May 27, 2015

Hiatus over?

So, I kind of got wrapped up in life and writing about go took a back seat. I am hoping to be more regular from now on.

In the meantime, please enjoy watching me fumble around while trying to stream games. You always hear streamers mention how hard it is to play and communicate at the same time. They are not kidding.

Note: I did not figure out that the sound was off until about 25 minutes in. Whoops. There is a link in the description to the start of the sound.

Note: Some foul language at the end of this one, people with heart conditions might want to avoid the last 10 minutes or so...

January 16, 2015

The Learning Process

Go is a journey, not a destination (lifted almost verbatim from Hikaru no Go :P ). I find that my journey presents a definite pattern with regards to my learning process.

1. Studying:
At the beginning of my learning cycle I rarely play (usually a bad idea) and become obsessed with studying. It feels like I am making huge strides as I solve problems and research strategies. Spirits are high.

2. Despair:
Once I leave the studying phase and begin playing games I quickly learn that the concepts/techniques I studied are difficult to apply in real game situations. Self-loathing sets in and I usually stop playing all together. You can see when this phase sets in because I turn on vacation mode on my OGS account.

3. Burgeoning confidence:
Eventually, I get over myself and start playing games again. After about a dozen frustrating losses I manage to get a handle on the concepts I am trying to integrate into my game. My rank usually improves 1-2 stones over the next, approximately, 20 games.

4. Frustration:
As I reach the limit of my improvement for this particular cycle I become frustrated that I am no longer winning as much. Perfectly natural, but still irritating.

After Frustration, I come, full circle, back to the studying phase. 

I have found it useful to recognize these stages. Particularly the Despair phase. When I see I am coming up on that stage I try to play more games in order to get through it as quickly as possible. I am not always successful, but I get a little better each time.

Really, that's the goal with go. You just need to become a little better every day. Recognizing and understanding your learning process can help you fine tune your approach to learning the game. 

Keep at it! Try to figure out what works best for you. It isn't easy, but few things worthwhile ever are. :)

January 4, 2015

Play a lot of games

It's easy to get sucked in to studying go, but rarely playing. I have this problem a lot. I enjoy the feeling of progress I get from studying, but I tend to ignore playing actual games. So, when I finally get around to playing competitively it turns out that I haven't advanced as much as I thought.

Studying is great, but you need to apply those lessons in competitive situations. In order to get myself playing more games I have joined a league. At the very least, I have to play everyone in my class (E2) over the course of January. I find that I am eager to play extra games, to make sure I am sharp for a competitive league game.

The moral of the story is, play a lot of games. The real world experience of competitive games is an integral part of getting stronger at go.

December 30, 2014

The Snapback Continued

In a previous post, I introduced a very simple example of a snapback in the corner. Here is a classic version of this problem that I found while doing the easy Daily Problems set on the Tsumego Pro app. This is problem 35 in the collection and is a wonderful illustration of the concept.

The problem is set up to walk you through the sequence with some notes on available liberties.

December 28, 2014

The Brilliant Dawn

In Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go Kageyama refers to the snapback as the "brilliant dawn tesuji". Indeed, it is often the first recognizable tesuji for many beginners. The snapback is all about liberties. Specifically, when a captured stone does not provide extra liberties for the capturing group.

Here is a problem that will walk you through a simple snapback example. The key factor is the shortage of liberties. Look for similar situations in your own games. Pulling off a snapback is always satisfying. :D

December 24, 2014

Getting stronger

Studying go can be daunting. Where do you start? What's the best area to study to get stronger?

If you ask a dan player these questions, chances are tsumego will be high on the list. Tsumego helps us learn how to fight. When we understand the vital points of shapes in go, we can not only do damage to our opponent's groups, we can also protect our own groups.

I try to do go problems (I do a mix of tsumego and tesuji problems) every day. About 10-20 minutes in the morning and then whenever I have a few minutes throughout the rest of the day.

For beginners, I highly recommend this set by my good friend Fran├žisa

I use the following apps for Android:

  • Tsumego Pro - Also includes tesuji packs.
  • Tsumego - Interesting because you have to play both sides of the problem. 
  • Go Tesuji - Have to play out both sides of the problem in this app as well.
Personal anecdote: A few months ago I got a review from a dan friend. She told me that my direction of play was quite good, but that I read like a 15k and it was holding me back. Since then, I have dedicated a lot of energy to doing go problems and have seen a definite improvement in my play. My friends at club have even commented on the difference.

You will not see the results right away, but don't be discouraged. It takes time for your mind to absorb the shapes. Stick to it. You will be glad you did.

December 19, 2014

Studying joseki

When I was a beginner I thought that memorizing joseki would make me strong, but that's not how joseki should be studied. When you study joseki you should be mindful of the shapes involved. Each move of a joseki has been carefully considered and decided upon by professionals as the best possible move in that situation.

So, when you are studying joseki, look for the shapes that are made and try to apply them in other aspects of your game. To demonstrate I have made a demo board* that goes over two 3-3 invasion joseki and a problem set* with two problems that take the user through the joseki. Both pay special attention to the hane at the head of two stones.

As always, let me know if you find any issues or have any feedback.

*The demo board and problems were made on the beta site for OGS because we were testing. From here on, they will be made on the main site.