A Go Player

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


I just hit 16kyu on DGS. Sure, I'll lose some games here coming up, and probably a little rank here and there, but I can't believe it. It's a mark that I am improving.
You know what gave me the last jump? Believe it or not, it was Hikaru No Go. In episodes 25-26, Fujiwara-no-Sai, the ancient Go master, tells Hikaru not to be scared of the tip of his sword and back down, but to fight back.

I've been applying that lately, and it seems to help. Push instead of pulling back.

Single-digit-kyu? I've got 6 months to make you mine!!!

Monday, December 13, 2004

The 1st Phoenix Go Cup

Forgot to mention. The first annual Phoenix Go Cup will be held in February. Apparently we've amassed enough players to be able to host an event like this. I look forward to attending and watching some serious Go playing. I probably won't be competing, though... it's even games only. LOL. Yea, like I have a chance there :)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

KGS Rating

KGS just revamped its rating system. And it sure wasn't good for me. I've been on a losing streak there lately (as opposed to DGS) and went from a 19k to a 21k - almost 22k. I was discussing this with one of my online Go-playing friends, and he suggested that I have the same problem as him: KGS games move too damn fast. He and I require more time to think about moves, and in a 15-minute 5/0:30 byoyomi game, you just don't have that luxury.

The question that puts into my mind is- are KGS players then stronger than DGS players? Are they able to read more deeply more quickly? Or do they play by intuition more than reading, depending on trained patterns and instinct?


I had an interesting moment in one of my games a few days ago.

Now everyone is always talking about influence, right? "Oh, those stones have great influence", and "this wall has great influence on the center", and the like. But noone has ever been able to explain to me what exactly it is. And now I have the glimmerings of why.

So I'm defending a wall on the third line. Black pushes between two white stones to create cutting points on the 2nd line, and I block with a nose play. Black defends against the capture, and then I have to defend against black pushing in on one side, then the other, because black can create a snapback using the capture of the blocking stone as a lever.

So after several minutes of reading, it turns out that the play that best helps the situation isn't near the cutting point at all. It's several lines away and has the additional benefit of sealing the other end of the wall against black. My interpretation is that one stone radiated influence all the way back down to the cutting point. You couldn't see it, but it was there.

Very interesting.

A learning game

Well, yesterday was the Go club meeting. My daughter came and she played me a game of 9x9 and crushed me (with 4 HC stones). She then proceeded to promptly fall asleep on my lap, and there she remained while I played a game against the person who gave me my first Go book. I played him with a 7stone handicap, and while he wasn't concentrating fully on the game, he never has when he plays me, and therefore my winning is a measure of my improving ability. I won by about 8 points. It is very exciting to actually play face to face and to be able to do better than you have in the past.

I then played the 5-dan I invited, with my daughter still sleeping on my lap.

Although he really didn't use much of his strength, he did compliment me and say that he thought I was stronger than 19kyu. I also saw exactly how really strong players can move the stones to create patterns that they see "miles" before someone of my strength will. We had a great discussion about a cut that turned on it's dwindling importance as stones were placed around it during the course of the game, and then he showed me how one final placement of a stone by white suddenly negated the cut as useful at all. I also had a great lesson in direction of play, and learned exactly how to handle a specific kind of corner invasion against 4-4. I made the wrong choice, and lost the entire side as a result.

In short, a great afternoon, and very instructive.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Go4Go.net Game Collection -- View by Tournament

Hey, if you want to see some AMAZING fighting, check out the final three games of the 2004 Korean Chunwon.

Choi Cheolhan is amazing. I've never seen anything like it, except for Cho Hunhyun, who's the only person who actually forced Choi to play the game out to the end instead of resigning. Seriously, this is amazing stuff. Look at game one and see how much territory white has so fast!

I want to be able to fight like that one day...

Go Lessons

A fellow named Kaz has a large amount of Go material and lessons available for download from his website. Some low-level, some high-level.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Will I be able to learn?

I made contact with a local 5dan and asked him for a teaching game - live, face-to-face. And he agreed!

How very exciting!

So next weekend, I am thrilled to be meeting him at the local Go club and playing a game. He will be so far above me, that I hope it isn't too boring.

I really look forward to seeing him play the strong players at the club - the 1-5kyu players and the occasional dan players who stop by. I would love to see a dan-level game live.

Where are all the Go players?

Just thought I'd point out that this world map pinpoints the locations of all KGS players who have signed up for the service. There's over 1350 now.

And yes, that's me right there in Arizona, USA.

One last thing

The AGA has a section on sandbagging in their ratings FAQ.
The AGA does not allow sandbagging — the practice of playing below one's rated strength (presumably looking for easy wins, and/or tournament prizes). Even if sandbaggers win all their games, their ratings improve only slowly, so they do themselves no favor from the point of view of maximizing their ratings.
Losing to them won't hurt other players' ratings much, but it is disconcerting to run into "ringers", and it makes the competition for tournament prizes unfair. One of the practical uses of the rating system is to provide a "lower bound" on the rank at which players are allowed to enter tournaments.
Occasionally, a player feels that he or she has been "overrated", and wants to
play below their rated strength, because they honestly feel they would only lose
at their rated level. However, if too high, such players' ratings will rapidly adjust
downward (within one or at most two tournaments) if in fact they lose most of
their games. The grief suffered by such players is probably far outweighed by
the benefits of preventing sandbagging.

Seems reasonable to me. An interesting point is that because all ratings are known beforehand, sandbagging is the act of playing below your level, instead of disguising your level, as it is online. However, I am sure that the initial "set-your-own-rank" feature of the AGA holds just as many problems as a new online account can.

However, you cannot simply start a new AGA membership as easily as you can an online one, due to the vested cost of membership. Thus, I think that in the face-to-face community, sandbagging - to a fair extent - is already lessened just due to the environment.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More on Sandbagging


I was inspecting several games today on DGS, and I came across the other end of the spectrum - people who had rated themselves as 1kyu or 2kyu players and obviously were not even close to that level of skill.

This is just as bad for a rating system as the other type of sandbagger, and having seen these people set themselves up with that rank, I can see two possibilities:

1. They don't have an idea of what rank to set for themselves, and therefore arbitrarily pick either absolute beginner or a rank that is much to high, or

2. They intentionally pick a rank that is incorrect.

Now in the first case, it's an honest mistake. Hard to argue against that. In the second, well, in an online system, there is no way to ensure that anyone's strength is correct from the get-go. So what can you do? *shrugs*

Now I begin to understand why so many people have problems with rating systems. I guess I do appreciate the KGS beginning somewhat more than DGS. In DGS, you self-select a rank, and then begin from there. In KGS, you are given the rank of the person you play, one or or one down based on win or loss, but it is not stable until you have won and lost two games with already rated players. This, I think, to some degree ameliorates the problems of #1 above.

However, in the case of #2, again, there's nothing you can do. If someone really wants to game a system, they can do it. It's been a problem for slashdot and many other self-moderating communities, and it's obviously a problem in the online go community.

So, with that said, I intend to relax a lot regarding sandbagging and not let it get to me. After all, there is nothing to be done but try your best. Eventually, as with all perturbations in a large system, the effect will settle down due to the dampening induced by games with other players. The only way to make a lasting effect would be to continually reopen accounts for the purpose of sandbagging. And my god, what a bore that would be.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I have been foregoing the vicarious pleasures of KGS lately for the more measured and relaxed pace of DGS. It seems that I don't work as well under the pressure of a 15-minute game as I do when I can think about my move for a while. In addition, I can download the .sgf and play with moves to try to understand their effect on the local and global situations.

So I'm down to about 20kyu, and I am about to win a series of games that would normally probably bump me up to about 18kyu. Very, very exciting. The best one by far is a game against a 3kyu player. I took 9 stones and am going to win by about 5 points. Very, very cool and - as I said - very, very exciting.

But unfortunately, I also have a couple games coming up that I will lose. No big deal, normally, except that these people are experienced players who chose to enter their rank as 30kyu. And I am about to lose one, maybe two of them. So what?

Well, this is what is known over all the go servers I've been on as "sandbagging". What it does is artifically drive the loser's rank down, assuming the loser is - like me - much higher than 30kyu. Now it's not so much that I care about rank per se. I mean, it's irritating that if I win, I get credit for beating a 30kyu player - i.e. a rank raise of about 2%-3% of a kyu - for a hard-fought game. And it's also more than irritating that if I lose, I go up several ranks. But that isn't the real reason it's such a problem.

Okay, so if I lose, I become underrated, and if I win, I become overrated. This means that when I play properly handicapped games against other players, I - in effect - become an unwilling sandbagger myself.

Now, it's true that I could give those players less strong than myself a handicap that would be appropriate for what I consider to be my true rank, but then my rank would increase very slowly, meaning that I would have to play many more games in order to get a reasonably stable rank again. The same goes for asking for a handicap less than my rank says I should get.

So who cares about rank, right? Just play and have fun! Right?

Well rank is the only way we have to measure our improvement. My personal goal is to become good at this game, and to do that, I need a yardstick by which to measure my improvement. So people who choose to fuck with my yardstick are not appreciated. Not to mention that their ripple effect sucks, as their single act of jerkiness spreads throughout the pool of players, artificially causing rank churn.

So, sandbaggers... bleah. Piss on 'em.