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I started this blog in July 2009. Feel free to add your comments.
Though my wife and some of my friends are Asians, I did not learn go from them. It actually started much earlier when I was a little boy and watching my grandaunt doing crossword puzzles. The answer to the very common question "Asian boardgame" with two letters - - - that was "Go" of course. I wondered how that game would look like and how to play it, but there was no one to ask, no Asian people in my village, and of course no internet. So I forgot about it. Instead I learned chess from a friend and we played many nice games.
On my second computer that I got with 18, there was a reversi game (also called Othello), and I started to get more interested in strategy board games generally (especially on computers), artificial intelligence and game theory. A few years later I learned programming during my studies and I created some games (on a IBM 3090 machine, MVS ESA, TSO ISPF environment, programming language PL/I for those who are interested). Among them were a very weak chess engine (which was not allowed to use more than 0.1 cpu seconds per move on the company's test machine), rather strong reversi and Go-moku programs (that could beat me easily), and other games that I invented myself. In 1993 my life changed and I had no more opportunity to pursue this hobby.
Later when I dived into the arising world of the internet in 1996, I decided to find out about things that I couldn't find out about otherwise. Among many other things I also learned the very basic rules of go (black and white setting alternately on intersections, black first, capture possible, ko-rule), just to satisfy my curiosity. Unfortunately I didn't follow up, so I forgot about go for a while.
The next encounter with go was around 2002. At that time I was busy with chess programming on my personal computer (I had learned the computer language C/C++ just for that purpose), running chess engines against each other and finding out about other strategy games, such as reversi, checkers and - I guess you know what is coming - go of course. So I found the program IgoWin and played a few games on the 9x9 board. Of course I got creamed (even with a handicap of 5 stones). Besides I played on 19x19 boards against the engines Augos, Aya and some others (maybe also an early version of GnuGo). I knew that no strong go engines existed (in contrast to checkers and chess, where computers are better than humans or at least equally good), so I got angry at myself and asked "why to pursue a game that you don't understand at all?". Besides, it appeared unesthetic to me that the go coordinates omit the "I". But the actual reason why I did not follow up was, that no platform existed that would have allowed me to run two go engines against one another. The chess project did not finish either - the program crashed too often for my taste and there were many good chess engines out there, so I gave up on this.
In June 2008 I tried out a game named Hex, created a board and played a few games with my children. When learning more about Hex, I found out, that it has the same complexity of Go, and since it is also (or mainly) a game of cutting and connecting, I thought "why not getting the real stuff and learning Go?". So it was on July 1st, 2008 that I started learning go more seriously.
The first intention was to learn go in order to write a strong program, but for such a weak player that would be useless, so I needed to get stronger first. Sensei's Library and GD became my favorite reading and I playing around at goproblems.com and followed the online go course at 321go.org (which is very recommendable for beginners). I signed up at KGS in the mid of July and could make a rank of 20k.
I also taught the game to my kids in order to get suitable opponents, although I knew that I was surely not in the position to be a go teacher. But as they did not practice regularly, I could soon give them nine stones and still win.
In October I showed up four times at my local go game evening. At that time I was around 25k (beginning of the month) to 20k (end of the month). The weakest player there was 5k, so the average difference between me and them was around 20 stones. Although all of them were nice and patient, I could feel that it was no fun - neither for the regular players nor for the newbie - to get crushed easily in spite of nine handi stones. I decided not to go back there until I am 4k KGS (or 7k EGF which is about the same) which will allow meaningful games for everyone.
2008-11-01/02: Instead I found out that there were some go tournaments in the environment of 100 km (60 miles) every year, and that there are also beginners with ranks between 20 and 30k. Since I was around 15-16k at KGS I decided to start at the Sankt Augustin tournamet in the beginning of November as 20k EGF, though at that time the conversion table suggested 24k EGF. So I expected to get crushed, but intensified my studies to not let this happen. The efforts were rewarded since I could win four out of five games. I had my first ko fight and my first snapback "in the wild", both in my favor and decisive for the game. I got acquainted to many nice people, for two of my five opponents it was the first tournament like me. It was really fun. Looking back at that time (as it is July 2009 now) this was the best tournament that I have participated in.
2008-11-22/23: The next tournament was only three weeks later in Düsseldorf. Since it was announced that many children of a local school participated in that tournament, I could motivate my children to participate as well. Besides, it was free of charge since it was sponsored by the Nihon Ki-in and Japanese Airlines (thanks for sponsoring). My kids started at 30k, and I as 19k. But this time I was not so lucky, since I lost three out of five games. I met one of my opponents from the previous tournament - the one to whom I had lost - and I lost again. But still it seems that I learned a lot, though that were only five games.
By the end of the year I had advanced to 13-14k KGS in half a year. Not very good, but not too bad either.
2009-01-10/11: 13-14k on KGS is about 18-19k at EGF tournaments according to the worldwide rank comparison list, so I intended to start as 18k at the tournament in Essen. There was a prize offered for the best beginner up to 18k. Since some guys in the German go discussion forum thought I would be sandbagging, I just started at 17k, expecting to get crushed. The first match was a loss accordingly. But then I had a run and won four games in a row, including against a boy to whom I had lost in Düsseldorf. However I could win two of the matches by just one and two points respectively. That was thrilling!
2009-01-24/25: Three weeks later there was the tournament in Bonn, and I started as 16k. This time the result was balanced, three wins vs. three losses. I lost again to the boy that I had won against in Essen, so in total I had a 1-2 against him. I started to take him as my rival (he doesn't know of course).
2009-02-28/03-01: A smaller tournament with less than fifty participants took place in Paderborn, but nonetheless a very nice one. I met again the young man whom I had beaten by just one stone in Essen (and who had shown my daughter some life and death matters), but I wasn't allotted to him. This time I had three losses and only two wins, but since two of the losses were to much higher ranked players (four and six stones stronger, as I was only a 15k), it was not as bad as it looked.
2009-03-28/29: It is good to live in a densely populated area, so there are many tournaments. This time there was a medium sized tournament in Castrop-Rauxel, the heart of the Ruhr area. I had three wins out of five games, including against my secret rival, so we have a 2:2 now. The match was even until he missed an atari of one important group (the situation was very chaotic though, so it was not easy to see). This was the last tournament for that season, the next one would be end of August in Cologne, almost in front of my door.
I had improved to 11k KGS/15k EGF and was at a plateau, so I decided to do some more tsumego (life and death problems and tesuji) and read more go strategy books about opening and middlegame ("Attack and Defense" and "Making Good Shape").
But it wasn't until May when I created a new account on KGS that suddenly my rank boosted up to 8k, though I don't have a clue what exactly had improved.
Until recently I did tsumego without a concept. But as my (secret) rivals threaten to overtake me, I felt the need to get some structure in it and to start an intensified tsumego training program. So I chose my "go birthday" (i.e. July 1st, 2009, exactly one year after I decided to learn go) to start it. First I defined a goal that I want to reach: The short-term goal is to improve two stones until my next tournament in Cologne end of August, and the long-term goal is to become EGF-shodan (that's about KGS 2-3d) until summer 2012 when the European Go Congress takes place in my home city.
In order to work on my main weaknesses, I am trying to achieve two things: develop the reading abilities, and strengthen the intuition in order to easily spot key points. That is something which could be done by doing lots of L&D and tesuji problems, so I am going to focus on that before I'll do other problems like opening or joseki problems. The detailed plan looks as follows:
During lunch break I have one hour time in my office every day, and at home I will spend another hour in the evening, and two hours at the weekend, so I will have two hours every day to work on it. In my office I will start with life and death problems and at home I will do tesuji problems.
Before I start with the problems I make a list with the numbers of all problems to make a note each time I have worked on a problem in order to control the progress. The maximum time I allow myself to solve each problem is five minutes, which is (more or less) the longest time I've ever needed for a move in a tournament game (it was a crucial move that ensured me the victory). Everyday I start at the beginning of the list and try to solve problems until one hour is over. In case I am absolutely sure that I know how a problem is solved - i.e. when I have hardwired it and can solve it on sight - I cross it out of the list and it won't be repeated any more in the following days. If I got on a problem once (or more often), I also have to know why the wrong move doesn't work (or why it is inferior) before the problem can be crossed out. So I can be sure to know the problems before I go on to new problems, but it allows me to go on even if I get stuck on a few problems.
Easier problems come first. I have analyzed the books for the complexity of their problems and determined the order in which I intend (or have begun) to study:
For L&D problems:
A-1) "1001 L&D Problems"
A-2) "Graded Go Problems for Beginners", vol. 3
A-3) "Get Strong at L&D"
A-4) "Life and Death (elementary series)"
A-5) "Graded Go Problems for Beginners", vol. 4
and for tesuji problems:
B-1) "Get Strong at Tesuji"
B-2) "Tesuji (elementary series)"
B-3) "501 Tesuji Problems"
After I have finished them, there are some other problem books in the pipeline which I will continue with. I am not sure yet about the order to do them, but probably it will be as follows:
C-1) "501 Opening Problems"
C-2) "Get strong at Joseki 3" (this one first because it contains the star point which is most important for handicap games)
C-3) "Get strong at Joseki 1" (deals with the 3-4-point, also very important, so it's next)
C-4) "Get strong at Joseki 2" (5-3 and 5-4 points to complete the joseki knowledge)
C-5) "Making Good Shape"
C-6) "Get strong at Invading"
C-7) "All About Ko"
C-8) Some tsumego about endgame, that I don't own yet. Maybe "200 Endgame Problems" or "Get Strong at the Endgame".
These are about 5700 problems. As the last weeks have shown (as now it is 2009-07-24) I can finish off about 20 problems per day (ten L&D and ten tesuji problems), so it will take me about eight months to finish the program. After that I will check whether I can solve all these problems on sight, and repeat the problems that I can't, so the complete program will probably take about one year. I wonder how much I will have improved on my second go-birthday.
2009-08-31: I am progressing with the tsumego program, the current status is as follows:
Get Strong at Tesuji: finished (534 problems)
"Tesuji" of the "Elementary Go Series": 60 finished (out of about 260, excluding examples)
1001 L&D Problems: 710 finished
altogether: 1200 of 5700 (in 48 days, i.e. about 20 per day)
Now that the tournament in Cologne is over, I am trying to figure out whether I have achieved my short term goal to improve two stones since the beginning of my training program. My EGF rating from end of March showed me as 14k, but as I had improved a bit since then, I started as 13k.
My results were very mixed, and since the McMahon pairing was done according to EGF rating, all my opponents were either ranked 3-6 stones above me (all games without handi stones), or I had to play first-time tournament attendants who had no rating previously. Hence my result of two wins out of five games was not too bad. All games were very close, except for the win against the 7k player who gave up after I had killed a large group at the side with a snapback. Two games were within the komi range (I lost both), and another (very strange game, but the most fun one) depended on a two stage ko and a seki (which I also lost). Since my current rating is now at the threshold to 12k, I think I have improved one stone in the last two months.
When looking back at the games, it seems that I won those games, where I took more time to really read out the situations and played more aggressively. My playing style was too soft, so that I couldn't apply my obtained tesuji knowledge. My next tournament will be in Bochum in October, and there I will try to fight more, not allowing the opponent to take too large areas.
2009-09-15: I've been neglecting my tsumego program since the last tourney. There are two reasons:
1) I feel exhausted from learning tsumego, especially the tesuji ones. It could have to do with that I've been feeling a little bit sick for the last two weeks, but I rather think that I suffer from a kind of information overload and no more new patterns want to find their way into my mind. Hence I have reduced the weekly amount of tsumego from 150 (of which half L&D and half tesuji) to 50 (L&D only). However I am still learning tesuji: I am reading "Basic Technics of Go" and this book contains a fair amount of tesuji tsumego. But I am doing them in a more relaxed way.
2) The second reason has to do with the tourney itself, or more precisely: with the great game I had with one of my opponents. Usually I exchange the KGS id with my opponent after a game, but this opponent said that she does not play on KGS or any real-time server at all. She has just played on DGS which is a turn-based server. I have never signed up on a turn-based server (except on a small German board game server where those who play go seem to be at least 9 stones weaker than me - not very much fun). Actually I had already intended to give it a try a long time ago but couldn't persuade myself to do the final step. Now I did. I signed up at both, DGS and OGS, the leading turn-based servers for Westerners. And I got hooked. I have about a dozen games running simultaneously on each of the two servers. Finally I am back into regular play after I haven't done this for more than half of the time I've been into the game.
I am not too sad about slowing down the pace of my tsumego studies. Actually I had already intended to get back into play during the tournament season (which is from end of August until end of March), but felt so reluctant to really do it. But now with playing on the turn-based servers the feeling of reluctance is wiped away and I get good training for the next six or seven tournaments.
2009-09-18: I have actually paused my tsumego program. After two and a half months and 1400 solved problems I feel a kind of saturation: The patterns of the problems refuse to enter my mind, especially the tesuji problems. When I open the book and look at the next problem to solve, a voice comes from my inside and screams "oh no! not now!" and the grey matter declines to start reading out the problem, so I have to close the book again. It seems that I have to get back to play in order to consolidate the new skills. With my new activities on OGS and DGS I am doing this and still have some daily exercise though it's different from what I intended to be my exercise.
I was suggested to learn some other parts of the game, e.g. the opening. Since the opening was on my list directly behind the "life and death" and the tesuji exercises and as it is another precondition for joseki studies, it could be a good idea. I have noticed that the opening has become relatively weaker comparing to the other parts of the game, and often I feel uncertain about the move during the opening phase. So I will start with "501 Opening Problems" and look how I will get on with this.
I was also suggested to get back to the problems that I have already solved to see whether the feeling of saturation remains or not. I will give it a try at the weekend.
2009-10-26: It is futile. The feeling of saturation remains, so I have paused the tsumego program for the time being. I still play on goproblems.com though every now and then, but just for fun and not to do a serious program for improving. Instead of the tsumego program I fill the time with reading books that I found too difficult previously. Also I am rereading "Attack and Defense" which is being discussed at Godiscussions.com, though I am reading it at a much slower pace, since other books seem more interesting to me right now (e.g. Robert Jasiek's "Joseki Fundamentals").
As for improving, this has obviously ceased to exist. Recently I took the opportunity to play a few games on KGS to get back a stable rank. It turned out to be 8k, just like a few months ago.
Also my last tournament in Bochum two weeks ago showed that I am stuck. Oddly enough I had exactly the same result as in Cologne: First two wins and then three losses. Only the fact that four of my five opponents were 1-2 stones stronger than myself kept me from dropping a rank. In Bochum I have discovered a huge gap in my play. Against a 10k I considered myself to be behind about 70 points after only 50 moves, so I had to give up. Back home I had a look at the book "Enclosure Josekis" which I hadn't touched before, and I found out that there are lots of possibilities to invade the opponent's territory. Invading and reducing seem to be my major weaknesses right now. That's why I plan to purchase the book "Keshi and Uchikomi".
The only vague hint of improvement comes from DGS where I play with increasing fun (together with OGS). One reason could be that I really try to read out the situations, just like in a tsumego. I also sometimes count the score of the board, and in some cases that gave me half-point-victories. I rarely do all this on KGS - ok, sometimes I read out situations, but I never count the points. That takes too much time. Currently I have a peak at 8k on DGS, but there are still two probable losses against a 13k, so after that the rank will likely be consistent again with the ranks of the other servers.
After all these bad news, there is also a good one. I am going to attend the upcoming go tournament next weekend in Sankt Augustin. This is the place where I had my very first and best tournament last year, that's why I am looking forward to it.
tapir: Ich schreibe mal auf Deutsch... Dein letzter Eintrag "Against a 10k I considered myself to be behind about 70 points after only 50 moves, so I had to give up." scheint mir - wenn du nicht eine Ecke komplett verloren hast - unwahrscheinlich. Gerade auf dem Level auf dem du spielst, solltest du das ernsthaft ausprobieren, wieviel nach Reduzieren, Invadieren usw. noch übrigbleibt. Und beim Zählen nur mehr oder weniger sicheres Gebiet zählen und nicht das ganze Moyo... das ist wichtig, sonst macht das Zählen nur Angst und nützt dem Spiel wenig. Da das am Anfang eher schlecht geht, würde ich mit dem Zählen auch erst nach der Eröffnung anfangen und bis dahin zählen wieviele Steine schlecht stehen für jeden und so "zählen". (70 Punkte wären so etwa 5 völlig sinnfreie Züge, die nichteinmal Gebiet machen, während der Gegner effizient steht).
sh: Soweit ich mich erinnere, hatte ich zwei winzige Ecken und er hatte von dort aus massive Mauern zum Zentrum inklusive Erweiterungen. Die Erweiterungen sahen zwar zu weit aus, aber wegen der Stärke der Mauern sah eine Invasion irgendwie nicht machbar aus. Im Nachhinein weiß ich, dass Invasionen sowohl in seinen Ecken als auch an den Seiten machbar gewesen wären. Ich werde mir jetzt nochmal "Enclosure Josekis" und "Get Strong at Invading" vornehmen und die gängigsten Invasionen lernen, sozusagen für meine Taktik-Toolbox :) Mal sehen, ob ich das auf dem Turnier nächstes WE benutzen kann.
2009-11-02: Since I like playing on tournaments here a small report from the Sankt Augustin tournament last weekend.
I know that I am not a fast player and that I need the time to play a game properly, so I should have listened to my inner voice. I disregarded this in my last game on Saturday. My opponent was the 7-year-old 10k-prodigy from Finland. As an excuse I could say that I was driven by heavy stomach ache, so I welcomed the fact that he plays very quickly and did likewise. I was also curious how I would do if I played quickly since I have very little experience in doing this (I do not play blitz games on KGS). It turned out to be a complete disaster. All my corners were lost, even the larger groups that I had there. Now I know that I need to do more for my intuition, e.g. to spot the vital points. I have a book called "Vital Points of Go" which I haven't read yet, so I'll give it a try.
But back to the tournament in chronological order. Actually I was optimistic since the Sankt Augustin tournament last year was my first tournament at all, and I had a good result (4:1) at that time. But I had a bad start against a tournament novice. He was a slow thinker like me, and when we ended our match, only a few high-dan matches were still running. It was a hard fight that he won by a few points. In view of my black-Sunday-series (lost all Sunday games in the last two tournaments) I was a bit under pressure then. Furthermore for the second round I was matched to someone who had already beaten me twice. But it seemed that she was busy with other things, so finally I managed to win. But the hope to get a good tournament result were quickly squashed by the Finnish prodigy.
I didn't want to make a 1-4 result, so I put myself much under pressure on Sunday. My first opponent on that day was my secret rival. I had mixed feelings, since my two wins against him were pure luck (an overseen atari of a big group and a connection of two weak groups that he had missed - I still remember these games) and my losses to him were clear. So I tried another opening with a shimari. That worked, and when the middlegame started, I had a lead of about 10 points. He also noticed that and started an invasion in one of my corners. He said that his corner group would live, but I could only see one eye, so I tried to kill it anyway. I tried to connect to one of his groups at the edge by crawling on the first line, but then I could kill his corner and the edge with a cut and a throw-in so that he finally resigned. This was my first real victory over him, i.e. without help of a big blunder of my opponent. I felt relieved after that and when I was matched to someone three stones weaker (softened by a handicap stone though, so we played without komi) I went easy on that. Too easy obviously, he had a clear advantage so I was forced to invade his large territory. Unfortunately almost all of the 20 stones of the invasion got lost, so I had to come up with something else. I noticed a weak group of my opponent adjacent to my obviously dead group, so I chased it down from the top center to the bottom edge while my opponent tried to catch my dead group. I could create a strong wall that helped me to kill one of my opponent's group at the bottom edge and to invade his territory at the bottom until the corner. My opponent knew that he had almost lost, so he tried to make several invasions himself. In the meantime my oldest daughter had come to watch my game, so I could show her how to kill one of the invasion groups with a snapback "in the wild" (she had difficulties seeing snapbacks and thought that they would never occur in an actual game). Eventually my opponent resigned. After two negative results I finally had a positive one.
Now I am looking forward to the next tournament in Düsseldorf - together with my children who seem to increasingly love playing on tournaments. My oldest daughter (around 25-27k) was very proud of having beaten a real 18k, that gives her a lot of motivation for the next tournament. I hope this will last for a while...
2009-11-23: The Düsseldorf tournament had no surprises for me. There was only one opponent that I had met in a previous tournament. Luckily I was able to beat him again, so the tournament had a good start for me and I could relax for the next games. Finally I could win three out of five matches. Oddly enough the last match was almost a blitz match. Usually I don't like to play fast, but since we played rather fast from the beginning on and since I considered to be ahead in the game, I continued to play fast. So did my opponent. At the end he resigned, after I had enlarged my lead, ensuring my third victory.
2009-11-30: The tournament surprise came a week after the tournament itself. My son (and his opponent whom I had played exactly one year before on my second tournament when I was a beginner myself) made it into the local newspaper where they reported about the tournament. He didn't tell me anything about the interview, so I just found out about it in the German go forum where someone mentioned the newspaper article.
2009-12-18: I've been feeling burnt out related to go for the last few weeks. I remember I had a little bit of this feeling in September when I closed down my tsumego program, but this time the feeling is much stronger. The reason is obviously that I am playing too much on the turn based servers (DGS, OGS and some others). You cannot take a break there (well, actually you can, but then you have to use up your holiday reserve), so you have to make your move in 15 or 20 or 25 matches every day. Together with the burnout feeling I got a slump which caused a rank dropping of two stones on all servers. The peak was last week where I decided to shut down all my go activities for a few weeks or months. So I resigned all the matches where my opponent had a clear lead. I even played some chess matches again to get some variation - after a break of 20 years from regular play (I have lost most of my previous strength, but it was fun nevertheless). But I still had some commitments which then appeared as a burden to me: Some ladder matches (GD ladder, OGS ladder), and the "kuchinashi tournament" on KGS organized by a member of GoDiscussions. It would have been unfair to withdraw, so I continued. I had a loss streak of four games in a row. But it seems that I have overcome the worst phase, and that my previous strength is getting back slowly. And bit by bit I am fancying tsumego again, so I did a few L&D and tesuji problems yesterday. Nevertheless I will shut down my online game activities to be fit again for the next RL tournament which will be on January 9th/10th.
2010-01-05: Actually things are getting worse right now and the plans to shut down online go activities are going on much slower than I thought. I still have matches/tournaments running on all servers, though most of the matches seem to be coming to an end soon. I think I will take a longer break from online go at all. It doesn't mean that I won't play online at all, but only on appointment with people that I got acquainted to at tournaments, GD or elsewhere. I've had some time to think about where that burnout came from. Apparently I have exaggerated the use of turn based servers, so the fun factor disappeared and it became a burden. Every evening I had to get online whether I wanted to or not, without break, and once I am online I usually spend the rest of the evening in front of the screen. This doesn't leave much time to read and study go books or to do some life and death problems or tesuji problems. I haven't had any significant progress in the last eight months - even worse: my go strength is currently deteriorating. I had my best improvements when I had a good mix of tsumego, studying books, very few online games (around five per month on average) and real life tournament matches every 1-2 months. So in order to improve again I need to get back to the roots.
In view of my current burnout slump I have no idea of the rank that I should use for the upcoming tournament in Essen. Tournament directors in Germany use the McMahon method for matching players, and the basis for it can either be the EGF rating or a self assessment. In Essen it will be the latter. My EGF rating states that I am at the threshold from 11k to 12k, but my gut feeling tells me that I am rather around 13-14k. To avoid being reproached with sandbagging I'll start as a 12k though.
2010-01-11: I had considered to cancel the tournament in Essen, because the weather forecast had announced a snow chaos, but finally I went there and haven't regretted. Having started as a 12k had been the right choice. In the first match I lost to an 11k (I had already played her three times, but could only win once when she was a bit sick). Actually I should have won easily, but then I didn't notice that she could make a false eye to one of my corner groups. After I had noticed that the group was dead, I fought fiercely on the other parts of the board, but eventually I couldn't avoid a 2-points-loss. Then I had a win against a 10k and a 14k - both tournament newbies. On Sunday I could beat another 10k, but I would estimate that both 10k's are actually around 13k. So I was very happy to have gathered three wins, which led me to go too easy on the last game that I lost to another 11k (with whom my tournament results are 3-3 now - he's one of my longterm rivals).
It seems that the online-go-burnout does not have any influence on my real-life-tournament go. I was motivated very much to avoid a 1-4-loss (or even a 0-5-loss). Besides, I changed my playing style a bit. Before this tournament I had always opened with 4-4 corners and I used to tend to build larger edge territories and tried to defend them. This time I tried 3-4-Shusaku opening with black and 4-4 / 3-3 corners with white and played more aggressively to avoid larger opponents' territories even though that meant that my own territories would be reduced/split. Mutual damage leads to heavier fights, but I like this, so next time I will do it again. And I will start as 11k on next tournament, which will probably be end of February in Bonn.
2010-02-28: I've planned to stop playing on turn-based servers for three months now, but actually never did, because whenever there is a chance, I join tournaments, ladder matches etc. etc. So does it seem that I am obsessed playing online tournaments? I don't know, I just feel to have an obligation to finish these games, and when I see that the matches still take long to finish, I join another tournament. It's a vicious circle. However I haven't played on real-time servers for quite some time. It's the first month since I've started playing go that I haven't played a single game on KGS. A first step to take a break from online go.
On the other hand go in real life is still motivating. This weekend I've been at the tournament in Bonn and have started as 11k as I had already announced last month. Since my children have been busy with other things, it's been the first time since my first tournament that I went to a go tournament alone. So I had no distractions and other false excuses for bad play. And indeed I had a good weekend: I could win four out of six games, against an 11k, a 10k and two 9ks, and lost to a 10k and a 9k. One of the 9k's was the one who could beat me twice at my very first two tournaments, and the other 9k was my opponent exactly one year ago, when he was still six stones stronger (and had to give me 3 handicap stones, so I had no chance at that time). But the best match was the win against the 10k: It's the first time I had a double ko in one of my matches, and it was in my favor, so I could save a big corner. Apart from the double ko that match had several turning points. One of my center groups had only one eye, so it should have died, so I played elsewhere. Another fight drifted into the direction of the dead group, and suddenly I could save it with a throwin and a subsequent oiotoshi. The next tournament will be in two weeks in Castrop-Rauxel, in the heart of the Ruhr area, then I will start as 10k. The SDK ranks are getting closer.
2010-03-29: The Castrop-Rauxel tournament went fine for me. As a fresh 10k I could win three out of five matches. That doesn't sound bad since all my opponents had better ranks: four 9ks and one 8k (even though two of them had a higher rank than their EGF rating suggested). In the first game I was a bit lucky since my opponent resigned prematurely. The middlegame fighting was still ongoing, and it seemed that my opponent get frustrated that I could save a weak group. In spite of this group the game still looked balanced when he resigned, though I didn't count. I was just surprised that he resigned so early. The second match was against an 8k. I had met him one year ago and he could beat me even though I had three handi stones. This time it was an even game, and after the corners were settled, a heavy fight in the center started with lots of weak groups. We chased each other's weak groups around the board, when suddenly I could capture one of his groups with a snapback. This one looked exactly like the one that I had learned from James Davies' Tesuji book, that's why I recognized this at once. Immediately after that my opponent resigned. Snapbacks are cool :-). My third opponent was the 9k against whom I had won in Bonn. The match was balanced until the early endgame, and I thought I was leading by a few points when suddenly he made a brilliant move that killed one of my corners. I still fought but couldn't avoid to lose by around 20 points. On Sunday it started the same as on Saturday: I was lucky that my opponent resigned prematurely. At the beginning it looked bad for me, and as the middlegame progressed it seemed to get worse. She chased down a large group of mine from the top edge to the bottom right corner. Then she made a minor mistake and I could make life with a smaller group at the right edge. The minor mistake turned out to be decisive since I could use the living group to attack one of her groups on the right side that was surrounded by my small living group and my large weak group. When she noticed that she couldn't avoid being captured she resigned. In spite of the capture I was less than five points ahead, so I guess it was rather a psychological issue. In the last match I fell back into old bad habits. Actually I was optimistic, because I had already played with my opponent on DGS and OGS and both times I could win the matches. But on the real goban he seems to be significantly stronger than on the virtual ones. My intention for this tournament was to pay more attention to weak groups. But this time I was too careless and lost a large group of about 25 stones. It didn't help that my opponent's invasion failed and I got almost 20 stones in return. It was a strange game and at the end both had two large territories, though his was a bit larger, so at the end I lost by 15 points.
All the matches were much fun, and I can consider myself a solid 10k now according to the EGF rating. For the next tournament which will be in Cologne end of August, I will start as 10k or 9k, depending on my progress. In more than five months it is possible to improve another stone, but I am not sure yet what I will learn the next months. I am fancying with learning life-and-death and tesuji patterns by heart, e.g. from the books "Life and Death" and "Tesuji" of the Elementary Go Series.
2010-04-30: It seems that I have taken a break from realtime online go for some months now. Even though I have managed to get a very short account on KGS ('sh'), I couldn't bring myself to play some games with it. Instead I have made a little experiment and done something that I dislike usually. I have reactivated an old account of mine and played some blitz games (max. 10 min) to see where I would get with that. I had already supposed that I am a few stones weaker at blitz, and that was confirmed by these seven experimental matches. It turned out that the blitz account settled at 10k, that is 3-4 stones weaker than playing with one of my "serious" accounts. It is also possible that my general go strength is deteriorating since I've been neglecting my studies for too long now. To get used to that I will repeat that every now and then.
2010-05-01: Someone who I know from tournaments has offered some of his go books for sale, so I took the opportunity to purchase them in order to get over my major weaknesses. For the mentioned weakness at blitzing I got Cho Chikun's 'Positional Judgment High-Speed Game Analysis'. Another severe gap concerns joseki knowledge. Since someone at the new discussion platform Life in 19x19 has recommended "The Great Joseki Debates" for players in the mid SDK ranges, I thought it was appropriate for me. Another part of the game that goes over my head is the endgame, and since I didn't own yet an endgame problem book, I got "200 Endgame Problems" which is recommended for SDKs. The biggest treasure that I got was "All About Thickness" by Ishida Yoshio, because it gets tons of good recommendations and it is out of print. I am looking forward to reading these book, I just need more time to study though...
2010-05-21: The Kuchinashi Tournament is the reason that I've had the opportunity to play some real matches on KGS after several months. I know that in tournaments I play better than in ordinary matches, but this time it was different. The fatigue that I felt during the matches was the same feeling that I have when playing turn based games, and it kept me from reading out local situations so I made lots of DDK mistakes. I am sorry for the other participants for my poor play. It was just like playing blitz games with longer breaks between the moves to relax a bit and get some distraction. The logical consequence is that I've fallen back into the DDK ranks, where I had last been in February 2009. The conclusion sounds harsh: No progress within the last 15 months, that's so frustrating. I am considering to take a complete break from go for a while.
SoDesuNe: Alles halb so wild, ich habe gegen meinen Gegner auch extrem bescheiden gespielt und mich eher selber besiegt, vor allem in den letzten beiden Spielen. Danach brauchte ich auch erstmal fünf Tage frische Luft. Man muss halt seine Motivationsquellen kennen, ich bin zum Beispiel immer noch anfällig für Hikaru no Go. Die Novelle "First Kyu" soll auch sehr gut sein, für alle, die Go mal wieder aus der dritten Person genießen wollen. Ebenfalls kann ich sagen, dass ich bisher immer etwas aus meinen verlorenen Partien gelernt habe und das mein größter Schwachpunkt meine Konzentration und Ruhe ist.
Im Endeffekt ist natürlich die Hauptsache, dass es dir Spaß macht. Aber überleg' dir vielleicht einmal, was dich am Go fasziniert und versuche dir davon ausgehend Motivationsquellen zu suchen. Wenn du einfach nur mal ein ruhiges, stressfreies Spiel spielen möchtest oder so, dafür bin ich zu haben : )
sh: Danke für die Aufmunterung, ich werde natürlich keine Schnellschüsse machen :-) Was mich motiviert sind einfach gute Spiele, Mausefallen, Doppelkos, Tesujis, große Kills und derlei Dinge, die das Go-Herz begehrt. Dabei kommts gar nicht drauf an, ob man gewinnt oder verliert. Ich hatte einige tolle Spiele auf Turnieren, wo ich mich gerne dran zurückerinnere, verlorene und gewonnene gleichermaßen. Was sich aber in den letzten Wochen und Monaten abgespielt hat, finde ich in dieser Häufung erschreckend. Mit zahlrechen 20k-Patzern beleidige ich nicht nur meine Gegner, sondern auch meine eigenen Ansprüche. Aufgrund von blöden Patzern zu verlieren (aber auch zu gewinnen) macht keinen Spaß und verdirbt (zumindest mir) die Freude am Spiel. Ich geb mir erst mal bis Ende Juni Zeit, bis dahin habe ich noch viel Zeit zum Überlegen, wies weitergeht.
2010-06-26: For those who have followed this blog it's probably not a big surprise that time has come for me to take a break from go. Now that all my online tournaments are over, I have shut down all my activities on KGS, IGS, DGS, OGS etc. Now that the decision has been made I feel the burden disappear - what a relief!
It is now exactly two years ago that I started with go - time to reflect a bit about the past and the future.
Past: When I started playing go I had no I idea what would expect me. There were lots of cool and nice things, but also lots of frustrations. But I don't regret at all to have invested such a lot of time in a single game, more than I have ever invested in any other game, even more than in chess in my youth time. So what went wrong that a break is needed? Until October last year I had a steady improvement, but at that time the clouds had already become dark, and the thunderstorm that followed led to a heavy go related burnout together with a slump of several stones. There were two reasons: A too tight tsumego program and playing on turn based servers. Usually one would expect that after a while the slump is over and one comes back with new strength. But it was different: Eight months after the initial slump the playing strength has been continuing to deteriorate slowly but steadily. Going on this way is futile. Probably I have already waited too long to take the necessary steps, but I wanted to avoid overhasty decisions. Sometimes a go players' strength increases after having taken a break. Now I'm going to check out this option.
Future: First of all I need to get a clear head, so I'll have no planned go related activities for the time being. As for the tournament that will be held in Cologne end of August I'm not sure yet whether I will go there ot not. Since my children liked to go on tournaments in the past, it will depend on them, however my eldest daughter has already announced that she will not play go any more since she has other interests now. My little daughter has never shown particular interest in go, even though many months ago she made it to 18k on KGS. My son asks every now and then when the next tournament will be, but he just wants to meet some of the kids he had made friends with. He never plays except on tournaments. Right now I feel too exhausted playing go at all, so probably I'll not go, except if I have an itch to take these black and white stones between my fingers - and that could well happen!
I am not sure yet whether I will ever return from the break, but in case I do, it will probably be a short time before the European Go Congress 2012, because this event will be almost on my doorstep. I've ever wanted to meet and play with people from all over the world on a real board face to face. Ah! I can't miss that!
If I have the urge to do some go related things again some day, then there are over 50 go books with thousands of nice tsumego that stare down to me from the shelf demanding to be read and studied. It would be a shame to have all these nice book just in order to collect dust. They don't deserve that. In case I decide to do tsumego, it will be on a casual and lax base - no tight'n'tough program as I had started it one year ago. I'll just relax and have fun doing them. At the moment I am going through "Graded Go Problems" vol. 3 this way. No pressure, no obligations, no goal to become x-dan in y months, just enjoying.
2010-07-30: After having taken a few weeks off from go, I have continued doing problems in "Graded Go Problems Vol. 3". Doing it in a relaxed way is much more fun than if you pressure yourself.
Actually I had planned to take a longer break from playing online, but often things come different from what you have planned. Someone of my go mates pointed me to the fact that my kids had won the first, second and sixth prize in the "Kids' and Teens' Cup" for 2009. I would never have known about the prize, if she hadn't pointed me to that, so thanks again :-) The prize is awarded once a year to kids (up to age 12) and teens (up to age 18) for participating in tournaments. Luckily I took my kids to the tournaments. Next to the obligatory certificate they got a nice fan. Of course that gave them additional motivation, and when I asked them who wants to go to the next tournament in Cologne end of August, the two younger ones immediately raised their hands. Well, that means, that Cologne will propbably be my next tournament. In order to avoid a complete fail, I need to get some practice. Except for the "Kuchinashi Tournament" and the "L19 Title tournament" (where I lost all my matches) I haven't had serious online matches for more than one year. Not sure whether I want to get involved in the Pandanet Tournament or in the Trollnament VI, but these would surely be a good opportunity to get some serious matches. In order to be eligible for the ranked Pandanet Tournament I needed to get a stable rank. About one year ago I was 12k? there, so I played a few games. Although I won all of them, I got a stable rank at 13k. Very funny.
I guess I'll get into the adventure then...
2010-08-29: I had three weeks of holiday in August and I had intended to spend some time with go again. The Trollnament was a failure for me. Not because I played badly there, but because I wasn't able to register. The registration period closed prematurely due to too many players who wanted to participate! I've never experienced that a tournament's registration was suspended because of overcrowding. What a bad surprise! Well, never mind, so I took part in the Pandanet tournament, and it gave me the opportunity to play some more serious games. The matches proved again how volatile my play is. I was able to defeat someone three stones stronger only to lose to someone three stones weaker in the very next game. But with 55 matches I got back to practice as compensation for the lack of (real time) matches over the last six months. I guess that's pretty much for someone who is just on a go hiatus ;-) I've never had more games in a single month. Apart from the matches I was also diligent in doing tsumego. I have finished "Graded Go Problems for Beginners Vol 3" and will resume "1001 L&D Problems" starting on Monday (during lunch break at work; I got stuck at around problem 830). I noticed that the 5-move problems are considerably harder than GGPB vol 3. But I want to finish that book before I move on to "Magic of Placement" or "200 Endgame Problems" which look very interesting to me right now. As for theory books I had picked up again Kageyama's "Lessons in the Fundamentals", but put it away again when I was at chapter 7 (joseki). I hate joseki and feel reluctant to learn them. Probably I have too little understanding about tactics yet. Then I reread "In the Beginning" which was my very first go book. This time I got much more out of it. Only now I noticed that it also covers the beginning of the middle game and has many good principles for it (for those who own "Opening Theory Made Easy", I can say that both books complement each other and the overlapping of topics is surprisingly small). Even though I don't like Kageyama's "Lessons" I will continue with it and then put it away forever - well at least until I have reached the dan levels, but since it will take infinitely long, it is quite save to say that I'll put it away forever.
Now that I had some training, I wondered whether it helped me with the tournament. Yesterday and today I attended the Cologne tournment together with my children. The first out of five matches was against my long-term "rival". That was the toughest and closest match we ever had. I could win a battle in the center with my favourite technique - the snapback - but allowed an invasion at the edge (after the game he showed me how I could have killed it). At the end I won by 1.5 points. The next game was a quick but undeserved victory. My opponent resigned after the game had just entered the middlegame. She said that I would be leading by a wide margin, however I estimated the match to be even. I've had such wins in the past, and it is rather unsatisfactory to win this way. The third opponent was someone I had played - and lost to - exactly one year ago. At that time we were both 13-14k. Now we were 9-10k, but the result was the same: In the game I had a weak group and the trials to get it out of his claws failed. I lost by 11 points. Two wins and one loss was a good start on Saturday: no more fears to make a 1-4 and a relaxed play on Sunday. I know that I often play too laxly and lose when I am relaxed. So I had to come up with a new goal: I will promote to EGF-9k if I win both Sunday matches. But my fourth opponent seemed to be a bad omen: Again someone whom I had played and lost to one year ago. The match was dominated by reducing the other's territories: very small amount of captured pieces (mostly from useless ko fights) and very small territories at the edges. In the late middlegame I was able to establish some territory in the center, just the way I did in the 15-17k ranges when I liked to build up moyos. And this was the decisive part of the game, finally I won it by 15 points (the result seemed clearer than the match actually was). The last game was the strangest of the five. It started with san-ren-sei and the first battle was bad for me: I had to give up the bottom left corner with a few stones in order to get some more territory at the bottom edge. My opponent seemed to have a much better knowledge of joseki, because with the joseki at the top left corner she built up a huuuuuge moyo. And as I tried to reduce it from above the moyo more and more turned into territory. I looked for some other weaknesses, and found them in the cutting points in the wall at the bottom that separated my edge territory from her moyo. I used the cutting points to start a fight inside the moyo. At first it looked hopeless, but then I read it out that I could live within her territory - again thanks to a snapback. Snapbacks rule the tournament! Suddenly the dead corner stones resurrected and from there I was able to eliminate about two thirds of the moyo. I counted that I was ahead now by some 20 points. In the endgame I concentrated on fixing weak points, and finally I won by 20 points. Yeah! After one and a half year a 4-1 again. With that result I won a book prize, I chose "Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki". It's probably still a bit over my head, but it looked interesting and was recommended by some member in the discussion forum who also played on the tournament. He said that now I have to promote to 9k. It's a honor for me to do this. I rechecked it with the EGF rating calculator, and indeed it suggested that I am 9k now. Welcome EGF-SDK ranks!
2010-09-24: After the tournaments are over and the euphoria has ebbed away I am back to "normal" pace. I have finished Kageyama's "Lessons": I reread the "joseki" chapter with more patience than last month. It was a bit wearisome, but then the chapter "Tesuji" was much better - I like learning tesuji much more than joseki. The most interesting chapter was the last one: a commented game of professionals (Kage's "master piece"). I played through it with my magnetic board while reading the comments and reading on the board.
Another book that I have finished - finally! - is "1001 Life and Death Problems". The last 170 problems were tougher than the previous ones, and I only got a ratio of about 2/3 (before that it was about 6/7). The difference probably doesn't sound much, but for the motivation it makes a big difference. Being able to solve about 80-90% motivates, because you see a few problems that you can rework after you have finished a chapter or the book. Leaving a third of the problems unsolved or incorrectly solved is rather frustrating. But at least it revealed a weakness of mine: recognizing shortage of liberties. It seems I should take up an easier L&D problem collection for more training.
After having finished these two books, I have started to concentrate on another weak (and neglected) part of my play: The endgame. I have picked up again "The Endgame" of the "Elementary Go Series" and started practicing with "200 Endgame Problems". I have done the first 50 problems so far, endgame tesuji, and I get most of them right. That's much fun! I hope this will give me more motivation to get into the more complex and difficult part of the endgame.
As for matches I have a bit slacked off again after the end of the tournaments. I have two ongoing activities regarding matches: I am trying to beat the program Aya with four stones every now and then (maybe once in two weeks). The closest I've got to so far was a 1.5 points loss. Once I have made it, I will give the program five stones. This is to do something for my aversion against handicap games. The second activity is on IGS. During the Pandanet tournament I had the impression that I was underrated, but since all the tournament matches were unrated, the rank wasn't able to change. Now I had eight rated games in September, one loss and seven wins, and that led me from 13k to 12k. Maybe I can even make it to the SDK ranks there (though it seems quite difficult, since the EGF equivalent is about 7k and the KGS equivalent is roughly 4-5k). As for KGS.. ah, I haven't played there for about two and a half months now, though I like watching my go mates play there (and to chat with them). Maybe I'll get back to KGS once I have made it to IGS-SDK.
Last but not least: RL tournaments. In September there was none nearby, but in October there will be two: Bochum (October 9/10) and St. Augustin (October 30/31). Then I will see whether I can confirm the SDK or whether I just had a lucky streak in Cologne.
2010-10-15: The Bochum tournament went ok, it was a 3:2, but it was my worst performance ever as regards EGF rating (which I use rather strictly for determining my rank). The reason was that I lost my first two matches to two other 9k players. The first one being someone whom I had already played in Cologne - but now she knows my snapback tricks and it seems I need to learn some one-space-low-pincer-joseki that she seems to love - and the second one being a tournament newbie, very nice person that I hope to play with again in one of my next tournaments. Then after the two losses I had to play a 12k who had won his first two matches. Well, I wiped the board with him, but that gave me practically no points. The Sunday went a bit better: I played with one of my most feared opponents and the only woman to whom I have a negative balance (1-3). Only once I was able to gain a victory over her when she was a bit sick. This time I played a bit more aggressively, not too much defending my own territory, but rather invade in hers, and that worked pretty well. The most interesting match of this tournament however was the last one. That was a fierce fight with tons of captured/dead pieces on both sides. While I was able to kill an invasion of him on the top right side, he was able to get the bottom right corner from me. In the late middlegame I counted that I was a few stones behind, and since the situation on the bottom side of that board had changed, I decided to check whether I could make the bottom right corner resurrect. After some complicated fight it eventually resulted in a large ko where 60 points were at stake. His first ko threat however threatened to take back the top right edge from me, and that was worth 52 points. It took me a few minutes to ponder on the next move. If I accepted the offer and took the ko, a fight would start for the 52 points at the right side, but it didn't seem impossible to connect at least some of the stones to the top corner to reduce the loss. The rest of the board didn't provide any other large enough ko threats, so I took the ko. He tried to stop me from connecting, but that gave me the opportunity to connect that group to another dead group by capturing three stones and make a second eye - if he didn't connect his three stones. He connected, but connecting cost him one of his large group's liberty, and this was enough for me to win the capturing race by one liberty. When he noticed that, he resigned. After that we reviewed the match and we came to the result, that the match would have been very close, if he had let me connect.
Well, at least it was not a disaster, and I was able to confirm the 9k rank, though I need a better performance next time. In the meantime I reached one of the goals that I had expressed last month: I could beat Aya on four stones. The program made some smaller mistakes and a bigger one, so that the victory was very clear (60 points). The next goal will be to beat the program with five stones, it's getting tougher and tougher.
As for my endgame studies I have neglected these a bit the last weeks. But I've had a replacement program: I started with GoChild and immediately became addicted. Until now I have done more than 4000 problems. I started with entrance level, but most of the problems were much too easy, so I did only those problems where ko, squeeze, capturing race and endgame involved and some life and death problems. After that I have continued with the intermediate level and have advanced to the "Lee Chang Ho" problems. Doing these problems will hopefully help me with my intuition. The most difficult problems so far are the endgame problems, since often you don't know what the goal is. It also shows me that I really have a gap of knowledge, so after having finished with the intermediate level, I will resume with my endgame studies.
2010-11-05: Just after I had finished with the GoChild tsumego (about 5000 problems) I noticed that some of the packages had been disabled, probably there were copyright issues involved. Lucky for me that I had already finished.
Last weekend I played in my favorite tournament St. Augustin. This time I only played four of the five scheduled matches, because I had another appointment on Saturday evening. The strange thing was that all of the four matches had something in common: They ended by resign with a large dead group. The volatility of my play has now become manifest in my tournament matches as well.
My first match was with an 11 kyu, and it started well. I noticed a lot of bad shapes in her play and my feeling of winning the game was good. But then I made a too risky play. During a middle game fight I thought I could connect a group of mine in sente (instead of gote), but I misread and a large group of mine died. After a few further moves I resigned. A bad start into the tournament and I was about to spoil my good statistics against female opponents. My second opponent was a women, this time a 7 kyu. Before the second game I had a talk with the player who was able to beat my second opponent in the first match (and who turned out to be my third opponent later). I asked him for some tipps and he told me that he built up a large moyo in his first match. That reminded me of the time when I was around 15-17k where I liked to build up moyos. With that in mind I went into the game. Even though it didn't work well to create a moyo, the game was balanced until the transition from middlegame to endgame when my opponent made a severe mistake. That allowed me to capture a large group of her, so she resigned.
On Sunday my first opponent was the one that I had talked to the day before. Maybe he should not have told me that his favorite techique is building up moyos. Since I didn't allow him to do this he had to come up with something else, so he invaded on the top side. The outcome of the game depended on whether the invasion could live or not. At the end I was able to kill it, so he resigned. In the last game it looked fine in the beginning. I chased one of my opponent's weak groups, but he could make it alive, and one of my corner groups that was adjacent to my opponent's ex-weak group had too many weak spots and he exploited that to kill the whole corner. I resigned. So my result was a 2-2 for the weekend, a satisfactory result for me and the 9k rank seems to be stable now.
The day after the tournament my youngest daughter disclosed to me that she didn't want to go to the Düsseldorf tournament which will take place next weekend. Maybe she was demotivated due to her 1-3 result at the St. Augustin tournament. When my son heard that, he said that he wouldn't want to go either if his sister didn't go. I had said to myself that I would stop going to tournaments and take a break from go if my children didn't want to go to tournaments with me any more. So I was thinking whether to go alone or not. Later in the evening my son changed his mind, though he didn't sound convinced to go, so I haven't registered yet for the tournament. Just before I started writing these lines I asked them again whether they want to come or not so that I can register. This time my son sounded more convinced, and my daughter asked me that in case she comes whether she can take her best friend to the tournament as well. Ooooooooooooooooooh aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, I said "of course", and my daughter said that she had already taught some basics of the game to her friend so that she (her friend) would already be able to beat one specific of the children who is a regular tournament attendant (an eternal 30k who hasn't given up playing go in spite of losing almost every game - respect!). Ooooooooooooooooooh aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, what a surprise. My daughter and her friend would have to talk to her friend's parents first. But that's an interesting situation.
2010-12-09: The last tournament is already more than three weeks ago, so I am a bit late in updating this blog. Indeed, my daughter's friend played in that tournament on Sunday, but it seems that she just wanted to find out more about my daughter's hobby. I wonder whether she wants to play in the next tournament.
As for me the tournament had some new things to offer: I had my first half-point-loss ever. But as I was 20 point behind throughout the game (I counted three times during the game), it was a surprise for me that the match was so close at the end. Maybe this is the reward for my endgame studies last month. Unfortunately I haven't done any studies for the last weeks. Too much stress at work these days. Then I had my first byoyomi match - it was the first match of the tournament at the same time. Playing in Canadian overtime was a strange experience, and I still need to get used to the faster pace. Luckily I won this game. Immediately after that I had another byoyomi match - that was the half-point-loss. The third match would have been a byoyomi match as well, if my opponent hadn't resigned a few seconds before the flag fell. The Sunday started - surprise - with a byoyomi match again, this time it was a clearer loss. After all those byoyomi games I felt too exhausted and the motivation to play dwindled. So the fifth match was a quick loss - my opponent was much more motivated since I was able to defeat him last time. Maybe next time I will skip the last game in such a situation. The overall performance was not bad though, in spite of the 2-3. May rating has remained almost the same. Next time I'll play as 9k then.
2011-01-17: Some success and more frustrations. I seem to be more successful playing computers. When there was an electric power blackout (and I had no internet access) I played Aya on five stones, and was able to beat it quite convincingly. Next time I will give it six stones. It's getting harder and harder. I also tried out the new GnuGo 3.9 as it was said to be three stones stronger than its predecessor. Since I play GnuGo 3.8 on three stones, I played an even game with the new version. I had no difficulties beating it, though I noticed that it plays somewhat stronger than the old version. I also played Fuego with new settings: more nodes (2M) and two cores. I lost one match and won one. There is a winning strategy when playing with Fuego: Secure corners and edges and let Fuego make a moyo. Then invade the moyo from one corner.
The first frustration came from playing online again. My plan is to achieve an SDK rank on all the servers that I used to play on. So I played a few games on IGS where I was 12k. But I had a bad connection and lost two games of the three because of that. The GUI does not allow to resume a game - you have to dig through the depths of the console to find out how to resume, but you only have five minutes to find out. Playing on IGS under these circumstances is a hassle. I had more luck with OGS. I had fallen to 11-12k after I had resigned all my games due to the burnout. I played a few games against Fuego (100k and 1M; because the engines reply quite quickly) and advanced to 8k.
The second frustration came from playing tournaments. Last week I was at the tournament in Essen, and I had the same feeling that I had at the last game at last tournament: A heavy loss of motivation together with a feeling of exhaustion. After I had lost the first two matches on Saturday quite easily, I decided to skip the third match. On Sunday it was a bit better, but not much. I had two absolutely undeserved wins against 11k. In both cases I was lucky to capture a large group which my opponents could have saved easily. The groups had just left their focus as the game proceeded elsewhere. Then suddenly I had surrounded their groups and was able to turn their eyes into false eyes and kill them. Winning by pure luck is not fun. This was by far my worst performance at a tournament, in spite of the 2-2.
2011-02-28: As I had assumed last June that taking a break may lead to an improvement, it seems that there is really some truth in it as the tournament last weekend has shown. Ok, it was not a complete break, but more a break from playing - except for two matches against go engines: I played Aya on six stones and after a huge blunder of the program which allowed my to capture a large group, I was able to win by a comfortable margin. Then I played the new Gnugo 3.9 on three stones and after some hard fights I could beat it by two points. Next time I'll have to play these programs on seven and four stones respectively. Apart from playing programs I have clicked around in GoChild again. Apparently they have solved the copyright issues and changed the structure of the problems. I selected the problems that are appropriate for 10k players, so they were not too difficult. The next action that I wanted to check out is to learn professional matches. I was told that some players had a tremendous improvement from that. So I dug out again Kageyama's "lessons" since there was "Kage's master piece" and began to learn that game by heart. It was not as difficult as I had expected: after about four hours and laying out the match a few times, I knew all the moves that are shown in the book. That really seems to be a source of improvement, so I need more input: contemporary commented games.
As for the tournament last weekend I still wonder why that happened. I acted upon the maxim "play thick, don't let your groups die even if the opponent can make a big move". That seems to have worked so well that I lost only one match (to a 7k) out of six (the others being four 8k and one 9k). In three of the games life & death played a major role. In the game with the 7k I lost my maxim a bit out of the focus and lost a large corner. It became reduced until only one eye left. In a game with one of the 8k we were about to enter the endgame phase when I detected two weaknesses in a rather large corner of my opponent. That allowed me to live within his corner and kill his stones. Then another 8k thought she could kill one of my groups with a snapback. But the snapback is my best friend, so my group lived. From that same game I messed up the fuseki. I have to find the right reply to the Chinese Fuseki. However the two dead stones from that had aji that helped me to get back a large part of the adjacent edge. The other joseki homework is from the last match. As I don't like to get pincered, I have to look up the correct replies to the two-space-high-pincer. As I won a prize because of the five wins, I took "The Best Game Records of 2009". I guess that satisfies my need for contemporary commented games.
2011-03-31: My motivation to play go has hit another rock bottom. After I had started to read my recent books I put them away again since nothing wanted to stick in my long-term memory. My only go related activity this month was to watch the beginning of the Hamburg-Berlin competition on KGS, but since it started late in the evening and I felt weary, I had to leave before it ended. As for tournaments, I am only driven by my children (and their friend): If they didn't want to play, I wouldn't go. The fatigue is back.
2011-04-30: I played truant last tournament. Ok, I had to work, but I could have said 'no'. It seems I need a real break from go and I think now is the time. I'll be off for the time being.
2011-08-31: I am back for a temporary break of the break. Mainly to prepare for the Cologne tournament which took place last weekend, and not to let my playing abilities fall off too much. I intended to make an easy start with my favorite program Aya that I used to win against without much brain. But this time - I lost! What the... My ambition was back, and the very next morning I played Aya again, this time giving it nine handi stones - and won! Ah, at least the world was not yet off its hinges. A few other (even) games against the program were very volatile however, some very narrow wins, some wins with far more than a hundred points. My volatile play continued in other activities, e.g. the IGS Pandanet tournament which I had already played last year. This year I only played a handful of games and had a deja-vu: I won against a player three stones stronger, and - almost - lost to one three stones weaker. Only fierce fight saved me from losing that match. I managed to win the game by four points after some smaller mistakes of my opponent. Then on the L19 tournament I had a stronger phase again: I mananged to gain a victory over a 4k player - the first ever - and had a hard fight with a 2k, which I lost after a large group died, but generally the match was fine. The Cologne tournament last weekend did not go very well for me, since my health was not in a good shape. I had a headache that grew more and more over the first day. Nevertheless I was able to play the first match, and it was not too bad. My opponent was one of my secret rivals, a 7k, that I had already lost to twice (I started as 8k). In every corner heavy fights started. At the end it was one of my opponent's group that died even though he could have saved it. That ensured life for all my surrounding weak groups. But the game was not over yet. It was a second mistake that finally decided the match, a classical life-and-death situation that usually only occurs in artificial life-and-death problems: My opponent tried to give life to one of his invading groups, but then I placed two of my stones inside his group, so that he could not attack them from either side due to shortage of liberties. Because of the status of the first killed group it was an undeserved win. In the second match, against a 6k, the headache became worse and I began to make more mistakes. I goofed up a complete corner after a 5-4-opening of my opponent, so that I was 30 points behind almost right from the beginning. It seems I have to look up for these 5-4-point joseki. Fierce fighting could reduce the loss to a suprisingly low margin of three points, but still it was a loss. I skipped the third Saturday match for obvious reasons. On Sunday morning it seemed to be a little better, but became worse quickly during the first match. I goofed up an other corner, missing an easy life-and-death and fell back to old bad habits, so that I had to resign quickly. So I only played three of the five matches that weekend. I hope to be in a better shape next tournament. That will be in Bochum in October. Oh, and I found out that my favorite tournament, St. Augustin, which used to be held in November, will no longer take place, at least for the next years. That's bad news. In order not to let my playing abilities fall off too much, I have started a low-level activity: I have started to create a documentation (bilingual, English and German) that is supposed to be used as a collection of lessons for beginners up to SDK players. The first chapters have already been finished, the rules and some history, explaining eyes etc. Later chapters are planned to analyze and categorize life and death situations and tesuji, and I hope to learn from that myself, too. It will be a long term project and I will work on it in irregular intervals, so it will probably take many years.
2011-10-11: The best news at first: I got my eldest daughter back into playing go after a break of almost two years. What had happened? The reason was the Bochum tournament last weekend, or more precisely, one of its side events. As the tournament took place in the language institute of the city's university (which was also one of the sponsors), we had the luck to get a free trial lesson in one of the languages that is relevant for the game of go: Japanese, Chinese or Korean. As my daughter's main hobby is drawing/painting mangas, she is also very much interested in learning Japanese. So I offered her to take her to that lesson - but only if she played the two matches that were scheduled for Sunday (the course took place on Sunday). She agreed, and when we were on the way back home, she said that she felt like playing go on tournaments again. She was amazed that two other girls around her age had already advanced to 10-11 kyu during the time she had paused playing. Well, it seems that the car will be full again when we go to the Düsseldorf tournament in less than four weeks: me, my three children and the friend of my younger daughter.
As for my performance on the Bochum tournament things went much better than last time. Unlike during the Cologne tournament my health was in excellent shape and I had really much fun playing the matches. This was one reason to play all five matches, even though I felt a bit exhausted during the third game on Saturday (I used to skip that in some of my last tournaments for various reasons). The other reason was, that the tournament direction offered a prize for the best team, where a team consisted of four players. It was my son's idea to build a team, me, him, my daughter and her friend. Even though we did not win the team prize, it was an extra motivation to play all the matches.
My first opponent was the 8k player to whom I had my first (and until now only) half-point-loss ever. It goes without saying that I was motivated not to let this happen again. The game was quite peaceful until the late middlegame. Both of us staked out moyos, until I felt that I had to attack one of his edges after he had reduced a part of my moyo. The attack was successful and I could establish a living group at the edge. At the end I won by 16 points. The second game, against a 7k, was more of a fighting game. Like the first game it started with building up moyos, but my opponent quickly invaded and reduced it to one third of its original size, so I had to come up with something to get a compensation for the loss. I managed to kill one of his corners together with a threat to turn the upper edge into territory. His invasion on the upper edge then depended on a ko. After a few ko threat exchanges, he thought to play a ko threat that would resurrect his killed corner, but after reading out the situation I saw that the corner was still dead, so I ignored his move and filled the ko. Even though we continued playing, I knew that this was the game deciding situation. At the end we did not count as it was obvious that I had won. The third game was a fighting game again, and my opponent was another 7k. During the game I managed to kill one of his corners, and he turned one of my corners into a seki - my second seki "in the wild". It was a close fight, and at the end I won by just two points. The Saturday performance was perfect: three wins, no losses. In all the three games I used 55-60 minutes of the 60 minutes main time, so under avoidance of byoyomi it was a good usage of my time.
On Sunday I played my first ever 6k opponent. Maybe I was a bit nervous, but during the game I made a big blunder. My opponent peeped to get back a captured stone. I thought that capturing the stone and connecting the stones would be miai and I tenukied, but actually it was not, so my opponent cut off a group of more than 10 stones. I got some compensation as I continued to play where I had tenukied, but it was not as big. I continued to fight, but then I made an endgame blunder, so finally I resigned. In spite of the blunder it was a great fighting game that I enjoyed. My last opponent was one of the mentioned girls in my daughter's age, a 10k who had won all her four games. I had already played her previously and remember that I had an absolutely undeserved win against her in January. This time our game was strange. Later I will remember it as the "game of the failed edge invasions", since both of our invasions got killed. The game was decided in the center, as I managed to kill one of her groups and saved a larger edge group. When she resigned in the late middlegame, I counted that I was 15-20 points ahead. It seemed a bit early for a resignation, as it is possible to catch up that with a good endgame. So I played 4-1 that weekend, not bad at all. I already wanted to feel comfortable to play as 8k, but with that result I'll have to play as 7k next tournament.
2011-11-01: My eldest daughter's motivation to play go is still there, it is even growing. She borrowed my book "Graded Go Problems for Beginners" Vol. 2 and worked through it within two weeks. Every evening she asked me about the problems that she didn't understand, so I explained to her why the solution worked and other moved didn't. Now I have given her "Get Strong at Tesuji" and adviced her to work through the one-star-problems (very easy) first, and after that through the two-star-problems (easy). She said that her intention is to become quickly better than her siblings, so she rediscovered KGS and created an account there. Within a very short time her playing strength became better than that of my younger daughter. When my son found out about that, who is still the strongest of the three, he too got motivated and registered at KGS (his old accounts had already expired long time ago). So they played some matches and I reviewed them so they can learn from their mistakes.
We also played some rengo games, two or three of us, and the rest were strangers or people that my children had made friends with on KGS. Actually I had never been a friend of rengo and whenever I was asked to play rengo, I refused. The experience now was mixed. On the one hand it is fun, but on the other hand if you are not compatible with your partner, the match can easily go astray. In one of the matches I played with a 5k and my daughter with a 4k. My partner made a lot of small moves at the edge while our opponents created a large moyo. Several times I made invasions and reductions to the moyo, but my partner did not follow up, he continued to play small moves at the edge. His moves got mostly ignored by our opponents while both of them answered to my invasions and reductions. No wonder that these were doomed to fail. Needless to say that we lost by a large margin.
After that match my KGS nick suddenly got a ranking "11k?" after almost one and a half year where it was unranked. I thought rengo matches were unranked, but obviously that assumption was wrong. I was upset. Me, an 11k? A DDK? Impossible. I felt urged to play rated games again after such a long time. Also I was curious about my actual KGS strength, so I played a few games with the automatch option. At the end the rank stabilzed at KGS-6k. Better than ever, but this only suits for an EGF-8k. Actually all EGF-8k that I know of have a KGS rank of 5k (except only one). And the EGF-7k's have a KGS rank of 4k (which also applies to EGF-4k to EGF-6k), so I would have expected that my KGS ranks stabilizes at 4k. Maybe one of the reasons for this mismatch is that I play significantly weaker at fast time controls which are common on KGS. I like much more playing at long time controls 45 or 60 minutes main time plus byoyomi. That way I can read out the situations much better. More probable however is that I had a too good performance and too much luck last tournament and that I am overranked. We'll see next weekend in Düsseldorf.
2011-11-09: On the tournament day I was in a good mood even though I expected to get clobbered. I had my three children with me, my youngest daughter's friend had other obligations unfortunately. I wonder how my children would perform. When we registered in Düsseldorf, my eldest daughter asked the tournament director whether she could play three kyu grades above the grade that she had specified at the pre-registration. wooohoo. That's really self-confidence. But I was optimistic that she could make it. However for myself, the 7k-noob, I was not so optimistic.
The first opponent was an established 6k player. He is a very nice person whom I had already talked with several times on previous tournaments, but I had never played a game with him. He seemed to be quite amused that now we had the opportunity to play a tournament match as he was joking with me. Our game started quite well for me. I could establish a living group within his sphere of influence on the left side, and it became bigger and bigger. Then it went downhill when he invaded my sphere of influence at the bottom edge. He reduced my edge, built up a huge wall towards the center and killed two of my groups on the right side. These groups were not captured yet, but actually they were dead. The only way for me to avoid a clear loss of the game was to establish a moyo on the top right corner. Suddenly a move caught my eye that I could play, a a bit of a trick move, a trap for my opponent. If I extended a stone in order to expand the moyo and he blocked the two stones, I could use a double atari to save one of my dead groups and capture one of his. This would nullify his strength in the center. As I had nothing to lose, I just played that move. It took him quite long to ponder on his reply, or at least it appeared to me. Silently I prayed "c'mon, go and eat these little stones, they are so tasty, so delicious. I won't tell you, that they are poisonous and that you get heavy stomach problems". Then he ate them... and the bomb exploded. When he noticed, he tried to avoid the worst, but it was too late. After he made another mistake he finally resigned. After the game both of us were still dazed and shivering because of the mental exhaustion. It was the first time that I was able to beat a 6k. A good start, though it was based on a trick play.
The next opponent was an 8k player that I had already played in February. I remember that I had a hard time in that match until I could kill one of his corners. In this match I had a hard time again, as he chased down a large group of mine which had only one eye. I was already desperate that - again! - I took refuge in a trick play. With my dead group I pressed forward on the first line, then he put these stones into atari, and when I put a stone to save them from getting captured, he had to protect his stone that had put my stones into atari. That is a typical sente-endgame situation. I had needed that sente, because with the help of my saving stone I could start a ko for the life of my large group. I had tons of local ko threats so that the group was practically alive. That made the match balanced again. After that I could save another group with a ko, so that he resigned eventually. I decided that ko has become my bestfriend. And I won the second game with a trick play, too. I should not make this a habit.
The last match of the day was against a 5k player who was at the verge of 4k, but who had lost his first two matches. I noticed that on the playing table there was a digital clock instead of the usual old clocks. The first twenty-or-so boards were equipped with a digital clock, the other boards still use the old clocks. This is common at tournaments in Germany as there are not enough digital clocks yet in order to provide one for all boards. From this I noticed that I had climbed up to the upper half of the tournament players. Suddenly I remembered that one of my goals was to achieve a tournament result in the upper half, and it seemed that it would not be impossible for me in this tournament, but if I had to play 5k players, it would rather seem as if I were megalomaniac. But I tried to go for it. When the game was just progressing from the opening stage to the middlegame stage, my children suddenly appeared to watch my game. As they wanted to go home, they urged me to play faster. Well, that was exactly what I did *not* want to do. And indeed, the game went into the byoyomi phase. It was balanced by the time it went into the byoyomi phase and already seemed to be settled when I noticed that if I save three of my stones, he could kill the corner. Before the game went into the byoyomi phase I had counted that I was leading by a few points, but if I decided to sacrifice the three stones in order to save the corner, the game would probably be decided by half a point. I had no time to count again and decided to save the corner, so he took the three stones. The game was on the knife's edge. Now that my corner was safe, I again looked at the corner and checked whether I could use the aji of two of my dead stones to gain a few points. Then I remembered an endgame tesuji from the book "200 Endgame Problems" that I had studied last year in September. It took me two minutes from the five-minutes byoyomi period to read out whether it worked. It worked. After I had set the stone, my opponent noticed, that he had to capture the aji tainted stones due to semedori. Besides, I could drive a wedge into his bottom area. The tesuji was worth approximately 15 points, and when we counted at the end, I won by 15 points. What a tough game, and my first victory over a 5k. I really felt exhausted, but the Saturday had been a great success.
On Sunday I felt relaxed, since I had already won three times. I had to play another 5k. I had already known his name and looked at his EGF stats, since he lives not far from my home in a neighbouring town, but I actually didn't know who he was. When I saw him, I remember that I had already seen him often on tournaments, so now I could assign a name to the face. The local derby started unspectacularly, he was leading by some points throughout the game and continuously extended his lead. The situation in the center was intricate, life and death status of groups continuously changed. These are the situations why I love the game of go so much. The middlegame with complex situations is the most fun. Then suddenly I saw a move that would separate two large groups of my opponent, and his center was dead and the life of a large edge group was at stake. When he realized that, he immediately resigned. That was really a lucky punch, as I was behind all the time.
This was the first time ever I had the opportunity to win all games. To reach that I had to beat yet another 5k player. The match was dominated by four big moyos, two for each player. When I invaded his moyo on the left side, he chased my invading group. Finally my group was alive, but he had reduced one of my moyos and extended one of his, so in spite of the success of the invasion he was still leading. With my living center group I started to reduce his moyo on the upper edge. He could cut off some of my stones, but with the help of the dead stones I could kill one of his corners. The match was balanced again. Both of us turned our moyos into territories which were about the same size. Besides, we had some smaller areas at the edges and corners. When we counted, it turned out that he won by 1.5 points. I wasn't angry at myself, since I knew that I had played to the best of my ability - unlike the 0.5 point loss several months ago, where I was too careless about the points.
A 4-1 result at the weekend was very good, even though I won two games by a trick play and one by a lucky punch. And I had reached my goal to be in the upper half of the tournament result list. I had a very short career as a 7k since next time I have to start as 6k. My next short-term goals are to reach the upper half of active tournament players in Europe and in Germany (according to the definition of the EGF), that's still 10 or 110 rating points ahead. To reach this, I will finish the book "Die Kunst des Angriffs", a German reprint of Kato's "Attack and Kill" (I am almost finished with that), and then I'll be back into tesuji: "Magic on the First Line" looks most interesting right now. Also I plan to work through the "Cross-Cut Workshop".
2011-11-22: The following is a rant about ranks and ratings. Those who are already fed up talking/reading about ranks, probably want to skip this paragraph. A few months ago one of the readers of my blog disclosed to me that most of my blog deals with ranks. I'm not sure, but possibly he was implying that rank obsession is involved. Maybe someone who reads this blog may have such an impression, but I would not subscribe to this point of view. I admit that climbing up the ranks has some importance for me. The reason is that I need to control my success by measuring step by step. This holds e.g. for reducing my weight, reading the Quran in Arabic more fluently etc. and - no wonder - I'd like to measure my go playing strength as well. And the best way I know of is to use the rank for that. I am aware that a one-dimensional rank cannot reflect the abilities in such an endless-dimensional and complex game like go. It is of course possible to improve one's abilities in one specific field, but that you cannot detect any improvement in terms of rank, since you have a bigger gap in another field that stops you from climbing up the ranks. But I need a measureable improvement (at least until shodan) to remain motivated, otherwise I get too frustrated. Sometimes I look at the EGD's rating graph of my tournament opponents. There are three different categories: The first ones applies mostly to those in my age or older. Their rating curve usually shows a saturation around my strength, mostly between 9k and 6k. This gives me some frustrations as it probably means that I have reached (or almost reached) the upper limit of my playing strength, in spite of the apparent boost in the last two tournaments - in the light of my current 6k-KGS rank comparing to that of my tournament opponents this just seems to be a statistical anomaly. The second category shows a flash upwards the kyu ranks. One of them has already reached 2d. The third category concerns young and old opponents alike: They have overestimated their development in the past, got an EGF-rating-reset after they had promoted themselves two or more stones higher than in the previous tournament. After the self-promotion they keep losing since their playing strength does not match their nominal rank. Some of them recognize their mistake and downrank themselves. Their rank/rating graph looks very volatile. The others stick at their rank and the gap between rank and rating increases, in some cases up to five stones (or 500 points). For that reason some tournament directors had decided to do the McMahon pairing according to the EGF rating. I used to be a huge fan of rating based pairings, but now I am not sure any more since there were cases where fast developing players won every game. I wish there would be a solution that would solve both problems, so that the fast developing player as well as the overranked player can get even matches, but I'll leave it to others to invent such a system.
Dieter: I'm ambivalent towards alleged rank obsession since on one hand I despise it and on the other I'm guilty myself. I think there are two preconditions for rank obsession. One is not playing frequently and the other not progressing rapidly. Because, if you progress rapidly this will anyhow show in a ranking system, and if you play often it doesn't matter whether your game contains that 1/100 chance of a blunder. Even deeper down, rank obsession shows you care more about your ego than about go. But let's assume we have a healthy interest in rank as a measure of progress. Then I have discovered that what really matters for our rank, which is our winning percentage, is to develop those skills which have the biggest impact on the winning percentage and these skills are not your usual suspects:
Nothing of the above has anything to do with joseki, fuseki, tesuji, even life and death (though indirectly it does) ... It's only about gamesmanship. So, if you want to improve your rank, either because you are obsessed by it or because you want to know what your current understanding of go is worth, then make sure you observe the above list of good habits not to lose.
sh: Thanks for your interesting comments, Dieter. It seems that both preconditions for rank obsession that you mention - not playing frequently and not progressing rapidly - are fulfilled in my case, though I plan to play more again, that's why I've just joined the ASR league.
As for your "Basic Laws of Gamesmanship" I agree to most of them, especially the time issues. A good game of go needs its time in my humble opinion, otherwise it is useless to review. I don't play blitz anyway, so I am fine with this. The time issues also cover the "silly move" point: If you take your time to read out a position, you can still make mistakes, but then it is not a silly move, it's just a mistake to learn from. I slightly disagree with resigning however. Most important for me is to have fun by playing, and if a match is clearly lost with practically no hope to win, it would be no longer fun to play for both players. For DDK players weaker than 15k I would agree to the advice, never to resign since the blunder rate at that strength is still very high and even in a clearly lost match, it is still possible to win. But once you have gained SDK strength, it is futile to hope for such extreme blunders of the opponent that turn the match. In some (very few) of my (long lasting) turn based games I even resigned a clearly won match as my opponent missed to resign and the game was no longer fun. I admit that climbing up the ranks has some importance for me, but not enough to prevail over having fun. My primary aim is not to improve in rank, but to improve in strength that subsequently can be measured by an improvement in rank.
2011-12-02: I have to say goodbye to a companion, one that has accompanied me since the days of early DDK. Probably the opponent I have played most games with - the go engine "Aya" (the downloadable version 6.34). I like most those games which are balanced. As for handicap stones I still don't like very much playing with or against handi stones, but if the game is balanced, it is acceptable. But playing with or against more than nine stones does not make sense in my point of view. In the last games against the engine I gave it nine stones and won easily, the last match by far more than a hundred points, as if I had been the one who had received the handi stones. Since there are no longer balanced games, I decided to say goodbye to it. I remember the days when I fought to get into the SDK ranks and to beat Aya without any handi stones. I was so proud when I was able to beat it the first time by 1.5 points. Even though GnuGo is stronger than Aya, I liked more the style of the latter. Nonetheless I will play more often with GnuGo, the strongest version currently being 3.9. I have played a dozen games with it and found out that the game is competetive if I give the engine three to four stones. Oddly enough the difference between three and four handi stones seems to be quite huge. While I keep winning against three stones, I keep losing against four stones. Only once I've made it to win by seven points against four stones. One should assume that the difference of one stone can be detected by winning in about two thirds of the matches. But losing 90% versus winning 90% is a difference of more than four stones. Obviously there must be a major gap in my play that becomes obvious when playing against four stones. I have received advices about that from several different people of the L19 community. The first one strongly discouraged me to play handi matches with the same opponent - GnuGo - over and over again, as the result would be that after a while I found out about its weaknesses, and exploiting these would not work with other opponents. I have observed that this holds for playing with my former favorite engine Aya, and surely holds for other engines as well. Another person adviced me just to concentrate on improving generally and that the ability to play high-handicapped matches will come automatically. A third person suggested to have a look at the Malkovich games in the corresponding L19 subforum. There are some games where mid-to-high-dan players are playing high-handicap matches against shodans and high kyu players. That was really a great idea, I wonder why I haven't had that myself. The advantage of the Malkovich game is that the players express their thoughts on their moves (as long as the move is not a nobrainer). If a 4 or 5 dan player gives some reasoning how to handle the overwhelming power of the handi stones, then it must be good to know. They have to play decent overplays that are difficult to exploit for the opponent, and this kind of moves is what I am looking for. I'll give it definitely a try. I will also study the kifu of a five stone handicap game between one of Europe's top players (Hwang In-seong) against a German 4 dan.
Last month I was wondering why my KGS rank was so bad comparing to my EGF rank. In the meantime I had a chat with one of my go mates, a KGS-2k who is EGF-8k. For him it's just the other way around. He mentioned that he takes the KGS matches very seriously, even more than the tournament matches. (Besides, there is a difference between German and French 8k's anyway, but that's another story). Those who have read parts of my blog surely know how serious I take the tournament matches and how much effort I put in them in order to play good games. As for playing online it is different unfortunately. I cannot say why, but when playing online, I rarely find the motivation to really read through the positions, but more play on intuition, no matter whether the game is ranked or unranked. There are exceptions though. In the last IGS Pandanet tournament I had no losses (though I only played a handful of games). In the (still ongoing) L19 tournament my performance has been quite good as well. I had a win against a 4k, a loss (after a hard fight) against a 2k and a win against a 1k. The victory over the latter was really amazing as I had never expected that this would be possible. Of course I don't know in which state he was playing. I played early in the morning (got up at 6 a.m. for the match) and he played in the evening at 10 p.m. (we had a time difference of eight hours), and at the end of the game when I started some ko fights, he obviously lost a bit of his concentration. But still it is a success that gives some motivation, and slowly I begin to believe that some real improvement has become manifest since I have stopped playing on KGS in June last year on 7k level, and stopped playing online at all in February, and that it is not just a mere statistical anomaly. So I know that it is possible for me to do better in online matches, I just need to take these games more seriously in order to take some profit out of them. It seems that the constant practice of reading through the positions (as I do in tournament games) together with studying tesuji is the key activity that is responsible for the recent improvement. For that reason I have decided to sign up for the ASR League. As preparation for that I played a few rated games to get a stable rank with my primary KGS-nick that I've signed up with to the league (I reached a stable rank of 6k last month with one of my secondary accounts). It just took four matches to stabilize, two losses and two wins, and I made it to open the door to 4k - well at least the door is ajar. In view of my recent performance this result is probably not suprising any more, but considering the previous results where I had been stuck at 6-7k for a long time, I consider this to be a breakthrough to the next level. These are the moments to enjoy. As for the ASR league that is awaiting me, its goal is to teach and learn, so after each game the stronger player is asked to make a review of the game. It is not too much of a commitment (I still have the fear of burnout at the back of my mind), as it is necessary to just play four games in one month to stay in the league. By playing serious (online) games and reviewing (and getting reviewed) I hope to achieve some improvement. The European Go Congress in Bonn is getting closer and I would like to improve some stones (well, at least one stone) until next summer.
2012-01-16: I've been playing in the ASR league for six weeks now, and my feelings concerning it are a bit mixed. But that's more a problem of myself, because obviously my thinking goes this way: "oh, these are unrated games, so I can go easy on them". I hate myself for this attitude. It brought me a loss against an 8k and even almost a loss to a 15k. Also, I haven't won a single game against a 4k or stronger since I have made it to 4k, but I haven't played rated games since then. On the other hand I know that I can play competetive matches with 1k players. The last match I had in the L19 tournament was against a 1k, which I lost eventually, but the game was a hard fight. As for the ASR league, I promoted to class Gamma in the ASR league nevertheless, mainly due to activity. This month I have only played four games, the minimum not to get bounced from the league, but I plan to play at least enough games in order not to get demoted back to class Delta. I am not sure yet how long I will stay in the league, as it would not make sense if I didn't take the games as seriously as they deserved. It is possible that my volatile play that I have been complaining about for many months is partly a motivation problem.
In real-life tournament games I've never had any problems with motivation. And at the tournament in Essen last weekend it wasn't different. As I started as 6k, I expected that opponents and matches would become tougher than last time. My first opponent was a fellow 6k whom I had never recognized before in tournaments. It was a guy who was a few years older than me and who was stuck at 6k for quite some time. I almost cannot remember the match, which seems strange as I can usually remember most games after the tournament. I just remember that he was a slow player like me and that he was in byoyomi when the game ended. Finally I won by 12 points. After the game I had a talk with another 6k player, the one that I had played last tournament, the first match. As I was able to defeat him last time, he said that he wishes to get an opportunity for revenge this tournament. We both laughed about it. My second opponent was somebody else though, a 5k who was the girlfriend of one of my secret rivals (who is 5k as well). I was a bit irritated since she played quite quickly and seemd to be very convinced by confident in her moves, and I tried not to get infected by that, so I consciously took my time for every move. When the game came into the endgame phase, I was leading by around 10 points when she suddenly resigned as she thought that she could not catch up any more (she had also counted a difference of 10 points). After the second game I felt exhausted, but was glad that I hadn't had a bad start. The third game was against a 4k, my first ever 4k opponent. I really had my chances in that game. I was far in front as I had outplayed him in the center, but when I chased one of his groups, I lost the focus on one of my own large groups (about 30 stones). When I noticed that it had to fight to survive, it was already too late and the group had to die. My opponent was now 30 points ahead. This situation reminded me of a match exactly one year ago, but this time it was me who lost the focus of a large group. Maybe a 10k mistake? Greed? Difficult to say. The only way to catch up was to get a corner, so I tried an invasion. But at the end the invasion was not successful, as I got demonstrated how the two-stone-edge tesuji works. After that I resigned. That was a cool game and the one that I enjoyed most at that tournament, even though I lost it - or maybe just because, since it gave me the opportunity to learn something. For the next tournament I'll try to keep in mind that I should evaluate the status of adjacent groups on every move. A 2-1 however was generally a satisfactory result for me. Even if I lost both Sunday matches, it would still be a balanced result.
On Sunday morning the sun was shining and I was in a good mood and good health. Best conditions for playing tournament games. My first opponent was the one I had talked to the day before. Now he would get his revenge. For me this was of course an additional motivation factor as well. During the game he was a bit joking with me - a funny guy - but both of us were concentrated nevertheless. Soon after the opening phase was over, he took the lead as one of my invasion groups was cut off from another weak center group. I tried to save at least the center group by threatening to capture his separating group. Then he made a reading mistake, or as he disclosed to me after the game when analysing it, that it was obviously greed as he thought that he could capture both groups of mine. Due to his reading mistake my weak groups were alive and I took the lead by a few points. Then the tables turned again as he was able to establish a moyo by threatening my bottom area. I was able to reduce his moyo a bit from above, but he was still leading by a few points. I had to do something, so I decided to use the aji of a dead group to gain something. First I increased the sacrifice by squeezing one of his adjacent group to make it an ugly dumpling and then added another stone to get enough liberties to attack the dumpling. Although finally he captured the six ajied stones, I could reduce his corner significantly. At the end I won by about 10 points. After the game we agreed that the reading mistake in the beginning of the middlegame had actually decided the game. In the break before the next game started I had a talk with a player who used to organize the St. Augstin tournament (which has been suspended recently - unfortunately). When I told him that my goal is to go for shodan still in this life, he said that he had been trying that for the past 15 years but finally got stuck at 1k. However he admitted that he doesn't do anything actively to improve his play, neither tsumego nor reading go related books, but just play for fun. As for myself I still have motivation to improve, and am doing tsumego again. I resumed with Graded Go Problems for Beginners vol. 4 where I was stuck around problem 150 a few months ago. For some strange reason the solving ratio has improved from 65% to around 85%. As long as I can still see that improvement is possible, I will still be motivated to do something to improve. At the moment I am still improving, and I am enjoying that. But back to the tournament. The last match was against one of my secret rivals (not the one mentioned above). It was a fellow 6k, but he had always been about half a stone stronger than me, and like me he had won three matches in this tournament. We had already played three times previously but only in the Cologne tournament last August I was able to defeat him - but it was not a convincing victory. But this time he didn't seem to be concentrated very much, and the match became one of my shortest-ever tournament matches. After I was able to save a very weak group into the center, I captured his adjacent cutting group with an oiotoshi. He could have saved it easily though, so it was a reading mistake. After that he said "Ok, better I resign right now, then I'll have more time to go shopping...". Huh? Well, if he had shopping in his mind, then it is no wonder that he wasn't fully concentrated. Also he mentioned something like that I would be his bogey opponent and that he never has a chance when we play. Actually this is wrong, because in our personal records he had been leading by 2-1 before that game. So my result this tournament was 4-1, the third time in a row in spite of ranking up each time. For the next tournament, which will be in Bonn end of February, I will upgrade my rank once more and start as 5k. So I am forging ahead into the most crowded group players, i.e. the 1-5k group. In the past most of my opponents were those who were around my strength and striving forward to improve. In the next tournaments I expect to get more new opponents in the upper SDK area and I hope to learn even more from them. I am looking forward to that.
2012-02-03: The enthusiasm didn't last long. The dose of it was obviously too much, because a bit of the burnout feeling is back that I had during the last year. So I stopped playing in the ASR league, and generally on KGS. Also I will discontinue playing on BSN for the time being (I had started playing there again a few months ago). I just had a few games on WBaduk after a break of two and half year playing there because I wanted to find out whether I can now get easy wins there. But I had no nerves to play long games on this daffy, silly GUI, so I played superplitz, just three seconds per move, because my mind refused to spend any further thoughts on the moves. I lost two of three matches and dropped to 17k. Apart from playing online I am currently doing some problems on GGPB vol.4, but these days I get exhausted after about five problems, even though the result is not bad as I get about 4 of 5 right. Apart from that I tried to read through RJ's joseki books (currently vol. 2, after it took months to get through vol. 1), but they are really wearisome and I cannot say that I have got much out of them yet. I am also collecting more ideas how to make a go engine, but it seems to be very difficult to make these ideas realizable.
2012-02-14: More frustrations. I had a match with eight handi stones against a 6d. I clearly lost. It made me want to throw the stones into the corner. Everyone told me that I was supposed to lose against a 6d with only 8 stones, but I feel that I should win against any player with such a huge advantage. Even six stones should suffice to win against any player, including professionals (and that's actually my final goal in go). I feel sooooo clueless, and I am starting to doubt that playing as 5k next tournament is appropriate in view of all these mistakes in that game and some other games against 5k's where I got clobbered. On the other hand the game was a good learning experience. Some stronger players reviewed my games and gave me insightful moments (thanks, Bill Spight and amnal). I will take up their ideas and continue to strive forward.
2012-03-02: Initially I had doubts that starting as 5k at the Bonn tournament last weekend would be appropriate, but I accepted the challenge and opted to play new opponents. Well, I thought so, but my first opponent was one that I had played two years ago, when I was 11k and she was 10k. This time she played as 6k. I felt comfortable throughout the game. She kept making small moves and left the big points to me. I took my time in order not fall back into bad habits, and when I reached the byoyomi phase I counted that I was leading by about 30 points. After the game ended, this assessment proved to be correct. My second oppnent was much tougher though, my first 3k I've ever played at a tournament. I remember that last year he was commenting on one of my matches and explaning which of my moves were joseki and which not. At that time I was 9k and had little knowledge about joseki - and unfortunately this hasn't changed until now. I tried to remain calm. Both of us built up quite big moyos. I invaded his moyo, a hard fight developed and the life of my invading group depended on the outcome of a ko. He used ko threats to invade my moyo. When I had no more ko threats, I ignored his and made life for the invading group. He then cut apart two groups of mine within the moyo, and both of my separated groups had to fight for their life. Probably I should not have ignored that ko threat. Both of my groups were doomed to die, but my opponent got a bit greedy, and when he tenukied, I could make life to one of my groups by using a shortage of liberties. I was just entering the byoyomi phase when I counted that I was about 30 points behind, so I resigned. My third opponent was a tournament newbie who started as 5k. I don't remember much of the game as I already felt very exhausted. Somehow I managed to win by about twenty points. I was satisfied with my results on Saturday.
On Sunday morning I didn't feel very good. It was murky, raining and I felt cold in spite of wearing a thick sweater. Additionally I couldn't keep up the motivation that I usually have when playing at tournaments. The games went correspondingly, and also the time that I used was only about half of the main time. In the first game against a 5k I was attacking a weak group of my opponent, but when he defendet it, he split off a part of my attacking group which became weak itself and got under attack. I failed to rescue it and hence lost by about twenty points. In the second game I played another 5k against whom I had a "lucky punch" last tournament. Unfortunatly I goofed up an unknown joseki very early in the game. Then both of us played all-or-nothing. Finally I lost a big dragon and had to resign. Since this game was over quickly, I went to watch my son playing (who is around 16k) and was thinking about skipping the last game (yes, this is a tournament with six games). Finally it is useless to play if the motivation is missing. I tried to motivate myself to fight the last game. Just in case that I played, I said to myself that I had to avoid losing huge dead groups as in the previous two games, and to try to ponder on the moves long enough to get into byoyomi like the day before. I was still unsure whether to play or not, when the tournament director called out "Any cancellations for the sixth round?", and I kept silent, so I decided to play and fight hard and avoid a fourth loss. My opponent was a 4k, so it would be a very hard task for me. The middlegame was tough. When I counted after a local fight, it seemed that my opponent was about 15 points ahead, but I noticed that I had much more potential to reduce his territory than he had to reduce mine. So I started to reduce and to ignore his reductions. Before I was about to enter byoyomi, I counted again, and the match was equal. Maybe I was leading by one or two points. Suddenly he resigned. He said that he had no more time and had to leave. We agreed that the score of the match was about equal. This was one of the most dissatisfactory wins that I've ever had. If a player does not have enough time to play a tournament match, why does he start it then? Anyway, I had a balanced tournament, three losses and three wins (with a sour aftertaste though), with four new opponents and two that I had ever played before. After the motivation issues, I am not sure whether I want to play another tournament before the EGC. There is one in April in Recklinghausen, the one that I had skipped last year. I will decide that in April whether I feel like playing another tournament or not.
2012-06-22: I haven't updated this, because I had practically no go related activities. As I had already announced I skipped the Recklinghausen tournament in April as I had not enougth motivation to play a tournament. Instead I started to do some tesuji problems again. My intention was to finish "501 Tesuji Problems" before the start of the EGC, but until now I have just made it to problem 50 until go burnout befell me again. Until then my solving performance was not bad at all: Out of the 50 I got 8 wrong. That is because I remembered many of them from other tesuji books that I had worked on previously, such as "200 Endgame Problems". As of now I am sure that after the EGC I will take a longer hiatus. However on the EGC I plan to purchase some books that look interesting for 5k players (such as "A Way of Play for the 21st Century" or "Beyond Forcing Moves") so that I will have enough literature when I feel like reading some go related matters. During the last months I have played only one game, a poor 9k that I clobbered (well it was a teaching game for him then), though I made quite a lot of mistakes. Before the EGC I will compensate the lack of practice by playing some games to avoid an epic fail.
2012-07-21: Finally it has arrived what I had been looking forward to for so long: The European Go Congress. Today I went to Bonn for the on-site registration and for exploring the venue. The registration counter was split into several stages. Before I went to the counter I had to pick up the EGC-ID-card for myself and my children. They were needed for the process of registration and identify you as a participant of the EGC. I noticed that my card showed me as 8k. I had that rank when I had preregistered, but I knew that I could not use that for the on-site registration since I had nominally improved three stones. At the first stage I got four yellow IGS-Pandanet bags, one for each participant. Inside the bag was something to write, a small kifu book and some information about the EGC. At the second stage there was the actual registration where they also asked whether the provided information from the pre-registration is still correct. When I mentioned that I have advanced to 5k, they forwarded me to stage three. At that stage there was someone I knew. I had played him in a tourney in January 2009 back in the days when I still was a mere 17k. He was there with his girlfriend, so we had a short conversation. They said that I could take my new EGC-ID-card next morning on the day of the first tournament match. At that point my registration was completed. There were other stages, such as a public transport ticket, or accomodation, but these were not relevant for me as I had planned to go to Bonn every day by car. It is not far there, about 50 km / 30 miles. After the registration I took a look at the room where the tournament was planned to be held. It was a large hall with hundreds of playing tables, and the boards and clocks had already been prepared for the match. Some players were already playing there for fun. I watched the game of a fellow 5k with another player, and almost automatically I started to read out the positions - something I hadn't done for five months. I had a prickling feeling in my stomach, and suddenly the difference between tournament games and online play became crystal clear to me: In case of the latter it is so hard for me to motivate myself to read out the positions. In June I had a few games on KGS to get back into practice after several months of no play at all. My performance was terrible, I could stabilze at 6k (which translates to 8-9k EGF). But with that prickling feeling I knew that I was ready for the challange.
2012-07-22: This morning the first thing I did was to pick my new EGC-ID card. After that I had to go to the rest room. Oddly enough I always have to go there before the tournament day starts. Must be from the excitement which feels a bit like exam stress. But it is a good stress that nourishes my motivation. My first opponent was a nice lady from Romania. In the early opening she already forced me to play for moyo, but that worked well with the Chinese opening that I chose. I could increase the moyo while chasing one of her invading groups. Then she started a sequence to reduce my moyo. The local fight that emerged from that led to the situation that I could capture her invading group. After a few desperation moves she resigned. Surprisingly enough I was able to memorize the complete kifu of the game and replay/record it afterwards. It was the first time ever; before that I had always lost the thread quite quickly..
2012-07-23: My opponent today was a gentleman from the Netherlands. He had an eye-catching appearance and I remember that I had often seen him on tournaments. Before the game we talked a bit, and he confirmed that he was playing tournaments for sixteen years, mostly here in Germany. Our match was characterized by many local fights. We both had running groups, but his weak group split two of mine, so he had some advantage. I thought that my groups were already safe, but then he unleashed some kind of tesuji which left one of my running groups with only one eye. I tried to make a second eye, but eventually failed, so I resigned. Unfortunately I cannot remember that game exactly since I had to work after I had returned from the EGC, and the double shift caused some mental exhaustion.
2012-07-24: Today I played a lady from Japan. The match was generally peaceful, both of us set up a moyo. There were some small fights at the borders of our moyos, and I was able to reduce hers a bit more than she was able to reduce mine. In the endgame we had a ko fight, my first one at the EGC. She won that, but I had counted that I was ahead, and when we counted, it became clear that I had won by 22.5 points. After the game she made a gift to me, a fan with some go principles in Japanese, and she tried to explain their meanings. Very kind of her! Then I noticed that my eldest daughter was still playing her tournament match. Even though I had used up almost all of my time, my daughter's time usage was even better. The time settings, i.e. 90 minutes main time, are excellent for me as a slow thinker. That allowed me to ponder up to six minutes on some single moves (especially in the first match). So after the first three rounds I am currently at 2-1, a satisfactory start. Tomorrow will be a day off.
2012-07-26: It seems that Dutch 4-kyus bring me no luck. I had to play another Dutch gentleman, and oddly enough things ran almost the same way as on Monday. In this match it became obvious that I had had too little practice in the last months. We were both fighting for our groups to survive, and the one who brings his group to life would win the match. Unfortunately I overlooked an oiotoshi, so he could connect his group. I fought on and could kill one of his corners, but at the end it was not enough, so he won.
2012-07-27: Beyond the lack of practice the mental exhaustion from the dual burden - go congress and work - becomes noticable. Today I played against a young and quiet Japanese man, and I had actually already won the game, but made a stupid 30k mistake which cost me the game. Since I was completely unfit, I took a day off from work, but I fear that this won't help much for the weekend tournament. I wished the congress were already over - and that after I had been looking forward to it for several years... I am going to sleep now, maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.
2012-07-28: Today there were three matches on the schedule for the weekend tournament, a tough program until late in the evening. My first opponent was a young Italian man, and he seemed to be very strong. Nevertheless I had a chance. I was able to build up a big moyo, but then I made an overplay and he could capture a part of the moyo edge and hence reduce it significantly. An all-or-nothing invasion that I tried at the end was interrupted by the clock. This was the first time that I lost on time. Obviously my mind was still playing in the 90-minutes mode from the main tournament, but at the weekend tournament we only had 60 minutes main time. The clock was squawking incomprehensibly several times before the time was over, so I ignored it after a while. When my opponent pointed out to me that I had lost on time, I knew that I had ignored the clock once too often. But the match didn't look good for me anyway. My second opponent was a young man from Austria. At first the match looked good. After I had built up a huge moyo on the right side I was able to kill his invasion. Then he was able to reduce one of my groups that I had thought to be alive to one eye and suddenly he was leading. Some desperate moves to save it by killing one if his adjacent groups initially failed. But from those moves I could connect some of the stones to another living group, so I reduced some of his area. He then should have cut off my desperate stones, but he had lost the focus on that and forgot to cut, so I was able to save these stones. Then a capturing race started between my initially dead group and his adjacent group that I won by one liberty. Eventually he resigned. My last opponent was a French gentleman. It is widely known that French players in the mid kyu ranges are a few stones stronger than the rest of Europe (maybe except for the Czechs), so I had not much pressure to win that game. This time I was again able to build up a moyo, and remembering the mistake in the morning I defended it patiently. He could cut off a light stone from my invasion and make a large bottom edge. Before the endgame started I counted the game to be even. He could capture three stones of my moyo in gote. I let him have the stones and could reduce two of his areas while enlarging my own. At the end I won by 12 points. That was an exhausting day, but now it's half time at EGC!
2012-07-29: The Sunday started with a lot of sunshine and I felt a bit better than yesterday. My first opponent was again a young man, this time from Russia. The game soon turned out to be an all-or-nothing-kill-or-live game. Again I had started to build up a huge moyo and he started an invasion. I had to kill it in order to win and I chased it over half the board. Finally he was able to live, so I resigned. After the game I felt wo tired that I just wanted to finish the last game quickly. In spite of this the match still became interesting. My opponent was a friendly Japanese gentleman. I was able to kill one of his invasions, but then lost an own invasion in a ko fight. I should have ignored his last ko threat. I thought I had a large enough ko threat to kill another of his invasions, but he ignored and brought his invasion to life nevertheless. After that the game was dominated by reductions. At the end I lost by 12 points. So I went 2-3 for the weekend tournament, just like in the first week of the main tournament.
2012-07-30: Back to the main tournament with 90 minutes main time. Comparing this to 60 minutes which is usual in normal tournaments, it is a huge difference. In all my matches of the main tournament I have used more than one hour. I enjoy having such a lot of time to think. Today's opponent was another Italian gentleman. I got again a large moyo on the right side while my opponent got all the corners, two big ones and two small ones. The two big corners were slightly bigger than my moyo. I had two invasions at the upper and left edge that fought for life. I gave up some edge space on the left and three stones at the top to connect these groups and make some more territory in the center. It was an equal match. At the end I won by just half a point. Phew!
2012-07-31: Today I played yet another Dutch gentleman - a bad omen? Anyway, I was a bit more relaxed than the days before. In the matches before my opponent had played at the neighbouring board several times, so we talked a bit before we started to play. In the beginning it seemed that he wanted to prevent me from building up a moyo since he invaded my san-san at the right side with the second move. Under those circumstances I was able to start the moyo from the top, but my opponent built up one on the bottom left around a similar size. So most of the game happened in the center. Throughout the game he seemed to be leading and I was struggling to catch up. At the end I tried to use some aji of dead stones, but could only get two stones of him. When we counted at the end, it turned out that he had won by eight points. Tomorrow will be a day off. Time to relax.
2012-08-02: The relax time didn't help. I started to feel burnt out again like two and a half years ago after the tsumego program. My opponent this time was a nice and cheerful Swiss lady. She was murmuring a bit during the game in French (but was talking to me in German). I just played my moves without much thinking since there was no way to persuade my mind to play through the moves like in the first three or so matches. I only needed half an hour to think, but since my opponent took all her time until byoyomi, the match still took quite long. In the beginning she invaded my corners so that I was forced to create a big moyo. Then she invaded it. I counted that just defending it would not have been enough so I tried to capture that stone. From that situation a heavy fight broke out, but finally she could escape. At the end she won by about twenty points.
2012-08-03: Today burnout has struck me even stronger, this time against a German lady - my first German opponent in this tourmanent. In spite of the 120 minutes main time that I had (instead of the usual 90 minutes; that's because my opponent this time was a 3k), I just wanted to finish quickly. Since my opponent played quite quickly as well, the game was a very fast one. In about half an hour the whole show was over. After I had messed up a corner I resigned. I thought I could have saved it with the two-stone-edge-tesuji, but then she could connect her stones to some adjacent stones. After all I have to admit to myself: I am weary of playing go.
2012-08-04: How to motivate oneself when the batteries are so low? One motivation was that it was the last match of the EGC. That allowed me to activate some reserve capacity. Another motivation was added to this when I saw the pairings: I had to play an 8k. It would be a bit of a disgrace to lose to someone three stones weaker though I know that my opponent - a German girl who was one of the organizers (or the helpers) - had had a comparingly good performance, also against stronger players. Since she had to do some duties for the organization, our match was delayed around fifteen minutes. This time I tried another strategy: focus on corners and edges and force my opponent to make a moyo. This worked for half the board, for the other I was forced to take the center from a two-space-low-pincer. When she expanded her moyo, I saw no other chance than a deep invasion. That was a risky play, but finally I was able to pull the group out of the catch and start a middle game fight with it. I tried to arrange the fight for the center as complicated as possible with some moves that looked like (but were no) tesuji, and then she made two mistakes which allowed me to take a large part of the center. Then she tried another invasion at the edge, but I managed to kill it. Eventually she resigned.
Dieter: I'm following your blog and have already posted something about the motivation paradox. On the above matter, I think I see the same obstruction as one I observed with a few eternal 6k in our club. In their approach and study of the game, they focus on strategy, like "playing the low Chinese" or "having a territorial style" or "deciding to go for a big moyo". These are great things to vary with and learn about. However, they do not resonate well with the thirst for victory. If winning is what really gives you the goosebumps, then first admit it and secondly look for the most efficient ways to improve your winning percentage. I've written about this in http://senseis.xmp.net/?DieterVerhofstadt%2FBasicLawsOfGamesmanship. Enjoy!
Tapir: I guess the step Sh does announce below (downranking) is the best way to get the winning percentage up in a natural way. Whenever I had these "burnout" syndroms myself, it was because of an overly optimistic self-evaluation (or mistakenly believing you can transfer your strength from one platform to another). You will never be free from the pressure to "prove" your rank by performance and even if you gamesmanly produce an even result, you know full well how you won and you don't gain confidence by this kind of win.
sh: @Dieter, yeah, I remember that previously you had suggested to me to read that page and I had already commented on that. Keeping the rank as an end in itself is not what I had been aiming at. I think the way Tapir describes it hits the nail on the head.
So at the end I played 2-3 three times, the first week, the weekend tournament and the second week of the main tournament. That was the absolute minimum of what I had intended to achieve. Just for fun I compared it to the performance of my fellow German mid-SDK and found that it was a bit above average, so no reason to feel ashamed. However my impression from my previous tournaments that my (self) promotion to 5k was a bit premature, has been confirmed at this tournament. Should I ever play tournaments again, I'd probably start as 6k and will not promote to 5k again until I have reached the full 1600 EGF rating points. But for the time being I am going to take a longer hiatus now.
2012-11-05: I don't know what has befallen me that I had gone to another tournament without having played any game since the end of the EGC. Maybe it was my idea to get back to 5k quite easily before the hiatus gets much longer. Actually I had decided to go after I had asked my children whether they want to go, and two of the three were enthusiastic about it. Since my fighting spirit has decreased since EGC, I planned to go easy on the games and the results this time, unlike the previous tournaments where I took the games very seriously. I wondered how far I could get with this attitude. It was the attitude of someone who has actually given up on improvement, because I think that the most part of my improvement was from playing tournaments and doing the best of my ability. I had applied to the Düsseldorf tournament as 6k, because according to the EGF rating I was between 6k and 7k, but the tournament director chose (silently) to put me back at 5k even though the pairings were done according to the EGF rating. My gut feeling was that my real strength was around 7k. My first opponent was a 7k that I had already played and defeated twice (though only by a huge amount of luck in both games), and after he had chased one of my weak groups along the board, he won the game by 13.5 points. The second game was against a 5k player. I had already played and defeated her once in a previous tournament. The game was a moyo fight, and she seemed to be leading by twenty points. At the end it was much closer though and she won by 1.5 points. My last opponent on Saturday was an 8k player, and like the previous opponent I had once played and defeated her. This time my opponent messed up a fight in the corner and I had a comfortable lead. After that I chased one of her weak groups and was able to kill it. Even if it had lived, I would have won. On Sunday I started with an opponent for whom it was the first tournament. He had started as 8k. The game was balanced until I was able to break into his area and win a center fight. Then he resigned. The last opponent was a 4k who had won only one game so far. Inwardly I had already resigned that match as I thought that 4k is too strong anyway, and the game was accordingly. This time it was my opponent again who chased one of my weak groups. At the end I had the choice whether he could capture that group or whether he could break into my area. So I resigned. The conclusion of the matches was that my gut feeling was right: The 8ks were not too difficult to beat, and the other opponents were stronger than me. When going easy on the games it seems that I am about two stones weaker than otherwise. It was an interesting experience, but I don't think that I want to repeat it, because I think that spending 40 Euros (which includes the fee for my children) without getting any improvement out of it is not worthwhile. For that amount of money I could buy two good go books, and that would be a much better investment. This tournament was the final confirmation for my decision to take a hiatus until my fighting spirit has come back. 2013 will be a year without tournaments for me, and after that only the Almighty knows.
2013-11-11: It has been one year now that I had decided to take a hiatus, so I thought it was time to add a few lines to this blog. I was able to keep up the hiatus, so there were no noteworthy go related activities, except for two events: The first one was in July when I had a phase where I just wanted to play a few online games in order not to get too rusty, so I signed up with a new user on KGS and played. My idea was that I would use this secret user to play some unobserved games, however I only played one day and after that I felt that I had enough again. On that day my rank stabilized at 4k, that's not too bad. The second activity was in August: I ordered another load of go related books, two of the "Graded Go Problems for Dan Players" series (Life and Death, and Tesuji for 5k-3d), and three of "The Heart of Go Discovery Series" (Catching Scent of Victory, Perceiving the Direction of Play, The Way of Creating a Thick and Strong Game). That's a good mix of tsumego, tesuji and commented game records. My plan is that when getting back into go, I want to concentrate on studying, if possible without actually playing games. Actually I like doing tsumego, und even more tesuji, but obviously I had exaggerated that in the past and was too much focused on improvement, so I got hit by burnout. As for replaying/learning pro games I don't have a great deal of experience, but I have heard about some dan players who have said that they have profited from that. Probably it will improve my feeling for good shape, and that's all I expect from that. But before the restart I have to prolong my "unlearn" phase, maybe some more months or years. Until that I will pursue some other activities (e.g. overcome my backgammon trauma from my teenage days and become a decent backgammon player, but that's another story). Apart from the mentioned go activities I had also started some turn based games recently, but a few days after that I regretted that I had started them, so I resigned even though at that time I was neither winning nor losing. One of the opponents mailed me and asked me what was wrong, so I explained to him that it was not his fault and that it had nothing to do with him. There is only one running turn based game that I am playing with my Japanese facebook friend. It turned out that he is about my strength, maybe 1-2 stones stronger than me, so the games are quite competetive. Right now we are at 2-2. In both games that I won, a decisive ko was involved, and when I told him that I like playing ko, he said that around our playing strength he has never found anyone before who liked playing ko. Well, in these games with him I am motivated enough, and motivation is the key for fighting spirit (which I am lacking otherwise).
Not much has happened - until some day in September when I suddenly saw my son and my younger daughter playing some games of go after a long period of (go related) inactivity. They disclosed to me that they would like to play a tournament again. By chance there was a tournament in Düsseldorf the following weekend, which had taken place in November in the last years. Even though I actually didn't want to play, I told the tournament director that I would play as a substitute player ("joker" as we say in German, which seems more apt, at least for me ;-P ) if he cannot find anyone else to complete a pairing. Bad mistake. After the fourth round he came back to me and asked me whether I want to play, and when I told him "no, not if it is not necessary" he said that he would bear that in mind. A few minutes later he came back to inform me that I would play the last round. Aaaaargh - so I bit the bullet. My opponent was a long-time 4 kyu (who started as 5 kyu though), a nice man; I had played both his children when I was a beginner (his daughter who is around the age of my eldest daughter seems to have surpassed him in go strength recently). I don't remember much of the game, but it started quite well, but at last it was a game of the type "failed to win a won game". Never mind, it was a nice game and nice to play in a tournament again, however my hiatus will continue.
As for online go I wasn't able to get Tygem, IGS Pandanet and Wbaduk running on my new laptop (to tell the truth, I didn't try very hard). KGS is unplayable due to missing sound, so all my KGS nicks expired, and my main nick expired once again after re-registering (of course all my KGS friends that had gathered over the years were gone from my friends' list of course - bummer!). There is one small go related activity left: I still play around one or two dozen games every year on BSN. Recently I was experimenting with mirror go, and it seemd that I was able to upset a few dan players who were probably unnerved. Actually I have no idea either how to play with or against mirror go. My idea was to differ from mirroring if the move looked stupid, and it worked in most cases. I really don't know whether my opponents were dan players, but their ratings (2450 and 2350) suggest a dan grade since I know two 1 kyus whose rating are 2250 and 2270 (and my own 2030 which is 5-6 kyu, boosting up to 2170 after the upsets). I feel that I am playing too much again.