OTB recap

I promise, dear game, I have not left you, despite appearances to the contrary.

I’ve just been busy. Very busy at that, both over the board playing my favorite game, as well as at several of my other side projects such as iShudan and the iPhone unlocking biz. In fact, I’ve had many more games over the board in the last week than any in recent memory due to my increased mobility. This comes at the cost of time for writing or studying software. Over the last week I enjoyed a best-of-three match with David York, a fireside game at HotWire with Adam, and at least 3 separate games with the newest person at work to learn the game, Benjamin. I think we had more, but they were interrupted before completion due to time. Unfortunately, my games at David’s Go Dojo have slowed considerably, as I have few moves per day lately, if any at all. I welcome anyone who prefers the slow pace of “Go-by-email” to register an account and start up a board or two with me here.

Most of my non-playing Go time has been spent learning something completely tangential to Go, programming PHP and learning the basics of Cocoa. I have watched all five of the video podcasts that Apple released to iPhone developers to help make sites Compliant, Optimized, and then Native. I have been putting thought into the design and roadmap, and I hope to have a wireframe mock up soon that I can post and share with others that explains my vision for the future of iShudan as a project. I can say that I have a lot of lofty goals currently, as I accomplish these milestones I will write about them further.

And did I mention that my Regular Job has been really busy too? 😉

c’est la vie, c’est la guerre!

Some of my teaching games at work I lost because of moving too fast after a distraction, as I would lose the tempo of what was happening, and when I came back and tenuki‘d away from an important situation the student would promptly pounce without remorse on the now reversed situation. Counting liberties sometimes gives you a confidence you don’t deserve because the local situation has complexities that are not at first apparent.

This weekend I plan to have a mini-ranking blitz on KGS to see if my skills have improved of late, barring any late invitations to an in person game.

I hope to also start studying for my FCC Amateur Radio Technician Class license this next week and on my upcoming vacation. This is just a side project of mine, perhaps a work related hobby. I have precious little time left over for new hobbies, heaven knows, but I find I enjoy a steady diet of new and interesting technical material. I have been assured by one of my friends that the first level exam is pretty easy to pass once you have studied, particularly since they have dropped the Morse Code requirements. I have a book here on loan from the library, as well as some online resources to study next week, I think that may be really all I will need to prepare.

I will post some Go-related study materials this weekend, as well as a kifu from a 19×19 game on the Dojo. I hope your own projects and goals are proceeding apace, and that this note finds you well. Namaste’.

two for oneI will admit, last week other than my daily play in the Dojo and a few tsumego, I did little to advance my Go. I was busy during nights completing a project that I will write more in depth about later, I am considering an article or some other thought-out essay. For now, suffice it to say that my Tuesday night game with Bob was postponed till Thursday, and then just skipped altogether. I didn’t get away to the SGC, and I didn’t take the time to play anyone online or watch a lecture.

IntroAh, but this week I start anew, side project completed, and I asked if Bob would oblige me at his place for a game Tuesday night. It was clearly enjoyable for both of us, as he invited me back again in a week for a repeat. But I get ahead of myself, I wish to describe instead the match we played last night and its outcome.  I look forward to our next match in less than a week…

I am happy to hear that my recent improvements in our occasional games have sparked him to start studying as well, several unfamiliar and obviously older tsumego books were out and on top of nearby piles, signs of recent study scattered around the clear space on the floor around a roll up set with glass stones. Because I brought my home set to work to show a co-worker how to play Go on a coinciding day, I have my yunzi stones and bowls ready to play on the larger bamboo board. It is agreed that due to my loosing streak of late, I will take 3 stones from him. Play is begun, and as is common with an unbalanced board like that, becomes laden with fierce contact fighting almost immediately.

first pauseNow, although I haven’t been studying, when I get a rare weekend morning to spend an hour on Go all at once, I have been continuing to work my way through Bruce Wilcox’s Contact Fights software. Even though I am less than halfway complete, I am already feeling a marked difference in my game. By conditioning and codifying what I know and explaining it in the manner that Mr Wilcox does in his program, it has crystallized a few weak spots in my game that have stood for some rapid improvement.  I definitely look forward to completing the course fully and plan to share some of the distilled wisdom with some of the people I have been teaching lately…

close up corner fightSome people have a very direct attacking style, and a game of Pente with my non-confrontational wife made me realize that this initial leap into the fray can be quite off-putting if applied too soon to someone not yet committed to learning the depth of the game, Pente and anything else. A strong, bold, forceful response creates immediate tension that must be resolved, and blocks further reasonable development until the local situation is resolved. In a good fight, this can quickly cover a quarter of the entire board and of course strongly influences what remains of the game. Learning the method to contact fighting allows you to redirect this aggressive thrust into a weaker missed attack that then opens up possibilities for response and follow through. Almost like a martial art, such as Judo.

4 corners fightingSo, our three stone match began with a 3-vs-1 corner balance immediately. Bob successfully invaded but was boxed in, and a few empty triangles later I was in good position. His broad strokes made quick life, but not very large and not complete. He did show me a very specific technique that I think was useful, a way of poking along a long wall of stones to create a certain shape that establishes a beachhead of sorts. If you have ever watched despairing as an opponent builds an unbalanced wall of stones, ready to fall upon any unlucky victims trapped below the avalanche, then you might know what I mean.

parting shotHere is the last shot I took of the game before things got very intense and fairly quickly resolved. I have strong position in some places, and in some of the battles that were played out, I made a few mistakes but also some large captures. In fact, several captures really turned the course of battle to my favor. In the end, we played out all the situations and entanglements to create a line of battle, but once these were resolved Bob resigned the game without the final count since it was obvious and decisive victory for me. I will not be playing any more three game stones with Bob for sure now, I just have to consistently hold my own on a 2 stone.  Thank you again for the game and your teaching, Bob.  I hope to face you evenly soon.

Peace to you and yours, and good hunting.


Tuesday night is my customary night to play an over-the-board match of Go, so I headed to the Seattle Go Center for my game. I was there for a short time but there was nobody looking for a match, about 5 matches in progress. There are sometimes spouses and other non-go playing significant others who are at the Center, but not looking to engage in conversation or interact generally. After watching a few games in progress, I left to secure a quick but healthy-ish dinner nearby.

When I got back, there were perhaps twice as many people as before, although still no Jon Boley. Apparently he is away for a while, so other senior players take turns stewarding the place and greeting unfamiliar faces. I watched the end of a match on a 13×13 board, and once it was over was able to make some comments on the ending and contribute. I counted it out silently as an exercise, and so knew that it was over already but that playing it out was a learning experience and kept my peace. One of the interested watchers looked like he might be interested in a game, so I asked him for a match and we played a game on a nearby 13×13 board.

And so I came to play a game with Andy. He was a fellow novice, and had no idea of his relative strength, but was familiar enough with the rules to play a good game. I explained a bit about ranks, or stones, and then we agreed upon a 4 stone handicap on the 13 square board. It was very enjoyable, and tough to the end. Black ended up winning by around 15 points or so, which goes to show that a 4 stone handicap counts for a LOT more than the same on a 19×19 board! But all around, it was a learning experience; I got sloppy and let a group die that shouldn’t have and was meant to become an excellent buttress. I make good fast shapes, but then have to defend them well enough to make it stick.

I like thinking of a python squeezing out a shape; if another player is unable to make life in the “bubbles” on the board, then all the stones inside die, as if swallowed whole by a snake. On the other hand, I didn’t win, so I don’t get to give much advice… :-)

I sent him an email recommendation on the spot and tried to warmly welcome him to playing Go on the Beginners Night there at the SGC Tuesdays, or online at KGS, or anywhere at all that he could find a match and a partner. He asked me what I thought the best way to get started getting stronger at Go was, and I thought that it was good enough of a question I would post a thorough answer.


Or in other words, don’t make plans based on uncertain events…

I went over to Bob’s house tonight for my game, last time I won a game after taking a 2 stone handicap. If I beat him again at 2 stones, I was supposed to move ahead and start taking only a single stone per game. I was happy with my victory last time and felt that I was in the right frame of mind for a good game. I’ve been practicing and studying, so I expect to see some improvement in my games, against my previous benchmarks. I know that currently Bob is only playing games with me, so if I appear to be improving against him it is likely real.  I began with my fighting spirit at the ready and resolved to play my best.

Ladder for Black

This position shows me right before I remove the stones I have captured in a ladder. With the influence and prisoner count (unshown here) on the board at this time, I think things were looking pretty solid for me as Black…  Unfortunately, I was a little too taken with it and was disrespectful when I should have been more aware of my total.  Bob demonstrated restraint and good judgement in continuing, despite my offer to let him resign.

I had failed a previous attempt at getting a ladder to work; after placing a ladder breaker carefully in the path, I had sprung my trap. However, it actually didn’t work, certainly not as well as I had hoped since I ended up having to rewind the game a few moves to demonstrate what I had been trying to do. I showed the ladder, but it wasn’t successful at all, I kept up ending being in atari elsewhere. To later make the ladder shown above and get my 4 prisoners, I was feeling pretty full of myself. I have since learned more humility. :-)

Here is the game at its final position, with the bowls of prisoners shown roughly for estimation. Bob noted that this was the first game in some time in which he appeared to have taken more prisoners than I, so I was worried before we even started counting. I know now that I should have been counting earlier, and thus known that I had been falling behind!

IMG_0549 Here is the game with the prisoners in and the territory established…

White wins by 15 points. There is a seki in the upper left that counts as prisoners or territory for neither player, and thus was left as it was. I won’t be graduating to a single stone handicap, but instead I have the chance to learn more how I could let this game slip away as it did. I am grateful as always for the chance to grow and recognize places for improvement, and I welcome any comments you may have as I welcomed his feedback after the game.

“When one teaches, two learn.” -Robert Half

Matthew Beginning Play

I had the good fortune to play two games in the last two nights, both of them excellent opponents and teachers (/smile). I will write about the second when I get a chance later on.  My friend Matt was visiting for a few days as I mentioned earlier and the night before he left, he and I stayed up until (I think) 3 in the morning playing a game of Go, his very first. He has heard me talk about the game with varying levels of enthusiasm for quite some time, but refused to play till now due to his research and thesis work not leaving any time. In any event, he finally relented and indulged me for a game with my nice set at my newly child-proofed Go table. Here is a shot close to the end of the game, with the borders almost finished and prisoners out of view:

Matts First, end game

When scored and the prisoners placed onto the board to leave only the territory total, it looked like the following:

Matts First, scoring

It was a very close game, with only a few points at the end giving White the victory.  I think we both enjoyed the game quite a bit, and we spent some time afterwards working out a problem with the corner.

End game shot Here is the board at the final position, which with the prisoners shown to the left indicates that I won by 26 to his -1. In fact, there were even more changes, as neither of us had noticed some other group of stones that would have tilted the score more in both directions, but the essential point was that I had a solid victory. This is now my second victory at two stones with Bob, and after the next, we move finally to a 1 stone advantage.

This battle was very long, and in fact I was almost afraid I was going to run out of stones by the end, as there were only 10 or 15 stones left in the bowl. There were a great many captures, some clever and some not as much.

One decisive turning point was when we noticed that a group of his stones in the lower right corner were already completely surrounded, and thus dead and should be removed. He had been playing for life and death, and this sudden change in fortunes, after he had made a critical move, was devastating. Although it was only like 5 stones (small), we both agreed afterwards that it was when the tide turned decisively in my favor.

When we began combat at the beginning (fuseki), he attached and refused to leave in the upper right corner (shown rotated here to the upper left). We fought and it looked good for me right off, when I took this picture:

corner for black

I think things are looking good for black here, I feel pretty positive that I can eradicate those two white stones with only two liberties remaining, and thus solidify position into the corner. So, it turned into a pitched battle and I next took this:

corner conflict

This shot was right after he said, “That look, on your face. You just realized that you’re screwed there, in the corner. Heh heh.” And he’s right, Black had killed white, but had also run out of liberties as well, and he had more than I no matter how I cut it. It was a disaster, and I had to cast about for somewhere else to take the fight. I plunged in, and fought hard everywhere I could.

In some places, I managed to play some thought out sequences with his assistance that continued to favor me, including one critical spot where I linked my growing corner influences…Obviously, at the end, I won. I get one more game at 2 stones, and then we enter a new phase of my go training. I look forward to my next victory!

End of the game black wins

bamboo board

Aiden said “Da Da” this morning, clear as day to me! WOW!

I managed to get myself to the SGC Tuesday night for a game, and although I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures of the game since Jon was playing with my phone, it was just as well since it was a disaster best left unfinished as it was, and perhaps the lessons learned become immortalized instead of the clumsy game it was being recorded. The pleasant conversation with surrounders (a 3kyu young boy fresh from Go camp) and the council of one of the “regulars” there at the Center was more than good enough for an abbreviated evening. I sent the above picture to Jon after we spoke because he asked me about the set I was using in the shot when he was demo’ing the phone…

I took 4 stones against a 3 kyu, mostly as a teaching lesson on corners and attacking fuseki. I got a group with an eye to live, but missed out on a key point of attack that the young one at my elbow was quite eager to point out. My opponent left the room for tea and the boy seemed to want to beam laser beam messages into my head. I was not interested in help, but was interested in post-move commentary and variations discussions. He left to go also to the kitchen, presumably to comment on the move he would so desperately have loved to play in my stead. It would have been an even game between my opponent and the observer, so my four stone advantage had him beside himself with possibilities while I was losing ground quickly. When I was called away by work and family, it had been a satisfactory time with some pointers for future study.

I noticed it looked like Larry has now also purchased an iPhone… Right on.  More work happening with iShudan, which he sounded interested in.  Jon revealed while we were kibitzing that he earned money as a programmer on royalties for a non-go related program.  Thats awesome! Adam and I are supposed to meet this evening to do more with the project.  I have made a wiki page or two, and have a todo list to write up. There’s a downloadable archive now up, and with the subversion access completed and working with a test IDE i’m using on this klunky laptop, I might be able to get something done tomorrow on it since my boss gets back tomorrow and can take back the monkey circus =-)

Good night/Good morning (01:27 PST =  09:27 am GMT)

13th Move The 13th Move:

Tonights match was at the SGC on Beginners Night, an auspicious event marked by the complete lack of any vehicles at all in the parking lot that appeared to belong to owners inside the same building. See, tonight the USGO Congress ’07 is in full swing, so many of the regulars are all in Pennsylvania right now. As the evening went on, “in charge” moved from person to senior Go Center person at least three times in an hour. It reminded me of a game of tag with a bunch of 12 year old boys. “notit!””You’re It! No Tag-backs!”

I played an 8 stone handicap game with a 7 kyu player who I have met before, a young programmer for Microsoft’s Visual C development platform. In our last match on a 13×13 I think it was, he won quite easily. I expected nothing different on the full board but decided to make a try at it. Fighting spirit at hand, we began combat on the full board. this picture is just after he has placed the 13th move of the game, since we started with a whopping 8 stone handicap.  He had to show me how to place them properly, since I was unfamiliar with this.

entering midgameMidgame:

This is the position at a point just into the midgame, where I stopped to take a quick picture and survey the status so far. He has already established a well defined portion along the left hand wall, walking along the third line. I’m trying to make trades that give profit in exchange for position, and paying attention to the situation in the lower left corner. We are fighting for eyes and development into the center. Score estimate?

final position Endgame : loss for Black

My opponent had to leave I think for a bus or something, but it was clear to me that this was a loss for Black and we were just playing to find the end of the game. I had just made a rather stupid blunder in the upper right corner of the board. I’m going to try and get a score estimate based on the pictures and reconstructed details. I took about 6 pictures total during the evening, at least one of them looks just fabulous upon examination at home. I keep thinking I need to maybe start a nice photo stream somewhere… I mean, another one 😉

Good learning experience, all around. One positive thing that happened was that a group of about 5 stones were resurrected and saved when I played a ladder-breaker on a set of previously threatened stones. They ended up linking into the left side of the board and living, to swing the score a bit more my way. It is perhaps easy to get overconfident when I play only a single person against whom I am measurably improving over time (Bob). Basic confrontations with higher ranked players can still give me quite a bit of trouble, indicating some basic weakness in the fundamentals. I will spend more time thinking about this later. As always there is a great deal of material available for study, not least of which because of the event on the East Coast that most US Go folks are at right now…

I love this quote from this evening’s AMA Go Newsletter this evening:”JON BOLEY 6d of Shoreline, WA, is the Program Director at the Seattle Go Center. He won the 2007 Verna Castanza Memorial. Hobbies include dancing, yoga, classical, fusion and jazz guitar. His favorite thing about go is “The dichotomy inherent in the game which is first introduced when one realizes how complex the game is while being so simple.”

I should find and link his myspace page, lol 😉

So, instead of going to the SGC as planned, I instead diverted to Bob’s house for a game, and to check up on how his new internet service was doing. It was a beautiful sunny late afternoon, as you can see from the first set of pictures I took of the game. We played with Bob’s bowls and stones on the flexible mat laid out on his low table, a very civilized setup that allowed me to sit properly before the board. Bob agreed upon a 2 stone handicap for me, based on my recent results against him.


Here we have a few pictures of the first pause I took, after the initial phase of the game had completed.

first stop shot 2, first stop

Bob and I both commented that the game appeared to focus intently on each corner in turn, we both played relatively close the whole time. I tried to make reasonable or aggressive exchanges every time I achieved sente, and tried not to leave any specific situation unresolved (tenuki too early) unless the amount of points at stake were small…

Here are three shots of the final board position. The picture tries to show that I have a great deal of prisoners, Bob has perhaps half as many or less of mine, but I couldn’t get it all quite in the shot:

endgame 1 end game 2 end game 3

There were definitely some turnovers in this game. I managed to make significant captures three times against Bob’s stones, although I also lost a significant position due to failing to make life. I did not fall prey to the same type of initial mistake I have found myself prone to lately, allowing my initial attack to fail by not securing life. There was a genuinely interesting life and death problem I didn’t work out, but I didn’t capture it fast enough to make a study problem out of it.

I won the match by about 17 stones to 3 for Bob, I was almost suprised the score was not negative due to the amount of prisoners versus space on the board, but it was quite an excellent game. Again, as you can tell by the lighting on the board, it was several hours for the game.


mid-game mid-game black side Tonight I had a game with Bob with a three stone advantage, I played black and took these pictures at the midgame point I stopped to count: The left side is White’s perspective, the right side is Black’s. I counted at this point of the game and found I controlled a great deal actual territory vs the influence of White. I felt pretty sure of victory based on this count and tried to just play a locked down game from there on out. Here is the result at the end:
end game 1 and end game 2(same perspective both times, slightly tilted against the light to show the lines)The final score of the game came to victory for black of 84 points.

I feel that at the mid point that I took the first pair of shots, I was already well ahead, after a blunder by white that cost 5 stones in the lower right corner, but more importantly, a lot of influence and sure territory; I believe I counted 70 points.* Bringing this game home to a very sound victory was exhilarating. Bob won’t soon give me three stones again, and I should perhaps have played a more even game. But it was a very very fascinating game. I need to go to work now, but perhaps later I will try to create an SGF file from the pictures shown here so that I can use the game position for counting study. Guo Juan gave advice that it was important to count at least twice every game, and this is definitely borne out by my experience thus far. Counting gives the definitive answer to the question: How should I play now? Am I behind and thus need to get aggressive, or am I ahead and need to defend and maintain only? In this case, I can clearly see how it helped me win a won game. Until next time, namaste.

*How many do you count in the first and second picture for both sides?

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