snakeeater on Go

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How to Improve Without a Teacher

Okay, not everyone has the time or the money to get a teacher. So how the heck can you improve? When there's no teacher, how can you possibly know if you are playing the right moves? Well simple, when it comes to Tsumego, Yose and Counting, there's only one right answer. They are the 'mathematical parts' of Go in which you don't need a teacher's intuition to point you in the right direction. They also happen to be the pillars that make up a strong player. Without them, it's just flower go. You may create a nice advantage in the opening with good fuseki, only to collapse under fighting or flounder facing unreasonable invasions.

Time for me to do some Tsumegos.. 87 problems down, 400+ still to go..

I found a neat video on YouTube that talks about Counting, worth a listen:

To 1k... yeah... not

Cgoban 3.0 recently came out and two biggest changes AFAIK are:
1. The new rating system. It appears to have been fixed or normalized to match the AGA or IGS rating system where the spectrum of play strength is packed more tightly in the middle than before. The result is kyu strength from the left side moves up and dan strength from the right side moves down. It's now harder to be 9d but a lot easier to be say 10k. My rating was adjusted from 3k -> 1k. The phantom increase in strength does make it a lot easier to justify some of your dumb moves --- "well this is good because I am close to 1 dan..." It unfortunately also cheats me out of my goal to reach 1 dan a la Cgoban 2.0. Oh well, I guess I'll just set the new target at 3d a la Cgoban 3.0

2. Rengo or pair-go! This is really a lot of fun, esp if you pair up with a stronger player. You can learn quite a lot by just following along with the flow of the stronger player's moves. At the end of the game, you can review them and see why he played he places he played. Mixed in with your own thought process during the game, the review becomes especially meaningful.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

6th Chunlan Cup Under Way

See all the photos here.

Everything is in Chinese but at least you can enjoy the images.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Back to Go

It's been over a month since I touched Go. Instead of studying Go, I've been busy studying for job interviews... What joy. After five years of tech start-up rollercoaster, I've decided to get off --- only looking to hop on yet another one. With the number of potential companies, big and small, I decided to seriously study for the interviews this time so I could decide on where to go, instead of going to just some random one that happens to accept me. Studying for job interviews is certainly no picnic. It's no different than studying for the SAT/GRE. Everybody has their own little puzzles or quirky coding questions and each expects you in 45 minutes, convince him/her that you are capable. Questions are thrown at you at will and you must quickly get on the right track while the interviewer quizzically stares at you. As you struggle for a clue, the interviewer just smiles across the table --- savoring the moment of superiority because he knows the answer and you don't. If you do well, all your other qualities will be colored positively; if you do poorly, no references will save you from rejection (and by the way, since nobody ever gives bad references unless you are a complete psycho, they carry very little weight in the decision making process). As an interviewer myself many times, I know it's a charade that gets replayed over and over to fool myself into believing that I can actually tell if the person can do the job within 45 minutes. In reality many a times the person could be a brilliant coder (not saying I am one) yet choke on the simplest of problems, or totally incompetent but just happens to prepare for the right problems, and con its way in.

So despite knowing that I am fairly competent, I had to put up with the charade and go back to studying the fundamentals. I went through the old faithful "Programming Pearls", skimmed the "The Art of Computer Programming", Vol 3 and reread the first ~15 pages of each chapter of the classic "Intro to Algorithms" by Cormen et al. I had to memorize all those programming techniques that I've forgotten and practice regurgitating solutions on paper to classic coding problems. It was a painful ordeal but it did pay off well. While I did not get many problems I've exactly prepared for, many were similar enough that I was able to quickly apply the same solution pattern and come up good answers.

So does this have anything to do with Go? Sort of. Your ability after all is determined by how you perform at official tournaments where you must play under pressure. You could be the best kibitzer at your local club but choke in tournaments. In a tournament there's no time for you to read out every L&D, some you must know by memory through preparation. And I believe your strength is mostly determined by your preparation of the fundamentals (Tsumego, Yose, and Counting) and conquering your nerves so you don't make mistakes you would never make in a relaxed setting. It's even said that most pros are similar in strength, it's just only a few excel under pressure in tournaments.