Monday, March 31, 2008

Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Tournament

I am really glad I decided not to self promote yesterday at the Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Tournament at the University of Pennsylvania. I had less than stellar performance with a record of 2-2. I lost my first two games and I won my last two. Any movement in my rating is likely to be glacial, and negative, at that. I did enjoy all four of my games, however, and there were interesting things about each of them. I recorded them all, and I will be reviewing them with Mr. Yang at our next lesson on Thursday.

I'll recount the highlights of each game here.

My first game was against an opponent I had played for the first time at the New Jersey Open in February. This time I had white against him. The game was very close. I believe I missed an opportunity to either kill or make seki in the upper left. I will find out for sure on Thursday. At the end of the game I spent an inordinate amount of time counting the board three times to determine if I needed to make a protective move in an area that looked s if it might need it. There were no dame left. Finally I realized that being white I had to either pass a stone or play within my own territory anyway, so the protective move became a no brainer. After we both passed my opponent told me that he assumed I had won, and I told him that if so, it was by no more than 2.5. We counted and saw that I had a 1.5 victory, or at least we thought I did. We approached the desk to report the results only to discover that there had been no komi for white. We were both surprised. So what had been a 1.5 victory turned quickly to a loss. This was a lesson to me to actually LOOK at the pairings rather than just accompany my opponent to our table on his say so. Let me be clear that my opponent had not looked at the komi either, but has also assumed 7.5 for white. There's always something new to learn about how to conduct oneself at a tournament.

My second game was against someone I had played two or three times at the Montgomery Go Club. When sitting down to play, my opponent commented that we are very evenly matched, which we both know to be true. An interesting game was sure to follow. I had black and my opponent had komi. We had both checked to be sure about komi after my earlier surprise. In this game my opponent did hane at the head of two stones after I invaded the lower right corner from a low one space approach to a hoshi stone. I extended to the 2nd line and cut after he extended to the 2nd line as well. My understanding is that this should have been successful, but I may have played it wrong, or the position may have been complicated by an additional white stone. I managed a successful invasion on the top, and did my little "snaking" routine where I managed to reduce one of my opponent's areas. At the end of the game white (with komi) had won by 7.5, so it was a jigo on the board. He would have won by 0.5 without komi anyway so I can't complain.

My third game was against a first time tournament player. He was a gentleman who had learned some lessons at the hands of the children in his first two games. In his first game he learned not to feel compelled to match the speed of opponents whose height does not exceed the bunny's ears at the amusement park. Just because one's opponent is rolling his eyes and acting bored is no reason to pick up the pace. I told him this after that game, and suggested that it is a much better strategy to allow the small children to figgit and look about the room. It breaks their concentration. In his second game he learned that his opponent might not remind him to hit his clock after each play. During our game, unfortunately, in spite of hitting his clock he ran out of time. I felt bad about that, and I would have said something if I had seen it coming, but I didn't notice until the red light on the clock started flashing. And not being familiar with how that clock handles byo yomi I had to call over the tournament director to confirm that time had, in fact, run out. It was sad, but it was a win. It was a close game anyway.

I toyed with the idea of byeing out of the fourth round and going home early since I was doing so poorly, but I was having fun and decided to stay. My fourth game was against a 12k. This time I had to give 2H. This game illustrates dramatically the extent to which I can gain a lead and then proceed to make idiotic mistakes to lose it. In this case, however, the lead was enough to result in a 9.5 victory even after allowing a large dead group to spring back to life. I even allowed a few dead stones to expand their numbers, and to result in a seki. This stole away at least twenty points from my lead. The highlight of that game was the fact that as white I was able to play the last dame by filling the third empty point in the seki, thus avoiding the need to play a stone in my own territory or pass a stone. We both had a good laugh over this. The huge seki made the board much easier to count since there was this vast expanse of stones we didn't have to disturb. :-)

I was actually ashamed of my fourth game, thinking that I did not deserve to win after having made two such huge mistakes. However, a dan player who reviewed it for me last night on KGS told me it was a very good game with advanced life and death reading just before my lapse and very pretty shape for white.

I know I am getting more from my tournament games by reviewing them myself and with stronger players, and by showing them to Mr. Yang. I am remembering more from each game, and I am particularly seeing more life and death situations in my games during the games and in review.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Buzzsaw Fearlessly Plays Five Rated Games In a Row

In keeping with my desire to be more fearless I decided it was time to play some rated games again. So I set up automatomatch on KGS for slow rated games up to 2h, and played five in a row. I watched my rank drop one stone per game up until I won the last game of the five games.

After losing four even games in a row I was not thrilled with having to give two stones of handicap in my fifth game. But I felt considerable better about it when my opponent's first move was to directly contact my first move, which I had played at a hoshi point. I felt as if I might have the conceptual upper hand.

I won that game by 30.5 to solidify my rank at 12k, which is one stone lower than my AGA rating. I feel so normal now, and liberated too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Impressed With The Enthusiasm Of A New Player

On January 28, 2008 I got a phone call from a beginner who lives in New Jersey who found my name and phone number of the AGA web site as the contact person for Wings Across Calm Water Go Club. He was looking for a local go club to attend. I had to tell him that Wings is a virtual club but I helped him register on KGS and played a 9x9 game with him and reviewed it.

I have reviewed some games with him since and helped him a little. I count him as one of my students, but mostly I have watched him play. Because he hurries from one game to the next so quickly he has little time for review, but I enjoy watching him. At first I was not so sure that rushing from game to game was the best thing to do, but I have come to think that the results speak for themselves. He is 16 kyu already, and not long ago he was 21 kyu, which was his first stable rating. At his level it seems that playing a lot without much review seems to be a great strategy for improvment.

What impresses me the most is the way he just plays... plays... plays, and rated too!!!

I looked at his games list today and was surprised to see only three games yesterday. But then I saw he had played 17 the day before, and 14 the day before that. Granted, these were weekend days, but still, that is a lot of games to play in two days.

I would love to recapture that enthusiasm and total lack of fear. Okay, I am not sure I ever had that enthusiasm and total lack of fear, but I did drive through a hurricane in 1970 to play a game of go, so I deserve SOME credit. Perhaps I need to develop that sense of enthusiasm and lack of fear.

If I am lucky I will meet my new go friend who has been so inspiring at the Cherry Blossom tournament at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on Sunday this coming weekend. He would be playing in his first AGA rated tournament if he shows up. And if he enters as a 16 kyu it is conceivable that we might end up playing depending on the field.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NJ Open Games Reviewed With Mr. Yang

During our regular lesson on Thursday of last week Mr. Yang reviewed the first four games of the NJ Open with me. We will review the fifth game of this tournament at our next lesson on the 20th of March.

As much as I enjoy playing a game with Mr. Yang and reviewing it as we usually do in our lessons, I think that I actually enjoy reviewing games I have played with others even more. When Mr. Yang and I play a lesson game together I realize that Mr. Yang is playing in a way to keep the game reasonable. He obviously isn't going to play like a 7p. He sets up opportunities for me to punish him, and other situations which we will review later. When we go over the game he will tell me when I have missed opportunities, and made suboptimal moves. He'll ask for better moves. Sometimes I can find them. However, if I thought a move I had made was okay thrity minutes before, and I had failed to find the right move at that time, there is a good chance I will have a hard time finding it during the review. It is a different story with my tournament games, however. I played the NJ Open games nearly two weeks prior to their review. I went over those games a number of times including during the hours immediately prior to our lesson. I asked myself which moves Mr. Yang would consider slow or unnecessary, and which opportunities I had missed. I had tried to find the moves for which he might want me to seek alternatives. As a result I felt better prepared when I was being asked questions.

Another interesting aspect of reviewing tournament games is that Mr. Yang doesn't know what is coming up in the game. In one case there was a corner situation where Mr. Yang showed me what I should have played assuming that I hadn't played it. Then he realized that he was actually in the main line of play and he said, "Oh you played that."

I got a "wow" (with two exclaimation marks) when I played a corner invasion unlike my usual self.

pala [-]: wow!!
buzzsaw [8k?]: yeah wow is right
buzzsaw [8k?]: not like terri huh?
pala [-]: great forcing move
pala [-]: you are new terri
buzzsaw [8k?]: but I do get a little whimpy in a while

This is the second tournament where I have shared all of the games with Mr. Yang afterwards. I am really enjoying doing this. There is something emotionally risky about it because I have promised myself to show them all... the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain stupid like the moment in which I failed to make an obvious move to create a seki. But the advantage of exposing myself in this way is that it makes me particularly mindful of my play. I know it will come under scrutiny later because I will not allow myself to weed out games that show me in a bad light. I feel safe in doing this because Mr. Yang has known me for so long and I am very comfortable in revealing myself to him. I don't feel the need to hide anything because he is always supportive. I also believe that it is to my advantage as a student for him to see what the flow of a tournament is like for me, even if it isn't pretty. I don't worry that some of my games might not have good analysis potential because I have come to realize that Mr. Yang finds valuable lessons in any game with which he is presented.

We ended our analysis on Thursday with the game where I failed to make seki, my only loss in the tournament. It resulted in the following comments:

pala [-]: oh no.
buzzsaw [8k?]: I resign obviously
buzzsaw [8k?]: end of game
pala [-]: really painful

It's great to have a teacher who understands how you feel.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Four Wins At NJ Open Gets Me 0.06793 Rating Point Increase

I don't really believe in self promotion since I play in tournaments on a regular basis. I would like to think that if I do exceptionally well at a tournament that I could improve half a rating point. My results at the NJ Open, however, prove otherwise. The results are in.

Before the tournament I was rated -11.46300. After the tournament I was rated -11.39507. This is a ratings improvement of 0.06793, less than a tenth of a ratings point. Plus my sigma went down and is now at a low 0.26936. Having a lower sigma should slow things down even more.

Given these results I would expect to break into 10k if I can go 4-1 at my next four tournaments. This just doesn't seem right to me. It isn't that I am in such a hurry to be 10k. I would just like to see results that make sense. Less than a tenth of a point for four wins just doesn't make sense to me. The fact that one of the opponents I won against had self promoted two stones didn't help, and is all the more reason to resist self promotion myself to avoid providing a future opponent with similarly disappointing results.

At the end of the month I will be playing in a tournament at the University of Pennsylvania and will have to decide at what rank to enter. I will probably enter at my AGA rating if for no other reason than to see how small the increase in rating will be if I happen to win all of my games.