Monday, February 20, 2006

Life & Death regimen

No. She's not a harsh task-mistress.
But I am feeling a little sense of urgency.

tetris convinced me to shift the focus my studies to Life & Death to help deepen my reading ability and improve my game.

Our discussion was prompted in part by shygost's List; fundamental questions a player should ask oneself when assessing the next move.

  1. Am I okay? (Am I about to get hurt or hassled?).
  2. Is my opponent okay? (Can I chase or hassle to get profit?).
  3. Where is big area (going for wide area or big points).

One problem most kyu players have with applying the list is that they have absolutely no idea if they (or their opponents) are okay or not. Ergo, they will waste moves when there are bigger points to be had on the board.

I had shied away from L&D for a while after an unpleasant experience in my earliest kyu months. After doing a series of these problems I began to look at every situation as if I had to kill any adjacent stones. I've gotten past that crazy 28-kyu fixation (I hope).

I'll be using the 4th book of the Elementary Go Series, Life and Death by James Davies. This book distinguishes itself from similar books in that it uses the status approach to solving problems.

Most tsumego problems give specific instructions like: "Black to kill" or "White to make life". To improve the reader's analysis, Davies instead presents positions and asks the reader to determine the status if either Black or White moves first. This method makes more sense to me.

To-date, I've only gotten to the 5th section of this book. There are 36 sections in all. I'll need to pick-up the pace a bit.

A 19-kyu KGS wall?

Gnats! Why can't I break through?

My L&D regimen is intended to help me break through my 19-kyu plateau. All excuses aside, I just can't seem to move forward right now. Thus far, I think my win-to-loss ratio is about 4:5 and I'm barely holding on to my rank.

Maybe it's just my imagination but I'm suspecting that there is some sort of KGS wall in the 20-kyu to 18-kyu range that some of us have difficulty breaking through. Some of you have moved easily past it but I've also seen others like myself who seem to stay in this range for more than a couple of months.


At 10:02 AM, February 20, 2006, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Do you play a lot of games with stronger players? It's helpful to figure out how people are beating you.

At 11:50 AM, February 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chiyodad,

I'm sure you'll get over that wall soon. Your own suggestion (more L&D and tesuji, let joseki wait until 5k) will help. So will playing stronger players. I also find that watching /reviewing lots of dan games (not pros! - 3-5 dan amateurs for now) really helps. After watching many games, playing strong moves becomes second nature.

I've been following your blog regulary, and enjoying your progress vicariously, since I've decided not to pursue Go seriously (I defeated a couple of strong players, but I didn't get much thrill from it). I wish I had your enthusiasm - I am confident you'll reach dan level.

Good luck,


p.s. my son told me he played a couple of games with you on IGS.

At 2:12 PM, February 20, 2006, Anonymous XCMeijin said...

For work on learning to play big points instead of useless points, try the fuseki/best move problems at The site also has life and death problems as well. I find it helps (occasionally) if you push your limits a little, so you should occasionally try problems that are "higher" for your level. Food for thought: the KGS ranks are harsher than in th real world.

The 18-20k barrier, from experience, is real (sorry!). I was at about 16k when i came to a plateau. But persevere, stick around and do research, and you'll find knowledge that'll literally shoot you 2-3 stones ahead. So what you're doing, L&D, is fine. Broaden your research/study fields, but i aree you should give L&D a special effort.

One last thing: When playing online, REVIEW! At the end of each game, no matter what the outcome, review it. If there's a stronger guy watching, ask them nicely to help out. And don't just review for the sake of it: REALLY think about why you went well or why you screwed up. The same goes with everything else you may study. You can be a world-champ at tsumego, and play losing Go. (hmm, maybe not...)

At 6:19 PM, February 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is a normal human experience to advance in steps instead of a smooth progression. I know that is how my go has progressed (I was 16k kgs forever and then a few weeks later I was 13k)
The life and death will help. I am hitting Tesujis hard right now and it is amazing how much better I can read things out even though I have not seen an exact pattern from a problem (it actually is pretty rare for that to happen).
If I could be so bold to suggest something directly is that looking at your game times you play really fast, likely too fast. It won't do much for your strength to take time to improve your reading skills if you don't take the time to read anything out in your games. I must confess that I am not a fast player so maybe it is a bias.


At 10:20 PM, February 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always found your articles/blogs interesting, and am actually an avid reader, coming here almost daily.

anyways, yes...I was stuck at 21k for a solid month. That seemed to be my barrier right there...8k has also been a wall for me, having been stuck there for at least 2 months. With sheer commitment, you can break through the wall by studying l&d often, lightly reviewing joseki and fuseki, and even try memorizing some games to get the flow out of go. Tesujis are always critical, regardless of what kyu level you are IMO. about "big" points...always, always remember: critical points > big points. This always seemed to be a concept I couldn't grasp until around 10k. Also, like anonymous suggested, watch 1 - 5 dan amateur games..while pro games are OK imo, they are much harder to understand!

I'm not on KGS often, but if you catch me, feel free for a teaching game! I'd be happy to help you out on your go quest, and I wish that no one goes through Go the way I did, starting from scratch and going up the ladder without a teacher :/. Much, much better to find someone stronger and play teaching games/reviews!

Anyways, good luck advancing up that kyu ladder chiyodad. I know you can make it to dan in no time. Maybe we could meet up at the 2006 Go Congress...though it'd be a tad awkward me being 17 (18 then) and all, but whatever.

-Kin [7k]

At 10:52 PM, February 20, 2006, Blogger O_Scientist said...

Great picture of tetris ^^
And I agree on her l/d problems, you need them to improve. I would recommend Korean problem academy too, at gobase. And there are the graded go problems books. All very useful.


At 11:51 PM, February 20, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello jewish_atheist! I'm playing mostly within a +/- 1-stone range but, regretfully, I'm not reviewing my games as much as I should. I'm only reviewing about one out of ten and that's not a ratio to my benefit.

Nightghost!! I've been looking around for you on IGS. Yes, it's not easy to get good at Go and maintain a balance with life and work. My progress will be notably slower. But, who knows? Maybe a breakthrough might be around the corner. Thanks for the advice and the confidence!

Hello xcmeijin! Good to hear from you again. I didn't know that had fuseki/best-move problems so I'll need to check those out.

I had suspicions that some players do encounter a barrier in that range. To help guard against escapers and sandbaggers, I habitually check every opponent's game list and chart before challenging or accepting a match. What I've seen in a little over a third of the cases is a similar plateau pattern around this rank range.

Hello JMP! There's probably a good deal of truth to what you're suggesting about advancing in steps (or stages). When I look back at my early months of learning Go, I pretty much remained unranked and floundering. Afterwards, I suddenly started moving up the ranks quickly and was even cocky enough to challenge players 2-3 stones stronger without handicaps.

Ooh! Yes! I do play too fast. I once joked to erislover that it doesn't even make sense that I set my match timer to 25 minutes +30 second byos. He's told me that I need to remind myself to slow down.

Hello Kin! Thanks for reading my blog and for offering a teaching game! I hope to take you up on it one of these days. yoyoma did always suggest that an amateur dan game isn't beyond my level of comprehension so I should probably take some time to watch a few. Thanks too for your confidence!

Nanny! I had to draw four drafts of tetris's avatar before I was satisfied that I had gotten it right. I do hope the L&D studies help and I'll set aside some time in the day for them.

I've been told that I should work to solve a tsumego within a span of about five minutes. I sometimes thought that I wasn't doing well if I couldn't solve it under two minutes. I need to be more patient.

At 2:44 AM, February 21, 2006, Anonymous seathief said...

Hi chiyodad.

It's seathief. Haven't played with you for a long time.

Here I highly suggest a book "All About Life and Death, by Cho Chikun, volume 1".

What I read is in Chinese. I am not so sure the quality of English translation.

But,this books does be a good rule of dictionary; given all sort of fundamental shapes to discuss. Also, it provides a clear variation and explanation. At the last section. It finishes with couple of 3 3 invasions from L&D point of view.

see you around in kgs

At 6:11 PM, February 21, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

im sure you will be able to reach 18 kyu im sare and hope to see you around igs

At 9:44 PM, February 21, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello seathief! I heard that those two books by Cho Chikun are an excellent L&D dictionary. Unfortunately, they're out of print and I don't know how much mileage I'd get out of the Chinese translations.

Interestingly, the English translations were supposedly unauthorised and so Cho never got any royalties from them.

To the anonymous poster, Thanks! I do hope to break through my barrier eventually. It will take more work on my part, I think.

At 6:53 AM, March 07, 2006, Blogger JB aka JayBee said...

I play on KGS as JohnBrian and I feel stuck at 18/19 kyu too. Sometimes I wonder if I only have that rank because of the slow rank drift, since if I don't play for a while I notice my rank drifting up.

I should be studying life and death too. I need to better understand good shape and how that correlates to life and death. Shyghost's lectures have helped me alot, and I feel enlightened afterwards.


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