Friday Roundup: 9×9, Weiqi101, Misaeng and Life

I’m feeling pretty scattered today, so I’d like to share the following with you in no particular order:

1. Play more 9×9 games

I almost always have a book of tsumego handy while commuting. Right now it’s 1001 Life & Death Problems. I prefer paperbacks because I have to put in the mental effort of reading out a solution before I can check it. With digital options (especially mobile apps) I’m tempted to bash my way to a solution which defeats the purpose of reading in the first place.

In addition to tsumego I’ve started playing more 9×9 games on my mobile. My current app of choice is SmartGo but I’ve got friends advocating for GoQuest, so I might make take the plunge at some point. The big plus I see with GoQuest is the ability to play against other humans.

I’ve heard 9×9 go described as a “knife fight in telephone booth.” Well that’s pretty funny, and dangerous! I think it’s also an apt description of 9×9 games. The small board is great for quick, fierce games and rapid iteration. If something doesn’t work one game it’s easy to try a different route in the next one. What I like best is that 9×9 teaches basics in a really engaging way. I’ve learned more about cross-cuts, connection, liberty counting, and playing aggressively (but not too aggressively) with 9×9 than I have from any other source. The practice I get from small games like this pays off when I hit the books. Tsumego become easier and I can sense this improvement when the solution to a problem comes just a little more quickly than perhaps it had the day before.

While 19×19 games are the gold standard of baduk — really the only way to get stronger at the game — playing 9×9 is a way of “greasing the groove.” “Strength is a skill,” says kettlebell master Pavel Tsatsouline, and like any skill it must be practiced. So use 9×9 to practice in moments when a full-size game is either impractical or inappropriate, like a short train/bus ride, waiting in line, on your lunch break, or sitting in a cafe. Don’t neglect 19×19 games, instead build your strength for the main event by practicing in short intervals throughout the work week.

2. Weiqi101

Notwithstanding the issues I raised about digital tsumego above, I’d like to share a site that I recently learned about. It’s Chinese and called Weiqi101. Although I haven’t had much time to explore it (and I don’t read Chinese!) it looks like an impressive collection of tsumego and game records. I ignored Google Translate and did a couple dan-level life & death problems (successfully!). You might click the wrong button at first but it’s not like you’re resigning or anything! It looks like a great resource to bookmark.

3. Misaeng (aka. “Incomplete Life” or 미생 – 아직 살아 있지 못한 자)

One day on YouTube I searched for “baduk video” and up came a short clip from this Korean drama. It shows the protagonist, Jang Geu-rae(Yim Si-wan), learning master games of baduk. It turns out that the series is one of South Korea’s top television programs and it’s available on Hulu as “Incomplete Life.” I’ve only finished the first two episodes but it really draws you in. I’m a lover of Hikaru no Go but I can relate more to Misaeng than HNG. It’s really a terrific show and I recommend you check it out on Hulu.

4. Life, the Universe, and Everything

My wife’s pregnant with our second child! Due late July. We’re thrilled to see our family grow (I can’t wait to introduce my kids to baduk!). Things’ll be busy for sure. We’re also doing house improvements and I have a full-time job to boot, so yay life! But I’m finding time to play baduk as well.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed certain things changing. At one point it was great to have a lot of friends, but as life progresses I’m fine with fewer. I used to have several hobbies but now I’m mindful of my time and really focus on just one (baduk). It’s great to go out and socialize with friends and colleagues but most nights I’d prefer to be home with my family. It used to be harder saying “no” to myself, but I notice it gets easier as I practice it.

I’m playing several serious games per week so far this year, and that’s a great start. I know I’ll get stronger. Project Dan (which I’ll write about soon) was ambitious and although I’ll fail to meet my stated objective of reaching 1 dan by March, I’m already better for the experience. I’m stronger as a player, working on fundamentals and honing my play, and I know myself better as a person. I think the foundation I’ve laid since last year with respect to baduk is sound, and a great starting point for the New Year!

I’ll leave you with the following album which I recently discovered on YouTube and which has become something of a soundtrack as of late.

Emotional Play

Tonight I logged into KGS hoping for some serious games. Instead I went mad and played a series of blitz games, losing all except one. So much for that plan.

I’m not a crazy aggressive player – at least I didn’t think I was until tonight – but I couldn’t seem to keep from pushing too hard, attacking, and then getting cut to pieces. I can count liberties and read a few moves ahead, but tonight I watched myself throw good stones in after bad. It was insane, but then apparently so was I.

It never ceases to amaze me how go reveals our inner selves. In chat a friend advised me to calm down, to focus. He saw what I was feeling.

The conversation was just what I needed. His advice: watch some dan level games to calm down. Not only will you get time to think, you’ll also avoid going on a tear like the one I had just finished.

Truth is, I jumped onto KGS to fight. I wanted to work out my raw feelings on the goban, and I got what I came for: a brawl. Except that I got my ass handed to me 😉 KGS isn’t Fight Club. Or is it?

It’s no revelation. There are two opponents in every game: myself and the person sitting across from me. If I’m not in control of my emotions then I’m giving my opponent a pretty big handicap: three, six, or even nine stones. Put differently, how much could I improve if I learned to govern myself?