A Go Player

One man's fascination with the world's best game

Saturday, July 31, 2004

A Very Small Measure of Revenge

At the club today, I didn't get to play the person who beat me on Wednesday. But I did play his friend. (Please note, both of them are very nice people. My revenge is desired more against myself. I don't care if I am beaten, but let me play my best game. A weak game is no good for either side.)

So anyway, I played his friend, who normally gets a 2-stone handicap against him. I won by a very large margin. So I feel better, that the next time we meet we can have a more even contest. This, to me, is very satisfactory.

So. This wednesday perhaps, I will be able to play a stronger game against him.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Roller-blading? Or Go?

I did what used to be my modus operandi last night. I double-booked myself. I made plans to go rollerblading with a friend at the same time as my Go club meeting. The rollerblading was fun, and she was nice enough to go with me to the club so I could play one game.

However, that turned out to be its own bad idea. I was tired and hot from blading, and my concentration was horrible. I was embarrassed that I played so poorly. So, after going home, in a fit of post-mortem irritation, I logged onto KGS and played several games. I won most of them, too. One natable exception was the third game of 9x9 that I played against a 17kyu. Note: that was the one in which he concentrated ;-) The other two I rocked!

I am ranked... 24 Kyu. I have good opening skills, i.e. my fuseki are strong, but my fighting and eye shape creation leaves something to be desired. I need to play more; that seems to be most necessary. I have been doing lots of life and death problems, and I actually read several capturing races successfully last night.

I want to play more. NOW!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The First Meeting

So I bit the bullet.

I went to the Tempe Go Club meeting. Bill, the president/contact, wasn't there. At first I wasn't sure that I had come to the right place. My daughter, her friend, and I all walked from a very distant parking lot to the student union building at ASU. We got there with about five minutes to spare, and there was no one there.

From my last post, you know that I didn't want to go immediately. Well, that fell by the wayside. Following the Fourth of July (coincidentally also in Tempe), I found myself playing against igowin with a zest and fervor that was truly frightening to contemplate (so I didn't).

For those of you who know nothing about Go, it has a ranking system that is very similar to those used in the martial arts. Which makes sense, seeing as how the two systems developed in the same culture. An absolute novice is given the rank 30 kyu (pronounced "Q"), and with experience decreases down to the rank of 1 kyu. Apparently somewhere around 18-15 kyu, one becomes a serious beginner. Past 1 kyu are the dans, which go from 1 dan (lowest) to 7 dan (highest). Again, similar to the dans which a black-belt in karate might receive.

Please note, all these rankings are amateur-only. There is a whole other set of dan rankings for professional Go players. And while there is much less difference between the dans of professional-level players (the ranking being based more on seniority than ability), a 1 dan professional should be able to beat a 7 dan amateur - even giving the amateur a handicap. That's what I've heard, anyway. Feel free to enlighten me if I am incorrect on this point.

In any case, after settling my daughter and her friend at the table with their fast-food dinner, I approached a long-haired college-age man who sat reading a book. As I got closer, I was able to see that it was a book on Go, and I knew I was in the right place. I introduced myself, and Wes (for that turned out to be his name), slowly looked up, as if from meditation, and said "hi" before returning to his study.

Eventually, a couple other people arrived: Kenny, who seems to be about my age or a little younger, and Wes, a silver-haired gentleman with a home-made board and stones that show the wear of great use.

It turned out that Wes seems to be the principal instructor for the group, and we played a few 9x9 games. I lost of course, but the experience of actually playing across from another human turned out to be so enjoyable, I know that I'll be back again on Saturday.

Afterwards, I let my daughter and her friend play in the five interconnected fountains that are centered in the plaza outside the student union. It was a perfect evening.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Should I Join a Go Club?

Within a few days, I find myself thinking that there has to be a better way to learn this game - there must be a more understandable approach than struggling through games with the rules half understood.

I do a web search, and soon I find myself at the Arizona chapter list of the American Go Association. And lo and behold, I am lucky enough to have not one, but two chapters in the Phoenix metro area. I decide that I will go to the Tempe club. But not yet.

I will not go to the go club until I can at least understand the game well enough to be able to understand what the better players are talking about.

I do another web search, and soon arrive at a list of computer software - hosted oddly enough at the same site. I download igowin.

After a few frustrating hours, I begin to understand the rules of Go at a more fundamental level. I can understand what is happening on the board, and why I am losing. I like this program. Perhaps I will buy the full program sometime down the line.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Go Newbie

I've learned something new. Something that has captivated me.

I've been playing Yahoo Chess online, and I've become frustrated by it. For some reason, my interest in Chess has never been strong enough to take me to "the next level". I've still got a few books at home, and I know a couple openings, but overall, the game just feels empty to me.

I'll admit it's still fun to play someone in person, but I no longer had any desire to improve. And when you feel that way about one of your hobbies, it's probably time to hang it up for at least a little while.

So a couple days ago, I looked through the Yahoo Games directory, and I saw the game Go listed. For a lark, I clicked on the link (I'd send you there, but it asks you to login with your yahoo ID, and thus is a frustrating result, so if you must, imagine that you have clicked on alink and are now looking at the Yahoo Games - Go area. Really, it was only worth it for the rules, and you can find better elsewhere.

I read the rules, and I decided that I could play this game. And it might even be fun.

Well, so far, my first couple of games have been very frustrating. The people I played had no desire to help me to understand the game, and no desire to explain their moves. My positions went from vaguely understood to completely bewildering in the blink of an eye. I was not happy.

My third game was much more interesting. I played another new person, and over the course of an hour or so, we managed to stumble through a game, and arrived at a very basic understanding of the rules.

I think I'm going to like this game.