Losing Streaks


Tamsin: Have you ever experienced a period when no matter what you did, you just couldn't win? I am currently going through a bit of bad spell in both my online games and over-the-board encounters. True, being an amateur, it doesn't matter much, except that I feel depressed about it! Please use this page to write about your losing streaks and how you dealt with them.

Consensus :

If you are on a losing streak, take a break from go.

And after that, keep on trying!

Alex Weldon: I have losing streaks once in a while, and I find that, at least for me, they are caused by being depressed or pissed off. If, as you say, you're feeling depressed about a losing streak, take a little bit of a break, because the more you lose, the more you'll feel depressed, and the more depressed you get, the more you lose.

I find that if I play a game on IGS when I'm in a good mood, I'm almost guaranteed to win. If work or other aspects of life have been upsetting me, I'm almost guaranteed to lose.

Sometimes I'm 30 points ahead in a game and make a big blunder and lose. This upsets me, so I really want to play more so I can win one more before giving up for the night. However, I've learned that in that case, I should stop right away. I'll be dwelling on the stupid loss, and won't be able to win another game no matter how hard I try to concentrate.

Alex, I have a completely different experience about "being depressed". It actually *helps me* to improve. I started playing go amidst many personal problems and improved quickly. Then I stagnated at about 8 kyu. Now yet again something in my life went terribly wrong - and somehow I was able to play and win (or lose by a very narrow margin) a couple of even games against 5 kyus - playing White.

Strange as it may seem, in the same situation my chess skil crumbled into dust and ashes. I think it has something to do wit the nature of both games. Chess is basically about imposing one's will to the opponent. Go seems to be more objective. "Being depressed", even if we take a strict medical meaning of the word, denotes problems with will, energy and so on (I don't know the English psychological terms, so it has to be blurry). Somehow at my level this qualities proved unnecessary to play better, or even were an impediments.

My losing streaks are causeb by a desire to win.


Jenny Radcliffe: I constantly lose. I'm not keeping a proper record at the moment but I think I lose at least 66% of my games - no matter what handicap. Tournaments are worse, too.

Hadou Ken: Sometimes I am really busy for a while, and I just don't get the chance to play any go. When I get back into it, I usually go on a losing streak because I can't seem to get my mental balance back. If I lose two or three games in a row, I figured out that I need to back up mentally and readjust myself.

That's difficult for some people, but I've been in state-level mentally challenging competetitions for several years. High school competitions, but even so, it has given all of our team members skill in coming back after a loss. In our last tournament, we lost our second game by a huge number, but we came back to defeat that same team twice in a row to take first place. The same thing often happens when I play go.

So how do you do this? For go, I think it might be helpful to take these steps:

1. Get away from the place where you lost. Either log off of the internet, or actually leave the go club.

2. Go over, in your mind, why you lost. Try not to blame yourself mentally, because that will defeat the purpose. When you have figured it out, try to look at it objectively. Think in terms of "Black" and "White," instead of you and your opponent, if it helps. (Added benefit: helps your reading skills.)

3. Log back on, or go back in.

4. Play a game. Win it. Don't just try to win it. Actually win it. If you have it set in your mind that you will indeed win, then that will generate an attitude that helps you release every bit of skill you have. Don't ask me how; I'm not a psychologist.

This works for me. Someone else try this and tell me if it works for you, too.

Note that you actually have to get back in and play a game even after you figure out why you lost. Otherwise, the loss will just get stuck in your head and your mistakes will play themselves over and over like memories of something embarrasing.

Timber: I have the exactly same losing streaks once in a while. Somehow they only seem to come up in internet play, however. I think that sitting in front of the computer and not really seeing the opponent and touching the stones has a major negative influence on my playing skill, if Im not very cautious i tend to not take the game seriously, sometimes skipping reading almost completely, just clicking away the stones.

Going to the game meeting and playing real people at real boards has ended these streaks reliably so far.

mAsterdam "There is too much stress everywhere on the art of winning and not nearly enough anywhere on the art of losing. Yet it is surely the more important of the two, for not only do the losers pay the winners, but they clearly enjoy doing it. Were it otherwise they would have stopped playing - or taken to winning - long ago." (opening remarks from "Bridge in the Menagerie - The winning ways of the Hideous Hog" by Victor Mollo)

Phlegmatic: I've just come back from a two week holiday in the sun, prior to which I was on a horror of a losing streak. I tentatively dipped into Igowin, fearing that I'd have forgotten all the basics, and instead found that I seem to have gained 3 stones! Thus emboldened, I returned to KGS and, despite the ranking system there having upgraded me from 15k to 13k while I was away, I've won 3 of 3 against opposition that I would have lost badly to a fortnight ago...

Therefore I'd heartily agree with the comments above about getting away from Go for a little while. Time it right and you'll have lost that losing feeling, without getting too rusty.

Or put another way: When on a losing streak, sunbathe!

Tamsin I've been doing badly recently. Sure, I have a lot of things on my mind and that must have a lot to do with it. But what I can also say is that I am experiencing an emotion while playing that I can only call "listlessness". I used to get like this with chess, too. It's that horrible feeling you get when you can't concentrate, and when you only half-care about it. Often I move, and then think, and I miss obvious things because I'm not really applying myself. Of course, one should not play when in this mood - but I bet you've all been there and have been unable to stop playing ("I should stop NOW! Buy, dammit!, I must break my losing streak first!). Does that sound familiar? <sad, knowing grin!>

Phelan: I've had a few losing streaks, mostly related to one of my BadHabits, thinking too much...I either lose on time, or take too much time on some moves, and then have to rush some moves that shouldn't have been rushed, therefore losing Balance (one group gets captured, my opponent getting a lot of influence, or territory) on some part of the board, and then having that change of balance used against me in other parts of the board... Lately I've also had a lot going on in my mind, so maybe that's the cause for it... What usually helps me, is to get Go completely off of my mind, and go do something else that is creative and entertaining...When I eventually get back to playing, I notice that some concepts seem easier to understand, coming almost naturally to mind...This causes me to win some games I would have lost before, and that gets me more motivated, so it is a twofold effect.

Jion: As I am currently in a losing streak, I am experiencing pretty much what others have said: wanting to play "one more game" to get a win before I retire, half-caring about it, making beginner mistakes, feeling unconfident and lost during the game, knowing I should stop playing for a bit but keep pushing instead (although this may not be completely bad, I think).

I try to remind myself that losing is NECESSARY to improve, and that with experience one learns to deal with it better. I'm reminded of the story of a young tennis player who went out to play the best players on the court, and lost every game he played. Years later, he became the tennis champion Pete Sampras. Lose now, win later. (Or in GO philosophy, lose your first 50 games as soon as possible)

nachtrabe: "Listless" is a good term for it. I am going through a losing streak right now where I just. can't. seem. to. win. and, looking back through my games, it is almost as if I lost all passion for the game. Emotional flatline.

Hikaru79: Watch Hikaru no Go. No, seriously. Watching players so intense about the game, so into it, will often serve to boost your own excitement :) I don't have any more 'emotional flatlines' anymore, but when I did, this always worked for me. Two episodes, and I was itching to get back on KGS ^__^

hotcoffee: just did a diary entry on my page the other day about a short losing streak on KGS. With my most recent losing streak, caused by getting angry and frustrated, taking a break and calming down led to the most prolonged winning streak i've had! I'm now grateful to the rude player who annoyed me so much initially - without his grating behaviour, I'd be a dissatisfied 15kyu, rather than a happy 14kyu!

Tamsin: I'm not convinced that the key to breaking losing streaks is to take a break, although it can help. I am starting to believe that the key is to focus on playing the game well, and not on the outcome. I have just come off a seven-game losing run, and the thing that turned it around for me was to stop focussing on my bad results and to try very hard to play as far as I could in a principled way. I don't know how well I suceeded in that goal, but I enjoyed the game and managed to win it. Also, it may be ironic, but when you begin to improve, you often get temporarily worse (period of transition). So long as you're learning, there's no defeat in go!

Jeff: "[ext] Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal...." That by Paul, who experienced [ext] loss after loss.

Life is hard sometimes. When you try to live so as to be all God made you to be, you face loss after loss after loss. It helped me when I understood that these losses are only superficial. With each "loss", I am closer to the goal.

In Go, my goal is not to win, but to be strong. Each loss reveals my weak points and gives an opportunity to grow. How many games has Bill Spight lost since he first started playing? Who cares. He's strong now. And he devotes himself to encouraging and strengthening those around him.

emeraldemon: One thing that may help to keep your cool: remember some "streaks" may not have any cause other than probability. If you flip a coin n times, the expected longest streak of tails will be:

(log (n*0.5))/(log 2)

In other words, a stretch of 16 games should expect a 3 game losing streak, and a stretch of 32 games should expect a 4 game losing streak. Not because of any change in play or attitude, just the odds. In a 10 game match with 50/50 odds, you have about 50% chance of losing 3 in a row, and 25% chance of losing 4 in a row. So if you're playing and lose your third or fourth consecutive game, it may not be anything you're doing wrong: you may just be winning 50% of the time. [ext] http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Run.html

Losing Streaks last edited by emeraldemon on February 8, 2010 - 18:04
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