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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Nihon Ki-in awards ceremony and Mimura-sensei’s present

As I tweeted earlier, last Tuesday I went to see Nihon Ki-in’s annual awards ceremony. The Japanese year starts on April 1, and so the ceremony is fittingly held towards the very end of the year. The ceremony consisted of speeches by important people, giving the Ōkura Kishichiro prize to a few more aged people, giving prizes for professionals due to highest winning ratio/longest winning streak/most games played/etc., and of course announcing the new professional one dan players (who amounted to six people). Here are the new professionals in a photo:

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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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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 insei games

I’m still in a power-saving mode because I’ve been incredibly busy lately again, but I figured I’d quickly post two of the C class higher-end insei games I’ve played.

The first one here was against the second-ranked insei: this was probably the game that I lost the most badly last weekend. Comments are mostly courtesy of Kobayashi Chizu-sensei, who kindly analysed most of my last weekend’s gamest when we met last Wednesday. She gave me some tasty French cheese and bread as a present, too!

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Endurance training starts

Happy Finland’s Independence Day! Finland is now 94 years old.

Last weekend marked my first negative result in insei training, and quite strikingly so: my result after the weekend was one win to five losses. While losing isn’t especially fun in itself, I do welcome the idea of finally starting to get the tough training I came to Japan for.

There is something mysterious behind my weekend result too, however. During and between Sunday’s games, I remarked that my mind felt for some reason really cloudy, and as of now, I can no longer remember what went through my head during the games themselves — even remembering the games takes quite a bit of effort now, which is not usual for me. The last game of Sunday, which was against my nemesis, Fujiwara, was pretty much completely dominated by me up to the very last dame, where I for some reason missed the simplest of atari, turning an 8-point win into an 8-point loss. Ouch! I’m not sure, but it might be that I wasn’t in the best physical condition to play; whether this hunch of mine is correct or not, I’m next going to improve on my physical fitness and see if that’ll make a difference.

All that’s left, after that, is to cast aside winning and losing from my mind, and focus on the search of the best move.

For the more worried readers, my game is definitely not in a slump. I’m performing as normal at wbaduk 8 dan level, and also beat a professional 4 dan player at a go salon just last Friday. All this goes to say that the stronger C class insei really are something else!

My weekly go schedule has gotten ever more full. From now on, I’ll be going twice or thrice a week to Mimura-sensei’s go dojo in Ichikawa; normally on Monday an Wednesday, but on Fridays as well whenever I’ve the time. Add to that the weekly English lesson, and I’m getting instruction by professionals almost every day!

Mimura-sensei’s dojo has about 10-15 pupils present most days, all of them children — some insei, some not. Along with Mimura junior, who is also in C class now, we’re the two strongest pupils. Daily training consists of league games within the dojo, drilling through go problems, game analysis and teaching games with either Mimura-sensei or a strong amateur instructor. So far I’ve seen two different amateur instructors in the dojo, and I played and beat them both. In both of the games the instructor utterly defeated me in the fuseki, and I’d no chance but to devise a do-or-die attack; in both games, a huge group died as a result. I’ve played Mimura-sensei twice as well, and got all my plans refuted both times.

On today’s agenda I have a visit to the Finnish embassy in Tokyo. I met the Finnish ambassador’s wife two months ago when I received the sponsorship for my insei studies from the Japan-Finland Society, and got an invitation to the embassy’s independence day party as a result. Needless to say, I’m already very much looking forward to the event!

Finally, getting interesting

Long time no write!

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!

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Go of Ten 1st birthday, third week results and first kenkyuukai

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.

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