Category Archives: Weiqi/Go/Baduk

About the game of Weiqi. It also goes by the name of Baduk (Korea), Igo (Japan) and Go (International)

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.

lines2_1

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.

framework1_1

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.

lines6_1

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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Go Lessons Blog

I have just started a new blog on Go lessons. Please visit there is you are interested. The rationale for setting that blog up is also justified. I have written, for the first time, my Go history as well :)

http://mwagolessons.wordpress.com

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Bahau Trip

Recently, on the 10th of Jan, the Bahau Arts Society invited us to an event to help promote and teach Go in that area. The society is very active and promotes a lot of artistic and cultural things, such as Chinese chess, calligraphy etc. They are very nice and treated us very well. One thing amazing about Bahau is the high prices of the properties there, which is at least comparable to Kuala Lumpur prices. One reason is because the people there are rich from logging and rubber and because they like to stay where they are and because of the limited number of properties available, demand exceeds supply and thus the prices go up. At least that was what I was told.

Bahau is the romanised word for “Horse Mouth”. I asked why it’s called Horse Mouth and apparently there are no specific reasons. It just happened to be like that. I strongly believe that there is a reason but then the person we asked may not know.

Here are some pictures from that day. And thereafter, a great dinner ensued, thanks to a friend who took us to that restaurant.


The organizing committee. Our association is represented by our president Mr. Tiong (in black shirt) and our secretary, Mr. Chow (in orange shirt).


Part of the audience


Our Malaysia Weiqi Association’s gift to the Bahau Arts Society.


Mr. Chow giving an introduction about Go to the audience.


Teaching games


The kids are totally hooked. Let’s hope they continue to learn and improve.


Old and Young – everyone can enjoy and play Go.


Look who’s talking.

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The Wing Chun of Go

Recently, I got to give a fancy name to close fighting in Go and called it the Wing Chun of Go. This name was inspired in my game with Dennis recently, two games to be precise, where close fighting occurred, one stone touching the other and killing off liberties as they Go, and one mis-reading will mean the collapse of the entire group. This is very exciting Go.

Now of course those quite well versed in martial arts will rebuke me at this point and say that Wing Chun is not as simple as I said, Wing Chun is not the same thing as close fighting, although close fighting is one of its characteristics (those who at least have watched the movie IP MAN will know). Wing Chun is of course a lot more. Most of all, Wing Chun is about flexibility. Flexibility that give rise to strength, just like a bamboo. It is also about the balance of the body. Balance plus flexibility give rise to strength and speed.

So as in Go, in a close fighting situation, flexibility and balance is extremely important and one major factor in determining which player have better flexibility and balance can be seen through the shapes of the stones of the player. The understanding and knowledge of shape is one key factor in fighting and add on to more detailed and superior reading abilities, it can be determined which side will win the fight.

Detailed and superior reading ability can be cultivated and one of the blind spot that I realise is to read the lines of play based on a one way street, i.e. the player only reads what he/she thinks they want the results to be without careful consideration of the other options that the opponent has. This kind of wishful reading is very dangerous because the player did not consider the flexibility of the stones and will often then get big surprises when the opponent does not play along their wishful lines.

Another important thing in Go is the realisation of the “Plus/Minus” factor. In Go, one cannot gain everything (at least between players of equal strength). Here flexibility is important. Letting the opponent get something and one gets something in return is important. Being too rigid and stubborn will result in the player not getting anything at all.

A give and take attitude with a good splash of patience, flexibility and balance, backed by reasonably good reading and awareness of the ever changing stone configurations, should give one a good Wing Chun game. Haha.

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“You only solve local problems……..”

Since I have not posted something on Go for quite some time, perhaps I can share some things I have learnt from strong Go players and hope that it also helps others. And so this is what a strong Go player told me when I asked him what is the problem with my Go:

“You only try to solve local problems and not global problems.”

And it is like a kick in the brain for me. Indeed it is true. For example, when I send in an invading troop, I only look at making sure that that troop survives but in the process of doing so, my opponent gains better advantage elsewhere. I do not consider other possibilities. This is only one example and nowadays, with this awareness, whenever I make a move, I try to ask myself, am I only trying to solve a local problem and forget the global problem? By solving this local problem, am I creating a bigger global problem?

Another one that I like is this:

“This move means you choose to destroy 10 points and build zero.”

Normally, this is related to one’s lack of the big picture again and what is called the “jealousy” factor. By playing a move that just prevents your opponent from taking a bit of points and not creating any points for oneself, what the opponent will do is just play elsewhere and make more points elsewhere. It is very important to know where the blue ocean is. Competing in a red ocean environment leaves one with little profit.

Besides advice from stronger players, which is absolutely essential in one’s quest to become a stronger player, there are many other things that one can do and for me, besides playing with stronger players and benefit from their reviews, solving life and death problems (tsumego) and tesuji problems is again absolutely important.

If there is one series of books that I can attribute to a significant improvement in my playing strength, it is the Lee Changho Six volumes Tsumego and Six Volumes Tesuji problems. The increase in strength is amazing and I can feel that power, just like those chinese martial arts movies where one learns a new technique or stance or has some of their “chi” points opened. The feeling is amazing.

This set of books is good for anyone that is in the region of 3-4kyu and wishes to breakthrough to the dan ranks. They are very affordable (only RM7.00 per book) and should see one through at least 3dan.

On replaying pro games, I have replayed quite a lot of pro games but at this moment, I do not seem to see much benefit from them (but maybe subconsciously they helped a lot). Compared to playing with stronger players and get their help to comment games which I think is the BEST way to improve, replaying pro games can be time consuming and yields comparatively little results, although replaying pro games can be very enlightening and exposes possibilities. But I still think the time spent vs results ratio still favours playing games with stronger players and getting games commented.

But I do remember distinct improvements when I replayed a Shusaku game against Ota Yuzo, another time when I replayed a Gu Li game and also the first game in Jubango between Go Seigen and Kitani Minoru in 1939. These three I remember distinctly their effect on my game.

Studying joseki? No point for me since I forget them in about a week’s time. But I remember again learning a great lesson when studying the taisha in the lecture by Yang Yilun, on what joseki is all about. I then seem to realise that joseki embodies a lot of things in Go, the concept of miai, the principles of fighting, the principles of positional judgment, etc. But honestly, if you ask me about more variations of a one space low pincer against a komoku kakari, I surrender immediately. I really don’t know many josekis and I don’t seem to be able to remember the sequences somehow, even after trying to remember them repeatedly.

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The Bruneian Experience

So I am now back from Brunei since I was invited by Xinwen to Brunei to be their chief judge in the Brunei 1st Inter-School Weiqi (Go) Tournament 09.

I have always been amazed by Xinwen and his team in promoting Go in Brunei and this inter-school tournament is indeed another big leap forward to encourage more people to play Go. To show my support to him as well as sort of representing the Malaysian weiqi players as well, me and my wife bought the Air Asia flight last Wednesday. It was a trip that almost didn’t happen as we were on the verge of canceling the trip as something unexpected happened but finally we were able to go.

The tournament was casual but well organised. The best part of it is it has a very close feeling to it, everyone is nice to each other and the mood is very jovial and positive. There are more on the tournament on Xinwen’s blog.

On Brunei itself, it is a rather quiet place, peaceful and with really good roads (perhaps so that the Ferrari and Lamborghini can speed through them). The mosques there are nice and there are quite a lot of mosques there. If you would like to have a peace and quiet life where a lot of things are relatively cheap, such as cars, houses, petrol etc., then Brunei will be a good place to live.

However, if you are the Las Vegas sort, you will easily find yourself easily bored. It will be good, however, to go there and stay to detoxify yourself from too much partying though.

In a way, Brunei or more particularly the Bandar Seri Begawan area since we mostly ventured around there, reminds me of Ipoh or Kelantan. Quiet and peaceful where everybody almost knows everybody and every place is just within minutes from one place to another. The typical Bruneian are really nice people, always very polite and obliging.

So perhaps there is another event next year and if there is a chance, I will perhaps visit Xinwen and his family again. And yes, Xinwen’s family is really nice and pampered us well :)

Here are some pictures (picture credit: the ever excellent Jayden Sia):

Playing simultaneous games with the participants of the tournament:

Prize presentation. This is Peng Hui (or Xinwen calls him Penguin). A jovial and really nice guy. Kit says he looks a bit like Jet Li.

Prize presentation to Mah Zhe Fan (or they call him Makai). He is also very nice and he is quite strong in Go too.

Here is the group photo:

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Ultimate Pair-Go

Okay, the next post will be a post about Godard’s PIERROT LE FOU but for this post, since two of our players Suzzane and Jimmy is now in Japan for the International Pair Go Tournament, I would like to comment on a book that I recently read, THE GO CONSULTANTS.

It is a book about a game whereby Go Seigen and Kitani are one team and Segoe Kensaku and Suzuki Tamejiro another. It was thought to be a great pairing up as both Go Seigen and Kitani are popular for their New Fuseki theory while the two older masters are in the conventional camp, although Suzuki is actually Kitani’s teacher and Segoe was said to be Go Seigen’s teacher (but it was not officially mentioned).

The idea is that both players on each side of the game can adjourn anytime during the game and go to another room to consult each other and in that room, there is a reporter waiting to record their conversations and analysis. This way, we know exactly what they are thinking.

I would dare say that everything that one needs to know how to play Go well is in this book. There is an analysis on every aspect of the game, from Opening moves to whole board joseki consideration, to Go strategic concepts such as thickness, influence, strength and weakness of groups, efficiency, aji, miai, tesuji, yose, positional judgment etc. etc.

The book is about 150 pages and that is only for ONE game alone. Just imagine that kind of analysis that is in the book. This is a wonderful book indeed.

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