EGC report

It’s well past the European Go Congress already, and I myself am back from a short holiday. Even if it’s a bit late, I thought it’d be nice to write about the topmost impressions of my second trip to France, and my fifth go congress.

The congress was situated in a suburb of the legendary city associated with wine, Bordeaux. The suburb, Talence, itself seemed to be a large university campus. The organizers had arranged for several university buildings to function as the congress area — a common solution, if a bit cumbersome. Comparing to all the other congresses I’ve been to so far, the general distance between the congress buildings was the longest. The congress in Villach, 2007, was remarkably good in the sense that everything was under the same roof; it was incredibly easy to find all sorts of activity in case one got bored. In Bordeaux, although the setting was functional enough, many evenings felt somehow hollow. Luckily it was easy enough to get on the tram and travel to the downtown of Bordeaux, which was full of things to see and do. Indeed, Bordeaux provided for some really nice sightseeing:

The water mirror of Bordeaux, likely one of the city's best-known sights.

Continue reading “EGC report”

On the philosophy of go

Good evening! It’s time for some philosophy!

Sorry, Michi, I’ll leave answering to your query for a bit later – the 6-4 corner stone is pretty often seen today – I know many people who use it as well – and I’d like to cover it thoroughly once I start covering it at all. Please be patient for a bit more, in other words. :)

TonyTiger wrote a good number of psychology and go related questions and thoughts on the previous questions and answers go blog commentary section:

I would like to hear your thoughts on the psychological side of Go. It’s almost never covered in go books. In poker it’s very important that you play your A-game all the time. For example you are not supposed to play poker when you are angry or when you are hungry because it affects your game too much. Do you pay attention to this when preparing for an important game or for tournaments? Do you have special techniques to relax? Do you have any silly rituals to boost your tournament spirit?

I would also like to hear your philosophical thoughts on winning a game of go. For example, do you think that the winner wins because he plays better moves or because he plays less worse moves? Or what do you think about the concept of Kami no itte? Do you play the moves that have the best outcome for you when your opponent plays the best response or do you often play moves that gives you advantage only when your opponent fails to “punish” you? What do you think about trick moves in serious games? If you are obviously behind in a tournament game, should you overplay to force your opponent to make mistakes or try to play kami-no-itte-like moves with a risk to lose by a few points? Is winning the most important or is developing your skills more important?

The preparing part of today will be completely philosophical. I have reviewed some pro games, and played a bit as well, but not in the extent that I normally do before tournaments. I do have this way of preparing, as well, as you shall read!

Interlude: I personally kind of have two different playing modes: short-term optimizing and long-term optimizing versions. The short-term mode is used in tournaments, or whenever there’s an important game: then I’m concentrating on winning the single game, and am especially wary of simple mistakes. The long-term mode I use otherwise: in this mode I simply play what seems interesting, and seems to be the best move to me. I also feel a lot less pressured about the game.

As far as I’m concerned, my playing condition has a really big impact on my short-term optimizing mode. A headache, hunger, or similar condition can make it really difficult to concentrate on the game, and to find the winning moves. In the long-term optimizing mode these conditions have a far smaller effect on me – somehow, “finding the best move” is a lot easier than “finding the winning move”. You could even ask if the short-term mode is useful at all for me; my reasoning, right now, is that it is not. As a matter of fact, for the past few months I’ve been training on this, learning to be able to forget the concept “winning” during a game. The results as of now seem pretty good: I can still concentrate on the game and think clearly – on the other hand, if I don’t win, I somehow still feel like I won the game. You can learn a lot from a single game, after all, and learning new aspects about the game helps you improve, which to me is the main goal. In the Rabbity six tournament last weekend I kind of lost my head in my game against Jeff, and became indifferent about the game. This would imply that I have yet not mastered “not winning the game”.

Thus, with my tournament game philosophy now, the way I’m mentally preparing, or relaxing for a tournament, is to get in the mindset of finding the best moves, and forgetting the world outside of the go board. For this, rationalizing the advantages for such action usually is enough for me. In the long term, I believe this should be the most fruitful course of action.

With all this said, I guess the readers can get a general idea of my attitude towards winning the game. With no big mistakes in the game, the winner is the one whose general plan for the game was superior – think of an allusion to war, for example. A bad move in a war can lead to the whole defense of a country crumbling – on the other hand, a good feint at the right moment could positively turn the tide of a battle.

My approach to the game, as to life in general, is positive: I like to count good moves instead of bad moves, and thus, I think the winner is the one that happened to plan better in the single game. Also, as a partial product of this optimism of mine, I tend to play moves that I think are the best, and that according to my knowledge cannot be refuted as “mistakes” or “trick moves”. During a game, I don’t have thoughts like “I’ll do this, since he won’t know how to punish anyway” at all. This way of generalization is a bit obscure, of course, for I do need to try “harder” in handicap games, or if I’m clearly losing an even game. In those cases, I try to make the game as difficult as possible, so that the opponent cannot easily finish it – this means difficult on the whole-board scale. Usually this means so difficult that I cannot keep the game completely under control myself, either. If it’s a single fight, for example in the corner, opponents strong enough would be able to manage quite easily. I resign only once I’m completely sure I cannot win the game.

I’m not quite used to the idea of “kami no itte” (ie. “move of God”). Here’s my thought process now: since the term sounds really flamboyant and cool, I would like to attach it to “playing a perfect game”, which is a concept on its own right. I suppose we will get to the perfect game, eventually, when we have computers good enough to calculate the best moves for each reasonable-appearing game (maybe in 10, or 20, or 50, or 100, or 1000 years). After this course of thought, however, I lose interest in naming something only a computer can do the “move of God”. Also, it says “move” in the name, doesn’t it? Then it should be a single move that gets the name. Now it feels like we’re coming to really obscure meanings, which will definitely vary depending on the person – a matter of opinion, in other words. And now that I’ve come this far in my chain of thoughts, I think I’ll name the “move of God” for myself as a move that deeply inspires a given player – be it a really cool tesuji, possibly a myoushu, or perhaps a move that adds the last nail to the coffin of a struggling opponent and thus wins a game. Remember not to use the term too often, however – otherwise it’ll lose its meaning, and turn to describe a normal “good move”! Maybe one “move of God” per one lifetime per person?