Saturday, March 24, 2007

Not tonight

It's manga, so read right to left.
Poor Akira often has a perplexed look on his face, don't you think?

For the most part, I've managed to keep to a belated New Year's resolution that I quietly made to myself after a marathon game period.

"Play when I'm good."

"Good", in this case, is supposed to mean:
  • I've got a period of time wherein I'm almost guaranteed not to be disturbed.
  • I'm free of immediate obligations and tasks.
  • I've stuck to my (physical) workout routine.
  • I'm not physically or mentally stressed/exhausted.
  • I've taken time to study/research any puzzlements from my last game.

Counterproductive and frustrating
I used to play some of games as a form of escapism; to forget things that might have recently troubled me or to get my mind off an issue.

Imagine that I've just wrapped-up an exhausting day at work when things didn't go as planned and I was overstretched. "Hey! It's all over, ChiyoDad! Now let's play Go!"

BEEP! Wrong! It's probably one of the worst times for me to play Go. I'm tired and drained and even all my enthusiasm won't be enough to charge-up one tiny little brain-cell for a battle royal. Passive mental escapism might be the better alternative to active mental escapism. I should just fix myself a strawberry smoothie and unwind with a movie or, at worst, solve some very light tsumego.

It's an ironic fact that a lot of the times that I want to play Go are actually the most counterproductive times.
  • A brief unexpected lull at work? Not all high-priority tasks done?
    Bad time.
  • Overworked? Just finished a long morning of house-cleaning? Got a headache or even just a mild head-throb?
    Bad time.
  • Substituting your gym period for Go? Got a guilty feeling because you're supposed to be pumping iron and doing a 30-minute cardio?
    Bad time.
  • You didn't read-up on that joseki that you mis-played?
    Bad time.
If I insist on playing, then I'm likely to play a sub-optimal game, which increases my chances of losing thus leaving me slightly frustrated, ...

... which may cause me to drop in rank (I'll be honest. I try not to get hung-up about rank but I occasionally still do.), thus leaving me slightly more frustrated, ...

... which may induce me to play another game to try to redeem myself ("That wasn't me. It was just an anomaly. I'll be better focused in my next game.") ...


Holding to the conditions of my resolution often means playing only one game a day (on days that I can) or playing a handful of games infrequently. I'm playing fewer games than usual, but I'm finding myself enjoying my matches more.


At 11:58 AM, March 25, 2007, Blogger Yogenzaga said...

I've been doing the same thing for a while. I mean, not playing unless I know I have a full 90 minutes available. Sadly, that almost never happens :(

I have been playing DGS because of this :P

At 6:57 AM, March 26, 2007, Blogger David said...

I used to have the same problem (and still do, though not as often). But I wouldn't say that those are bad times to play go. If you only ever play when you're at your best, you won't master the psychological aspects of go, which are probably the most useful because they carry over more into the rest of your life. Obviously I'm not saying you should start a game when you only have 20 minutes to play, but if you can discover ways to relax yourself before and during a game, then it will help you to cope with difficult situations both in life and on the go board.

I generally try to gauge my mood before a game. If I'm feeling at all stressed or tired, I close my eyes and breathe deeply, trying to think about nothing but breathing. Usually this works for me. It may or may not work for you, but if it doesn't I'm sure there's something you can do to relax yourself.

I have found this skill useful during games. In a recent game I screwed up the first corner I approached; a variation of the small avalanche joseki that I wasn't really prepared to play. After assessing the situation and realizing that my opponent had thickness AND territory in that corner, as well as a large number of my stones, I looked at the board and reminded myself that 1 or 2 big mistakes by my opponent could turn the tide back in my favor.

It turned out that the entire rest of the game was one big mistake by my opponent. After my mistake, he was leading by about 70 points I would guess, but I won by 3.5 points after a long uphill battle. In discussion afterward, he said that he had thought I had no chance if I didn't kill some groups, so he had just played to stay alive. I didn't kill anything, but numerous slow plays by him (and probably overplays on my part) allowed me to win the game. He had the game won on the board, but lost it in his mind.

At 8:56 AM, March 26, 2007, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello yogenzaga,

Yes. Dragon Go Server is the best alternative if you are pressed for time. Speaking only for myself, I'm likely to constantly be thinking about the game between moves so my play-time invades all my other times. That is a subject for a future post.

Hello David,

It's like that question, "Is it nobler to avoid temptation or to resist temptation?". In this case, "Is it better to play when you're ready or to train under stress?"

I had debated this with myself before writing this post (since I myself had felt that it steeled the mind to play under stress). There's no argument that one can muster both will and skill to perform under difficult conditions.

I feel however that there is a difference between escapist play, which allude to in my post, and purposeful play. When I consciously make an effort to prepare my mind for a match (even under difficult conditions), I consider that to be purposeful play. It's different from playing Go "just to try get my mind off things".

We also know that we play best without distractions. In part, escapist play tries to deny the existence of mental distractions (homework undone, college application unfinished, project due tomorrow, procrastinations et al). In this regard, I think it's better to take care of the distractions - then to play Go.

On top of all that, I think my post reflects a developing attitude towards my play. Go is a challenging and mindful leisure; but I do want it to be leisure and I'd like to play when I can be mindful.

At 3:15 PM, March 27, 2007, Blogger malweth said...

And this is why I only play seldom on KGS and often on FICGS :)

if only I could play on KGS at lunch again :( Jobs are evil when it comes to firewalls!!

At 7:24 PM, March 27, 2007, Anonymous Codexus said...

Actually, I feel the opposite. It's so easy to find excuses not to play and to do more passive activities instead that I need to force myself even if I don't feel 100% like playing. Otherwise I would never play.


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