Project Dan Lessons Learned

This post will document the lessons learned throughout Project Dan.

Update 2016-04-01: Two things to work on: (1) Life & Death; (2) Joseki. I struggle with each, and this is why I’ve lost several games lately. Today, in particular, I made a grievous error and failed to defend a corner group. Yesterday I made a fatal mistake with a joseki/invasion and ended up resigning because White became huge. I’ve got lots to think about as I press ahead with Project Dan. So far I’ve been oscillating between 13 kyu and 11 kyu. I’m sticking around 12 kyu most days, which means I’ve just about gained one stone in the course of this effort, but obviously I need to get stronger if I’m going to advance into the single-digit ranks.

Update 2016-03-28: It’s easy to lose a game and delude myself into thinking that I played my best even when I know that’s not true. There is only on remedy for this: a thorough game review. Today the happiest things I did were review a game I lost by resignation and another that I won by 0.5 points. The latter was reviewed by the Go Teaching Ladder, and it’s available here. Looking over these records I saw bad habits and missed opportunities. Most critically I failed to read life and death situations and played in the wrong direction. On both occasions my opponent (rightly) punished these mistakes.

My first concern should be getting stronger, not with my rank. Unfortunately my ego has things backward, which is all the more reason to make a proper review. When I review the game I have to be clinical: saying Black and White not “I” or “me.” This helps shove the emotional element out of the picture. Of course it’s not foolproof, but it helps.

Today I went 1:2 and feel totally at ease because I saw my bad play for what it was: my own weakness. I can become stronger. And I will become stronger if I train well. That is the point of Project Dan.

The mistakes I make when playing, such as choosing the wrong approach or joseki or direction of play are embarrassing, but through exposing these errors for what they are I can learn to become a better baduk gamer. I like to read and study baduk books, but these will never teach me how to play unless I learn the lessons for myself. That is what playing the game and reviewing afterwards helps me accomplish.

Review is not all criticism. Praise is also necessary, both for my opponent and I. When an opponent plays well acknowledge it, when you play well give yourself credit. Today I caught opposing stones in a crane’s nest and capturing these pushed me into the lead – I won the game. That’s encouraging.

Win or lose, review the game and learn from it. There is always room to improve!

Update 2016-03-23: Day 9 of Project Dan. The losses continue. I have now resigned eight games in a row and had my rank reduced to 13 kyu: right back where I started. I am feeling very down, even having doubts about Project Dan. On one hand it’s ridiculous to get discouraged after only a few days. On the other I hate losing. My early confidence has been exposed as hubris. Trying to bear in mind what Kageyama said about how important effort is to improving. I made the critical mistake of playing multiple losing games in a row. I really ought to focus on just a single good game (win or lose) and review that. Instead I’m like a compulsive gambler on a losing streak – I just keep on playing even though I’m going broke. It’s destructive, and it’s causing me great torment. I’ll have to collect myself and keep pushing. The one glimmer in today is thinking to myself that I will have to remember this struggle when I reach 1 dan. That day seems so far away.

Dual Defeats

Today I played abysmally: I was too passive, enabled White to grow too large, and created weak groups. I resigned both games. My rank is back to 12 kyu. After a good start I am feeling depressed about today’s dual defeats. I will try to learn from them, but the shame is quite powerful at the moment. I take solace in the fact that tomorrow is a fresh start. I know that I will lose many games in the future – indeed, much effort is required to get to 1 dan! – but that doesn’t really make me feel any happier at the moment. OK, I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself, dust off, and get back on the saddle.

 

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Project Dan: Week 1 – First Impressions

The first week of Project Dan is coming to a close and I am very excited about this program.

I have gained two stones since last week – becoming an 11 kyu on OGS. This progress was probably overdue, hindered only by the absence of focus in my training. Now that I am making a concerted effort to advance I do not think that I can take such progress as the regular order of things. Already, as I prepare to break into the single-digit kyu range, I can see that the going will be more difficult.

Yuan Zhou once advised that for double-digit kyus the game usually goes to whomever makes fewer mistakes. In criticizing my own play I can find much truth in this statement: I make many errors. The purpose of training is to eliminate these shortcomings as much as possible. As Miyamoto Musashi said, “You can only fight the way you practice.”

The regimen I have established is working quite well.

To date I have been successful in working through the lectures and training system of the Internet Go School. I am also about to move into a new book of life and death problems. In addition to these, I have been reviewing Kageyama’s Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go, a fantastic book.

My daily games have also proceeded in an encouraging direction. The more I face the fear of playing (of losing really) the less it affects me. It seems stupid and obvious to say, but this is something I’ve known for a while – it just took action to start making a difference.

I will probably not be incorporating many correspondence games into my training. I find they are too distracting from the regular order of things in my life to add considerable value. When I’m playing one I am thinking almost without end about the next move, and this is not where I want to find myself. This weekend, in one such game, I found myself almost burning out from thinking about baduk too much.

To make a weight lifting analogy: I am not trying to lift the heaviest object, but instead trying to build overall strength. The means of doing that is not to train to exhaustion each day but to proceed with consistent effort. Burning out is not strength, it is foolishness.

This week I also enjoyed listening to this podcast from Tim Ferriss with Pavel Tsatsouline on the science of strength and the art of physical performance.

OK, I’m off to finish today’s program!

Until next time: Play more baduk.