Thursday, March 09, 2006

Learning patience from watching Krystal

Back on February 18th, I chanced upon Krystal (11k) playing a game on KGS. I had to go prepare and eat dinner but I left my desktop on.

Much to my surprise, her game was still going after I finished my meal. The middle game had just begun so I sat down to watch. I was treated to a very exciting running battle (SGF link) and an endgame that prompted her opponent to resign.

Now, Krystal is ranked by KGS as 11k and I'm currently fluctuating between 20k and 19k. From where I stand, I have no authority to judge the quality of her play. But what I did see revealed some of the qualities that I lack.

  1. Krystal played very slowly and it was clear that she was giving a lot of thought to each of her moves.
  2. She maintained connectivity between her most critical stones.
  3. Her shapes seemed rather efficient; giving her formations flexibility, liberties, and connectivity while, at times, creating discomfort for her opponent.

Combined with tetris's advice to do more tsumego, I've applied what I had learned from watching Krystal to my most recent games and have managed to win most of them (although often by a slim margin).

It's still too early to tell if I've improved but saiclone (aka frankiii) said that he noticed a change in my style. I would agree with him on that since I'm now rather wary of overplays and gambles.

Seigen's Tengen

Go Seigen (B, then 5P) versus Honinbo Shusai Meijin (W)
October 16th, 1933
White won by 2 moku.

This game was reference in the Nihon-Ki-in Small Encyclopedia of Fuseki under unusual openings. Honinbo Shusai Meijin had come out of retirement for this game sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun. Go Seigen (aka Wu Qingyuan) was testing his shin-fuseki (modern opening) and his third (tengen) move apparently caused an uproar. What follows are comments in the SGF that is stored in

Shusai was scathing of Go's opening: "Creative innovation in go is to be welcomed with sympathetic interest, but regrettably Black's opening plays, which are characteristic of the `New Fuseki', have already been found wanting and are falling into disuse."

His distaste was echoed by correspondents to the Yomiuri newspaper who alleged disrepect by Go towards the senior player. Go himself was later to dismiss 5 as a "straitjacket" move, being concerned only with influence - the best plays combine territory and influence. But he was adamant that his intention was not to annoy the Meijin. he wanted to test out his new concepts against the best player available and a play at the centre point (which is what provoked annoyance - not the other two black moves) was, he said, simply a result of his feeling at the time that it formed a logical symmetry with his two corner stones.

These days we tend to embrace shin-fuseki as vital for rapid development of our positions and balance. I'm not sure that I understand the game enough to effectively apply a play on the tengen. But don't be surprised if you see me trying it out someday.


At 12:21 AM, March 10, 2006, Anonymous XCMeijin said...

How long was your dinner?

Krystal's game was very interesting. The 5-4 sequence at the south-east was a rare sight. The north-west sequence i've seen SO many times, yet i'm still not used to handling them! (Although i've won all those games where that's happened, hehe)

Yes, 30+ mins per side IS a long time. I usually play 15-20 min games per side. This is only because my parents impose strict time limits on me.

Excuses, excuses. By November this year i'll be playing 1 hour games again! Muhaha! Freedom! But in the meantime, exam call :(


At 3:20 AM, March 10, 2006, Anonymous Paul (~15kyu) said...

I've just watched Krystals game briefly but I thought I'd make a rambling post in response to your description of the qualities of her game, with some proverbs and comments.

Firstly the speed of her playing is important. When I first started playing it didn't seem to matter if I thought for a minute about a move or 5 minutes as both moves were equally good or bad, but as I got (a little) better I found that playing fast, or automatically, had a larger impact on my game.

There is a proverb I read once (although I can't recall where, but its one of my favourites) that states:

"A held stone wants to be played"

That is if your sat in front of the board holding a stone (or several stones, or a mouse) fiddling with them you may give in to the temptation to play too fast. If you think about and decide on your move before you even reach for an pick up a stone you may find things help (I tend to wind up ignoring this for friendly games, or when I'm in a hurry or not concentrating and my game suffers for it, for serious games I recommend it).

Your second point I'm going to relate to something I've noticed about better players (which is hard to observe within ones own play) is that Go is quite a lot about timing, or seems to be to me.

There have been many occasions playing various better players where I've had a choice of several courses of action, I've left moves thinking that I've more urgent things to do ("Play urgent moves before big moves"), and that I'll come back in just a couple of moves time and play it, then white will plonk a stone down one or two moves ahead of when I was planning on dealing with the situation.

Connectivity I think relates partly to this sense of understanding the flow of the game.

Your third point about shape is likewise true, good shape gives you lightness and liberties, whilst serving your purposes.

Sadly I've again no advice really on learning these (otherwise I'd be a better player by now) besides playing a lot more games with a lot more players, and review the games afterwards. Reviewing a game is worth a lot in my books, even one where your having a really bad day can still teach you something to have both sides of the story, to discuss why you felt the urge to play here at this time, there at that time, why you thought this group was dead or alive and to discuss possible alternatives, how it could have gone.

As for improving its always good, although I find that going from a beginner to where I am now meant getting through a lot of plateaus (mostly the 20k plateau and the 18k plateau, although knowing the amount I've played proper games lately I'm probably slipping back towards 18k again), times when I felt my game wasn't improving or even getting worse and then suddenly one day it would just get better by a large margin, and it was time to start slowly improving again until I hit another plateau.

Think of it like mountain climbing (an analogy I like), lots of uphill struggle, trudging across the occasional plateau, never meeting anyone on the way whos ever seen the view from the top but always heading towards it, and sometimes taking time to appreciate the nice view from your current position climbing.

Anyway thats enough rambling from me, hope some of it was of use to you, and keep playing and writing, your style is pleasent to read.

At 7:47 AM, March 10, 2006, Anonymous Joyride said...

First off, i'm not saying Krystal's style is bad or wrong. It's just not effective enough. If it was more effective, she would be a stronger player.
Now the question that's been floating in my mind.
Why would you bother studying a 10k style, knowing that it isn't effective enough to get you past 10k?
The answer i'm expecting is that it is too difficult to understand a high single digit/dan game.
My reply to that is "a curious mind learns". What is holding you back from asking a stronger player to explain some things? Getting a "no" is probably the worst that could happen.
So with this in mind, why study a weak kyu (yes, 10k is still weak) style which will probably teach you less effective ways of playing (and possible bad habits) than a 1k/d style?


At 8:54 AM, March 10, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello XCMeijin, Paul and Joyride!

30 minutes plus 60 stones x 5 minutes byo can certainly turn into a long game. I normally have mine set to 20 minutes plus 25 stones x 45 seconds byo.

I've also seen arguments against slow play but I think it's appropriate to distinguish between being slow and being careless. An example of that is violating Otake Hideo's 8th principle of opening theory - "Family feuds waste resources".

I've sometimes played according to intuition without taking the time to assess the whole board impact. In so doing, I find myself sacrificing more than I gain.

Admittedly, it is probably better to study a higher ranked dan game that a kyu game. However in my humble opinion, there is much to learn from kyus; particularly the ones you can chat or meet with. Perhaps it is just my own shortcomings, but understanding what it took for them to move on to the next rank is invaluable.

When I once hit a slump, it was erislover who helped pull me out. The analyses and teaching games provided by saiclone, scatcat, chrono3450, Zero9090, fathwad and Krystal (to name just a few) were what brought out the glaring deficiencies in my tactics. Then there are the stronger KGS players like tetris and yoyoma who have helped counsel me on strategy and development.

Personally, I find that I learn as much from the vast experiences of kyus (who happily explain to me their own challenges and how they overcame them) as from the literature and games of dans (who are often less accessible). We all aim higher and I'm very much thankful for the informal teaching ladders that exist in the Go community.

At 4:08 PM, March 11, 2006, Anonymous ilan said...

That was a very impressive game, I am amazed at how much stronger 11K is now on KGS than when I was playing. Two basic things I noticed that you might want to check out: 1. when connecting by jumping on the edge, always use the large kight's move, never the small knight's move in the middle (usually doesn't work). 2. In a capturing race where one side has an eye and the other doesn't, if the side with an eye wins, then he doesn't actually have to capture.

At 4:25 PM, March 11, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Ilan! It's so good to hear from you! Thanks for dropping by. I hope you and Catherine are doing well.

I'm still working on your development suggestions to me. Admittedly, it will be a while before I could more successfully play on DashN or CyberOro. I understand that Oro is the place to be these days.

It does seem that players are getting stronger. On top of that, anectdotal data suggests that KGS's current ranking process underranks its members vis-a-vis the AGA and the BGA.

Good notes! Thanks again for dropping by and for reading my blog.

At 10:48 PM, March 11, 2006, Anonymous XCMeijin said...

A comment on Seigens tengen...

Actually i think its a very nice move. Seigen's sanrensei here is nice. The normal sanrensai, compared to this one, is much to oriented towards one side. With two diagonally opposing hoshis emphasising the centre, backed up with the tengen, even though it may not be a good opening in mainstream thought, it's an intimidating situation to be faced with.

I've personally used it a few times and have had some resounding successes.


At 6:40 AM, March 12, 2006, Anonymous ilan said...

Chiyodad, thanks, things are going well. In fact, I'm really psyched because I finally reached 1D on Cyberoro yesterday, 14 months and 1500 games after registering at 1K (I was down to 11K at one point!!).

Anyway, do consider playing on Cyberoro when you get close to 15K KGS, because there is now a "wall" on KGS between 3d and 15K, that is, ratings are more or less "frozen" -- instead of players improving their ratings as they improve, it is the ratings that are getting harder. Right now, KGS 5K is about what KGS 1D was 2 years ago, and it is going to get worse, I think...
I think the most important thing you learn from Koreans is "Haengma", that is, how the stones move, especially in a fight. For some reason, they all seem to know this instinctively.

Anyway, I really like your blog, in your picture for "undo" the guy with the sword is me :)


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