For this week, I'm happy to announce the premiere of my first official three stone handicap game (since turning a new leaf over with handicap games). At this point, my study of handicap games have come to a halt due to a necessity to revamp my training schedule, but hopefully you will still find this game review helpful in your next 3 stones handicap game!
In continuation of the last MGM, today's game is another 2 stone handicap game where I play White and endure a difficult battle. On the upside though, I am happy to report that handicap games are starting to become less fearsome as time goes on. And to clarify, it's not so much that I'm sure that I can win; but I see the handicap stones as more of a complicated obstacle course instead of a huge tower of death where I am sure to lose.
- Title: Kage’s Secret Chronicles of Handicap Go
- Author: Toshiro Kageyama, 6-dan (translated by James Davies)
- Publisher: The Ishi Press, Inc.
- Publication Date: October 1975
- Page Length: 204 pages
- An entertaining book from Kageyama that illustrates handicap go concepts through a conversational style of writing.
- Does not explain handicap go from a traditional textbook like style.
- Appropriate for 5 kyu and stronger.
- Recommended for serious players who already have a foundation on handicap go.
When it comes to handicap games, I think a majority of players would agree with me that it is far more scary to play White than to play Black. With that being said, I thought it would only be appropriate that I started showcasing some of my games as White in handicap games. So, without further adieu, let us start with the easiest handicap game (but still terrifying) you can play as White: a two-stone handicap.
In case it wasn’t apparent to everyone, this week has been entirely centered around boxing analogies along with handicap go. There hasn’t been as many ranked games as I might have liked, but the amount of go I’ve been playing/studying seems to be harmonizing much better with the rest of my life. Still fine tuning a number of things, but just glad to not feel overwhelemed by go anymore.
- KGS - 2 games (2 wins : 0 losses)
- DGS - 2 ongoing games
- Nova - 3 ongoing games
- 20 tsumego problems each day.
- Worked Mastering the Basics: The Basics of Go Strategy.
- Started reading Kage’s Secret Chronicles of Handicap Go.
- When attacking, strike at the vital points while maintaining strength and not overextending yourself.
- It’s okay to let things live or give your opponents points, as long as you are getting more in return.
- Don’t over think your moves in turn based go. Rather than spend hours staring at the screen trying to make the perfect move, you will learn and gain more by playing more games and learning from your mistakes.
As I dive further into handicap games, I’m beginning to gain an appreciation for them. Instead of being something I used to detest and feel powerless to play against, I see each game (regardless of whether I’m Black or White) as an opportunity to prove that I can elevate my game another notch.
When playing as Black, my goal is to maintain a proactive role while keeping an eye on the connections between my groups while ensuring that my attacks are generating profit at the same time. I do not let overplays scare me into spreading myself out to thin which only serves to White’s advantage. In addition, I always try to remember that I don’t need to kill White in order to win. I am already ahead, as long as the territory I gain is more than White is getting, my victory will be assured.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, when I’m white, my goal is is to aim for any weaknesses in my opponent’s strategy and position and exploit them while trying to catch up one point at a time. Contrary to my prior approach to playing white in handicap games, the goal is not to make numerous overplays in hopes of the opponents making some tragic mistake.
In addition, one of the hardest things I have found about playing White in handicap games is that the feeling of being behind can become very difficult to handle at certain points in the game. In fact, I feel like for most of the first half of the game, it’s pretty much an uphill battle the entire time. The crucial point in victory often comes when there are more stones on the board and you can utilize your reading and planning abilities to finally turn the tide.
Anyhow, those are my findings for now. Looking forward to see what else awaits me in the depths of handicap go!
After many months of almost going and then not being able to, I am happy to report that I finally made it out to one of Yuan Zhou‘s monthly workshops. This post is slightly overdue since I went to the November one; but it comes at a right time since the December workshop is right around the corner!
For those who have never been to a go workshop, here’s a high level overview of what you might find:
- In depth review of a game (usually a professional one)
- One round of games (with a main time around 45 minutes)
- Game reviews for the games that were just played
As I arrived at Yuan Zhou’s house, I nostalgically recalled the two lessons that I had taken with him in the past. They seemed so long ago, but I was glad that I was finally back to seriously study the game. As I walked towards the entrance, I felt a little apprehensive as I wondered whether I would be able to gain anything from this workshop since I am so weak; but before I could have any serious doubts, I was greeted by Yuan Zhou and welcomed inside.
I was happy to see that Nate had already arrived, and promptly sat myself next to him as I was told to work on the life and death problem on the board. As we sat there staring at the board, Nate made a comment that made me laugh,
“Two years after Shifu told me someone named Ben might be coming who was close to my level, you’ve finally managed to show up.”
After everyone had arrived, it was time to see if the students had figured it out. As luck would have it, since I was the weakest player there, I was to give the first response. Recently, I had been exposed to some of the quirkier life and death problems that required atypical moves just as making the empty triangle descent and such; so I ended up choosing that move even though I couldn’t quite see the end of the sequence. Sure enough. I was wrong. Haha. Eventually a stronger player gave the right answer, and so we finished up the explanation and moved on to the review of the professional game.
The game we were reviewing was one of Ishida Yoshio and Rin Kaiho‘s games from 1974. Before we even began looking at the kifu however, Yuan Zhou launched into a fascinating explanation of the history behind the game: Go Seigen & Kitani Minoru, the Super Six, the terse feelings of having a non-Japanese player hold both Meijin and Honinbo titles, and so on. While some may wonder how relevant this is to getting better, it is like a cultural tour of this game we all devote so much time to that many often overlook. And if you still aren’t convinced, knowing the history behind the entire game made for a much more exciting review since you have an understanding of the players and how high the stakes are.
After the exciting game review, we had lunch and then proceeded with the afternoon game. Since we had an odd number of players, one of the players recorded my game while I had the opportunity to play. I felt kind of badly that I was playing and the player had to record, so in the future, I think that I would not mind being the recorder instead so other players can play instead. Anyhow, here’s the game record from that afternoon.
Sorry, your browser doesn’t support WGo.js. Download SGF directly.
After all the games were finished, Yuan Zhou reviewed all of the games. If there’s something I learned from that experience, you tend to remember your lessons a lot better when other people are watching the review and seeing the mistakes you made. For example, the one thing that I will remember forever is the Elephant’s Eye (which I’ll write more on at another time). In addition, being able to have both sides of the game reviewed really helps to open you eyes as to what was supposed to work and what wasn’t supposed to work. On top of that, getting to see the game reviews for everyone else’s game was also very helpful.
Although I started out skeptical of what I would gain from the workshop, I am now a huge fan of them. Since most of players will never have the opportunity to be an insei and study go at that level of intensity, I really feel that go workshops are like one day insei experiences. Everyone who attends is committing their time and money, and you can be sure that everyone wants to make the most out of it. In addition, they are spaced out in such a way that you don’t have to worry about information overload. In fact, that’s exactly what you want since the time apart from each workshop allows you to absorb and apply the things that you learned so that you will have new things to learn the next time around.
I highly recommend Yuan Zhou’s workshops if you ever have the opportunity. The next workshop will be December 16th, 2012. If you’re interested in attending one of Yuan Zhou’s monthly workshops, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you there one day!
Both players: 3-0, and I was facing my worst nightmare: another 4 stone handicap game.
In terms of competitive play, this is probably the most intense of all scenarios. Both you and your opponent are aware that only one will emerge victorious, so there is a huge pressure to fight with everything you have till the very end because neither will yield in this kind of game. And as someone who has never been in this situation before, it was an overwhelming feeling that made me shake with anticipation.
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…”