July 13th, 2004


Going, going ... go !

For some unknown reason, my interest in playing Go has reawakened. It's possibly because I don't have a PC to play Civ II on, of course. I started by grabbing a Go client (called, oddly enough, "Goban"), which has GnuGo built in. I played a couple of games against the computer (note: yes, dmw, this is a bad, bad thing to do. I'm out of wrist-slapping range, though :-) ) - and promptly lost them. I played a couple more, giving myself some handicap stones. Ah. I lost those too. I added a few more handicap stones and managed to win, eventually. (Note that unlike solvable (Othello, draughts) or brute-forceable (chess) games, Go is very hard for computers, and losing to them is rather embarrassing if you consider yourself to have any playing ability at all). Fortunately, some basic strategies were coming back to me, and I spent a little more time reading positions through, and I started beating the computer at even games.
The next move was to start playing on IGS, which I did tonight. I rated myself conservatively, at 20 kyu [1] , because a) when I last played regularly and had a rating, it was 10 kyu, but b) that was in Australia, where go ratings are apparently a little inflated compared to the rest of the world, and c) I'd fairly rapidly moved from 13 kyu to 10 kyu, and a decent losing streak could easily have dumped me back down to 13, and d) IGS is known to be quite strong in its rankings, and e) it's been around 8 years since I regularly played Go. I managed to win a few games, even, although in one case, it was because my opponent didn't notice that I'd put 12 stones under threat and played elsewhere, and in a 13x13 game (games are normally played on a 19x19 board) I killed a corner group because my opponent made just the wrong shape and I found the right sequence to kill it. I now have urges to either go berserk buying Go books (the British Go Association seems to have, or read lots of things from the Sensei's Library , or maybe just playing a bunch of games on IGS and seeing how I go (hopefully upwards).

[1] For amateur players, rankings start at 30 kyu and progress to 1 kyu, then move to 1 dan, and can progress to 6 dan (some competition winners have been declared to be 7 dan, I believe). Professional Go players only have dan rankings, from 1 to 9, and it is generally considered that a 1 dan pro is around the same strength as the stronger amateurs. These days, lots of professional players play on IGS, sometimes using accounts with a "pro" ranking which isn't in the normal rating system, but sometimes using normal rated accounts, starting at 6 dan, and playing their way up to 9 dan (or higher).
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