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?

Weak Groups: Don’t Create Them!

Yesterday was a frustrating day on the goban: My groups just kept on dying!

Why did they die? Because they were weak, and I created them that way. It’s been a problem in several of my recent losses, so much so that I’m on a pretty bad streak!

In his video on ladder anxiety, Dwyrin says that the players who fail to improve are those who don’t know what they’re working on. The fix, he says, is to write down what you want to work on and put check marks next to it whenever it arises in the course of a game. The thing with the most check marks is what you need to prioritize.

I think I need a post-it with the following: NO WEAK GROUPS! 

Every time I see one of my groups die I remember a (paraphrased) line from The Divine Move: Large groups are rarely captured. The line was spoken by Tae-seok, a former professional baduk player who’s doing time after being framed for his brother’s murder. In the scene he’s instructing other prisoners on how to improve their play. I don’t know quite what I like about this prison scene so much, but I suppose it’s this: I see myself as one of those poor players who wants to get better. When one of my dragons is slain, I know that I’ve failed, and I’ve got to get to the root cause.

Players of all levels will find much to work on, but for me right now I’ve got to stop creating weak groups. Here are a few examples where this bad habit led me to defeat.

Game One:


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Game Two:


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Game Three:


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What is to be done?

So now that I’ve identified a problem, what can I do to address it? I plan on using the following resources to help me:

This is not an exhaustive list, nor are all of these resources equally valuable. I think I will end up relying on Dwyrin’s back to basics series more than the others, but we’ll see. Of course I will be doing tsumego (the right way!) throughout this, as I’ve been doing daily since beginning Project Dan.

The onus for all of this falls upon me. I will have to stop creating weak groups – Dwyrin, Haylee, and Nick can’t do that for me. None of these resources will magically raise my level – and it would be foolish to substitute this kind of study for action. In order to improve, I actually have to play games. That’s my main takeaway from reflecting on these recent games: Play more games, but try to play better.

Far from being a discouraging prospect, the need to revamp my practice and hone in on fundamentals is rather exciting. Even though I will probably continue to lose more than I win, I am confident that the sustained effort will bear fruit. This is an exciting place to be, I think! It seems that I’m finally reaching a place where the effort no longer relies on the result (i.e. winning) but instead is based on applying my method (aka system).

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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Download SGF