Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tournament was a blast!

So today at 12:00 noon the epic-ness that is the Ann Arbor Go Tournament for the United Way commenced.  Thousands of players from around the globe met at the Killodrome to have at it in a winner take all go competition.  Actually, about 14 people from around the Southeast Michigan area (and Ohio!) came to a small corner of the Michigan Union to play for the United Way.  I went 3-1.  I lost my first game to the 7 dan monster as you can see in the picture below:

Scary isn't he?  I think all Eyeglass stores in Korea sell only one style.

I lost the power cord to my camera so I couldn't charge it up to take pictures so I only have a few taken by Bryan, the tournament director.  Notice the fight that's taking place in the upper right corner.  Every time I play this infernal move I always get owned.  I love it because it's a fighting move but it never ends well for me.  I saw it in a professional game and the professional (of course) made use of it.  Here's what I'm talking about.

You only play Black twelve when you have more stones in the area (which i do), and you have a stone at 8 already in place.  If White seals Black in you push and cut and wait for the big bucks to roll in.  Problem is this is never what happens for me.  
The continuation could go like this where Black leaves an opening for White at A but in exchange splits White in half.  My problem was that I played at A instead of 2 which is totally wrong.

Here was the game.  Yeah, I know, Black dies.  I'm also certain that 28 is a mistake too.  It was one of those mistakes you immediately recognize when you play it.  If anything it should be one over to the right.  After I died the game became an orgy of insanity where I just attacked wildly.  I almost did it but then my empire crumbled before my very eyes.

Over the next few days I'll go over a few more of my games.  It gives me a chance to do some game review which I really need to do more of.


Friday, December 3, 2010

More tournament training

Today I hit the books although I did have some spurts of laziness.  I kind of ... well not kind of, I totally broke my diet two days ago when I went out to Dinner at Denny's.  I had like fries, a milkshake, a buffalo chicken burger with an entire appetizer platter, the antithesis of the Dukan Diet.  That means for the next two days I'm going to be on what's called the "attack phase", which means eating just protein.  Anyhoo, Go!

First off, I'm going to start recording some free lectures to be put up here and on the main site.  I'd love some suggestions as to what kind of topics you guys would want to see.  It could be tesujis, professional games, game reviews, etc. so let me know.

Today I went through some of my joseki books to freshen up. I usually forget joseki 10 minutes after I've learned it so I review them a lot to make certain that I understand them.  The one I came across today was fun.

Black 1 through White 6 I'm sure you've seen before.  It's like the first joseki everybody learns.  There is a nice move for Black if White plays elsewhere that he can try (among others) and that's the move at 9.

It probably looks like it should die to you.  Well, Black might get captured but it depends on what White does.  Good thing being captured isn't everything.

The idea here is that if Black directly plays 11 then he can sacrifice for some forcing moves on the outside.  But, Black has a better move than just directly doing this.

Black should probe first at 11 and see what White does.  Like this White is split in half.

I'm learning this variation right now and it's taking me awhile to figure it all out.  Maybe I'll get to use it at the tournament, who knows :P

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Doing tsumego

So this weekend there is a tournament and I've been getting myself ready by doing tons and tons 'o tsumego.  In fact I probably do more tsumego than look at professional games or really anything else because I always feel "charged up" after doing a ton.  A year ago I actually sat down and did some 3,500 problems or so (mostly easy ones) just because usually after I do a ton my playing strength gets a nice boost.  I think I'll go back to hardcore training in December.

Btw, try out this problem for size:

Black to play

Hint: Think shortage of liberties.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Again, still not dead

So I was supposed to report back on the glory that was the Heartland Go Tournament in Peoria Illinois, regaling you with my tales of mingling with the common go players and showing off all of my new found Korean knowledge.  Well, that story will never be told :)  I did awful at the tournament, and because of stupid things.  I would've felt better had it been because my opponents outplayed me.  I would've felt okay if it had been because ... well because of anything.  The first game I missed atari in the endgame (I was so focussed on something else) and my second game I miscounted a capturing race, but not one with a lot of liberties, I simply missed one and assumed I had lost the race.  Before I blundered I had a commanding lead of like 20 points.

I won the next two handily and the last one I did lose but the guy was strong and I made a Ko out of nothingness so it was okay.  So a 2-3 record.  I was bummed, I'm not going to lie, but I will press on.  The next tournament is Dec. 4 and I'll be damned if I miss atari for no reason again :p  Speaking of which, if you live near ann arbor or can make the trek to Michigan you should come to the Ann Arbor Go Tournament.  It's for charity, here's a link:
The United Way is a great charity and there are plenty of prizes so it's worth the drive.  I will be studying hardcore so that I am in shape for it and will not have another upset :p.

Also, I'm starting a diet today.  I'm way too fat, I gained tons of weight in Korea and after being winded waiting on tables today I have to lose some weight.  The diet worked for my friend who has lost over 30 lbs over the past month or so so I'm going to follow suit.  Wish me luck, it's not an easy one :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm still alive

In case you guys were wondering :)  I've been hard at work, translating for as well as helping my mom get her books ready for publication.  First off, some exciting news. Alexandre Dinerchtein 3p has done a review of Level 3 of the So You Want to Play Go? series which you can see on the Life in 19 x 19 thread here:

He has agreed to play the role of expert in upcoming publications, so he'll be working with me for Level 4 of the SYWtPG series, the dan level book, as well as some more ideas I have for future publications (a man has gotta have his secrets).

Secondly, I'll be heading to Peoria for the Heartland Harvest Go tournament on October 30th.  I'm pretty pumped since it's my first Go tournament in....a long time.  The last time I've sat down and played a real game was at my friend Eric's place a few weeks ago, so I hope I'm not too rusty.  I've started with a regimen of doing tsumego problems in between translations, so like I'll translate five problems and then do a few problems from one of my pocket tsumego books.  I know, sounds kind of weird to study problems after translating them but I figure why not?  Gotta cram it in beforehand.

Anyways I'll post some more stuff as time goes on, don't worry, I have some big developments coming and they just require time :p  In any case, you'll see pictures of the tournaments and hopefully I can remember my games to give a good review. comments

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quick update

So I've been sick this past week and whatever I brought with me is pretty bad.  My mom got sick for 3 days and I've seen anyone blow there nose so much in my entire life.  I got a couple of my friends sick after our "Welcome home Jon!" party so I decided to stay in until it blew over.

So right now I'm job hunting, maybe looking into relocating, so the go stuff will be still in the pipeline but maybe at a slower pace.  My studying ground to a halt but I'm busy translating problems for the Korean Ministry of Culture.  They have a problem series they want on their website and they hired me to translate!  

Also, the problem books will be out sometime in mid-end of October, so keep any eye out.  If you haven't, check out the facebook group and hit like, and hit it 1,000 times so facebook realizes how awesome you think Sunday Go is :)  Anyhoo, expect an update soon.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good to be back

So I'm back in the good ol' U.S. of A but I have no car so I'm currently stuck in Southfield :)  I got to see my friends and they all took me out for the greasiest, sloppiest, cheesiest American food we could find, and it felt good to be welcomed back.  I'm basically going to take it easy for the month of September, in fact the first few days I got back I just played World of Warcraft and sat on my butt.  Now I'm feeling like I gotta somewhat get back to work, so today's post would be a good way of doing that!  Let's do game review for today's lesson.

I've been playing on Tygem more and more ever since I got to Korea as it's usually faster to get a game there than it is KGS.  As for the style, most people think of Tygem as this awesome fighting server where everyone plays crazy moves but to me it's....normal.  Maybe playing the kids at the dojo makes me think that, because sometimes I'll play someone and I'll think they're a kid given their play style and the speed of their moves.  Lately, Tygem 4d is easy.  Not so easy I don't have to think but I win without having to push really hard to do so.    The reason this is is mainly because of the fact I got much better in center fighting.

I'm Black.  The opening fight was rather interesting because I did it not necessarily because I thought I'd have a great position but more so to see what happens when Black cuts.  I think Black 17 should be at 19 because it feels like better shape.  If White directly plays 20 instead of the bad push at 18 then I have to defend the corner differently.  In the game I just make living shape in the corner and have a two stone fighting force on the outside.  This position isn't great for either player but I feel if White had played 22 at A he'd have a better position because his right side group would be stable.  With Black 7 in a high position that group is screaming "attack me".

Instead of pushing and cutting I could just play the plain Jane joseki at 9 and just make points.  I usually like to push one more time at 11 instead of jumping immediately but that's just personal preference.  I pictured the opening would proceed similar to this.  7 is in an awkward position but I feel since 4 is not useful we're even.

I thought about playing 1 but it kind of ends up being pretty similar to the game.  I just feel overall both players are foiling the other's plan so it ends up being halfway playable.

As I said before, White is just screaming "Attack me!" so I obliged.  This will help my center group be more than stones that just sit there because while he defends I'll build a wall.  When I come out at 31 White has a choice, he could let his bottom group be sealed in facing my 3-4 stone in the lower left, meaning a good sized area for Black, or he could prevent that, which is the option he went for.  Black 33 is a must have move, no question.  We continue the pushing fight out into the center, and again, Black 39 is another of those must have moves.  White 40 is an okay move but that group is really strong and even if he was going to play from there he should've played low to take the territory solidly.  He was probably worried if he directly approached the lower left 3-4 Black stone he'd be counterattacked because of my thickness. White probes with 42 and 44 which I thought were good moves but I do not understand 46 at all.  It's heavy, the follow up move isn't a concern for Black, and it leaves a group open to be attacked later.  In cases like these, just ignore your opponent and find a big point elsewhere on the board.  Find the shiniest point possi...Oh look, a point that covers White's eyeless group from the center!  

Here's why fighting is important.  This is like the climax of an action move, where the hero has chased the bad guy from rooftop to rooftop.  The police who were helping the hero have all fallen by the wayside and now the bad guy is cornered on top of a building and he and the hero have to duke it out in a do or die brawl. The movie could end with the hero lying on the ground, having been beaten to a pulp by the physically superior bad guy, only to win by a stroke of luck.  This fight felt like that.  White thought that he had to attack my lone stone on the right as it's far from it's friends and he has a big wall.  This is the right idea but the execution is off because instead of capturing/neutralizing my stone and saving his group, he instead allowed me to build a wall facing his weak group as I throw away stones I don't care about.  This fight could go a lot of ways.
I expected White to play 4 and then 6 which are the standard moves for this shape.  Black 9 is the key point as it protects the cut and keeps White separated.  
A trade is possible but I don't see how it ends up being fair to White at all.  The center stones do have some aji if White attaches and tries to come out so that's a plus, but after 11 Black will end up with sente after White kills off 7, so Black will play to enlarge the top and White coming out with those stones is painful in just about any scenario.

This move isn't glamorous but I think given that Black is ahead in the center and directly fighting Black doesn't lead to a good result it's better to play the calm move of 48, make this group alive and then move to the left side of the board and make the lower left forcing moves useful.  


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Looking Back

One week from today at 8 a.m. I will get on a plane and head back to the good ol' U.S. of A.  One year passes by pretty fast doesn't it?  All in all, I enjoyed my time here and today I had a lot of time to think about it (being sick will do that to you) and even though I didn't necessarily accomplish all of my original goals I have new goals and a lot of new knowledge.  Just goes to show you that what you may think you want or what you think is best for you is actually not.  I came here to be like 6-7 dan and even though I haven't accomplished that I have come much closer and I know how to get there if I want to.  What have I really learned then, if my main goal wasn't realized?

I learned that it makes much more sense to spend the time you are given in the pursuit of enjoying yourself or working towards enjoying yourself.  The kids taught me that.  Their parents pressure them into learning English.  Of course some parents do it more so than others but with the amount of money they pay to go to ECC they really want their children to learn.  What do the kids do in the face of all this pressure, of going to a school where the teachers don't speak their language?   They try their best but they do it in their own way.  They try to have fun with whatever they're doing.  If that means they have to take their storybook and make a hat out of it then that's what has to be done.  As a teacher it makes me nervous that they're not learning anything when they spend their time in class drawing themselves in a helicopter, gunning me down in my own home, but then again they turn around and bust out a perfect English sentence.

I learned that everybody is different and it's perfectly alright to not blend in a group but that if you put forth even the slightest amount of effort you can get along with a lot of people.  Everyone is not going to be your best friend but some people could be if you just give them a chance.  How did I learn this?  From other expats.  There are tons here, and a lot of people here might not have spent time to get to know me at all if we were in the U.S., but since we gotta stick together out here it makes you more open to working with people and being more flexible with whom you associate with.  This also leads to meeting more cool people who have tons of things to offer if you just open your ears and listen.

Self pity is a waste of time.  I won't go too much into detail here, but I had a long, LONG conversation with someone whose life experience was a lot like mine.  We both grew up with no father although his father was around for the first part of his life where mine wasn't.  That having been said, I don't know which is worse, knowing your father and then having him say "Bye" as opposed to never having met him.  I always rejected the "someone else has it worse" than you thing that people always say.  "It could be worse!" but I always thought "Well, it could be better too!" but actually there's no point in even thinking any of that.  Other people have things in their life that hurt them and you have things in your life that hurt you.  It's all about how you look at it.  In many ways, my life could've been a LOT worse with my father in the picture, so I could be lucky and should focus on that rather than being negative for no reason.

Don't care what people think about you.  This one comes from being stared at constantly.  I know I need a haircut when Koreans start staring at me and middle aged Korean women go wild eyed when I get on the bus.  The afro confuses the crap out of them.  I get stared at by children that don't go to hagwons (it's a tell tale sign) and I get stared at by old people when I speak English on a bus and they feel uncomfortable because they don't understand what's going on.  With all this staring going on, I just got to the point where I was like "I can't satisfy you no matter what I do so I'm just going to carry on with my life and you'll just have to re-order yours or continue staring practice."

All in all, it was totally worth it to make the trek out here and I'll be back.  While I'm in the U.S., I'll be working to promote my book series, write the next few books, do some Korean-English translations and just having a blast. comments

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 222 - Eat Mexican Food in Korea (made by Koreans)

Hello all you loyal 365 Brand New Days Readers.  Your entry for today has been outsourced to our offices in Suji, South Korea.   I, Jonathan Hop, will be taking over for Kristen's new thing of the day, and let me tell you, a lot of my plans fell through :)  This project is harder than it looks.  At first I wanted to do a Nore-Bang, which is a karaoke place, but then no one wanted to go and I remembered I did go once before (I just suppressed the memories).  In fact, being a work night it was pretty difficult to get people to do anything,  but I was determined. I've been in Korea for about a year so I've done a ton of new things already so trying to find a new thing was a challenge.  But, I had a plan.  My co-worker Matthew and I were going to go to Lotte World, a huge indoor amusement park with a roller coaster and everything.  We were going to drop down from some 15 story tower and scream our heads off.  I'd never been to an amusement park so it was high on the list.  Which brings me to one of the lessons we learned that day.

Never trust Jon Hop to read directions.  Ever.

The directions started from Seoul Station, but I read it as "Go to Seoul Station and then go to Jamshil", and then my mind moved Jamshil from its original position close to Jon Hop to beneath Seoul Station.  Here, I'll translate.  Jon Hop thought Lotte World was on the other side of Seoul, like 40 minutes or so, when actually it was right next to him and he went across Seoul anyway.

'Nuff said.

So, no Norebang.  No Lotte World.  No cooking troupe cuz they're playing on another day.  Matthew and I were both feeling dejected, sitting in the PC cafe sitting next to some Korean guy with blonde hair that looked like he walked out of an anime convention.  What were we going to do?  Then we saw a sign from God.  Well, actually from Dos Tacos. See, unlike back home, Mexican food is NOT popular here.  They have T.G.I. Fridays, Bennigan's, McDonald's, Coldstone, you name it, but Mexican food is not the thing.  They just opened up the first Taco Bell in the country a few weeks ago and that created a huge buzz.  They sold out of food the first day, as in the restaurant didn't have a packet of hot sauce for anyone.  So, we were both starving and thought to ourselves, "Hey we haven't eaten Mexican food in Korea."

Imagine this.  You are dropped from a plane into the middle of the Sahara desert with a half full canteen and little to no hope.  You crawl your away across hot desert sands, the blistering heat sapping away your strength as you realize all you have left in your canteen is sand.  You see a mirage in the distance, a hazy apparition seemingly from nowhere that forms.  You miraculously gain enough strength to inch your way forward.  A beautiful, cool lake of crystal clear blue water shimmers before your very eyes.  After having spent a year eating Korean food, quesadillas looked like this:

Yo quiero Taco Bell.

Nachos never tasted so good, and Guacamole was never more delicious as it was at Dos Tacos located in Seoul Square plaza.  Now you can say "Well you've eaten Mexican food before."  Well, that part is true but it was my first time at Seoul Station and my first time at Seoul Square.  ALSO, in no way shape or form did I expect to come across a billboard for a Mexican restaurant let alone find one where the waitress speaks perfect English and I can enjoy quesadillas and nachos with a bottle of Dos Equis half the world away.  I also figure I can use up all the new stuff I've been doing all year, from high fiving an 85 year old woman who pushes a cart full of cardboard to the dump every morning to convincing my students that if they didn't behave the Terminator would be their teacher and mow them down.  So I offer up my plethora of experiences to the novelty Gods and ask them to accept my sacrifice of enjoying the best damn burritos in the land of Kimchi.  Also, no Mexicans were involved in the making of said Mexican food.  

Normally Kristen ends with a Jerry Springer style after thought, reminding us of what lesson we've learned that day and how our lives are the better for it.  I could probably talk about globalization or something where we're all learning each others culture and whatnot, I could even babble on about some of the lessons I've learned in Korea.  Instead, I'm just going to close with the fact that on the train today, I saw a young 20-something girl with the word "Gangbang" emblazoned across her chest.  Dictionaries, for the love of god.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Making the most of it

I walked back into the hallowed halls of the Yu Changhyuk Baduk Dojang today after nearly a 2-3 month hiatus.  I felt that my Go would best be served by studying alone instead of with a teacher and also I was just plain burning out.  But, since I'm coming home on september 1st and I'm not sure when I'll be able to get back out to this fab country I decided I should suck it up, walk in there, and study my butt off until I get home.

Today was a busy day at the dojang.  It was FILLED with kids because they were getting new students for the upcoming school year.  The owner and the head teacher were both surprised to see me as I came out of nowhere and was like "Hi, so, yeah Go."  They put me in the non-going-to-be-professional class which is where all the 4-5d's go and I was owning face.  I went 3-1, and I only lost against the one kid cuz his Go was super crazy, leave weak groups everywhere and somehow live by reading kind of style which is hard to counter.  I missed a tesuji that would've won me the game and that was that.  The kids were nice, they expected me to suck and were really surprised when they lost, but thankfully no one cried.

My attitude was wonderfully different.  I wasn't sitting there trying to push myself.  I made a point of smiling during my games to improve my mood, and told myself if I wasn't having fun to just walk out.  If I had thoughts like "man these moves are making me angry", I just let said thoughts float away into nothingness and get back to the game.  I was mentally tired and beat after 4 hours of training but it was that good kind of tiredness where you know the next day you'll be tougher.  The thing is, I didn't get any reviews from the teacher but that didn't matter, I still learned by just doing game reviews myself and reading books.  I've found that also, I don't like studying alone, I like studying with people around me.  I wondered how the kids learned so fast without the teacher systematically going through each one of their games.  Normally the teacher just floats around the room, goes off to organize something or sits with his planner.  Rarely if ever do they do game reviews, so I thought maybe the kids just absorbed his knowledge.  Actually, it's not so much that, it's just the mood of being around other people who are also laser focussed on what you're doing and just enjoying the atmosphere I think. comments

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More on joseki

I gotta say I'm a little bummed I couldn't make it to this year's Go congress because of work but I vow that next year I will go.  Plus, it'll be in Los Angeles and I've only been in that city on layover while I was heading to the wild and wonderful country of Korea.  Anyhoo onto today's lesson.

Currently I'm working on the last installment of the "So You Want to Play Go?" series for dan level players and I'm having a blast writing it.  It has been a little tough because I couldn't break it down into sections like I had the three previous books, as in I didn't think it made any sense to have a section just on "Attacking" or "Sabaki" since I think most dan players have all of those concepts down.  So I did something I swore I never would do, write about joseki.

I asked Kim Dongyeop 9p about what one should do to get stronger and he told me that studying tsumego and joseki were the two most important things to get stronger quickly.  I knew about the tsumego but the joseki part surprised me.  I was always told that just studying joseki made one weak.  You wouldn't have the creative power to handle the varying situations you'll encounter in Go, so studying joseki would be a mental crutch.  Actually that's not true.  Once you reach a certain level you know enough to avoid the bad moves, and you can look at a joseki not to just be the bible of all Go knowledge but to show you good moves and better yet, help you understand why other moves are bad.  There are tons of josekis and it really is important to understand as many as possible.

As I'm learning more joseki though, I find it challenging to come to a point where I can say I "understand" a joseki, because in every game it's like there's this part where you just do your own thing.  Like take for instance this joseki.

I think just about everybody knows this joseki but the devil is in the details.  Nowadays you want to play White 14 because the Tiger's mouth feels just a tad slow and this gives more territory.  The problem is, the cut.  I know, you knew that, and you probably also know about the ladder.  But for those of you in the audience who don't...

When Black cuts with 1 this sequence will erupt.  Now instead of White 6 there is this really awesome Chinese trick move where you play 6 at 7 but maybe at some later date I'll show it to you.  What happens is a semeai begins and Black doesn't have enough liberties (5 to 4).  When Black cuts with 11 White has to protect that group so it doesn't get swallowed and makes enough liberties by connecting at 4.  The question then, is what to do with the two outside White stones.  If the ladder is good for White then Black's inside group dies.

Black can be fancy with this net stuff but White 2 is a tesuji for White to get out.  Now the ladder doesn't work because once Black ataris at 9 White gets out with 10.  Now, that's all well and good and maybe there are a few 1-2 dans that haven't studied this before, but let's go into why this is important: ladder breakers and aji.  See, Black may be dead on the inside but like I said before, it's a capturing race meaning if White loses liberties he has to take away Black's so he doesn't die.  That means Black can get a world of forcing moves.

For instance Black can start the semeai with 1.  All of this is pretty much forced.  Notice how neither of White's groups are doing so hot in the liberty department?  Let's put all of this together and see it at work in a real game.

This is Gu Li vs. Wang Yao.  Seeing as how we already looked at several sequences the lower right should be obvious.  Now onto Black's ladder breaker move.  How do we actually proceed in the lower right?

Black got his two moves in the upper left but now White fights Black in the lower right part to keep from being sealed in.  While White has almost no power at the top he's not going to let Black have much power at the bottom.  38 also helps to attack the two top Black stones so that Black cannot build a wall there to pester White's other group.  Black Influence there facing the top moyo would be bad for White.

I found so many different ways to play this position out but the strategy was usually the same.  So, at no point did I feel I mastered the joseki but I did feel that a part of Go strategy was much clearer to me and I could actually apply it to one of my own games.  Stuff like this will be in the fourth book, but I'd love any comments on what you'd like to see in it.  Email me at with any suggestions, or just to say hi!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Today's Lesson

First off I got a lot of cool announcements and then we'll get into the Go stuff.  The Sunday Go Lessons site has a new look which you can check out at  I think it looks crisper than before and the layout is better, plus there is a neat tsumego of the day I got setup with the help of my bud Brian.  Second, I finished the cover for the tsumego book series I've been working on.  Here they are:

Hopefully I can have the first book done sometime around September but don't hold me to that.  Ok, enough of that, let's get into Today's Lesson.  Given the past few posts I noticed I focused more on game review, so this time I'll talk about a specific topic, namely positional judgement.

This topic is rather interesting because it is so broad yet it is the most essential thing you can do in any game.  Literally, just sit down and judge the situation and develop a plan that reflects what needs to be done.  Of course that sounds obvious to the point you're probably looking at me funny, but how many times have you made the wrong move at a critical juncture when it might have been better to just take a step back and be more methodical rather than leap into the fray?  The basis for positional judgment can be boiled down into simple steps.

1.  Count.  You should first "count" after the opening once the middle game is about to heat up.  In this phase, obviously you cannot be exact but you can ask the question "Who came out of the gate with solid points, how much, who has a sphere of influence, and what points of the board are still empty?  Where are the borders?  You can count again after the middle game fights have died down.  Really take your time, counting is like a muscle as it grows stronger with use.  I didn't count much before I started training here, and now I count the score without thinking about it.  In endgame, you should be counting like mad, almost every 5 moves or so (of course if a position hasn't changed you can just memorize the points and focus on what has changed instead of doing the whole board over and over again).

2. Identify weak groups and try to judge the benefit of attacking now vs. later.  Some people who play passively should really stick to this step because you miss golden opportunities when you let a weak group sit.  Don't just jump to attack, read a bit and see how you benefit.  If you don't move n.

3.  Read out aji.  Don't wave your hand over a part of the board and say there's aji, read it out.  Your territory isn't so solid when your opponent could threaten to undermine all your hard work by activating aji you weren't aware was there.

4. If you're ahead, play conservative (but not soft), if you're behind, you have to find a way to destroy the difference in points or make a do or die invasion. 

5. When fighting, don't lose sight of your main objective.  Because close quarters fighting is usually chock full of variations we tend to just go with our gut instead of trying to find the moves that reflect the strategy we came up with for the whole board.

Let's take an example from a real game.  This is Kim Sunmi (my teacher) and some other guy.

Sunmi is Black.  So, as you can see I started off with a relatively easy game and not a bloodbath.  White comes out of the opening with a lot of sure fire points, and Black is a little overconcentrated at the top but also has ... some points.  First, count!

White has about 51 points, 45 points from just territory and komi.  Is this exact?  Of course not!  But I estimate the left side at 15 (it helps when you count to also consider endgame.  When you look at an unfinished part guestimate as to how it will be finished and it'll help immensely with counting).  As for spheres of influence, the right side could become territory with one more move which could add 15-20 points easily to White's stash.  The lower left is a hazy spot because Black can invade there.

What about Black? The top is say 30 points give or take a few.  The bottom isn't much territory as it stands right now but could be a 40 point prize AND it lies on the border of Black and White's influence so it's prime real estate.  Now we have the general idea of who has how many points, where, and where the borders of our territorial frameworks resides, let's develop a point of attack.  It's White's turn.  He has more points now but Black has entrance into the center from two sides with thickness on the left to back her up in a fight should she need it, so White has to find a weak spot and start a fight.  Why fight? Well we fight when the peaceful means don't necessarily give us the best outcome.
This is the peaceful way where White just spreads out his picnic blanket, opens up the basket and hands Black a sandwich.  And no, the sandwich is not poisoned, its just turkey.  They both lie on the grass, staring at the blue sky and count their points.  The bottom and center become huge for Black while only the right side becomes huge for White.  I don't think that White has absolutely lost because of the lower left but I also don't see how this position is advantageous.  So, a fight it is.  Can you see a spot where White could cause some trouble?
Threatening to come out with what otherwise was  throwaway stone is a good way to start a fight.  Remember, we need to keep focus on the overall plan when we start laying stones down.  White wants to solidify the right but not at  the expense of giving Black the center like in the peaceful diagram we saw before.  White wants to be strong enough so the right side just falls under his control by pure force and at the same time leave options for keeping the center in check.  From Black's perspective she has a group at the top which could be cut off so that's a minus but she also has the opportunity to wall off the center.  When Black's 3 stones die the right side is mostly White's now but Black did well in getting stones towards the center.  The only problem in Black's position is that the throwaway stone now can cut off the top Black group which is a 20 point swing in White's favor (at least). 

Black didn't achieve victory this game but that matters little.  What I wanted to point out is how we can take stock of our position and make a plan that fits what should be done, not just play based on pure feeling and letting the inner recesses of our subconscious do all the work.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Go Stuff

Just wanted to drop a quick note to people reading the blog, there WILL be Go Stuff, a lot of it in fact, in the coming weeks once I settle down from ultra schedule change.  The big Korean vacation is coming up and lord knows I need it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So yeah

So I was going at a good clip this month when I had yet another roadblock.  I went to this place called a Jim jil bang which is a korean sauna.  Let me tell you these places are wonderful.  The one I went to was a huge underground complex with a gym, massage chairs, restaurant, snack bar, massage parlor, movie theater, swimming pool, and 6 rooms to just sit in and sweat.  My favorite was the room where the walls were lined with charcoal. I got to meet some new people and we sweated and froze together while relaxing.  Seriously, a jim jil bang is the mellowest place in the world.  It was quiet and everyone was just there to get away from it all.  At the end of such a wonderful evening, however, I noticed that my foot REALLY hurt.  Like, I couldn't walk on it and had to take a cab home.  I thought it was broken somehow, but I hadn't done anything to it, so I went to the clinic down the street and low and behold I was right, it wasn't broken.  It was infected!  Yay!

So, I came down with a nasty case of cellulitis.  In layman's terms, that means my foot looked like a big red beachball but painful.  Emphasis on the pain.  The guy at the clinic really didn't speak English but he knew enough to tell me my foot was infected and that it was serious.  He swabbed some stuff between my toes, gave me some medicine, a shot in the butt, and sent me home.  My problem was A: Shots in the butt are really uncomfortable, B: I had no idea what I was taking as I was just given a bag full of 5 pills with no markings as to what drugs they were, and C: I didn't know the nature of my infection.  So I did what any good expat would do, find an English speaking hospital.  The thing is, and I am not faulting Koreans or anything here, when places advertise that they are "English speaking" you have to be wary.  English speaking may mean that they have one person who knows the days of the week and the months of the year and not much else, or it might mean they have a Korean American working there, it's a roll of the dice.  I don't really care if the lady at Papa John's doesn't speak English (Yesu, would you likee Lajee Coki, or Lajee Pepushee?) but I do care if my physician can't tell me what's wrong.  So I went to Samsung hospital.

Samsung is pretty much the leetest hospital I've been in in my life.  It was just impressive.  Check out their website:  Their website made me think "Hey, this could work."  I went in and even though not everyone spoke perfectly it was more than enough for me to understand the problem.  Thankfully, I'm on antibiotics and the swelling has gone down, and the pain has gone away completely.  Of course, on Monday when the pain was at its worst the kids all decided that my foot was a trampoline, how nice.

Anyway, go stuff.  I think I am back, I'm almost back to 4d on Tygem.  In fact, let me take care of that now :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So it's official

August 31st will be my last day at YBM ECC, and just the past few days it really set in that I've been in this country for 10 months and am going to leave pretty soon.  I'll be saying goodbye to all the kids in my homeroom class and also goodbye to my great co-workers.  When I told everyone I'd be going it was a bit of an ego boost to see them all be like "Umm, no", especially my Korean partner teacher.  The way the system is setup, each class has a foreign teacher and a Korean teacher.  The Korean teacher can answer stuff about grammar and field questions for kids, and I'm around to make sure they're saying sentences correctly with good pronunciation.  In many ways I'm a glorified tape recorder, but in other ways I'm pretty essential.  The thing is, the other foreign teachers have different partner teachers, usually at least 2 if not 3.  Myself, for all of my classes including kindergarten and all of my after school classes I work with one person, my partner teacher Susan.  When I told her I was leaving September 1st, she immediately said "No you will not you will sign up for another year.  I don't now who I am going to get."

Sadly, I have to move on.  It's a long story, but I'm not re-signing my contract because the teacher who left in May is coming back because of family reasons.  My boss assured me it wasn't because of my performance and told me to come back once a position opens up.  In the mean time, I'll be looking for a position to open up sometime in October or November which means I'll be home for at least the month of September!  I'll be staying with my mom.  In the meantime, I'm going to cram in as much Go study as I possibly can before I get back.

Btw, if you're wondering, the slump is over.  I am enjoying a 9 game winning streak on Tygem against 3 dan players.  I'll be back up to my old rank in no time.  I know, by now I'm supposed to be beyond ranks or something.  Well one day I'll take the time out to sit under a waterfall in a loincloth and hum a "Buddha Buddha Buddha" mantra until I am free from caring about my rank.  There will be one blissful day where I learn to be like the flowing river or something and become one with the universe, but until then, I want to level up :)


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quick Note

Kiseido/Yutopian is carrying my book series!


So yeah I'm not going to get a parade in my honor or something but I'm being carried by a company that sells go books.  It's pretty exciting!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup

In the spirit of my friend Kristen's project I'm going to share my own new experience for today.  My friend Kristen is currently doing one brand new thing a day, every day, for one year.  So far she's almost at the half way mark and she is well on her way to 365 new experiences (read more about it at  I'm not going for even close to that many, but today was pretty special.

What does this new experience have to do with the World Cup you ask?  Well, I can honestly say this is the first time in my life I've ever been into a sports game.  That's right, I'm American, from the land of basketball and football, and I even went to U of M who has a fierce rivalry with OSU.  I gotta say though, ever since I was a kid, I've been ambivalent to just about all sports.  Basketball?  Repetitive.  Baseball?  Too slow.  Hockey?  Yawn.  I was the curiosity of all the neighbors and my family, when sports season rolled around and I showed little to no interest.  Sure, my mom is not into sports at all, but you'd think I'd at least pick up a passing interest in sports with all the hysteria surrounding local teams.  My uncle was, and still is, a Lions fanatic, and my aunts love the Pistons while I never even knew the names of the players on the teams.  This also means I've never been emotionally invested in whether or not a team wins or loses.  I went to one Wolverine's game, and I know I am an alumni and I will be lectured on this sternly (and deservedly) by U of M fans, but I totally did not care if our team won or lost.  I couldn't understand what made everyone around me scream and shout at the top of their lungs, or what compelled a 5 foot 2 asian girl to yell "Rip their F#@$#@$ing heads off!" 

Today that changed.  I went to a bar called Exit which is popular among expats here with my coworker Emily and we sat down and watched Korea vs. Argentina.  People in the bar were sporting red colored shirts and jerseys with "Fighting Korea!" and "Let's go Korea" emblazoned on the back.  There was electricity in the air and I could actually feel it.  I felt relaxed enough to yell when the Korean team came close to scoring a goal, and it felt fun to mock the Argentinian team as best I could.  Their coach is a mafioso, I swear it.  When Korea scored I actually lept up out of my seat and started yelling and joining in with the rest of the bar singing 'Taehan Minguk!!" (Republic of Korea).  It felt like a rollercoaster when the ball got close to our side of the field (notice how I'm starting to use words like we and our), and even laugh when Emily told me she wants to have the Korean Goalkeeper's children.  When the Argentinians scored their 3rd goal and Korea's loss was pretty much assured, I felt just as bad as everyone else and felt just as deflated, as if the life was sucked out of the room.  We went back home in a ... I don't know what the word for this mood is.  Disappointed, but in a sportsmanlike way?   Like I said, these are all new feelings for me.

I guess this sounds selfish, but I've never blended easily into groups and I definitely have never strongly felt any emotion linked to being in a large group of people.  The force that makes people do the wave or jingle their keys in large stadiums usually just whizzes right over my head.  When people get in a funk over a loss I just look at them like they're agonizing over spilled milk.  Now, I understand what that feeling is like, to be a part of the group and to want the group to win just because you're a part of it.  Sure I'm not Korean and soccer isn't exactly big in America, but I live and work here, they give me income, and I'm part of the community, so of course I want to show my support.  Feeling like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle where I firmly fit into my nice strangely shaped spot just felt....good. 


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Humble Pie

So this past week I was on cloud nine.  I was winning my games at the Go salons, I even beat my teacher, Mr. O, by 4 points in a two stone handicap game, and I was studying Go like nobodies business.  I was hooked to Baduk TV, and evening following along with the commentators as they showed sequences I was thinking about while watching the game.  I was plowing through games of Dosaku and somewhat following his awesome reading (as much as a mere human can anyway), so I thought I was really making some progress in Go.  I even dreamed I would just skip to KGS 5d in no time.  Then, fate walked up to me and handed me this:

Yes, good ol' humble pie.  It looks sort of like this, except its filling is made of anguish, its crust of despair, and its all topped off with a creamy, cool dollop of cold hard reality.  The fork is also conveniently there to jam through your eye.  Last thursday I sat down to play some Go on KGS.  I ended up losing two games to 3d's because I went down in flames, and dropped to 2d.  I thought...

"Ok self, 2d.  That's...not what we're going for here but that's ok.  Maybe there was a rank shift and you haven't played online Go in awhile. Just beat a 2d and you'll be fine."

Upon saying that, I proceeded to lose to 2d's.  In one of the games, I killed my opponent big and still lost (I hate those games).  So, I drop to 1d.  I tried to keep the rage from boiling over but that wasn't going to work, so I proceeded to play more and more games until I got my rank back.  I then proceeded to lose to 1 dans, and even had a hard time against 1 kyus.  It was maddening.  The more I played, the angrier I got, and the worse my play became.  By the end of the evening I had totaled my rank into the ground.  I tried telling myself that I wouldn't go to bed till I got at least 2d back, but in that state I couldn't do anything.

So, the next day I dusted myself off and just said "Self, you're not half as good as you thought you were."  I reviewed my games and I saw that all I did was go all out for the kill.  Every move was single mindedly aimed at destroying my opponent.  Of course it was fueled at having been beaten by players I thought were weaker than me, but they ended up winning, so they weren't so weak after all.  Now that my KGS rank has been trashed into the ground and my self confidence in the gutter, I'll have to pick up the pieces.  So far, I've been playing ranked games on kgs, 2 a day to get my average back to snuff, and even when I told myself I'd be calm and concentrate, I still lost to a 1 kyu (lemme tell you, that's a bad feeling).

I'm sure anyone reading this who is low dan or one kyu will feel standoffish but the fact of the matter is I studied hard and I did gain strength, so it's hard for me to swallow that someone who is 2-3 stones weaker than me was able to achieve victory.  It just means I'll have to redouble my efforts.  More exercise, more eating healthy, more tsumego problems, more more more until I get to where I'm going.  I was actually nervous playing a one dan today and even though I won handily the scar of having been dethroned so completely is still on my mind.  I guess the moral of the story is, be patient, and keep your ego in check.  Whenever mine starts going out of control I always have one of these episodes.  We'll see if I bounce back.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Election Season

June 2nd is Election day here in Korea and I gotta say it's a happenin' time. When Americans want to promote their local politicians before election day rolls around, people usually put plastic signs on their lawn, maybe a bumper sticker or two, and for the more daring, T-shirts. Sure we have heated debates on television for the presidential election, but for stuff like director of education and local offices, there's not a lot of hoopla. Mayor races are of course big in Korea like they are here, but let's just say there's a lot more fanfare:

For the past two weeks or so there has been non stop fanfare with signs and posters plastered everywhere introducing different candidates. They have trucks with political supporters riding in the back waving signs and dancing to different tunes which all glorify the candidates name. The "Yu Jae Yong" song is my favorite and I have to get a video of it before the elections are over, because it's sickeningly addictive as the lyrics are mostly the man's name. People walk down the street wearing colored T-shirts and waving banners and flags. You can't really walk past a main thoroughfare without seeing some form of advertising.

O Sae Dong, larger than life.
While it may be a rather interesting spectacle to me, my supervisor at work was telling me she really finds election season annoying as she can't go home without a truck driving up and down her street blaring someone's name. A lot of my korean co-workers shared the same opinion as they didn't really care who became director of education or like commissioner of such and such, they just wanted to go about their daily lives.  For me, election day means a morning off and a lot of fun.  Yes, Koreans get election day off, or rather, the morning off to be able to go vote.  Wish Americans did that.

Friday, May 21, 2010

So You Want to Play Go?

Well, I'm finally finished.  As some of you may know I published 3 books on Go last year.  Well, I did some editing and revising and now I can say they are really ready.  The "So You Want to Play Go?" series was designed to take someone who knows nothing about Go and guide them to becoming a single digit kyu player.  The first book is a primer on the rules and basic strategy, aimed at 30-20 kyu players, i.e. people who are just beginning the game.  The second is for those who have some experience but need an introduction to the larger strategic concepts such as middle game fighting and tesuji.  The third deals with more complex strategy and goes deeper into the subject that were introduced in the second level.  Besides Go there is plenty of cultural information including the history of the game as well as profiles of professional players.

I started writing the first book abut 4 years ago after I went to the South Carolina Go Congress.  I was inspired to start writing a primer after I watched a lecture by Maeda Ryo on the fundamentals.  I had learned Go by looking at professional game records and reading books in Chinese (which at the time I didn't understand but gave me every reason to take Chinese!).  I felt I had a good grasp of the basics, but looking at Maeda sensei's lecture I decided that it was more important for people beginning to learn Go to concentrate on set shapes and know them backwards and forwards.  I learned Go haphazardly when I first started, just experimenting with whatever I thought was good and trying moves from pro games.  I thought a book that was more organized and showed things beginners want to know when they first start would go a long way in making Go more popular.

What do I offer that other Go books don't?  Each book doesn't concentrate on just one idea or area of Go, I wanted the reader to have access to as many different faces of Go as possible.  For instance, you'll find chapters on Attacking, Sabaki, and the Opening in the third book where other Go books only focus on one subject.  Instead of piecing together the game like I did, learning one concept from a lecture here and another concept from a book, I thought it'd be easier for the reader to just have everything at their fingertips.  Is there more to Go than what I've written about?  Of course, but my job isn't to create the great Bible of the game, just lend a helping hand to the Go community I'm very much apart of.

So far I've gotten great feedback.  A friend of mine used the first level of the series to teach his beginner classes at Case Western with good results.  I also got some good comments from members of the Quad Cities Go club.  I'm excited because hopefully I can help the English speaking Go world in my own way.  Visit my main website,, if you want to see some previews or order.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I probably sent many of you running to the hills with this title.  K-pop, like it's dreaded cousin J-pop, is all about the sugar coated, bubble gum, recycled lyrics that is the hallmark of pop music.  It's like they took the sugary sweet lyrics of American pop music, refined it, added artificial sweetener and served it on a bed of cotton candy.  Originally I started listening to it so I could find out what the kids listened to and why they reacted so weird when  I said certain words in English.  See, in K-pop and well...a lot of popular asian music in general, to spice up the song they add one or two words of English.  Not too much to offend people's ears but enough to sound exotic. The thing is, the people listening to it may not have any idea what the words mean, especially the children.  This leads to some strange occurrences, like one of my 6 year olds singing "Puppy puppy puppy puppy" for half an hour straight.  Another time, when kids in class were tired of class and started complaining, I'd tell them "I don't care" and then they would respond with a rousing chorus of 2ne1's hit song "I don't care, yeah yeah yeah".

Hearing this at the drop of a hat was a little annoying but funny nonetheless.

As far as groups to listen to, there's a wide variety.  There's the mega groups like Super Junior and Sonya Shidae (Girl's generation) where they give the better looking people more screen and song time.  Of course Korean girls will know every guy in the group, their blood type, and what their favorite food is.  I personally like Super Junior despite the fact they ruined the word "sorry" for the kids with their hit song "Sorry Sorry".  I also enjoy T-ara, Brown Eyed Girls, and Shinee (having your group's name in English is also fashionable).  

The thing is, for learning Korean, nothing beats it.  I've taken to studying Korean more seriously where before it took a back seat to Go.  I enrolled in a class for awhile but it's expensive and even though it was helping I get a lot of reinforcement from well...everyone around me.  I plan on going back maybe next month but in the meantime I'm studying on my own. The thing is, I don't learn from traditional books as well, I learn on my feet.   I learn by listening to people speak and using context and logic to figure out what words mean what.  So far I'm pretty conversational and I can talk to the kids when I need to communicate with them so I know they understand me.  I wanna move to the next level, and so far K-pop is doing it.  Now this may seem odd or exaggerated, I mean after all you'd think you'd need a book right?  Well, like I said before, the book is good but it only gets me 20% of the way.  Like for instance, I learned how to speak German mainly from watching anime dubbed in German and then using the book to teach me some grammar.  The book just introduced vocab and grammar, the show reinforced and added to what I knew.

All in all it's great fun.  It's nice to be able to sing with the kids.  Korean kids have no compunctions about singing and do so at the drop of a hat.  Of course when I sing in Korean it melts their little minds because they're trained to think that non-Koreans don't speak Korean at all.  That's a cultural thing I believe I'll never really understand, but hey, I don't really have to.  By the way, if you're wondering how any child could sing puppy for 30 minutes (I'm not kidding you), then I dare you to watch this.  Don't do so for too long though; try to keep your sanity. Sure, they aren't technically saying puppy but it sounds like it.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Perfected Recipe #1 - Zuccini bread

My absolute favorite dessert since I was a kid, my first perfected dish.  It's a culinary masterpiece which is now a permanent member of my repertoire: Zuccini bread.  Sure it has a bit of a Korean finish since I had to use the Korean version of Zuccini.
Which looks like this.

It's called "En Hobak".  Hobak means pumpkin but I think the term is used for any type of squash.  It's got a much higher water content and is a bit sweeter than zuccini but I thought "Hey this is dessert".  I ran all across Korea and back to get the right spices, and after much effort, hard work, and slaving away in my mini kitchen I finally created this:
What makes it awesome is the struessel topping.  The bread itself is spongy and moist yet firm.  The walnuts give it a good texture and did I mention the crunchy cinnamon/sugar struessel topping?  I also got the right spice mixture which is a secret I'm taking to my grave.  The people at worked loved it and we're off to a good start.  Btw, I don't want to put stuff that's too easy on my list, like sautéed vegetables.  I want something that takes some effort and skill.  Anyways, I'll post again later once my schedule settles down.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Return

So today, on May 1st, I took the subway to Migeum.  For the past month I've been taking a break from Go, and for the past two weeks, I havent touched anything that had to do with Go.  No books, no Go TV, no problems, no logging onto online Go servers, nothing.  I was nervous when I got on the elevator to go to the eighth floor.  After all, I was going to be rusty and the kids are merciless.  I walked in, and everyone was surprised to see me, many of the kids that had been there for awhile were happy to see me, and class resumed.  How did I do?

I owned them.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Insert Witty Title Header Here

Now, when I signed up for this job they told me that my room was part of the package, that I would not be paying for a place to stay mainly because in order to get a place to stay here you have to fork over a truckload of cash.  When I read the "Teach English in Korea" recruitment website, they said that the apartment would be up to Western standards.  Well, that was a bit...optimistic on their part or they don't know Western standards.  My bathroom and shower to speak and I find my apartment to severely lack kitchen area.  But, I'm patient and lord knows I don't need lots of space to live by myself.  I can handle this part, but what was icing on the cake is that I live next to a dump.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

So lately I've veered off the Go stuff, and for those of you who are here for that, I just haven't been as hardcore with my study over the past week....AND IT FEELS GREAT.  Only having to focus on working at school is liberating, but rest assured come Saturday, May 1 I will be right back at the Yu Changhyuk Baduk Dojang ready to do battle with the 9 year olds.

That's right kiddies, I'll be back.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Starting over

This month I'm just plain taking a break, I'm burned out.  I was going to take Korean lessons on the weekend but I'm kind of enjoying spending my weekends not at the dojo and not running anywhere, trying to do something.  Don't read that as "Oh, Jon's giving up" or anything like that; far from it.  I realized I'm human and I needed a break, I can't run like a machine.  I've burned out many times in the past and this is the first time in my life that my response is to actually take care of myself rather than convince myself I can just slug through the burnout and work more.  That's not the way human beings are made and that's just not a good approach to life.  I think I finally get it.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Culture Crossings

So, in lighter news we had our first staff potluck last Tuesday and it was a big hit.  As some of you may know I love to cook and I'm pretty good at it.  The skill came out as sort of a necessity since my mother hates preparing food.  She used to have little respect for it and when my grandmother tried to teach her how to make certain dishes she would just hide the pans and run away.  For a good part of my life we just ordered take out or ate meals out of a box, not exactly healthy but hey it worked.  When I got older I discovered I much preferred to make my own food and cooking to me is much like an experiment with the recipe as your guide. During graduate school I would go over my friend Kristen's place and would prepare meals which also gave me the chance to widen my repertoire.  Well I got another chance to go at it in the kitchen for this week's potluck, with an added challenge: the people I was making food for had distinctly different pallets than I did.


Saturday, March 27, 2010


I thought I'd take a second and talk about the place I work at (YBM ECC) because it's really quite amazing.  I know in the graduation post I was taken in by the spectacle of the occasion, but the school I work at is really a nice place and they are totally succeeding at teaching children how to speak English despite not having reinforcement from the outside world.  I used to wonder why it was Koreans expended so much energy and money to bring English speaking foreigners to their country to learn a language they have sufficient resources to teach.  They have books, CD's, television, media, and all the grammar you could shake a stick at, so why do they need us?  I got my answer yesterday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Today's Lesson Part Deux

So right now I'm working on revamping my original 3 books on Go and starting work on the dan level version, so I've been kind of busy and not so much with the posting as of late, but I promise I'll put up more stuff as time goes on.  If anyone has happened to have read any of them, I know some people were able to get a copy when they first came out, I'd love comments or questions.

My schedule at school is pretty brutal in that Monday and Friday I have like, what, 10 or 11 classes and a lunch duty in a row so I go from 10 until 6:50 straight save for a 25 minute break which is sometimes only 10 minutes if the kids are having a hard time putting their coats on.  When I get home I'm pretty blasted.  I'm taking like a month or so off of taking lessons on Monday, Wednesday, and the weekend, so I can have some time to relax and rebuild.  I was exercising, taking evening lessons, changing my diet, working on Baduk World stuff, taking Korean lessons twice a week, and working at school all at the same time and I just said to myself "Self, you're not a machine.  Cool it."  I'm learning it's okay to be ambitious but know why you are working so hard and for what purpose, and always realize that since you will eventually get to your destination there is no reason not to enjoy the scenery.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Baduk World in Korea

So I am ultra excited this week.  Like more excited than I've been in a long time.  Why am I so happy?  Well, I can proudly say I will be a teacher at a Go school aimed at teaching foreigners.   The website can be found here:

That's right, my job will be to teach people the game I love playing on the weekends and weeknights (of course I'll mostly be teaching kyu level players but still, it's fantastic).  The opportunity just sort of fell in my lap.  When I got to Korea I didn't know where to study Go.  I asked a korean friend of mine on KGS if he somehow knew where to go, but he didn't, he only knew of his old teacher who lives in Seoul.  He gave me his teacher, O Pilsang's, email address and he told me about the dojo I currently go to.  In a mysterious turn of events, two weekends after New Year's my teacher at the dojo said "tomorrow, don't come."  This didn't really make any sense since New Year's had passed and Lunar New Year wasn't until next month.  Before when we had days off at the dojo they would give me a reason but this time they didn't.  So, that Sunday I had off, and 'lo and behold Mr. O messaged me about a new Go parlor that was opening up in a nearby city and asked me if I wanted to come.  "What the hell" I thought, since I wasn't doing anything else that day.  I went, and then when I saw Mr. O with his English speaking friend Mr. Park, I realized what was up.  So I just grinned and went with them to the Go parlor.  I played Kim KiJung, one of the other teachers, when I got there, and he could not give me 3 stones of handicap but 2 stones seemed to be a fair battle (now we play evenly).  I also played Mr. O at 3 stones and got wholluped but not without a fight.  So, after all was said and done, we went to dinner.

It was at dinner that they told me they wanted to start a Baduk school for foreigners, since they knew the game was getting more popular in the West.  They were clearly scoping me out and I was far stronger than what they were expecting, they told me so.  So they invited me to be a teacher and to start getting trained by not only Mr. O, but Kim Kijung's daughter, Kim Seonmi, who is a 2 dan professional.  JOY!  So for the past month I went to the dojo on weekends, saw Mr. O on monday, and saw Kim Seonmi on Wednesday.  Now that I've finished the website, I can officially let you all know what's up.

This is pure awesome.  I mean, I came to Korea with one thing in mind and out of left field a wonderful opportunity just blossomed because I was open to it.  I could have just told them "no I don't want to come" because I didn't know Mr. O in the slightest.  I could have backed out of it, not having the confidence to teach.  Instead, I just decided this was all too well timed, almost rehearsed if you will, so it must just be part of God's way of giving me a high five.  So if you know someone that wants to study Baduk or are interested in yourself contact us!  It will be a fantastic trip!

Thanks! comments

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pushing Forward

Ok, so last week I had a bit of a meltdown.  The normal teacher wasn't there when I walked in the dojo, it was the guy that spoke a little English, well, enough English, he's not bad at all.  I like the normal teacher, Yi Jae Il, better because we get along pretty well, but this week he's preparing for some big tournament.  The guy that speaks English is okay, but he is of the mindset that I suck and am no match against the yongusaengs (the kids studying to be pro).  I lost pretty much every game last Saturday because the kids were having none of me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Blonde Effect

Before we get into this fascinating subject, I just wanted to give yet another Elton update (don't you just love those?)  I was concerned when Elton graduated with the rest of the kindergartners because we wouldn't be able to teach him anymore, but lo and behold, he's back!  He goes to ECC for their afternoon classes!  I don't personally teach him, the new teacher who just flew in, Emily, will be his instructor.  Emily also has dyslexia and the first thing out of her mouth was that she thought the boy had it too.  Anyway, we're past it, he's still around and we can still help him as much as we can.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Awesome Pro game

My study mainly consists of studying pro games and doing a LOT of tsumego problems.  Pro games can be a headache most of the time, as I usually only have a rudimentary understanding of what strategies they're employing, but every so often I watch one where the entire game almost clicks in my mind.  Well, almost 100%.  My opening is still the weakest part of my game so in that respect I can get muddled but the game I watched on Baduk TV today really stuck with me because the fighting was so smooth.  I could always see the next move in my mind and all the pieces just merged together.  The commentator was just showing me things I had already read out, so it felt good to know that maybe I'm making a step forward. I'll show you some of the highlights of the game.  I forget who played it, I wasn't paying attention to the players names.

By the way for the Go uninitiated I'm working on putting up some Go terms so when I use them you can just look them up.


Thursday, February 25, 2010


First off kudos to Jeff on the new logo for the site. He worked his magic and it came out REALLY nice, so a thumbs up to him. Until next week thursday I don't have any kindergarten classes and my birthday is a national holiday in Korea (how's that for luck?), meaning I don't have to be at work until 2:40 in the afternoon. The reason for that is the old kindergarten classes have graduated and the new kindergartners are coming in. In order to mark this auspicious occasion we had our very long graduation ceremony today with all the trimmings.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Today's Lesson

So I met my teacher Mr. O today (Yes, his last name is a letter of the alphabet) at a nearby go club and we played a teaching game as usual. I've found my play has gotten a lot less aggressive since I have to play little children all the time. Little children tend to overplay a lot and do not stop until all of your stones are dead, so in response I developed a style that is fairly solid and waits for the right moment to strike back when they play a move that just plain doesn't work. The problem is I stopped seeing the ultra-aggressive moves that were the hallmark of my Go style, so I miss golden opportunities to strike back.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


First watch this:


So, the dubbing is a little iffy but it gets the point across. Recently I entered into an agreement with a friend of mine, where we would play 10 games of Go each week until the big Go tournament back home in the U.S. which is at the end of summer. Should one of us not manage to do this we will have to pay $50 for each infringement. And by pay, I mean our conversation when I get back home will begin with:

(Jon gives Eric $50)
Hi Eric!
Hi Jon!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting started

Well getting this blog started was surprisingly easy, I was prepared for an entire day of aggravation but instead I got up and running within minutes!

Thanks for checking my blog out. My name is Jonathan Hop and I am currently studying Go (also known as Baduk and Weiqi) in Suji, South Korea at the Yu Changhyuk Baduk Dojang, a place where young children work to become professional players. That's right, I am another person starting a blog about Korea, but before you run screaming for the hills, I'm a bit different...

A. I did not name this blog revolving around puns using the word "Seoul", for instance "Heart and Seoul" or "Seoul Mate". They make me gag.

B. This blog is less about my escapades as an English teacher and more about how I train myself to get stronger at a game I love.

C. While Go enthusiasts will probably go for this more than the uninitiated I also think that it'll be interesting for those who don't understand how to play Go but want to know more about the lifestyle and world of the people who play.

Anyway, things you can expect in the future -

For Go types:
Games that I play versus the Yongusaengs (the children studying to become pro) with some of my own commentary and commentary from my teacher Yi Jae Il (8d on Tygem) as well as some of my teaching games versus Kim Sunmi 2p. I always keep my eye out for new patterns, sequences, and moves so you can also expect that in posts to come. I'll also try to keep my study guide up to date to show you what pro games I'm reviewing, what problems I'm doing, and if I encounter anything cool on Tygem.

For Non-Go types:
Cultural stuff and all the flowery goodness you can stand. Actually studying Go has been pretty rough and it's forced me to learn a lot about myself and competition. I also find the story of the people who learn to become professional to be pretty interesting.

It'll be fun so stay tuned.