Japan plans and the Nordic Go Academy

In exactly three weeks, I’ll be arriving in Tokyo for my insei period. Most of my preparations, including getting the visa, are done with, although I still lack a proper insurance, as well as barefoot running shoes for the winter. I haven’t studied Japanese quite as much as I would have liked to, so far, but even if I’m a bit late on that part now, I can catch up the hard way when in Japan. Having studied Japanese well before my plan to become insei, I could understand Takemiya-sensei’s lecturing in Japanese quite well in the European Go Congress in Bordeaux, so I shouldn’t have big problems in Japan on that part.

From what I’ve heard, while the insei only formally assemble in the weekends, there appear to be study group meetings during the weekdays as well. If I remember correctly, the numbers were something like at least five meetings month, but if I want to go to as many as possible, up to three times a week is possible. Add to this any teaching I may do, and some self studying, and my weekly schedule is fairly full already.

Another thing that I have yet to work on is how exactly I plan to continue teaching go while in Japan. Practically all of my students so far have been westerners, but with something like a seven-hour time difference and the fact that my weekends are always full, it’s looking somewhat difficult for me to keep holding internet lessons. For this reason, I’m right now working with Jeff and Juri on our Nordic Go Academy project, to get it well enough known in go public to ensure a constant, sizable pool of students. Offline reviews at the moment seem like the best way to continue doing go teaching while in Japan. For those interested, our September league is starting this weekend (with October 1-2 being counted as the last September league weekend, as October has five weekends), and we will also have promotional simultaneous games (with a quick review afterwards) with the students every Friday at 21 PM CET. Our website will be updated shortly about the September league.

Insei application, confirmed

Here’s in a nutshell:

Dear Antti,

We are pleased to inform you that The Nihon Ki-In admits you to study as insei student in The Nihon Ki-In from October 2011.
Insei teachers have checked your Kifu and your application form and you have passed their criteria.

It didn’t seem to be very uncertain at any point of time, but it’s still very nice to get the formal confirmation. It seems I’m off to Japan in late September for sure!

Short and long-term future plans

As some of the readers may already know, unless something goes badly wrong, I’m set to go to Japan next September to become insei for about eight months. According to present plans, I would start as insei in October, and return to Finland sometime in early May. I won’t be able to participate in the Nihon Ki-in professional exam during this time period, as that exam starts in the summer, but I’ll see if I can take a shot at the Kansai Ki-in professional exam for western players.

In addition to my Japan plans, I am also participating in the Experience go in China program again this summer, as part student and part teacher. Of course, I’ll also be going to the European Go Congress 2011 in Bordeaux. So, even before becoming insei, my schedule will be packed full with go activities.

While in Japan, I’ll continue to teach on the internet to make sure I’ll get by. The insei train only on two days a week, so in terms of schedule this won’t be a burden — I’ll have plenty of time to write about my experiences on this blog, as well!

Quite recently, we thought up a KGS league program together with Jeff and Namii. In the league, the participants play pre-paired games against other participants, and we teachers comment the game a bit later (as soon as we can), offline. Participation in the program takes a minimum of one month. We’re starting next weekend, and for now there are still spots left for players of KGS 1k-3k strength. The introductory price, up to August, is 45e per month, for which the participants play 12 games a month, getting comments to them all — and up to August, also, the teachers will play a simultaneous game against the participants once a week, commenting them as well. Detailed information can be found on the Nordic Go Academy home page.

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!