Scartol's Go Musings
It's been seven years since I've posted here. In that time I've stepped back significantly from the world of Go. I still play frequently with my students (I sponsor a Go club at the high school where I teach), but very rarely with anyone else. Sometimes I'll get on a KGS kick but it seems to pass just as suddenly as it starts.
I can't imagine why anyone would care to read this, so I'll keep it short. I've reached a much more stable and enjoyable equilibrium with the game now that I'm not driving myself to improve my rank. I seem to have stabilized around 7k, and I'm quite happy with it. Scartol
Sometimes I feel as though Go is ruining my life.
I do play many unranked games, and I become just as frustrated when I play poorly during those games, too. When I play poorly at the local club (where rank doesn't really exist, except for purposes of handicap), the rage stabs my brain just as viciously as it does here at home.
For my first six months of Go, the game was pure pleasure. I was frustrated sometimes; but whether I won or lost, I always returned to the board with joy and hope. Now as I sit in this wretched slump, I can approach the table calmly -- but I inevitably leave it with rage and fury.
I play too quickly. I fail to make necessary defensive moves. I play stones full of pride. Then when the pain returns to punish me, my eyes burn with anger.
This anger affects my interpersonal relationships, my level of contentment -- people tell me "it's just a game," but I don't believe that anymore. It is for this reason too that I cannot walk away from it.
I want those carefree afternoons back, when I could sit at the computer for hours any play game after game after game. Now I play one game and dream of smashing things.
WilliamNewman: To the extent that you can control your feelings, I'd suggest just not being too desperately competitive, since for me and many other people life is nicer with less stress; but more realistic metaadvice is that the extent to which you can control your feelings is probably small, they're there and you have to live with them.:-| (In fact, to the limited extent that you can control your feelings, telling the "how pathetic" voice to shut the heck up might be the easiest...) Then, to the extent that you want to win -- motivated by desperate frustration in your immediate case, but this applies for other motives too -- I'd recommend the usual (0) practicing life and death at least 1 hour per week and preferably 2-4 (certainly the first thing I would do if I were motivated to improve), and also (1) reading two books not listed in your earlier article, _Attack and Defense_ and _The Endgame_, and, if you're not doing it already, (2) getting a stronger player to review at least one game of yours per week. (Depending on your circumstances, you might just pay a pro who's good at teaching; IIRC that's on the order of $30 per commented game.) Then likely you can patch over your aggravation problem by getting a stone stronger every six weeks or so at least until you reach 1-3 kyu, at which point you can look for other solutions. ("Maybe the horse will learn to sing.":-)
spookas: Do you still check this page? Nevermind, I'm sure some other newcomer will find it as I have. I recommend reading this article on Go, http://www.kiseido.com/three.htm , in particular these passages:
"One formal word for go in Japanese is Kido. Ki is the old Chinese word for go, and -do is the Chinese word for Tao, which means Way -- or, more specifically, a Way to enlightenment."
"The point of the game was not so much for one player to overcome another but for both to engage in a kind of cooperative dialogue ('hand conversation', they used to call it) with the aim of overcoming a common enemy. The common enemy was, of course, as it always is, human weaknesses: greed, anger and stupidity."
Perhaps the entire system of rankings has upset your appreciation of the game, and if that's the case then maybe a total abandonment of competitive play is necessary for you to regain it? Maybe your anger even in unranked games is just a remnant of the competitive spirit, and will dissipate with time. Who knows.
Pause and consider each move before playing. Don't react, don't fight, don't rush. Make every stone meaningful.
I've got a quote from Charles Matthews in my KGS profile about how worrying about rank is understandable but deplorable. So why does it hurt so much when I lose a game online? I haven't played on KGS for a while, so after being at 7k for many months, I dropped to 8k and my rank has been floating up from 8k to 6k. I've also acquired a (?). Recently I've tried to get rid of the (?) by playing some games; I beat a 6k, so I felt really good. (Apparently my skill has been rising along with my rank.)
Tonight I gave an 11k four stones in a ranked game. I figured I'd win and cement the rank into place. It was an intense fight, but he ended up chopping through one of my groups and stomping me by 20 points. My rank dropped back to 7k -- right where I started.
I know it's silly to get caught up in this rank business, but it's very frustrating. I know what I did wrong (didn't get out into the middle early enough), but I can't shake the irritation that surrounds the game.
Deep breaths. Let it go.
Dieter: If you are convinced that rank musings are counterproductive and silly but just can't help but worrying about it, why not consider playing only free games and play unranked players. This way you'll find out whether it's the loss that frustrates you or the rank of the person defeating you.
If you can't bring yourself to play unrated games, then admit to yourself that rank is very important to you. There's no shame in putting rank above Go skill. You don't have to agree with people who tell you rank isn't important, although I do think so myself.
Some people have asked me what books I've found most useful. So here's a list of the books I've read. I figure maybe I could do some armchair reviewing as I go through others.
- LearnToPlayGoSeries: While working at Borders, I decided I wanted to learn what Go was about, and these books were how I did it. Very friendly to newbies; informative and interesting to read. She even wrote back when I sent her an email.
- LessonsInTheFundamentals: The second book I remember reading. Also entertaining, but much more intensive. It's exactly what it says -- fundamentals. Gotta crawl before you can walk.
- OpeningTheoryMadeEasy: I'd put this in the same "must read' category as Fundamentals. Well written and simple, but not simplistic.
- ElementaryGoSeries: I've clambered through most of these over the past two years -- Tesuji and Life & Death stand out most in my mind as being helpful. Attack & Defense was my most recent text. They're good, but very very dense. I expect to re-read them soon.
- GradedGoProblemsForBeginners: I went through Volume 2 of this book once upon a time, and I remember feeling pretty good about being able to solve most of them. A good resource, but it seems like goproblems should be able to provide the same basic service.
- GetStrongAtInvading: I'm re-reading this at present, and it makes much more sense where I'm at now. How much I've learned in a year! I haven't read any of the other books in the series; I'm not exactly in love with the format.
- The 3-3 Point Modern Opening Strategy: I was elated to find this for sale used at a book shop in San Francisco. And yet I don't know that it's too essential of a book. It helped me understand how a 3-3 play can work to open with, but I just don't do it much. Maybe I should play around with it for a bit.
- KatosAttackAndKill: This book is a lot of fun, but I don't know that I'd really call it practical. It spurred me to achieve my infamous impossible kill, but it's more interesting than useful.
- ReducingTerritorialFrameworks: I was told not to read this until I'm stronger, but it was pretty helpful. The discussion of capping moves and standard responses alone was valuable enough to make it worth the read. As with the Elementary series, it's dense and I'm going to have to re-read it.
I got a good idea for a new 3D work tonight; hopefully I'll be able to make it happen sometime soon.
I lost a big group tonight; no matter how hard I try to avoid the frustration, I always get very steamed by such losses. The worst part is that I could have lived, but I got greedy and lost everything.
I should make a tally of every time that happens. I could keep it with me and glance at it during games when I'm tempted by the demons of avarice.
I've begun working in Bryce 5.0 (I had been using 1.0). A taste of what's to come is now available at ArtOfGo.
I've started work on a 3D Go animated movie. You can see a tiny little teaser at ArtOfGo.
I've finally reached an equilibrium of sorts on the goban.
I've been playing lots of Go with my students at school (I'm a high school English teacher). Seeing their enthusiasm and showing them the ropes has helped me realize just how far I've come in the two short years I've been playing. It's still frustrating when I lose, especially in even games. But I recognize that I've got lots of skills and I understand many of the game's concepts.
Meantime, I've been making some new Go art. Check it out at ArtOfGo.
Two months later and very little has changed. I'm still losing quite regularly -- I win many games where I give large handicaps (4+), but it's been weeks since I've won an even game.
Part of this, probably, has to do with the burgeoning Go club at the high school where I teach. Each day I play three teaching games. On the one hand, this has helped my life and death skills, insofar as I am looking more keenly at how to murder the groups that I inevitably split up on the board.
But the downside is that I have to assume that my students won't realize that many of my attacks are bluffs. Ergo, the "try this and see if you can get away with it" mindset carries over into my even games.
Tonight my opponent saved a very badly wounded group inside a big territory of mine because I made one stupid mistake at the end of the game. I would have lost anyway, but I wouldn't feel so stupid. The worst part is that I thought for five solid minutes about the move before I made the mistake -- so it wasn't the usual rapid play that was to blame. I just didn't read it out carefully enough.
Oh well, tomorrow's another day. At least I can consistently win against a nine stone handicap -- it shows that I've got some kind of skill, even as my KGS rank oscillates in perfect periodic harmony between 8k and 9k. I think I'm matching the regularity of the planet's tides by now.
I'm still losing, but I've been busy with other stuff so I haven't paid it too much mind (lost last night by 20 points, but it was okay because I played fairly well and made two kills -- so i was happy)..
The reason for this post is: I've finally done a piece of Go-related fiction writing in my Matrix blog: http://www.fbesp.org/psychle/archive/2003_08_01_archive.html#106210599947712870. Enjoy!
As I play, I am pursued by the demon of greed.
I am thrilled by my potential for destruction, and it blinds me to the realities of my own weaknesses.
I chase the hungry ghosts on the board, reaching for places that don't exist.
I create delusional possibilities and fail to recognize them as delusions. I predicate my strategy on a dream, then refuse to awaken.
I confuse flexibility with aimlessness. I forfeit one plan for a second and then a third, and lose them all.
I am trying to change.
I'm in another slump. Part of it is that I'm playing too quickly (the fan helps a little, but not enough, apparently), but I can also feel myself becoming less sure of myself in some situations -- which usually means my horizons are broadening and I'm considering new moves (a step toward growth, I'm told).
I know the healthiest thing would be to take a break (avoid playing again tonight, even). But I won't -- I'll continue playing online, I'll probably play too quickly due to my burning desire to break the losing streak, and lose even more.
It's true that recognizing one's problems is half the battle -- but once you've done that, the other half becomes the whole.
I stayed up until 6 AM last night making new 3D Go art. Go look at them.
I won two games tonight at a friend's house by resignation. Woo! I'm playing more slowly and carefully -- you know, that helps! Who would have thought? When playing online, I've taken to holding a fan in my right hand. I'm still playing too quickly and making silly mistakes, but I've slowed down a lot.
And finally tonight: I purchased an excellent cartoon book this weekend called The Tao Speaks, an interpretation by Tsai Chih Chung of the Tao Te Ching. In the first section (presenting the basic ideas), the importance of focus, dedication, and antisuperficialism is shown with a cute fellow playing Go. Someday I'll scan it in and upload it.
Last night I went to the club and went virtually undefeated for four games. (I say virtually because I only lost playing white against 7 handicap stones and overplaying like a madman.) Needless to say, I was on top of the world.
Today I played an abominable game wherein I resigned after many, many blunders that I could have avoided with three seconds' worth of thought. In frustration, I have created the following warning sign, and pasted it at the top of my monitor. Perhaps it will help me to avoid racing through my online games.
Do other people do the same thing (Play too quickly online)?
Andrew Grant: Absolutely - it's one reason why I've given up on internet go (except for Dragon, which is turn-based). I think playing too quickly is commonplace on the real-time servers. I suspect that this tendency can hamper the progress of those who can only play online due to geographical isolation etc. Are there any examples of people reaching high-dan level without ever having played over-the-board?
Charles Ummm - would KGS 5 dan count? Not quite the exclusive club it once was, I think. (Reasons become clearer to me, since KGS wants to align with AGA ranks, and the AGA - according to stuff posted on SL - regards sandbagging as more serious than overgrading.)
- The AGA tournament system prohibits sandbagging. One is not allowed to enter a tournament at a rating below the one assigned due to past tournament results. However, one is free to enter at any higher rating. The only limiting factor is the discretion of the tournament director. Serious sandbagging does occur however. There are those that improve much faster than their tournament rating.
Anyway, it is obviously correct that server go has its thrash side, which can be detrimental.
Scartol: Yeah, I saw that and I tried it for a little while, but it just felt weird, and when capturing a second-line stone, for instance, I couldn't bring myself to wait between obvious moves. Then when something non-obvious comes up, I still just race into it. I feel like the squeeze ball is a kind of placebo at this point, which substitutes for my willingness (or rather, lack thereof) to slow myself down. Like putting speed bumps on a street and having the driver (me) race over them anyway. Eventually it will catch up with my suspension, but all I can see is that finish line.
The crazy thing is that there really is no benefit to playing quickly, aside from a tiny psychological advantage that may or may not be gained. I know this in the back of my mind, but when I start clicking, all I can see is the speed. I'm like those people in 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Charles Actually, I do recommend making a game record - one of the few things that has helped me in practice (the others are (a) no coffee and (b) drink water).
I wish I could report that I've made some kind of progress since writing my last entry, but alas, the reason I'm writing now is to vent the incredible rage and frustration I feel as a result of the game I just played.
My opponent invaded a moyo I had built on the bottom, and took it all away when I responded poorly. He also split me up on the left and when I challenged him in the endgame, he chomped up more of my territory. I lost by 40 points.
In two hours, I'm supposed to go and celebrate a friend's birthday -- so between now and then I have to find a way to expunge this putrid anger that I have inside of myself. I hate feeling like this; the fear of this feeling causes me some serious trepidation on the board lately. I get scared that I'll lose big like this, and get angry at myself, so I tremble when I sit down to play.
Several months ago I took a week-long break from Go because I couldn't deal with the self-imposed pressure. I wish I could step back and remember it's just a game. But when I screw up as badly as I did tonight, it feels like much more.
Let it go.. Let it go.. No attachments. Sigh.
Rich: Even Kageyama warns against getting this way (I was just rereading the book for about the 20th time). Sitting at the board, terrified of what your opponent's going to do to you, dreading the invasions... Strangely, I'm the opposite - if I lose, I want to get back and play some more. If I win, I don't want to spoil the good feeling of the victory by losing, so I stay away.
I think go allows much more of your personality to come through than many games, so a loss feels more of a personal failing. Not wanting to sound too 'Dr. Phil', but perhaps you can take some lesson away about how you deal with setbacks in general?
Scartol: The interesting thing is that I generally do okay with losses. The key here is that, even if I lose, I don't get upset -- indeed, after I wrote the above, I played two games with 7k opponents and lost each by 15 points, and felt great. Why? Because I played relatively well. It's only when I make a really stupid bonehead error because I don't think before each move that I get so frustrated.
Anyway, I'm feeling much better now after my two bonehead-error-free losses. Thanks for the feedback, Rich. Good to know someone's reading this babbling. =)
Tonight at the social gathering of players here in Madison, Wisconsin, we watched the episode of HikaruNoGo wherein the Chinese player (I forget his name) lectures Isumi-san on controlling his emotions on the goban. I realized that this is my #1 problem -- in both the negative and the positive.
When I lose a group, I have difficulty recovering -- I've done it; last week I lost a huge group and still kept it together enough to win the game. But in general my confidence drops when I lose a fight or a group -- and it affects my play greatly.
But the flip side of this is that I get cocky and overconfident when I win a fight. Go is the only activity/game I've ever played that has this effect on me; usually, I can take my victories in stride. But when I capture something on the goban, I get such a rush that I lose sight of the rest of the board.
The corollary problem here is that when an opportunity for such a capture arises, I lose sight of the whole board and zero in on the local fight. If I win the fight (maybe 25% of the time if I'm lucky), the rush of that is enough to satiate me when I lose -- which I usually do. If I lose the fight, I've usually spent all the rest of my influence capital, and ruined my position on the board. This is the #1 thing I need to work on right now.
My other problem is premature invasion. I feel nervous if my opponent (especially a stronger opponent) makes a large moyo, and I feel the need to get in there before it gets more solid. I need to work on recognizing how shimaris can be as valuable as invasions (or is that in ControversialStatements ?)
I met a guy on KGS tonite who said he really enjoyed my posts, so it's nice to see some organic response to my ramblings here. Hello to you if you're reading this, sir.
That's it for now..
I got my shirts today -- yay! I especially like the Hikaru fanshirt. I expect it will be a big hit at the club.
In a game I played last night, I happened to kill a big group and my opponent resigned (I say "happened to" because it wasn't intentional until about four moves before the kill -- I was just push, push, pushing along and suddenly I realized I had cut off a big chunk with only one eye).
Now, I've never done crack, but I can't imagine that the thrill there is nearly as rewarding as the feeling I get from a game like that. Someone in the Wings room said he prefers to win games "without having to kill big groups." Pfff.
Of course, after a win like that (especially in the evening, when I'm getting tired), I can't play another game because if I lose, the high will evaporate. I don't think there's any question about IsGoAnAddictiveDrug.
Got an email from a guy at the BGA who wants to put some ArtOfGo images on a CD they distribute. Hooray! (That's more support than I've gotten from the AGA, grumble grumble..)
I got 2 new books from Kiseido today, and have begun devouring Attack and Defense by Ishida and Davies. I like the series (Elementary Go Series) because each book seems to reorient my thinking in a way that makes me wonder "How was I seeing it any other way?" Otake Hideo's book did the same thing.
I added a new shirt to the ArtOfGo Shop the other day. It's a Hikaru fanshirt, and I ordered one straightaway. I hope it gets here tomorrow so I can wear it to the club and be the epitome of Go hipness.
Inspired by the blogs of DougRidgway and Hyppy, I've claimed this space to keep track of some random thoughts about the Great Game. I don't have enough faith in my ability to update (I've been lax in even reading the RecentChanges lately) to call it a blog, so instead it's the more elegant-sounding Random Musings (cue warm strings).
As an English teacher in a public school, I've grown used to teaching to students who (outwardly at least) don't give a damn about what I've got to say. So participating here and at the GTL has been alarming -- my "students" actually listen, and sometimes even respond! Glory be!
So, I hope to use this space to continue with my preaching (see Scartol, et al. in WhatItMeansToBeASensei, Communicating with Abbreviations, etc). Feedback is encouraged, although I can't promise any sort of timely response. Email is the best way to contact me.
I got my first order at the Online Shop that wasn't from me! Huzzah! I received my first item yesterday, the large mug with the Bamboo Joint image. The quality of the image was excellent, although there was a slight red tint to it. So I called Cafe Press's customer service, and they're sending me another mug for free, saying it was probably a one-time mistake. I was impressed!
We're up to 18,000 hits on the art page; I'd like to make 20k by the end of the summer. I often wonder if the majority come for the 3D art, or the Hikaru wallpaper. Maybe I should put them on separate pages each with its own counter.
I haven't made any new pix for a while, mostly because I've run out of ideas. I could do more joseki, but I can only get so excited about doing variations on the 4-4 corner approach. Ideas, please!
Hikaru79: Heh, ever since seeing your site for the first time about a month ago, my desktop hasn't had anything on it but 3D go art. I must say, your work is truly amazing! ^^
If you are out of ideas for new images, may I suggest doing another half-completed pro game, like the one on "Kato's Attack and Kill." That one graced my desktop for two solid weeks, it was just so appealing! ^^ If you're really bored one day, I know II (and probably many others), would look forward to a whole-board position.
=D Keep up the awesome work!