American Go E-Journal » Your Move: Readers Write

Not too fast, not too slow

Saturday February 27, 2021

by Fred Baldwin

William Cobb’s reflections on taking time to think about Go moves (Empty Board, 2/17) prompted me to, well, think.  I share his feelings about “speed” or “blitz” Go.  If you enjoy it, fine, but it’s not my thing and never will be.  Whether online or playing face-to-face, my mistakes usually result from playing too fast.  Up to a point, slower is better for me – worth a handicap stone or two where the quality of my play is concerned. 

But only up to a point.  Having too much thinking time once threatened to spoil my pleasure in the game of Go. It happened like this.  
Back in pre-Covid days a good friend and I often played on Sunday evenings at a local Panera.  We usually could time our games to end about when employees were closing the doors to new customers but before they needed to start cleaning tables.  Now and then, however, we’d still be in the middle of a game.  On those evenings we’d take cell-phone pictures of the board and any captured stones, make a note on whether Black or White would play next, and a week or so later, we’d pick up our game where we left off.   

One evening it occurred to us that we didn’t need to wait a week to finish our game.  With the board position captured on both our cameras, we could each set up the game on our Go boards at home.  We’d text moves to each other and respond at leisure.  It would be slower than face-to-face play but far faster than, say, correspondence chess.  What could go wrong? 

Technically, nothing.  The process worked fine.  However, I found it seriously stressful. At Panera we almost never used a clock, relying on our mutual instinct to decide when “slow” was becoming “too slow.”  At those times, I could tell myself, “OK.  I haven’t read this out the way a 9-dan would, but I can’t keep my opponent waiting. I’ll plunk down a stone and hope for the best.” 

At home that line of reasoning didn’t apply.  With no one across the board from me, I could take lots of time without keeping anyone waiting.  In the restaurant, especially with closing time approaching, a less-than-optimal move (not to say “dumb move”) seemed excusable.  At home, with lots of time for reading out sequences, mistakes began to feel embarrassing, almost shameful. As a result, I spent a lot more time on every move.  I may have played somewhat better than I usually do, but I enjoyed the game a lot less. I learned that my own Goldilocks game time is “not too fast, not too slow.”  “Too fast” means I make even more mistakes than usual, while “too slow” makes me feel ashamed to play so badly.  

William Cobb might point out – patiently, no doubt – that a Zen-like mindset might help me transcend that kind of puritanical self-criticism.  That thought somehow just makes me feel worse. 

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Your Move/Readers Write: Quick thoughts on blitz go

Sunday February 21, 2021

“‘Blitz’ Go is not appealing to me,” Michael Ryan writes in agreement with Bill Cobb (Empty Board 2/17). “I have always thought that speed chess and blitz Go are regressive activities, encouraging some of the least thoughtful aspects of playing. Now, I have, occasionally, in chess tournaments, experienced ’the dance of the pieces’, where a fairly long sequence plays itself out, unasked, before your eyes in about a second or less.  Never in Go.  So those who have this as a regular feature of their Go experience may find blitz Go appropriate, a form of the game done with understanding.  But I expect these are players stronger that low-dan amateurs.”

Eric Osman writes that the point of blitz “is to play faster but not ‘as fast as you can’”. He notes that “There can be practical reasons for playing faster sometimes,” like limited time or impatience. “There are special skills that are acquired when playing fast go,” including building a knowledge base of efficient moves and “the ability to quickly assess the board position and choose what area of the board is most important.” Eric suggests that the question is “What is the sweet spot with respect to how fast is best?  If we play too slowly, we reach diminishing returns where given more time to think doesn’t likely cause us to choose a better move.  If we play too quickly, we make too many silly mistakes.  Somewhere between those two is the optimal speed for our game.”

Photo: 2012 U.S. Go Congress Lightning Tournament; photos/collage by Chris Garlock

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Your Move/Readers Write: Still stumped

Tuesday August 4, 2020

“Is the photo a very young Ishida Yoshio?” wonders Shai Simonson, in response to our recent 50 years aGO stumper: Who’s pictured in the photo at left? Hints were that he attended a U.S. Go Congress and wrote an Ishi Press book. “(Ishida) wrote ‘All About Thickness’ for Ishi Press, and attended the (first?) Go Congress in 1985 in Maryland,” adds Simonson.
“It looks like it could be a young Takemiya Masaki, who later wrote ‘Enclosure Josekis’ and attended the 29th US Go Congress,” writes Michael Kyriakakis.
Nope and nope, says Keith Arnold. If you think you know the answer, send it to us c/o journal@usgo.org.

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Your Move/Readers Write: Chumley’s ID’s; The real goal of improving

Monday August 3, 2020

Chumley’s ID’s: All these IDs are ‘probably'” writes Terry Benson in response to a request for photo ID’s in our July 28 report on the closing of Chumley’s, the former West Village speakeasy where the American Go Association was founded in 1935. “Playing Dr. Lasker (back left) is Elizabeth Morris (back right), an early AGA organizer and, with her husband Lester, author of an early introduction to go pamphlet. Watching them (back middle) is – I believe – Lasker’s good friend George Chernowitz – 25 at the time – or (possibly) Lester Morris. The other woman (front right) is likely Edith Chernowitz. The navy officer (front right) is perhaps Lieutenant Ingersoll, a math teacher at the Naval Academy, who – along with Lasker – presented Emmanuel Lasker’s go board and stones to the Academy that same year (1942) as the photo.
photo: New York Post, LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

The real goal of improving: “Maybe my winning percentage will go up’” (The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go #16 7/25 EJ). “When we were taking lessons from Janice Kim,” writes Michael Ryan, “one of our number said something about hoping that person’s winning percentage would go up. Janice replied, ‘The purpose of improving your game is not to win more games. It is to be able to play stronger players.’ The implication is that you will have more interesting games that way. Just so.”

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Your Move/Readers Write: Modeling safe behavior

Tuesday June 30, 2020

“If Patience and Fortitude, the two lions guarding the New York Public Library, are wearing masks as an example to the public,” writes Terry Benson (in response to Your Move/Readers Write: Strict observance of masking and other sanitary practices), “can’t we all be on the same public health message? It’s a war and we aren’t winning.”

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Your Move/Readers Write: Strict observance of masking and other sanitary practices

Monday June 29, 2020

“Peter Armenia is missing the point in his comments about Roger Schrag’s letter,” writes Steve Burrall. “I don’t doubt that he is correct about that particular photo depicting relatively low-risk conditions based on details he provided, but E-Journal readers had no way of knowing those details.  For all we know, that could have been some superspreader about to sneeze over his improperly-worn mask on somebody else’s type 1 diabetic kid over the Go board.  Putting the word ‘safely’ on a photo of a guy wearing a mask on his chin was unfortunate. One of my reactions upon seeing the photo was in fact happiness that a Go club is active again in person, but for that to happen everywhere and for an in-person Go Congress to happen again, chances are it will take strict observance of masking and other sanitary practices to make it safe and legal.”
Editor’s note: The wording on the original post was not Armenia’s and while there are clearly different opinions and varying levels of comfort, we’re confident that all can agree that strict observance of masking and other sanitary practices are key to everyone’s safety and health as we work through this crisis together. Let’s keep the life and death problems strictly on the board!

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Your Move/Readers Write: More on “Gotham Go back in action”

Sunday June 28, 2020

“I am very disappointed by the E-Journal article “Gotham Go back in action,” writes Roger Schrag. “The article includes a photo of two people playing go ‘safely’; one player is wearing a mask incorrectly with their mouth and nose completely outside the mask, while the other player is not wearing a mask at all. Scientists and epidemiologists the world over agree that wearing masks is key to slowing the spread of Covid-19. By suggesting go players don’t need to wear masks in order to play safely in person does a gross disservice to the go community.”
Gotham Go organizer Peter Armenia responds: “I would guess most epidemiologists would think the situation depicted here is quite safe. They are two low-risk individuals, in a currently low risk (less than 1% positive test rate for Covid19) location, outside 4+ feet apart. The kid’s parents and adult pictured were provided detailed information on playing safely and urging every individual to assess their risk and personal situation to determine what is safe for them. It’s not up to the AGA or the Gotham Go Group to tell people what they can choose to do.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in letters to the editor are not necessarily those of the American Go Association. The E-Journal welcomes letter to the editor, which are subject to editing.

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Your Move/Readers Write: More applause for AGA Statement on Injustice

Friday June 26, 2020

“Add my applause to the AGA statement on injustice,” writes Steven Burrall. “Even though Go players are a very nice bunch of people and perhaps need to hear the message less than members of most organizations, I think it is a great time for all organizations to publicly affirm the principles that are now building momentum to correct persistent inequities in racial justice.  Anyone who has done work for the AGA knows that there was no waste of money and resources in calling attention to the issue; a volunteer stepped up to write an excellent statement and I appreciate it.”

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Your Move/Readers Write: Reactions to the AGA’s Statement on Injustice

Monday June 22, 2020

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The letters below have been edited from correspondence sent to the E-Journal in response to the recently-published “Statement on Injustice from the AGA Code of Conduct Committee.” This note is in response to concerns raised by membership and leadership regarding publication of the letters. As editor of the E-Journal, I believe strongly that we should not ignore controversy in our community and that it’s important to have these conversations. Therefore, we publish most letters to the editor in excerpted or edited form, except where nongermane or duplicative. The E-Journal has long been a staple of the American Go community and AGA leadership often works closely with EJ staff;  however, the stories within do not explicitly express the views of AGA leadership,unless otherwise noted. On this selection of letters to the editor, this distinction has been noted, and this will be made clear in all future publications of letters to the editor.
Chris Garlock, Managing Editor 

“The AGA’s recent “Statement on Injustice from the AGA Code of Conduct Committee” was really outstanding!” writes Aaron Julian Congo. “As an African American AGA member I wanted to thank you for the statement.”

“This statement and its pandering to political correctness and its virtue signaling is contemptible,” wrote Anthony Lizotte. “Go players are welcoming and decent people for the most part. Good conduct, sportsmanship and polite interactions are expected at all AGA events regardless of skin pigmentation. The AGA has limited funds and resources, please do not waste time discussing a non-existent issue. If people really feel strongly about getting more people of color to play go, it is as simple as going to a black neighborhood and starting up a go club at a school, church, or library. And this I would strongly encourage and applaud.”

“Is white not a color?” wonders Trevor Snyder. “Just say minorities if you’re going to reference a specific ethnic group. Race and ethnicity are not synonymous. Until we educate ourselves, there will always be a divide and until you can communicate appropriately there will always be ignorance. Thank you for your attempt to be mindful but please choose your language adequately.”

NOTE: The opinions expressed in letters to the editor are not necessarily those of the American Go Association.

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Your Move/Readers Write: Timing is important

Friday June 19, 2020

“It’s not so helpful to suggest folks tune into a Twitch broadcast ‘tonight’ when the E-Journal comes out many hours after said broadcast has finished,” writes Rick Rubenstein. “Perhaps you should get into the habit of announcing these in the prior day’s journal instead.”
Our apologies; that commentary — Golden Panda Cup, Iyama Yuta 9p (W) vs Mutsuura Yuta 7p (B), with Michael Redmond 9p – is available here. Tomorrow night (Sunday, June 21) at 8p EDT, Redmond will do another live commentary on the AGA’s Twitch channel, this one on a 1939 game between Go Seigen and Kitani Minoru.

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