Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ladies' turn

Most of you are already familiar with three women in the Go blogosphere: NannyOgg, who started blogging back in January of 2005 (preceding me by six months), toastcrumb, who documented her effort to advance as far as possible in a summer and is still blogging, and becci, who provided considerable detail of her summer weiqi studies in China under Mr. Yan in Wuhan province. There were two other bloggers, but their journals have long been inactive.

We've seen two new entrants.

The first of these is Terri Schurter's, currently 8k on KGS. Many of us have known her as goddess or buzzsaw on KGS, as the founder of the Wings Across Calm Water online Go club (of which I am a member ... albeit a rather inactive one) and as a part-time correspondent for the AGA's ejournal.

The second is from Silent Snow (aka Yuki Nabe) who goes by the same namesake as a teacher on KGS. She carries the real-life rank of 1D and blogs from Germany. She teaches in both English and Japanese. I'm not sure if she teaches in German (but I assume that she can).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Last Installment of Go! Go! Igo!

shadowbakura has posted the seventh, and last, installment of the Go! Go! Igo! compilation. I've linked it below for your viewing convenience.

We owe shadowbakura a lot of thanks for taking the time to split and convert these clips. Please take the time to visit his YouTube account and rate his videos.

Here are all the previous six installments, also for your convenience:

Meanwhile, in an alternate universe ...

If the video doesn't work, you can use these links to
access it in Quicktime or Windows Media Player.

12.4 minutes

I set my games typically to a base time-limit of 20 minutes plus 5 x 30 seconds of byo-yomi (Japanese Timing). yoyoma, who often said that I needed to slow down, once chided me that I was being rather generous to myself given how fast I actually play.

Out of curiousity, I took a sample of my last fifteen games to see how much time had elapsed on average.

The answer was 12.4 minutes; only 62% of my base time-limit. Of the fifteen games, only four games lasted more than 15 minutes, and only one of those went into byo-yomi. For those who are into statistics, the standard deviation was 4.9 minutes.

This, of course, is only a simplistic analysis. I recognized a few games that were played-on even though Black or White had already won. There were also shorter games that, if my opponent chose to do so, could have been drawn-out with the possibility of winning on time by creating complications.

This still points-out however that I may be playing just a bit too fast and that I'm not taking the greatest advantage of my time allotment. I know that Sorin advises us to play fast games, but I'd also like to cultivate the habit of thinking a little deeper.

Plateau ... again. No big deal.

Click on image to enlarge.

This investigation into my elapsed game times was, in fact, prompted by a remark during one of my reviews. One of the commentators said that the difference between where I was (8k) and 5k is currently a matter of reading deeper.

Admittedly, there are days when I start a game on KGS, even when I know that I'm not ready to dedicate all my mental energies to it. It's a very bad sign when I feel an impatience for my opponent to make his/her next move.

That image above is a 20-month composite of my entire record on KGS to-date which I constructed using Photoshop. It should be noted that there was a dramatic change in the ranking method when KGS switched from CGoban2 to CGoban3 in September 2006. For many of us in the mid-kyus, that resulted in a five-rank jump.

As can be seen, I've gone through several plateaus and am currently in one of my longest ones. I remember how my early plateau back at 22k briefly made me wonder if I might be forever stuck at that rank (HAH!). If you enlarge that chart, it becomes quite obvious that my 22k plateau was one of the shortest ones I had experienced.

I expect to move forward eventually. Either something has to sink-in my brain, or I just need to change my style of play (i.e. take ... my ... time ... and ... think).

Yes, I'm you're fan!

I've made a lot of friends and acquaintances since I started playing Go on KGS, and just about all of them are on my "Fan" list.

Bill Shubert added this feature to CGoban3; a third option to marking an account as Buddy (so that it appears at the top of the logged-in roster) or Ignore (so you don't see any of their remarks). If you have the "Fan Games" room active, you will be alerted whenever a fan account starts a game.

It seems to be a natural extension of playing in the virtual world; one strolls about from board to board to see how their friends are doing in their games. It's always nice to root for your friends or just try to see how your thinking compares.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Spring Sale at YMI for local shoppers

I had written to Pong at Yellow Mountain Imports to forward ScatCat's inquiry. He wanted to know if the new slotted portable board can be purchased without the case.

At this time, YMI has no plans to sell it without the case.

YMI discounted boards for folks down in Southern California

Some discounted items (Image 1)

Pong also made mention of this:
We’re doing spring cleaning early here. Your readers might be interested in this collection of 40+ boards I’ve amassed. They have imperfections, most minor, some not as minor. I’m discounting them all so you can find boards as low as $10.

Got a few nice 6cm Kayas at $95, one 6cm Shin-kaya with a crack on the side for $65, 3cm Shin-kayas at $30, $35, and a whole bunch of other boards and a bunch of free T-shirts.

They are welcome to stop by after next Tuesday (I’ll be out of town for Chinese New Years). Our address is 227 S. Raymond Ave, Alhambra, CA 91801 and we’ll be open 10-6:30, out for lunch around 12:45-1:45.
Some discounted items (Image 2)

Some discounted items (Image 3)

If you're not in the Los Angeles area but have an interest in some of these boards, send an inquiry to YMI via this page.

Folding Kaya Board in-stock again

I had forgotten to mention in my earlier post that YMI has also re-stocked on its folding kaya boards. These come with a felt cover for transport. They were available in very limited quantities before Christmas.

This item retails for US$65.

Bodum Tea Presses: Super-cute, stylish and very efficient

The Bodum Assam III tea press comes in 2-cup
and 4-cup sizes.

We've been using a pair of Bodum Assam tea presses to brew and serve our Lupicia teas. ChiyoMama and I use the 4-cup one and ChiyoChan has the 2-cup version. These are very convenient for loose-leaf teas but they work just as fine for bagged teas.

The tea floats and brews inside the stainless-steel filter. After the correct brewing time has elapsed, you merely press down the plunger and the leaves are isolated from the water; thus stopping the brewing process and eliminating the possibility of bitter tea.

The 2-cup version is excellent for most folks. The 4-cup version is best if you expect to be serving guests.

A nice way to serve your tea (or any other hot beverage for that matter) is with Bodum's Pavina line of tumblers. They are hand-blown Borosilicate glass. These were a nice discovery when I bought the first two for ChiyoMama and so we got two more.

These tumblers are double-walled so it has two nice benefits:
  • It keeps your hands from burning when you serve hot beverages.
  • It keeps the hot beverage hot for a longer period of time.
On top of that, there's this odd illusion of the beverage "floating" in air which is rather cool.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

YMI's latest portable goban is now available

Finally, after having missed the Christmas season, Yellow Mountain Imports has gotten their new portable Kaya goban in. Pong and I had lamented that shoppers didn't have a chance to get their hands on this board in late 2006 but it seems that their container has finally arrived. The set retails for US$95 (with the case).

The carrying case borrows from the original GoBox design which I have. It looks like the size is just right for toting about and for carry-on luggage.

As with the original GoBox, the board is protected with foam padding. It looks like YMI opted for an improved case handle.

The board is 1.1 inches thick and uses cylindrical pegs. I don't know how this compares to rectangular slots which is the way most portable Japanese katsura boards are built with.

The grid is Japanese-standard sized so Chinese-sized stones (which are about 1mm wider) will fit too tightly. When shopping from YMI, make sure that your Yunzis are Japanese-sized. I know that the double-convex Yunzis are Japanese-sized.

The board is reversible and has a 13x13 grid on the back. You would probably want to pack a sheet of felt cloth with the board so that you can have a protective material between it and the table.

A couple of you who had seen the sneak-peeks of this set were disappointed that the case only accomodated the board and not the stones. In my humble opinion, this is not really an issue since it allows the user to be more flexible with which stones to bring along with the board. Besides, YMI's double-convex Yunzis already come with their own carrying bag.

It's always a challenge to strike the right balance between cumbersomeness and the aesthetics of having a full-sized all-wood set when choosing a portable set. I think this new offering from YMI will certainly fill a niche.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New book coming from Kiseido on February 15th

wmcguire93 alerted the crowd at GoDiscussions.com of a new book being released by Kiseido on February 15th: Mastering the Basics, Vol.5: The Basics of Go Strategy. Here's the publisher's description:
Aji, kikashi (forcing moves), and sabaki are the most important concepts of go. They imbue the game with strategic subtleties unmatched in any other game. Without an understanding of these concepts, no go player can hope to attain a high level of skill. Besides these concepts, it is also necessary to understand the shape and distribution of stones and how they influence other parts of the board, determining which stones are important and which stones can be sacrificed, and which stones must be strengthened before playing large-scale strategic moves.

The aim of this book is to bring together these ideas and to show the reader how they interact. Many of the examples and problems are taken from professional games so that the reader can see how the top pros deal with and utilize these concepts.

This book is divided into two parts. The first part is expository, and the second part consists of 101 problems. These problems will expose the the reader to various techniques and ways to think about certain kinds of positions. The reader is urged to approach them as positions that might occur in their own games, decide how they would play, and then look at the answers to compare their own thinking to that of a professional.

Available from February 15, 2007.
The price is US$18 plus shipping and handling. You can pre-order your copy now.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Short notes from Bruce Wilcox and Jens Henker

In case you haven't been perusing the forums over at GoDiscussions.com, you've probably missed all the accolades that some of us have been heaping upon Bruce Wilcox's Go Dojo: Contact Fights.

I'm hoping to write one of my kyu-reviews on this software in the near future but I'd like to get further along in it. I'm about in the middle of its intermediate section but my initial impressions of Bruce's Dojo are all strongly favorable. In a nutshell, if a beginner were to approach me today and ask how they might be able to level-up quickly, I'd probably direct them to Bruce's software as soon as they finished reading something like Janice Kim's Learn To Play Go: Volume I. In my humble opinion, Bruce is particularly talented in writing software to teach Go.

Anyway, I had asked Bruce in an email as to what new developments there might be with his software and he had this to say:

There is no news from me.... I write new software when I am between jobs, and currently I am fully employed. My next unemployment plan is to write Go Dojo: Pattern Recognition, which covers, life and death, joseki, and tesuji. But it may or may not ever happen.

Here's hoping that we might see more teaching software from Bruce (albeit I do not wish for him to lose gainful employment)!

Jens's new English website

Jens is in the center at the back.

Jens Henker (aka Tudorus on KGS) is studying Baduk at Myongji University. Up until now, his personal website was written only in German. He has recently set-up an English section so we can keep tabs on his Baduk academics and life in Korea.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Just what is it with me and Life & Death problems?

Actually, I use my small YMI board for analyzing joseki variations, not L&D.
But you all probably wanted to see what problem 212 looks like.
Black to play and live with 1 move.

My rank on KGS says that I'm 8-kyu on that server's ranking system - based on playing medium-speed games (20 minutes plus 5x45 seconds byo-yomi) almost consistently. But just where am I right now on Graded Go Problems for Beginners: Volume III?

Problem 212 (that's page 44 under Intermediate problems, Level Three, Life & Death Problems). The old rank-range for this book was 20-kyu to 15-kyu. It has since been re-ranked as 15-kyu to 8-kyu which probably conforms to AGA ranks.

With James Davies's book, Life And Death, my progress is even worse. I've gone as far as page 39 (of 157 pages) but am currently re-reading from page 26. tetris would probably want to whack me with her avatar's pillow when she reads this.

Most of you have probably heard of Janice Kim's advice to solving Life & Death problems; do them in your head and not on a board. James Davies takes it up a notch; consider if either side can live (or kill) depending on who plays first.

It seems a bit odd, but I tend to breeze through tesuji and fuseki problems, but I notably slow-down (and sometimes struggle) with life & death.

One nasty habit of mine
At least one of my difficulties can be traced to this habit that I have of trying to keep track of each stone in sequence. It was probably programmed-in from all those statements like "Black to live in 3 moves" that you often encounter in tsumego books.

This image illustrates what I tend to visualize in my mind; stones with numbers on them: "Black 1 here, White 2 there, Black 3 here, ...".

If the analysis variations are wide, it gets difficult for me to keep track of where move 1 was and where move 2 went! For me, this sequential book-keeping seems to slow down the analysis.

This is another visualization method that seems to make it much easier for me. It's akin to Toshiro Kageyama's advice of just going systematically: "Black, White, Black, White, ...". Place the stones in your mind and count the moves later.

If it comes to the required number of moves, then great. Even if they don't, it seems that I can reset the board in my mind and analyze the alternatives faster.

Everyone's mind is wired differently, so this method may or may not work for you.

Speaking of wiring ...
Steve Fawthrop (aka DrStraw on KGS and GD) wrote an article about how to study Life & Death problems. His methodology seems to be hard-wiring the patterns into the brain. It's worth a look and your consideration.

Aaah ... Lupicia!

The Lupicia tea emporium in the San Francisco Centre.
Each of those boxes in the wall contain a particular variety of tea.

The tins on the counter are for scent-sampling and examination.

As a tea-drinker, I consider myself rather blessed to be living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lupicia has two stores in the city. If you love tea and happen to be in town, it would be well worth your time to visit one of their stores (as well as the tea-shops in Chinatown).

Lupicia is a large tea chain in Japan and they currently have three shops in the United States (two in San Francisco, California, and one in Honolulu, Hawaii). There are also two shops in Australia (both in Melbourne) and three in Taiwan.

Flavoured Green Tea No. 8503, Paradise

ChiyoMama has a preference for floral-flavoured teas while ChiyChan likes fruit-flavoured ones. Our current favorite is No. 8503 which is called Paradise. It is also suitable for iced tea.

Lupicia sells by mail and by phone. So wherever you are in the US, you no longer have an excuse for not trying their teas. They can be contacted at (415) 227-0533 [Fax at (415) 227-4161] and are located at 865 Market Street in San Francisco. Ask for a free copy of their English catalog.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sorin Gherman and The Expanding Go Blogosphere

Some of you already know of Sorin Gherman (6D), one of the few people in the west who have had the opportunity to study as a Japanese insei. I had blogged about his advice for getting strong back in July of 2005; not long after I started taking Go seriously.

Sorin had recently joined the forums at GoDiscussions.com and I was pleased to learn that he has updated his website and added a blog. There's a good amount of free educational material on both so it's well worth a visit and a browser bookmark.

Ye Early Go Blogs

The Go blogosphere is now in a growth stage but it was in its absolute infancy only two years ago. I recall that when I started my blog, there weren't too many that were regularly updated and many others were abandoned only months after being launched. NannyOgg's "Go Shodan Challenge" was then the most well-known and it still is, thankfully, going strong to this day.

But even NannyOgg's blog was preceded by an older one entitled "A Go Player" started in July 2004 by an author known to me only as Jay. Sadly, this blog has, since April 2005, not been updated. It went silent after Jay achieved a KGS rank of 15k. It was then the only lower-kyu blog that I could find and relate-to in my first months.

These two blogs, in fact, gave me the idea of tracking my progress and sharing pieces of my Go-education in an online journal. I owe Nanny and Jay for that.

To Nanny, keep blogging and more power to your game!

To Jay (wherever you are now), thanks for the gift of your lower-kyu blog and I hope your game has continued to improve!

Latest Entrants to the Blogosphere
Here are five recent entrants to the English-language Go blogosphere; most launched in January of 2007.

Alejo, the author of Alejo's Tenuki, blogs in English from Spain. This is a low single-digit-kyu blog.

rayen, the author of rayen's Go Blog, blogs in English from Norway. I think rayen is single-digit-kyu.

noir, the author of noir's Road to Shodan, blogs in English from Romania. His blog was launched in September of 2006. noir is currently ranked at 7k on KGS.

chinmay, the author of Go!, blogs in English from India. He is a rapidly-advancing beginner.

And finally, Rajmahendra, the author of As you name it!, blogs in English from India. His blog isn't Go-centric but he's rather enthusiastic and he does touch upon it frequently. His was probably the first Go-related blog from India. Raj is a rapidly-advancing beginner.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A White Facing Komoku

Safe and super-timid.

In a recent game, White played a facing komoku (3-4 Point) fuseki; something I don't encounter very frequently. I had started with a hoshi (4-4) and a komoku.

That's a pretty wide space between those two White stones and I wasn't quite sure what a good response might be. I knew it wasn't optimal, but I chose to just jump into the center with an invasion on the third line. It was safe, but rather uninspiring and somewhat timid.

White gets the corners easy.

I felt it wasn't optimal because White would, and did, approach my invasion from both sides and force me to defend. As White does so, she forms two corner enclosures albeit the last one in gote. I guessed that I would at least be able to blunt an extension from one of those on either the left or right side.

But, all's well that ends well.

The end result was alright. Both sides mapped out large territories and Black won by a little over twenty points (White was 7k and I was 8k).

Misreading the invitation
The Nihon Ki-in Small Encyclopedia of Fuseki explains that the facing komoku fuseki, as played by White, is an invitation for Black to make an approach at either corner. White expects to pincer the approach, making good use of the opposite corner stone.

Black must start a fight that frustrates this objective.

What White really wants

A low approach to either of the 3-4 points plays into White's hands. This allows her to make a very effective pincer in sente.

The above diagram show one possible forced sequence which puts Black at a disadvantage.

A better approach for Black
Pincers tend to be less effective against high approaches and Black can therefore get a better result.

This diagram suggests a possible sequence which would work very well with a Black nirensei (two star-points). Rather than finishing the joseki, Black could tenuki and approach the other White Corner. If White opts to cut the hane at A, Black gets to do a double-approach to the neglected corner at B.

If White responds to 5 with an attachment at P3, Black can play out the joseki at both corners and claim the bottom.