[Obligatory apology for recent absence due to school. Further obligatory mention of intent to continue writing and playing, but at a reduced rate while school is in session.]

I play on Dragon and here’s why you should to:

Regrettably necessary Overview of Dragon vs Almost Everyone Else

The two types of Go servers are synchronous and (predictably) asynchronous. While these may be unfamiliar terms, most of us are familiar with the concepts. Asynchronous systems are like email. You send a message to me and I reply back to you but neither of us needs to be in front of our computers at the same time. In contrast, synchronous systems are more like instant messaging where communication occurs in real time and we ARE in front of our computers at the same time.

I play on three servers regularly: IGS, KGS, and DGS. IGS and KGS are both synchronous servers where my opponent and I are sitting in front of a computer, as well as our virtual board, at the same time.

DGS, however, is much more similar to older chess-by-mail or chess-by-email systems where a move is played without the simultaneous presence of an opponent at the board.

Why Playing on Dragon is awesome

If it isn’t immediately obvious, the benefit to asynchronous servers is that you aren’t required to have a single block of time to play an entire game. For a busy college student like myself, this is ideal. If I have a few minutes free, I’ll make a few moves on my games (I currently have around 10 games running on DGS). If I’m too busy during a day, the game will simply be there waiting for my next bit of free time.

Also, in similar fashion to the classic “take home test” you should be capable of playing a better game on DGS than other synchronous servers. Early in my games, where my joseki knowledge is quite lacking, I’m able to research opening theory on Gobase and Sensei’s. Since it’s up to you to select what you consider the best opening, I set this practice apart from “cheating” (feel free to discuss below in comments). The hope is that by learning how “proper” openings play out, your live, unassisted play will also improve.

How to suck less while playing on Dragon

When I first began playing on DGS, I couldn’t figure out why my games went so badly. Fortunately, downloading the SGF and reviewing my lost games revealed the problem, which had a very simple solution. My problem was that I was continually giving up sente in situations that, had the game been live, wouldn’t have normally happened. By failing to review the flow of the game for the last several moves, I was more likely to react to each of my opponents’ moves rather than pursuing the line of play which my opponent had been responding to. The solution was simple enough: Review “enough” of the last several moves to get a feel for the direction of the game. If necessary, review the entire game.

Make notes on your game concerning groups to watch out for, general ideas, and anything else you can think of. The “Private Game Notes” box used to be a hack that only Firefox users had, but the popularity of it earned it a spot on the regular site.

The last tip, and one I recommend to everyone regardless of the server on which you play: Submit your games for review at the Go Teaching Ladder. The benefits of having a stronger player review your games  cannot be overstated. If you’ve got weakness in your play, those weaknesses are identified with possible solutions to address them.

While not always as exciting as a “live” game, Dragon serves its own purpose, and it serves it well. Games here should be a part of any player’s routine and regular play here will only serve to improve games played elsewhere.

Updated information (courtesy Bob Barber) on our “Events” tab about the September tournament in Chicago.

I’ve got some bare bones information posted in our “Events” section concerning a September tournament up in Chicago. Bob Barber and I emailed yesterday and he let me know that a flyer will be ready soon, and that those on his mailing list will have it shortly. As soon as I get it, I’ll post it here.

Also, in the “Resources” tab, I’ve linked to a test consisting of 20 problems compiled by Alexander Dinerchtein. This is a pretty useful test as it gives you an idea of your strength (EGF rating) which, in conjunction with the Rank Worldwide Comparison link to Sensei’s, gives you an idea of your rating across different systems. Remember that this is just an estimate, though. The best measure of your actual strength still comes from playing games against other human players and measuring your success/failure rate against their strength.

I hope that these links help. Any suggestions of links or comments on existing ones are still appreciated.

Let me say that I’ve broken most, if not all, of these rules at one time or another. So, rather than point the proverbial finger, take these as guidelines that are the traits to which we aspire.

  1. If you’re using automatch, make sure that your settings are appropriate for the type of game you’d like to play. For me, this means no blitz games. For you, it might ONLY be blitz games. Find what works and stick with it.
  2. Greet your opponent and wish him good luck.
  3. Try to keep distractions to an absolute minimum (phone calls, guests, etc). You don’t want to waste your opponent’s time with a game that you were only half into. Likewise, you don’t want your time wasted either.
  4. Take the necessary time with your moves that make undo requests unnecessary.
  5. Even if you’re ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that your opponent placed a move EXACTLY where he meant to and simply regretted it, always grant the undo. It’s good karma for you and if he’s honestly THAT bad, he’ll make another mistake.
  6. Save chatting for the review.
  7. Stay for a review. If you’re not sure how to conduct a review, defer to the stronger player. Based on the outcome, you should recognize your own mistakes and be ready to provide alternatives. Even if you aren’t sure they’re better, mention alternatives anyway.
  8. Ask your opponent if he’d like a review for his half of the game. If so, get an email address. Then, when submitting your game to GTL, list that you’d like a review for both players and be sure to include your opponent’s email.
  9. Thank your opponent for the game.

Again, I really write these “Rules” of etiquette based on my own behavior, which I would later regret and try to never repeat. Some of these are more basic than others, but they should apply to a majority of your games. If there are any that I forgot (or simply haven’t figured out yet) feel free to mention them in the comments.

Only a minor update today because of the Go Congress (while I’m not in attendance, it appears that a good portion of my audience is). Just a few new links worth mentioning:

  1. In the top navigation bar, there’s a new link called “Resources.” I hope to use this to “sticky” links that players will find useful, but might not need constant and repeat access to.
  2. St. Louis native Myron Souris is the editor for the “Problem of the Week” as featured by the AGA website. I’ve added a link in the left hand navigation to the collection of these problems, which players at all levels should find useful.

I hope those readers who are in Portland are having a good week and building up good records. I look forward to hearing from you after the 10th. (Though feel free to comment any time during the Congress as well!)

When I first starting playing Go, I was more in love with the idea of playing than actually playing. As a result, I wasted a lot of energy on Go-related pursuits that didn’t necessarily improve my game. Recognizing these mistakes and correcting them has done a lot for my recent improvement. So, without further ado, how to get stronger (and avoid some of the mistakes I made):

  1. I began reading books on the subject entirely too early in my study, and while I could make the rough outline of what was suggested, these strategies existed without the context gained by personal experience (and thus considerably less useful). Avoid this, and during the time you would have been reading, play games.
  2. Play games as many games as you can – Get the personal experience you need by playing as many games are you’re able to. You’ll eventually reach the stage at which books on Go will be useful, but don’t count on it happening too soon. Suggestions on local responses will be much more useful and meaningful to you at this stage (see #7, below) which no book could be thorough enough to cover.
  3. Play quickly and base your play on intuition – In order to get a good number of games under your belt quickly, play quickly. Remember basic principles of shape (bamboo joint, table) and template (attach, hane, extend, connect). Try to stay connected. Eventually, you’ll try to simultaneously cut your opponent.
  4. Don’t try to read ahead too early. Typically, you’ll follow the wrong path in your reading (based on what you HOPE your opponent will do) or you’ll simply read wrong. First, play where you think something needs to happen. Keep doing this and you’ll eventually develop ideas of what you want your opponent to do and how to encourage him to do it.
  5. Once you begin developing pattern recognition of board situations, study life or death problems. Go Problems possesses an incredible database of these, both timed and untimed. Wait until you’ve read the problem out to your fullest ability, then try it. If you get it wrong, look at the solution, but then stop your study for awhile and go back to playing more games. Give yourself awhile to build up stronger reading skills, then tackle more problems.
  6. Study fuseki before joseki – Fuseki study is easier to comprehend. General board principles and the type of pressure they put on your opponent are much more straight forward and obvious at lower levels. Find out what a three star opening is. Learn Chinese fuseki. What did Go Seigen suggest about openings (and why)? These will begin helping your “whole board” thinking and awareness. 
  7. Ask a player stronger than yourself to review your games. If it was saved automatically because you were playing on the computer, simply submit your game for review to the Go Teaching Ladder. Be gracious to your reviewer and accept that the advice given is correct (or at least, more correct than what you did). Then, try to implement that advice in future games.

Not necessarily as a suggestion for improvement, but remember to start wild fights. Don’t just play something that is going to be chased and killed, but threaten your opponent’s life and try to simultaneously make yours. Whether or not you do this should be determined by the importance of the game but this is a very fun way of playing and will assist in the development of your reading skills. I linked to this article a few weeks ago, but this is part of what I interpreted as “Spirit” from this article by Cho Hun Hyun.

As always, I appreciate any comments about this article. Feel free to add your own voice on how to study (even if that means contradicting a point here). Based on my experience, what I listed above is true, but Go is a big enough game that what is true for me may not be true for the next person. Don’t be greedy with your knowledge and keep it to yourself rather than strengthening those around you. I look forward to hearing from you in the comments.

a140bddf-be8e-4844-84e7-385cfdeb770dMost of my friends who play Go aren’t members of the AGA, and for good reason: It simply doesn’t benefit them. Benefits of AGA membership, as listed on the website are:

  • Receive the weekly American Go E-Journal Games Edition ($20 value)
  • Receive the annual American Go Yearbook ($15 value)
  • Participate in local and national tournaments
  • Participate in the national rating system
  • Participate in the annual US Go Congress
  • Support the development of Go in the US

In all honesty, I only joined the AGA for two of the reasons listed above (and for clarification, I’m merging two of the bullets which I think are too similar).

First, I enjoy participating in tournaments, for which AGA membership is required. I’m extremely jealous of the social fulfillment the community enjoys in Chicago in comparison to our situation here in St. Louis. So that I might experience a part of fulfillment, I travel up to Chicago to participate in their tournament series. Playing in the tournaments also means inclusion in the “national rating system.” So, I’m an official participatory member in the AGA with an official AGA-recognized rank.

Second, I encourage the “support and development of Go in the US.” As an instigator of several clubs and a participant in a few more, I’ve tried to do this in a very personal way. Now, the AGA acts on my behalf to do this on a much larger scale. Honestly, who doesn’t support this idea? It’s a no-brainer in my opinion.

My two complaints with the AGA: 1: The Congress is very coast-centric. Between 1985 and the planned Congresses through 2011, only 4 or 5 have really been accessible to people in the middle of the country (SLUS Go Congress). 2: Our website has a very dated look (circa 1990′s) and desperately needs an overhaul in both form and function. Look to our European cousin’s association pages to see what I mean.

All said, the AGA is a good organization that I wish more people (including myself) supported it in more ways than they do. If you’re reading this and aren’t an AGA member, seriously consider joining.

Having watched my nine year old niece and her seven year old brother’s skill at Connect Four (seriously, they can beat most adults without trying), I figured that those same spatial reasoning skills would make them natural go players. Not having a board handy, I decided to build one:

The board

  1. Go to the Pittsburgh Go Association’s section entitled Materials and download the 9×9 Board.
  2. Print the 9×9 Board and fasten it to something. I used a glue stick (of which my sister had PLENTY) to attach it to the gray side of a piece of cardboard I had cut out from a Golden Grahams box. Use your discretion if Golden Grahams aren’t available. :)

The stones

  1. Go to your local game store (game meaning DnD or miniatures, not game as in xbox 360). Here in the St. Louis area, we have several options for stores, many of which can be found at the Game St. Louis website, in the Links section. Otherwise, just do a search for ‘st. louis game store’ and look for something in close proximity.
  2. Look for something called ‘gamer stones’ or as a more generic term ‘glass stones.’ They won’t look like your typical Go stones, but for the board I was building, this wasn’t an issue. In fact, I felt that being able to buy tubes of blue stones and tubes of yellow stones made the set more interesting for my younger audience. These tubes (with 25 stones each) cost me $2.50, but a few of the local places I’ve found have them for under $2.00. I made sure that each player had 50 stones (based on a 9×9 board having 81 points) and then bought them a nice velvety bag to hold them in.

Altogether, less than $15 investment for the knowledge that I’ve contributed to the mental development of my niece and nephew. While this set was for younger children, there’s no need to consider it only a set for juveniles. A club with a limited budget and newcomers would be just as well playing on a similar set.

Further Recommendations

Consider stopping by Wal-Mart and picking up one of those cheap lamination kits. Your board might have a tendency to last longer with this added layer of protection.

Also, I’ve read somewhere that local glass places will often have spare pieces of glass that could be used as stones. I haven’t tried it, but it might be worth it for the cost-conscious buyer (allegedly, these stones are practically given away).

Finally, remember you could always do something like making stones out of construction paper. Get a compass and construction paper in two different colors. Find the right size measurement (I’d estimate between .5″ and 3/4″), then draw and cut.

If there are any other suggestions about construction feel free to leave them in the comments field. Otherwise, good luck on your own endeavors.

The official post for the STL-Go blog isn’t until tomorrow, but I found this and thought I’d share it with everyone. The article Cho Hun Hyun 9p (profile @ Gobase.org) at the blog Full of Suprises describes the issue he has with new players today. The message I took from it: Don’t be so worried with winning. Take chances. Have fun. But don’t “tl;dr” this one, it’s worth it.

Put simply, Sensei’s Library is one of the best resources for weiqi players.  From Aji to Yose, you’ll be able to find pages on any weiqi-related term along with examples along and past discussion on that term.

Sensei’s is a wiki similar to Wikipedia, in consideration to a few differences that include Sensei’s specialization in weiqi-related material. The community on Sensei’s is generally friendly, and wiki faux pas are usually forgiven with a light reprimand for failing to do more research concerning etiquette.

The question of where to begin can be overwhelming to the new visitor, but Sensei’s provides a “Starting Points” link which gives the user just that: A place to begin their understanding of Sensei’s Library and through it, weiqi.

Starting Points

  • Pages for Beginners – This section will be of most use to the new players (although some “old hats” might benefit from a revisit from time to time). From a section on “Rules” to suggestions on how and what to study, this really is a fantastic place to begin, and a section that players of every level should visit when they first begin working with Sensei’s.
  • Guided Tours – Here you’ll find many “themed” paths to pursue to gain a better understanding of this resource. The possibilities branching from this page are many. I’d recommend not missing out on this one during initial visits too.
  • Recent Changes – Once you’ve become a regular at Sensei’s, this will probably be your most frequented page. Any time a change is made on a page, it shows up here. Find out something interesting about a recent cup tournament or follow a discussion on a newly developed joseki.

A page I just recently discovered is Benjamin Teuber’s Guide to Become Strong. Stressing study around tsumego, this guide also includes a great discussion from some of the giants of Sensei’s. Regardless of skill level, pages like Joseki and Japanese Go Terms will probably help in your study of the game.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for how Sensei’s is run and what a good page looks like, you might feel the need to begin editing pages. While entering the edit mode itself is quite easy, Sensei’s does have a few peculiarities all of its own. From text formatting to diagram guides, all of the relevant information can be found on the page How to Use Wiki.

One of the first pages you’ll probably be apt to create will be your own personal page. While not a stunning example of what you can do, check out my personal page. On it, I include not only a little bit of information about my life, but relevant links to other pages of mine, how to catch me for a game, and what to expect in terms of skill from that game. Take it as a starting point, rather than a template. The great thing about the Wiki-style site is that you have complete freedom over what you include.

As cliche as it sounds, Sensei’s is what we (the weiqi-playing community) make of it. The more we contribute, the more useful it becomes. It really is a fantastic site that encourages a bidirectional flow of information (between the contributors, viewers, and site admin) rather than the one-way flow (from the contributors to the viewers).

Likewise, this blog needs contribution in order to really be effective for the weiqi playing community of St. Louis. Do you recommend any pages from Sensei’s that I missed here? Feel free to leave in comments where they’ll probably be edited back up to the article.

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