Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Learning to REALLY appreciate Go problems

I don't know about you but I tend to shun Go problems (aka tsumego albeit the Japanese term applies mostly to Life & Death Go problems where there is only one solution path). It often feels like work and it just doesn't carry the excitement of a game. Solving problems can feel like doing math exercises for leisure; although I know some folks who enjoy that.

I played a lot of games last week while making use of some compensation time that was owed to me after working over the holidays. Some of the games I played were serious while others were experimental. I'd read-up on some strategic theory or gain a better understanding of a joseki, then I'd get into a game hoping for a chance to apply it. Of course, those opportunities seldom came-up since your opponent plays according to his or her own objectives and not yours.

By the end of the week, I looked at all the games that I had played. Even though my matches tend to be fast, it was a considerable amount of time spent. Most were not reviewed.

As a means of improving at the game, it all seemed rather ...

... inefficient.

Sure, there was a lot of thinking that went on in my games. Sometimes though, you lose or gain a significant advantage early in the match by your blunders or those of your opponent. It then becomes an exercise of keeping the lead by not making simple mistakes, or a desperate (and often futile) attempt to catch-up with risky plays.

Most game veterans that I've communicated with say that both playing and doing problems can improve your game; but they give the much greater nod towards the latter.

Their advantages are glaringly obvious:
  • You can usually do them anywhere when you have time, assuming that you're studying from a book or a printout.
  • You can select problems that are appropriate for your skill level.
  • You can select what subject you want to study. There are problem books for all areas of the game and not just Life & Death.
  • You spend practically every minute thinking and analyzing; that is, training your brain. I'm guessing that one easily does much more deep-thinking in 20 minutes of tsumego than in equivalent time of play (particularly if your games are on the fast side).
  • Good problem books expose you to better play and provide an explanation as to why one move is better than the alternatives. This can deepen your understanding of the game and train you how to read the values of your choices.
Accordingly, I've become open to doing more Go problems and it's been feeling less like work and a little more like fun.

You can find books from Kiseido, Yutopian, Slate & Shell and sometimes on eBay. You can check's product database for ratings and comments on some of these books.

Scoring the last Fuseki Quiz 20/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 6
  • B = 8
  • C = 10, This is the furthest that Black should extend into White's territory. A more aggressive thrust would leave the attacking stone in danger of being captured
  • D = 4
  • E = 2

Corresponding Ranks based on the Fuseki Quiz Results
So how did you do in all of the fuseki quizzes? These rankings are according to the Japanese strength assessments of 1975.

Keep in mind, of course, that we're only evaluating your strength in the opening. A good opening strategy still needs to be backed up by your strength in tactics, middle-game strategy, and end-game strategy.
  • 6k = 64 pts or less
  • 5k = 66-78 pts
  • 4k = 80-92 pts
  • 3k = 94-104 pts
  • 2k = 106-118 pts
  • 1k = 120-132 pts
  • 1D = 134-144 pts
  • 2D = 146-158 pts
  • 3D = 160-172 pts
  • 4D = 174-182 pts
  • 5D = 184-190 pts
  • 6D = 192-198 pts
  • 7D = 200 pts

I didn't know that: Coffee Brewing Lesson

Lately, I've been regularly brewing a cup of hazelnut coffee
in my new and inexpensive Bodum French Press.

ChiyoMama learned from a 25-year coffee grower that one should wait a minute after the water has boiled-over before pouring it over the ground beans in a French Press or some other brewer. Never use boiling water to make your coffee. Otherwise, you over-extract from the grind and the brew turns bitter.

A finer grind, hotter water, and pressure all lead to over-extraction. You want that in espresso, but not in regular coffee.

I've applied this lesson to my daily brew and it's surprising how less bitter my coffee now is.

In Other News: ChiyoChan tries out real animation

Another book for her learning library.

ChiyoChan's has begun earnestly experimenting with Flash animation so I bought her a copy of The Complete Guide to Anime Techniques from Borders to support her interest. She's been spending most of her Christmas holidays with these experiments and improving her art. The work below is based on Waka from the PlayStation2 game, Okami.

Click to enlarge.

She's completed three basic, but rather good, animation studies with Macromedia Flash since she got the book. Maybe I should buy her a copy of Toon Boom someday ... soon.


At 9:34 PM, January 10, 2007, Blogger Ivan said...

I just thought I'd point out that another reasonably good source of go problems is It's a database of user-submitted problems, the implications of which include the occasional unbalanced or unclear problem, but overall I think it's a good resource, especially since the problems are allowed to be rated, commented on, ranked and improved.

Incidentally, I'd just like to compliment you on a fine blog you have here. It's been of some help to me in my beginnings with the game, as well as with product selection. I hope you don't mind, but I'm planning to *borrow* your idea of using scented oil from the Body Shop to add a scent to my yunzi stones which should be arriving tomorrow.

Keep up the good work.

At 5:14 AM, January 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well you made my day. I made guesses on all 20 of your quizes. After going through the archives and tallying up my score I got 162, 3 Dan! Too bad I have the fighting skill of a 20 kyu which explains my 9kyu AGA ranking. Hence my lamenting from time to time about losing won games (I usually come out of the opening quite well and then it all fall apart).


At 6:34 AM, March 26, 2007, Blogger David said...

I definitely regret not getting into problems sooner. I was stuck for a little while at 5kyu, and I started doing tsumego; suddenly the barrier that seemed to be holding me back disappeared! It's quite amazing the improvement that even a few problems can make in your game.


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