Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Guo Juan's Internet Go School Training System

Anyone who has visited Guo Juan's Internet Go School knows that she has hundreds of audio go lectures. You can rent them individually for a month at a time, or you can subscribe for a year of unlimited viewing. I think the year subscription is the way to go. I have subscribed in the past, and I have always had the best of intentions about watching and learning. The content is great and I always start off strong. It is hard, however, to stay focused especially if you are a weaker player life myself. I didn't feel as if I was retaining the information the way I should. As a result I allowed my subscription to lapse about a year ago.

Now the team over at the Internet Go School has come up with a way to help all of us commit their great content to memory using a new Training System. The system is based on a learning technique called spaced repetition which is applied to problem sets created to reinforce the content of the individual lectures. There is a new link called Training System where you can read up about this and experience the system free for yourself before you choose to subscribe. There are two free lectures with problem sets that you can try. This is enough to give you the experience of the Training System.

I tried the samples and subscribed to both the lectures and the training system the same day. That was August 28th. It's been over a month, and I'll tell you about my experience. You can see my statistics below:

I have enjoyed doing the problems and have fallen into a routine of completing them very early in the day. My usual routine is coffee, problems, breakfast. Then I get on with the rest of the day. They say it takes 30 days to ingrain a new habit. I can tell you that this study habit has become firmly ingrained because I not only enjoy my problem sessions, I crave them.

Within days I found myself watching more audio lessons than I ever would have imagined. I wanted to keep adding to my problem set. Of course, I'll only be presented with so many new problems per day, but I have nearly 1,000 problems in my set now.

You can see in the upper right of the above image that I have 931 problems enabled, 657 of which have not yet been presented to me. New problems are fed to you each day, and you can change the speed at which they come to you, but doing so might be overwhelming, so I have left the default parameters in place, trusting the system, and being patient.

I quickly got used to rating the problems. I like how the system moves problems that are easy farther back for review. I have some problems that won't show up again for over 40 days because I remember them each time they are presented. Above you can see that if I found this problem easy it would not appear again for 43 days. If I had forgotten it I would see it again in ten minutes.

I love that the problems appear in random quadrants, and in relatively random order. The color of the stones also changes. This ensures that it is the problem itself you are remembering by way of the configuration of stones, not the orientation on the board or the stone color.

Below you can see the lectures that I have watched in the past month since resubscribing to the audio lectures.

Yes. That is a total of 69 lectures viewed so far in about a month since resubscribing.

I'm retired, so aside from a little cleaning and cooking I can devote all of my energy to quilting and studying go, so the number of lectures I have watched is high. I specifically wanted to keep up with the Joskeki for Beginners series, and the new Life and Death series.

What I am finding is that I am clicking the forgotten button more often than I would like on some of my earlier problems, especially in the Joseki series. My intention is to replay those lectures again to gain a better understanding of the context of the problems. I could stop watching new lectures right now and still have new problems coming to me for quite some time, so I can afford to go back and view lectures for a second or even a third time.

I know that the Training System is enriching my love of the game. That's what it is all about for me. Using this system is the first step in the creation of a study plan for myself which I will add to over time. I highly recommend this system to any go player. It is a great way to become familiar with joseki and to review basic principles.

Aside from creating new lectures with problem sets, Guo Juan and her team are adding problem sets to existing lectures. In addition to that, the Step By Step Course is being totally revamped.

Thanks to Guo Juan and her team for a great new resource in the Training System.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Getting Two Moves in a Row

In the game of go the players alternate moves, playing black or white respectively. You can't get two moves in a row in the game of go, or can you?

Actually, you can, but your opponent has to make a mistake first. Both last year and this year during one of my US Open games I had an opponent play out of turn. It was my turn and my opponent placed a stone on the board. I'm not going to mention any names here, from last year or from this year, because that isn't important. Also, it could certainly happen to anyone. I will report, however, what I did in each case.

Last year when my opponent played out of turn I was shocked and started waving my hands and saying it was my turn, but it was too late, and the stone ended up on the board any way .  I had no clue whatsoever what to do about it. My opponent and I talked about it. I assumed that if I called over a TD that my opponent would lose the game right then and there, and that seemed like too severe a punishment to mete out. If we had been playing according to Japanese rules I think that is exactly what would have happened. As it was, I took pity on my opponent and decided to let it slide. The stone came off the board and the game continued. I was a little unsettled by the experience, and I lost that game by 1.5 points. I ended up resenting it after I found out what the consequences would actually have been of his having played two moves in a row. I thought about it a lot after I found out the consequences, and determined that I would not let this pass again.

My research into the situation revealed that the penalty was not nearly so severe as I thought. Under AGA rules the offense was not game ending in and of itself. Let's assume that black played out of turn. Black passes the wrongly played stone to the White player. White then gets two moves in a row, and Black passes a stone to white at the time when it would have been his turn to play between the two white moves. This new knowledge made me kick myself for hot having called over the TD. I could easily have gotten a two point advantage out of it to win the game.

I promptly forgot the consequences of play out of turn, and went on with my go life.

Then, one year later, during one of my games at the US Go Congress my opponent played out of turn again. There was once more waving of hands on my part as I informed my opponent that it was my turn. The stone came swiftly off the board. I hesitated for a moment, but I kept my cool and said that I would call over a TD after relaying the fact that I did not bother to do so last year for a similar event. I did tell my opponent that the consequence of having played out of turn was not so severe as one might suspect. I wasn't out to play a head game on this person.

It took quite awhile to get a TD. The TD and I approached the board together. Resolving the issue actually became a bit tense as there seemed to be a misunderstanding over whether my opponent had actually played the move or merely had begun to play the move as was claimed. There was little difference in my opinion between playing it and beginning to play it if it was on the board, and if my having said it was my turn was the only thing that brought the stone up off the board. My opponent also never mentioned the intention to deny the move when I went to fetch the TD. After it became clear that I wasn't budging on the issue, my opponent finally accepted my account of the event and also accepted the resulting penalty. The TD did hang around for the resumption of play. He also returned during the scoring phase, which I thought was rather nice because it showed that he wanted to be sure that we were both conducting ourselves in a civil manner in the aftermath of what was potentially a very unpleasant situation.

It was a close game, and I gained a bit from from the exchange of pass stones, yet my opponent still won the game by 3.5 points. At the time I was actually relieved and pleased with the result because I didn't like the idea of winning because  my opponent lost track of whose turn it was.

My drive to win must have been incredibly low. I totally failed to benefit from having the opportunity to take two moves in a row. This was a head smacking oversight on my part. If I had really wanted to win I might have looked harder for a group with two eyes composed of only one point each. That would have been decisive. Or I might have found a peep that could not be ignored. I could have gone on to punish that peep because my opponent would not have been able to answer it because of the penalty of losing a move. In review later I found such a peep, and a part of me is sorry I did not look for it during the game. I was so focused on getting on with the game, and gaining distance from the unpleasantness, that I played two relatively harmless sente moves in a row and collected the two pass stones offered.

There is a very nice peep at c2 that would have easily won the game for me.

Above all else I value my connection to the go community, and so I am proud of the fact that after we had both passed I was able to tell my opponent that I was sorry that things had become a bit unpleasant and that I would like to discuss the go application Smart Go Kifu that I had been using to record the game and also the app Smart Go Books, because my opponent had inquired about thee applications, and I am always eager to promote Ander's apps.

My opponent and I had a nearly hour long discussion during which we discovered that we had previously exchanged emails. It's a small go world after all. We spent time reviewing our game, which we were able to do because I had recorded it with Smart Go Kifu.

At this point I am somewhat conflicted over what I might do in the future if my opponent makes two moves in a row. I know for sure that I won't flap my hands and sputter about how it is my turn. That only results in the opponent removing the stone so quickly that they may decide to argue that it was never actually played. I will allow that stone to quietly be played. But will I also allow it to be quietly removed? I don't know yet.

What would you do?

Friday, September 05, 2014

2014 Go Congress in NYC

This was my best go congress ever. I had a fantastic time. I was initially concerned about the lack of a food plan, but I managed to share meals with some friends during the congress, and I found a really nice take out sushi place that I frequented often bringing my lunch back to the playing area.

I had my best result in the US Open ever this year. I had taken third place on three occasions, but had never done better than that. This year I took 2nd place in the 9 kyu division. Oddly enough 3:3 was enough to earn me that honor. I attribute that to a relatively small band. The 9 kyu band had only seven people in it. The 8 kyu band was much larger, as was the 10 kyu band. They could easily have subsumed us under one or the other of those larger bands, but they chose to keep us as a separate entity. The other thing I credit for my win is that the games had to have been incredibly evenly split. Regardless of how I achieved this honor, I don't look this gift horse in the mouth. It earned me a rank certificate from the AGA. This is the second year these certificates are being given, and I believe that they may have been given only to first and second place winners.

I participated in the pair go games with my pair go partner Gurujeet Khalsa. This was our third year of playing pair go together. Last year and the year before we were undefeated winning our table both years. This year we won our first game, but lost our second. So the pressure is now off for next year. Whew. (Photo credit: Arnold Udell)

My most recent passion is English Paper Piecing and I was caught stitching during the first round of the US Open. (Photo Credit: Chris Garlock/American Go E-Journal)

I attended the teacher workshops again this year, and much to my surprise I got a second teaching certificate from the AGA. I am doubly qualified to teach beginners now.

My experiences at the Go Congress this year have renewed my interest in studying, and I intend to document that here on my blog in the weeks to come. It is my hope that I can come to the congress next year stronger than ever, and in a position to fight for first place in the 9 kyu division.