Sunday, May 28, 2006

Coming up on my Go anniversary

The next weekend will mark roughly one year of my having taken Go as serious leisure. I'm working on a touchstone post to celebrate the occasion.

ChiyoChan has a slight cold so I'm doing a shorter blog post. She's been watching DVDs of Princess Nine while resting in bed.

A peek into my corner of the world

Yes, this is where it all comes from. Nothing special.

VincentV had collected photos of several Go players' study spaces in their homes and you can see the whole gallery on his blog.

One of them is mine. It's easy to recognize since you can see my two gobans from Yellow Mountain Imports. I've recently been using the small one to study hamete from Goama.

I like to think of my spot as The Corner of Deep Contemplation but it was, and still sometimes is, The Corner of Poorly-Played Hawaiian Ukulele Music.

Fuseki Quiz 7/20

Black to play. I chose C because seems to server a dual-purpose of
attacking two weak groups simultaneously.

Scoring of Last Weekend's Fuseki Quiz 6/20
  • A = 8
  • B = 6
  • C = 10, The way to nullify White's six-stone wall is for Black to first cap at J5. White must answer at L4, after which Black can start to build his own large territory on the left side with D11 (Move A). Black cannot allow White to be the first to play on J5 as it is the ideal way to make use of her wall on the right.
  • D = 2
  • E = 4

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DrStraw gets me thinking about 3-4s and 3-3s

DrStraw (aka Steve Fawthrop) has been an active contributor to and he recently started a Fuseki study thread. It would be good for both beginners and intermediate players so you might want to drop by.

DrStraw mentioned that he disliked moyo games (where one plays on the star-points) which implies that his openings are probably more territory-oriented. I have a bit of an aversion right now to 3-4 openings and that's because I have no clue as to how to use them effectively. The closest thing that I play is the Chinese Opening.

He posited this sequence for analysis on the Fuseki study thread.

Is this supposed to be acceptable for White?

My immediate reaction was, "Ugh! How can White play such a slow opening? Isn't she already at a disadvantage here? What's with the 3-3 of White 4?"

Now, my assumption is that White's next move will have to be an approach to Black's Q3 stone with at either Q5 or R5. That could set in motion plays for a base to the right, a left-facing wall, or even a pushing action against Black on the lower side. The big question is how the 3-3 could fit into all this. Maybe its an intentional mistake to illustrate bad fuseki?

But the more I look at that 3-3, the more I wonder if there isn't some inherent strength in it. It's already taken the corner. It's centralized and and extension to either the left side or along the bottom is possible. Cho Chikun himself has been able to play the 3-3 with success and has written a whole book about using it in contemporary openings.

Yes, folks! There is a 214-page book on using the 3-3 in one's fuseki.
This book was $12 at Games of Berkeley.

I don't believe any of the Korean professionals use the 3-3 to a great degree in their openings but that doesn't invalidate its use. Whatever the case, the good doctor has gotten me thinking about territory-oriented openings and I may experiment with them - after I have had a chance to read-up on their proper application.

Expanding Don's Database

I've been busy helping out with's Go Product Database. I've been adding products, typing descriptions, scanning covers, correcting images ... the works. If you've read and have an opinion on some of the items listed there, feel free to submit a rating and your comments.

You'll find a list of my product ratings on the left-hand side of my profile page there.

Another beginners' tournament coming in Berkeley?

On their website, the Berkeley Go Club has hinted that they may set up another beginners' tournament in June 2006.

ChiyoMama will be travelling to Southeast Asia in mid-June so I'm anxious to find out when this tournament will be scheduled so I can determine if I'll be able to participate. I need more real-life games under my belt.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Big Center Moyos

It was Tokimaru who made me aware of Takemiya Masaki (9P). In one of our first matches, he spoke of trying to play a "cosmic style" and I looked it up. An example of this style is to build a large framework in the center of the board while one's opponent takes all of the corners.

This 1974 game between Cho Chikun (B) and Yoshio Ishida (W)
illustrates this "big moyo" style.

In two of my recent games, I found myself unable to claim the corners and won by taking large center moyos. It very much turns the old proverb, "If you lose all four corners, resign", on its head.

Toshiro Kageyama
also seems to understand that the proverb is false. In page 106 of Lessons in The Fundamentals of Go, he writes:

Actually, when one side has given up all four corners he (the other side) usually has a good thick game; the only reason he loses is that he does not know how to use his thick outer walls.

Moderator on

Don asked malweth and I to help out as a volunteer moderators on and we both accepted.

Thus far, I've only had to take two actions; deleting spam threads. Funny how some folks will go through all the trouble of registering with a forum just to spam it. There must be good money (or great desperation) in spamming.

Fuseki Quiz 6/20

Black to play. Should you be concerned about White's large area
on the lower side?
I chose "A".

Scoring of Last Weekend's Fuseki Quiz 5/20

  • A = 10, Because White is strong in both the upper and lower left corners, a two-point extension to C12 is the most concise and stead way to play. Black will be able to secure a position on the left side no matter from which direction White attacks.
  • B = 8
  • C = 6
  • D = 4
  • E = 2

In other news

One of you had suggested the movie, Akeelah and The Bee, to me. The Chiyo-clan watched and enjoyed it last weekend. Laurence Fishburne (aka Morpheus in The Matrix) was the producer and co-starred as Dr. Larabee.

ChiyoChan liked this movie since she herself had made it to the regional finals for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It inspired her to play Scrabble again; and she recently beat me in four games in a row.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Thanks to Don at GoDiscussions has turned into a vibrant online Go community since it was launched by Don back on April 3rd. He created it as a family-friendly alternative to (i.e. minus the spam, flames, odd off-topics et al) and he has, thus far, succeeded.

    Don is only 20k on KGS and he doesn't have as much time to play or study because he's busy maintaining the forum. I saw in his bio that he had only three beginner's books in his library.

    As it turned out this week, I had extra copies of James Davies's "Tesuji" and "Life & Death"; the original versions as they were published by Ishi Press. I had received them as part of a bundle of Go books that I had won on eBay when I was shopping for Nagahara's/Bozulich's "Handicap Go" and Eio's "Modern Joseki and Fuseki, Vol.2" (both now out of print).

    DrStraw, Robert Jasiek and many higher-ranked players that I know consider the two Davies books to be among the very best English books for improving one's rank. I mailed my extra copies to Don as thank-you gifts for all the work he has put into the forum. Someday, he'll trounce me in a game.

    Helping out with product reviews

    GoDiscussions also has a fledgling product review section where forum members can add, rate and comment upon Go products. I'll probably be putting my book reviews (aka The Kyu Reviews) there from hereon so readers can compare my opinion with those of others.

    You'll be able to see a list of my book reviews on my GoDiscussions Profile page.

    14k, ... but don't believe it yet.

    The KGS ranking system promoted me to 14k after playing only four games of which I won three. Having played few rated 19x19s since April 13th, the KGS calculations probably are more weighted towards my most recent games. I am, however, encouraged that I won even matches against kevinwm (15k) and saswiz (16k).

    I won't believe my rank until after the results of six more matches.

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Losing the unplayed game

    Take a look at the rank conversion table for Argentina's 2006 Iwamoto Tournament.

    This table suggests that, as a 17-kyu KGS player, I should be equivalent to a 12-kyu IGS player. For this tournament, IGS players from 17k to 11K will be matched-up in the same class as KGS players from 20k to 16k.

    There are a lot of different opinions out there as to how IGS ranks correspond to KGS ranks. For all I know, this table could be grossly incorrect. For this sake of self-analysis, let's assume that it isn't. The conclusion that would be drawn from it is that I am playing well below my capabilities on IGS.

    Even recently, on IGS, I haven't been able to push my rank above 20k. That could be due to two reasons.
    • I don't play as frequently on IGS.
    • I treat my IGS account as a "leisurely play" and "light practice" account.

    Now, let's do a segue to Toshiro Kageyama's book, Lessons in The Fundamentals of Go. On page 37, he writes this (italic emphases are mine):

    In the world of Go also, a long tradition of intellectual combat has distilled the professional into something that an amateur can never hope to become. A professional has undergone elite training in competition from childhood; he has learned to view every other person as an opponent to be beaten down and crushed. His mental, physical, and emotional strength all have to be fully developed. If he lets up anywhere, it will show in his performance on the board and he will fail the professional test. The realm of competition is stark.

    This is no different from the mental attitude training that I received from my college fencing coach and the head of my kendo dojo. Many matches are lost in the mind before you even face your opponent. One has to muster a calm, confident, and indomitable spirit and sustain it throughout. Achieving this mental state may not guarantee a victory; but not achieving it can almost guarantee a loss.

    It's still unlikely that I'll play as many games on IGS as I do on KGS; but I'd like to see what will happen if I start taking my games there as seriously.

    Fuseki Quiz 5/20

    One line can make a difference. Black to play.
    I chose "A" because of the menacing White kosumi in the upper left.

    Scoring of Last Weekend's Fuseki Quiz 4/20

    • A = 8
    • B = 6
    • C = 10, Extending to J17 assists the two stranded White stones. If Black plays K15, White jumps to N13; putting the Black stones under attack.
    • D = 2
    • E = 4

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    A little piece of tradition

    Hyuga Kaya. Hyuga shell stones. Mulberry bowls.
    Only 60,000 Yen! What's the catch?

    The wares on Kuroki Goishi Ten's site never cease to amaze me.

    That set costing only 60,000 Yen is made of the highest-quality materials. What you're looking at is a magnificent piece of miniaturization that is roughly 4/10ths the normal size. The stones are only 9mm in diameter.

    Image from Kuroki Goishi Ten.

    The above photograph shows stones with diameters of 12mm, 15mm, 17mm, 20mm, 21mm, and 21.9mm. You are left to imagine how much smaller the 9mm stones are.

    You can use the links below to find sets for the following stone diameters:

    A while back, Kuroki was offering these miniature Go sets which were only 10.5cm tall. They were priced at 18,000 Yen. The goban was made of Hyuga Kaya Masame, and the stones were made of Hyuga clam shell. The gosu bowls were made of Honkuwa.

    Only five of these were produced and they have long since sold out. Below are the specs.

    Go board Hyuga Kaya Masame (13.4 cm x 12.8cm, 10.5cm high, 6cm thick)
    Go stones 50 whites & 50 blacks, (8mm diameter, 4mm thick)
    Gosu Honkuwa (4.5cm diameter, 3cm height)

    Oh bother. 15K thanks to rank float on KGS.

    Because I hadn't played many 19x19s on KGS lately, my rank was suffixed with a question mark. It took only three matches this evening to solidify it (two against GnuGo bots), but it settled at 15k.

    That's 2-3 stones above where I think I should be. I'm probably going to find my next games to be ... challenging.

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Tenuki: New job coming

    Aye! We march!

    I and two others from my department are being asked to join a new global operations group that is headquartered in Scotland. We would be part of its US wing. I know and kind-of like the director that I would be reporting to; not that I have any problems whatsoever with my current one.

    Of course, with this transition, I'll need to provide my current department with support for a month or so. After that, I'll need to get familiar with my new role and try to distinguish myself. At this point, it's a fair assumption that this transition will impact the amount of time I can allot to studying and playing Go.

    I have a feeling that, for the next several months, I will become more dependent on books to improve at Go or just to even maintain my current skill level.

    Books Arrived

    The two series of books that I had mentioned last Sunday have arrived. I'll be putting together a summary of my kyu-level opinions for a future post.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Searching for books that truly improve one's skill

    Games of Berkeley seems to have stocked-up on magnetic gobans.

    I visited Games of Berkeley last weekend and must have spent an hour-and-a-half sitting on the floor in front of the four shelves of Go books. I was going through book after book from Kiseido and Yutopian, trying to find some worthy new additions to my library. It was a little frustrating but I couldn't find anything that I felt was a "must have" addition; even for future reading.

    Books are one learning method that I and many other Go players turn to for a variety of reasons. Four common ones are:
    • Lack of time for more frequent play (i.e. to learn by experience)
    • Lack of disposable income for formal lessons
    • Irregularly available times for study
    • Living too far away from a Go club

    Admittedly, books alone will not improve one's game but they are one of the most available methods for tapping into the minds of stronger players. They are repositories of knowledge and unlocking their potential depends heavily upon the efforts of the reader.

    I feel that I'm searching for magic bullets within books; something that might boost me quickly by two or three stones. One that might have done that was Opening Theory Made Easy by Otake Hideo. I recall reading that book and thinking, "So that's what I'm doing wrong!" Of course, I was in the mid-20 kyus on KGS back then so perhaps a little insight was all that I needed to dramatically increase my strength.

    By chance, I struck-up a conversation with a chess player who was perusing the more numerous books of his game. He was attending a nearby chess tournament and was taking a break. He was in his early 20's and was formerly among the top-fifty US players in the Under-18 category.

    "See all these chess books from this publisher?" he said as he gestured to one tightly-packed shelf of glossy Everyman books. "They're mostly ineffective."

    "You won't learn much from them," he continued. "Publishers like these make money from the obsessive-compulsive nature of many chess players who acquire more books than they actually read. They publish a new book almost every month."

    His remarks left me a little perturbed and were similar to what I had been told by many senior Go players; that not all of the books out there can really make a dramatic difference in improvement, and that just a small selection are truly worth studying.

    Interestingly, there are a few books which are mentioned repeatedly, and recommended above all else. There's a possibility that even Go conversations might suffer from the metaphorical echo-chamber effect so I've decided to explore two series of these for myself.

    Assuming all goes well, I should have, by the middle of this week, two sets of books that are oft suggested as "absolute must-haves" for serious Go students.
    I acquired the first set from a veteran Go player who no longer needed them. The second set was ordered directly from Japan via

    I'll soon see if there's real steak behind the sizzle.

    Visiting Davis

    ChiyoMama had to attend a seminar at UC Davis this weekend so ChiyoChan and I tagged along to turn it into a weekend outing. Downtown Davis is a lovely and very pedestrian-friendly place to shop, dine and tour and I would recommend it to anyone who happens to be travelling down the I-80 corridor. Steve's Pizza makes an impressive Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.

    Davis happens to be home to the Davis/Sacramento Go Club but they have no meetings over the weekend. Perhaps, one day in the near future, I might head over there for one of their tournaments.

    Fuseki Quiz 4/20

    This time, it is White to play. I chose "C".

    Scoring of Last Weekend's Fuseki Quiz 3/20
    • A = 8
    • B = 6
    • C = 2
    • D = 4
    • E = 10, This point is important because White is strong in the lower right corner. If White is allowed to invade at R10, she will take the initiative by pressing the lower three Black stones; forcing Black to defend while giving her influence throughout the whole board.

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Trying to translate Korean websites

    We're all very thankful that Mr. Kuroki of Kuroki Goishi Ten has tried to accomodate us as much as possible by providing an English version of his website. It's definitely made his goods more accessible to many of us.

    I've been made aware of a couple of Korean manufacturers/sellers and am trying to find some way of translating their websites. If you're interested, you can try exploring their links below.

    Six Brothers - Prominent Korean manufacturer which seems to offer high-end Baduk equipment.

    Hanil Badook - Retailer. Unclear if they are manufacturers as well.