Friday, December 22, 2006

Now I'm 18K...and 1K...

Well, the American Go Association's new ratings are out, and my rating is finally up to 18 kyu! I was 10-7 in tourneys I entered as 19 kyu. I hope I can do well enough at my new ranking to earn another promotion. I was going to enter one last weekend, but the lack of a new ranking, combined with being exhausted after getting back from China with a cold, dampened my enthusiasm enough to keep me from going. My next tournament will either be the end of January (if I feel like driving down to Richmond) or the beginning of February.

In other news, I've earned Premier Executive 1K status on United Airlines. What is 1K status? Well, originally United only had two characters to signify status, so 1K=100K=100,000 miles. I like to think of 1K as "1 thousand hundred miles". So did I really fly 100,000 miles this year? That seems like a lot (around the world 4 times). Not really. United gives a minimum of 500 miles for each segment flown. That policy padded my stats a little, but the real bonus is the 150% credit for first and business class. (There was one penalty, where if you take a 1-stop, United only gives you credit for the direct routing. That cost me 70 miles.) I added everything up, and by the end of the year (after flying back from Arizona), I will have actually flown "only" 95,960 miles. The new status is, I think, what got Christina and me upgraded on our flight out here to Arizona, so it already seems to paying dividends.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Almost Famous

Right now, if you go to the home page of the Gazette newspapers -- suburban Maryland community papers -- you'll see that the number one newsmaker is yours truly. Well, to be more honest, I was one of the more local competitors. Others were quoted in the associated article.

I ended up going 2-3 at the tournament...which was a relief after losing my first 3 games (including the one pictured). That's a total of 5-4 over the two weekends, which I'm hoping is enough to raise my rating up to 18 kyu, rather than the 19 kyu where I've been stuck since May.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Weekend of Gaming

I had quite the 3-day weekend of game-playing. On Friday and Sunday, I went to EuroQuest, a board gaming convention north of Baltimore.
I am trying to catch up with the modern web. Instead of posting most of the pictures here, I'm putting them in a web album which you can see by clicking above. I had a good time at the tournament, playing a couple of new games as well as some old favorites. I qualified for the semi-finals of the Puerto Rico tournament. At that point, I discovered that I was not into the whole tournament experience as much as the rest of the players. I probably would have been happier sticking with "open gaming".

One of the odder experiences I had at the tournament was running into three brothers who went to my high school, including one I who was my debate partner at the 1987 debate nationals. Of course, I also ran into two other people from my high school, but seeing Paul and Martin is a more expected, but still enjoyable, experience.

I left early on Friday because Christina and I had been invited to a surprise 40th birthday party for someone. The gaming tie-in there is that people started playing Karaoke Revolution. Christina and I did a duet of Love Shack -- fortunately the female lead has more lyrics, so we were able to complete the song.

On Sunday, I participated in the first UMBC go tournament. I came in first in the weakest division with a 3-1 record and took home a book as a prize. I think I moved up from 19 to 18 kyu there, so I'll have to study the book hard if I want to do well at next weekend's tournament.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My rating did what now?

Well, the new American Go Association ratings are up. After my 3-1 record at the last tournament, my rating went from 19.0 to...19.1? (That's a drop, for those who aren't familiar with the rating system.) I'm still 19 kyu, just as I have been since May. (My 2-2 record in Richmond in June moved me from 19.3 to 19.0.) Given that my opponents went 3-7 in games not involving me, strength of schedule definitely hurt me. And I can consult AGA ratings FAQ question #8, "I was 3 and 2 in my latest tournament, yet my rating actually went down! What kind of a crazy system is that?"

I probably won't make it to a tournament again until late October. I'm hoping to study and improve by then. I guess at that point, I may have the choice between entering at 19 kyu and having a good shot at another trophy, or entering at 18 kyu and having a shot at kick-starting my rating. We'll see.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Winning Record

Well, we got back from San Diego pretty late Friday night. On about 4 hours of sleep, I picked up my friend Paul and headed for a go tournament. This one was called the "Congress Tune-Up", as it comes a few weeks before the 2006 US Go Congress. Though I won't be attending, it seemed a good way to build on my 2-2 record from the Virginia Open.

My first game was against a 20-kyu player. Since I'm now at 19 kyu, I gave him a one-stone handicap...that means he went first, but I didn't get any points as compensation (except for half a point to break ties in my favor). The game went very smoothly for me. At one point, I thought I saw a subtle attack that started with putting a large group of his stones in atari. He didn't notice the atari, however, so I was immediately able to take the large group of stones. After I successfully killed off an invasion of his, the outcome was obvious, and he resigned. (Paul later beat the same player for his first win of the tourney...proving that this guy just couldn't handle Arundel High.)

My second game was against a 27-kyu player. I had to give him 8 stones, which seemed like a lot...I'm not used to playing white (being the higher ranked player). My opponent played very slowly and conservatively. We got into a long, drawn-out ko fight. We didn't resolve that fight, but I tried invading a corner he controlled. He blundered, and I successfully took it over, killing about 30 of his stones in the process. He was running out of time, but he finally resigned, conceding there was no way to turn the tide.

My third opponent entered at 21 kyu. She seemed confused about how the handicapping system works...I had to explain that she got two stones, but had to put them in specific locations. She started her play with a couple of unorthodox moves, which made me fear that she had no idea what she was doing and that the game was going to be a pushover. After a while, though, I realized she was in pretty good shape in the game, and when she pulled off a fairly advanced maneuver called the "monkey jump", I knew it would be hard to win the game. I used up more time in that game than any other I've played, and at the end it looked pretty close. When we counted things up, it was 44 to 44 -- a tie, just like my last game in Richmond. But this time, I was playing white and won the tie, so I was off to a 3-0 start!

My final game was against a 15-kyu kid I lost to in May. I ended up losing that one by 4 stones. Close, but after the rest of the day, I couldn't complain too much.

When the tournament director posted the final results, I was in first place in the upper-mid kyu division (consisting of four players), so I got to go home with a trophy and a prize (a vase). Not bad. Undoubtedly this will push me to 18 kyu, so I'll have to get better if I want to keep tasting victory. The next tournament I know of is in late October, so I've got plenty of time!


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Go Update

It's been a while since I did my last update of my online go ranking. At the time, I was 22 kyu. Since then, I've been enjoying playing face-to-face go more and on-line go less. I had almost entirely stopped playing on-line until I discovered I could now play against a computer program. That works well, because I can play as little or as much as I'd like in a sitting.

After many ups and downs (including hitting 19 kyu a couple of times), I am back at 21 kyu. That's as a result of losing a close loss last night to the computer program. I'm sure I'll bounce back.

In the real world, I finally won my first match at a Richmond go tournament in June. Amusingly enough, it was against the same opponent who delivered my first loss this spring. Since I was now 19 kyu and he was 15, I got a 3-stone handicap, compared to our earlier even game. (According to the way the tournaments I've been in before work, it would have been a 19-15=4 stone handicap, but this used a computer program that was a little different.) With about 5 stones left to play, my opponent resigned. I guess he figured I wasn't going to make any stupid mistakes that would let him back into the game.

My second game was a 3-handicap game against a 14 kyu player. (If you win, the computer keeps making your matches harder until you lose.) I made plenty of stupid mistakes in that one. In the end, I made more than my opponent, and he won by 25.

My third game was a 6-stone handicap against a 12 kyu player. After the pairings were announced, my opponent from the previous match came up to me and said, "I know this guy. You can beat him. Just don't make any stupid mistakes." So I played very conservatively...I noticed the other guy was, too. Whenever I made the slightest
aggressive move, he went to defend. So with both of us playing conservatively, and me with a 6-stone handicap, I won easily. We started counting, but quit when we realized I was ahead by more than 50 points.

My last game was an 8-stone game against a 10 kyu. The game went back and forth. First he killed a bunch of my stones, then I killed some of his (not supposed to happen against a 10 kyu!), then he invaded some of my territory that I had defended poorly. When we counted it up, we were dead even. We counted again to make sure. In a tournament, ties go to the higher ranked player (he had, after all, given me 8 stones handicap), so he won by half a point.

That was particularly harsh, since 3 victories would have won me two books. Still, one of the games I had lost was a particulary hard one, so when the dust settled my ranking went from 19.3 kyu to 19.0. So I can still enter the next tournament as a 19 kyu. I'm hoping to study up and go 3-1 or 4-0. After all, winners there not only get a prize, they also get a trophy!


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Perfect Record

Well, I played in another go tournament today. My record is still unblemished by a victory.

My first game was against one of my opponents from my previous tournament. Since I had regressed to a 17 kyu ranking, and she had advance to 15 kyu, I got a two-stone handicap. It didn't help -- the same result. She cordoned off a massive amount of territory, I tried a desperate invasion, it failed, and I resigned. She ended the tournament undefeated, so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad.

My second game was against a 15-kyu kid. I played more respectably and lost by 32 or 34 stones (I can't remember). I feel like I was a few mistakes away from winning that game.

My third game was something else entirely. I played against a kid who entered at 35 kyu. That meant I had to give him an 18 stone handicap. I didn't even know what that looks like. (The most I had played with online was 10, and the most I had played in the tournament was previous two games.) After some consultation, we came up with the following diagram:

The more observant among you may notice that there are only 17 stones in the diagram. They couldn't figure out where to put the 18th stone. So they decided black could go first (normally reserved for white) as the 18th stone. Now, even if you don't know how to play go, if you recognize that the object of the game is to use stones to surround territory, you realize that black starts with a lot of territory almost surrounded. If I played an 18 stone handicap game against a 2 dan, I'm fairly confident I could pull that off.

But I almost did win despite the handicap. I made one mistake late in the game that allowed my opponent to win by around 30 stones.

The fourth game was much like the third, but this time I had to give my opponent only 15 stones handicap. Once again, I lost by 30 stones. This opponent also finished the tournament undefeated.

So I stand at 0-8 in competitive go. Despite all this (or perhaps because I'm hungry for a win), I am itching to play again. I'll drop to 19 or 20 kyu after this tournament, and I'll have an even better chance -- right?

I've been selling Christina on the idea of spending a weekend in Richmond next month for the Virginia Open. Winning (or losing) is not guaranteed, but a report here either way is.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pictures from a Go Game

Here are some pictures from the Cherry Blossom Tournament taken by my third opponent. (I'm playing black here.)

My opening wasn't too bad...because of my bad experiences having groups killed in the first two games, I took a conservative approach, opting for enclosures rather than approaching my opponent's corners. In general, this is not a bad approach, but in retrospect this was a mistake for me. It's not the way I usually play, so I ended up in an unfamiliar configuration.

I think the second picture shows where things started to go wrong. I haven't really staked out any additional territory. I have broken up White's territory on the left, and I'm starting to make some territory on the top, but in the mean time, White has made some solid territory on the left.

The third picture shows that I have made some territory along the bottom, but not as much as White did on the right.

In the fourth picture, I've conceded too much of the right to White. He's built up a solid territory there that's going to prove the difference in the game.

The fifth picture shows an abortive invasion I made on the right, but it was really too late at this point.

In the end, White had about 80 points on the right, which is about as much as I had in all of my territory combined. We didn't even bother to count the final score. Looking back, I am not as displeased as I was at the time. I did a few nice things in the game. I like the way I broke up the territory on the left, and I did a decent job of building territory -- just not enough.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

How Do I Rate?

Greetings from Germany! It's my first time here (besides the Frankfurt airport) since '72. I had hoped to post some pictures, but while I brought my camera to the Internet cafe, I appear to have left the cord back in the hotel room. Sigh. Hopefully I'll remember to download the pictures to the laptop tonight so I can upload them tomorrow.

Recently, I told you of my (mis)adventures in the Cherry Blossom Go Tournament, which I entered as a 15 kyu. I said, "My understanding of the ratings is that I will be bumped down from 15 kyu to something worse...17?" Well, the new ratings are out and guess what -- I'm a 17 kyu (closer to 18 than 16). To a certain extent these ratings are nonsensical -- since I lost all my games (and since the score of the game doesn't get reported), for all the rating system knows, I'm really a 35 kyu who resigned all my games. But it takes the (reasonable) assumption that people are probably somewhere near their first guess. So "17 kyu" is the answer to the question of, "What's the most likely rating of someone who enters as a 15 kyu and loses all of his games?" So I have a starting point for next month's tournament, which I hope to enter.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Cherry Bomb

All the time I've lived in this area, I had never been to the Cherry Blossom Festival...until Saturday. I still haven't gone to see the cherry blossoms, however. As mentioned previously, I signed up for a go tournament -- the Cherry Blossom Tournament.

After discussions with players at the local club, I entered as a 15 kyu. This seemed a little bit ambitious, as I am only a 21 kyu online. Nevertheless, it seemed better to enter at a better ranking than I deserved, and lose all my games than enter at too weak of a rating and consequently take home a prize.

Well, good thing I felt that way, because I ended the day 0-4. 15 kyu was too ambitious, but not incredibly so. In fact, it looked like I won the last game by 2 points until I reminded my opponent that she got 7.5 points komi (compensation), so she won by 5.5. If I had entered as a 16 kyu, she would have only gotten 0.5 komi, so I would have won by 1.5. So 16 kyu would have had me as 1-3, and 17 kyu would have given me multi-stone handicaps against the same players (or no handicap against weaker players)...

My understanding of the ratings is that I will be bumped down from 15 kyu to something worse...17? I don't know. So I may enter a tournament in May at that level and try to bring my rating back up again. I figure eventually I'll find my level, then each game should be at least an even proposition...better than that if I'm improving. So I guess I'll just wait a week or two for the results to post and see where my ranking ends up.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Go: February in Review

Wow...I haven't been posting much lately. In fact, my "January in Review" post was only two posts ago.

Anyway, despite a brief drop into 25 kyu territory, I ended the month basically up 2 kyu, at 22 kyu. This is pretty much my all-time high, so yay for me.

Highlights of the month were a victory over an American 19-kyu (with me getting 5 stones), a victory over Ben -- then 25 kyu, giving 2 stones, and a victory over a British 24-kyu player in an even game. The last victory was when my opponent ran out of time, but I felt I was getting the better of the game.

Lowlights were losses to a pair of Germans (on the same day) a 16 kyu who beat me despite giving me 7 stones, and one a 25 kyu who beat me with my giving a 2-stone handicap.

I dropped to 0-5 in the Dragon Tourney 2006 with a loss in an even game to a Dutch 19-kyu player. (I was actually 0-4 at the end of January, not 0-3 as I reported.) That leaves 3 games to go. Two of my opponents haven't moved in over a month, which is annoying. The other game should finish up pretty soon.

For the month, I was 9-5 in 19x19 games. I was 8-8 in 13x13 games and 0-1 in my lone 9x9 game.

In the real world, I've signed up for a tournament in a couple of weeks -- but it looks like I should save that for a later post.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Go: January in Review

To pace myself on my Go updates, and because the rating graphs naturally break into month, I'm switching to monthly updates of my Go ranking. I started January in the low 22 kyu range, briefly dropped to 25 kyu, before bouncing back to low 23 kyu. Actually, that bounceback happened on Feb. 1, so I'm not sure how this graph is drawn. Not counting that last win, I was 8-12 in rated games in January, which accounted for the rating drop. My best two wins were a very close win on an even game versus a French 21-kyu player, and a 9-handicap game versus an American 13-kyu player. The 13-kyu player actually resigned the game after making a mistake, but suggested I was playing much better than my rank. Of course, that would not explain my worst loss, an even game versus a Belgian 25-kyu.

I'm 0-3 in the Dragon Tourney, which is unfortunate. I hope not to get completely shut out, which I think would be good, given that I am the lowest ranked player in my pool.

All in all, the drop of a kyu or so in January wasn't too bad. I had climbed fairly rapidly at the end of last year, and I'm happy to see I'm still hanging out in the low twenties. My goal is to maintain this and make a push for the teens (aka DDK). Once that happens, I get to change my description for "beginner" to "advanced beginner".

I have a bunch of Go books to read right now that look really helpful. I've discovered, however, that when I'm casting about for something to read, it's easier to pick up a science fiction book than one of the Go books, which are almost like textbooks. So I'll probably slow down on the science fiction and turn more to the Go books.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Go Up, Go Down

After a shaky start, my December go experience turned out rather well. I finished 18 more games in the rest of December -- I'll skip the game-by-game recap. I was 14-4, although two of the wins were in unrated games and two were in games that didn't count because the opponent never showed back up after the first 4 stones were placed.
So 10-4 in rated games was enough to send me briefly to the heights of 22 kyu.

I am, however, 2-4 in 2006, with all the games rated. These losses included three that should have been close to even for a 25kyu player. As a result, I'm now hanging on the upper edges of 25 kyu myself.

The new year also brought the start of Dragon Tourney 2006, an on-line tournament that I had forgotten I signed up for. I'm the lowest rated player in my bracket. It's a reduced-handicap tournament, so I find myself at a little bit of a disadvantage in most of the games. (Conversely, losses will affect my rating less and wins more.)

I brought some go books out here to Arizona to read on vacation, but I've mostly been sticking with science fiction so far. I guess if I want to get back to 22 kyu, I should probably crack the books open.


Monday, December 12, 2005

This Week in Go: A Series of Unfortunate Events

My prediction last week that my Go rating would drop to 25 kyu before it hit 23 kyu came to pass. (Well at least the part about 25 kyu.) After I typed that, I lost six games in a row, for a total losing streak of seven. (The graph above represents the month of December to date.)

I started out by losing an even game to an American 21 kyu player. Because of the difference in rating, that didn't hurt me too much. Then I lost a 5-handicap game to a Dutch 15-kyu player. The handicap was not enough to account for the difference in ratings, so again, I lost less than 20% of a kyu. I dropped a 13x13 game to Ben. The handicap I had given him (based on our ratings at the time the game started) was probably too high -- I'm not that much better than him. The smaller board kept the ratings bleeding to a minimum.

I had started a bunch of games when I headed to India -- I needed something to pass the time. The first of those that finished was an even game I lost to a Swedish 21-kyu player. Again, the rating difference kept the loss to 20% of a kyu. The next loss -- a 3-handicap game to Ben -- hurt the most. I was up by around 50 points near the end of the game. If I had just played r10 with move 202 (instead of passing), I would have won easily. Instead, I lost by 28. Sigh. I then lost again to the aforementioned American 21 kyu (now a 20 kyu). The widening gap led to a loss of only 7% of a kyu for this even game.

The second "Indian game" that concluded was a 3-handicap game against a Japanese 27 kyu. At this point, the ratings difference was less than 2 kyu -- yet I had given him 3 stones. Thanks to a late invasion, I won by only 2 points! My reward was a whopping 58% of a kyu -- that uptick you see at the end of the graph.

My experience represents a nice feature of the rating system. In some sense, it's self-correcting. A 20 kyu who loses 10 even games to 20 kyu won't find himself dropped by the same amount each time. After a while, he'll drop to 21 kyu, 22 kyu, and the rating system will see these as reasonable losses and punish him less.

I have a few upcoming games I know I will win, and a few I know I will I don't know what to expect, except more volatility!


Monday, December 05, 2005

Movin' on Up

As previously mentioned, I am learning the game of Go. It's a very complex and intricate game, despite its simple rules.

One of the attractions of the game is having a clear ranking system. The top amateur players are dan (pronounced "dahn") ranks. These roughly correspond to "greater than black-belt" ranks in martial arts. They range from 1 dan all the way up to 6 dan. (Professional ranks are confusingly also dan, although a professional 1 dan is better than an amateur 6 dan -- most of the time.)

Below the dan ranks are the kyu ranks. 1 kyu is the top sub-dan rank, and the higher the number, the worse the player. Different on-line ranking systems have different upper limits -- I've seen 22 kyu to 35 kyu. My favorite go server puts the most novice players at 30 kyu.

One of the great things about Go is how easily it can be handicapped between players of different abilities. For every difference in rank, a player gives (or gets) roughly 1 handicap stone. So a 2-dan player would give a 4-kyu player 5 stones handicap, a 24-kyu player would get 3 stones from a 21-kyu player, etc. (Beyond 9 stones, the difference in rank is generally too great to handicap properly.)

I probably should have started out as a 30 kyu player, but based on my reading of the instructions, I set myself at 27 kyu. As you can see from the graph below, it took a couple of months of losing games for me to end up at 30 kyu. Fortunately, my stay there lasted less than half a day. Ever since then, I've been climbing, if unsteadily. Right now, I'm 24 kyu.

These ratings are based on the results of games versus other players on-line. They fluctuate as I win and lose. One of my biggest jumps came when as a 28 kyu, I beat a 26-kyu player. My biggest drop came when as a 27 kyu, I lost to a 29-kyu player. These ups and downs diminish as time goes on, and the server gets a more definite idea of my ranking. They also depend on the handicap in the game. If a 25 kyu beats a 20 kyu, but has gotten a 5 handicap -- that's expected, so the drop is not as great as if it were an even game.

As of today, I'm 24 kyu. On the one hand, I'm happy -- that's definitely much better than where I started. On the other hand, I've put a lot of effort into trying to get better, and still haven't moved beyond the "beginner" ranks. " usually thought of as 20k or weaker."

I just started up a bunch of games...almost 20 in the past week. So my rating will fluctuate even more in the coming weeks. Hopefully more up than down -- eventually. I can already see several games in which I am in clear jeopardy, so I fully expect to see 25 kyu again before I hit 23 kyu. So I'll play some more games, read some books, and try to get better.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Wacky Idea

While playing Go on my new favorite Go server, I remarked to Paul that
I was thinking that would be an interesting idea for an e-mail client -- every message would be associated with a Go (or chess or whatever) move. In some sense, that's a lot more natural than firing off random e-mails whenever. (Unless, of course, you have something important to say, and it isn't your move.)

I think there's something to the idea, but probably not exactly as I've described it. Interested in discussing it? Sign up on the server and invite me to a game. (My user name's "Jonboy".)


Thursday, April 21, 2005


I've started learning Go. I've played a few games against Christina on-line at BSW, and one against Paul on I'm still trying to figure out the scoring. Can anyone help me understand the scoring of the game below? (Apologies for the image quality.) The shaded region shows what white and black control at the end of the game. Any idea what method was used to determine that?