Sunday, April 09, 2006


O.G.A. = Online Go Anxiety
F.O.L. = Fear of Losing
F.E.A.R. = False Expectations Appearing Real

There have been at least three of you who had related to me that you suffer from OGA, or Online Go Anxiety. You have no trouble playing in real life, face to face with your opponent, but you find it very difficult (even nerve-wracking) to play on a real-time online Go server like KGS.

I've been playing seriously for less than a year and I can still remember that I was afflicted with a bad case of OGA during my first weeks. I believe that OGA is a superset of FOL (fear of losing), and that FOL is caused by FEAR (false expectations appearing real). Most of us eventually overcome OGA and maybe this post will help accelerate the process for some of you that might have it.

Transparency and Unfamiliarity are probably two causal categories for OGA.


Here are four elements of transparency which can drive FEAR when playing online.
  1. Your match can be viewed by several people all around the world. - At any moment, your friends, rivals, or teachers can pop into your match and see how you're playing. On KGS, TheCaptain (4D) will often have as little as sixty observers watching his game.
  2. All of your games are recorded and some servers make these public. - In real life, you play a game and its history tends to vanish into the ether after the game ends. Online, your transparency doesn't end after the match is over. On KGS for example, everyone can access your past games and play them back, stone-by-stone, in all their glory as you march towards victory ... or defeat.
  3. Your rank is automatically updated by the server based on your wins and losses. - Proud of your rank? You're 20k today but what if you hit a string of losses? You think you're 17k? Will you be able to prove it in the online arena? Are you afraid of seeing your rank knocked down by a stone? Maybe two stones?
  4. Your rank and/or your win-loss ratio is public knowledge unless you choose to obscure it or, as is allowed on some servers, reset it. - KGS maintains a rank chart which is publicly accessible. Everyone can see how you've progressed, or not progressed, over time. IGS shows your win/loss count although you can reset it to zero.
Of course, why should you even be concerned about any of those four unless you're a professional (who has a reputation to maintain), a for-fee instructor (who needs to attract students), or someone who made a bet that you can achieve a certain rank by a certain date? Your friends might be interested in your progress and your games but, in my experience, they're looking for opportunities to help you.

And the rest of the Go-playing community? Think about how many there are of us in the kyu ranks. Until we even get to the dans, we're a-dime-a-dozen. In a nutshell, kyus fly under the radar and can focus on enjoying their gradual growth.

What about comparing your progress to others or to some "standard"? The simple fact is that we all have different abilities, resources and life circumstances and the combination of those three will dictate how fast we can advance.

How your online Go friends see you

How lower beginners might see you

How you see yourself

How the general Go community probably sees you


When you play online, especially as a beginner, you will be playing mostly with strangers. Often, all you will know about your opponent is their name and their rank.

Some players will provide an avatar, a visual representation of themselves, but that can be of no help either.

Above is a montage of nine avatars taken from Kiseido Go Server. Depending on your tastes, some of these images may beckon and some may repulse. Three are friends, one is a former opponent and the rest were pulled randomly. Can you tell which? Are you sure? Who would you like to play with?

On top of that, we're divorced from the pleasantries of a good, full person-to-person interaction. Your opponent may not even choose to be polite by at least saying "Hello" and "Thank you" before and after the match. Some opponents can even be anti-social.

But just like in real life, we can choose who we play against. You're not obligated to accept every challenge to a match. On KGS, I prefer to examine a challenger's profile to at least check if they might be a potential escaper or a sandbagger. If there's anything that makes me uncomfortable, I can always turn down the challenge.

By and large, however, I've found my past opponents to be enjoyable, cordial and even helpful during the post-game reviews. Sometimes, all it takes is to remember that there's a real person on the other end.


At 8:58 PM, April 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dont worry chiyo - you'll get over it. ironically enough, i've never had the problem your describing. i dont think that people watch my games (except for maybe a few). but you shouldn't worry about how they would percieve you to be because no one is expects anyone else to play flawlessly. in fact, in one of my recent games, i made a 27K mistake XD so you see, everyone makes mistakes. just keep playing and you'll improve soon enough.

in my experience, there are barriers at 21K, 19K, 16K, 12K, and 9K. essentially every 3 ranks you'll be facing a barrier. also from my experiences, the 18K barrier which you've passed is a tsumego barrier. tetris was right in telling you to do some tsumego. as for the 16K barrier - when you get there, it involves making good shape and tesuji. just food for thought as you make your way up ;)

good luck chiyo - i'll be rooting for you!

- chrono3450

At 9:30 PM, April 09, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Thanks chrono3450! I don't suffer from OGA anymore but occasionally I suffer from FOL. It seems to happen most often after I've had a string of successful matches (like recently) or after I've been too busy to play Go (like the present).

I suppose that's all natural too. I know I'm going to feel unprepared when I find the time to resume playing on KGS.

At 6:47 AM, April 11, 2006, Anonymous Egret said...

Ah, "I'm okay, you're okay." Thanks, ChiyoDad. I needed that! ; ) Your blog has always been a benefit to beginners. This entry, however, is oh-so-relevant for me right now.

As for avatars, it seems there's the argument for personal expression, which goes along with most gaming sites. Another take is to try to intimidate (center guy on your montage) or distract (Hellothere or gr00by). Both of these approaches seem to counter the spirit of courtesy and respect that is inherent in the game. Further, they limit the freedom that kids should have to play on KGS. Now, the avatar in the upper right, everyone should help him improve as much as possible! ;)

At 12:07 PM, April 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say, as an internet only player, I don't experience OGA, but I did have a bad case of FOL for a while. It made me play timid, get nerve-wracked, and basically destroy what little game I had.

What I've found works for me is to tell myself to actively "relax" in-game, and focus on my strength by doing (you guessed it) problems!

Addressing and clarifying the issues is a great idea. I wonder if I will have these sort of problems when I play in real life?


PS. Those pictures are great. So accurate..

At 12:06 AM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous XCMeijin said...

FOL will become the most annoying of those three, believe me. Like the guy above me, fear really kills my games. Forcing yourself to relax...well...i'm in two minds about that, sometimes it doesn't work.

As for avatars, they're just pics that the user likes, not much meaning, i believe... or it isn't relevant wheter we see any meaning or not.

BTW, my avatar is the real me, holding a fan of cards instead of a paper fan. Ima part-time magician.


At 9:45 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello Egret, wetnose and XCMeijin!

That's an interesting point; whether some avatars are meant to intimidate or now and whether that's a form of discourtesy. My advice there is to take a few seconds to preview your opponent's info. If something makes you uncomfortable (in the data or the image), just wait for another challenger.

I myself have been trying to better manage FOL. One method has been to simply focus on the quality of my overall play; regardless of whether I win or lose.

As I'm often told, we all can easily make strategic errors; choosing the smaller or less-urgent plays. In the consequences thereafter, you often go into damage-control mode.

Trying to just relax in a game may not always work. In some games, relaxing turns into lackadaisicalness and you lose your fighting spirit.

I'm of the impression that there must always be some degree of excitement in your blood whenever you play a game. Fear can contribute to that excitement.

At 8:13 PM, April 29, 2007, Blogger Dustin said...

Excuse me chiyo, but who's account did the cow one come from? That very picture used to be my avatar, what account did it come from?

At 8:24 PM, April 29, 2007, Blogger ChiyoDad said...


At 11:29 PM, April 29, 2007, Blogger Dustin said...

Alright, not me, but I did use that as my kgs avatar awhile back..may have been on this account now, which is called moooo. Well chiyo we've met on kgs before.


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