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 Post subject: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #1 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 5:36 am 
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/rant on

I think Uberdude was the first to point out that sandbagging seems to be popular on youtube so he allowed himself to sandbag for 1 or 2 vids and explore his Leela Opening Gospel, be it still somewhat awkwardly. I was very forgiving at the time for any sandbagging for educational purposes but I've grown rather critical of it, whether it's to rehearse "basics", or "ranking up" or "overexplaining", for 3 reasons.

1) The first and still the biggest problem I have with this type of content creation is that there's a 3rd party involved, besides teacher and students: the innocent opponent, who is investing time and energy into what they believe is an honest game of go, only to be used as cannon fodder for the video. Everyone, including the youtube teachers, is hoping the opponent doesn't use AI. The net effect of sandbagging on the opponent is exactly the same: the protagonist is much stronger than the guise he's wearing. Doesn't matter if it's pure human skill or boosted by AI. The poor antagonist never got a chance to win this game, at their level, in the first place.

The argument for not informing the opponent seems to be a) it will be even more difficult to find an opponent (which confirms the factor of deceit) b) they will not use their usual game at their level (say 2k) but take the 6d force into account (well, it was never a normal 2k game to start with, so this argument is also voided).

2) The next party to be deceived is the viewer. They are watching (often selected) victories of a 6d against players of their own lower level, identifying with the stronger player (while they're akin to the weaker), enjoying the bullying and victimizing that's going on. The identification makes them think it could just as easily have been them bantering their way to an easy win, if only they adhered to basic principles, or otherwise magically possessed 6d powers. The worst message they get fed subliminally is that all of this can be achieved without reading, because not much reading seems to be involved or it is even explicitly denounced. The contrary is true: every good go game deserves a good deal of reading, not all the time but definitely at key moments. If 6 dans don't appear to need reading to beat a 2k, it's because their intuition and overall knowledge is far superior. They can prune variations early, they know the joseki by heart, they can judge when a weakish group can be left behind and when to sacrifice or not, when under effective attack.

6 dans became 6 dan by studying, reading and playing honest games against opponents of equal strength. Not by sandbagging.

3) Last but not least, I want to absolve the sandbagging 6 dan youtubers: it's us, the viewers, who deceive them into thinking this is the content we need. The Youtube algorithm tells them this kind of content attracts more views, so they make more of it, instead of the educational gold they could and have been providing outside the sandbagging series.

So let's just stop watching these unethical, deceptive and overall not very valuable content.

/rant off


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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #2 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 6:06 am 
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I wonder, if they looked for opponents in an honest and open manner, would they (the content creators) find them just as easily? Or would they simply end up being sandbagged by somebody who felt that it might be fun to make a joke on them.

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Post #3 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 6:26 am 
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I found Haylee's series very helpful long ago. Mainly because she used the extra time to talk that she would have against a weaker opponent to explain the reasoning behind her moves better and give feedback on her opponents moves. She was also playing "honestly" rather than in some contrived way. The sandbagging series will allow for a lot of time for the stronger player and allow them to choose paths for pedagogical reasons, this can be good. They can also just beat up the weaker opponent in a way where the take home message is "If you're playing weaker opponents evenly you can simply outplay them, who'd a thunk it!" without much transferable knowledge being discussed.


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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #4 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:43 am 
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Boidhre wrote:
I found Haylee's series very helpful long ago. Mainly because she used the extra time to talk that she would have against a weaker opponent to explain the reasoning behind her moves better and give feedback on her opponents moves. She was also playing "honestly" rather than in some contrived way. The sandbagging series will allow for a lot of time for the stronger player and allow them to choose paths for pedagogical reasons, this can be good. They can also just beat up the weaker opponent in a way where the take home message is "If you're playing weaker opponents evenly you can simply outplay them, who'd a thunk it!" without much transferable knowledge being discussed.


I think all authors of sandbagging series are intentionally honest and want to transfer an educational message. I just have my doubts about the narrative and their ability to "unthink" the knowledge and capability built up so far to emulate the average 2k or whatever the target rank is.

An alternative which I'd like to see is Player 1 - willingly and knowingly opponent, vs Player 2 - 2k with enhanced brain of teacher, who will remind the educational message in focus, and then see how much benefit P2 gets out of that.

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Post #5 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 9:32 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:
I think all authors of sandbagging series are intentionally honest and want to transfer an educational message. I just have my doubts about the narrative and their ability to "unthink" the knowledge and capability built up so far to emulate the average 2k or whatever the target rank is.

An alternative which I'd like to see is Player 1 - willingly and knowingly opponent, vs Player 2 - 2k with enhanced brain of teacher, who will remind the educational message in focus, and then see how much benefit P2 gets out of that.


I don't think there's any dishonesty or anything like that more the end result can vary substantially between different creators. If a 6d is playing a 2k I suspect it's more difficult to find good "teachable moments" than if the 6d is playing a 3d as the solutions found against the 2k may not be that useful for someone that level as they presume too much reading/judgement which is a difficult thing to correct for. Against 3d or 4d the solutions should be closer to what's intelligible at that level naturally.

I don't know though, I do agree mostly with what you're saying. I've found high dan vs kyu games to be deeply uninteresting usually.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #6 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 9:45 am 
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I think the attitude on display also matters. I rather enjoy Daniel Naroditsky's current series on the chess side of things, since that's a genuinely strong player trying to make educational content, and speaking well of his opponents. I'm less fond of certain Go streamers who aren't all that strong and talk trash about the people they are destroying.
Having tried streaming Go myself I understand the temptation to sandbag - you do lose a few stones when you focus on talking instead of only on playing.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #7 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 10:32 am 
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Javaness2 wrote:
I wonder, if they looked for opponents in an honest and open manner, would they (the content creators) find them just as easily? Or would they simply end up being sandbagged by somebody who felt that it might be fun to make a joke on them.


No, they need to hide behind changing nick names and openly fear their identity and purpose might be revealed, since that would ruin their objective. They are not so concerned with ruining the experience for the opponent.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #8 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:23 pm 
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Hmmmm a lot of food for thought here.

I don't have a good rebuttal for the notion that the weaker player is a victim. However, in the grand scale of injustices, this one does seem low on the list.
[*] It isn't an official tournament game.
[*] It is only one game, and thus unlikely to impact your server rank.
[*] If you play enough online, you will lose lots of games for lots of reasons, and thus won't have your week ruined by one particular game.

I admit this is one of my favorite ways to consumer Go content. And I don't feel mislead into thinking that reading is unimportant, although pure brute force reading is probably where I am weakest, so maybe I have a blind spot here.

But Knotwilg's post now has me wanting a less deceptive way to obtain the same content.

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Post #9 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:27 pm 
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I think videos of teaching games where a youtuber plays a subscriber are more educational than videos of them sandbagging.
Some youtubers do this and I'd like to encourage them to keep doing this.

But educational videos are probably not as entertaining, so they probably get less views and thus less income. That's just how it is for all the media, I guess. Entertainment will draw many more viewers than educational content.


Last edited by gennan on Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #10 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:27 pm 
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mhlepore wrote:
But Knotwilg's post now has me wanting a less deceptive way to obtain the same content.


I would like them to have a try at producing the same content, but instead asking for volunteers to play against.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #11 Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:53 pm 
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mhlepore wrote:

[*] It is only one game, and thus unlikely to impact your server rank.



In the grand scheme of things and with only a few youtubers around doing sandbagger series, indeed what is one game. But the same is true for an opponent using AI: if someone does that to you, what's one game.

If something (only) becomes problematic if everybody does it, I think it's problematic in itself.

After reading the comments, I can agree that the first objection is the bigger one. I can't deny anyone to take some educational value out of a high dan destroying a kyu, if such a game is played in mutual acknowledgment.

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Post #12 Posted: Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:28 pm 
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From what I have seem, sandbagging and teaching "basics" is just a farce. It is that player's dan-level reading and positional judgment that wins the games.

"Oh, the weaker player left one defect? I'm just going to read 20 moves ahead and kill this entire group using basics."

"See how you can win by simply playing suboptimal "basic" moves! But look past my advanced positional judgment that enables me to find the best area to play and my superior reading skills that let me know if an area is urgent or not."

Moreover, it's fraud. It doesn't matter if there is insignificant harm. Fraud is wrong and this is the case in every industry and every civilized country.


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Post #13 Posted: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:41 pm 
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mhlepore wrote:
Hmmmm a lot of food for thought here.

I don't have a good rebuttal for the notion that the weaker player is a victim. However, in the grand scale of injustices, this one does seem low on the list.
[*] It isn't an official tournament game.
[*] It is only one game, and thus unlikely to impact your server rank.
[*] If you play enough online, you will lose lots of games for lots of reasons, and thus won't have your week ruined by one particular game.

I admit this is one of my favorite ways to consumer Go content. And I don't feel mislead into thinking that reading is unimportant, although pure brute force reading is probably where I am weakest, so maybe I have a blind spot here.

But Knotwilg's post now has me wanting a less deceptive way to obtain the same content.


Depends. A game against a perceived rival can prove crushing if it ends up being lopsided. Especially if they're already on a losing streak. And that can certainly have emotional ramifications.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #14 Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 1:53 am 
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CDavis7M wrote:
From what I have seem, sandbagging and teaching "basics" is just a farce. It is that player's dan-level reading and positional judgment that wins the games.

"Oh, the weaker player left one defect? I'm just going to read 20 moves ahead and kill this entire group using basics."

"See how you can win by simply playing suboptimal "basic" moves! But look past my advanced positional judgment that enables me to find the best area to play and my superior reading skills that let me know if an area is urgent or not."



To be fair, I do think these tubers read less deeply than they would in even games. But deep reading is just one aspect. There's also move selection, early pruning and like you said positional judgment. And these are hard to unthink.

Basically agree that it's mostly a fraud, even if the educational message is intentionally honest and the provided fundamentals are sound.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #15 Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 5:50 am 
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In these kind of series I always thought it is not so much the "fault" of the streamers, but a "feature" of the servers they are playing on. The server only allow you to register at i.e. 3d and forces you to fight your way up to your real strength.

So pairings like this must be common on this servers.

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Post #16 Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 6:15 am 
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joachim wrote:
In these kind of series I always thought it is not so much the "fault" of the streamers, but a "feature" of the servers they are playing on. The server only allow you to register at i.e. 3d and forces you to fight your way up to your real strength.

So pairings like this must be common on this servers.



This is a fair point. There are different styles of sandbagging games, as Knotwilg alluded to in the OP. He named a few: "basics", "ranking up", and "overexplaining".

Someone who is "ranking up" on a go server often necessarily needs to start off by playing weaker players. Even on KGS, where there isn't a user supplied starting rank, it's hard to establish your rank. The "basics" and "overexplaining" videos might involve sandbagging for other reasons.

Personally, I am probably mostly annoyed when the sandbagger is weaker than me. It's not a fair assessment, but if they're a stronger player, I feel like I'm learning something. But if they're weaker, it seems kind of lame. Given that go players have all sorts of strength, my personal assessment of annoyance would not apply to a large body of go players.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #17 Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 12:30 pm 
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hailthorn011 wrote:
Depends. A game against a perceived rival can prove crushing if it ends up being lopsided. Especially if they're already on a losing streak. And that can certainly have emotional ramifications.


Conversely, on some servers since there's a limit to how high a rank you can declare, you will absolutely expect to face people much stronger than their stated rank once your own rank is above that limit. So on these, above this limit, this kind of series doesn't bother me. At the ranks they're playing it's not at all unusual to get crushed by a stronger player who is just ranking up an account by the only method available (to amateurs). It's why it feels different to me when it's like a 2k on KGS. They can reasonably be expecting to face people +/-1 stone of their rank usually, the only times they feel like they're getting crushed is when someone their rank has improved a lot recently and the rating system hasn't caught up yet but that can't be avoided.

I'm not sure why I'm not as bothered by sandbagging in the former example, just because it happens naturally doesn't mean you should intentionally be doing it but it's a gut feeling thing.

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Post #18 Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 12:35 pm 
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Knotwilg wrote:
To be fair, I do think these tubers read less deeply than they would in even games. But deep reading is just one aspect. There's also move selection, early pruning and like you said positional judgment. And these are hard to unthink.


This is what annoys me most when it's not being flagged. "Play in the big place" without any mention of why the timing is good, why it is the biggest, what moves were consciously pruned etc. It's like if I taught my kids how to solve calculus by just writing the final answer and going "like that!"


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 Post subject: Re: Why I quit watching sandbagger series on youtube
Post #19 Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 12:40 pm 
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On Fox or Tygem you can look at the player's game history. If the winning percentage is close to 100% you know that their strength is much higher than the stated rank, so don't feel bad losing.

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Post #20 Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 4:39 pm 
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Interesting change of tack Knotwilg, it wasn't long ago you were extolling the virtues of Dwyrin basics!

Here's my thoughts, with some clarity of the YouTubers I (and others?) am talking about.

Dwyrin (who is about the same strength as me at EGF 4d) has his basics series where he plays SDKs. Does he go down as far as DDKs? I think I've seen 7k.
Ryan Li 1p has "random opening challenge" series playing a random choice of some standard openings like Chinese, Kobayashi and some weirder ones like 6-4s. Starts at Fox 3d.
Yeonwoo 1p has 3d up series on Fox
BadukDoctor had 3d up series on Tygem
I did 5 games as 3d on Fox following LZ gospel for early game and then just commenting normal play.
Yoonyoung 8p did 3d to 9d on Fox or Tygem but I didn't watch.

I don't watch Dwyrin habitually as I find him annoying and he's not stronger than me. I like Ryan's. Yeonwoo live comments not so great (too much banal stream chat), prefer her lectures. BadukDoctor only just started so not decided. I did like his technique of showing variations on a side board in some other live commentary videos. I tend to watch these as background entertainment whilst washing up or eating, rather than giving them my undivided attention. When I watch higher quality videos like Redmond's AlphaGo ones the washing up gets done more slowly.

First a comment as a creator. It's easier to make live commentary videos than lectures which need preparation. So they are lazy content for both creator and viewer. BadukDoctor's challenger lectures were great, but he had the time to prepare those because covid shut his go school.

To Joachim's point about 3d max rank, doesn't apply to Dwyrin stomping kyus, does to the others. If you kept making new 3d accounts to avoid promotion or trying to get perfect 100% win I think that's bad, but otherwise ok per server rules. I even lost my second game at 3d (due to woopsy when far ahead) so I'm not sandbagging as much as the others.

So this also significantly reduces Knotwilg's first criticism about the fraud on the opponent, getting crashed by stronger players grinding through 3d is an expected part of those servers. It doesn't excuse Dwyrin beating kyus on KGS or OGS though.

I do find Yeonwoo's quickness to suspect her opponents of using AI just because they played 20 opening moves without doing something retarded a bit rich. Put yourself in their shoes, aren't you suspiciously strong like AI every game?

My beef with Dwyrin basics is on several angles. First it's the sometimes mocking attitude. A bad example to impressionable beginners. Then it's the overconfidence in his own analysis at I can often identify things he says which are wrong. And this isn't wrong as acceptable simplifications for teaching purposes. It's "haha, what s noob, that move sucks, I just answer here and it's good for me" but their move didn't suck but his did. It could be strong pros would think the same about the others I like but aren't stronger than, but I don't think so because they have a better attitude and I think less is actually wrong. In my videos I tried to admit there are things I don't know and find difficult. It's more honest but probably less entertaining than overconfidence and funny voices. In dwyrin's defence, his balance of go education and showmanship plus general consistency of output with decent production values is obviously popular and if it brings in loads of casual video-watching 20ks and they improve to 10k with his help that's great, I just hope they 1) don't get a bad attitude and 2) don't get discouraged it's not as easy as it looks because they don't have dan player subconscious to help.

Others have mentioned all the subconscious aspects of strength which are not switched off and I agree this is important. It invalidates the premise of the videos that if only you followed what I articulate you can be strong like me.


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