Monthly Archives: September 2014

New Way To Teach Go to Beginners

During the World Youth Go Championship (WYGC) that the Malaysia Weiqi Association organized last month, (http://wygc2014.weiqi.org.my), Mr. Yang Yu Jia from the Ing Chang-Ki Wei-Ch’i Educational gave a talk on the new way to teach Go to beginners. I find this idea quite good compared to how we traditionally teach Go, at least at the beginning stage.┬áBasically, the idea is to learn how to watch Go, i.e. how to understand what is going on in a game of Go without one having to be really good at it.

I have hung on to this concept actually from my earlier days of learning Go although Mr Yang said it much better and in a lot more depth. I remember in my earlier days, I took Go lessons from Cornel Burzo and one of the thing that stuck with me was his comment “Try to understand what is happening on the board” and in line with this, as we review the game, he explained to me what is happening, what is the story, what both sides tries to accomplish and how the opponent try to counter it and instead force his own strategy to win.

Those lessons are very valuable to me and it was that time that I try to understand what is going on although I am far from being a competent player. Every move must have some meaning to it, if not, why play the move right? And this meaning must be in the context of the game strategy, its use and effect on the board and its relationship with other stones on the board.

In my lessons in TAR UC, I have often tried to do the same, running like a mad man from the computer to the projector screen trying to explain to the class what is going on in the game and what each player tries to do and the meaning of their moves. I find teaching this way, in a visual manner, very interesting and helpful to the student to think of the game as a full board game with the aim to surround territory.

The traditional way of teaching Go starts with explaining on how to capture stones and because this being the earliest lessons, the danger is to plant into the mind of the student that Go is all about capturing and killing stones. In fact, this is very evident in the way the student plays the game, even up to reasonably high level where their whole and only focus is to capture and kill opponent stones. I have revised the beginner book a bit to reflect Mr. Yangs method. essentially, his very first ideas is to teach the students to draw lines, i.e. the relationship between stones and the board. By being able to draw these lines and understanding these lines, the student will be able to start to see the reasons why stones are played in a certain way.

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For instance, in the diagram above, if one draws lines between the stones and to the edge of the board, one can see that the two black stones on the bottom right is securing the bottom right corner while the single black stone on the top left is making a claim on the upper left corner territory.

The solid red line means that the connection is very secure and this is usually the case when there are no gaps (i.e both stones stick together next to each other) or if there is only one single gap in between them. Any farther than that, the line is drawn as a dotted line indicating that the connection is still not very secure although the relationship and intent is there.

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In the diagram above, you will notice that the black stones at the top left corner has secured the territory in a solid manner but the white stones have laid out a framework on the right side. Both sides have played four stones but you will notice that white has more potential to get more territories because it has laid a larger framework. Yes, the framework is a series of dotted lines which means that it is not solid but because the framework is large, the potential to convert them into a bigger territory is extremely high.

Framework is like building a house. The larger the framework means that the house has a larger foundation size and thus becomes a larger house. And because Go is a game that surrounds territories, the more territories you surround, the higher the chances you will win.

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There is also the idea of breaking up the opponent’s framework line so as to prevent the opponent from turning the framework into real territory. How to break them and at which point to play to break them is also explained. All in all, I find this method of teaching the very first few lessons very fascinating compared to the traditional way of starting to teach from the liberty point of view, i.e. a stone has four liberties and take away four liberties the stone is captured.

Of course teaching liberties of stone is very important because that is how Go is played on the tactical level but I agree to not teach that in the first few lessons.

Don’t forget that these students normally know nothing at all about Go and we do not want to give them the impression that Go is all about capturing stones but instead teach them how to understand the game by just observing it.

There are a whole lot more to Mr. Yang’s lessons and in fact he has published several books to explain it. I hope everyone interested in Go education will take a look at them.

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Scotland and Whisky

Those who knew me long enough would know that I love whisky. It’s whisky, not whiskey. But nowadays, it does’t really matter much because great whiskies now come from everywhere and not just Scotland.

I tried Kavalan recently. Kavalan is from Taiwan. At first, everything about it puts me off. Kavalan?? What kind of name? Taiwan?? Taiwan for circuit boards is fine but whisky??? But tasting it is a different story. Kavalan is amazing stuffs! Amazing stuffs as in if you like that kind of notes. Fruity, vanilla, sweetness….. but if you are hardcore Lagavulin type of guys, well……. I tasted the Solist Vinho Barrique (I think they meant Soloist), Solist ex-Bourbon Cask, Port Cask Concertmaster and their standard bottling. All single malts. And they are really good stuffs. And they are expensive.

Now, if you like those sweet smell good fruity vanilla kind of of whiskies, you will do very well with a good bottle of Glengoyne. I finished a whole bottle of Glengoyne 17 years. Marvellous expression and unfortunately has been discontinued and now replaced by the 18 year old. Or the Auchentoshan Three Wood is also an exceptional whisky, if you like this kind of taste. Both Glengoyne and Auchentoshan is not below Kavalan in any sense and they are cheaper. But if you like it, of course you can try the Kavalan. Of the four, I like the Solist ex-Bourbon Cask the best.

And Kavalan whiskies have no age statement. The uniqueness of Taiwan and the hot weather resulted in the whiskies aging much much faster. But let the taste guide you. Not what they write on the labels.

Actually, me and my wife visited Scotland back in March this year. It is almost like a pilgrimage for me. It was part of our Europe trip where the main agenda was to see the Aurora Borealis in Kirkenes, Norway. Spectacular experience there! But that is for another post. Wow, Kirkenes!! We did not go all the way round Scotland, just the Highland Speyside area and we based ourselves in Aberdeen. The fact that the International Jazz Festival is happening there is also a bonus. Scotland is a beautiful country. Really nice landscape. And everywhere we go, the guys seems to look forward to the referendum for independence because they have decided to want to split but the results of the referendum yesterday seems to say otherwise. So be it for better or for worse.

Macallan is really a nice place to visit and they are really friendly. Glenfiddich too. But after some time, all the tours felt the same. They take you through the whole process of making whiskies and take you around to see how it is actually done. We went into the special Warehouse number 8 at Glenfiddich which is where they store their most precious stuffs. I saw the Solera vat. And I was thinking to myself, maybe 15 years later I will be drinking these.

And it takes so long for whiskies to be made. 12 years, 15 years, 18 years, 21 years…. wow, imagine the time.

Then there is this place called the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburg. Nice place to visit. There is where they have the largest whisky collection in the world. tasted the 21 Year Old Pulteney there and it was absolute liquid gold. Bought some bottles there. There was a blind tasting of a whisky and they served Ardbeg and I surprised everyone by guessing that correctly. But they do not know my favorite dram is an Ardbeg. The guide then paid more attention to me after that. Haha. Our guide there is actually a Malaysian but he is now there permanently. His parents migrated there.

So Scotland….. wonderful place to go, not only for whiskies but the people and also its so beautiful. Next time I go, I will go to the islands. My favorite dram is one smoky Ardbeg Corryvreckan. Ardbeg is really amazing. I want to visit them. And I have a small plot of land at Laphroaig too.

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So, writing again then

For some weird reasons, I feel like blogging again.

Maybe it’s the effect of reading Murakami’s latest, COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI. Also perhaps I caught the writing bug again when I was revising my Go book for beginners, incorporating a new concept in teaching Go as shown us by Mr. Yang of the Ing Foundation.

But for whatever reasons, the fact that I am typing away on the keyboard now feels great.

It is perhaps also a form of release of the things that I have in my mind. I have always taken to writing, from diaries to journals since my younger days. And I think this did not leave me.

So here it is again. And until I get lazy, which I do not know when.

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