Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Skype alternative and ... Wal-Mart

Skype for full duplex audio during games

Some of you had asked about this information so I decided to blog about it again with more details.

I had an opportunity one evening to listen-in on one of shygost's (-) lessons. I was very impressed with how he would try to guide the student and with the detailed explanations he gave regarding the value of one move over another. Of course, what facilitated this smooth and rapid flow of information was that shygost was using audio.

There are times and environments where audio lessons or games aren't ideal. Some of us play late into the evening and would have to whisper even when using headsets. Some of us play during our lunchbreaks in the office and need to exercise discretion.

But when it's available, audio really makes a lesson more efficient and creates an even more sociable atmosphere for a game. Even if you can't get a teacher's audio account with KGS, you can use Skype.

I had a couple of sessions with mungo (-, aka creepyjohn on IGS) and one with another player on IGS using Skype. Woodard is also trying to get his Skype account set-up.

There are a number of advantages to Skype:
  • It's FREE! (Download size of 7.2MB)
  • Their technology and the company are stable. Skype was acquired by eBay earlier this year.
  • The audio is crisp and clear with no choppiness (as long as you're not trying to download a huge file at the same time).
  • It's compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
  • You get clear full-duplex communications even with connections as slow as 33.6Kbps. I haven't tested it on a connection that slow but, theoretically, you should be able to talk and play on your Go client without experiencing any delays.
  • The free version allows you to do a conference call with up to four participants. You can enjoy a group review of a game.
  • If you like Skype enough that you want to chuck your regular phone service, you can add-on their paid services and buy Skype-certified VOIP phones.
Give it a shot. If you do set yourself up, you can Skype me at the login ID of (what else) chiyodad.

In Other News

ChiyoMama sent me to buy some cleaning spray ...

... on November 25th ...

... at Wal-Mart ...

... at 9:30am.

I must have done something to offend her.

Seriously though, it was one of the more bothersome mornings I have had this year. Parking was horrible. The lines to the cash registers were long. Some folks seemed a tad rude for you just being in their way.

For those who are unfamiliar with customs and traditions in the United States, here's an explanation from the ChiyoDadPedia:

November 24th and 25th are the dates for important rituals in America.

The first day is marked by self-inflicted engorgement upon a sacrificial bird, most often of the species meleagris gallopavo. The second day is celebrated by irrational retail consumption of supposedly scarce goods and/or services which have been made to appear more valuable through the extensive use of prices ending with the number 9 and of undisclosed fine print. The perception of scarcity leads quite understandibly to fierce competition for these goods and services; often resulting in violent manifestations to claim ownership thereof.

Wal-Mart customers demonstrate the ancient martial skill of Shop-Fu
as they deck the halls ... and each other.

While the ritual of the first day may be seen in isolation as a gluttonous act of self-indulgence, its practice is presumably to prepare for the combative confrontations that are certain to take place on the second day. In early tribal societies, warriors would often feast before going into battle.

The rituals of these two days herald the beginning of the season for "Peace on Earth" and "Goodwill towards all men".

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The 2005 Go Player's Holiday Gift Guide

You see them in every publication these days: gift guides. There are gift guides for techies, fitness enthusiasts, corporate executives, fashion victims ... the list goes on and on.

But I haven't yet seen a gift guide for Go players, ... so I decided to try starting one of my own.

For 2005, I'm focusing on books for beginners. These are taken from the titles that I know best and, for the most part, have already read. Give the URL for this post to someone who's in a position to play Santa to you. Feel free to add other suggestions to this list in the comments.

Note: I (unfortunately) get no royalties or special treatment from any of these vendors for endorsing their books. These recommendations are my own independent assessments that I made on my way up to 20 Kyu.

For The Absolute Beginner

For those just starting out, Janice Kim's Learn To Play Go, Vol.1 stands out as one the best (if not the best) introductory book to Go. Its contents are well-structured and easy-to-understand. Exercises at the end of each section test your understanding of rules, basic strategy and basic tactics. This was the book that Chiyo-Chan and I started out with; playing in one of the lounges of the MGM Grand Hotel while on a family vacation in Las Vegas.

The book includes cardstock 19x19, 13x13, and 9x9 boards as well as cardstock stones. These will allow you to get started even before you get your first goban.

Available from Samarkand

For Those Who Are Past Introductory Books

If I knew back in late June what I know now, I would have bought these three elementary-to-intermediate books after reading Volume 1 of Learn To Play Go.

Haruyama Isamu and Nagahara Yoshiaki have put together an excellent post-introductory book which I like a little better than The Second Book of Go. It therefore gets my gift recommendation here. The six chapters of Basic Techniques of Go cover tesuji, fuseki, 4-9 stone handicap games, handicap fuseki, handicap joseki and yose. The 3rd edition was rewritten to minimize the use of Japanese terms.

I had done Kyu Reviews on both Opening Theory Made Easy and The Nihon Ki-in Handbook of Proverbs. Those of you who had read the reviews know that I gave both of these books a rating of five out of five. They should give you a strong power-up to your game.

Available from Kiseido and Yutopian

The Gods At Play

This stuff isn't supposed to be beginners' material, but what player wouldn't want to have analyzed games of Shusaku and Go Seigen to study in their quest for shodan? It would be hard to find anyone among us who wouldn't want to have either book on-hand in their library.

Invincible, is a rather large Go book and it contains 143 of Shusaku's games (80 of which are commented on by 9-dan professionals). To the best of my knowledge, it is the only major compendium of his games that is in English.

A Way of Play for the 21st Century, which I once quoted from, was compiled from Go Seigen's lectures on the Go program, Igo Koza, which were broadcast by NHK from October 1996 to March 1997.

Surprisingly, the writing of these two books is quite accessible (particularly that from Go Seigen's) and even lower kyu players may get some snippets of wisdom to strengthen their games.

Available from Kiseido and Slate & Shell

Give Them Lots of Problems

Reading is the muscle of Go. We've heard that many times and we've all heard that the best way to flex that muscle is by solving Go problems. Kiseido has four books to help test and develop your reading abilities; grouped according to level of difficulty.

  • 30-25 Kyu
  • 25-15 Kyu
  • 15-8 Kyu
  • 8-3 Kyu

Available from Kiseido

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I think this aggressive style will work ...

... sooner or later.

Armed with a greater awareness about invasions and territorial reduction, I have been experimenting with a somewhat more aggressive style. This, as expected, has led to a losing streak of my last five rated games against human opponents.

I remain unflustered and yoyoma (2k) has continued to encourage me. Our last review examined the importance of balance and some strategic concepts in attacks. I'll probably need another review over the next few days.

Ouch! That didn't work.

The above diagram is from my fourth rated game against stephanos (19k) where I played White. As you'll notice, all the White stones in the upper right are dead and I practically painted the entire left side with stones.

And that didn't work, either!

The next diagram is from my fifth rated game against Kyuuga (17k) where I played Black. I successfully captured all four corners but my stones in the center are dead. This nicely disproves that questionable proverb about resigning if you've lost all the corners.

I expect to get a little better with this new style after I've gotten a chance to experiment more with it. I'm guessing that these are my first conscious steps away from the big-moyo defensive style of play that is typical of most beginners.

Feel free to share any thoughts or suggestions about my games.

Still missing some fundamentals?

During an oddly slow period on KGS, I chanced upon an even game against a dan-level player on IGS (aka PandaNet) who, for now, shall remain nameless. He too gave me encouragement in a mixed review. His assessment was that I played at 10-kyu strength in some instances (probably cases of applied joseki) but that I also exhibited a lack of "fundamentals" in others. The time wasn't convenient for me so I had to log-off IGS after only a brief discussion. Even worse, I failed to set my client to auto-save my game so I have no SGF to study.

Of course, that now leaves me wondering about what fundamentals I lack.

Watching the tournament

The 2nd KGS Iron Man Tournament is in its final rounds and there's still a chance that Zero9090 (14k) could get either a gold or silver crown! As of the time of this post, he's in 3rd place in the 30k-to-4k Division.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Kids' gobans, Drago 1.45 and a problem

A scavenger webhunt finds more HNG merchandise

While reading the English blog Game Go In Russia, I ran across an interesting applet called FlashGoban (link in Russian). I've been looking for applets that would allow me to exhibit a SGF in my posts that you, the reader, could interact with but thus far I haven't found one that can be hosted on blogspot.com and is compatible with all browsers. Brad Woodard had shown me Igowalker which is promising but only works with Microsoft's Internet Explorer at this time.

Anyway, my hunt for information on FlashGoban led me to go.hobby.ru and to this shop where I found a pair of interesting magnetic kids' sets from Korea. These are obviously manufactured by Myung-In. Maybe the auctioneers at KHH Limited on eBay, or even Yutopian, should start offering these.

HNG 13x13 Magnetic Goban

HNG 19x19 Magnetic Goban

If you'd like to browse a translated version of any of the Russian sites, you can use Babelfish or IM Translator.

Drago 1.45 freeware now available

Gilles Arcas has updated Drago to version 1.45 and you can download it from his site. As some of you know, I use this application for studying SGFs offline and quizzing myself on Go problems.

It's been my preferred application for illustrating board positions because of its fast and convenient image file exporter. I had suggested it to wolvie (20k?) who now also uses it for her blog.

A simple life-and-death problem?

Peter Chen sent me the problem illustrated below. It looks simple, ... but is it? Black to move.

Black to move

Monday, November 21, 2005

Good luck!!

I just wanted to wish good luck to all of the participants of the 2nd KGS Iron Man Tournament. May sente be with you!

Special wishes go to NannyOgg (Boo-yah! Open Division!), Saiclone, ScatCat and Zero9090!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

New comic strip for you all

Click to enlarge

I wanted to poke fun at Hikaru No Go again. Only those familiar with the manga will get this. Click on the image above to enlarge it.

If you missed the first comic that featured Fujiwara No Homer as the spirit of Baka No Itte (Hand of the Imbecile), here's a convenient link to it.

The Creative Process Isn't Linear Either

Lots of ideas but I lack the time.

The photo above is evidence that I do almost all of my illustrations on Post-It notes before scanning them for the final illustrations. I do a lot of drawings but not all of them become Minute Manga (although that's the intention). Some of them will have to wait for another day (i.e. when I have more time to draw the other panels) and so I keep them stored in my drawer.

Now, compared to McSnail's work, my drawing abilities are nothing. She's got what it takes to become a real professional. Pay her a compliment if you run into her online at KGS.

Oh, so you CAN live there!

Some of you might remember this series.


yoyoma (2k) correctly observed my reluctance to jump in between 3 point spaces during one of my last games. That's because I honestly didn't think that I could form a living shape in such a tight spot. He demonstrated to me however that it was possible and not difficult.

Based on the cover art, this book's title should be
"Get Strong At Using Your Goban As A Lethal Weapon"

I managed to get myself a copy of Get Strong At Invading from Kinokuniya Bookstore for just $9 ( a 40% discount). It may have been marked-down as overstock or slow-moving merchandise. I've thus far just read the first 19 problems and browsed through the chapters. It's made me realize however that you can live in some really tight spaces and that invasions, when carried out thoughtfully, are not suicidal.

Most moves in this book are counter-intuitive and I would never have thought of them on my own. I will need to experiment which means that my rank may drop by 1-2 stones for a while.

In Other News

The ChiyoClan got to see Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire yesterday. In case you haven't read any of the reviews, the fourth installment of the movie series is rated PG-13 and contains frightening imagery and situations. I must note that Daniel Radcliffe and the cast have developed rather well as actors.

It's rated PG-13 for reasons like this.

We knew what we were getting into since we had all read the books. Some folks at the theater probably thought that it was equivalent to a kiddie show as we saw a number of families with very young children trickle-in as the theater opened. One poor toddler had to be taken out of the theater crying during the scene where Harry has to deal with the Hungarian Horned-Tail. It's good that she wasn't around for the graveyard scene.

Overall however, it was an excellent and well-paced two hours and thirty minutes of entertainment. There were no disappointments on our part other than that we wish they had incorporated more elements of the book into the movie (even if that would have caused it to go for more than three hours).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

McSnail's Go Manga

One of McSnail's entries into a manga competition
(Click to enlarge)

A while after I had first discovered the English blog for Russia's Go Federation, I came across McSnail's blog (aka, Saniya, written in Russian) which had rather impressive manga and illustrations done in pencil. Of course, I didn't know then that these were by McSnail (-) because I can't read Russian.

Thankfully, she can read and write English and she provided links to samples of her work which include a manga about Go (sample and links below). Her work is too good to simply be listed in the comments section of one of my previous posts so I decided to blog it here. Enjoy!

Sample Page
(Click to enlarge)

Go Manga with rough English translations:
Panels which had been entered to Kommissia's (Russian = Com(ics)Mission) competition.
One takeaway from this post is how much information and entertainment remains inaccessible to many of us because of the language barriers despite the availability of internet translation utilities like Google's Language Tools and the good old Alta Vista BabelFish. I can't help but wonder what new ideas I might be missing everytime I walk past the shelves in Kinokuniya Bookstore that carry the Japanese-language Go books.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

20k, BQM and Shape

RankBot001 (White) resigns after move 142

First break into 20k

I told saiclone (18k, aka frankiii) that I would break 20k by the evening of November 16th and I did. I was successful in an even match with jcm (21k) and a 6-stone handicap match against RankBot001 (13k). It's a bit odd but this was the first time since I got back from my playing break that I expressed that level of confidence.

jcm, merci pour le partie! You were gracious in our match and I really appreciated that.

I discovered that I play well when I match-up against the slower-paced RankBots (running GnuGo 3.6) because (Surprise!) I think more about my moves. I've also tried to take my KGS friends' advice of playing more solidly and avoiding a hane that serves little to no purpose.

Shugyosha (30k) himself is returning from a playing break although his circumstances were notably different than mine. I wish him greater speed in getting his groove back than I had.

Big Question Mark

Yoyoma (2k) had suggested that I post some of my game conundrums on Sensei's Library's Big Question Mark section. This was the first time I had ever heard of it. It's a section where you can ask for commentary on just a portion, or a particular position, in your game.

To-date, there are 261 entries there. It's a good section to visit to see how different positions can be analyzed.

Three Diagonally Across - Bad Shape?

In my match against RankBot001, I played three stones running diagonally across the board to protect the corner as is shown in the close-up below. In fact, I played this formation twice; to the left and the right.

Maybe I'm setting myself up for trouble.

I feel as if this is a potentially vulnerable formation and that it could easily be undermined by a star-point invasion. But I also felt that it had an equal potential to protect the corner. Does anyone have any insight or experiences that they can share about this shape when it is centered on the star-point?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

KGS Iron Man Tournament

Kiseido Go Server will be holding its 2nd Iron Man Tournament from November 21st to 25th. I found out about it on frankiii's blog. He and Zero9090 (14k) have already signed-up and they're just the kind of determined players that will probably make it into the top ten.

I won't be joining them for lack of time. There's even a slim chance that our family might be down in Southern California for a portion of the Thanksgiving holidays.

The prizes for this tournament are modest. In my humble opinion, most folks will probably be participating more for the challenge and, perhaps, the distinction of having a nice crown next to their KGS login ID.

Prizes for the 2nd KGS Iron Man Tournament
(Taken from the official page)
  1. The winner of each division will receive a $15 gift certificate from Kiseido.
  2. The 5 players with the most wins (no matter how many games they played) will each get 1 month of free KGS Plus. There are only 5 of these prizes total for the tournament, not 5 per division.
  3. The 10 players who were in the most games will each get 1 week of KGS Plus. Again, 10 will be handed out over the whole tournament. Players who won prizes 1 or 2 will not be counted here.

Contemporary Goban Design from Board Game Go

During the course of my search for a regular-sized go board, it was thrice suggested to me that I consider the contemporary designs from Board Game Go. I'll admit to some initial resistance on my part to the idea of buying a non-traditional design, but they've grown a little more appealing since it was pointed out to me that they had boards and tables that were constructed from or with maple. I must also note that their prices seem reasonable.

Everyone has their aesthetic preferences when it comes to woods and I've long had mine for cedar, redwood, cherry and maple. Board Game Go carries three types of maple products:
  • A maple veneer table board
  • A solid maple table board (made from five pieces of maple)
  • A solid maple floor board
The two images below show the surface of the solid maple table board and the side profile of the solid maple floor board. The boards themselves are finished with no colored stains to let the natural color and grain of this hardwood come through.

Maple grain detail of the table board

Side profile of the maple floor board.
The darker parts are made of pine.

As lovely as the look of unstained maple is, I'm biased towards a warmer look for the playing surface in part to provide greater contrast to both the black and white stones. I wish that it were instead finished in a nice Golden Pecan, Colonial Maple, Ipswich Pine or Natural finish as these correspond to Minwax's wood stain color chart.

In an email exchange, Carol Dufour, who makes these boards, quoted $25 extra to have the maple playing surface (on the floor board) stained with my preferred color. The lower portion (main body and legs) would, of course, remain a Dark Auburn Brown. I'm assuming the quote is in addition to the prices on their main website. Not a bad deal for customization!

It's at times like this that I wish I had taken a little more time to learn some of the what-I-had-back-then-found-boring lessons from my parents. If I had acquired just a quarter of the woodworking skills that my father has, I might have already gone about making a floor goban in either a Shaker, Mission or California Craftsman style.

Come to think of it, given the minimalism that is the natural style of a Go board, a Shaker floor goban would seem to be appropriate.

Board Game Go also sells their wares through their eBay store.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The ORIGINAL ChiyoDad and a Close Game

Azuma Kiyohiko

Artwork for the 4th book of Yotsuba to ...

As some of you have correctly suspected, ChiyoChan and I very much enjoy the comics of Azuma Kiyohiko, the creator of the mangas known as Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba to ... . The two of us think that Azuma-sensei's work is comparable in spirit and hilarity to Charles Schulz's (another cartoonist that inspires the two of us). If you have kids (especially daughters), you'll probably find these manga to your liking as well.

On one of those aforementioned websites, you'll find the the original Chiyo-Dad which appears prominently in the Azumanga Daioh as some sort of mascot. I had adopted this character last year as my avatar and nome de plume on another forum because someone before me had already taken the Totoro. It's since carried over to this blog and notably been changed in form (having gone from a cat-plushie to some sort of cat-penguin-plushie).

You can sample two of Azuma's works, Try! Try! Try! (the comic-strip version of Yotsuba to ...) and Wallaby, on MapoRed Manga.

A rescue and, perhaps, capture?

In my Thursday evening match on KGS with Aegerin (20k), I won by just half a point. That's only the second time that has happened to me (the first being in an old match I had with OrangeKyo).

seathief (19k) was watching and he believed that I might have been able to save a group of imperiled stones that was on the left side of the board. The board diagram below is where I think that opportunity last made itself available but I couldn't read the moves. Maybe you can.

The objective would be to save at least the C9 group (and perhaps accomplish more).

Black to play. Can the C9 group be secured or rescued?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Joseki studies - The slow method

An artwork you will NOT find in IGS's gallery.

For me, studying joseki and variations works best with my small magnetic goban by my side. You can lose a lot of context when book diagrams start to zoom-in to just half or a quadrant of the board. The urgency of a move, or the sense behind it, becomes clearer when everything is seen. It takes a little more time than just reading the book but it sure helps my comprehension.

My way of study reminded me of all those Geisha-studying-Go woodblock prints on Internet Go Server (hence the subject of today's minute-manga above).

Joseki is impressing me as more the study and recognition of vital points in shapes and formations. You can play or omit these points as long as you understand what might follow and (a) know how to deal with it, or (b) are satisfied with the outcome.

Josekis remind me of homework that someone else has already done for you. The pros had apparently tested many of these in matches and found them to be potentially effective. I guess that means that if you study to understand them, then you start to get into their way of thinking in analyzing the shapes and positions. If you study to just memorize them, then ... well, ... you can take that homework metaphor a bit further to forecast the consequences.

Stuff on eBay

Really nice but I won't be bidding on it.

I had seen some of these Hikaru No Go sets in photos. They're quite cute. This auction on eBay seems a bit pricey given that it starts at about $30 (and that doesn't include $13-$30 in shipping from Japan) . It might be a must-have for some collectors.

About $35 less than retail.

Another seller is auctioning a copy of The Breakthrough To Shodan for $50. That's about $35 less than what I've seen it being sold for at used bookshops. My understanding is that this out-of-print title from Ishi Press is very hard to find.

nannyogg (-) had blogged about this book as she is using it in her studies. This material is probably beyond my reading level at this time but it might be suitable for some of you.

A Howdy to Readers From Cyprus!

That large white thing on the floor behind everyone? It's a go board.
Image from the Cyprus Go Association's website.

Nice 9x9.
Image from the Cyprus Go Association's website.

The Cyprus Go Association featured one of my minute-mangas on their blog. Glad that you folks found it amusing and many thanks for the link-back!

Go was featured in the pull-outs of one of their newspapers, Politis (site is in Greek). I think the game needs more press time here in the US too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Testing. Umm, ... is this thing on?

And now for something completely different.

Click on the orange play button below.

this is an audio post - click to play

This probably will not be my usual method of blogging but it might come in handy someday. I was able to use my mobile phone for the audio post. Maybe I'll be able to report from the midst of a tournament someday.

A lot of folks form first impressions about what a person might sound like so I hope that my voice quality isn't anti-climactic (or something of such). Not all of us gents can sound like the late Peter Jennings.

Where would you play Black's stones?
This position is from my lunchtime match today.

Black to play.

White R17 hopes to create a living group in a rather surrounded space and it's now Black's turn to move. What are the most efficient moves to deny White life? Can White live with skillful play?

I was successful in stopping a living group from forming there but I probably tossed-in one more stone than was needed (losing 1 moku).

Joseki materials, Go Seigen, and Hikaru No Go

Memorize joseki to become weaker. Study joseki to become stronger.
Proverb - The Nihon Ki-in Handbook of Proverbs

Joseki cannot really be played so simply. Figuratively speaking, a joseki is like a medicine. A medicine precisely tailored to a particular illness is extremely effective, but making a habit of taking one and the same medicine all the time regardless of whether you have a headache, an abdominal pain, or a bone fracture is not very wise. Similarly, you should not use a particular joseki all the time just because you like it.

Please remember that medicine that is not suited for an illness is a poison. Be ever vigilant against joseki poisoning!
Go Seigen - A Way of Play For The 21st Century, 1997

That is precisely what is wrong with Go in Japan today. They are too attached to corner patterns (josekis). Go ought to be played on the whole board.
Go Seigen - The Pieter Mioch Interview, June 26th, 1999

Japan is weak because people study Shusaku and others of the past without understanding the essence of their play. If Japan is weak, then the great players of the past, like Shusaku, will be forgotten. That's unfortunate.
Ko Yongha - Hikaru No Go, Written by Yumi Hotta

I can't help but wonder if Yumi Hotta might have had Go Seigen in mind when she wrote the lines for Korean player Ko Yongha in the manga, Hikaru No Go. It did not directly address joseki but I interpreted it as a subtle chastisement of the state of local gameplay at the time. As if to underscore that point, in a latter part of the story during the opening ceremony of the youth Go competition, many Japanese members of the audience are unable to remember who Shusaku is when Yongha mentions his name. Whatever the case, Ms. Hotta's story thankfully has done a remarkable job of creating a renaissance in Go among the young.

Studying Joseki
I came across those quotes over the past three months as I began a very slow study of joseki; defined in Sensei's Library as a sequence of moves which results in what is normally considered a fair outcome for both players. I would often see examples of josekis during my game reviews.

Josekis are powerful and well-tested formations. Gilles Arcas, the developer of of the free Go application tool Drago (which you should have, if not already), had demonstrated to me the value of one joseki in his comment to one of my previous posts. Figure 1 below shows a White attempt to break a simple joseki pattern. After the capture of Black 2 by White, Black will capture all of the white stones to the left.

Figure 1: The joseki resists attack

But josekis, when applied blindly, do not necessarily result in a fair outcome when the whole board is taken into consideration. Consider Figure 2 below. Both the left and right formations are identical josekis but White is not likely in a better position than Black.

Figure 2: Pushing actions on both sides

Joseki Books and Articles
In my search for study materials, I have found many that demonstrate how josekis form but few elaborations on what makes them resistant. Perhaps the strength of the formation is obvious to stronger players.

The most immediately available resource, assuming that you have availed of Jan van der Steen's free registration, is gobase.org's article by Pieter Mioch which is entitled Gentle Joseki. This would give you a quick and easy-to-understand introduction to some basic corner patterns. This article got me started with blindly applying simple josekis but I gradually began to see how some variations could allow me to develop stronger positions when taking surrounding stones into account.

Mindful of Go Seigen's warning against joseki posioning, I am embarking on a search for more study materials which, hopefully, will allow me to understand the reasons behind the formations and their variations. I had acquired a copy of 38 Basic Joseki from Kinokuniya Bookstore but am browsing the web for more material that might be useful for a player of my lower rank.

Yang Yilun's books on Whole Board Thinking In Joseki are another option. These are sold by Slate and Shell. I am still trying to determine how helpful these would be for my level of understanding based on the sample pages (PDF link). What I have read thus far seems to assume some level of understanding on the reader's part. Perhaps his books are targeted at intermediate players.

Let me know if you have any suggestions that I should consider.

In Other News
ChiyoMama has started a new job and that might make my appearances on Kiseido Go Server even more infrequent and sporadic. There's a 60% probability that her department will relocate to our city within six months and reduce her commute to four minutes (or 25 if she chooses to walk). She's back in her original industry and discipline so all this is a big win for her and our family.

I managed to get a copy of Masao Kato's Attack and Kill which is currently out of print. Kato Honinbo apparently had a very aggressive style and was nicknamed Killer Kato. It looks like an intermediate-level book but it should hopefully be an interesting read when I'm up to it. I feel that there is such a great brain trust that is captured in Go books that it's a tragedy when any of them are no longer published.

Fuseki: Where would you play and why?
In yesterday's lunch-break game with narodniq (20k), I found myself having to choose among:
  • Approaching the upper right corner (which was already growing stronger) with a knight's move
  • Making a modest (but hopefully defensible) extension up to the star-point in the upper part of the board
  • Reinforcing the upper left
  • Staking out a larger moyo to the right

Black to play.

I eventually opted for the last choice and formed a variant of the Chinese opening to the right, but I wonder if that was the best and most balanced move. Where might you have played?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Oops! IE users had trouble with my blog.

I discovered this morning that users of Internet Explorer were having trouble viewing some of my posts becauses of format coding errors. Firefox users had no trouble at all.

I've fixed them but there may be one or two other posts that might cause long load times. If you encounter these, send me an email or post a comment.

Live Games versus Internet Games
To date and excluding my matches with ChiyoChan, I've only played two games that were face-to-face with my opponents. That constitutes only 0.4% of all the games that I have played.

If I someday hope to play in a tournament, then it would probably be wise for me to play more in-person games. There's something about how one views the board that seems to make a difference. I haven't quite gotten my finger on it yet.

No, that's not an innovative way to play Go.
It's a scene from Cirque du Soleil's Corteo.

I may not be able to visit the Berkeley Go Club this month. We're watching Cirque du Soleil's Corteo next week and Thanksgiving is on the following week.

Kyu Review: In The Beginning

Book Summary
Title: In The Beginning: Elementary Go Series, Volume 1
Publisher & ISBN: Kiseido Publishing Company, 4906574106
Price & Sources: $15.00 from Kiseido and Amazon (excl S&H)
ChiyoDad's Rank Suitability Assessment: Introductory to Intermediate
ChiyoDad's Rating: 4/5 - Good addition to your library

As I had browsed the internet looking for advice on how to study Go, I came across at least two suggestions that beginners should skip the fuseki books and first study tesuji. If, in fact, you compare the Amazon.com sales rank of this book to Tesuji, Elementary Go Series, Vol.3, you'll notice that the latter outsells it by a considerable margin.

I'm only guessing based on my experiences, but those suggestions and the greater sales margin of the tesuji volume may be partly due to the fact that the typical beginner will likely start a direct fight after the 8th move, if not sooner, after Black and White grab the corners and sides. You will see two diametrically opposed L-shaped formations (and perhaps someone will place a stone on the tengen mark) and the attachments or one-space approaches will begin.

This couples well with Ikuro Ishigure's comment in his introduction to In The Beginning. Professionals tend to be more consistent in their skills in the middle and end game, so abilities in these stages will not make up for a botched opening. As such, for professionals, says Ishigure, the beginning is the hardest part of Go. In contrast, beginners and amateurs will have wider disparities of skill in the later stages, so they might be able to win the game even after bad (or routine) opening moves.

I started reading this book after I noticed how weaknesses in my opening moves were making my middle game so much more difficult. Hideo Otake's book, Opening Theory Made Easy, gave my games a boost but I started feeling lost when some of his strategic principles were being applied against me by my opponents.

Ishigure gives the reader a deeper understanding of good opening strategy. His sample situations are designed to develop your analysis as to which moves stand to give you the greatest profit and stability while adversely impacting your opponent's. Sometimes this is achieved with one move but, at other times, it is achieved in subsequent moves after the opponent is forced to respond in gote (without initiative).

From this book, what has been helpful to me in recent games has been my increased understanding of:
  • How far to extend vis-a-vis the presence of supporting or enemy stones
  • When an invasion or framework reduction becomes urgent
  • Analyzing the value of several moves that I might have at my option

I very much liked the way he presented his ten problems in Chapter 3 and how he assigned relative values to the many mioves that the reader might choose. In his solutions write-up, he illustrates at least three of these to explain why they are superior, of equal value, or inferior. He also explains how a move in the right direction of play but of 1 more or less space, or in a higher or lower line, may completely change its value. These were very helpful in testing my analysis.

As Ishigure admits in his introduction, no book can develop a person's imagination in the game and his book will not address all the situations that the reader will encounter. This early in one's beginning studies, you can still be walloped by an opponent who has a better grasp of short-range tactics (which I will begin reading more of). You will still need to develop your other skills and your intuition through practice. Overall however, I feel that I have an even greater appreciation for the importance of fuseki and that has manifested itself in the many thoughtful pauses that I now make during the first thirty moves.

Chapter and Section Outline
Chapter 1
  • The First Moves of the Game
  • The 3-4 Point
  • The 3-3 Point
  • The 4-4 Point
  • the 3-5 Point
  • The 4-5 Point
  • Example Opening
  • Extending Along the Side
  • Pincer Attacks
  • Invasions
  • Extending Into the Center
  • Pushing and Crawling
Chapter 2 - Nine Concepts
  • Make your stones work together
  • Efficiency
  • Play away from strength
  • Thickness and walls
  • Open at the bottom
  • The 3rd line and the 4th
  • Reverse strategy
  • Light and heavy
  • Attack and defense
Chapter 3 - Ten Problems

Friday, November 04, 2005

Lesson plan? There isn't one!

How to learn Go

Someone out there might claim that there's an orderly and sequential way to learn and improve at Go. In my humble kyu-level opinion, the only thing that is guaranteed is a lifetime of non-linear learning.

It's been five months since I started studying this game in earnest (as earnest as a salaryman-husband-dad can be without shirking his other duties). I don't have a natural talent for the game so my progress is made in measured and hard-won steps.

What I've noticed is that, shortly after I acquired the basics, I've been jumping from one area of study to another and back again: life-and-death, joseki, life-and-death, tesuji, fuseki, tesuji, shape and so on and so forth. I get strong in some area and win a few matches. Then I start losing matches and decide that "I need to study your_choice_of_Go_area_here."

Considering how deep this game is and how varied one's mental abilities might be, this pattern of non-linear study seems only natural to me. All the areas must be acquired in parallel and at increasing levels. Talent might sometimes allow you to ignore one area for a while, but sooner or later you'll have to get back to it. It's like your verbal and analytical skills as you progress through school; both are developed gradually but at the same time.

I imagine that some of you, like me, wish that they could map out a lesson plan that progressively builds a well-rounded Go player. There is a progressive curriculum out there. Kiseido, for example, has its Elementary Go series which is followed by its Get Strong series. However, there are many kyu levels that are encompassed by all those books and one can't be expected to read everything in the series before engaging in any matches. Realistically, your acquisition of skill will probably look like some Darwinian method of survival. You will learn and adapt as is needed by your performance against your opponents.

Last night, I finally broke through the 21k KGS mark for the first time. My thanks to saiclone (18k, frankiii's new ID), yoyoma (3k) and Ellendar (15k) for the recent helpful game reviews.

A board for ... someday


Look at that distinct grain.

Mr. Kuroki responded to an email I had sent to him. I inquired about table boards which had a warmer orange-shade finish which is a matter of personal preference to me. His first recommendation was this beautiful Hyuga Kaya board but it is, unfortunately, out of my budget.

I thought I would share two of his photos with all of you in case anyone was interested in it. The price for this specialty board is 48,000 Yen (US $404).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Myung-In Magnetic Baduk Sets

The MB-180 (sold as the MKG10-M by Yutopian)

A few months ago, I had contributed to Sensei's Library's page about magnetic gobans after reading about how one consumer was dissatisfied with a sub-standard model that he had purchased on eBay. On that page, I had noted the difference between his model, which was probably a second-tier version, and my Myung-In MB-180.

I had blogged about this model, my first and only goban to-date, back in June. It is just the right size for studying positions without having to fumble with stones that are too small. I had also chosen this model because the magnets are inside the stones instead of being on one side.

Myung-In makes the better versions of Korean magnetic Go boards and you can find their products sold through their online store (based in Korea) and through Yutopian (based in Southern California). The MB-180 (sold as the MKG10-Mby Yutopian) would probably suit most people that are looking for a travelling set since it folds down to 2" x 5-6/8" x 11-1/8". I would be a little reluctant to order directly from Myung-In at this time for the following reasons:
  • Their English website still seems to be incomplete with many broken links
  • Their quoted shipping prices seem to be for domestic (intra-Korean) destinations
  • Their response time to emails is a bit slow
Underscoring that last bullet point is an email that I received this morning in response to an inquiry I had sent back on August 29th.

I'm sorry too late for your letter~
if you order MB600.. we can give you 50$ execpt delievery by shipping cost...
shipping cost it may be.... 25$
so totaly 75$ we can give you....
if you interested in our model... let me know your address~
thanks for your e-mail

Myung-In's MB600 magnetic Go board

Admittedly, ordering directly from Myung-In is probably cheaper. I had inquired about their MB600 which is their largest magnetic goban measuring 14" x 13-1/2" unfolded and which comes with a carrying case. Their quoted total of $75 undercuts Yutopian's shipped price for this model by 24%. Consider however that Yutopian has already eliminated most of the shipment and ordering risks from Korea to the US. A savvy consumer would have to carefully consider by which route they would like to make their purchase.


Samarkand's Traveler Set

If you have no particular need for a magnetic set, you may instead prefer Samarkand's Traveler set with a folding shin-kaya board, 7mm glass stones and plastic gosu. It sells for $69 (excluding shipping and handling) on their official site but you can usually find it at auction starting at $49 on Samarkand's eBay store.

Kuroki's travel set with real slate and shell stones

Kuroki Goishi Ten also sells its own travel set with 6.3mm standard grade slate and shell stones, a folding board and plastic gosu for 11,000 Yen (about $100 excluding shipping and handling). Bear in mind that this item would ship from Japan and it would be best to inquire with Mr. Kuroki about air or surface shipping costs before ordering.