American Go E-Journal

The Spirit of Play: “I would have won that game if it wasn’t for the stupid mistake”

Monday November 26, 2012

by Gabriel Benmergui

We have all had this experience in our own games. Right from the fuseki, the game looked to be in your favor, you have the fights in control and the lead is obvious and solid. Then it happens. The self-atari, the missed sequence, the time-pressure mistake. That you could so easily have avoided the mistake only deepens your dissatisfaction and regret.

I can’t tell you how to prevent these mistakes, which even happen to professional players. But there is something you can do about what happens next. The emotional turmoil after such a mistake often causes more losses than the blunder itself. When you’re in control of a game your brain moves like a train. Straight. Direct. Unstoppable. When the blunder happens, it’s like getting derailed. It feels like a total disaster and can cause a great shock. Our sense of the balance of the game gets skewed by nostalgia for the position before the mistake, we get angry and then we play badly.

How many games have you seen where even after a mistake the player who blundered was still winning, but lost perspective, control, and the game? This is about emotional control. It is of utmost importance not to get upset. Controlling your emotions is hard, but is absolutely necessary if you want to win more games. Your resolve must stay steady, and you must always look for the best way to play. You will notice that professionals and ex-inseis have a formidable control over their emotions. The pro system quickly disposes those who don’t handle their emotions well, providing evidence that emotional control counts for a lot more than we may think.

My advice: In any kind of emotional rush during the game, whether due to a mistake or even excitement, I recommend taking a break, even for as little as thirty seconds. The purpose of the break is simply to calm your emotions, control them, get them back in check. It’s just too dangerous to continue playing a game when your perception is blurred by heightened emotions.

Gabriel Benmergui lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentinian Champion in 2011 and 2012, he has studied go in Korea and now runs the Kaya.gs Go Server. photo by Chris Garlock

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