Game 10.1 – Long Game

The long game with Lukas continues below. I am satisfied with my position, but when playing a much stronger player, early misunderstandings about the status of certain shapes can bring about a swift collapse later in the game. What I experience as a stable position may in fact be tenuous. In any case, I am doing my best to approach this game with confidence – there is no sense in playing fearfully, as if I am going to be punished at every turn. Instead, I play as an equal, and will learn all I can from the experience of defeat.

EDIT: The time settings are 3 stones/week, but we have each been playing roughly one move per day.

Game 10.0 – Long Game

I am always looking for new ways to learn Go. Poetry keeps me on the tsumego train, but I felt the need to spice up my regular games. Inspired by the long game in Yasunari Kawabata’s The Master of Go, I decided to ask Lukas if he would play a long correspondence game with me. This way I can think a little more carefully about each move, and write about the game as I play. I don’t know if this will produce a higher quality game on my end, but so far it has interrupted my usual habits and forced me to think of at least a few more possibilities than I normally would.

Below are the first 20 moves of the game. I am playing white. The time settings are 3 moves/week, giving me the freedom to check in when I have some free time and ponder some variations. Although black controls three corners so far, I’m satisfied with my position. Lukas probably has other thoughts, but I feel confident – a bit of the Dunning-Kruger effect, perhaps.

Game 9 – New Forest

This game with Lukas was played over a week ago, and it gave me much to think about. Although every game of Go is unique, Lukas said that this one’s feel was different from previous games. This happened to be the first game I played since moving to a new city and starting a new job. Coincidence? I think not.

I made the decision to play the 5-4 point. Life began as I leapt into a different forest in search of a new species of Go.

This is how I would like to approach the game from now on: trekking through unknown woods without fear.

In the game below, commented by me with some of Lukas’ suggestions, I played black, and Lukas won by 20.5 points.

Game 8 – Ponnuki

Recent events have prevented me from writing in this journal, but I’m happy to finally return.

About a month ago, I decided to adopt a cat. I drove 90 miles across the unforgiving winter landscape of southcentral Alaska to bring home the being I have named Ponnuki, who has brought to my life all the livingness of Go.

Ponnuki is energetic, powerful, and sharp: a vital companion, all in a lethally efficient and aesthetically pleasing shape.

To honor my cat, I thought I’d consider on the role of ponnuki in a recent lesson with Lukas, commented below by me with some of Lukas’ suggestions and observations. I played white, and lost by resignation.

Some exciting interviews are coming up soon. Stay tuned.

Game 7 – Meeting the Czech Go Baron

I met Lukas Podpera, the Czech Go Baron, at the Västerås Go Tournament in Sweden, where he was the top-ranked player. As I was gathering a few wins and losses against opponents around my level, Lukas was busy smashing everyone away from the top board, which was kept in a separate room apart from the main playing areas. Because of this I did not see Lukas very often, so he seemed especially mysterious and powerful. At the end of the three-day tournament, I noticed him helping one of his opponents create a record of their game, so I decided that he could not be the Go monster I had been imagining sitting behind the top board. I worked up the courage to introduce myself and, before I even knew what I was doing, asked if he would be willing to teach me.

It turned out to be a good plan. Relative to Lukas, I am a beginner, and each lesson feels like a personalized masterclass. The fluidity and creativity of his play is astounding, and so is the way he reviews each game, anticipating all of my questions and problem areas with kindness and humility.

Below is our most recent game, commented by me with a few of Lukas’ suggestions, followed by an interview with him. In the game, I felt I did well given the difference in strength, but made a terrible blunder at the end because my brain was exhausted trying to keep up with Lukas.


And now, the interview.

River: How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

Lukas: I try to help my students understand that Go is not a fight, but rather a game about building. So, they should always prefer to build territory, and be aggressive only if necessary. Also, I teach my students that they should always understand what they are doing and, when they play moves, that they always have some plan behind them. My important task is also to prevent students from making errors in basic principles.

R: How would you describe your style of play?

L: I’m a calm player, focusing on having strong shapes and a lot of solid territory. I use brute force only if necessary—for example, to punish an opponent’s mistake. So, when someone is watching my game, one might have the feeling that I’m doing nothing. Mostly, I’m focusing on doing things right by myself and waiting for my opponent’s mistake. This strategy needs a lot of patience and often leads to close games. I had to study a lot of endgame to make it sharp. My half-year stay in China six years ago helped me with that a lot.

R: What was your experience in China like?

L: I spent half a year in Beijing in one of the most famous Chinese Go schools led by Mr. Ge Yuhong. I studied there with five other strong European players and something like a hundred Chinese youth. Training in the Asian professional development context was a really exhausting but unforgettable experience. From Monday to Friday, we studied Go for 12 hours per day. During the weekends we either had some friendship matches with Chinese players or we participated in a tournament. Occasionally we did some sightseeing, such as going to the Great Wall of China.

R: What do you enjoy most about Go?

L: This question I usually answer simply: the endless possibilities and variations for trying to win. Before each game I can always design a strategy about how I will try to get the victory. Thanks to that, I’m sure I will never get bored of playing. Also, Go has helped me to get to know a bit more about myself.           

R: What has Go helped you learn about yourself?

L: I believe that Go shows a lot about my personality, but that’s not the case for everyone. Go helped me learn to be patient and more decisive. Making the right decision in life has been always difficult for me, and I was always doubting myself. That doesn’t happen so often anymore. Go also taught me to tell the entire truth in any kind of situation, and to never lie to myself or anyone else.

R: How has your Go world changed since the rise of AI? What do you think the future holds?

L: At first, I was conservative and felt very suspicious about the new ways of playing that AI created. Eventually, I had to adopt a lot of new methods into my play, and in the end, it proved to be a positive decision. This gave me new opportunities to explore the game even more. Also, I realized that many moves that I would never think about before are now easily playable. However, I’m still careful about studying a lot with AI, because although it’s nice to learn some new moves or sequences, AI will not tell us the meaning. Therefore, I usually adopt a new method in my play only when it is explained to me by an Asian professional. Since I believe that the sure-win strategy will never be discovered, the arrival of AI should be judged positively. On the other hand, there is a negative aspect: I’m worried that, because AI applications are available to anyone in these days, it will kill online tournaments in the near future.

R: What is your most memorable game?

L: Immediately I think of my two most successful results: bronze medals in the European Championships in 2016 and 2019. I would probably pick my quarterfinal game from 2019 against European pro Ali Jabarin, which was one of my best performances ever.

https://www.eurogofed.org/newick/file.php?id=1897

R: Who are your Go heroes and why?

L: I would like to mention two. The first is Vladimir Danek 6-dan, a Czech player who was my teacher when I was a middle-dan player. He was a National Champion like 12 times, has been playing Go since 1970’s and basically built the Czech Go community from nearly zero. Even though he holds a PhD in mathematics and physics, he has spent his life with Go. He even had a big Go-shop of his own.

The second is Lee Changho – a famous Korean player who was world no. 1 15-20 years ago. I admire him for his calm and peaceful style, which was enough to beat the rest of the world. At that time, he had a winning rate similar to what Shin Jinseo has now. I was so lucky to meet Lee Changho three times in person.

R: What was it like organizing the Corona Cup?

L: Originally, I planned the first edition of the Corona Cup (Spring 2020) to be only a Central European event. However, the announcement about the tournament started to spread faster than the COVID-19 virus itself. In the end it became a huge event, which I was not really prepared for. It became a really big responsibility to make it run smoothly. Fortunately, I had prior experience organizing and refereeing tournaments. Anyway, those were a really exhausting 6 weeks for me, but despite that I enjoyed it and I think the participants did as well.

I made a second edition that autumn, but this time I had help from a team of organizers, so not everything was on my shoulders. It went even better than before, and the number of players reached 400. Because the pandemic situation is not getting much better, there is a good chance I will be making a third edition in the next few months.

R: Are there any upcoming Go-related events that you’re particularly excited about?

L: 2021 is a year when the European Pro Qualification will be held again. Of course, we need to wait for the moment when it’s possible to hold live tournaments and to be able to travel. I have already reached the final twice, so I hope that, should I reach a third one, that I will finally be successful. That is my main goal for this year. Otherwise, as usual I’m looking forward to the European Championship and the European Grand Slam. Hopefully, they will be allowed to be held live as well.

Hello World

Hey there, River here. The purpose of this journal is to reflect on my Go journey with the hope that doing so leads to personal growth beyond my ranking (which should take care of itself). I also hope that readers of this journal will learn with me regardless of their level and, indeed, of whether or not they play Go. I believe that studying Go is studying life, and one need not play the game to understand what I write, though I think that learning the basics would enhance one’s experience of this journal.

I begin with one of my recent games on IGS-Pandanet, which I reviewed with one of my teachers, Lukas Podpera. In fact, my decision to create this journal is a direct result of reviewing this particular game. More accurately, I realized while finding recent games to review with Lukas that I wasn’t satisfied with any of them – and then not even with the games I won!

I was stunned. How could I have played dozens of online games in recent months but feel no sense of satisfaction in them? Until recently Go has brought me great joy, but my ranking plateau has confronted me with the reality that the road forward is much more difficult than what came before. Instead of progressing, I have found myself invested less in the learning process and more in the result, creating a situation where I am simply passing the time under the shadow of old habits.

So, how to progress? More importantly, how to regain joy? I noticed that I feel happiest playing Go during teaching games with Lukas and in In-seong Hwang’s Yunguseng Dojang, both of which offer serious, respectful, and competitive learning environments. This feeling has been absent for me in casual online play. So I have now resolved to create a feeling of intensity for every game I play, no matter the occasion. The first step was to create this journal, where I will be sharing short reflections on my games alongside events outside the board in the hopes of making connections between Go and everyday life. Should I be lucky enough to develop a modest readership, I hope I can deepen their love and understanding not only of this game, but also of life.

So, let’s look at the game. My nickname is “tennisbabe,” I played black. My opponent, haemita614, won by +5.5 points.

tennisbabe-haemita614.sgf

My play in this game is like a young man who has never left his tiny village, and is just discovering that there are many obligations to the outside world. He is naive and obstinate, shuffling down the old street telling everyone how great he looks in his new hat while, somehow, he can barely keep track of his five chickens. When they get eaten by a fox, he blames an old woman. And if Go is a constant negotiation between the local and the global, this man looks over the horizon toward greener pastures of hard work only infrequently, and still thinks his every journey to the town square is a pilgrimage. He dreams up palaces instead of fixing the holes in his roof. He tries and fails to sell encyclopedias missing an entire letter of the alphabet.

Games of Go usually have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is undesirable in Go for a game to be decided before, say, the 20th move, long before the more exciting middle stage has begun. But the young man of this game simply had too many beginnings, over and over, so that the whole game was just a beginning. He experienced one hasty, angry moment of intention – but much too late, long after the last bus left town. When he died, he was still thinking of his five chickens – maybe five and a half – and the old woman that he believed had eaten them.

I included some memorable suggestions from Lukas in the .sgf file, though I should say his reviews are much more thorough than is indicated by my comments.

Thanks for reading. Until next time.