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Getting frustrated by playing strong players [#2992]

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reply Getting frustrated by playing strong players (2014-03-25 21:18) [#10013]

Hello fellow go-players.

I've been playing go for about 1,5 year now, my current rank is approximately 14 kyu, and I regularly play at our local go club. All the other guys there are about 1 kyu, and I have been getting more and more frustrated by the difference in strength lately. I lose most of my games, against some players even with 9 stone handicap. I realize that you learn by every game you lose, but sometimes I think that by playing stronger players so much, I feel like I'm being asked to see things on the board that are simply out of my scope (at least for now). I think my understanding of the game is slowly improving (for instance, I get better at solving problems) but this doesn't seem to pay off against my club-mates. Players of about my own strength are simply not around where I live. I play online sometimes but for some reason, my playing there is sloppy and awful, getting me more upset about losing. Is there anyone who recognizes the frustration when the only players you are able to play against are much stronger that you? And any ideas if it is "wise" to keep on playing against them, or maybe it would be better to concentrate on playing less stronger players online? This is really beginning to eat away at my love for the game itself, so I'm prepared to make a change in my go-playing. I just don't know what route to take... Any suggestions are more that welcome!

Kind regards, Gerard from Holland

HermanHiddema: Re: Getting frustrated by playing strong players (2014-03-25 23:55) [#10015]

It takes almost superhuman patience to lose every game and keep at it. Of course you learn a lot from losing, but never winning wears you down. I have some suggestions:

  1. Visit tournaments. Most tournaments have some players in the 10-20k range, and it will be a timed game on a real board, so you'll probably be able to play better than in your online games. Next up are Hilversum (1 day, 5 games, 30 minutes sudden death), Groningen (2 days, 5 games, 1 hours + 20s byoyomi) and Apeldoorn (1 day, 5 games, 30 minutes sudden death).
  2. Visit other clubs. The Netherlands is relatively densely packed with clubs, surely there's some places within an hours travel? If you let them know you're coming in advance, they can probably make sure that some of their own weaker players are present. If you're willing and able to come to Groningen, I'll make sure there are some players around 15k there.
  3. Play turn-based games. I don't know what online server you've tried, but there are several that allow turn-based play (e.g. OGS or DGS). With thinking times of about 1 day per move, you can relax and focus on the game without time pressure. That might work better than other online servers.
  4. Find new players for your club. This is hard, but it can be very rewarding. If you need help with organizing, promoting and running a beginner course, feel free to contact me!

Now if you are the Gerard I think you are, from Salland, then I have some good news in this respect. At the last Salland tournament here was a passer-by who got interested. He taught himself to play via internet and visited the Nijmegen tournament (where he registered as club Salland). He visited us in Groningen yesterday, because we're currently doing a beginner course, which he found out about via our site. He's very enthusiastic, and is planning to visit again next Monday when the course continues. If you're interested, I can ask him to contact you. Re: Getting frustrated by playing strong players (2014-03-26 08:02) [#10017]

Herman, thank you very much for all the feedback. I'm indeed from Salland, I suspect the newcomer you mention is King. I already played against him. And lost. On 13x13 with him getting 5 stones, but still. I will keep your suggestions in mind though. Taking a little break from the game seems to do me some good; I'm a little less negative about the games than a few weeks ago. Kind regards, Gerard

HermanHiddema: Re: Getting frustrated by playing strong players (2014-03-26 09:00) [#10020]

Yes, I was refering to King indeed. 5 stones on 13x13 is a lot, that's the equivalent of more than 9 stones on 19x19. And of course, as a 14 kyu, you're not used to giving handicap much. Anyway, you can just keep adjusting the handicap with each game. If he wins, you give one stone less.

tapir: ((no subject)) (2014-03-25 23:46) [#10014]

I would worry about learning the important things and forgetting the unimportant ones or even better don't worry and just enjoy your games. If you enjoy, you will keep playing and trying new things, which means you will improve while enjoying yourself. Rank will follow eventually. Just do not fear your enemies, review your games and ask for reviews and ask questions in the club or here. Also keep in mind, many players at 1 kyu are in fact pretty frustrated with their Go, unlike you they have lost the feeling that their understanding is improving long ago, and often this shows in the way they play handicap games. Be gentle with them. Personally I was always thrilled playing permanent matches against other players, in particular stronger ones, where the handicap changes after three consecutive wins.

If you are really upset and frustrated watch that brat Hikaru improve at Go or replay professional games, especially those of young professionals who try out all kind of crazy stuff, at least this is what works for me :)

Best Tapir

X Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 08:03) [#10018]

Thank you! I especially like the "be gentle with them" part!

Slarty: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 04:41) [#10016]

My two cents: it seems like you are in a trap, and although this may be formed partly from your own comfort zone and preconceptions about the game, from some points of view it would be wise to escape. The correct handicap against these guys is 13 stones, or 9 with a reverse komi of roughly 40 points. So as a matter of fact, it's no surprise you lose 9 stone games. The crucial thing is how you deal with that expectation. The best improvers focus on the many individual, tangible mistakes and exchanges that happen move by move, to as great an extent as their brand of human attentiveness allows. The end score is actually one of the vaguest items of feedback you can get (along with any abstractions a 1k might half-understand and try to mention in the review), without the context of what happened in the game itself. For example, for a while as soon as you make progress the stronger player will adapt the style of their moves to brutally educate you - even when white endeavors to be a fully honest player the myriad of kinds shapes is an inevitable result of the game of Go.

Don't dwell on the expected result, because if you treat your handicap stones as already worthless, that is what they will tend to eventually become. There is some correct handicap or "par" from which you can, theoretically, play a comfortable game, and learn while being in a plane wreck of neither game-theoretic situation or emotion. But, you would be in good company if you continued to find that situation, repeatedly, too overwhelming to get the most out of. The key for everyone is getting lots of little moments of definite clarity - tesuji problems, simple life and death that you can solve one by one and dozens in a session. 9x9 and 13x13 go, and variants like the shape game. Variety can be a great tool at any level. If your club mates were not absolutely pleased to play Go on a "small" board something is wrong - there can be a lot of similar angst around shodan, but it's completely irrelevant to the actuality of the game, so don't let it rub off on you.

X Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 08:10) [#10019]

I suggested to play with f.e. 13 handicap stones, but there seems to be a lot of resistance against that, as if it ruins the game and asks the impossible of the stronger player. But at the same time, I feel like I'm being asked to do the impossible time and time again. The guys at the club are really nice guys, but I just don't seem to get the message across that, for me, it is important to actually come up with a plan once in a while that actually works. Just to be able to see some things on the board that your opponent doesn't see, even once in a while, is simply the kind of reward that I sometimes need. Thanks for you feedback! Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 10:50) [#10023]

They may be nice guys but they're missing the point of a 9 stone handicap. It is meant for teaching and not as a challenge for the stronger player. I tend to agree that 13 stones is too much, not for the stronger player but for the weaker player to get something meaningful out of a potential win. If the gap is this wide, it usually means you are missing basic technique and this should be exercised on 9x9 or 13x13, games that end sooner, thus providing more frequent feedback.

Keeping the handicap such that the stronger player still has a high winning probability is really not nice at all. Not helping a beginner to improve is not nice either. It seems there's a dagger hidden in the smile. Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 11:46) [#10024]

In their defense: I believe they are trying to help me improve, but they take a route that is simply not working for me. I don't think there's a dagger behind the smile on purpose. Not giving enough stones to me because it makes their chances of winning too small in their view, is something I recognize though, and something that I have addressed regularly. The result is that it gives the impression that I want to win myself no matter what. And all I want is play games where I can understand what happens, and where I can put into practice all the little things I learn by playing, watching, studying etc.

tapir: Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 21:21) [#10028]

honestly, i refuse higher handicap than 9 as well. i just have no clue for any reasonable plays as white with more than 9 stones on the board. even with 9 stones, every move feels like an overplay already.

however, i try to play a teaching game (where a loss can be attributed to a limited number of mistakes and explained later), not to intimidate the beginner into messing up.

reply ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 10:31) [#10021]

Hi Gerard

I have the feeling you are "psyching yourself down". When starting your 9H game against the 1 kyus, you are probably reminded about all the previous losses and cringe at the sight of those blood thirsty 1 kyus who smack their lips for another massacre. You don't deserve this attitude, not from yourself or the 1 kyus. You should "psyche yourself up" and say "I can beat these guys".

That is just a mental preparation. Of course you need some plan too and here is what I recommend:

With 9 stones handicap, your opponent will spread his resources, while yours are already globally connected.

  1. Make sure his troops stay disconnected on a large scale
  2. Keep your troops connected on a large scale, in the process; this should not be too difficult since you have many supporting stones around the board
  3. Surround your opponent's groups and reduce them to a small area

Note that I didn't mention territory a single time. Neither did I mention kill. Territory is a distraction for most beginners and focusing on it loses track of all the important principles mentioned above. It is also not necessary to kill a single group. Allowing White to live small will usually suffice in a 9H game. Of course, when you see a good kill with confidence, there's no reason to let it go. When surrounding, cutting and reducing the opponent's groups, opportunity will present itself and you may see a kill that he overlooked. But chasing an improbable kill will lure you into the traps of stronger players: they'll escape, cut your own troops and eventually kill them.

Also note that this triplet is just a starter for "good go". It's a good strategy for a 9H game and what you need now is a win to get some confidence.

It requires some consciousness to apply the above and stay away from your usual habits of "making" or "defending" territory, or letting your own groups surround and scramble for life. But the fact that you've always been losing should keep convincing you to play differently. Keep doing the same things and you will keep losing. Now psyche yourself up and say: I'm going to play differently this time and I will win.

When you've played such a game, and perhaps still lost, send it to me at dieter punt verhofstadt apestaart gmail punt com.

X Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 10:31) [#10022]

Thank you Dieter! Your feedback means a lot. I have decided to pick up playing after I come back from a well-earned holiday with partner and dog ;) That would give me a break of about a month, I think that will help me to detach from the negativity that has been building up. Of one thing I am sure: I still love the game very much. Hope to return to the go ban with good spirit soon!!! And once again: thank you...

kb: Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 16:11) [#10025]

Excellent advice.

tapir: Re: ((no subject)) (2014-03-26 21:17) [#10026]

... or send it to gtl.xmp.net then you get a random reviewer - quite a few people who answered here are there as well. (just to advertise that great page which hasn't had sufficient exposure lately)

pashley: Play against computer? (2014-04-02 19:05) [#10032]

I sympathise; I spent several years without winning more than the occasional game and found that quite frustrating; see RankInChina.

Consider playing at online GoServers -- the larger ones are almost certain to have players around your level -- or playing against computer programs. I'm somewhere around 10-12 kyu. I spent a while playing a lot at 9x9 against Gnu Go mostly for tactics practice; it was good enough to punish many of my blunders. At first I was taking three stones and mostly losing, eventually got down to zero with many wins. Now I'm playing it a lot at 19x19 with three stones and starting to win.

I suspect this might be almost useless to dan players since the available programs are not strong enough, but at your level or mine it seems to make sense.

Polama: Study your 4-4 joseki (2014-04-02 20:47) [#10033]

If you play only 4+ stone handicap games, you only need the 4-4 joseki, and those are fairly simple compared to 3-4 or 5-3, so it's something you can focus on and learn a lot of quickly. Most joseki dictionaries also feature refutations of common overplays, which you'll see at 9 stones.

Don't just study the simple continuations, the complex ones are actually better for you in this situation. With 9 stones you want to "run out the clock". If a 20 move sequence gives you roughly even results, that's 20 moves down without any major blunders.

In general, the advice is not to memorize and play joseki by rote, and I agree with that. But in a case like this, it can be a quick way to 'punch above your weight' and have a chance against stronger players in high handicap games. Then you can round out your game and put away an over-reliance on joseki from a more comfortable position of winning at least occasionally.

X Re: Study your 4-4 joseki (2014-04-20 03:00) [#10055]

I would disagree with this, but not entirely. I think you should know the general responses to corner approaches to a 4-4 point but you shouldn't study joseki yet, but rather learn fighting principles. Yilun Yang has some great books on the subject. If you have a general idea of the principles of fighting you'll do better than if you try and memorize sequences, especially at your level. Players you play will not play joseki moves consistently and then all the memory in the world will leave you still confused as to how to capitalize on what should be a mistake on his part.

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