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 Post subject: dfan's quest for competence
Post #1 Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 3:51 pm 
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After a years-long lull (during which I finally achieved my big lifetime goal in chess), the AlphaGo - Lee Sedol match piqued my interest in go again, and it turns out the local scene is very vibrant and friendly, increasing my motivation. Plus the Go Congress was just held in Boston, which was really fun, although I didn't have the time to play in the Open. So here I am again.

I'm not going to set any rank goals here, since I think those are counter-productive (for me, at least), but I am trying to become more competent at the game. If I am successful at that, great, my rank will go up too. I have some ideas, based on my successful chess improvement, largely having to do with spaced repetition. We'll see what happens!

One resource that wasn't very available the last time I devoted energy to the game is streamers. I think it's incredibly useful to see how strong players think on their feet, and it's enjoyable too. I have to be careful not to spend too much time watching at the expense of playing, though.

I've been playing long games when I can and then going over them carefully with the help of Crazy Stone. It's not the same as a human teacher but I think I am still learning a lot. It will be interesting to see how much it helps.

On the study front, I started by going through my old standbys, Graded Go Problems for Beginners volumes 2 and 3 and Get Strong at Tesuji. Now I'm working on GGPB4 and 1001L&D, with some All About Life & Death thrown in (this is one place where I am hoping spaced repetition will help).

I had a couple of questions about tsumego problems that spurred me to finally create this thread, but as I was writing them up I came up with my own answers :) Hopefully this thread will justify itself soon.

[I should add for reference, in case my rank goes up (or down!): I'm currently 4k AGA, though I last played in a tournament in 2008, and am bouncing around between 3k and 5k on KGS (few games means lots of volatility).]


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Post #2 Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 4:13 pm 
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Glad to see your journal!

By the way, what was your lifetime goal in chess?

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 Post subject: Re: dfan's quest for competence
Post #3 Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 4:25 pm 
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Reaching a 2000 USCF tournament rating. I think of it as being essentially equivalent to 1 dan; when you get to that rank, even a strong player thinks you are basically competent. Which maybe gives away the true rank goal implied by the title of this journal :)

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Post #4 Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:59 pm 
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Finally finished 1001 Life and Death Problems! I've started a few times before but never had the willpower to see it through. I don't know why many people seem to consider this a 10k book. The five-move problems were definitely a workout, and I didn't even get all the one-move-to-live problems right.

What I feel I got out of it:
  • Confidence in reading. I had to bear down and really see everything, especially since a lot of problems involve shortage of liberties of future groups. When playing chess I routinely calculate variations with 5+ moves for each side, but somehow even 5 moves (total) in go is a real brain-buster for me. But now I have confidence I can do it when necessary.
  • Hopefully it actually was good for my reading ability as well :)
  • Concentration. This is related to the first point; for each problem, I honestly thought I should be able to solve it (after all, it's only 5 moves), so if I couldn't see the answer right away, I kept at it until I came up with a solution, rather than just giving up after a few minutes and guessing at a vital point or something.
  • I definitely got some patterns drilled into me that I am now more familiar with than before.
  • I already knew that the number one question in life and death problems is What points will be the eyes? but this really drove it home. Every problem, the first thing I did was figure out where the two eyes could possibly be.

I didn't keep stats until I did the last 101 (in the five moves to kill section), of which I got 79 totally right, 9 right except for some minor detail (e.g., White's try in the solution wasn't the most testing, but it's true that I didn't explicitly look at it), and 13 either wrong or right by accident. So depending on your strictness, I got 78% to 87% right. Average time 2:20 per problem, though it's 2:11 if you throw out the 15 minutes I spent on one problem that turned out not to have a solution (according to the Errata page on Sensei's Library). Median time was only 1:18 because there were a few outliers.

I think next up will be the first Maeda Tsumego volume. I'll try to give it the same level of dedication I gave the last 101 problems of this.

Meanwhile:
  • Made flashcards for Get Strong at Tesuji
  • Making flashcards for All About Life and Death. I am getting a lot of these wrong, which is great; it means that there is a lot to get better at. We'll see how far I get with this.
  • Watching some livestreamed games. I enjoy this a lot and also learn a bunch from seeing how strong players think. I love watching Haylee's games but once she got to 9d Tygem I feel like the games are over my head a bit. Recently I've been watching the games of Longstride, an AGA 5d who plays slow games and who has a nice chill manner that I enjoy more than some of his more animated counterparts.
  • Actually playing games. As with many people I should probably study less and play more, but I usually get in at least one game a week at the local go club and one or two online. I go over all of them really carefully with Crazy Stone, which eats up a lot of my game-playing time, but I think it's time well spent.

Two local tournaments are coming up in October so hopefully I'll have the gumption to enter at least one of them.

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Post #5 Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 7:57 am 
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Hi dfan, interesting reading. I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit on how you use Crazy Stone while going over your games? Do you use it to try out alternative moves and see how CS responds?

Jorden

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 Post subject: Re: dfan's quest for competence
Post #6 Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 11:30 am 
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Crazy Stone provides a couple of things in analysis mode:
  • An assessment of the current position with "Situation" (e.g., +5.5) and "Dispersion" (e.g., +-14), which I assume are roughly the median and standard deviation of the scores of the playouts from this point, as well as the "win rate" (fraction of the playouts that Black wins)
  • A list of moves it is considering for the side to play, with the number of playouts and win rate for each one
When I analyze a game with it, I go through the game move by move, looking at the moves it recommends to see if there's something I just didn't consider, and looking at the Situation value to see if I or my opponent played what it considers to be a clear mistake.

Then, as you say, I often try out alternative moves and see what variations result, which is the one way I can get some insight from its analysis since it can't do things like tell me "White's thickness more than makes up for Black's territory."

One problem, which comes up in computer-aided chess analysis as well, is that it might tell me that, say, it is clearly better for Black to play L8 than L7, but in fact L8 is only better because of a very tricky sequence that I would never find over the board, and in an actual game it would be much better to play the safer move instead. Sometimes I can get a sense of this by playing out a variation and seeing how crazy it looks.

While I do all this I annotate the game in a human way in a separate SGF file, as people do when they post their games here for comments.


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 Post subject: Re: dfan's quest for competence
Post #7 Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 4:03 pm 
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All right, I'm going through the first Maeda volume and I'm already confused. This is problem 26.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B Black to play
$$ --------------+
$$ . . . . . . . |
$$ . . . . X X . |
$$ . . O O X O X |
$$ . . . X O O . |
$$ . X . X O . O |
$$ . . . X X O . |
$$ . . . O O X . |
$$ . . . . . X . |
$$ . . . . O O . |
$$ . . . . . . . |[/go]

I'll hide the rest of the comment in case you want to try it yourself first.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B Solution: ko
$$ --------------+
$$ . . . . . . . |
$$ . . . . X X 1 |
$$ . . O O X O X |
$$ . . . X O O 2 |
$$ . X . X O . O |
$$ . . . X X O 3 |
$$ . . . O O X 4 |
$$ . . . . . X 5 |
$$ . . . . O O . |
$$ . . . . . . . |[/go]


In my answer, after :b1: and :w2:, I skipped the :b3: - :w4: exchange and went straight to :b5:. My reasoning was that White can't play at 3 (avoiding the ko) because then I capture him outright with 4. What is the point of giving away :b3:?

Aha! As usual I figured it out myself by formulating the question carefully. Black wants to be the first person to capture the ko, so it actually matters a great deal whether Black's play at 3 (or second play, in the case of the solution) is a capture or not. Forcing White to make the first ko threat is generally worth much more than one point.

Of course I knew in theory about trying to force the opponent to come up with the first ko threat, but somehow here it eluded me.

Thanks everyone for being my rubber duck :)


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 Post subject: Re: dfan's quest for competence
Post #8 Posted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 5:11 pm 
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Here's an example of the way I use Crazy Stone to analyze. This was a casual game (but we both spent plenty of time thinking) played live against someone approximately 5k.

I try to come up with some takeaways for every game. Usually some of them are things that I didn't know yet and hope will stick, and some are things that I should have known already and need execute in practice as well as in theory.



Up to problem 36 in Maeda volume 1. It's tough that some of the problems end in ko, but I think that's a good thing, since in games you never know whether ko is the best you can do. I also find it interesting that a bunch of these problems so far I can solve almost instantly (spot likely correct move, read out main variation, verify, all within 20 seconds) while some take me a few minutes (or I get them wrong!). I suspect that for a stronger player they would almost fall into the first category.


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Post #9 Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2016 2:23 pm 
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I'm continuing to slowly work through Maeda v. 1, and am confused by problem 63:

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc Black to play
$$ . . . . . . . . . |
$$ . X X X . X X X . |
$$ . X O . . O X O O |
$$ . X O . . O X O . |
$$ . . O . . . O . . |
$$ ------------------|[/go]


The book's solution:
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc
$$ . . . . . . . . . |
$$ . X X X . X X X . |
$$ . X O a 3 O X O O |
$$ . X O 5 4 O X O . |
$$ . . O . 1 2 O . . |
$$ ------------------|[/go]

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc
$$ . . . . . . . . . |
$$ . X X X . X X X . |
$$ . X O 3 . O X O O |
$$ . X O 4 2 O X O . |
$$ . . O . 1 5 O . . |
$$ ------------------|[/go]

My solution, and question:
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc
$$ . . . . . . . . . |
$$ . X X X . X X X . |
$$ . X O 4 5 O X O O |
$$ . X O 3 . O X O . |
$$ . . O . 1 2 O . . |
$$ ------------------|[/go]


I suspect I'm missing something obvious; can you tell me what it is?

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Post #10 Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2016 2:35 pm 
Lives with ko

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My thoughts:

1. In a ko fight (elsewhere on the board), black could let white live with one less point in the book's variation.
2. It protects against the peep/wedge at P4, in case black is weak on the outside.

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 Post subject: Re: dfan's quest for competence
Post #11 Posted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 5:38 pm 
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Just got back from my first live tournament since 2008! My AGA rating is currently 4k so I wasn't sure whether to enter at that rank or be aspirational and enter at 3k. In the end I decided to go with 3k and went 3-1, so I guess it was the right decision. I'm not sure yet what the effect will be on my rating.

Game 1: Black against a 2k (0.5 komi). I killed a big group and then let my foot off the gas pedal, letting him back in it, until I took advantage of some reduced liberties in the endgame to make a capture that clinched it, and he resigned.

Game 2: Black with 4 stones against a 2d. He never really tried to make things complicated and I cruised to a 30 point win.

Game 3: Black with 3 stones against a 1d. Had a nice opening, again relaxed a bit too much, got a big group cut off and even though I was able to use some threats to do a lot of reduction elsewhere, I still lost by 5.

Game 4: White against a 4k (0.5 komi). I made a huge moyo and when she tried to live in it, I wanted to take territory by attacking but instead got into a gigantic fight. Luckily, I won it.

All the tsumego I've been doing has definitely helped; there were multiple times that I explicitly used tricks that I've learned recently.

Independently of my actual result (which was good, obviously), I actually felt like a 3k, which was great.

[Edit: the tournament was just rated, and I am indeed officially an AGA 3k (-3.58).]


Last edited by dfan on Fri Oct 14, 2016 7:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #12 Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:40 pm 
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dfan wrote:
Crazy Stone provides a couple of things in analysis mode:
  • An assessment of the current position with "Situation" (e.g., +5.5) and "Dispersion" (e.g., +-14), which I assume are roughly the median and standard deviation of the scores of the playouts from this point, as well as the "win rate" (fraction of the playouts that Black wins)
  • A list of moves it is considering for the side to play, with the number of playouts and win rate for each one
When I analyze a game with it, I go through the game move by move, looking at the moves it recommends to see if there's something I just didn't consider, and looking at the Situation value to see if I or my opponent played what it considers to be a clear mistake.

Then, as you say, I often try out alternative moves and see what variations result, which is the one way I can get some insight from its analysis since it can't do things like tell me "White's thickness more than makes up for Black's territory."

One problem, which comes up in computer-aided chess analysis as well, is that it might tell me that, say, it is clearly better for Black to play L8 than L7, but in fact L8 is only better because of a very tricky sequence that I would never find over the board, and in an actual game it would be much better to play the safer move instead. Sometimes I can get a sense of this by playing out a variation and seeing how crazy it looks.


Do you have to find that tricky sequence on your own or will Crazystone tell you? What I mean is other than the breadth it covers, does it have depth once you click on one of the recommendations, will it carry on the analysis?

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Post #13 Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:52 pm 
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shoryuu wrote:
dfan wrote:
One problem, which comes up in computer-aided chess analysis as well, is that it might tell me that, say, it is clearly better for Black to play L8 than L7, but in fact L8 is only better because of a very tricky sequence that I would never find over the board, and in an actual game it would be much better to play the safer move instead. Sometimes I can get a sense of this by playing out a variation and seeing how crazy it looks.

Do you have to find that tricky sequence on your own or will Crazystone tell you? What I mean is other than the breadth it covers, does it have depth once you click on one of the recommendations, will it carry on the analysis?

I have to uncover the tricky sequence one move at a time by repeatedly executing Crazy Stone's top move and seeing what it thinks should happen next. It does not display a principal variation (PV) like chess analysis programs (and Leela) do.

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Post #14 Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 6:42 am 
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dfan wrote:
I have to uncover the tricky sequence one move at a time by repeatedly executing Crazy Stone's top move and seeing what it thinks should happen next. It does not display a principal variation (PV) like chess analysis programs (and Leela) do.


So you have to repeatedly click the analyze button everytime you click one of it's follow up moves? Boy is that a pain. Crazystone is just lucky they don't have competition. Would jump ship to a more efficient one in a heartbeat.

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Post #15 Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 7:30 am 
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shoryuu wrote:
dfan wrote:
I have to uncover the tricky sequence one move at a time by repeatedly executing Crazy Stone's top move and seeing what it thinks should happen next. It does not display a principal variation (PV) like chess analysis programs (and Leela) do.

So you have to repeatedly click the analyze button everytime you click one of it's follow up moves? Boy is that a pain. Crazystone is just lucky they don't have competition. Would jump ship to a more efficient one in a heartbeat.

No, I just have to click the follow-up move. In version 1.00 you did have to click on Analyze again every time, which was indeed a massive pain.

I'd say that version 1.01 upgrades the usefulness of Crazy Stone as a tool for analysis from 2/10 to 5/10. It is still far from being a pleasure to use, which is really too bad since the engine is apparently very strong. I don't think it is a priority for Unbalance.

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Post #16 Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:15 pm 
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I'm continuing to make my way through Maeda vol. 1, though I have slowed down a bit; tsumego is tiring. I picked up Train Like a Pro because Kirby said that he improved a lot when he worked through it around my level, and this sort of mixed-problem-type training has worked very well for me in the past in chess. But I feel I should finish the Maeda book first.

I continue to enter flashcards for Get Strong at Tesuji and All About Life and Death into my spaced repetition system. I'm having a lot of trouble with the latter, though some of the moves and statuses are starting to sink in. It's amazing how much complexity there can be even in situations when you only have to read five moves ahead.

I finished going over my recent tournament games carefully with Crazy Stone and continue to believe that this is my secret weapon. I just analyzed a recent casual 9x9 game with it, in which I thought my opponent and I both played fairly decently, and it found so many terrible errors, each of which I feel I am now slightly less likely to make in the future.

As I mentioned in an edit to my previous update, the tournament was rated and I'm now 3k AGA. There's another one next week where I can try to hold onto that rank, but I will try not to be too invested in the result.

Here's the latest Maeda problem I did (#80), where once again I don't understand if/why my followup was suboptimal:

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$W W to play
$$ ---------------
$$ . . . . . . . |
$$ . O X X X . X |
$$ . O O . O X . |
$$ . . . . O X . |
$$ . . O . . O O |
$$ . . . . . . . |[/go]

The book's solution:
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$W
$$ ---------------
$$ . . 6 . 2 1 4 |
$$ . O X X X 3 X |
$$ . O O . O X 7 |
$$ . . . . O X . |
$$ . . O . . O O |
$$ . . . . . . . |[/go]

( :w5: at :w3: )
and mine:
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$W
$$ ---------------
$$ . . 4 . 2 1 6 |
$$ . O X X X 5 X |
$$ . O O . O X . |
$$ . . . . O X 3 |
$$ . . O . . O O |
$$ . . . . . . . |[/go]

( :w7: at :w5: )

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Post #17 Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:29 pm 
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Black can play six next to three, and if White takes them, Black can take back.


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Post #18 Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:32 pm 
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Gotraskhalana wrote:
Black can play six next to three, and if White takes them, Black can take back.

Wait, the other guy is allowed to play under the stones too?? That's not fair at all!

Thanks. :)

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Post #19 Posted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 7:32 pm 
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2016 retrospective!

I came back to go this spring after a long time away, and spent a fair amount of time just trying to get back to the level I had been at in the past. At some point I decided that I see a path forward to 1 dan (let's say AGA for concreteness). I'm rather lazily sauntering down that path, so the odds are good that I'll get distracted by something else along the way, but I really do have the confidence I can get there within a few years if I keep my focus.

My confidence is largely based on one postulate, which I have no proof of: 1d is not really all that good.

I don't mean that it's easy to get there! It's obviously quite hard! But the more I play and watch and talk to dan-level players, the more I think that 1d play consists largely of good fundamentals, good reading, the lack of blunders, and the willpower to play at one's best all game (all things I need to get much better at), rather than, say, superhuman talent. Even 1 dans are putty in the hands of 4 dans, and 4 dans get beaten up by 7 dans. So how good can 1 dans really be? :)

My two main current methods of study are:
  • Record every serious game and go over it in detail with Crazy Stone
  • Lots of spaced repetition

I think that Crazy Stone has been my secret weapon the last few months. It tells me so many big mistakes (I don't worry about the little ones), and I really try to internalize the resulting lessons. On the spaced repetition side, I now have flashcards for every problem in Get Strong at Tesuji, and am now going through All About Life and Death. The latter may be a fool's errand, and if it becomes a burden I'll stop, but it's been fun so far.

My trudge through Maeda vol. 1 slowed down a bit because I have been doing 10 problems a day on 101weiqi.com. I recently got to 1k there, and I can tell that my tesuji and life-and-death flashcards have helped a lot in spotting good ideas. I am up to problem 153 (out of 225) in Maeda vol. 1, with a 67% success rate, which is a nice challenging level.

One big difference from previous times I took the game seriously is that there is now a really great and vibrant local scene. I've made a bunch of friends among local players, many of whom are right around my level, and the healthy competition is a great spur towards improvement. The social aspect gives me some hope that I'll stick with the game this time.

One thing I really do have to do is get over my fear of playing. One thing that has helped is that every game I play is fodder for a Crazy Stone analysis session. The local group has started playing AGA-rated games lately, so that may force me to put aside my fear.

My AGA rating jumped from 4k to 3k after the one tournament I mentioned earlier. After that I lost my next three rated games (none were disasters, and I learned plenty from them), so that might put me just on the wrong side of the 4k line. Whatever. In 2017 I'm going to pretend I can play like a 2k and see where that takes me.


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Post #20 Posted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 10:32 pm 
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Quote:
I don't mean that it's easy to get there! It's obviously quite hard! But the more I play and watch and talk to dan-level players, the more I think that 1d play consists largely of good fundamentals, good reading, the lack of blunders, and the willpower to play at one's best all game (all things I need to get much better at), rather than, say, superhuman talent. Even 1 dans are putty in the hands of 4 dans, and 4 dans get beaten up by 7 dans. So how good can 1 dans really be?


Well, I've been dan level for a while now and I still blunder plenty... :rambo:

I agree with you on the willpower thing. I do find that for me maintaining strong effortful concentration through the whole game makes a big difference:
  • Making full use of my time and buckling down and everything reading as carefully as I can. Even on seemingly obvious moves taking a few seconds to be sure rather than playing automatically.
  • On my opponent's time, taking the effort to count the score every so often, and otherwise scanning the whole board making sure I'm always thinking globally and being aware of the future possibilities - the various followups I have in each area that I can mix and match based on how the game develops, shape defects that point to future tesujis that don't quite work yet but could in the future, etc.
  • Being focused on finding the *best* move rather than a good enough move. This frequently takes the form of asking "Is there an even better shape?" and "What happens if I tenuki?". I was really happy in some tournament games not too long ago that more than once I forcibly dragged myself back from the brink of responding automatically to a threat and was rewarded by finding a move that was significantly better than than simply defending.

Playing this way is very tiring, of course - I can't do more than one game like this during a day, and I don't always achieve being able to play like this. But it feels really good when I do and end up playing a really beautiful game as a result (at least, until it gets torn apart by a stronger player's review :D). Anecdotally, for me the difference between playing this way and playing in a more casual or distracted way is easily as much as 2 full stones, at least in the extreme cases.


This post by lightvector was liked by: dfan
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