Studying Weiqi in China

Friday, June 30, 2006

Photo credits

I don't own a camera. Neither does Walther. The photos we're posting are courtesy of Romain, Siu and Li ayi.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Food, food, food

After the next uploading cycle, we'll have pictures of Tuesday and Wednesday's fish-loaded meals. I'll probably upload pictures for a week's worth of meals to give everybody an idea, and then do a post every now and then when something exceptional comes up.

This is maybe last Saturday's meal. In the center, pig's feet. At top, some veggies and chicken drumsticks. Left and right of center are fish and ku gua (bitter melon). At the bottom, something spicy, tomatoes with sugar, and fried beef strips.

I think this is Monday's meal. The orange is nan gua bing, a slightly sweet and sticky pastry made from "southern melon." The dish with the big soup ladle is a sort of wet custard with bits of meat. On the bottom right are fish balls and mushrooms. At the upper left, with the yellow cap, you can see the hot peppers Yan laoshi loves to eat (and Romain is deathly afraid of).

This is Sunday's meal. I sort of forget what all the dishes were, but it was a big meal because Li ayi's classmates came to visit from xian. Although if you compare with the other meals, perhaps this wasn't so big after all.

When Josekis Collide

See if you can figure out what joseki this is (only one corner, of course). The upper right corner is a different variation played out partway. During game reviews, he usually shows us some fairly simple joseki, but a few days ago he showed us this complicated one, probably because the kids in the A and B league like to play it a lot.
Tomorrow, I will be adding more food pictures.

In July, the students are on holiday, so the go school will be open more often. We'll be there from Thursday through Saturday. On the other three days (Mon-Wed), we will study ourselves, play each other or Yan laoshi or Jin Jing 1p, or take a break to go sightseeing.

After two weeks, I've also finally got my first win against a teacher. I took 2 stones against Li laoshi, who is a bit more aggressive and maybe overplays a bit. He's perhaps the weakest of the teachers I've played so far; it's hard to say because it's the first game where I didn't make a huge mistake in the opening. But even the stronger teachers have a hard time against the top kids. Siu mentioned that every time he sees the top kid at the school play against the teachers, there's a dead group somewhere on the board (usually the teacher's).

I feel like when I first got here, I got a little bit weaker as I tried to begin to think the way Yan laoshi thought about the game. I think that now things are sinking in, and I am starting to make fewer mistakes, so I am trending upwards again. The teaching I had received before was from strong players, but it was relatively unfocused. Reviews often talked about good or bad moves, but didn't often focus on the flow of the game, or talk about the right mindset. I might say that my previous teachers analysed the board, but Yan laoshi (with more ideal circumstances, meeting students everyday in person, seeing progress or lack thereof over time) is able to analyse both the board and the student.

Speaking of mistakes, I actually had a game review yesterday that lasted about 10 minutes because I screwed up a large-scale joseki (after I had actually tricked the teacher!). Yan laoshi's advice: don't play large-scale joseki unless you know the variations. Which I would have followed at the time, except I didn't know the smaller-scale variations either. So the first two weeks has been, in addition to soaking up the principles of urgent points and fighting for sente and completing shapes (which I knew beforehand in a theoretical sense, but am now applying), learning some of the more common joseki so that I don't get burned before I have a chance to show my stuff.

Today's lesson: it's usually not good to surround points when you are also helping the opponent make points. Especially if, as he is breaking into your area, he makes more points. In our reviews, we see a lot of gote moves which seem to surround a lot of points, but if you compare with what the opponent gained, are actually not worth that much. The best thing is to play a sequence that breaks the opponents area while solidifying your own.

Example: In one of our game reviews today, black attacked from one direction, gaining a 26 point territory in gote, while helping white solidify 20 points. If black had attacked from the other direction, he wouldn't have that largish territory at all, but would have been able to break into white's territory in sente to take away those 20 points, and then still be able to play a large 15-point + gote move. The difference could be more than 30 points, so enclosing a big territory is not always best if it helps the opponent more. I'll try to post examples for this lesson and more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fishing and Foot Massage (with pictures!)

What a day off! The other day, Siu and Walther said, "I think Yan Laoshi said we're going fishing. Maybe we heard wrong?" Romain and I were completely incredulous. I don't think either of us really believed it until we got there.

We went to a fish farm. The fish were bred in several concrete and brick pools interspersed with concrete docks. It seems that they do this bit of agricultural tourism (our fishing trip) on the side.

We picked up a few old friends of the Yan family on the way and spent the day out there. We caught some fish in the morning. It's not too hard, seeing as these fish are just sitting in these pools with no where to go and nothing to do. Romain was clearly the best. He caught four fish. He also sat in the sun and got burnt, while the rest of us stayed on the covered walkways.

They served us lunch with fish ball soup and a spicy grilled (?) fish for the main dishes. They were delicious. I tried not to think about the stagnant green and orange water the fish live in. Or the fact that the owner chain smokes and tosses his cigarette butts in the pools. Ignoring that, lunch was excellent. Also we had these little bean things that tasted like artichokes. I don't know what they were, but I loved them.

After lunch, Yan Laoshi, Li a yi and their friends played mah jong in the little bungalow, while we westerners stayed out and tried to catch more fish. We didn't have much luck in the afternoon though, as the fish were not biting in the hot sun.

We left around 3 pm and dropped the friends off somewhere. I thought we would just head home, but no. We took a detour to a Chinese doctor for a massage. They specialized in massaging the feet, since there are pressure points in the feet for the whole body.

The massage was wonderful. While my feet soaked in hot herbed water, the doctor massaged my shoulders, found pressure points on my head and massaged my arms: shaking, slapping, cracking, and more pressure points. Then he dried my feet and massaged them for about half an hour, leaving them with a lovely tingling feeling. Afterwards, he massaged my legs. He would hold my leg in a stretch farther than I would have stretched it. He'd hold and hold and then shove. I thought for sure he'd pull a muscle or two, but it would only hurt when he actually did it and then feel better immediately after.

Throughout the whole thing, we snuggled under down comforters and drowsily half-watched World Cup games on TV. I was in a room with Li a yi. The boys were elsewhere. Since I don't speak Chinese and none of them spoke English, I was alone with my thoughts and enjoyed the whole experience immensely. It was an ideal day off. Today we're back to work. :)

I won!

On Monday, we went to the Weiqi center in the afternoon as we usually do on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I played one of the teachers at 3 stones (he was playing simultaneously with Romain) and I won! He resigned. I was excited, but really this is my strength -- playing with handicap stones. I play so slowly. I feel like whenever I play an even game, I just get behind so quickly. In July, we'll start going to the center all day 4 days a week (now we just go all day on Saturdays and Sundays). Then we'll probably be playing the kids more, which means more even games for me. Hopefully this will help me play faster moves.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Driving in Wuhan

Yan Laoshi carts us around town in a big van. Mostly we go back and forth between the apartment and the Weiqi center. The 25 kilometer drive to the Weiqi center takes about half an hour. Sometimes we stop to pick up or drop off other students or teachers. I often think that I will study problems or games or Chinese in the car, but I rarely do. There is so much to see that I prefer to just stare dazed out the window.

I'm glad that I don't actually have to drive. Sitting in the car is rather like an amusement park ride. I don't think that anything bad will actually happen, but there's a lot of eye candy and things popping out at you to make you jump. About 85 percent of the time, we're on a collision course with someone or something. There's a bus swerving at us, a car a hair's breadth from the side of our van, or we're barrelling down on some unsuspecting pedestrian or bicyclist. Everyone just goes in the direction they need to go, without much regard for traffic laws. I think it's less dangerous than it sounds though, because no one can go too fast since there's always someone or something in front of you to swerve around or slow you down. So everything seems to move in slow motion. The pedestrians just saunter on their way and trust that the bus heading straight for them will slow down just enough to not hit them.

There's so much to see. There are people everywhere: in cars, in buses, on bicycles or just walking. The buildings tend to be large and covered with loud billboards. Most everything is in Chinese characters, and hence completely incomprehensible to me. Some things are written in pinyin, so that I can at least sound it out and maybe pick out some words. Some of the business names will also be printed in English and occasionally you see a business motto in English. The grammar is often terrible: "In the future, are carrying on..."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hi guys,

These are some of the problems that we're doing here. I guess our problems came from here, although our hard copies have some discrepancies with the online versions. In any case, they're about the same level we're doing, if you're interested. Yan laoshi expects us to do one of those pages per day or so each of the life and death (sihuo) and the tesuji (shoujian) problems. We also have another packet of problems we do about 4 per day, that are similar in level.

In the interest of full disclosure, even with our approx. 3 hours per day of self-study, I don't manage to finish all of the 5d level problems in the life and death section.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Ni hao!

All we do is play Go and eat, so the Chinese I'm learning consists of Go terms and the names of various types of food. Also, we learned quickly how to say "I'm full" ("Wo shi bao le"). We say this all the time, since we eat so much and they're always trying to get us to eat more. "Si shi gua! ("Eat watermelon!") "Wo shi bao le." ("I'm full.") Romain and I don't know how to say too much else, but we're trying to learn more. Yesterday we went out to eat for dinner and Yan Sen (Yan Laoshi's son) had just taught us to say "I love the NBA" ("Wo ai NBA"). So we were practicing saying that we love other things too: "Wo ai Weiqi", etc. Romain started to say something and started out slowly with "Wo..." trying to think of how to say whatever it was, but Yan Laoshi interrupted and finished quickly for him: "shi bao le."

About a month before I came, I got a Chinese textbook with CD's, and started memorizing the first CD and trying to learn some Chinese. I wish I had started months earlier. The little that I learned from doing that has been really helpful, but it would be helpful if I had done a lot more. I don't mind so much not being able to understand what people are saying at dinner. Siu and Walther translate for me a lot, and Yan Laoshi's family are all very good about speaking slowly and clearly to me. They see that I want to learn and are happy to teach me. Li a yi and Yan Sen taught me yesterday to say the Chinese phrase equivalent to "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". (Of course, it doesn't mention Rome.)

I get frustrated sometimes with the Go lectures in Chinese though. Yan Laoshi gets excited and goes fast. When I just watch what he does on the board, I can understand a lot of that, but not all of it. But I also want to learn the Chinese so that I can understand what he's saying about it. I try very hard to listen to what he's saying and try to figure it out from the few words I know, but then sometimes I miss what he's doing on the board. I am learning some of the terms; I can understand more now than I did a week ago. So hopefully it will get easier. I think it would have been helpful though to have taken a Chinese class or at least spent more time on my CD's before I came. I just hate to miss any of what he's teaching me.

Friday, June 23, 2006

So far, I am still being crushed at 3 stones by the teachers. I guess I've only been here a week so far so I shouldn't expect instant improvement. Well, I guess "crushed" would be an overstatement, but the teachers (probably 5-6d) seem to be able to grasp on to any weakness and use it to control the game.

Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday were all filled with go. We study problems in the morning, in the afternoon we play against the teachers at the go school, and in the evening we review all of our games with Yan laoshi. We now also have Jin Jing, a 1-dan pro about to go to school at Beijing University, coming over in the mornings to help us out with problems, show variations, and play some teaching games.

I think that after another week or so, I'll have all of my glaringly bad moves beaten out of me. At that point, winning against the teachers and maybe even Yan laoshi shouldn't be too difficult at 3 stones. Then, Yan laoshi said that we can start talking about strategies, such as feint in the east and attack in the west. I guess that becoming 2-3 dan Chinese doesn't require any special moves, just a couple of basic principles and some calculating power.

I'm pretty excited, because I can see so many places that I make mistakes, if I eliminate them I will be so much stronger. And by mistakes, I don't mean that I miscalculated (just do more problems), or that I played a move expecting one result and got another (just do more problems), but rather that I was thinking in an incorrect way about how to play go. With these basic principles being drilled into my head all the time, I feel like the game becomes much simpler, the board a little bit smaller.

Hmmm... maybe this last bit doesn't quite make sense, but anyways, I'm excited because I can see a template for my future progress. I read Benjamin Teuber's blog about his trip last year to a Korean baduk school, and it seems that one advantage he had there is that there were more strong players to play games with. He said that fighting strength was heavily emphasied, and games with stronger players definitely will increase that. On the other hand, I think that we get more face time with the teacher here, and are guided more carefully along a path to stronger go. I think that this fits my personality more, since I do better with more structure and guidance, and I also play better with principles being emphasised.

Today, we played in a league consisting of the four of us in the apartment. In the afternoon, I played a terrible game against Yan laoshi at 3 stones. In the first 50 moves I had 4 pretty bad moves. In the first 100 moves, he showed me 4 or 5 moves that, in total, cost me 50 points, or the same as a group of 25 dead stones. (one move cost me 30 points which is pretty bad when you consider that a normal opening move is usually worth about 20 points).

This weekend, we will be playing with managers from a Sichuan company that sponsors Yan laoshi's school. I'm not sure what to expect for our schedule, but our opponents should be 2-3d Chinese.

Some basic principles:

Sente is very big. I guess it's the kind of thing that's sort of hard to recognize unless an example is played out, but in our teaching games, we are always losing 5 points here, 6 points there, and it's as if the teacher only played one move. 3 or 4 sente moves could add up to 15 points, and then another 5 point random gote move, all adds up to be the same as one 20 point gote move. Sometimes, even if breaking into a big territory is big, if it's gote, it's not that big.

Attack 2 steps, defend one step. Many of us are guilty of overattacking. Once the opponent gets stronger, he dives into the hole that we neglected while we were so busy attacking. Especially in handicap games, it's necessary to come back to defend, then it's possible to attack again.

So much to learn! See you next time. Also, if you have comments, please let me know what sorts of things you would like to hear more about (although I will probably ramble about go regardless). And also wish me luck in surviving the onslaught of good food. I was thinking we should take pictures of all the meals we eat, since we also keep records of all our games; and all we do is eat and play go!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pictures of the Apartment

We live on the fifth and top floor of our apartment building. It is one of several surrounding a little courtyard which includes the exercise park where I work out in the morning. I'm working on becoming a regular, so that all the other morning regulars recognize me. Mostly, it's a bunch of older people. There's one woman who is there every morning before I get there, and she's still there when I leave. Yan Laoshi and his family live in an apartment in one of the other buildings around the courtyard.

Our apartment has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. We have air conditioning in the bedrooms and the living room. The kitchen gets ridiculously hot. I don't know how Liu yi (the woman who cooks for us) stands it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Trip to the Temple

Tuesdays are our day off each week. Yesterday was our first, and we took a trip to visit a temple in Wuhan. It was beautiful. When we first walked in, they handed us each three incense sticks, which we lit, waved out (we were not allowed to blow on them), and then planted in the sand with a prayer and three bows.

We prayed to various other gods: I prayed to one for something from the heart, and to the god for education, which I figured I could definitely use. We rang the big bell three times for good luck.

Walther described how we chose a statue, which determined our fortune. When we walked in, the boys had to go the left, while the girls went to the right. We could choose any statue to start from, and there were 500 there! How to choose? They kept asking me if I was ready, and I kept saying no. Finally I picked one that I liked and Li a yi (Yan Laoshi's wife) and Li Qian (the daughter of the Liu a yi, who cooks for us) counted with me in Chinese until we got to the 27th statue from the one I picked. It was number 266, and I had to remember this when we went outside. We got cards with a drawing of our statue on it and some fortune-telling clues on the back. We went in by the gift shop to the fortune tellers and waited with a crowd around the table where our fortune teller was sitting. My fortune was very good: she said I come happily and leave happily and that all the things I prayed for today would probably come true. Li a yi kept saying "hen hao!"(very good!) with a big smile and a thumbs up.

bad moves

When Yan laoshi reviewed our games with Ai laoshi last night, he also talked about different kinds of bad moves:

1) Moves that let you die somewhere on the board.
2) Moves that are only half-way.
3) Moves that don't cooperate with the other stones on the board.

Number 1 is about urgent moves, which are often the difference between life and death, or being attacked severely. Urgent moves before big moves! 2 means that you shouldn't changes plans half-way through (make sure to complete your shape) and also to not play moves whose purpose is not clear, like standing in the hallway between your study and your bedroom: you can't sleep, and you can't study either, so you should do just one or the other. 3 is also related to the first half of number two. If you rush forward to play somewhere else without first completing your shape, your opponent may get sente to come back and destroy your area too easily. The shape I refer to is not only local, but also whole-board, such as connecting two corners together with the side star point. I guess there are always exceptions, but until I become very skilled, these are nice guidelines to follow so I can play nice games and become stronger.

By the way, I am so bad at doing problems.... They're all so hard, but I guess that's the point.

Today, we went to a famous temple in Wuhan to have our fortunes told. The procedure is to enter a room full of 500 statues, pick a random one (or one who looks like a nice guy) and then count n statues away, where n is your age. Unfortunately, as we tried to leave the temple, our car wouldn't start. After getting a jumpstart, we had hot pot for lunch and now I am trying to recover from the heat.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Yan Laoshi

Our teacher, Yan Laoshi, is great. He spends so much time with us. He eats with us at all our meals, checks our homework (fuseki problems, tesuji problems, tsume-go problems), takes us to the Weiqi center to play and review games and gives us lectures in the evenings.

When we went to the Weiqi center yesterday, the four of us played simultaneously against one of the other teachers at the school. We all took 3 stones and we all resigned. Last night, Yan Laoshi reviewed the games for us again and lectured on playing with 3 stones. He said to use simple variations and to build thickness to make the board smaller. He also said we should alternate between big points and smaller points that defend our shapes. This way, when White jumps in, you can minimize the damage.

Yan Laoshi is very energetic. He's always running around, doing a million things. If there isn't something particular that he needs to do right away, he gets this predatory look in his eye. This is when he is most likely to snatch someone's tsume-go problems and his red pen.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I feel like a 10 year old.

Being a kid is great. People cook for you and clean for you and you have no worries. Here, I am a kid. Everything is done for me, so all I have to worry about is playing and studying Go. (and trying to find housing in London for the fall...)

The meals are communal. There are many bowls with different dishes in them on the table. We each get a bowl of rice and chopsticks and just grab what we want from the various bowls throughout the meal. And it's so good.

For breakfast, we sometimes have ru ga mien (hot and dry noodles), which I'm told are the "hamburger of Wuhan". They're really good, but a little bit spicy, so I need to eat one of the fried dough type pastries with them.
There are four of us living in an apartment in Wuhan: Becci and me, as well as Romain (16 yrs. old from France) and Siu Hong (20-something Chinese from Holland). Siu Hong has gone from about 2k European to 2d chinese during the month before I arrived. All of us are playing in the C group at Yan laoshi's go school. This strength of this group is about 1-3d, while the B group is 3-4d, and the A group is 5 and up.

On the weekends, we play the other kids in our group all day. On saturday, I played 2 games in the morning and one in the afternoon, while today I only played one for each half day. Every single game gets reviewed by Yan laoshi or Chen laoshi (the other teacher for the A, B, and C groups). Most of the time, they're berating the kids for playing thoughtless go (which is one reason they think that we will advance much faster, since we really care). So far, I have a 3-2 record, beating the lower-level players in my group but losing to the higher ones. After watching some of my games, Chen laoshi says that I'm good at the larger-scale go (whole-board fighting, speed, cooperating stones) but I'm lacking in "small weiqi," knowing the key points when the board becomes splintered, and the locally best moves, so I have to do a lot more problems to make up for this weakness. He estimates that I am about 2.5d chinese. I can already feel that I'm lacking in some local tesuji power against the stronger kids. I need to do a lot of problems, but as long as I do self study and just review my games with the teachers, I can see a very clear path to getting stronger. I want to be in the B group by the time that I leave.

On Monday, we will go to the school, but only the A and B group kids will be there, so I will most likely be playing with some of the teachers. In the mornings there will be self-study time to do problems. Interestingly, Yan laoshi has never mentioned going over pro games, but I guess if there are so many strong players to teach you the principles of go, it is less necessary. Yan laoshi is always around the apartment in the evenings to give lectures, play teaching games, or just hang around so we can ask questions.

As a side note, the kids seem to be very strong at guessing for nigiri. Siu Hong took white in maybe his first 10-15 games at the go school. I seem to be doing better at nigiri, except that I have won all my games with white and lost all with black, so I should become weaker at nigiri.

And now for a bit of go learning: In life and death, always play from the outside when possible. Even if playing a vital point works, squeezing from outside will be better in points in case the group comes back to life (for example, in a ko fight).

By the way, we are prevented from seeing our blog (although we can edit it through the address). So if you have comments, we probably won't be able to see them.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Playing the kids at the Go center

On Saturdays and Sundays we spend all day playing the kids at Yan Laoshi's Go center. Yesterday was the first day that Walther and I went. There are about 150 students in his school, but only about 15 or so who are in the dan level groups. We are playing with them. They're mostly about 9 or 10 years old. They're very strong and very cute.

The teachers are very animated: Chen Laoshi makes boxing fists and punches the air to demonstrate the fight on the board. He snatches the glasses off of one kid, holds them up backwards to his eyes and covers one side, showing that the group has only one eye. Yan Laoshi sits back languidly fanning himself while the kids replay their game for him until someone plays a bad move--then he pounces. His fan now folded, he brushes useless stones off the board with it; he won't lower himself to touch them with his hands. Someone captures useless stones and he disdainfully picks up a used napkin: Those stones are rubbish! You're eating garbage! The kids giggle at the antics, but they learn quickly and they learn well. It's so much fun to be there.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

more gossip

Yan laoshi also mentioned yesterday that he thinks that go is simple (I guess that's a rough translation). So his goal while we are here is to clarify the principles of go for each stage: opening, middle game, whole-board analysis, and endgame. Then, after we leave, if we study hard we can continue to improve.

There was another interesting analogy that Yan laoshi made. When we were talking about problems that we would usually class as tesuji, he used the example of a bookshelf being tidied up. When a local situation is messy, or unfinished, a tesuji can be something that will "tidy up" the situation to your advantage.

Today, Becci and I might play Yan Laoshi, and this weekend we will be playing all day at the go school.

Arrival in Wuhan

Walther and I arrived today in Wuhan, welcomed by "Go Walther" and "Go Becci" signs. We spent the previous night in shanghai, hosted by Walther's father. This turned out to be an excellent choice, since we then arrived in Wuhan at least somewhat refreshed from our long flight.

We will be eating well this summer. Immediately upon arriving at the apartment, we were fed so much wonderful food. We had several traditional Hubei province dishes, all of which were delicious. Siu told me at dinner that Yan Laoshi had said to him, "I'm not teaching you weichi, I'm teaching you to drink beer." All the members of our big family here are wonderful. They are gracious and friendly and have made us feel completely at home.

I then played my first game of weichi in China, against one of the other Western students here. Yan Laoshi then gave Walther and I several packets of problems: tsume-go, tesuji and fuseki problems, along with a kifu book to record our games. He explained how we learn go with an analogy of the wheels of a car. On one side the wheels are the basics, which we learn on our own by studying problems. On the other side, the wheels are the teacher and other players. If you have a balance of the two, you will improve quickly. If you have only one side, then you will not get far.

After dinner (more incredible food), Yan Laoshi gave us our first lesson. He talked about how Black's goal is to keep his advantage from going first by making sure his stones are working together. White's goal is to thwart Black's goal. If and when White succeeds, Black needs to switch strategies and try to play fast.

He also talked about how we should play in the biggest spaces in the opening, which are easily determined by counting how many lines are between the stones. However, he warned us that we should play urgent moves first. To determine which moves are urgent, we should use 3 criteria: 1. life or death of a group; 2. if your opponent's next move in an area would make the stones you've already played there useless; 3. the points (usually keimas) where you can expand your area while reducing your opponent's.

I'm sure he told us a lot more than that, but I'm really tired right now. Also, he was speaking in Chinese which was occasionally translated for me by Siu or Walther or our translator. Tomorrow we start in earnest, so I think I will go to bed soon.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Background: How I Discovered Go

Guo Juan and Becci at the Woodlands Workshop
On Tuesday, I leave for China.

I will spend the next two months studying and playing a beautiful game that we in the U.S. call “Go”. Five years ago, I had never even heard of this game.

It was just a few weeks before September 11th (The September 11th) and I had just moved to Burlington, Vermont to start a Masters program in mathematics. Not knowing anyone, I joined a couple of students from my new program to go out for beers. We went to a pizza place and were shooting pool and having a beer when Jason, peering through a window in a door to a back room, said, “What’s that game those guys are playing?” Curious, I too went to the door to peer through the window.

I was entranced. It was love at first sight. The intensity and humility and beauty and wisdom of the game pulled at me like a magnet even before I knew what it was. I never thought, much less asked, “Is this Othello?” I did ask what it was, and my future teacher jumped up to start whispering intently about eyes and life and death and battles. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was hooked.

Two years later I finished my Masters. I was probably about 7 kyu by then. I left for Boston to start my PhD. I’ve been at Brandeis University for the past three years. Brandeis is in Waltham, but I live in Somerville because that’s where the Go club is.

Two years ago, I met Guo Juan 5p at a Go workshop in the Catskills (in New York). With two of my Vermont friends (including my teacher from that first night), I have been taking online lessons with her ever since. She is an amazing teacher and an inspiring role model. When I asked her about some existing programs for travelling to China over the summer to study Go, she generously offered to send me instead to study at her colleague's Go school. This year, she is sending only four of us to study with Yan Laoshi: two of us from Boston, one from Holland and one from France. She plans to expand the program in the future. ("Laoshi" means "teacher" in Chinese -- we will also receive an hour of Chinese instruction every day!)

My friends at the Massachusetts Go Association would probably tell you that I’m about AGA 1 dan now, but after a miserable performance at the Oza in January, my AGA rank dropped to 2 kyu. I hope to become a much stronger and faster player this summer.

It’s incredible to think that five years ago I had no idea that Go existed and now I’m going to spend my summer training hard with a professional.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Introduction, part 1


I'm going to be one half of this blog. I'm a student in Boston, entering law school in the fall. I've been playing Go for 3 years, raised by the kind teachers at the Massachusetts Go Association.

I'm starting this blog because on June 15, I will be going to China to study go (weiqi in Chinese, baduk in Korean). I will be in Wuhan for 2 months, during which time I will be enrolled at a go school and receive professional instruction. I love playing go, and I hope that this environment will allow me to gain at least 2 stones in strength.

This blog will chronicle the activities that I participate in during this trip to China, as well as my feelings on how I am (or am not) improving, and thoughts for how I might use my training to strengthen the Go community in Boston when I go back.

I'll be back later with more details about the trip.