Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday Go Tips!

There is this fantastic novel called "First Kyu" which is a must read for any Go player or anyone interested in learning about Go culture in South Korea.  It's been several years since I read it.  A friend at Go club lent it to me, and I devoured the book that night.  It's about a man who is first introduced to the game of Go at a young age.  I believe he goes to a Go club and starts playing after reading a few books.  His description of Korean Go clubs is spot on, as well as the allure of the game.  In South Korea, there was the kyu system for amateurs (30-1 kyu) and dan level was reserved for professionals.  That means, while the spread from 30-2 kyu was an accurate depiction of someone's playing level, 1 kyu was a group where anyone who had not yet made professional was stuck.  A "1 kyu" matchup could be between two five dans, or between an actual 1 kyu and a seven dan!  The book takes you through the journey of the main character as he first tries to get to 1 kyu and then later attempt to become a professional Go player.  What does this have to do with today's Go tip?  Glad you asked!  The main character hits 1 kyu, and then has a hard time getting strong enough to play against the top players.  He plays plenty of games and does Go problems, so he has to find some other way of reaching the top dan ranks.  He asks his girlfriend's father to loan him some cash so he can journey to a Buddhist temple and spend several months focusing solely on Go: day in and day out.
A one night stay at one of these places is going to cost you a pretty penny!

The main character recluses himself and spends every waking hour studying the games of Wu Qingyuan, better known as Go Seigen, the man who is regarded as the top Go player of the 20th century.  He would take out a board and stones, and replay all of Go Seigen's games one by one, five times each.  Go Seigen played a ton of games, so the process of replaying all of his games took several months.  Now, I don't want you to lock yourself in your room with a Go board and emerge with a hermit's beard.  I do want you to pick a single professional player, someone with a style you like, and focus on replaying their games (on a real board!) as many times as you can.  I know many of you cannot devote an entire day to this pursuit, so try for an hour or two a day.  My favorite professional player to replay is Koichi Kobayashi.  I remember going over about 50 of his games, and then going on a super winning streak.  Pick any professional player you want, and get to playing!