Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My 4k? Rank

I failed.

I failed in meeting my goal to play seven games this week.

I failed because I played a game last night fully expecting to lose that game to become a 6k without a question mark after my rank. If I had lost that game I would have cheerfully gone on to play the remaining three games I needed to meet my goal of seven rated games for the week and I would have probably finished the night as a 6k or a 7k.

However, I am now 4k with a question mark because I won what should have been the first of four games last night, but which turned out to be the ONLY game last night.

It was a typical game for me. BenGoZen ran into me on the server and clicked through the game to take a look at it. I played the Chinese Opening as I often do as black. Ben said that it was a peaceful game, and that I managed to hold my lead well. I told him that it is typical for my games to be peaceful unless my opponent complicates things. That is fine as long as one is ahead, and in this game I believe I was. I told BenGoZen the story of how I earned the name buzzsaw by fighting back with a vengeance when someone complicated a game. My opponent called me "Lady Buzzsaw" and I liked it.

Here is the board position at the end of the game that earned me my 4k? rating:

Look at that huge black moyo.

The lesson that I took away from Ben's analysis of my game was that it might have been better to sacrifice the two stones at n14 and o14 rather than run with the group the way I did.

My rank graph won't start adding data points again until I get rid of that question mark, which is motivation enough to do so. I know it is hard to see the green line on the chart below, but it starts up at 5k over a year ago, and for about nine months it hangs in there at 8k. My graph has the peaks and valleys that come from playing just enough rated games to keep my rating active, usually with the 6k rank bot, who is a reasonable player. This is the pattern that I want to break now.

I should have played the remaining three games I needed to meet my goal, but I am weak. When I told Ben I wanted to leave the rank in place for a day or two he understood and told me that I need not be in a hurry, so I feel okay about my decision.

Perhaps later today or tomorrow I will lose the rated game I must lose to stabilize my rank. I will definitely play it soon. I should probably play it before my lesson with Yilun Yang on Thursday. I wouldn't want to set up any unrealistic expectations by presenting him with that crazy 4k? rank. It would be much better if I had settled in at 6k by the time my lesson rolls around.

Monday, November 10, 2014

See This Problem Again In 120 Days

Today when I was doing my problem for the Training System from Guo Juan's Internet Go School I had a problem that I had seen often enough, and I found easy enough, that I would not see it again in 120 days. That's pretty cool.

I have my share of problems that I must click the "forgotten" button for. Don't get me wrong. I don't remember everything. But when you remember something well enough not to have to see it again for 120 days it feels good.

I love the big pig's snout.

I've had an incredibly busy week because I picked up my new MacBook Pro last Tuesday, so I missed a couple days of problem training, but the system allows for that.

I need to play some games today. In order to meet my goal for playing seven rated games this week I must play four games before tomorrow morning. I will probably sit down and play them all at once in the evening.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

My 5k? Rank

I wanted to preserve the memory of my brief time as a 5k on KGS, even if it was as a 5k with a question mark attached.

I ran into my good go buddy, Charles, on the server this morning. We spent a little time looking at the last few moves of the final game I played yesterday. It was a shameful game during which I allowed my opponent to gain a 50 point lead. The game was over and there was really nothing to do. But I saw a weakness, and I made a few plays to try to exploit it. I was successful. 

He resigned, but Score Estimate shows me ahead by over 20 points when he resigned. That means that my desperate plays created a 70 point swing in the game. He had a huge moyo, which I destroyed.

If you are interested in seeing the game you can find it easily on my KGS Analytics page for the games I played yesterday. Just click on the third game. It is the one with popo.

I played horribly in this game, and I know it. It is not a game to be proud of. I just managed to pull something off at the end. That always feels fine.

Charles asked me if I was getting over my playing phobia. I told him that I was feeling a lot better about it. Charles shared his secret with me. He said that the real secret is not to care. I think he is right.

Just to make it easy to see what happened at the end of this game, here is a screen shot of the board before I started to make trouble. Look at that huge black moyo.

And here is a screen capture of how the board looked at the time of resignation.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I Played Three Rated Games Today

It was my plan to play a few rated games and get a real rating again.

I played a game and won it. That made me 7k?

I played another game and won that one too. That made me 6k?

Then I figured I would play one more game and lose it, and I would have a real rating. How could I beat a 6k player?

I had a lost game. Everything was going according to plan, and then at the end I tried to complicate things, and my opponent resigned.

So now I am 5k? and I am REALLY afraid to play, so I stopped for the night. I'll play again tomorrow, but I just had to stop for the night. The last game I played was played way too fast and it was kind of funny.

Monday, November 03, 2014

I Want To Play Like Charles

Some of us study more than we play, and some of us play more than we study.

I have a go buddy named Charles who plays a great deal. He will review a game with me if I am online when he has finished, especially if I tell him I want to look at something in the game. We will go over the game record together sometimes, but mostly he tends to move on to the next game rather quickly.

Charles and I are like Jack Sprat and his wife. We are opposites.

While Charles plays a lot, I don't play much at all I'm afraid, except for my biweekly lesson games with Yilun Yang, 7p. That's not the way to get stronger.

I want to be more like Charles. His name on KGS is "chaslayton". Look at his playing record.

Today he played 15 games and is now working on game number 16 as I write this post. Yesterday he played 11 games, and the day before that he played 12 games.

When I told Charles today that I wanted to play like him he said, "Oh you mean too fast and when you are tired?" I laughed and said, "No. I mean without fear."

So as of today I am officially adding to my study routine the following: I will play seven rated games each week. I will play without fear just like Charles, only maybe a little more slowly. This will average to one game per day, but I am going to probably play those games in one or two sittings. They will be rated games. That is the whole idea of playing without fear. Of course, we can fear playing free games too. We can fear looking foolish, rated or not.

When I logged on to KGS today I found a message from Charles. It appears below.

I think the time is now. I've got between now and next Tuesday morning to play my seven rated games.

Friday, October 24, 2014

An L Shape Problem

Diagram A
Problem Starting Position

This is a problem from the "Corner Shapes 5A - L shape" lecture from the Guo Juan Internet Go School. I watched the lecture recently and added the problems from the lecture to my Training System problem set.

Today this problem was presented to me again. The last time I had seen it was a week ago. Today I (white) solved this problem easily beginning with a stone at A3. Black answered at A4, and I (white) threw in at C1.

I was rewarded with the information that my answer was correct, but rather than move on quickly to the next problem I took a little extra time with this one.

Diagram B
Problem Ending Position

Looking at the final position I said to myself, "I believe it is dead. I am sure that the reason the system tells me this is the correct answer is this that no matter what black tries next, white will be able to stop him from making life. But I want to see what happens if black continues to play." 

One of the nice things about the Training System is that it allows you continue to add stones to the problems even after they are solved. This is particularly nice for weaker players, such as myself, who need to see stone-for-stone what might be obvious to a stronger player.

In my first attempt to help black I played a stone at B1. The obvious white response was to play at A2 to take away black's opportunity to make a second eye by playing there himself. Black is obviously dead after this. Even I do not need to see anything more. 

Diagram C
First Attempt At Living

That entire sequence was easy for me to visualize without putting stones on the board. But was there more that black could try? Yes, there was.

Starting again from Diagram B my next attempt to help black involved playing a stone for black at A2. This was a much trickier move. The correct white response required much more reading this time. I extended the initial throw in by adding a stone at B2. Even if black take at A1 white can throw in at C1 to prevent black from making a second eye with a play at that point. I can visualize this sequence too, but it is harder.

Diagram D
Second Attempt At Living

So if I ever find myself in black's position in Diagram B, I would try playing at A2 before I would try playing at B1. I would also hope that my opponent's reading skills are not up to par.

By the way, there is one other internal move that black might make at A1, but it isn't worth considering because white doesn't even need to respond to it. If black plays A1 in Diagram B he dies in gote.

This problem was actually easy for me, but I rated it as "good" because I wanted to see it again sooner than 37 days from now. I'll see it again in 26 days.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Looking Back at My First Go Congress

In the past few weeks I have been avidly reading a great go blog, BenGoZen. Recently Ben did an in depth, day-by-day report on his experiences at the New York City Go Congress this year. You can find the first post in that series here.

This was Ben's first congress. I was really impressed with the extent to which he documented his experiences and the detail he provided in his daily posts. It not only makes me want to do something similar next year, but it also sends my thoughts wandering back to my own first congress, which was markedly different from Ben's primarily because of the disparity in our level of experience at the time of our first respective Congresses.

This post is for Ben primarily, who is interested in hearing about what it was like for me, but also for anyone who would like to hear about a first time congress experience.

I don't have pictures from the Congress so this will be pure text.

Background Information

It was 1997. I was 44 years old. I'd played my first game of go at the age of 17, but I had not been able to play more than a handful of games until 1996 when I discovered that I could play on IGS. It opened a whole new world for me that I had only suspected existed. I quickly touched base with a few AGA members on both IGS and NNGS. A real life affiliation had landed me at the Highland Park Go Club because the AGA assigned Robert Muldowny, then 2 kyu as my go mentor. He came over to my house to play a game of go with me. After that I ended up frequenting the Highland Park Go Club with regularity. That landed me at my first go workshop with Yilun Yang, 7p in the Summer of 1997 right before the Lancaster Go Congress. The Yang workshop was hosted by Don DeCourcelle, also from the Highland Park Go Club.

Heading Out to Lancaster

The Go Congress was at Millersville State College near Lancaster. I have no sense of direction whatsoever so it took a lot of courage on my part to head out alone without a cell phone. I only knew two people who would be at the congress. I knew Chuck Robbins in person because I had met him at the Yang Workshop, but I didn't know he would be at the Congress. I knew Evan Behr from playing online with him on IGS. He had encouraged me to come to the Congress. So I really thought I was only going to know one person at the congress.

Arrival and Getting to Know a Few People

I arrived the night before the congress started because Evan assured me that I wouldn't be the only one who would, and I wasn't. Evan greeted me and introduced me to Sam Zimmerman. I believe that Chuck Robbins was on hand as well that night. I helped them to stuff bags, and volunteered to help out at the registration table the next day. I was such a joiner in those days. There was an elderly 2 kyu player named Charles French who was helping out as well. He was on the lookout for a Pair Go partner. His long time partner, Polly Pohl, was moving on to greener pastures, as she had found herself a 6 dan, and was seriously competing to win the Pair Go competition. I had no idea that as a female 16 kyu my pair go partnership would be quite a hot commodity. Charles clearly took advantage of my lack of experience, and got a commitment from me before I knew what I was giving away.  I might have saved myself for a stronger player, had I only known.

Meeting More People Throughout the Week

I am sure that I met more people at my first congress than I am going to mention here. In some cases I am just not sure if I met them at a later congress, so I will only mention people who I am certain that I met at that time.

I met Matt Lecin a 9 kyu, who like myself, had the bad luck to play many under rated children at the congress. We commiserated and went on to become fast friends.

I met Keith Arnold who helped me flesh out a song I was working on. When I found out how rare women players were at the Congress, rarer then than now I believe, I had been inspired to write a song about it.  I had brought my guitar with me and I started working on the song Friday night using an original tune from a song that I had written myself. I subbed in words relevant to the pair go event to create the song.  The entertainment for Saturday night had bailed and Sam Zimmerman asked me to sing at the Opening Ceremony. So I made short work of completing the song with Keith's help.

I met Larry Gross who was the Chapter Coordinator of the AGA. At that time Ing would provide equipment for the Congress, and it would be distributed to clubs at the end of the Congress. Just before the congress ended I ponied up my $35.00 to form the Wings Across Calm Water Go Club, and I went home with six Ing boards and six sets of Ing stones. Evan Behr had given me a fan for helping him during the week by knocking on his door to wake him every morning. (He'd forgotten an alarm clock.) Evan had won the fan in a previous tournament. Evan and I asked someone what the fan said, and they told us it read, "Wings Across Calm Water". I have a sneaking suspicion now that we did not hear him correctly, and it may have actually read "Winds Across Calm Water", which makes a lot more sense when you think about it. Be that as it may, Wings Go Club was born, and it existed for at least a year as a high school go club before it became famous as the first virtual chapter of the AGA with many active members and it's own room on KGS at a time when KGS was just getting started.

I met Bob Felice who introduced me to a piece of technology called the Palm Pilot on which he was recording his tournament games.

I met Gus Garcia who was selling sheets of stickers with numbers on them which people were using to record their tournament games by peeling off the stickers and attaching them to a paper kifu. Lots of people were using them, including me. This would have been a big technological leap if it had not been for the Palm Pilot. As it was, the stickers ended up being a technological stumble of sorts. It was a good product, but its time was going to be short lived. I asked Gus about a discount on a box of 500 sheets of go stickers because I liked them so much. He was willing to let me have a box for $400.00, which was a 20% discount over purchasing the sheets individually. But I took a good hard look at the Palm Pilot, which for the same cost, could do so much more. It was no contest. I bought the Pilot immediately after returning from the Congress. I no longer needed stickers, and a long love affair with small devices had begun leading me eventually to the Tablet PC, and then to the iPad, and eventually to the iPhone.

I met Polly Poll whose decision to change partners in the pair go competition had born fruit. She and her partner became the American pair go champions that year, and went on to represent the AGA at the international pair go competition in Japan.

Accommodations and Food

I stayed in the dorms. There was no air conditioning and it was a very hot week. I rented a fan for the room, and I survived. It was actually quite nostalgic to be in a standard dorm room again. I spent my first two years of college in a room like that at West Chester State College. One of the high points for me was when one of the Japanese female players told me in the hallway that she thought I was a college student. I guess I still had it "going on" at 44.

The food in the cafeteria was actually quite good.

The Bob High Song Competition

I had to write something and enter it, of course, being a serious song writer. I chose a song by the Beatles called "Gotta Get You Into My Life" and composed new lyrics for it. It was called "Gotta Get Two Eyes and Make Life." I didn't even get honorable mention, but Bob Felice, the editor of the AGA Song Book, told me at a much later congress that he remembered my entry, and particularly liked my refrain:

Ooooooh, then you kill with a placement.
Ooooooh, such horrendous abasement,
Every single place on the board.
Gotta get two eyes and make life.

How many times do you see the word "abasement" in a song?

The Main Event

The 1997 US Go Congress,  the US Open, was my first tournament EVER. I had played relatively fews games over the board, and I had never used a clock. I was a total novice, and I did not know what to expect. Evan told me he thought I was a 10k. Yilun Yang had declared me a 16k. I think Yang was right, but no one had taken into account the extent to which I would fall victim to tournament anxiety, especially after spiraling into a series of defeats as white at the hands of under rated children. I was unfamiliar with playing as white, and I had no "loyalty" to the white stones at all. After I started to take lessons with Yang in early 1998 there was a period of time when he made me play white in our lesson games more often than he had me play black. I think he was trying to get me to establish a sense of loyalty to the white stones.

My first game was with a child who had a reputation as a sandbagger. I fell into his pace, which was fast even for me, and I lost quickly. I resigned that game. I was okay with it. I figured I would win one eventually if I was properly rated. It turns out that I was not.

I proceeded to play white except for one game as black. I lost every game up through my fifth game in the US Open. My games were mostly with under rated children, but I didn't know that. My fifth game was with a young girl whose IGS rating was 26 kyu. Her father was a go teacher and recommend that his students use their IGS ratings when registering at tournaments. He wanted them to have a good experience. They usually did. What bothered me was that he should have known better. This girl demolished me on the board. Afterward I actually cried in the ladies restroom after that game. The only thing that brought me out of the ladies room was that I had left my fan behind at the table and wanted to retrieve it before it walked away. I wasn't sure I ever wanted to play in a tournament again. I told the tournament director that I requested a bye for the last round of the US Open.

I showed up in the playing area for the final round anyway. I figured that I would observe. Chuck Robbins came to me and begged me to play. It was twenty minutes into the game and there was a little boy sitting without an opponent. It was his first Congress and Chuck didn't want him to go without an opponent. I told Chuck, "I'll do it for you." I sat down and we put four handicap stones on the board for the little 20 kyu. I was hardened by then, and I didn't give a crap anymore. I gave it my best shot, and I beat him too, probably because I didn't care.

Having one victory allowed me to come away from my first Congress with a rating. I was a 19 kyu. I think it was fairly accurate, at least based on the tournament anxiety I had built up, and still suffer from.

Other Events at the Congress

I think I played in the 9x9 tournament.

I don't remember how my partner and I did in the Pair Go Competition, but I know we did not win our table. We may have won one of our games. We went on to partner for at least one more year. Then Larry Gross and I partnered in San Francisco.

I don't think I played in the Die Hard, but I think I did play a couple of Self Paired games during the week.


I suffer from tournament anxiety to this day based on my bad playing experience at my first Congress, and I am left with an irrational fear of children. In spite of that, though, I had a wonderful Congress. I had a great time overall, and I soldiered on in the US Open in spite of my difficulties up through the 5th round.

If I met you for the first time at the 1997 Lancaster Congress, and I did not mention your name please leave a comment below. It isn't that I've forgotten you. It's just that I wasn't sure it was Lancaster where we first met.