As of late, progress has been slow, but it’s certainly not for lack of playing. Though we’re only a week away from the end of the month, I already have about 50 live games in. But for all this actvitiy, I’m currently 0-4 in American Yunguseng League G, which probably means I’ll be in League H next month. For a day or so this bothered me, but I quickly came to my senses. Really, losing my Yunguseng matches has hardly been the most sobering revelation of my Go this month.
So far I’ve been clobbered by 8 kyus on Fox, and 10 kyus on Tygem. While a few of those losses can be attributed to sandbagging, most of them can’t. What In-seong said in the first season about your moves identifiably falling into a range around your actual rank is really getting driven home this month.
Upper & lower bounds
While I may have a clever tesuji or sequence here and there that hands me a game, I can feel that the lower bound of my play is dragging me down. Part of the problem is that when you win, you feel that the win is somehow representative of your progress. You focus on the moves that led to that win and you de-emphasize all the mistakes made along the way that your opponent was unable to exploit. The problem is focusing only on your strengths and not on your weaknesses. Previously I didn’t play many even games against “weaker” players so it was hard to see just how glaring my mistakes and misconceptions really were.
In games In-seong emphasizes the importance of not only focusing on your opponent’s weaknesses but also correctly assessing your own. This advice about shape seems to apply just as well to one’s approach to Go. Perhaps my opponent plays slack moves, or bad exchanges, or misreads a life and death situation. Ok, but my own weaknesses if unchecked could still hand my opponent the game. Now when I play, I find I have a little In-seong voice in my head asking me questions about my weaknesses. Is this move really better than the proper one? Is this move slack? Is this move an overplay? Is this really the biggest point on the board?
In the end I’m not really all that discouraged. I have far more respect now for players around my rank “band” - I can learn from players both “stronger” and “weaker” than me. I now see my fast games as a way to improve the lower bound of my play. While on IGS I’m starting to inch forward the upper bound of my play, on Fox I’m slowly lifting the lower bound of my play. Though this improvement isn’t converting into obvious observable results like a more significant rank jump, I think very differently about a game that I play now than I did in September and I don’t think this change is completely subjective.
In one of my AYD losses where I believed I played terribly, In-seong said if he didn’t know what our ranks were he would have assumed he was observing a 3 kyu game.
The more games I play the more I understand my first AYD report card advising me to spend 60% of my study regimen on playing. Theory is useful, tsumego is useful, reviews are useful, but all of these things come after playing.