I play a pretty solid game.
That’s been my conclusion lately. I still lose more games than I win, but in many cases I can identify where things went wrong – the variation I misread or the weak group I failed to defend. Of course more advanced players than I will probably find many more mistakes than my own reviews, but I’m expecting that. Point is: I’m getting stronger one game at a time.
This progress was made clear in a recent correspondence game I played on OGS against much stronger opponent. I went into the game expecting to lose – and I did! – but I was surprised by my strength. The margin of victory was narrow. Before I missed a ko fight and had to resign the game was down to half a point.
Here is the game record:
My biggest takeaway from the game was that rank doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. It’s not that it is meaningless, it means that what matters are the moves you make. Many times I’ll freak out playing against someone who’s two or more stones stronger than I. This game showed me that I can hold my own against a much stronger player, so I don’t need to be quite so fearful. It reminded me of a scene from Hikaru no Go where Sai bears his blade against Hikaru and challenges him to dive in without fear. Here is that exchange:
Everybody has probably heard this saying: It’s not the fear that matters, it’s what you do with it that counts. Fear is a survival instinct the same as fight or flight. It’s purpose is to give us an evolutionary edge. While playing baduk doesn’t put us in existential danger, it does represent a threat to our ego because we could lose the game. Fear is present in all competitions and every player must deal with it in their own way. Lately I’ve been trying to harness my fear to help me think harder, better. We’ll see whether that is a good approach.
A few days ago I re-read a quote from the famed Miyamoto Musashi that made much more sense when I considered my recent experience with fear. He writes, “It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.”