snakeeater on Go

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Went to an AGA tournament in SF this weekend

I went to the Jiang Zhu Jiu touranment in SF this weekend in JapanTown. I did not compete but was interested in seeing some real people playing face to face on a physical board. Very exciting. The sound of observers lightly shuffling between aisles ... players pressing on clocks after each move ... people gathered around tables discussing games ... brough back a lot of memories of those Chess tournaments I played in high school.

The best player at the tournament was none other than Jiang Ming Ju, Jiang Zhu Jiu's brother. It's a bit funny that he is playing in such local tournamnent given he is a professional 7-dan. Every game he plays in this tournamnent is likely just he giving a lesson to his amateur opponent. (He should be able to give anyone of the top players there 3 stone handicap or more) He was the only professional there and the rest were amateurs. A couple of high Dans, I saw two 4-Dans and a couple of 2-Dans and Shodans (1-Dan). Most of the players were Kyu level. I spent most of my time watching Ming Ju's game, trying to rub off some professional finesse. (Wish I can get his game records, there was one big ko fight in the middle that meant life or death for one large black group. Ming Ju ended up losing the ko but game still looked lost for his oppponent. Professionals are good at making amateur think they are winning locally but actually losing globally.) Also watched a couple of games between 1 and 2-Dans. I have to say the game quality was surprisingly poor! I don't know how AGA rank their Dans but some I saw there had pretty lousy reading skills. Is it nervenousness? Granted a carefree by-stander like me can see better than those deep in the game but surely 1 or 2-Dans should know some of the basic Life and Death shapes! I did not see anything like that in games with 3-Dans or above. Also saw a high school or middle school kid who showed some pretty incredible tactics. Don't know the name, looked like a 4 or 5 Dan?

Overall was a great experience. I plan to join AGA soon so I can play in one of these tournaments. I have to say an AGA Shodan appears quite weak.. perhaps the most watered down Dan rank in the world? :) I played two games against a Shodan, first game I won with a quick resign and second game I resigned after it was apparent I was too behind on territory. My impression: AGA Shodans sure know a lot about josekis and opennings, but their fighting/reading skill is poor. Lots of canned theory without enough tactics to back it up. Since I don't know how to play josekis, my opponent got pretty confused whenever I veered off his expected sequences. :) Looks like the advice I got when I first learned Go rings true: solve tsumego and tesuji problems first, worry about the rest later.

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