Saturday, December 31, 2011

So You Want to Play Go? Level 4

I am working on level four of the series, and I'm doing it in conjunction with Alexandre Dinerchtein 3p who has been more than kind enough to review it.  I've been really excited to do it as I felt that there is so little out there for dan level players.  It kind of feels like you're pretty much left to study Go on your own after 1 dan.  Sure, they tell you to do more tsumego and to review more professional games, but I thought it'd be fun if there was something else you could do besides the same-old same-old.  I started on it right when I got back from South Korea.  I had spent about 6 months or so training at the Yu Changhyuk Baduk Dojang.  I had time to go on the weekends, and it was a great experience.  If you're new to the blog, I have plenty of stuff on my experiences there.

What I wanted to do with level 4 is simulate being at the Go Dojo because I know many people will not have the means to go.  I try to teach Go the way my teacher taught me.  Essentially, you play lots of games, get them reviewed by stronger players, go over many professional games, do tons of tsumego, and learn new joseki.  I was surrounded by people who were working very hard to become professionals, and that is essentially what they did everyday for hours.  I am not a kid, so I don't have the mental agility and pure open mind that they possessed, but I stuck with the program as best as I could.  Level 4 will have new joseki, analyzed professional games, positional judgement, and mistakes for dan level players.  I know, it's an ambitious project, but I felt that it'd be fun to finish the series off right. It's not quite finished, so if you have any last minute suggestions of things you'd like to see, let me know!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Blitz on KGS

So I'm focusing a lot on writing and I have less and less time to do tsumego problems and review professional games which makes up the bulk of my studying for Go.  So, to try and stay in shape so I don't slip down any stones, I play a lot of blitz games on KGS.  10 seconds per move.  I'm trying to experiment with it as a study tool, to see if it really can keep you in shape, or if you develop bad habits from it.  I am not a slow player in the first place.  I tend to instinctively slam down a stone after my opponent plays because I let my emotions guide me when I decide my next move.  My teacher in Korea told me it was a bad habit, especially when there were plenty of games I could have won with careful decision making.  One time when I was playing a kid, he walked over to our board, stood there for about five minutes and mustered all of his English knowledge into this beautiful sentence: "Fast, lose.  Slow, win."  Poetry.

Well I'm trying to see if he was really right.  I did win against the kids when I thought about it and really made careful moves.  However I can't get over the impulse to slam a stone down.  I think blitz will not get rid of that feeling, but at the same time, I rely largely on my intuition and instinct, and I think blitz games train those just fine.  You have to do a lot of quick calculation and use your gut to come up with the next move.  Although the problem is when I'm at a loss for my next move I don't really know what to do and end up clicking a random spot.

Does anyone else play a lot of blitz, and if so, do you think it's helped your game at all? comments

I know....

I'm not supposed to shamelessly self promote, but as an indie author, you have to shamelessly self promote :P  I just finished my book on my year in Korea!  If you're interested in going to Korea to teach ESL, or perhaps if you just wanna learn a bit more about their culture, this book is a quick, fun read!  I tried to condense my entire year down into a book, all of the places I visited, all of the people I met, and all of the adventures I had.  I went to Korea with no knowledge of the language, no knowledge of the culture, and no idea what I was getting into, so I went in by the seat of my pants and had a great time!

You can purchase it from Amazon for 99 cents!


Friday, August 26, 2011

For Beginners

For those of you who are not familiar with the game, here is a quick introduction!

Go is a war game.  It is an epic battle to see who can surround more territory.  Gameplay is simple.  One person is black, one person is white, and you take turns putting a stone on the board in any spot so long as it follows three rules.
These are my go bowls of awesomeness.

What makes the game interesting, but oftentimes challenging, is that you have few rules to restrict where you play, everything else is fair game.  As you can see from the picture, a Go board is a big grid.  We play stones on the intersections, and not on the squares like chess or checkers.  When you put a stone down on an intersection it has liberties:

As you can see, this stone has 4 liberties when no enemy stones occupy the horizontal or vertical spaces surrounding it.  We don't care about diagonals.  The stone on the left has 4 liberties and is in no danger, whereas his friend on the right is almost full encircled and only has 1 liberty.  By the way, the Chinese name of the game is Weiqi which means encircling game.  
When a stone has no more liberties it is captured by your opponent, taken off the board, and is worth 1 point.  One rule of Go is "You can't play a stone where it will automatically run out of liberties and die."  Yeah, I know, painfully obvious but someone has to do it.  The other rule is just a tad more complicated but keeps the game from freezing.

On the left, Black has 1 liberty left which I've marked for you, so White can capture the A stone and then our board will look like the middle picture.  The thing is, now White B has only one liberty.  If Black captures, then his stone will have one liberty, and both people will be locked in an eternal struggle for dominance.  This is why we have the "Ko rule".  The character for ko means eternity, and to keep the game going, once White takes, Black has to play elsewhere before he can take the move back.  So if we look on the right, White takes the circle marked Black stone, and Black must play elsewhere.  If White also plays elsewhere, then Black can take White 1.  

You can play Go now.  Yes I'm serious if you have a board and stones, and you can make that out of cardboard and buttons, you can grab a buddy and play.  You can try out your first game for free on the Kiseido Go Server at  You can make an account and play as many games as you want at no charge, so Go is both fun AND frugal!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Long Hiatus!

So my hiatus was far longer than expected, but the Sunday Go Blog is up and running again!  Between moving twice, job hunting, and general insanity, it's been hard to get back in the groove of writing, but now I'm back and there'll be more Go than you can shake a stick at!  I'm working on the next three books in the series and hopefully will come out with the 4th level dan book, in conjunction with Alexandre Dinerchtein 3p.  I'm really busy, but I will always make time for Go fans.

First off, I finally have a Twitter account.  I still do not really understand what the allure of Twitter is, but I'm sure someday I'll get it.  I was dragged kicking and screaming into the technological age.  I think if you click this button you will be able to join my Twitter feed, or spy on me, or something.

Second, as I said earlier, I'll be in hardcore writing mode until the end of the year.  I am working back and forth on at least four books.  I want to finally do the Go problems books, one for each level, to complement the "So You Want to Play Go?" series.  I'm also going to try and finish up the book for expert players, and then a small book on studying in Korea and teaching for a year.  It's a lot, I know, but I'll sleep when I'm dead :P  You can check out everything I've already written which is available on Amazon:

Third, well, Go!  I've gotten back into watching Hikaru no Go, specifically the North Star Cup movie.  I haven't seen the series in at least a year and I felt inspired to watch it all over again.  I especially like the movie  except the fact that it stops short of where the manga ended.  Of course the manga ending is...Japanese.  The heroes don't really win and there isn't a big happy ending.  What endears me most to the movie is that you get some matchups between the characters that you kind of wish had happened earlier.  Touya vs. Ogata and Shindou vs. his teacher.  And of course, Ochi breaking down in tears is a must-see.  I wish that had finished actually animated the Japan-Korea-China tournament.  I mean, you have all this build up and then you never do it; kind of a let down :)

You can check it out on youtube here:

If I can find the game Shindou and Yashiro play online I think I'll analyze it and post it.  Anyways, welcome back to the blog!