Hard mode insei training

The May insei leagues started last weekend. I again scored reasonably well with a 5-1 result, which currently puts me on the shared second place (this time with good promotion prospects, as the two insei sharing the place with me have lower positions in the league). Meanwhile in the D class, Leon from Germany performed a little below average with four wins and six losses. On the plus side for Leon, however, he was the first to score a win against one of April’s new insei, who had gotten something like 44 straight wins last month, and who was winning all of his games in the D class as well. For a quick comparison, two and a half years ago I lost three games in the E class. Because the readers no doubt would find Leon’s game interesting, I’m including it along with the English class teachers’ comments in this blog post. Last weekend, the U20 Globis cup was won by the Japanese Ichiriki Ryō 7 dan, a former participant in the Nihon Ki-in English class, and the second place got taken by Kyo Kagen 2 dan, of Taiwanese origin but playing for Japan. If I remember right, I saw a remark in a Japanese go newspaper or magazine that the last time Japan got a double win in an international professional tournament was over ten years ago. It is no wonder, then, that the Japanese go world is currently in high spirits. Last Monday me and Leon went for a visit to the Ichikawa go dojo, owned by Mimura Tomoyasu 9 dan, who was kind enough to invite both of us in. While Leon is returning to Germany already after June, I’m considering if I should continue my regular training in Ichikawa; not only is the dojo an optimal place for studying and its teacher incredibly nice, but it currently also has two B class insei. The only downside is that it takes me some 40-50 minutes to get there. As for the title of the blog post, that is something that came up recently in a talk with my teacher. As this time my goal is to actually become pro (instead of getting more experience like two years ago), my training is of course to be more rigid than before. Instead of just getting good results, I should strive for the content of my games to be good; after showing a few of my last weekend’s games, though 5-1 could hardly be called a bad result, I got a great deal of criticism for my moves and decisions. Finally, I was warned to not accept any compliments that I might hear from other professionals who see my games, as the Japanese have their culture of not speaking their mind in a direct fashion. It is also interesting to see how many mistakes one can still fit into a game even at this level of play. Below is an example from one of my insei games last weekend, which was a fairly comfortable and uneventful win. As I need to include some variations this time around, for a change I will go back to using move diagrams. I am playing white. Antti-insei_fig1 Up to black 17 we have an opening that at least I haven’t seen before. By the time white gets the cut of 14, he seems to have a comfortable position, but white still needs to be careful with his handling of the two top-left corner stones. White 18, while looking like a tesuji for sabaki, is dangerous. It might well be something that could be found in a bloody Chinese or Korean professional game, but it would have to be backed up by a lot of reading; and still, it would be making things unnecessarily complicated for white. Instead— Antti-insei_dia1 White should probably attach with 1 as in Dia 1, after which the sequence up to 8 could be expected, and white could take sente to for example claim 9 on the right side. The top-side result is in general favourable for white like this, apparent when comparing the white top-right corner with the black top-left corner and the white top-left corner group with the black top-right corner group. Antti-insei_fig2 While black found the most severe way to cut white back in Figure 1, black 23 and 25 in Figure 2 are vulgar. Up to 35, white lives easily on the top side with a good deal of territory. I had thought that cutting with white 36 and 38 then would come as a natural continuation, but it is not an interesting way for white to play at all; white’s top-side group gets confined in, and black can make relatively good shape on the outside with 43. Instead of 36— Antti-insei_dia2 White should move out directly with 1 in Dia 2. This way, white could force black to make bad shape with 4 by playing the atari of white 3, and up to white 13, white would live comfortably on both sides. Antti-insei_fig3 Continuing from Figure 2, white attached at 44 to make sabaki on the left side, similar to white 1 in Dia 2. This time black was forced to go back to capture a white stone with 47, and by the time white gets to extend to 52, he anyway lives comfortably. However, in the process black also got thick shape in the centre, so he wasn’t too badly off. White 64 was a simple reading mistake. Instead— Antti-insei_dia3 It was possible for white to connect with 1; even if black cut with 2 and 4 afterwards, white would keep his shape intact with 3 and 5. This way, white is also bound to get A in sente, which means something of a ten-point advantage over the actual game. Stronger readers might notice that black can prevent white A by forcing black B, white C and black D in sente, but in that case black loses the sente block at E, which is bigger. Back in Figure 3, black played tenuki to 65 too early; he should first block at 66 in sente. Now that white got to exchange 66 for black 67 in sente, white profited by about five points. Antti-insei_fig4 The game continued in a relatively normal fashion, as in Figure 4, up to black 75. Black again went for complications there; when white responded with the sabaki move of 76, black again responded in the most severe way with the cut of 77. Up to 85, white was content to fix his shape in sente, going back to connect at 86. Black then again went to challenge white with the tesuji-ish move of 87, forgetting about the endgame technique mentioned in Dia 3. White then found the time to exchange 88 for black 89, which meant a free profit of three points. Antti-insei_fig5 The rest of the game was fairly straightforward. While white’s play was far from optimal, he was still able to capitalize on black’s problems with timing, and by 142 white had generated a lead of almost 20 points. Upon seeing white 142, black resigned. Below is the Eidogo-plugin version of the game.

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Lastly, below is Leon’s game with the prodigy from the E class, along with comments by English class professionals.

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Last weeks in Japan, part 5: returning to Finland

This post will be the last edition of the “in Japan”-tagged blog entries. I would like to remind the readers that Go of Ten will go on even after my stay in Japan, as it also existed long before I left for Japan. In the future, you may expect me to write here tournament stories from all over Europe — and I’ll likely continue publishing game reviews and essays too. Also know that I’m tentatively planning to return to Japan next year to continue my insei studies — it would seem that I’ll be able to continue from C class right upon my arrival, which would save me one to two months’ worth of time.

My last weeks in Japan were full of seeing people that I got acquainted with and telling them goodbye. I had really grown to like studying at the Ichikawa go dojo, as I’d found it was the most effective place for me to get some studying in, and both the students and Mimura-sensei are incredibly nice as well. I gave some moomin-themed mugs for Mimura-sensei as a parting gift, and he in turn told that I’m welcome to come back to the dojo anytime I’m in Japan. As the readers may remember, I already got a great gift from Mimura-sensei. I’m soon finished studying the first book of the twelve-book collection I received — and if I’m following what the novel First kyu teaches, I’ve got to study through the books nine more times. With my current pace, that’s going to take almost twenty years!

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Tsumego of the week, part two

Here comes the latest 30-minute tsumego test we did at the Ichikawa go dojo. I got the highest score out of all the students, but still made a simple misread in the last problem. The problems aren’t actually all that difficult, but a hint may come in handy: remember, search for the best result for both players. That’s what tsumego is all about.

Black goes first in all problems. Sometime later I’ll add the answers as a comment to this post!

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Vernal Equinox Day and Tengen go salon tournament

Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox Day, meaning the day in spring when the day and night are equally long. That’d mean now we are on the better side again, with the day lasting longer than the night! The Vernal Equinox Day is a national holiday in Japan, meaning that people (generally) have a free day from work, and as such most shops are closed as well. While outside, I spotted an incredible number of families taking a walk together with their children — something that you totally don’t see on a normal working day.

Photo down the street right next to where I'm staying. It's not quite summer yet, but the temperature is already in the range of 10°-15° C during the day!

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Visitors, March league begins, English class, NHK interview and team tournament approaching, commented insei game

Yes, the topic does imply that I should write more often. The good news is, I should soon start having more time for it again!

Since the last time I wrote, quite a bit has happened again. My parents came to visit me last Friday, and left back for Finland this morning. Thus, I’ve had a short break from really intensive training, and have taken the time to look around Tokyo again. I’m getting the feeling that having had a short break should be a good thing. I’m not sure how we did it, but in just four days, we visited more or less all the relatively important tourist sites in Tokyo. By our standards, at least. That’s about 80 000 steps walked, too!

Last weekend was the beginning of the March league — I’m still in the middle of C class. I opened badly with one win and two losses on Saturday, but miraculously got three wins on Sunday. Two of those three won games were initially very difficult, but somehow I was able to turn them around. In the third game, my opponent more or less came and killed himself in my moyo — the game was over in about 100 moves.

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Getting all the busier

This time, I’m writing a shorter status update only. There was a nice snowstorm yesterday here in Tokyo — indeed, the snowfall was pretty much at the same level with what we usually get in Finland. In addition to the snow, there was also some thundering, which is something we usually do not get in Finland. A few hours into the snowfall, the ground was all slushy, and even now, some eighteen hours later, it appears there’s some snow left on the ground. Just when I was thinking that I wouldn’t see any snow at all this winter!

Last weekend marked another pretty bad result for me (the last time was in December), with only one win and five losses. I’m not letting it get to me, and instead opt to learn from my mistakes — I find that getting to B class is something that will happen on its own if I actually do learn to play better. Furthermore, if I went to play next weekend with an attitude like “if I win all my games, I’ll get to B class”, I most definitely wouldn’t  make it. While the weekend didn’t go well, yesterday I beat Mimura Jr. (who’s in B class) quite easily at the dojo, meaning that I cannot really be in a slump or anything.

As of late, as the topic also implies, I’ve been having more and more things to do. Last week, I went to the Mimura go dojo on three days, and adding the insei weekend and our English class to that, I had only one purely free day. It’s not like these blog texts are quick to write, either, especially if I’m preparing a text with go diagrams. I’ve also the Nordic Go Academy to co-run all the while, and the Finnish Go Association’s new website to plan. While on the other hand that could sound like a lot to do, I prefer being busy over getting bored.

Adding to all the rest, tonight I’ll be playing a game in the Pandanet European Team Championship. On this round, Finland will face Israel, which appears to be the most decisive match in the B league. Hopefully many of my readers will come enjoy the match! Note that my game with Ali Jabarin is played earlier than the others, at 17:00 CET, because I’m located in Japan and Ali in Korea. This means the game will start at 1 AM my time, but I’m planning to do my best nevertheless.

If all goes well, I’ll write another blog post or two tomorrow, or the day after. The Weekly go magazine had “ten most popular joseki” in this week’s edition, and I’ve also something game-related to post from last weekend.

New year, new tricks

I’ve yet to wish happy new year for my readers, so here goes: Happy new year! I’m not sure if the topic’s “new year, new tricks” is actually used in English — I translated it directly from the Finnish saying. The meaning is still obvious enough, even if the saying didn’t originally exist in English!

I spent a two-week break from the Christmas up to new year not really playing go. An exception, I visited the Mimura dojo on December 26 in the middle of my break to give Mimura-sensei a Christmas present, two moomin-themed mugs and some Finnish chocolate. As usual, then, I did some tsumego there and played a few games, and that time got mercilessly defeated by the fellow insei. As a Finn, I was honestly surprised that the dojo was gathering even during what would normally be Christmas holiday. And it wasn’t only that; normally the dojo is open from around 4 PM to 9 PM, but since the children had a break form school, the dojo was open from all the way from 9 AM to 8 PM. I got around to thinking what would happen in western countries with a similar dojo: probably both the teacher and the students would go: “Oh, it’s holiday now, I’d rather just sit back and not do anything”, and then there would be nothing ventured and nothing gained. I don’t have anything against relaxing a bit here and there, but I find there’s something really wrong in the western countries’, at least Finland’s, attitude towards holidays, as if “being able not to have to do anything” was a state that people should strive for.

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C class third week update

As some of you may already have read from my Twitter page, I got three wins and three losses last weekend. It’s easiest if I just show the photo of the results sheet now that I managed to take one:

The photo’s quality is again a little bit bad: I lost to insei 11 by half a point, and to insei 2 by 2.5 points. Yesterday, at the Mimura dojo, I played a dojo league game against Mimura junior and lost by 1.5 points — all of these losses seem to be caused by my donating away free points in the endgame! Some endgame training is definitely in order. I did also play a 10-second game against Mimura-sensei yesterday, and the game stayed quite interesting until early endgame, when I finally messed up and lost any hope of a close game. Also, as I wrote just a bit ago, I also got a nice tsumego collection to work out from Mimura-sensei.

Seeing from the results so far, it now seems impossible for me to rise to B class next month, as I’ve way too many losses. I’ll be working my hardest not to drop to D class instead!

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Insei tsumego, part 2

I was at Mimura-sensei’s go dojo again, yesterday. This time he nicely printed me a set of 110 go problems with seemingly basic shapes, for some good regular training. I’d seen other insei having similar stapled tsumego collections earlier, and this was the first one I got for myself! I’m not exactly sure what kind of a convention the dojo has with these, but just as a precaution, I’m thinking of doing all the tsumego by the next time I go to the dojo. Better to be an overworker than a slacker!

Here’s a photo of the tsumego collection, named 山田の詰碁2, Yamada no tsumego 2, and a excerpts from inside. This time, the problems are much less inhuman, and I’d imagine stronger kyu players can get them right as well. There are some recurring shapes here, completely on purpose. I again compiled the problem diagrams with jGoBoard.

Edit evening 13th December: All problems are black to play.

Yes, those are the page numbers up there. Yes, all the pages are similarly full of problems.

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