First week in class D

Another insei week is now done with, this one having been my first week in the D class. My result was another 7/7 (seven wins out of seven games), meaning that if there was a playing level difference to the E class, it’s still not quite decisive. I only played the insei ranked from place 5 to 12 (myself being ranked 11), so I didn’t get to play the insei who were in class C last month. I’m hoping they’ll be of different caliber than the rest — at least in class E, there was a notable difference between the previously-D-class insei and previously-not. The difference is mostly in technique relating to the opening game and to shape, so when playing a peaceful game, even class D insei can give me some hard time.

Indeed, having moved up a class, the first thing this weekend I wanted to probe out the level of my new opponents. The very first game I played peacefully, which actually led me to being a little bit behind in terms of points sometime in the middle game. Some manoeuvres later I did get the lead, however, and finally won the game by 6.5 points. Thanks to these games having byo-yomi, the opponents no longer make such blatant mistakes (well, myself included of course) as in the E class. My reaction to the first game was something along the lines of “Phew, that was close, better make sure I don’t get more games as close as this one”, and the six following games were more fighting-oriented. The same six I also won by resignation.

Some people have expressed interest in speculating the level of my future adversaries, so I went out of my way on Sunday’s lunch break to take photos of the C and D class results sheets:

I can append the results a bit from my memory: I, and the insei numbered 1-4, all got two more wins.

Just to get the number of Japan-related photos up, here’s also one from the Nihon Ki-in’s entrance hall:

The entrance hall of the Nihon Ki-in: doors are behind the photographer, and on the left side, out of the photo, we have shelves with copies of Hikaru no Go, free to read. The people here are following a go instruction television programme, which are shown through most of the day — unless there is an important professional game going on, in which case the game is relayed. In the very back, there are the elevators which I usually take to the insei classroom.

Of course, an insei related blog post is nothing without a game record, so here’s the second-most-peaceful game that I played this weekend. I was looking to fight in this one, but the opponent wouldn’t let me.

[sgfPrepared id=”0″]

I somehow got the impression that my opponent here (insei number 8 in the results sheet) is a fan of Lee Changho, due to his steady and simple way of playing.

At move 14, I had the sequence of black 1, white 2, black 3, white 4 and black 5 in mind, but for some reason I chose the inferior way of playing, seen in the game record. However…

…move 24 seems like an incredibly slow white move, even if there was some potential threat at d9 or e9 to try to cut the white stones apart. I would have played k3 as white without thinking.

At move 29, the game already feels good to black.

Move 38: this move, even if today sometimes seen in professional games, was the one that struck me as the most Lee Chango -like move in the game. It works effectively at getting a base for the white stone, prioritizing territory over influence since the centre area looks like dame anyway. I planned the answer of black 39 so that I’d have the chance to exploit white’s shape weakness of l18 later.

Moves 47-66: this sequence somehow worked incredibly smoothly for black; even though the corner died, black got a fair profit while reserving sente.

The game quickly proceeds to the endgame after the upper side sequence, starting with black l18, is carried out. Eventually, white resigns because of the point difference.

Since the D class has an even number of 14 insei, I’ll unfortunately no longer get teaching games with the instructors. However, it’s still possible to get a review if a game ends quickly enough, and if the teacher is free at the time, as long as I’m able to ask for the review in Japanese.

This week, on Thursday, I’m finally doing some vital Japanese go-related activity that I missed out on my last trip here, two years ago: I’m visiting the island of Innoshima, the birthplace of Honinbō Shuusaku (1829-1862), up to date one of the most famous (and strongest) go players ever. Innoshima is a good 700 kilometres away from Tokyo, so a two-day trip is necessary. Points of interest while in Innoshima will be Shusaku’s grave and the Shusaku museum, which includes go equipment used by the legend himself. Expect to read a report on this trip in approximately one week!

Level up!

Although there’s one week of October left, the October Nihon Ki-in insei league is now over, and we’ll already start with November’s league this weekend. Since this way, one “month” only has 28 days, we’re running a little bit fast — this is compensated by the insei getting a Christmas holiday of two weeks, right after the December league stops at December 18. My final score in class E was 40 wins to three losses, easily giving me the first place of the class. From next weekend on, then, I’ll be starting at class D with a significantly smaller amount of games to be played, but with slower time settings. The exact settings are described here (in the first paragraph), in case somebody missed them.

Yesterday we had the fourth installment of the English lesson for professionals. The lesson went otherwise as normal, me presenting my insei games and the professionals commenting them in English, but there were two surprise factors. First was that Tom, my friend from the Nihon Ki-in, had through some contacts gotten us two new western participants: Andreas from Italy and Gediminas from Lithuania. Of them, Andreas had played a little bit some fifteen years ago, and Gediminas was new to the game. The reviewing part of the English lesson, then, likely wasn’t very useful or interesting to the newcomers, but after two game reviews, we had the professionals teach Andreas and Gediminas some basic rules of the game — again in English, of course! I helped a bit, but the professionals did very well on their own part. The second surprise factor was that Takemiya-sensei also attended the lesson! He was present for the first 45 minutes, commenting one of the insei games that I lost, and then went on to his weekly dancing lesson. Could I say, then, that I have taught Takemiya? Maybe best not to.

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Results and more on insei customs

Now, after the third October insei week is done with, I’m already able to claim the first place of class E. My result last weekend was another 11 wins, 0 losses, giving me a total result so far of 31 wins and 2 losses. The number two in class E has so far 13 losses, so even in the worst-case scenario, were I not to attend next week, it would be a tie for the first place. Needless to say, I won’t even think about not attending next weekend — after all, this training is what I came to Japan for. There’s one more weekend of October left, after which the top four insei (based on results) of each class go up a class, and the bottom four go down one. Class E has 60 minutes of time reserved for one game, resulting in a fast 30 minutes sudden death (with no byo yomi) time setting, but class D already has 90 or 120 minutes of time per round, depending on whether it’s a three or four-game day. Class D’s time settings are 40 minutes of main time with a 40 seconds per move Japanese byo yomi on three-game days, and 30 minutes of main time with a 30 seconds per move Japanese byo-yomi on four-game days.

I thought the readers might find the insei results sheet system interesting, so I went and took a photo. The system is, in fact, same as the one we’ve seen in Hikaru no Go! So far, I haven’t stamped my own palm in order to “grab the win”.

Red circles indicate wins, while black circles indicate losses. 中 inside a red circle means that the game was won by resignation, 5半 means a win by 5.5 points, and 不 means a default win. テアキ means a free round, due to the odd number of insei in class E. This sheet is for weeks 3 and 4; the results of the first two weeks are written in the lower part of the sheet.

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Second English study session

Yesteday we had the second session of the concept of “professionals learn English and Ten learns go”. Practically the setting is that I am presenting some of my (insei or otherwise) games on a board in a classroom in the Nihon Ki-in, with about six or seven professionals present on average, and the professionals attempt to comment the games in English. This time, the strongest professional present was 7 dan. The concept is courtesy of Kobayashi Chizu sensei.

Yesterday, before delving deeper into the game of the day, we recapped some important basic terms related to go. Kobayashi-sensei wasn’t present, so if it wasn’t for Simon’s assistance, I would have been on my own for the English teaching part. Simon did indeed a great job in assisting me, helping me with a lot of translations, and writing the English terms up on a whiteboard for the professionals to take notes of. At the beginning of the study session, I was initially slightly lost at how to take charge of everything, so I quite randomly took the English words for parts of the go board as the first content of the day: 隅=すみ=sumi=corner, 辺=へん=hen=side (upper/top, lower/bottom, left, right), 中央=ちゅうおう=chuuou=centre.

The English terms seemed to be new for most of the “students”, so it turned out to be good opening practice. I was quite strict on the words’ pronunciation, due to the fact that in Japanese, people sometimes use the Japanglish words of コーナー (“koonaa”, corner) and センター (“sentaa”, center). Apart from the *er sound, there’s not a real difference. We then started with the game review, and also recapped terms like connection, cut, extension, jump, et cetera. I’m not sure this whole studying concept provides for even-handed learning for all parties; the professionals are only learning English, while aside from go technique, I’m also learning Japanese! And for some reason, I still seem to hold the teacher’s role.

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Second insei weekend and the Tai-iku no hi

Greetings! It almost seems like I’ve settled down for a one post per week rhythm here, quite reasonably following the pace that insei studies go at. This weekend, there were another 12 games divided between two days. Contrary to the last weekend, however, I ended up getting a clean record this time! Apart from the game with the teacher, of course.

My wake-up time in the weekend is currently 7:30, leaving me with the bare minimum of time to take a shower and check the internet before taking the subway to Ichigaya, where the Nihon Ki-in is located. Insei are to be present at 9:10 at the latest, but I prefer to have a little bit of extra time in case the subway is late or something (very rare in Japan, but still possible). Both days this weekend, I found myself hungry in the morning, and ended up buying a box of diced fruits from the convenience store near Ichigaya. A common problem that arises in Japan, however, is that there are close to no good locations where to stop for a moment and eat. I ended up eating my breakfast in the entrance hall of the Nihon Ki-in, for lack of a better location, and it felt very weird. Last time in Japan, two years ago, I remember buying a lunch box from a convenience store at a train station, and when I didn’t find any benches, I went to sit and eat on an empty stairway. Not long after, a security guard came to direct me to a nearby park, where eating was not prohibited. Eating while walking is a no-no in Japan as well.

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Insei report after the first weekend

Insei training isn’t light, I’ll give you that! The schedule is strict and incredibly full, and being an insei isn’t just about playing go. The school is, after all, meant for children who are potentially going to become professional go players. In addition to gaining playing strength, then, the teachers will do their utmost to also get the children to act like professional go players should. This also goes for wannabe-pro foreigners who find their way to the school. In a sense, it’s kind of like I’m back in elementary school, just the manners that are being taught are from a different culture. It is a relief that the teachers, while being strict, are also nice, and recognize that I’m to break the form at times, coming from a different culture myself.

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