Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Playing Across The Board In Pennsylvania

Sunday I paid my first visit to the Montogomery Go Club, which meets at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania. I wasn't sure if they would have extra go boards so I brought a really light weight set with me. It consists of a set of 6 mm stones in fabric pouches I had bought at a Go Congress and a leather 19 x 19 board which was part of a set I bought from Samarkand. (I have since discarded the bags that came with the set since I prefer the fabric bags.)

This was the first time I played Go across the board in six or seven years except for AGA tournament games. I forgot how much fun it can be, and I intend to do it again soon. Since my mother lives near the club I can combine an overnight visit with my mother with a few games at the club. That is definitely a dual purpose move.

I played two very close games. One of them was an even game that I won by resignation after I managed to set up a double atari. The other game was with an AGA 3 kyu. He had never played on leather before so we used my board. I took six stones and lost that game by 6.5 after getting caught in a shortage of liberties. Before that I was ahead by about five points. So it was a really good game. Since Sunday I have spoken with my 3 kyu opponent online in the Wings Go Club room on KGS a few times and have interested him in playing in the Wings Go Club monthly leagues.

The thing I really enjoyed about playing face to face is that the games stayed with me in a way that online games don't seem to do. I found myself thinking about them over and over again over the course of the next couple of days. It may have been the novelty of it, but it sure felt good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Easy Go Problems

One recommended way of studying life and death is to work with problems that you can solve almost immediately. Up until now I was not able to find problems as easy as that. The closest thing I could find to that level were the first hundred problems in the book "One Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems" from Volume 2 in the "Mastering the Basics" series from Kiseido.

Recently I came across the go problems at The first set of The Korean Problem Academy series are just what I had been looking for. They are rated for 25k to 15k.

Doing these problems sometimes feels like nothing more than seeking the obvious vital point and clicking on it, which is something I'm told that you want to avoid in studying life and death. Upon closer reflection, however, I found that most of the problems were so easy, with sometimes only two or three places a stone could be placed, that I found myself seeing the vital point immediately, yet taking the time to look at the other points and see why they didn't work... all within the space of a few seconds.

It was empowering to rip through those problems and have such success. I'm working on the second set now rated for 15k to 5k. I'll undoubtedly be hitting a wall sometime soon.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Play Slow - Play White

Sometimes you just want to have a slow game online, but have a hard time finding one. I have a strategy for getting all the slow games you want, but you have to be willing to play white.

Here's my method. I put up a game with generous time limits: 45 minutes of regular time with 25 stones in 15 minutes for overtime. Then I wait. I always get a game. And I don't usually have to wait for more than a couple minutes. But I very rarely play black this way. Recently a stronger player took my offer, and I was actually shocked that I got to play black.

Either everyone likes black, or they just want to play stronger players. I think they want to play stronger players.

This is also a good method for getting games if you don't like rejection.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Replaying Shusaku Games With Mom

One of my young online Go playing friends suggested that I replay the games of Shusaku. He worked his way through the book "Invincible", and he credits that with his rise to dan status. I don't expect it to do the same for me, but I figured that it would probably help my sense of shape and wouldn't be a total waste of time given how much time I now have on my hands to enjoy Go.

It was suggested that I play the games out on a real board. Last week I was planning a trip to visit my mother overnight so I packed my go board and took "Invincible" along. As luck would have it I got stuck due to inclement weather and ended up staying for two nights instead of one. With no internet connection I decided to start replaying the games in ernest and got through the first seven games while I was there.

Now for the interesting part... 37 years ago I tried to teach my mother how to play Go. It didn't hook her the way it did me, but then I didn't really know how to teach the game back then. My mother just celebrated her 80th birthday, and works Sudoku puzzles to keep her mind active. Go would serve the same purpose if she were interested in it. Mom was watching me replay the games and started asking questions. I suggested that she play with me and take white since I was still enough of a child to want to be the young Shusaku. We played out one of the games looking for the next moves on the diagrams. In local situations where continuations were fairly obvious Mom could anticipate the moves and we talked about them.

We enjoyed our game together, and I actually think it might be time to teach Mom how to play on a small board. Back when I tried to teach her I didn't even know that boards smaller than 19 x 19 existed and I didn't know any other way to teach than to give a nine stone handicap after explaining about two eyes.

I have decided to take the review of the Shusaku games off the real board while I am at home and do them with Smart Go since there are over 400 Shusaku games in the collection. I am using the automatic replay feature at 3 second per move, which gives me enough time to try to anticipate the next move locally or to at least anticipate a tenuki.