First Tournament

 

I finally did it: I registered for my first tournament.

On 15 July I will be playing in the National Go Center’s Summer Sizzler.

It will be an exciting day for the DC-area go community. This is the NGC’s second tournament (its inaugural event, the Cherry Blossom tournament, was held on 29 April). After the four-round event, at 19:00, the Center will host a screening of the award-winning go documentary The Surrounding Game. A full day of go awaits!

Registration for the tournament was a breeze. The only delay I encountered was fumbling around for my AGA card, so I could enter my member ID 🙂 . Otherwise it couldn’t have been easier. IF I were to recommend one improvement, however, it would be this: offer a combined rate for attending both the tournament and the documentary screening. As it is, these are separate costs and registrations. This is really a minor point – probably the cost/benefit of implementing this wouldn’t be worth it.

I’m looking forward to the 15th with nervous anticipation. These will be my first AGA-rated games and, of course, I’m concerned about performance. I really shouldn’t be: Win or lose I’m going to take the experience for what it is and learn from it. Rank anxiety is something I’ve mostly banished from online play. I suspect the change of medium is the reason it’s now rearing its head. Even though I’ll be surrounded by fellow go players, large groups can make me a bit nervous.

With just two weeks to go (pun intended!), how should I prepare?

First, I’m going to make a concerned effort to play more games. Unfortunately the past two months have not been good for my game. A combination of job loss, job hunt, and job acquisition plus house work and the preparations for the arrival of a new child have limited the time available for training. Things have settled down a bit and, with the object in sight, I hope this will help motivate me to create space for training. Already I’ve seen this focus bearing fruit. Over the past few days I’ve played five serious games. Hoping for more in the weeks ahead!

Second, I’m going to do some light study. I say light because I don’t have time to delve into really new material, and I also want to prioritize practice games. I’m reading Yuan Zhou’s How Not to Play Go. Although short, the book provides several excellent examples of fundamental issues kyu-level players face and how they can work on them. This is exactly what I need. I’ll also probably rewatch Dwyrin’s excellent “Back to Basics” series.

Sticking to this regimen I should be all set for the momentous day. I’ll report back after the tournament!

Brief Update

A pretty sweet painting!

Let’s start with the obvious: This blog has been dormant for nearly three months. I’m not proud of that fact, indeed it’s quite embarrassing. But there’s a few good reasons for my absence that I hope to address going forward.

1. Job

This is the most recent development. A few weeks ago I learned my job was being eliminated, effective the end of April. Since then I’ve been pounding the pavement, so to speak, applying for jobs and networking. Fortunately there are a few good prospects, and I think everything should be settled within the next week or two. Fingers crossed!

For those who’ve never lost their job, I hope you never have the experience. It’s stunning, demoralizing, and panic-inducing all wrapped up in a nice, neat package. This is especially true when one has a family to support, as I do, and doubly so when there’s a little one on the way, as I do.

It’s cliche to say that moments like this focus one on what’s important, but that’s been my experience. By analogy, it’s like a critical middle-game fight when reading every move becomes absolutely essential to determining life and death. Every stone matters, so there’s no room for error or waste. So besides the job hunt, I’ve cut out nearly all extraneous media and spent my free time with family or a few friends. Spending has been minimized as much as possible. Like a warship preparing for a fight, the hatches are battened down and the decks are cleared for action. I’m straining to read as far as possible and anticipate possible moves.

2. Basement

Before learning about my impending job loss, I was hard at work refinishing our basement, which is equivalent to 1/4 of our house’s square footage. The project has absorbed considerable time and resources, and I’m really excited to see it through to conclusion. It feels a bit like the montage from The Karate Kid where Daniel LaRusso is doing all of his chores – wax on wax off! – that have seemingly nothing to do with learning martial arts, yet they provide a kind of ‘silent’ training all on their own.

I’ve learned to use a framing nail gun and compound miter saw. I’ve learned to replace windows and frame walls. I’ve learned how to insulate and caulk. Nothing about this has anything to do with go, yet my game has only become stronger since taking this diversion.

Partially I think it’s allowed my brain time to rest and process everything I’ve learned. Previously I was courting burnout with the amount of studying I was trying to accomplish. Nothing seemed to stick, and it was getting rather frustrating.

Working with my hands and seeing the results right away has taught me about the importance of purposeful action. If I cut a 2×4 incorrectly the ill fit is readily apparent, and I have nothing to blame but my own carelessness. So measure twice, cut once. Check and recheck. In go this means reading and rereading a situation, not making excuses for yourself or taking shortcuts.

Lord this is embarrassing to admit but I’ve used josekipedia more than once while playing online. It’s like that scene from volume 2 of Hikaru no Go where Tetsuo blasts his tournament teammate for using a joseki book during their round. “It’s not against the rules,” protests the teammate. “No, but it makes you a weak player!” comes the rejoinder.

Purposeful action requires that we work within the constraints of our own experience. The less we know, the more we have to learn. There are no shortcuts to perfection, only hard work. I can’t make excuses for myself in the basement so why do I allow myself to do it on the goban? It’s not consistent and it’s not helping me, so I’ve got to cut it out. Fortunately the lesson is clear and all I have to do is apply it.

3. Practice

I mentioned the basement and the job hunt because these have absorbed the bulk of my attention. My practice has suffered, but it’s also evolved. No longer to I put book knowledge first; instead I’ve prioritized playing games.

The only way to get stronger at go is to play more games.

Time and ego are major constraints when it comes to putting this into effect. There are only 24 hours in the day and they fly by fast. So they must be used efficiently. I try to think of pros using their time in game to maximize their gain. It’s something I struggle with – slow moves, purposeless moves. Like vegetating in front of the internet or television, sitting and doing something that’s not important or edifying isn’t going to get me closer to my goal. If I want to get stronger at go, I actually have to play the game.

Ego is also a constraint, because there’s an undeniable urge to win. It feels good to win, and bad to lose. Putting ego aside is impossible, but channeling it into a productive capacity seems more manageable to me. Losing still hurts but I’m moving past the point when it felt like some kind of personal affront. Instead I’m able to say, “Wow that was a silly move. Or, that was a mistake.” Examining myself like this acknowledges the ego without giving it pride of place. In time I hope to improve my self-control so that I can develop the sort of unflappable demeanor that all pros possess.

Conclusion

Project Dan failed but I’ve learned a lot about myself and the game because of that effort. Recent events have taught me the importance of purposeful action, eliminating waste, and working diligently. Strength is achieved only gradually; it’s not something that can be bought or gained in a single run. So where does that leave me?

In addition to finding a job, I look forward to spending time with friends and family, to continuing purposeful action in prayer and go, and to extending this action to other important areas like renewing an exercise routine and practicing frugality. Focusing on action instead of thinking about action is one of the keys to success, I think.

I’m really excited for the opening of the National Go Center next week and I hope to attend the inaugural ceremonies.

Let’s Play Baduk! has not yet begun to fight!