Well, it’s actually been only a little more than one week, but what with all the activities I’ve had recently, it relatively feels like a longer time. As I wrote last week, I did two interviews and visited in total three different go schools in addition to that of Nihon Ki-in’s. Actually, I still haven’t got too much time to formulate a long blog post, so for now I’m only writing this as a status update. In less than two hours, I’m meeting with an acquaintance at the Nihon Ki-in, in order to play a few games and study together before the weekly English class. The acquaintance is not a professional, but is still close to professional level.
Some of you may have noticed that I also have a Twitter account. Since writing longer blog posts takes its own time, it might be handy if I wrote quicker status updates mostly by Twitter. I’ll look into whether I can implement a feature on this page’s right-side bar to show my latest few Twitter posts. Up until then, feel free to have a look at my Twitter page. I haven’t written too much there so far, but that’s likely change soon!
Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Gooften! Exactly one year ago, the first text was posted, and although I didn’t end up changing the look of the page as I said back then, I can still say that we’ve come a long way. In the beginning, Go of Ten had something like 50-150 visitors per day, depending on when the last post was written. Now, on a blog post day the number is something like 500-1000, and on a non-post day it’s still 250-500. The average number of visitors for this November is 474 so far. This is my 51st blog post so far, giving pretty much a pace of one blog post per week. Let’s hope that the numbers keep on going up in the future!
Last weekend’s insei games ended up with six wins out of seven games. On Sunday, on the first round, I ended up losing against insei number nine; I made my first big blunder in an insei game so far, and ended up losing some 50 points just for that. That was in the middle game, and by the endgame I counted I was about 10 points behind and resigned. The two other games on Sunday were pretty much easy wins. Summing up, so far my record in D class is 18 wins and 2 losses, for a winning percent of 90%. Unfortunately I didn’t find a good opportunity to take a picture of the results sheet, so we’ll have to do without for now.
I’m writing this post partly as a test to see how big of a burden it is to write an update in the middle of an insei weekend, and partly because I feel inspired after what I learned today, and want to share the source of the inspiration to the world. Most of the game discussion in this blog post is rather higher-level, but most readers starting from strong kyu level players should find it useful. For those raring to know about my performance today, I scored four wins in four games, winning all by resignation.
Right after my trip to Innoshima, it was time for another insei weekend. Right now I’m at some kind of a stress peak, having had a great deal of things to do, but starting tomorrow I’ll have a reasonable amount of free time again.
I played six games last weekend, against the insei numbered 12 and 13, and then against the ones numbered 1-4 (them being the ones who dropped to class D from class C this month). The former C-classers were indeed quite strong, and I lost my game against the one ranked first. I’m including the kifu of that game in this blog post.
Greetings from Innoshima, the birthplace of Honinbō Shūsaku!
Last Thursday, me and my friend Kurt, who is generously accommodating me in Tōkyō, went out of our way to visit the Shūsaku memorial hall in Innoshima; you could call this a go player’s pilgrimage of sorts. Those of you who have read the manga, Hikaru no Go, might remember Hikaru’s visit to Innoshima in search of Sai. Innoshima is located near the south coast of Honshū, Japan’s biggest island, between Ōsaka and Hiroshima. The distance between Tōkyō and Innoshima is close to 700 kilometres, which translates to a four-hour train trip. Last Thursday was actually a Japanese national holiday, which meant that the memorial hall was closed; what we did was travel to south of Ōsaka and spend the night there at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), and we then continued to Innoshima early on Friday morning.
After taking some local trains and a local bus, we finally arrived on the island of Innoshima, and were greeted by this kind of a view:
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:
Just to get the number of Japan-related photos up, here’s also one from the Nihon Ki-in’s entrance hall:
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.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.