Saturday, December 30, 2006

Help fund shygost's KGS Go lectures and keep them going

Last night on KGS, I caught the tail-end of one of shygost's lectures in Lance's Go Dojo (aka the LGD room under Rooms > Room List > Lessons > LGD). These lectures take place on Friday nights at 7:00pm, US Pacific Time.

Those of you who are familiar with shygost's lectures probably enjoy them quite a bit. He helps guide his listeners in how to evaluate a situation; how to think in Go. He's easy to understand, clear, and concise. Most beginners find his concepts easier to grasp.

These lectures are publicly-funded. Those of us who can, contribute a little cash to help keep the lectures going. Some donate as little as a dollar while others donate substantially more. It's similar to the way public television in America works; the programming is funded a great deal by altruism.

Well, as of yesterday, we had only enough money for two more lectures.

If you've very much enjoyed shy's lectures, you can help keep them going by donating whatever you can via PayPal on this page (the email address is

Your donation is never too small to make a difference. Fifty-cents here, a dollar there, five dollars here - they can all add-up thanks to the efforts of many. One good private lecture from a 6-dan would easily cost you $15 and a group lecture often costs $50. I think a personal or club contribution to shy's efforts is a great bargain.

Your efforts kept these lectures going almost every week for a full year in 2006. Let's try to keep it going for another year ... and beyond!

Super Yunzi from Yellow Mountain Imports

YMI's Size 42 Yunzis. Oh my!

Paired with huge Rosewood bowls.

Yellow Mountain Imports had recently made available their Super Yunzi in two sizes: Size 42 (11.9mm) and Size 38 (10.7mm). These are sold along with their Extra Large Rosewood bowls (with a matte finish) at prices of $350 and $250, respectively.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no other vendor outside of China that is offering Yunzi stones of these sizes. Pong Yen had told me that the widths of these stones conform to Japanese-standards so you can use them on any Japanese (and Chinese) goban.

These stones are a bit out of my personal budget but there's no doubt that their size and heft makes a rather imposing statement. In my humble opinion, they should probably be combined with YMI's Dragon-carved bamboo goban.

Comparison of Mr. Kuroki's Size 46 giant clam stone
to a typical Size 32.

The only stones that I know of that are thicker than these are Mr. Kuroki's Size 46 (13.1mm) Giant Clam stones. Those would cost about $770 along with your choice of Keyaki or Karin bowls that can fit them.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Results of the 2006 Summer-Fall Poll

Well, my Summer 2006 poll got stretched-out into a Summer-Fall 2006 poll. Of course, that allowed more responses to be recorded and, in all, there were 663 of them.

The poll was partly intended for me to examine the rank demographic of those who read this blog. It's obviously tailored to beginners and lower kyus and the responses seems to confirm that. Here's a tabulation of the responses.

And for those of you who are more diagram-oriented, here's a pie chart to show how the rank categories filled-out.

Click to enlarge.

I very much appreciate those of you in the higher ranks who have been following my progress and have been assisting me in whatever ways you can. Quite honestly, a good deal of my advancement is owed to some of you.

Reality Bites: The 2007 Winter Poll
In Go as in any endeavour, some of us are talented and most of us are not. I clearly fall into the latter category.

How long did you, or do you, think it might take to get to shodan? An honest-to-goodness tested-in-many-battles shodan? An "I can defend it in any even-ranked or handicapped game" shodan? An IGS or KGS shodan? Perhaps even a Korean-grade shodan?

Did something happen and you tapped into your inner Sai to speed your way to that goal?

Or did reality bite, ... and bite hard?

That's the subject of the 2007 Winter poll: how long we think it might take to get to shodan. There are those with driving ambitions while others are finding "fun on the road". There are realists and idealists.

Have fun with the new poll!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes from stronger players: GW

A belated Merry Christmas to you all! It's been busy in the Chiyo-household and at work, and I'm still trying to clean-up and finish a few more posts to this blog. There's never enough time, is there?

The following diagram comes from a match where I was playing White. Although White won, the game replayed itself in my mind for most of the evening after it was over.

Focus on the left side.

Black makes a three-point jump on the same line in his 15th move to C6.

A three-point jump on the same line; something that is often not advised when the opponent has back-up stones or a strong formation nearby. It has the inherent weakness of being split in the center. Under these circumstances, a two-point jump is stable and almost worry-free; resonating a degree of strength that could be used for an attack.

The big debate for me was whether to play right in the middle of that jump with W-C8 or not.

My 8-kyu mind had to weigh these considerations:
  • White's D16 string is stable. (Group A)
  • Black's C14 string is stable and strong; particulary with "iron pillar" of B17 and B16 which are next to C18. I didn't finish the joseki to take sente elsewhere. (Group B)
  • White's C12 string (Group C) is reaching out into the center after having gotten pincered with B-C10. It is still somewhat weak. It could escape, but it's still pressed against Black's strong Group B.
  • White has a stone on D4 in a keima relationship to the Black stone on C6. This White stone could be used as back-up in an attack.
I felt that W-C8, right in the middle of the 3-point jump would weaken both the C10 and C6 stones (splitting them into two weak groups).

But Black would probably respond by jumping-out with E10 which would further weaken White's Group C. I was very wary of having to fight two battles.

So, ... of course, I jumped right in.

White won, but ...

GW (4D): "Idea usually right. Not technique"
GW (4D) reviewed my game the following day and explained that the strategy was correct.

W-C8 pits 3 white stones against 1 Black stone and there's good back-up with White's D4 stone. White's Group C can easily run out into the center. The burden of the fight would rest on Black's shoulders; being forced to manage the survival of two group. GW demonstrated that it would have been difficult for Black to manage both. Either one of these would die or White would gain considerable profit.

However, in this game, White won because Black's mistakes compensated for White's own mistakes.

GW told me, "Idea usually right. Not technique." His remark summarizes where my development is still lacking.

Still seeing "ghosts"
As GW took me through the review, it became obvious that I was still making small or defensive moves because I didn't fully understand the inherent strengths and weaknesses of shapes and connections. As yoyoma (1k) had once joked to me, I was "seeing ghosts".

That's rather typical and, as a KGS 8k, I see other beginners playing to defend against the same ghosts that I saw when I was a 30k-20k.

Clue to my deficiencies: I'm still scoring about 70% on Bruce's tests?

Bruce Wilcox has a very nice software called Contact Fights. I very much like it because:
  • It provides a progressive program of training. You start with basic rules and move onwards to more complicated ones.
  • It thoroughly explains the concepts behind its guidelines for managing a contact fight.
  • It has tests to gauge how well you've internalized these concepts.
Now, this is rather embarassing, but I have to admit that I'm still erring on the elementary concepts (20k-ish) by about 15% of the time and the intermediate concepts ('teen k-ish) 30% of the time.

I interpret that as a statement that I'm still giving away roughly 1 out of 3 moves that someone about five stones my junior in rank would not!

Now, that's not necessarily a harsh assessment. As Bruce demonstrates in his demo games, even SDKs and lower-level dan-level players err (and err often) in contact fights.

But still, I'd like to reach a point where I know these guidelines by heart and only deviate from them knowingly.

Fuseki Quiz 19/20

Black to play. Miyamoto says that a professional would see
the solution at a glance.

Scoring the last Fuseki Quiz 18/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 8
  • B = 4
  • C = 2
  • D = 6
  • E = 10, White has two weak groups of stones: the five on the left and the one stone on the lower right. It is imperative that she defends one of them. It is a bad strategy to have two groups in danger. If Black plays R10, White will have a difficult time in this game.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bay Area Go players, there's a visiting Pro

Jean at the Sunnyvale Go Club informed me that Korean Professional Chi Hyung Nam and author of the series Baduk Made Fun and Easy will be visiting the club this Tuesday. She also happens to be one of the three professors at Myong-Ji University in Korea which offers a degree in Baduk. She will be playing against Lance (aka shygost) across the board.

I know. I know. "Go to the club! Ask her about the program! Get an autograph! Take pictures! Say 'Howdy' to Lance!"

Believe me, I wish I could but I had already made plans for Tuesday evening (most of which are related to work).

Anyway, if you're in the San Francisco Bay Area and have your evening open, make plans and arrive on-time (7:30PM)!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Some days, I feel like a one-trick pony

If you were to examine a sample of my games, I'd be willing to bet that many of them would contain the Chinese Opening. I used to play the low Chinese opening, but ImNoSensei inspired me to adopt the high version.

How I tend to play when I see a stone appear on the 3rd line.

The Chinese Opening tends to be my standard response to White unless she happens to play a stone on the third line when her parallel fuseki faces mine. Then I'm likely to play my first stones on parallel star-points and launch a one-space approach on the low stone (a style acquired after reading Kajiwara's The Direction of Play).


In Volume 2 of his Workshop Lecture series, Yang Yilun categorizes games as territorial and moyo oriented. (He also has a third classification: Fighting.)

A territorial opening pattern.

Territorial games are typically launched from the third line (usually the 3-4 points, also known as komoku). In territorial style play, according to Yang, you must:
  • make solid positions
  • avoid trying to develop a moyo
  • protect your weak groups
  • pay attention to the overall balance so that you can reduce your opponent's potential when appropriate
A moyo opening pattern.

Moyo games, by contrast, are launched from the fourth line (usually the 4-4 points or hoshi). The objective here is to develop a large framework which may win the game if it is all converted into territory. When your opponent invades the framework, you make territory by attacking the invading stones.

The Chinese Opening (both low and high variants) strikes me as a compromise position. As the late Kato Masao described this fuseki in his book, the hoshi stone is moyo-oriented while the 3-4 stone is territory-oriented. It is meant to be played like a moyo, with the follow-up moves extending outwards in a grand scale. Yet the lower half of it retains a strong territory orientation; able to quickly build a solid base while attacking.

To me, it's what I would call a "terrimoyo" formation.

Yang seems to suggest that it can be confusing to combine both territory and moyo styles. Perhaps my opinion will change when I develop a greater understanding of this game, but I can't help but wonder if the terrimoyo orientation of the Chinese opening could be seen as a balanced strategy that plays well into Go Seigen's concept of harmonizing the whole board.

Stuck in My Comfort Zone
Playing the Chinese Opening has, in fact, probably been helpful towards familiarizing myself with joseki since I find myself having to play either 4-4 and 3-4 josekis when my opponents approach the corners.

I don't claim to be a master of this opening. I know that I can just as easily lose with it in an even game. But I will claim to at least have a good understanding of the spirit by which it should be played; and a fair understanding of how to demolish it when playing White.

And that relates to what I'm struggling with right now. I feel so comfortable with this opening that I have not branched-out much into experimenting with pure moyo and, quite notably, pure territory openings. I believe I could manage a sanrensei (3 stones on the star-points) as I had played it often before. But I find myself quite unable to launch a pure territorial opening because I lack the experience and, consequently, the confidence to apply it.

I'm thinking that I'll need to study Yang's chapter on "How to Play A Territorial Game" and will probably have to play-out a few professional games just to see how this style is applied. This will likely lead to interesting discoveries as there are more 3-4 josekis (and rather complicated ones) than there are 4-4 josekis.

I expect that my rank will stagnate, or perhaps even drop, once I start really experimenting with new fuseki. But I guess that's better than being a one-trick pony.

Interestingly, some Go players do have a preference for styles. I recall DrStaw as having once remarked in about his dislike for moyo-oriented game.

Photo From the First Dali Cup Womens' Tournament

Click to enlarge.

Pong Yen of Yellow Mountain Imports sent me this photo of the participants in the 1st Dali Travel Cup Womens' Tournament in China. The semifinals were completed in November and the final round will take place in May. You can see the results, and the names of the participants, on this page.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


After having been inactive for almost four months, my blog feels like an abandoned cabin that needs a lot of cleaning-up. Just bear with me while I get everything back in order.

Yukari Umezawa's Videos: Parts 3 and 4

ShadowBakura has continued posting more episodes from the Go! Go! Igo! teaching segments of Hikaru No Go. Below are the next two installments. These videos are targeted towards complete beginners. Parts 1 and 2 were posted back on August 15th.

Part 3

Part 4

Fuseki Quiz 18/20

Miyamoto warns that this answer to this problem may not
follow common-sense Go. White to play.

Scoring the last Fuseki Quiz 17/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 4
  • B = 6
  • C = 10, White's keima to K5 is a good example of how to attack with a knight's move. White immediately takes the lead. If Black tries to run with H5, White will chase with J7.
  • D = 8
  • E = 2

Tragedy: The Baiji becomes "functionaly extinct"

China's shy freshwater dolphin. The baiji of the Yangtze River.

There's terrible news in the conservation world. We have, in effect, lost one specie of dolphin; the baiji of China. This white dolphin became a victim of overfishing, sea traffic congestion, and sonar use.

A six-week expedition, organized by the Foundation, failed to find even one of these in the Yangtze. Only seven were spotted back in 1998.

Less than a century ago, the baiji's habitat was a healthy, living,
freshwater paradise. Its clean, nutrient-rich waters supported
millions of fish and thousands of river dolphins.

"It is possible we may have missed one or two animals", said August Pfluger, head of Swiss-based Foundation and co-organizer of the expedition. "Regardless, these animals would have no chance of survival in the river. We have to accept the fact, that the Baiji is functionally extinct. It is a tragedy, a loss not only for China, but for the entire world."

Many more species remain on the World Conservation Union's Red List. The baiji's loss should be a wake-up call to step-up our conservation efforts by donations and even armchair activism. Don't expect governments and special organizations to take care of the environment; we are these governments and special organizations.

In Other News: Don't Sweat the Christmas Holidays

Just in time for the season, Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...And It's All Small Stuff, has written another little guide to maintaining a reasonable perspective on life's many little annoyances. His new book is: Don't Get Scrooged: How to Thrive in a World Full of Obnoxious, Incompetent, Arrogant, and Downright Mean-Spirited People.

I recall several years ago of having heard or read a report that folks tend to be crabbier during the Christmas holidays. The gist of its cause is that our expectations of being merry are raised and, therefore, we get even more upset that the universe doesn't seem to be completely aligning to our wish for merriment (as it usually doesn't).

Much of Carlson's advice is very much the usual "chill-out" guidance, but it's still worth reading; if only to remind yourself that life's little troubles don't take a vacation and that a reasonable, measured response to these can be cultivated within oneself.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hey! It's great to be back, folks!

My thanks to all of you who have been patient with my absence. A snafu with the migration of my blog to the beta release of Blogger caused me to lose all editing capabilities to my blog since August. I could neither post nor even approve comments.

In retrospect, not having access to my blog was to my advantage since I had to deal with a number of developments in my professional and family life. It was, in fact, a good time to take a sabbatical from blogging.

My situation, regretfully, hasn't changed much; particularly at work where I am now undertaking more responsibilities after a departmental reshuffle. It will now be a greater challenge for me to blog regularly; but I intend to keep in touch!

Progress to-date

Many of us play on KGS and are notably aware of the abrupt bump that our ranks have undergone since Bill Shubert implemented CGoban3. My understanding is that these ranks more closely mirror the ranks one would expect to be conferred by the American Go Association and, perhaps, the European Go Federation. You can still expect to be somewhat underranked by KGS, but not by too much.

As of today, KGS ranks me as 8-kyu; putting me solidly into its single-digit kyu range. I'm still ranked as follows on the other servers:

Thinking streak

Other folks call them winning streaks and losing streaks. I call them thinking and non-thinking streaks.

I once half-joked with friends that I could tell when I was on the verge of a non-thinking streak. I'd usually play slumped in my chair. My mind would be eager to play Go but would be nagged by the distractions of other thoughts (personal or work-related). I would also play rather fast (what NannyOgg calls plunk-and-pray) and rely primarily on poorly-developed instinct and short-ranged, shallow-depth tactical rules.

In a non-thinking streak, I would also play with a conscious intent to improve my ranking on a Go server. If I lost a game, I wouldn't review it but would instead quickly start-up another game out of some delusion that my last loss was just due to a minor error or an under-ranked opponent. "The next game will be different," I'd lie to myself.

The end result is usually a loss, followed by another loss, and another; all in rather quick succession and often on the same day. And quite honestly, there's an increase of anxiety and even desperation as each loss occurs ("Gnats! What's that loss going to do to my server rank and how many wins will I now need to get to the next rank?!").

It all reminds me of why NannyOgg turned-off her KGS rank indicator.

By contrast, when I'm on a thinking streak, I usually sit straight in my chair. All other concerns in my mind have either been settled for the day or compartmentalized for the future. I want to study the grand puzzles of the board and sometimes place each stone one at a time in the board of my mind. "How many liberties does this string have?", I ask. "Will a ladder form there?", I ask. "What is the best follow-up move that my opponent may try?", I ask.

Rank is of no concern when I'm in a thinking streak. I'm not interested as much as in whether I win or lose than as to whether I can find an opportunity to apply something that I had recently learned or read about. I'm still in a zero-sum match, but it's one in which I first want to experiment and apply.

Comparing these two mental states is very amusing. A non-thinking streak is like a gambler's downward spiral. A thinking streak is a curiousity and analysis quest of a calm and patient mind.

Of course, I'm not saying that there aren't such things are real losing streaks that may occur even when you are playing calmly and thoughtfully. These, however, are most likely to occur when you lack a certain understanding of facet of the game that would allow you to move beyond your current rank. I had been through some of those, like when I couldn't believe that certain invasions were possible.

In a recent teaching game, Takeshita (2k) told me that, at my current level, much of my improvement would depend on reading. That only means that further improvement will hinge on a lot of thinking.

Pincering in Enemy Territory

I have a strong tendency to play pincers. I just prefer starting some type of fight early in the game. Eventually, I expect to balance my play with more enclosures and jumps (after I get accustomed to playing on the 3-4 points instead of the 4-4 points).

During an evening Question-and-Answer session with shygost, I asked him about guidelines for low and high pincers. When does one pincer on the 3rd line? When does one use the 4th line?

In the situation illustrated above, shygost cautioned White against pincering on the 3rd line (A or B) as this was playing in Black's territory. In this situation, it's recommended that White consider a pincer on the 4th line (C or D).

In this situation, pincering on the 3rd line (A or B) is perfectly fine since it's both a pincer and extension. White is playing in her own territory.

I assume that neither of these are hard and fast rules. They are only considerations that must be assessed (with regards to how the game might develop).