snakeeater on Go

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I ran across the following interesting tsumego problem today, Black to play to live:

Try to solve the problem without playing it out on a board! :D And no, the answer is not B-R18. Though how should White kill Black if he does play R18?

I will post the answer in a few days.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tsumego practice can temporarily weaken Go strength

I've recently (for about 4 weeks now) begun to stick to a schedule of solving 5 tsumego problems each day. This has surprisingly made me weaker! :) I've gone from nearly touching 3k to 4k then briefly back to 5k again on KGS. What's going on?

Then on Friday I played against a regular opponent who remarked that "You've lost your fighting spirit". This made me realize that before studying tsumego I was oblivious to the dangers or weakness of my groups -- constantly making unreasonble moves that kyu players did not know how to exploit. (Maybe that's why I disintegrate easily against Dans. :) ) Now that I am doing tsumego regularly, my sense of danger has heightened, making me extra timid in my moves!

So hopefully this is only a temporary set back and I will eventually reach 1d. Maybe then I'll be able to appreciate professional games...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Go Board Part Deux

Now that I've had a chance to play with the Go board, solve some problems, replay some games on it, I've noticed that it's really warped! On a level surface, you can actually rock the board slightly by pressing on its diagonal corners. So I took a ruler and measure the height of the board from the surface, well, indeed it's a couple of mm higher in the middle that from the sides. Under a good light I can actually see the curvature of the wood!

So I email the YMI guys and they were again very responsive! Told me to send the board back and they'll send a replacement at no shipping cost. Swell! Hopefully I'll get a good board thist time. So I have to give these guys an A+ for trying to do things right and I hope they do this time. Stay tuned for next week when I get my replacement board.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Go and Girls

I accidentally ran across this while browsing for Go game records: Girls playing Go! And extremely attractive ones at that. (The home page for one of the Russia's Go Federations?) Looks like ones you want to lose your shirt over huh? Figuratively speaking only of course.

So this got me thinking and doing some researching. For the greater good of mankind of course. (Note the emphasis on man.) It appears that in nearly every Western country (Asian countries go without saying) where Go is played, there are attractive girls who play Go and are good at it! EXCEPT in the U.S., (Janice Kim may be an exception.) where Go players are made of the usual suspects of male nerds and geeks, me included. In fact I'd like to extrapolate that to nearly all activities that require intellectual effort. Before someone screams "male chauvinist pig", hear me out. It looks to me that U.S. is probably the only country where being smart or intellectually curious == unattractive or uncool. Can someone back up my claim that there is a subtle undercurrent of sexism in the U.S. that discourages women from engaging in pursuits intellectual, despite the common perception that U.S. is an open, democratic, progressive country, all for women's equality? I mean when was the last time you met a female, American programmer? (Majority of those are immigrants I bet.) Other more enlightened cultures are not like this. For example I happen to work for a software company that has a branch outside of the U.S. and a good percentage of them are female.

So Go players, if you want to get girls, Go play somewhere else.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Go Set Arrives

I finally got the courage to plunk down some good money to buy a Go set online. After some research, the biggest bang for the buck appeared to be the Shin-Kaya set from Yellow Mountain Imports on ebay. They offered a 2''-thick, one-piece-wood shin-kaya board, wooden go bowls, Yunzi stones, all at starting bid of $99! A similar set from Japan would cost around $250! What a deal! This was around end of November, they may have changed the price since then.

Anyhow, after a couple nights of unsuccessful bids, I was finally able to snatch one at $107 + shipping and taxes = $130. I was stoked. A sweet looking set for at $130? NOICE.

Well, not so fast.

A week after payment and the board arrives. Damaged... (The bowl and stones arrived in another package) A badly chipped bottom corner due to poor packaging and rough handling. Now the chip revealed something very interesting about the board.
First, it really is made of one-piece wood with beautiful grains! But it is unfortunately covered with a thick layer of clear laminate that is much darker than the actual wood underneath. Also the playing grid appear to be drawn or silk-screened on top of this laminate surface! Note in a truly quality Go board, the wood is only thinly brushed with a wood stain and the grid lines are either drawn by hand directly on the wood or cut using a Katana. Well, doing that is labor intensive and costly. I am pretty sure it's extremely hard to draw or cut clean, straight parallel lines on wood. Your eyes are pretty picky if any line do not neatly lineup. So it's much cheaper to use a machine to 'stamp' on the grid, which explains why these guys are selling the sets starting at $99.

Anyways, eventually the Yellow Mountain Import guys were nice enough to send me a replacement board at no cost. It arrived better packaged with no chipping. Only problem: it does not place completely flat on the table, the wood appears slightly warped. I was actually half-expecting this as again, the reason a good Go board made of one-piece wood is so expensive is that it usually requires 10+ years of drying to avoid warping. Okay, enough bitching. The warping is slight and it's hardly noticeable. The Go bowl and Yunzi stones look beautiful. At $100, I wasn't expecting the best. I got what I paid for.

Nice bowl and stones huh? I'd paid $50 for just these guys.

Here's the replacement board:

The game on the board is replay of a professional game between Gu Li of China and Lee Sil Do of Korea in a title match. More on this later as I will discuss various Chinese and Korean Go titles. The West usually focuses more on the Japanese Go world but the best Go players today are Koreans and Chinese who hold most if not all of the international titles. Japanese Go is in decline at the moment. This was one of the motivation for Hikaru No Go, to inspire Japanese youth to learn the game and regain Japan's dominance of the game in the 1970 and 80s.)

Notice the awesome grain from Masame cut:

Okay, the bottom line. I am happy with what I got. I doubt the Yellow Mountain Import guys actually made any money on me considering the shipping for the replacement. I would recommend buying from them if you just want something that's pretty good but not top of the line. If you want real quality, either visit China or Japan and bring back a good set. Or go here. The shipping cost is considerable but again, you get what you pay for.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Go Crazy

My first blog. Yeeppy! Seems like a good outlet for my narcissism.

Moving on...

This blog is about Go.
What the heck is Go? It's a game; it's a struggle,
between two opponents in their endless pursuit of excellence in a microcosm
of life (and death). That's the Confucius speak, in a off-lip-synch-martial-art-movie
kind of way.

More succinctly, it's another way to show someone that your brain is
bigger by kicking his/her ass on the Go board. Mostly his. (If you
were hoping to get Asian girls by playing Go, you've way off track)

Why play Go? See above. Again, not to get girls. Though it can become
very addictive for no good reason as soon as you understand it. So beware.

Why is it called Go? Because it's too hard for Westeners to pronounce
it in Chinese: WeiQi, or Korean: Baduk. (That's BaaaDook, not bad duck).
So everyone decided to adopt the Japanese pronunciation instead. (It's
actually Igo to be precise.)

Do I need to be smart to play Go? NO! Like many things, playing Go can
only convince you that your brain is an amazing piece of wetware. Every
time you come up with a move, you'd wander, where did that come from?
In other words, having epiphanies on the Go board is a frequent and pleasurable

Is this a blog where I can learn to play Go? NO! There are far better sites out
there that teach you how to play. I am starting this blog to mostly share my
learning experience with other beginners and intermediate players, post problems
regularly and provide discussions about the game. With the hope that perhaps
it would help spread the game to more people and help them appreciate one of
man's most beautiful creations.