Flow

It has been a moment since I last wrote, again, mostly thanks to me being busy lately. I just realized that not every update of mine has to be a big one, thus I ended up writing this quick update!

Last weekend I played in the Oulu Spring tournament – Jeff was not participating after all, so my main challengers were Janne Määttä and Janne Kössö, 4 dan players both. After five exciting games, I did end up winning the tournament! My and Jeff’s game is postponed to next weekend’s Finnish Team Championship, then.

Right now I’m reading the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and it is actually thanks to this book that I decided to write this short blog post. The book’s general theme is flow experience: the experience you have when you are incredibly concentrated on doing something suitably challenging, consequently forgetting about time and place – according to Csikszentmihalyi and his research, it is at these moments that people feel the happiest. The following quote got me thinking about go, for a change, and I’d like to share it with you readers:

One simple way to find challenges is to enter a competitive situation. Hence the great appeal of all games and sports that pit a person or team against another. In many ways, competition is a quick way of developing complexity: “He who wrestles with us,” wrote Edmund Burke, “strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” The challenges of competition can be stimulating and enjoyable. But when beating the opponent takes precedence in the mind over performing as well as possible, enjoyment tends to disappear. Competition is enjoyable only when it is a means to perfect one’s skills; when it becomes an end in itself, it ceases to be fun.

Questions and answers, part five

Here goes part five! As usual, new questions and inquiries are to be written as comments to this post.

Hi Ten, I wanted to do some questions for the next series of questions and answers:

First i really want to know your age only because i’m curious (Cause i readed that you wanted to go to korea to study and i thougth that to be insei you have to be younger than 18).
Next: I had the doubt of what do you prefer when you study pro games, have the kifu printed or in a computer, also if is better commented matches or regular tournament matches without comments to study.
About this also i want to know which database do you use to study games.

Also How many time do you use to study or practice go at the week.
And Which part of the game you think that is more valuable in concept of improving.

Last One: I have been said that i don’t use the time to pressure the opponent in tournaments, i wanted to know if you do some kind of things to put time pressure to your opponents in the tournaments like playing really slow or some kind of thing like i don’t know think a lot a move to make your rival doubt about his next move.
Thanks

I was born in the summer of 1989, making me now 21 years old. I have thought about becoming a go professional student (insei) alright, but my plans concern Japan, not Korea or China. According to the information I’ve gotten, it’s possible in Japan for westerners up to 25 years of age.

For the studying pro games part, I usually see the games from my computer or iPhone, depending on if I’m on the move or not. Commented games are nice, but I don’t see a lot of them – mostly I analyze games, tournament or otherwise, without comments. I either get the records from different tournaments’ web sites, Igo kisen, or SmartGo Pro‘s database. I spend time for go almost every day – either playing, watching games, or reading books. Recently I haven’t studied very intensively, but I’m sure I’ll get around to that soon, again.

The question about which part of the game is the most important one seems a bit funny to me – it seems really difficult to improve at the game just by getting good at a few parts of it! If you’re good at the opening but not very good at the middle and end games, you’ll end up losing won games. On the other hand, good middle game skills may save you from a lost game. And skills at the endgame can turn the tide of a great deal of games, too. I’d much rather advise you to divide your effort on improving every aspect of the game evenly!

For the time pressure part, I normally don’t concern myself much with things like that – I’m more interested in what happens on the board. Of course, psychology affects the game a lot, too, and time usage affects psychology – I might do well to learn a thing or two on this part as well. The only time-related tricks I might use during a tournament game, now, would be playing really complicated moves at points when the opponent is low on time. I usually use less time than my opponents, so I sometimes can get some real profit out of that.

What do you think about the necessity of getting a good teacher in order to get better? Is it necessary and at what rank? I often see 10 kyu players in kgs that are having regular lessons from professional players. That’s sick! Isn’t it enough to get somebody 5 stones stronger to tell you where to improve? What is your own teacher history like?

I also want to know your opinion on the balance between “studying” time and playing time. If a go player wants to improve, is a massive amount of games a must or should one pay more attention to studying different aspects of go? How do you use your time?

I myself made my way up to Finnish 5 dan before starting to get more guidance – I believe I’ve got some fairly valid opinions to share on this part. It’s safe to say that you can improve whether you have a teacher or not – the important thing is, that you are all the time getting new things to think about and to experiment on in your game. If you are simply doing the same old thing, you will learn nothing new. With good self-leading skills, this is certainly possible to do just by yourself – otherwise (and actually, even with the self-leading skills), a good teacher can really help on this part. I myself have relearned a great many things during the last two years, getting guidance from the Experience Go trip’s teachers, especially Jeff. It’s probably mostly thanks to them that I’m still able to improve at a steady pace.

It certainly would be pretty easy if somebody could just tell you what to improve on – however, every player is different, and teachers (or players themselves) aren’t all-knowing – a good teacher will spend effort on getting to understand the student’s style, and according to that tell the student what to do.

Concerning the studying time and playing time, I like to divide things as I laid out above: you need new things to think about, and to experiment on them. Books, lessons and pro games, for example, are places to get new ideas. Games and go problems are the frontiers to experiment on. I find it incredibly difficult to state an absolute ratio between the two, since learning speed depends on the individual – readers are advised to try out for themselves how much experimenting is needed for new ideas to sink in!

Irish go congress report

Long time no write! I’m now back from one month of quite intensive university studying, and also from a six-day trip to Dublin. Ireland was a completely new experience to me, and also a really nice one: I very much liked the feel to Dublin as well as the architecture, not to mention the natural sights. The tournament went reasonably well: I got a 4-1 result, beating Wang Wei after a lucky turn in the game, but lost to Ondrej Silt in quite a similar fashion. In the end, we had a completely even score with Wei, and so ended up sharing the first place!

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