponent didn't defend properly. I've gone through phases where I attacked a lot before, especially around 6k, but then I just got into big capturing races which I won by only a few liberties if I won at all. Since now I'm watching out for the stability of my groups better and using thick positions as a springboard for attacks, I've been making nice clean kills where my groups are never in any danger. I really feel that my attacking abilities have come to the point where the people at my rank just can't keep up.
I have been studying Go Seigen's games, and I found a really nice tesuji in a handicap game he played against Honinbo Shusai. After studying the tesuji until I understood how it worked, I played my ASR League game against lupis? and the tesuji came up!
Since my last post, I've broken past that 3k barrier! I experimented with moyos, which mostly failed, since I'm no better at playing a moyo game than before, but when I went back to playing my usual territorial/reduction game, I had suddenly gained the ability to keep my invading groups from getting as weak. It's strange how I didn't get good at that in all my weeks of trying, but the minute I focus on something else, I've learned it. This leaves me somewhere between 1k and 2k. 1d by August is looking in reach!
I've also gone unranked on both my KGS accounts. This makes me feel more free to experiment, since I'm not worried so much about winning and losing. I've also noticed just how innaccurate the ranking system is; despite the fact that all my games as an unranked player are even games, I have lost a number of games against lower ranked players, and won about an equal number against higher ranked players. I've noticed a similar trend playing more even games with players at the Penn and Korean clubs. I was even beaten twice in a row by a certain 7k player (though I suspect that he was sandbagging).
Today I watched an episode of Hikaru no Go in which Sai says of Mitani that "He has a lot of potential. His moves are honest and good." In recent months I have been trying to get good at fighting by fighting a lot, but the downside to this is that I have been overplaying a lot, which I think will only hurt me in the long run. My focus for the next couple days will be to search for moves that are "honest and good" rather than fighting moves. Part of this too is that I want to get really good at the endgame within the next few weeks. My recent games, rather than going to the endgame, have ended in spectacular kills, not always in my favor.
I have played one game so far where this was my focus, and the result was a smooth win by 22.5 points. Komi was .5 because my opponent was ranked a stone above me, but I still would have won with komi, which gives me hope that this new resolve might gain me a stone's strength.
Watching Hikaru really seems to help my game. I always feel new resolve to do my best after watching him play, and this helps me to play better. My only complaint with the series is that Hikaru doesn't appreciate Sai enough; he has no idea what I would give to have my own personal teacher like that.
My win/loss ratio is up, but I haven't been so good about doing problems lately. I'll have to get back into that in the next few days.
I've been playing poorly, and losing nearly all my games. It's midterms week, and I haven't really been able to concentrate on go, but I've also been misreading or not reading at all a lot. Hopefully I can get back to my usual play soon.
I am reading through the workshop lectures by Yilun Yang. It clarifies some of the tips he has given me in his lessons, and I am finding it very helpful.
Yesterday and today mark my first winning streak as a 3k. I had been having trouble winning as a 3k, especially against 2k players, so this is a good sign.
On Sunday I helped the club with an outreach event for Sakura Sunday (in Fairmont Park). Events like these remind me of all the reasons I like go at once. Sometimes if I have been having trouble I can get a bit discouraged, but when I see new people finding a fascination with the game it lifts my spirits. It also hit me at the festival just how far I have come over the last year. For a little while when the other club members were off getting food, I played 3 simultaneous 9x9 games against beginners with 5 stones handicap and won all the boards by a clean margin many times. Last year at the Sakura festival I had difficulty giving beginners 3 stones on a 9x9; and that was without playing 3 games at once! Next year I will give the beginners 7 stones. This was my first time playing simultaneous games. I think it's good practice and I hope to do it again.
An interesting capturing race came up in one of my games today. I actually should have lost the race, but my opponent missed the correct move.
This was the result of a line in Attack and Defense - the book where Ishida refers to using attacks as a springboard for further attacks rather than as a way to gain territory. The strategy worked nicely, as my attacks both reduced my opponent's territory and weakened his groups, allowing me to further attack them. Even if my opponent had played this capturing race correctly I would have been about 15 points ahead after he captured. Even though I gained very little territory from my attacks, my opponent lost so much that the little territory I had was enough.
I hit 3k on KGS today. Whether I will maintain that rank is not yet sure, but for now at least I am celebrating with some Oreos (a go related snack because they are black and white... sort of).
I have discovered just how bad I am at memorizing games. My memorization of the Blood Vomiting Game is not yet complete. That puts me far behind my schedule. However, I can partially excuse this because school, which is more important at the moment, is giving me more work than I expected.
This is the last day on my job. On Monday I go back to school, and I should have a little more time to study go (emphasis on a little since I do have a GPA to bring up). In celebration I have decided to do something utterly crazy.
I am going to study the games of Go Seigen using the following method:
I intend to spend about a week on each game, but it may take longer (especially since I still intend to balance this with playing games and tsumego study). I will only replay games played without handicap or pre-positioned stones (many of Seigen's early games start with stones placed diagonally on the hoshi points). My hope is to increase my ability to visualize lines of play and gain an understanding of "what would Go Seigen do?" As for the quality of memorization, I don't intend to burn the games so thoroughly into my memory that I'll remember every one of them to the day I die, but I do intend to be able to replay them a week later without help from the game record.
Right now I'm already working through the blood vomiting game so I'll begin on Go Seigen's games after I have completed that.
And here's another problem.
I'm beginning to write a little essay on a theory I have about studying professional games, called Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny, a phrase borrowed from biology.
I hit a new personal record on the bus this morning: 100% accuracy on the first 100 problems of 1001 Life and Death Problems. It's a little disappointing that it took almost a week of doing the same problems over and over, but to make up for this, I did the entire set of 100 in under two minutes.
I'm going to add another 100 problems to my force feeding regimen starting today. I hope to be able to do the entire set of 1001 problems in under an hour before AGA go congress (with 100% accuracy). I have similar goals for Levels 2 and 3 of the Korean Problem Academy on Gobase.
I would like to incorporate the elementary problems from the Encyclopedia of Life and Death into my force feeding practice, but I don't find Uligo's interface to be particularly condusive to doing problems quickly. I did see the problems on tasuki's page, but then I don't have the answers, so I have no way of measuring my accuracy (and thereby progress). I'll have to figure something out for this.
I also made two more problems:
Because of my recent focus on tsumego, I have had the urge to create my own tsumego. I read somewhere that a student at a Korean baduk school said that solving problems causes you to see similar situations in your head. This is definitely true.
I created this tsumego, which I was very proud of until I realized that my original solution was wrong:
I haven't played much since my last post, but I have won all my games. I've discovered that the way the Korean Problem Academy Problems is set up is particularly condusive to force feeding. I'm using the 5-15kyu problems because I can do them relatively quickly (but I still miss some). Attempting to do the 1-5k problems all at once would result in a 2-3 hour ordeal and I probably wouldn't stick with it.
I am still working through 1001 Life and Death Problems when I don't have access to a computer. I alternately force feed the first 100 problems and work on problems I have not yet done (I'm in the late 800s now). I'm getting to where I can solve the first 100 problems at a glance no matter which direction I hold the book (upside down, sideways, etc) so I will soon move on to force feeding the next 100.
It's amazing how often I can grossly misunderstand even the most basic situations. Take these examples:
If I don't even know what things ARE, how am I supposed to know what to do with them?
Bill: In my experience, kyu players cannot consistently distinguish heavy from thick, light from thin. You'll get better at it. :-)
In other news, I'm really regretting not having taken tsumego study seriously enough earlier. I especially felt the burn when I was having a difficult time with the 9 kyu problems on GoProblems.com (I am 4 kyu). I feel so weak!
That said, my win ratio continues to rise. I aim to be 3 kyu on KGS by April.
I think I've finally gotten past the barrier that I hit a few weeks ago. My rank on KGS is showing the difference; I'm now a mid-level 4k as opposed to being just barely 4k.
The most helpful thing, I think, was the proverb if it has a name, know it. I have been having difficulty remembering and spotting tesuji that I know during games. But I have found that knowing not only the tesuji but a name for the tesuji helps me to recall it during games. Along with practicing tsumego, I am noticing a marked difference in my play.
I have known for a while, based on my KGSStats page, that I win a lot more as white than as black in handicap games (contrary to the trends of most people I know). I originally attributed this to chance, but the trend is becoming so consistent that I have considered it further. Looking over my games, I have finally come to a conclusion. I noticed a tendency to attack stronger players and then be counterattacked viciously, indicating that somewhere along the line I overplayed. These same overplays, applied in games against weaker players, work, inflating my wins against them. I have therefore resolved to play more moderately. I have so far been finding this difficult to balance with seeking severity in the way I play. I lost all my games today (but kept a highly positive trend across the week).
I am staying home from work sick, which gives me time to study go! However, this sinus infection is making things difficult; I've been playing okay, but I really have to think for a very long time on each move.
I lost the first game I played today. However, I got a neat life and death situation out of it, so I'm happy. Here it is:
Unfortunately, during the game I played this incorrectly (as black) and died. I was losing by a little before that, though, so it just confirmed the inevitable. It's good, though, because I was getting a little overconfident after my recent streak of wins.
Other things of interest: Yesterday I discovered this tesuji during a game. Obviously black shouldn't play this way, but I'm still not sure it works for white. Still, I felt pretty good about that so I consider yesterday a success!
Imagist: Ah! All I saw was that , , , and make a common capturing pattern for ; I missed that and are too short of liberties.
LukeNine45: Missing stuff like that is why I've been losing my games lately... :(
I decided to make this study blog to document my study of go. Right now my short term goal is to make 2 dan on KGS in time for the AGA go congress (so that I can convincingly call myself AGA 1 dan). In the longer term I'm not so sure what I want to do; I do know that I would like to be extremely strong, and I would love to make a living off of go, but I am aware of the unlikelihood of going pro. In any case, at KGS 4 kyu I've got a long way to go before I am in any position to consider trying.
This blog is one of a number of changes I am making to the way I play and study go. About two months ago I hit my first barrier in improvement. Previously I had kept a win record of above 66% for months on end, so my rank was naturally on a steady upward climb. But suddenly at about halfway through 5 kyu, I had extreme difficulty. At first I attributed this to stress, sleep loss, and lack of time to play, all due to my new job. No doubt these were contributing factors, but it quickly became evident that there were deeper problems in the way I play and study go.
The first problem I noticed was that I would pull ahead in the opening and then rapidly lose ground in the middlegame. This was the result of a decision I had made early in my go "career". One of the first books I read commented that most amateurs neglect fuseki. I then resolved to not be a typical amateur, and make fuseki my specialty. Whether or not I succeeded in this is still in question, but I can say that people of equivalent rank generally are weaker than be in the opening.
However, here was where the other shoe dropped: in my zealous study of fuseki I had neglected to learn how to fight. When the middlegame began, my opponents began to attack and the nice positions I had gained early on were quickly cut apart. If my groups didn't die outright, my opponents gained so much from attacking them that it hardly mattered. Complex fighting generally is good for the person who is behind, but I didn't have the fighting strength to make that work, and I generally only opened myself up to counterattack. This was only exacerbated by the way I choose moves, which was the next problem I noticed.
My other fascination in my early studies was with shape. Although I didn't study shape as much as I studied fuseki, I focused on it more than I focused on reading. As a result, I tended to play moves that "looked good" rather than moves that were backed up by reading; in fact, I rarely even attempted to read out a position. While my feel for shape became good enough this way that my opponents often would comment on my "stones always being in the right place at the right time", and my "luck", this could only carry me so far in actual fighting.
Finally, about two weeks ago, I came to these conclusions consciously. And so I decided to start doing something about it by changing the way I play and study.
The changes I am making mostly have to do with improving my reading ability. My first priority is getting good at life and death by studying it regularly rather than one or two problems every few weeks. I started working through One Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems, and I plan to go through it a few times until I can solve the entire book in about 5 hours (the amount of free time I have in two or three average days). My study of this book has highlighted just how weak I am at reading; in the first set of problems (one-move problems) I only got about 50% correct, and this is with spending a full minute on each. However, my utter weakness here has also provided an area in which I can improve rapidly. I am nearly done with the harder groups of three-move problems and my rate of success for these is much higher (between 80% and 90%). Comparing this with the smaller increase in the time I spend on problems (about 90 seconds) and the increasing difficulty of the problems, it's clear that I'm getting much better.
During my first week of studying tsumego diligently, I had a bout of kyu disease. My win percentage dropped to 28% and my rank, which had just reached 4 kyu on KGS, dropped quickly back to 5 kyu. However, I soon recovered and am now making steady progress.
When I have time, I plan to begin memorizing professional games. While there are many reasons for this, my main hope is to be able to remember moves in my head while reading out a position. Until I have time, I am memorizing joseki, which serve as more bite-size pieces than professional games.
I would like to study tesuji, but the problems in Five Hundred and One Tesuji Problems are a little beyond my reading ability. The problems in Tesuji - the book seem a bit more my level, but I find the commentary in that book (and in Life And Death - the book) more distracting than helpful. That's not to say they aren't good books, but I don't find them as useful as books that focus more on problems. This probably is mostly due to my learning style.
To avoid playing without thinking, I have decided to consider three moves and read each out five moves deep before every play. I have seen this suggested elsewhere, but I'm not sure I'll have the discipline to apply it to my games.
I am also joining the ASR League, so that I can use my competitive nature to stay motivated.
The final change I wish to make is to review my games a few days after playing them. I often go over games immediately afterward, and I plan to continue that, but I find that if I don't go back later, I quickly forget my mistakes and make them again in my games. After making the same mistake a few times in a game, I do eventually learn, but it seems like I can correct the same mistake with five half-hour games as with one half-hour game and one ten-minute review.
This blog will hopefully help me to keep track of my progress and get suggestions from other users.
If you made it to this point on the page, thanks for reading my obscenely long and probably boring post!
RBerenguel: Hi! I hope you good luck with your goal (and more, try to be 3d!) and would like to ask you a question. One of my weak points is just your strong... fuseki. I used to play a good (or not really bad) fuseki when I was a beginner (well, when I was about 18k, and so) but now I always get behind of the opening and have to rush into fighting the middle game: if I kill I win, if not I lose. I don't like this way of playing, but also don't know what to do to improve my fuseki skills. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks in advance.
Dieter: I took the freedom to relink a few of your former homepages.