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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.

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

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.

April 2017
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