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MICHAEL REDMOND ON STUDYING, IMPROVING YOUR GAME AND HOW THE PROS TRAIN

Monday June 14, 2010

“My study of the endgame actually had more effect on my opening,” Michael Redmond 9P told the E-Journal during a recent interview during the World Amateur Go Championships in Hangzhou, China. Redmond, who this issue becomes a regular game commentary contributor to the E-Journal (Member’s Edition only; click here to join), shared his tips on studying, improving, and thoughts on the differences in professional training in Japan, China and Korea.

Over the last year or so, Redmond has been studying the classic Castle Games,  with special attention to close games. “The result was that I was reviewing very high-quality games, games in which the players were not being greedy, but were going for the balanced moves, and showing very good positional judgment, and I think that reflected onto my game and helped me a lot,” said Redmond. “I’m much more aware of what’s going on.”

Still, Redmond knew he had to focus on improving his endgame. “What happened was that I ended up with this big collection of close games, and I had them in Word and could print them out.” Redmond pulled a small booklet of clipped-together sheets from his pocket. “So what I did last year was to copy game positions about 30 moves from the end of the game. I like the fact that I don’t have the names of the players, because it brings back memories (of the specific players), so it’s better not to be seeing that. I write the result – for instance in this game, White wins by one point – so I have to hold the position in my head and count it, and by doing that, I think I’m improving my reading ability. Not just reading out an endgame, but life and death problems, as well.”

Redmond explained that “The problem is that you can have two endgame moves that are about the same size, but they each lead to a different endgame.” He launched into an analysis involving calculations of moves as small as 1/6th or 1/12th of a point, “so you have very fine points implicit in the seemingly simplest yose moves, including follow-ups and ko threats, which complicate the calculation.” And, he added, “calculating is not good enough; in fact it’s confusing, because there’s no way to see which move is bigger, you just have to read it out, and then it’s very clear. Right now I can do 30 moves, and I have done a 50-move yose.”

Eventually Redmond expects to be able to read out the last 100 moves, “because top players are capable of reading out the last 100 moves in less than an hour. If I can have a picture of what’s happening when I come to the last 100 moves, it’ll make a big difference.” If all of this sounds a bit confusing,” Redmond’s the first to agree, but said that “it shows that just calculating the size of a move, which is what I’ve been doing for years now, is pretty useless. Or I should say it’s useful, but it’s not exact, and it’s the reason why it’s pretty easy to lose a couple of points with that system.”

Asked about how he and other top professional study, Redmond said that “Everyone has their own system,” adding that “I think one of the weaknesses of Japanese go as a whole is that we don’t have any coaches. We all improvise on our own. The Chinese have coaches, and I think the Koreans do too. I think the idea of having coaches is a very good system.” The downside of the coach system that that “it changes the way a person’s game develops at the lower levels, and I think that in China it makes it more difficult (for individual players) to have a lasting strength.”

Conversely, Redmond said, the Japanese system turns out to have a hidden strength, because while Japanese players don’t have an established counter to the new Chinese or Korean moves, “the strength is for the player himself. In all of his personal study, he will be building a feeling for the game, which should last longer. So I think both methods have their strong points.”

Redmond said he doesn’t play much on the internet these days. “I wasn’t sure it was improving my game. It’s very hard to play at my best when I can’t see my opponent; it makes a difference in my feeling for the game. I think I concentrate better if I have an opponent in front of me. And I enjoy it more.” Redmond added that playing in person is the best way to improve your game. “Someone close to your own strength, a little stronger or even a bit weaker. Gives you a different viewpoint. And review your games. “
- Chris Garlock; photos by John Pinkerton

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The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go #5

Monday May 7, 2018

by William Cobb2018.04.07_empty-board-heat map-red

I hope at least some of my readers felt at least a slight twinge at the statement in the last Empty Board (#4): “the player’s ultimate goal, which is of course to win.” If you are talking about the making of decisions about good and bad moves, the criterion is how the move relates to the goal of winning (except in teaching games), but for many players, it is misleading to suggest that they play the game in order to win. Certainly there is a sense in which you are trying to win, but I don’t think I’m the only player who would say that some of my most enjoyable games have been losses. I like to play the game, not just win the game. If we are talking about why we play, it seems more accurate to say that we play to enjoy the amazing challenges of trying to find the best strategy and plays, which may or may not result in our winning. So there are two somewhat different senses in which good and bad come up in go:  1) does this play contribute to victory? and (2) am I enjoying playing this game? This distinction surely applies in life as well. In life, as in go, it’s fairly easy to answer the second question. In life, however, the first question is very difficult to answer with confidence. You decide to play go, so you have some sense of what you are doing and why, but you don’t decide to be born. Maybe if we had a chance to play the game of life more than once, we could figure out what it is all about. In the meantime I recommend trying to play go more often.

photo by Phil Straus; photo art by Chris Garlock

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The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go #8

Wednesday July 11, 2018

by William Cobb2018.07.11-empty-go-board-with-bowls-and-stones-night-vision

Go is like life, but it’s not like every part of life. Take war, for example, or a political election. You may have certain sorts of respect for your opponent in such cases, but you don’t really wish them well. Not only do you want to defeat them, you want to put them in a place where they won’t be a threat in the future. Go is not like this. Instead of wanting to permanently defeat them, you want your opponent to become stronger since that will make for more interesting games. Of course, you hope to become stronger at the same time. Both players are primarily interested in becoming better players. Winning games is part of the path to that end, but so is losing games. Just winning is not the goal we have in playing this game. It is very frustrating to find yourself having to play an opponent who cannot possibly win (being say, ten ranks weaker than yourself in an even game—like in one of my Dragon Go games at the moment). I don’t want to just win; I want to become a better player. Playing even games against much weaker players does not help me learn to play better. And it doesn’t help the much weaker player either, who just gets demolished and has little idea why. I’m happy to help much weaker players by playing handicap games. Those are a teaching process and something we all can benefit from. We should all try to do our share of playing on both sides of handicap games. My main point here is that while I don’t want my opponent to win this game, I do want to have a good challenge and to learn something, and that is more important than winning. Of course, I enjoy winning, but go is an odd game in this regard. I have no interest in leaving my opponent completely devastated. I want my opponent to become stronger so I can do so as well. Please, show me my weaknesses so I can correct them. That’s why the loser so often says, “Thank you for the game.”

photo by Phil Straus; night vision photo art by Chris Garlock

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Save $50, register for U.S. Go Congress before July 1

Tuesday June 26, 2018

If you’re thinking about attending this year’s U.S. Go Congress, register before this Sunday and save $50. The registration late fee2018.06.27_williamsburg increases $50 on Sunday, July 1st. The biggest U.S. go event of the year includes the U.S. Open, a six-day tournament of epic proportions, the U.S. Masters, where top players compete for $12,000 in prizes, lectures, game reviews, and simuls from American and Asian professionals, youth activities and tournaments including the Redmond Cup, a host of tournaments including the U.S. Women’s tournament, Seniors (55+), 9×9, 13×13, Die Hard, and more!

Plus: great evening activities including Crazy Go and Pair Go, teachers workshops, the first-ever Congress workshop to train Tournament Directors, all in a gorgeous location on the campus of America’s second-oldest institute of higher learning, next to Colonial Williamsburg, one of the most-visited tourist destinations on the East Coast.  “Make memories that will last the rest of your life!” say Congress organizers Nate Eagle and Diego Pierrottet.

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Go Spotting: “The Row” film

Monday June 18, 2018

“The Row,” a brand-new short film about life and death, prominently features go. The 16-minute film stars Vondie Curtis-Hall as2018.06.19_TheRow-film a prison warden who plays a final game of go with death row inmate Demetrius Grosse. The film is directed by Philiane Phang. “The filmmakers had chosen a game they thought reflected the situation, but wanted help with some equipment, showing the actors how to play the stones and such,” reports AGA president Andy Okun, who is acknowledged in the film credits.  The game depicted was the famous Honinbo Sansa Kashio Rigen triple ko game from 1582, with its suggestion of stalemate and ill fortune. 

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Categories: Go Spotting,Main Page
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The Janice Kim Files: The good, the bad and the switcheroo

Sunday June 10, 2018

by Janice Kim 3p2018.04.08-janiceKim

Bill Cobb’s Philosophical Reflections on Go #6 reminded me of the time I asked my teacher Jeong Soo-hyun 9 dan, “Is this move good?”

“If you thought about it, it’s good,” was the reply.

Despite his chuckle, this isn’t just a funny mystical non-answer by a sage. It was much later, looking at Lee Chang-ho’s endgame books, that it occurred to me that you can’t say if a mov2018.06.01_janice-kim-examplee is good or bad without knowing the territory count. In fact, it can switch from good to bad in a way that’s easy to see.

Have a look at the example. We’ve heard that the clamp at ‘A’ is bad, because it loses sente. But what if there isn’t another place to use your sente? Say, there’s an even number of one-point gote moves left. Then the clamp is one point more than the hane at A, and it can be the one-point difference between winning and losing. Try to confirm this for yourself. Maybe I’m wrong.

I hope you have more of a life than I do, to find it earth-shattering on a personal level that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can’t be judged independently, but could depend on whether there is an even or odd number of endgame moves. No formula, guideline, proverb required though, you can just see it. While you’re playing. Reading about as complicated as two dance moves, which foot do you end on? A little taste of what it’s like to be on the cosmic stage and be a cat in a box, or an electron in an unknown location. Almost like when I took a few young Korean go professionals to see a Foucault’s pendulum, stomped my foot on the ground, and said, “The Earth is moving.” You should have seen their faces.

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The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go #6

Monday May 14, 2018

by William Cobb2018.05.14_empty-go-board-polar-coordinates

As go players, we cannot say whether playing the game is itself good or bad. We can only say whether particular moves in particular games are good or bad.  To make judgments of what’s “good” or “bad” you have to have a context which provides criteria for making such judgments. Sports in general are a good analogy for making this point clear. Not just any toss of the ball can be called good in baseball. So what about human actions in general? To make such judgments you must have a set of rules and in particular a clearly specified overall goal in which the rules are determined. Unfortunately, there is no general agreement about the ultimate goal of life. Insofar as that is the case some suggest we would be better off not judging good and bad. Of course, people often set certain goals and are then able to determine what’s good and bad in relation to those goals. But how can they be sure those goals are in fact “good”? In order to say a particular move in a go game is good you have to assume a view of the nature of the game. But to justify playing the game as a good thing you have to appeal to something outside the game. So a question is how to deal with people who show no interest in playing go. Just saying they should play because it’s fun or interesting doesn’t seem adequate somehow. We can try to find some value we do share with them and to convince them that playing go will promote that value. Japanese efforts to show that playing go can diminish the effects of dementia are an interesting example of this. The Japanese go community also believes that playing go can promote world peace; hard not to approve of that.  Another interesting example is some of the claims that are made about the value of teaching groups of children to play. Go is certainly a very special game. We’d like to say it makes you a better person.

photo by Phil Straus; photo art by Chris Garlock

 

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Sarah Yu: Memories of the Go Seigen tournament and his dreams of peace

Monday May 14, 2018

by Sarah Yu 6D2018.05.13_NA team photo with Lin Haifeng in front of Go Seigen's statue at the cemetery

Recently I was lucky to attend the first Wu Qingyuan (Go Seigen) Women’s Tournament in Fuzhou, China. It was like a dream come true. I was one of four North American representatives; the other three were Feng Yun 9P, Stephanie Yin 1P, Gaby Su 6D. A qualifier game was held for the eight North American and European players to determine which four would proceed to the main tournament. After the draw, each North American player would play against a European. Feng Yun, Stephanie Yin, and I won the qualifier (click here for details). Then at the main, we respectively lost to Qu Yin, Yu Zhiying, and Ueno Asami.

I enjoyed playing with Ueno Asami very much and had a good game, and it was a pleasure to be participating in this memorable event with Feng Yun, Stephanie and Gabby. I especially appreciated those who worked so hard to make this tournament happen, and to acknowledge Go Seigen’s milestone contributions to go. Thanks to the tournament, I was able to meet players who had known Go Seigen, and to get a glimpse of his passion for go and peace.

I remember that during the opening ceremony, I felt strongly that Go Seigen had “sacrificed” his life for go. That moment was when children singing “coming towards home,” while photographs of Go Seigen were playing on the screen behind them. We also had the chance to visit the cemetery where Go is buried (photo), where Chang Hao 9P, the Vice Chairman of the Chinese Go Association, gave an inspiring speech. As the children sang and danced, I saw that the future belongs to the next generation. Go Seigen said that the 21st century will be about the harmony of go — North, South, East, West, Heaven and Earth — he dreamed of promoting peace through go, and I hope that with the help of AlphaGo, we will further comprehend both.

photo (l-r): Feng Yun 9P, Rin Kaihō (Lin Haifeng 9P – Go Seigen’s disciple), Sarah Yu 6D, Stephanie Yin 1P, Gabby Su 6D

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Categories: China,Main Page
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The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go #4

Tuesday May 1, 2018

by William Cobb2018.05.02_empty-board-kaleidoscope

Decisions about good and bad moves have a big role in go. It’s often not that easy to determine, but a move either promotes or hinders the achievement of the player’s ultimate goal, which is of course to win.  Whether playing the game is good or bad is a different issue. To decide that you have to appeal to some goal independent of the game. This is a way in which go is not so much like life. Not because life situations are more complicated, but because the ultimate goal or purpose of life is much more difficult to determine. So deciding what is good and bad in life is much more difficult. As a result there is a lot of muddling through and a lot of just following along. That’s why in most cases we just don’t think about this very much. But if you want to be able to feel more confident about making decisions about good and bad in life, you will have to make an effort to determine what the goal of life is. Nevertheless, playing go can be very relaxing and comforting. It’s nice not to have to worry about what we are really up to.

photo by Phil Straus; photo art by Chris Garlock

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New York Institute of Go launches YouTube Channel

Wednesday April 18, 2018

Stephanie Yin and Ryan Li have just launched NYIG_Go, the New York Institute of Go’s YouTube Channel. “The channel will2018.04.15_NYIG-youtube-channel feature videos of the rules of the game, common mistakes, fuseki strategy and more,” says Yin. They also hope to offer daily life and death problems as well. “Over many years teaching at the annual US Go Congress, the most common question Ryan and I received from players at our lectures was ‘How am I able to get to dan level?’” Yin, a professional go player and president/founder of the New York Go Association tells the EJ. “And our answer is always simple: Do two problems every day and I will see you all at the dan-level lecture.”

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