In all my naivety, it never occurred to me that I might end up giving my opponent handicap stones. After all, the majority of the time spent playing online were either even games or against stronger opponents who would give me handicap stones, not the other way around!! To make matters worse, I had spent so much time studying how Black should deal with handicap games that I wasn’t quite sure what to do as White. And as if that wasn’t enough, my familiarity with handicap games extended as far as 3 stones. Now that I was facing an opponent with 4 stones, I couldn’t help but feel the blood begin to drain from my face as I stared down the menacing board.
“All four corners are gone… I don’t even have one corner of influence to work with… I have no idea what I’m going to do…”
As my mind began to race, I tried to calm down as I tried to reverse engineer White’s strategy in handicap games:
- White must play aggressively to negate Black’s advantage.
- White must therefore deviate from standard tactics.
- White must do the best job possible to confuse Black and complicate matters as much as possible.
Okay. I had my strategy now. Rely on my reading abilities to help me kill something and I’ll be able to catch up… (Boy would this get me into trouble…)
After the customary exchange of “Have a good game,” I took a deep breath and reached for my first stone.
First move: keima kakari on the upper right star.
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As we counted the points, I couldn’t help but think about the numerous times I was supposed to die. My opponent, Anderson, had played very well. In fact, he came very close to demolishing me that game. I had overestimated my abilities and underestimated his ability to play great moves and avoid a critical loss. If it had not been for the connection (Move 171), I don’t think I could have won that game. My spirit was already polluted with so much shame at that point that I would have resigned had he cut off the groups properly.
As we moved into the final stages of the game, I noticed that there was a man who was staring intently at our game. When I realized this, I felt an urge to cover the board in order to hide the shameful game that I had played; but we all know that such a thought is silly, so I did my best to focus on the remainder of the game. When the game was over, Anderson was kind enough to offer to eat lunch with me since we were one of the last to finish and I was alone, but I had some calls to make so I had to decline.
I sat outside eating some rice and fries from a local Peruvian restaurant (El Pollo Rico) and stared aimlessly into the distance as I recalled the game I had just played: the miserable moves, the miraculous connection, and the empty victory. I was exhausted, and thoughts about calling it quits even crossed my mind.
Somewhere amidst my pity party, I saw Anderson sitting down to eat lunch with the very man I saw intently watching our game.
“That must be the guy he was telling me about that helps to review his games,” I thought, “No doubt they are probably talking about the game that we just played.”
I felt a bit of envy as I wished that my buddy Nate was with me, just like the time at the New Jersey Open. I knew that if anyone could help knock me to my senses, he could do it. Alas, I knew that it was only wishful thinking. As I sat there, seriously considering the idea of going home for the day, I was reminded of the tagline that I used in my blog at one point, “Embark on an impossible journey with me as I attempt to become a professional go player before age 30.”
I smiled as I realized how stupid I was being. Was this all I was capable of? After all, what kind of pro wins the first two rounds and calls it quits because the last game was not a game that he/she was necessarily proud of? In fact, even if I had lost the first two matches, I want to be the kind of player that who has the strength to overcome his failures and weaknesses and continue to play the best game possible till the very end.
With a renewed confidence, I made my way back to the tournament room and looked at the pairing list for the third round - Ben [8k] vs. Black [9k].
My first even game with +0.50 komi. A chance to prove that the first two games were not a fluke…