For this week's go meditation, I am featuring my game from the Pumpkin Classic that I had the pleasure of visiting for a round. This game was an interesting challenge for me since it had been a while since I had played a game in person, let alone play a handicap game. As this is a handicap game where I play White, I hope that my thoughts throughout the game will help you understand better why players sometimes make the moves they do in handicap games. Enjoy!
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the NOVA Pumpkin Classic Tournament and seeing many friends there. And though I originally planned on playing in the tournament that day, I ended up being on call for work and thus planned on only attending to see friends and show my support.
Upon arrival though, I got convinced to play in the first round since we had even numbers. And while I would have liked to have played for more rounds, it was simply not possible for me to do so with a possible work call coming at any moment.
On the upside, I did get to play a round against an opponent I had played against in the Baduk Open Championship. I had decided to self-promote to 1k this time and was giving her a 2 stone handicap. The following is the game record (which I will be sure to review in a future Monday Go Meditation).
When I first walked into the tournament room, I remember staring longingly at the trophies lined up at the front of the room thinking, “Wouldn’t that be awesome if I could bring one of those home one day?” Never in my wildest delusions did I think that it would happen that very day. Nevertheless, there I was, with a 4-0 record and standing with the rest of the winners of the NOVA Pumpkin Classic 2012.
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.
I looked down at the empty board before me and waited for the third round to start. In all honesty, I was still shaken up from the second round despite the pep talk I gave myself at lunch. Part of me was worried that I would play another crazy game that would be disgraceful. Life has a funny way of jostling you out of your mood sometimes, and little did I know, but I was about to be given the spark I needed to get out of my funk.
Anderson and his friend had just checked the pairings list and were making their way into the room. I was still sitting at the table closest to the list, so as Anderson’s friend made his way to his table, he noticed that I was sitting there. He paused by our table for a moment, looked at me momentarily, then turned to my opponent and said, “You be careful! This guy is a wild player!”
I was a bit stunned and embarrassed for a second as I recalled the miserable game I had just played… but then a burning blaze took hold of me and I thought…
“Crazy player huh? I’ll show you how wrong you are about that!”
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…”
My opponent made his first move: upper left star.
I stared at the board as I recalled memories of playing with my friend Nate: the various approaches I tried before, the numerous times he gave me advice as to how he tries to play as white, and how I should try to play as black. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me, because this was not going to be a fun casual Monday night game. This was a game that neither of us wanted to lose. After all, I’m sure that neither of us wanted to start the tournament off with a loss. Nonetheless, only one of us would come out a victor…
In my entire go playing experience, I have only participated in two tournaments: the UMBC Go Tournament (2010) and the New Jersey Open (2011). In both instances, I ended up participating because of friends who encouraged me to do so. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure my lack of confidence would’ve prevented me from doing so. When I recall both tournaments, I remember not doing so well at either. My record was 0-3 at the UMBC Go Tournament and (with confirmation from Nate) 3-2 for the New Jersey Open. (For those thinking that 3-2 isn’t so bad, I recognize that; but I assure you that I don’t recall the greatest feeling about my victories. Can’t say why, but that’s what I can recall.) I’m sad I didn’t blog more about those experiences, so I’m hoping to make up for that with this tournament.
This is a six part series that will be released once per day (excluding weekends). So as the hors d’oeuvre to next week’s entree of daily posts, let the story begin…