I’ve really stepped up the amount of play this month. Between my Yunguseng games and my KGS games, I’ve managed to play 19 thoughtful games and win 69% of them! While I suffered a short streak of disappointing losses this past weekend, I was able turn myself around to barely cling onto KGS 5 kyu. I’m unlikely to get anymore games in this month since I’m about to travel a bit for work, so I’ve started outlining a couple of goals for December. American Yunguseng will be on winter break, so having a plan to keep the momentum going seems important.

The obvious and probably over-ambitious goal is that I’d like to graze KGS 4 kyu by the end of December. A less lofty one is to address an aspect of my play that I now see as a weakness - I play too slow in the opening. This isn’t to say I’m going to start blitzing or anything - but this bad habit means I always end up rushing through the last 100 moves under the pressure of byo-yomi. I find myself blundering through tricky middle game fights because my clock just doesn’t have the time required for close reading, and I often find myself getting lucky because my opponent follows my misread with their own misread (I find that very few opponents ever use more than 10 or 15 minutes of their time during the whole game even if they have 25).

But in order for me to handle these middle game skirmishes in a deliberate way, I need to spend less time in the opening. In order to play more quickly in the opening, I need to be more confident. In order to be more confident, I need to spend more time studying opening patterns and basic opening theory. Fortunately In-seong has ample material for me to digest. My openings are getting faster but there’s still a lot more work to do.

What I’m Studying

While I’ve been repeatedly singing the praises of Cho Hun-hyun’s Lectures, I recently was inspired to browse the final chapter of Yilun Yang’s book The Fundamental Principles of Go. This chapter covers typical invasion/reduction patterns. Over the summer I found all the variations baffling and doubted that I could ever make sense of it. However after all the time spent on Cho Hun-hyun and In-seong’s material, surprise - Yilun Yang’s variations suddenly seemed considerably less daunting. I immediately sat down at the goban and started going through all the variations, trying to both memorize and really understand.

The other thing I’ve been looking closely at is Shusaku vs. Shuwa (1851-1852) from Invincible. Considered a masterpiece, I’ve found this one of the most enjoyable Shusaku game records to memorize. The game doesn’t have complex fighting, jaw dropping exchanges, or game swinging kos. Shusaku and Shuwa play with a clarity and efficiency that’s stunning to behold - you can feel the game naturally transition from opening, middle and into endgame. While it’s certainly the case that after memorizing a couple of games, it gets easier - with this game it feels less like memorizing, it almost seems obvious where the next move must be!

As much as I love playing my own games, there’s a particular pleasure to replaying the moves of masters. It’s an aspect of Baduk that I never suspected I would enjoy quite this much and I’m glad it’s a part of my approach to the game.