First time taking white!

So I entered the 19×19 Ladder on DGS, because I thought it would be fun; I have no illusion: if I manage to keep out of the bottom 100 I will have achieved the impossible. Right now I am at 595 on the ladder, after winning my first game. Now, what makes that a surprise is that I actually took white in this game… I’ve never taken white in a 19×19 game, so it was really strange; constantly I had to remind myself of this fact, because I almost accidentally played in the wrong places a few time thinking that white was getting too much territory. The ultimate result was a very comfortable win, and I thoroughly enjoyed it; while winning is always great, this game gave me quite a few reading challenges that could have cost me the game.

W+52; 6.5 dum [komi], Fischer 10d+1d
W+52; 6 dum [komi], Fischer 10d+1d – Black 191 at R9

160 at J3 was one of those moves that put a smile on my face; with the response at H2, I extended to J4 and managed to deprive the two black groups at H2 and E2 of life (163 and 164 could have been played the other way around, but to the same result I think), I killed them, murdered them, mwhohahahahaaaa (=my evil laugh)… or so I thought. After Black connects with 165 at J7, I move to F4 , realising that I if Black had played there he could have made those groups live (I think…).

So we move to elsewhere on the board doing some typical endgame moves (move 167 to 175) in the upper left and the upper right areas, and I secure some cutting points with 176 at G7.  Then Black proceeds to play 177 at G17, and I pause (luckily) to make sure I respond correctly to prevent his stones from going all zombie apocalypse on that particular area and depriving myself of 25 points; luckily my head was clear for once and I play at F1, going all serial killer on the same corpse… which is a weird visual that you should just forget.

179 and 180 are just minor moves to secure boundaries and cutting points. But then, black plays at O2 before I could secure that particular point… and I panick a little bit (a lot)… So I run with 182 at N1, black chases with 183 at N2, I run harder with 184 at N3… I’m thinking I’ll just run, and suddenly that previously twice killed group is threatening to rise from the dead, and this time take away a lot more than 25 points! However, instead of following me, he played M3. So I managed to read it out properly, because there was only one way to keep my stones (and basically the entire game) alive. I actually wrote a note in the private notes section spelling the sequence out and adding: THINK AND READ THIS THREE TIMES BEFORE PLAYING YOU DUFUUS!!! which helped. I played 186 at M2, knowing that he’d have to play at L2 if he continues playing in that area, and I read what I wrote 15 times and read it out again before playing 188 at N3… And I breath… and do a dance… literally… I did a actual dance…

He tried to invade at another cutting point at P8, but I knew that I could prevent him from living; the sequence 189 to 202 maintained the status quo. I tried to do some funny stuff with 204 at R17, but that ended up in nothing and the game was done…

I knew I had won… and I felt like Frodo after he had just deposited the One Ring in the fiery chasms of Mount Doom… I beat a 26k with white on DGS, and jumped up to 26k on that server myself, while moving up to 595 on the ladder.


A gremlin on my board…

I calculate 1 B2 Bomber, combined with 3 empty triangle-y shapes…

So I was just having a game on OGS, accepted one by an 18k (even with 6.5 dum) and off we went… Then, one day, I look up to the screen, and a mental scream of horror pierces my ears; it took me a full minute to realise it was I who was screaming…

It’s a Frankenstein creation, as if an B2 bomber was genetically crossed with an S-shaped double empty triangle… It’s… It’s… It’s wrong… It’s evil… While an empty triangle is cute, despite not being very useful, this is just… It’s as if gizmo took the ice-bucket challenge… I created a gremlin on the board…

Two losses, one bad and the other worse…

20141022 Cx3 01
W+15.5; game setup: 6.5 dum [komi] and 5H, 30d + 1d Fischer.
So these are two games I finished on DGS recently as well, I played both simultaneously against the same opponent, and lost both. I played black in both games, and both with handicap (5 and 4 stones respectively); again, I forgot to set the dum to 0.5 so there is a 6.5 dum in each game despite the handicap. I haven’t uploaded them on EidoGo, but if you want the game ID for the first one (see image on the right) is 928882.

W+69.5; game setup:
W+69.5; game setup: 6.5 dum [komi] and 4H, 30d + 1d Fischer.
While the first one was a reasonable defeat, the second (game ID 929260) was closing on “humiliating” with a 69.5 point victory for my opponent. Even if I take into account the one handicap stone less, it was still pretty bad. Although playing the game was fun, it definitely was a challenge, and I hope I’ve learned something; I’ve sent both games for review to a friend of mine, and I’m eager to get an objective opinion on my mistakes. Of course my rank plummeted after these two games, but that is inevitable. In the mean time, I’m having a rematch, with 6 stones handicap and 0.5 dum. Both games we played started at the same time, and ended on the same day; my opponent was 21k when we started and 20k when we finished.

I’ve also “won” a few games by time-out but that doesn’t count in my book, and I’ve ensured that my settings don’t count them as ranked.

Reflections on my game on DGS

20141021 game on DGS
B+17.5; game setup: 6.5 dum [komi] and 5H, 30d + 1d Fischer.
I finished a set of games on DGS, which I will be uploading here a batch at a time. This game I won, playing black with a 5 stone handicap and 6.5 dum [덤, or komi in Japanese]; I know normally in handicap games there is no komi or only 0.5 to break a tie, but I just didn’t set that properly up on DGS when I created the game. I can’t embed the actual sgf here, but if you click on the screenshot of the final position you can find it on EidoGo… or click here.

Overall, it was a good game, I think it would be more equal to have played at 3 or 4 stones and 0.5 dum, which is what I am proposing for in a rematch. I found it an interesting experience, playing on DGS, initially I though it would be easier since there is so much more time to think over a single move. However, it felt very different, it was more like strange snapshots that were strangely disconnected; every time it was my move I had to go over half the game to figure out how to proceed, and it wasn’t easy to recall the full reasoning of why I had made a previous move. It probably doesn’t help that I mostly play my moves during breaks at work either…

The initial ranks were 28 geup for me and 19 geup for my opponent, but considering the we played it over a total of 35 days our ranks had shifted to 30 geup and 17 geup respectively; and with the game my rank shifted to 26 geup (and his to 18 geup). Geup being the Korean term for kyu, which I use because I play baduk, and because I’m stubborn (according to certain people). In any case, ranks are weird as it is; on the SAGA system I am 23 geup, while on KGS I’m 21 and on IGS I am 17 with question mark.

And back there again… losing…

And this time I can’t even blame it on the wine… only had one glass…

So I played a ranked game yesterday, and lost terribly… Maybe that one win really made me overconfident. The funny thing is that I pretty much dominated the board in the beginning of the game, and I was ahead of my opponent, even without the additional negative komi of 39.5 points, until a fatal mistake… If you look at the white mirror-L lying down in the bottom right area, that was a capture that determined the entire corner, and it only got captured after I failed to notice that a group which was very much alive was running out of liberties because I was too busy attacking. In the end the 5 stones that white captured made at least a 30 point difference, if not more. I lost the game by 17.5 points including the neg komi; the negative komi was to offset the rank difference between me and my opponent: I’m ranked 23k on the SAGA system, while my opponent – 10k Master, as I have nicknamed him – is, well, 10k. So 14 stones difference turns into 9 stones and 39.5 negative komi. In the upper left corner, 10k Master basically emulated Corner Killer and devastated a corner which was pretty much mine… And I do need to do something about my corner invasion defense skills… In another game I am playing on DGS I’m having the same issue: a corner invasion which ended up living and taking 15 points away from me.

The most important lesson I’ve taken away from this is that I need to balance my attacks with defense… I’m sure there is some sort of baduk proverb to that end (while there is probably one that states the exact opposite as well.)

[book] Basic Techniques of Go

Basic Techniques of Go cover
If you look clearly at the cover, black has played 24 stones… and white 29… Call me pedantic but had a little “dafuq?” moment there…

So I bought this book from the stock of the Cape Town Go Club for 70 rands (which is about 6.34 USD as of today), actually I paid 80 for it because they didn’t have change; so left a 10 rand donation – about enough to buy a cold drink for one person at the next committee meeting. Basically I got a signed copy dirt cheap; at the Kiseido online bookshop it’s listed as US$18 – €16 – ¥1,800, that being about 198.71 rands. Also it is signed, I just want to mention that again.

The book is by two professional players: Haruyama Isamu [春山勇] (9p) and Nagahara Yoshiaki  [長原芳明] (6p); they didn’t bother to update the cover when they reprinted after Haruyama’s promotion from 8p, though did in fact update the information inside, which is kinda weird. There are quite a few good reviews of this book online already, but I just wanted to contribute my thoughts to the discussion because I like hearing myself type; but you can find the other reviews here, here, and here. The edition I have is the third edition, so the general complaints about the overuse of Japanese terminology isn’t an issue; I would have loved them to simply replace it with Korean terminology instead of English, but hey… can’t have everything in life.

Overall, there are mixed feelings it seems about this book: some say it is too dense, not clear enough; others feel it has a breath of information. My opinion is that it is a great book, and while some recommend it for the intermediate to advanced player, I would disagree; I think it is a great second or third book to read. Granted, it might take some rereading, but I found it very helpful as a beginner (currently a lowly 23k); especially the sections on handicap games. The thing is that other beginner books don’t deal with this, so you read through how to make approaches and how to make openings, but in actual games you don’t end up using that knowledge; instead you are faced with 9 stones on the star points, and no clue what to do with them… most basic jeongseok [joseki] that you get introduced to in introductory books deal with the 3-3 point or the 3-4 point with scant attention to the star point. Having a book that goes through the 9 stone handicap down with explanations of basic plays to do and how to handle the aggressive play that white inevitably has to engage in I found truly helpful.

I think the main issue here is that people are used to books such as those in the Learn to Play Go series, which doesn’t have much breath… They are great books, but they are essentially written for a generation that clearly reads differently I think. Basic Techniques of Go is written densely, packing as much information on a limited amount of pages, leading to the need to often reread sections to really comprehend them… Also playing the diagrams out on a board sometimes is necessary to grasp them. Sure, if you read through it once you won’t understand half of it, but this is a study book in essence and requires study, not just cursory reading. I would really recommend this book for beginners, after reading a few books in the Learn to Play Go series, or other introductory books.

Also… my copy is signed… for just 70 rands! The unsigned copy they had on sale was only 60 rands…

[book] Learn to Play Go Volume II: The Way of the Moving Horse

Cover of "Volume II: the Way of the Moving Horse"
So, Janice Kim went to the Korean Baduk Academy, and co-writes a book with a Korean 9 dan pro… and still it is titled ‘Learn to Play Go??”

I bought this book a few days ago, and went through it in one sitting over a glass of wine. The Learn to Play Go series by Janice Kim (3p) and Jeong Soo-hyun [정수현] (9p) is often recommended for beginners and comprises of five volumes. I decided to skip Volume I: A Master’s Guide to the Ultimate Game because I had already read Go for Beginners by Iwamoto Kaoru [岩本 薫] (9p); from other people’s comments I concluded that the first book in the series would be a waste of time and money considering the material that is apparently covered in it, though it still is recommended for absolute beginners. There is some overlap with Go for Beginners, but overall it was a great second book to read actually.

The main asset is that it just tackles one specific thing, or collection of things; basically it deals with haengma [행마] which literally means “moving horse”; hence the title, I assume. I’m not going to attempt a definition of haengma, and potentially start some sort of nerdy baduk-related flame war in the comment sections here, but to give a summary the things covered here are: relationship between stones, extensions, approaches, capturing races, ko fights, and a few tactics for contact fighting. The book doesn’t go in deep into these things, it basically explains it and gives a few examples and moves on; the result of this is that it makes for light reading, aided by a very open layout, resulting in me going through it in a matter of hours and still feeling I’ve learned something here.

I guess you could find a more cost-effective format for the information contained in Volumes I & II of this series, but I love the fact that it is easy to read, and easy to retain information because of it, making it a nice investment for a beginner. If you’re farther ahead, you probably won’t get too much out of it though.

My first win!

1st game of the evening
B+30.5! Enough to make a gerbil cocky!

This evening, at my weekly lost game, I actually scraped a win. I played a 9 handicap game against 10k Master at the Cape Town Go Club, and ended with a 30.5 point victory for yours truly! This compared to a pretty crushing defeat last time I played him. The first half of the game was confined to one (left) half of the board and I managed to use my handicap stones to my advantage, limiting his territory severely and cutting off several of his groups. The second half of the game was more even, with me taking the lower right part and him taking the upper right part; I tried an unsuccessful invasion after being egged on by someone observing – and kibitzing – our game. It was great to see my work pay off, as finally there has been clear improvement. On the other hand, perhaps we need to off set the score according to the amount of alcohol we both consumed; my game in the second half definitely suffered from my fourth and fifth Smirnoff Spin, and my opponent had started drinking before me… perhaps about 1 stone per glass? Sounds about right, it would make the final result be Black+10.5 ish. This actually leads me to an idea to make the handicap system more interesting: instead of taking handicap stones, handicap tequila shots… it would make for I interesting weekly games.

2nd game of the evening
And cocky I became… a loss by 25+ points about 5 minutes later

I played another game against a 9k rated player, and lost by about 25-30 points; we didn’t end up counting it out completely, as it had to be a fast game because the venue we play at closes around 22.00 usually; my loss was pretty obvious though. What I did manage is to invade his corner and live! After the first game of the evening, we reviewed and I was explained how to I prove on my attempt to invade and live in the corner; clearly I learned something, as you can see in the upper right corner. Based on these two games I finally made it on the SAGA ranking system, starting with the conservative estimate of 23k.

Sally Gross, also listed as 23k here, passed away earlier this year; she was the Director of Intersex South Africa and a giant in the activist community in South Africa… rest in peace.

I also got two new books. Apparently when you become a SAGA member you get a free book, until stocks last at least; the book is by the Nihon Ki-in, Go: The World’s Most Fascinating Game. It is a basic introduction book, from a quick scan it basically takes you through the similar material as Volume I & II of Learn To Play Go. I also bought, for the extremely low price of 70 rands, Basic Techniques of Go by Haruyama Isamu and Nagahara Yoshiaki, and signed by Haruyama (9p)! The signature alone should make me a full stone stronger… while the bibliophile inside of me is doing little dances. I’ll be posting reviews of these two books as soon as I finish reading them, as well as a review of Volume II of the Learn to Play Go series that I recently bought and devoured (in a none book-eating way) overnight.

Signed page of Basic Techniques of Go
I went all geek-nerd-groupy over this 9 pro dan player that, honestly, I know nothing about.

Reviews of South African games from Round 1

So Victor Chow (7d), the highest ranked player in SAGA, and thus probably in South Africa, has graciously reviewed the recent games of the South African team at the Pandanet European Team Championship 2014/2015. Just to reiterate: South Africa drew 2-2 against Spain; next round we’ll go up against Cyprus. The reviews are posted online at the SAGA website, but I’ve linked them through directly here:

Board 1 – Andrew Davies (adavies) 3 dan W

Board 2 – John Leuner (jemna) 3 dan B

Board 3 – Andre Connell (iaznab) 2 dan W

Board 4 – Chris Welsh (sente) 2 dan B

You’ll need a viewer of some sort to view the files and the comments; if you are on any online server through a client, your client probably can open these files as well. If not, here is a list from which to choose an sgf editor/viewer. I haven’t gone through the comments yet, but I’m looking forward to it; while not everything will be comprehensible to me, I always find it useful to see the kibitzing when observing games on KGS; I imagine this is similar, but more static, and less sarcastic humour.



Guinness World Record attempt in Seoul, South-Korea

1004 simultaneous games at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul
(source: whoever was there, took the picture, and posted it originally on facebook)
1004 simultaneous games at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul


So I assume there are a number of experienced players playing multiple games at once, in order to maximise the amount of games being played… No idea when this was, probably around today. It’s things like this that make me miss Korea.