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[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.

September 2008
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