Game 1 – Plans and Intentions

In my previous lesson with Lukas, I discovered that I don’t always have clear intentions behind my moves. I often play on spots that look interesting to me but not in the context of a larger plan (and certainly not with thorough, accurate reading). According to Lukas, a bad plan is much better than no plan at all. It also occurred to me that I rarely have a plan before I start playing. And if I have no plan, then growth will never happen.

So, for the inaugural game played for this journal, I made a plan. In casual online games I often play lazy, instinctual moves – just clicking around without truly thinking – so I decided to use as much of my available game time as comfortably possible, and to always consider each move as part of a bigger plan, even if that plan turned out to be a bad one.

Results were mixed. Predictably, focusing on trying to change my habits disrupted the thought patterns that keep me at a 3 kyu level but stifle further progress. As a result, I made many unusually catastrophic errors that should have ended the game. On the other hand, I believe I had a solid, articulable intention and plan behind every move, which is what I wanted to achieve.

The game was played on IGS-Pandanet. I was white, and my opponent, “norman,” was black. White won by +22.5 points.


I decided to review the game with AI-Sensei, though I believe at my level it is difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand the intentions behind AI moves. Nevertheless, I was able to gather some useful information about my play. Although I had an intention behind each move, I discovered that in many cases I was guided by overambitious thinking. I believed that far more was possible than what was really on the board in front of me. I am beginning to detect a layer in my psychology that aims far too high when more reasonable, steady progress should be the plan. Moreover, this overambitious thinking seems more like a defense mechanism than an authentic desire for achievement. In other words, if I made a mistake, I overcompensated and tried to cover it up with an even bigger, grander, but ultimately delusional plan.

I think this can be seen most clearly in how I handled my center group after black’s attack. There were many mistakes before this, of course, but the goal of this journal isn’t to point out every mistake and explain the better position. Rather, I want to explore the thought patterns governing my play. In the diagram below, White 88 is perfect evidence that I was desperate to preserve the extremely illusory possibility of killing black’s large center group – or if not kill, get some profit. Even though it was not a significant mistake according to AI, all I could think about in this moment was preventing the capture, thus preserving my delusion. It was better to stabilize my group in another way, moving into black’s framework on the left – or even to play elsewhere (such as C8 or J17)!

Of course I should have resigned after White 110 ensured the death of my center group. However, based on my opponent’s play early on, I thought an opportunity might come. Eventually my opponent also made some catastrophic errors, so I was able to reverse the game and win. I’m not really interested in the result, because I think I succeeded in changing my habits ever so slightly. I would have felt successful even if I had lost.

That’s all for now. In the next post, I will be discussing my second game of the season in Yunguseng, to be played on Thursday. I hope there will be more intention behind my moves, and that my plans are a little more reasonable.

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.


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.