Saturday, April 22, 2006

Quitting Go?

I was a bit shocked when I was told that a friend on one of the servers had "quit" Go. As it was explained to me, he was feeling frustrated with his lack of progress and had encountered a long string of recent losses.

I can sympathize. There were a few moments back in January when I was questioning my ability to advance and that, perhaps, I should just give up. I pondered the possibility that I was a lifetime 20k.

Except for the more talented, many of us probably will hit walls on our way to to the dan ranks. Kageyama-sensei warns of these walls in his book, Lessons In The Fundamentals of Go. chrono3450 told me that he experienced walls on KGS every three ranks after 20-kyu. The comments and emails that I had received after one of my posts suggests that it is more the norm, than the exception, to encounter a wall on KGS at 18-19 kyu.

Unrealistic expectations of rapid advancement can further fuel frustrations. Some of us set goals which are too aggressive given our beginning abilities, our learning resources, and the honest amount of time that we can dedicate to studying the game.

Last year, I had told yoyoma that I was disappointed with how my progress had slowed after I got to 22-kyu. He reminded me that I am NOT Shindou Hikaru.

Very true. I am not "the chosen one" with a latent talent for the game. I don't have a ghost to teach me 24/7. I don't have much time in the day to dedicate to Go. My life story is not a fictional piece being written by Yumi Hotta.

My eight-and-a-half months of experience with this game has taught me that Go is no different than any endeavour that demands determination, discipline and time - which pretty much is a reflection of life in general. Success can be accelerated by miscellaneous gifts of fortune but, for the greater majority, success is the result of piling effort upon effort.

Thankfully, as amateurs, this game is a passion but not our livelihood. We dedicate to it as much discretionary time as we have; or as much as we can steal. It's our decision to stay with it or to leave it as our life circumstances suit us. We can push forward with our Go development or, if life demands, we can tenuki and play elsewhere.

I imagine that amateurs all have rather diverse reasons for having gotten into, and stuck with, this game. For some of us, it's become a small proving ground for our wills; a micro-arena of life. For others, it remains purely a form of recreation or, at worst, an opiate.

Going back to my friend, it seems that he only went on a two-month sabbatical from the game; as have a few other Go players that I know.

Interestingly, time away from Go can have two diverging effects. Often, one returns to the game a bit weaker than when they left. In other cases, one returns to the game stronger. I have actually seen two cases of the latter.

Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that's keeping you from the finals?
- Lance Armstrong in a cameo appearance on Dodgeball

Product Review: 9x9/13x13 combo board from YMI

The combo board atop my Chinese kaya goban. Note the color difference.

My replacement 9x9/13x13 combo board arrived from Yellow Mountain Imports last Monday but I didn't have the free time to write-up this review until this weekend.

The first board arrived warped. I tried to unwarp it by weighting down the center, to no avail. Thankfully, YMI sent me the replacement only two days after I had contacted them via email about the problem. The new board arrived along with a return waybill so I didn't have to pay return shipping. I just re-packed the old board and dropped it off at the freight carrier's local office.

Here's the 9x9 surface. I added silicone pads to the corners.

The total cost for this board, including shipping, handling and California state sales tax was $20.42. The board measures 35cm x 33cm x 1cm. It seems to be constructed of 7 pieces of wood. The top and bottom are covered with a thin veneer so as to make the playing surfaces look like one solid piece of wood.

The veneer playing surfaces make the board look like it is one
solid piece.

As you can see from the photos, the color of this board is more honey-like compared to the cinnamon shade of my kaya goban. I added 10mm clear silicone pads to the corners of both sides to help protect the smooth matte playing surfaces. There's a very generous 2.5cm clearance between the edge of the 13x13 grid and the edge of the board so the pads don't come into contact with any stones placed on the corners.

Click to enlarge and you'll see minor imperfections in the grid lines.
See the wide distance between the silicone pad and the corner
of the 13x13 grid?

As was revealed from the photo-tour of the Yunnan Weiqi Factory, the grids are typically drawn on by hand and not silk-screened. I found indicators of this method when closely inspecting this board; a tiny smudge here, a slight overlap of the lines there. None of these were noticeable at a normal viewing distance and I can't call them dissatisfiers.

Because the board is just 1cm thick, it doesn't give as solid a sound when a stone is placed on the surface; particularly with the silicone pads in place. The sound is more of a hollow "tok" than a sharp "tak". That was expected.

I had re-oiled my Yunzis about two weeks ago. This season's
scent is Lemon-Basil.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with the value-for-money of this board and with YMI's prompt customer service. This board strikes me as a good balance between utility and good looks at under $21 shipped.

The combination of my kaya set and this combo board provides me with almost all of the gear that I need for in-person games. I just need to find a game timer and some sort of padded bag that might carry both the 19x19 and combo boards without scuffing the surfaces or edges.

Two alternatives to consider would be:
  • Samarkand's 1-inch hiba board (made in Korea) which sells for $45 (excluding shipping and handling which was $10.25 for Northern California). The thickness of this board means that it is less likely to warp. Its thickness may also add to its aesthetic appeal.
  • Yutopian's 0.5-inch Agathis board (made in Japan) which sells for $25.00 (excluding shipping and handling of $6.50). No photo is available for this board but it seems to ge a good price.

Fuseki Quiz 2/20

Black to Play. I chose "E".

It helps to look at the board from your opponent's perspective.

Scoring of Last Weekend's Fuseki Quiz 1/20
  • A = 2
  • B = 6
  • C = 8
  • D = 4
  • E = 10, Attacks the R10 stone & secures the upper right corner. If W does not respond, capping the R10 stone with a B stone on P10 eclipses all of W's prospects in that area.

In other news

Well, my global conference concluded with positive reviews. My thanks to all of you who expressed your support!

Sadly, our administrator passed on to me a rumor that a layoff is in the works at our corporation. It would supposedly impact 18% of the workforce; almost 1 out of every 5 employees. She's 80% accurate with regards to these types of rumors.

Our department survived five layoffs with a loss of only one employee but it's always disturbing to hear these plans. The axe is expected to fall this summer after the fiscal year closes.

The rumor has probably been released to encourage attrition. As a contingency, I'll be investigating job opportunities at other companies over the next three months. This is an example of life forcing us to tenuki. That will take time away from Go and from blogging.

Wish me luck!


At 12:09 AM, April 23, 2006, Blogger russ said...

I was (and still am) stuck around AGA 6K/5K for years. It was particularly weird when a friend who'd been progressing with me (we were at roughly the same rank for years) suddenly shot up to 1D in about 4 months!

I can't imagine saying "I quit go" in a permanent sense, although I've had periods of not playing it due to being distracted by too many other things. Like work! Good luck with that...

At 7:09 AM, April 23, 2006, Anonymous signius said...

I've been following your blog for some time, having found the live journal feed posted in go or goban over there, but hadn't been prompted to post 'til now. I've been playing locally for a few years, but only started making any good use of servers in the last few months and am still trying to find my level on KGS. I've never before really stopped to consider how long it has taken me to get to where I am now because I've never been worried about a rank or anything like that. (I was self taught in the beginning, so progress was very slow anyway.) I think I enjoy introducing new people to the game more than improving my own level of play. I just find it interesting that players can get so competitive in a game that has a handicap system designed so one should lose half of one's games ^^ Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to improve, but as russ said above, I just can't imagine giving in whenever I reach my limit. There have been times when life has gotten in the way, often for months, but I've always come back to the game refreshed. If I see you on KGS sometime, maybe you'd be open to a game. Think I'd like to stabilize my rating first though - the graph is not a pleasant sight atm ^^'

At 6:11 PM, April 23, 2006, Anonymous XCMeijin said...

It's sad when i remember Akira Touya's quote: Some overcome even THAT (failure/getting stuck) and still do not succeed.

As deep as Go can be, there is always the issue of winners and losers.

At 5:12 AM, April 24, 2006, Blogger JMP said...

The closest I came to quiting go was last December. I had set my goal for the year to be a 10 kyu and I entered the Chicago tournament as a 10 kyu. Well I went 0-6 and I don’t think the final score for any of the games was close. On the drive home I was pretty dejected and wondered if all the effort I put into studying was worth it and if maybe I had better things to do with my precious free time. Anyway I woke up the next morning really angry, realizing that my problem was not studying but fighting spirit. I destroyed everyone that week on KGS (I even got someone to resign after 26 moves!). Unfortunately the anger has passed and I’m back playing my typical wimpy go but I am still improving and as long as I continue to improve I think I will be OK.

I am pretty happy that I picked the second best answer for the opening quiz. I had a sneaking suspicion about E, C seemed too obvious of an answer but I couldn’t justify E so I went with what I could defend. Now for this weeks quiz. I don’t like A, it’s seems like an unnecessary invasion. B seems too slow, unless it puts more pressure on whites corner than I can see. I like C. It encloses white (though I don’t think white is actually being threatened) and links up blacks 2 weak stones. D is too slow, and if you were worried about those 2 stones safety I think C is a better way to deal with it. I have 2 problems with E. One is that it is an extension from an unbalanced corner, in general the corner should be enclosed before extended from. Second after black E white could use the top stones for an attack at D.
Hmm, after looking at the problem again I change my mind, I think I will go with B (final answer). It is a moyo pivot point, if white gets it first that would be huge. If only I had five minutes to look at all my opening moves in a real game.

At 3:26 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger Zeke said...

The "R10" stone is missing!! ROFL

I've had a number of breaks from Go and most have them have helped. Nearly all of them resulted in a stronger rank upon returning. Lately it's changed and I think I just need to keep practicing tsumego to grow stronger... perhaps that is not entirely necessary until 5k (or at least <10k AGA).

At 3:42 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

The R10 stone was in last week's problem.

At 4:30 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

On the matter of success and failure, one way to look at it is by framing the issue with these questions:

1. What are the reasons that you play Go? Do you wish to become a professional? Is it recreation? Is it for heuristic research? Is it to sharpen your mind and develop discipline in thinking? Is it a socialization tool? Et cetera.
2. How would you define success based on your answer(s) to question number 1?
3. Does the way you play, or study, the game move you closer to your definition of success in question number 2? I have a memorable quote from one KGS opponent. I complimented her on how, compared to many beginners, she did not merely spray the board with stones but seemed to think through each move. She responded, "I see no point in playing this game if I don't think."
4. How does this success, ideally, contribute to your larger objectives in life? Is it a training ground? Is it your hard-earned leisure reward for your successes elsewhere? Et cetera.

The way I read it, Akira Touya's quote (as mentioned by XCMeijin) is meant for those who seek to become professionals and, ultimately, the highest elite of the Go echelons. These are the people who have chosen to make playing Go their life. If you are on that road, then that danger of failure (or perhaps, of diminished success) will always be a companion.

At 8:43 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous XCMeijin said...

I don't believe the quote applies to those seeking to become professionals only. Anybody seeking any measurable IMPROVEMENT, the quote would apply to them. For them also, failure is a common companion. To say that because they are not aiming to be of the elite their failure hurts less would be wrong. All of us, we can be sad enough to cry, angry enough to punch holes through walls.

Granted, as the top pros rely on their go for a living, their level of stress will definitely be higher. However, on another emotional level, Akira Touya's quote can be applied universally.

I mean, how many times have you put a lot of effort into something that does not yield the desired results? I can compare this to studying for a whole week for an exam, and then recieving 60%. That really bites.

At 9:51 PM, April 24, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

I see where you're coming from.

Yes, setbacks can deal much anguish in any activity. We all invest different levels of dedication and associate different degrees of worth to our own endeavours.

I don't know that I have any answers, but I've always been taught that one measure of a person's strength is how they deal with failure, ... and with success.

I'm reminded of quotes from Rudyard Kipling and Mike Ditka.

Success and failure are both imposters, and we must learn to take them in our stride.

Success isn’t permanent,
and failure isn’t fatal.

At 4:14 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Adam said...

Ummm I think I like 'c'!

A - I'd be wishing I could dig into this corner if I were playing, but I think this move is asking for trouble.

B - This move provokes white into strengthening his corner, and diminishes whatever aji could be salvaged from C15. If I could strengthen C15 first then I would like this move. Maybe if I could drop a C9 first, and then a C or D13. That would kinda rule.

C - Links some groups, and makes a big wall for the right side. No matter what you do white can probably establish some beach head on the right, but with a wall you have something to grind him against as he runs. And with the bottom corner stone you can attack where ever he lands from either side. And it would suck if his upper right shape escaped that nice trap you have him in.

D, E - these will get you some territory, but I don't think either will prevent white from landing on your right side. I think D is probably the better of the two, but my style would be to choose to build some strength first, since neither of these moves seems decisive to me.

Ok, I know I'm late. The solution is already up. I promise I haven't looked at it!

RE: Quitting go -
Do you enjoy Go, or do you enjoy victory?

Naturally, any real person will mix the two. But if you have been suffering under a string of losses then take easier games! If your pride can't take the hit consider the beauty of the game - not the beauty of your rank.

Woo! I was proud of how I did on the last one, lets see what the answer is on this one.


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