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.

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!