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 Post subject: Helping a friend
Post #1 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 3:51 am 
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I've taught my best friend Go and recently he started getting more into it, too. He even bought a board and some glass stones.

The problem is, I feel he's hit a wall already and at a pretty "low" level. His big problem is his over-over-over-cautiousness, which disables him completely in a game.

For example, a game against him might look like this:


In fact, most games he plays look like that. When I approach a stone of him, his first reaction is always: Oh no. He makes a really, really slow defensive move. And then usually goes to defend again. He defends cuts that are really uncuttable. While I invade his area, he really sees no way to invade himself.
If I play sanransei, he acknowledges it as pure territory for me and won't approach it during the game, ever.

I've tried many things to help him get over this (because if he got over this, I think he could be really good. (He's intelligent, great memory, a talent for patient playing and concentration) But this keeps him back completely. I've told him many times before to be more aggressive, don't defend where it's not necessary or urgent. I've tried showing him by invading myself in spaces he would never try.
I've shown him a joseki of a 3-3 invasion in a 4-4 corner to prove the 4-4 stone is not territory.

Once I "forced" him into invading my area. He was doing okay but then suddenly he said: "no it won't work" and he left his stones there to do. It's true, they might not have made it, but it was too early to tell.

So I'm not sure what to try anymore. Anyone have advice? Two things I can think of:
- Replay a game with him. Maybe a game by 15-16 kyu players where both players invade successfully or something? (anyone has a sgf of such a game?)
- Play a game with him and "talk" him through it. Push him to make moves he otherwise wouldn't make?

What do you think?

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #2 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:20 am 
Judan

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Just an idea I thought up, which could be refined:

* When your friend plays what you deem to be an unnecessary move, stop the game.
* Have him take back the move, and switch sides. Let him try to exploit the weakness, and you play to defend.
* Revert back to the original game state, and put back the defensive move.
-If he was correct and he was able to exploit the weakness, you pay him one capture stone since you falsely thought he played an unnecessary defense.
-If he was wrong and was unable to exploit the weakness that he thought was there, then he pays you a capture stone, since he played an unnecessary defense.

So basically it's like regular go, but since you are teaching him, when you think he plays an unnecessary move, you guys play it out, and whoever was wrong gets penalized for their error.

Maybe having this extra penalty of having to pay a stone when he plays unnecessary defense will make him more wary of playing defensively when it's not needed.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #3 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:05 am 
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Actually I kind of have (had) the same problem as your friend and his way of playing really reminds me of my own games.

I used to be extremely worried about my own territory and protect where it's already safe.
Meanwhile my opponent was building up enormous territory and I didn't see a way to break through. I'd end up losing the game with a tiny impregnable fortress somewhere in a corner of the board. By the time I felt my stones were strong enough to risk an invasion, it was already too late and I couldn't do anything anymore.

I'm slowly getting rid of that issue.

First of all, I realized I was overly protective because I just didn't know when territory was safe and when it wasn't. That's still an issue for me, but the more I play and the more tsumego I do, as well as reviewing my games, I'm able to notice secure territory more often now.

I didn't go into my opponents territory, because mine wasn't 100% secure yet. Not realizing that the other player's territory is far from secure as well.
For two similar and weak situations on the board I always felt like I had to strengthen mine, because I couldn't handle an attack while at the same time thinking attacking myself is futile, because my opponent sure knows how to defend successfully.

It was/is also a matter of confidence for me. I'm still struggling with that, which isn't easy due to my unreasonably high nervousness during live games, but that's a different topic.

I'm starting to experiment more to see what works and what doesn't, something I never did in the beginning because I had too much respect for my opponents territory and skills. I have to constantly remind myself that it's just a game and it doesn't matter if I try something and fail or lose, but it's tough.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #4 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:16 am 
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I sense the same fundamental flaw at work I see in most (western) (amateur) go players and from which I (hope to) have been cured by reading https://senseis.xmp.net/?HaengMaTutorialForBeginners, the book on fundamentals no one ever wrote but came to us in the form of this fantastic series by Korean 6d Minue.

Most of us have been introduced to the game as a game of surrounding territory, while it is essentially a game of survival of stones. Our visual/geometrical intuition tends to consider spheres of influence as territory. When combined with an anxious nature, opponent's sphere of influence is uninvadable and own sphere of influence is to be defended at all costs.

The anxious nature is not so easily cured but half of the problem can be solved by thinking fundamentally different about the game as being about survival of stones.

In particular: a 3-3 invasion will survive and so will the 4-4 stone that puts pressure on that invasion, forming a strong shape in the process. There is no essential loss or profit in the exchange, not until the outward influence represents a marginal gain compared to the occupation of the corner.

A san-ren-sei is oriented to the sides and the centre away from it and does not primarily focus on the side where it is located. This is counterintuitive to someone looking at it as "almost territory". If you however visualize the virtual groups that arise from invasions, this becomes apparent.

Antidote:
- reinforce the idea of "survival of stones in areas", suppress the idea of "making territory"
- visualize the result of invasions and convince yourself these are natural events, not upsets

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #5 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:22 am 
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MysteryFTG wrote:
I didn't go into my opponents territory, because mine wasn't 100% secure yet. Not realizing that the other player's territory is far from secure as well.


I know you mean well but let me be picky on the semantics here.

When pros talk about "territory", they mean it is secure. Otherwise they speak about "sphere of influence" (moyo). In between is something like "potential territory": something that is very likely to become territory and the opponent should not wait too long with invading or it will be territory soon.

It is indeed important (as you say) to know when something is a moyo, where anything can happen, when it is potential territory which will soon become territory if nothing is done, or when something is territory, which can not be invaded by definition, just reduced in the endgame. And I believe it is instructive to talk about those stages in this way.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #6 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:12 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:
MysteryFTG wrote:
I didn't go into my opponents territory, because mine wasn't 100% secure yet. Not realizing that the other player's territory is far from secure as well.


I know you mean well but let me be picky on the semantics here.

Yeah, sorry about that. I'm not 100% familiar with the proper terminology yet. I didn't mean to confuse anyone.

The situation seemed just very close to mine, but I'll probably refrain a bit until I get a more solid understanding of the game and the "vocabulary".

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #7 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:15 am 
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MysteryFTG wrote:
Knotwilg wrote:
MysteryFTG wrote:
I didn't go into my opponents territory, because mine wasn't 100% secure yet. Not realizing that the other player's territory is far from secure as well.


I know you mean well but let me be picky on the semantics here.

Yeah, sorry about that. I'm not 100% familiar with the proper terminology yet. I didn't mean to confuse anyone.

The situation seemed just very close to mine, but I'll probably refrain a bit until I get a more solid understanding of the game and the "vocabulary".


Oh no, I did not want to silence you! I just wanted to point out that the articulation of something being "territory" often displays thinking wrongly about it.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #8 Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:31 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:
Oh no, I did not want to silence you! I just wanted to point out that the articulation of something being "territory" often displays thinking wrongly about it.

Alright, thanks for clarifying.

And in the end, I learned something today, but I'll still be a bit more careful in the future :)

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #9 Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 1:58 pm 
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Mmmmmm, I wonder. Is it your business?
If he's happy with it, so be it. If he's not, so be it.
I would be careful to push him. Better to let him appreciate the game at his level than to make him turn away from go.
Give him some more time to figure things out by himself.


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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #10 Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 3:13 pm 
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Have him take the black side of this: https://senseis.xmp.net/?BiggestCorner

If he kills, move the black stones out and play again. Quickly. If you live, move the black stones in. Repeat. No territory. Just life and death.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #11 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:18 am 
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Maybe play handicap games with him? His stones will be more secure so he should be able (with help) to focus on the fact that white's groups are not stable. This should give him a better sense of what is secure and what is not.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #12 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:06 am 
Judan

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Ian Butler wrote:
I've taught my best friend Go and recently he started getting more into it, too. He even bought a board and some glass stones.

The problem is, I feel he's hit a wall already and at a pretty "low" level. His big problem is his over-over-over-cautiousness, which disables him completely in a game.


I hesitate to make suggestions, since I don't know your friend or have any relationship with him. However, I agree with sybob that the main thing is that he have fun playing go.

Do you have a teacher-student relationship with him? Even without one, do you review your games together?

Quote:
I've tried many things to help him get over this (because if he got over this, I think he could be really good. (He's intelligent, great memory, a talent for patient playing and concentration) But this keeps him back completely. I've told him many times before to be more aggressive, don't defend where it's not necessary or urgent. I've tried showing him by invading myself in spaces he would never try.
I've shown him a joseki of a 3-3 invasion in a 4-4 corner to prove the 4-4 stone is not territory.

Once I "forced" him into invading my area. He was doing okay but then suddenly he said: "no it won't work" and he left his stones there to do. It's true, they might not have made it, but it was too early to tell.

So I'm not sure what to try anymore.


In a way, that's good. Your friend is intelligent, yet fails to take your advice. This kind of thing is not all that unusual. Human beings are complicated. :) You have learned what doesn't work. So you should probably stop doing that.

Quote:
Once I "forced" him into invading my area. He was doing okay but then suddenly he said: "no it won't work" and he left his stones there to do. It's true, they might not have made it, but it was too early to tell.
(Repeated for convenience.)

You know that, and I know that, and he ought to know that. He says, "It won't work." But how does he know? You don't know, and you are better than he, so how could he know?

I do have a couple of ideas, not suggestions, because I don't know enough to make suggestions. First, do review your games together, or continue to do so. And do so with a scientific spirit. Explore possibilities. Try to find the losing move. If you simply try to explain or prove to him that he lost because he was overcautious, we know that he is resistant to that. Since you are both beginners, your reviews may not reach any firm conclusions. That's OK. You can both still learn from the process.

Second, play on small boards, with him taking Black, with no komi. Maybe even play on the 7x7, which is a challenge for White, until he can reliably win. To do so he will have to kill some White stones, unless you play cautiously. The 9x9 should provide challenges for both of you. The 13x13 position you showed indicates that you find it easy to bully him on that big a board. And if he just lets you turn your moyos into territory on the 19x19, then that's too easy for you, as well. The 9x9 is not much of a board for a moyo strategy. On the 9x9 you both should become better at fighting. :)

Third, and this is the iffiest idea, try playing the Capture Game, first on the 7x7 and, as he improves, on the 9x9. Important: You must play it with passes not allowed. Suicide is allowed, but, OC, loses outright. Otherwise, a super-solid game can prevent the opponent from capturing a stone. In this case, play has to continue (unless someone resigns) until one player has to fill his own territory and put himself into atari. From the capture game you can move up to Capture-2, then Capture-4. Capture-4 is not all that different from regular go. His style of play is a sure loser in the Capture Game on the 9x9 vs. a somewhat stronger player (e.g., you). He will have to change it to have any chance. And that should be obvious to him.

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Last edited by Bill Spight on Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #13 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:12 am 
Judan

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MysteryFTG wrote:
Knotwilg wrote:
MysteryFTG wrote:
I didn't go into my opponents territory, because mine wasn't 100% secure yet. Not realizing that the other player's territory is far from secure as well.


I know you mean well but let me be picky on the semantics here.

Yeah, sorry about that. I'm not 100% familiar with the proper terminology yet. I didn't mean to confuse anyone.


Don't worry. Everybody (including pros) informally refers to areas that are not yet secure territory as territory. There are even books about playing inside your opponent's "territory". ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #14 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:55 am 
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The principle behind this is positional judgement. Tell your friend to try and estimate, early in the game, who is leading the game.
If he is leading the game, then he must play defensive moves, so as to keep the lead, and make it difficult for the opponent to overcome his lag.
If his opponent is leading, then he must play a reduction move (safe, gains little), or an invasion (risky, but may gain a lot).

His mistake is to play defensive moves while he is not leading. This only helps the opponent to secure his lead against him.

The next mistake is maybe to perform the evaluation too late. It can be done while the opening is not even finished ! There, invasions are much less risky. During the middle game, it is often too late to invade.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #15 Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:13 pm 
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Thanks for the many ideas, tips, suggestions and other comments.

We were lucky to have a relative free weekend just now and we got to play a few games, where I tried to use some of the ideas here.
Basically I tried to get him to look at the board from a different perspective and it kind of worked. We played 2 games in particular which were quite nice. One with two giant weak groups struggling for life on the board, another where I kind of pushed him around, but he still ended up with a nice chunck of territory and "only" lost by like 15 points, and not by 80 which was customary before.

Best thing is that he actually said himself a few times how he loved those games. He's enjoying Go a lot more now and I think he's got rid of his "attack phobia". Defensive will always remain his style a bit, I'm afraid, but he's getting a lot more assertive and I think he's improved a lot already because of it.
Of course, these games were played "open hand". We talked a lot during the game, we discussed variations and alternative moves, I gave my opinion when he wanted to play some moves. When he defended a cut needlessly, I always said: "let's see what I can do." Then we'd undo his defensive move and I'd cut. Pretty soon he'd see: okay this cut doesn't work.

We'll definitely play some small board games, too, in the near future, which'll help.

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 Post subject: Re: Helping a friend
Post #16 Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:00 pm 
Judan

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Ian Butler wrote:
Best thing is that he actually said himself a few times how he loved those games. He's enjoying Go a lot more now and I think he's got rid of his "attack phobia". Defensive will always remain his style a bit, I'm afraid, but he's getting a lot more assertive and I think he's improved a lot already because of it.


Bravo! :clap: :clap: :clap:

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