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!

5 Kinds of Moves

Every baduk player faces the same test: Judging the correct move.

For some, like Honinbo Shusai, in The Master of Go, this is a meditative act. In the case of Shusai’s challenger, the fictional Otaké (in real life Minoru Kitani), it is a restless process. As the author Kawabata makes plain, both dispositions can produce profound play.

As a novice I often play artless or, worse, thoughtless stones. These are the visible signs of my own inability, the source of which is an unsettled character.

Overcoming this condition is a twofold challenge. It means, first, conquering myself, which I can effect by Turning Pro. Secondly, I must develop a habit of deliberate practice focusing, in particular, on whole board thinking.

To assist with the latter Zhou Yuan (7D), my shifu, proposed the following hierarchy, which is based on the five Chinese elements:

  1. Gold. Moves aiming at cutting and connecting.
  2. Wood. Moves aiming at making life.
  3. Water. Moves aiming at making territory.
  4. Fire. Combat moves.
  5. Dirt. Endgame moves.

This framework provides a structure for judging moves that is both easy to recall and implement; and it is useful in actual play and post-game reviews. Your own mileage may vary, but I hope it proves helpful. Try it and let me know what you think.

Becoming An Apprentice

This week Zhou Yuan (7D) became my shifu (師傅), or “master,” and I his túdì (徒弟), or “apprentice.” Finding a mentor like this is definite progress in my efforts to engage in deliberate practice; I also hope it is the beginning of a productive relationship. Until now my instruction was exclusively self-taught. This is alright as far as it goes, but it also means that my training has been incomplete, if only due to ignorance.

In our first lesson Shifu and I were introduced and analyzed the game below. Although I won, my victory was a fluke: my opponent made a critical reading error. I should have lost. I am not proud of the way I played.

Shifu weaved helpful advice into his game analysis. Often I could not remember the moves that either I or my opponent made. According to Shifu, this is because I made moves without purpose. Had I thought about the intention behind a move, he said, I would be able to replay the game from start to finish, like a story. This technique seems far more intuitive than the rote memorization that I had been trying to practice – after all, every baduk game is a story.


Download SGF


Consider that it all starts with a blank canvas: the empty goban. In alternating turns Black and White communicate their intentions by adding pieces to the board. Words prove unnecessary, the stones tell the tale. Moves may be deliberate, submissive, greedy, aggressive, puzzling, etc. but each (hopefully) is animated by some purpose, which the opponent and observer must discern. Baduk is a conversation without words. Shifu helped me see this reality, and for that I am grateful.

Note: Zhou Yuan (7D) is located in Germantown, MD and available to teach in the Washington, DC metropolitan region.