Poems of Life and Death – 1

This month I started a new job. I have less time for Go, but I have been inspired by how my boss, who happens to be a Go player, makes great use of his time.

I have decided to emulate his efficiency and find new nooks and crannies in the week to nurture my love of Go. That translates to earlier mornings, during which I’ve blocked out an hour of time to create a new series I am calling “Poems of Life and Death.” The goal is simple: use the hour to solve a few life and death problems and write a poem. My hope is that this activity will bring focus and intention to the rest of my day while exercising both the logical and aesthetic thinking required to play Go.

I’ll start by working through the intermediate level of Cho Chikun’s Encyclopedia of Life and Death, which is available for free online. I’m fond of these problems because they do not have solutions and require extreme thoroughness to determine their status.

The poems may or may not be related to the problems. The time constraints, I hope, will allow me to be more generative.

And now: today’s problems and a poem. I hope you enjoy.

Pressure

The coffee brews and hisses.
The cat sleuths around the room.
All my undone lists
Call old foes through my phone.
There was warning of an avalanche,
But nothing seems amiss—
The ravens still regard us fools
And pick the rainy streets.

Game 5 – The Wall of Time

The Palace’s Call

The space was vast,
And the land was so silent
That all its music could be made
From the most ordinary bell,
Housed in the deepest chamber of the palace.
It calls, in the rhymes of divine calculus,
To the forlorn traveler, lost over the horizon,
With the way toward home and peace.
The deaf scribe, shivering by a candle,
Feels the song in the palace walls,
And translates with his hands
A recreation of its welcome.


I did not want to write about this game. After losing on time from a winning position, I first had to find a way to let go of frustration. The poem above, about the experience of Go through language and writing, is my attempt to do so.

I won’t say much about the game, except that losing on time is an unpleasant reminder that we are mortal and our time here is not infinite. I had five seconds to make a move, reset my clock, and continue playing, but I hesitated. I fell into a delusion that I was not subject to time’s power. My failure to play in those five seconds might look like simple panic, but it actually shows a terrible weakness in my game: that my desire for the psychological comfort of victory can distract me from the most fundamental responsibilities.

Apart from the ending, I felt great in this game. I had a significant time advantage throughout and I felt confident about my plans, but my opponent played very well under pressure, troubling me after I couldn’t make the important psychological shift to playing in byo-yomi, during which one must let go of finding perfect moves. The AI analysis, which shows me leading throughout the game, can be viewed here, though I am looking forward more to hearing In-seong’s thoughts.

The interview series I promised last time will begin in the next post. Thanks for reading.

Game 2 – Treasure Hunt

Go is treasure.
This truth like a mine
Quarried for the rarest finds:
Gems emerging from the sand,
Ornaments adorned with them by hand–
But none so great as the mysterious stones
Of treasures still unknown.


If you’ve been reading this journal so far, you know that one of my goals is to have more intention behind my play. So, for my second game in Yunguseng’s 29th season, I focused on what I enjoy most about playing Go: discovering treasure.

Treasure might be a tesuji, an elegant shape, or the sparkle of gaining sente. But it might also be a new insight from a mistake. No matter the form, I was determined to find a piece of treasure.

I felt confident that I would. I have played my opponent, “nbouscal,” several times in the league. He is a tough opponent for me, and this game was no exception.

Unfortunately I got lost in my search, losing on time (though the game was decided much earlier), and could not find the treasure I wanted – in the game, at least.

In the Yunguseng league, every game gets reviewed by one of several amazing teachers, this one by In-seong Hwang. I made many mistakes, of course, particularly with the lower right two-space high enclosure, which I have studied before. In-seong suggested reviewing his lecture on that topic. In other words: sometimes, treasure is something you already have and need to dust off.

In-seong had many other great suggestions. The tiger’s mouth at S15 was bad, and instead of D12, I should have moved out faster with E12. Also, saving the G12 stones was quite important. Once White separated Black at O15, the game was over.

Thanks for reading. May there be a piece of treasure in your future.