I spent the day at this month’s Bay Area Go Players Association tournament. It was my first tournament in recent memory playing as a 1 dan; I had a record of 1 win and 3 losses and got the impression that 1 dan is a more accurate rating for me than 1 kyu, but that I’m not a particularly strong 1 dan.

In my first game, I took one stone, and the only reason why it was particularly close was that my opponent made a stupid mistake in the endgame that cost him about 10 points; I should have resigned earlier. Judging from conversations I overheard, I got the impression that he normally plays as 3 dan but his rating has slipped recently; I’m quite willing to believe that, it felt like he was 2-3 stones stronger than me.

My second game was frustrating in that the score on the board was 61 to 54, and the AGA rules have a rather large komi of 7.5. Oops.

The way my third game ended was instructional. We were fighting a ko; I made a ko threat. At least I thought it was a ko threat: my opponent started looking at it, and I realized that, because of a snapback, it wasn’t actually a threat to capture the stone it seemed to be threatening.

And then I looked more closely at the ko, and got really nervous. If I’d given in and connected, it would have only cost me a point. If he won the ko, rather than connecting, he’d capture four of my stones, which could be a big amount at some points in the endgame, but I had (despite my misreading of this one) several ko threats on the board that were bigger than that.

But then I realized that his capturing those four stones wasn’t all that was going on: it created a serious threat on my group adjacent to them, and in fact I wasn’t completely sure that my group would survive if I tenukied. (Which I would have to do to make good on any ko threat I would play.) This is something I hadn’t really thought of when doing ko fights: it’s not enough to just calculate the value of your opponent’s first move if he ignores your ko threat, you also have to figure out if that move is sente. And, if it is, you have to play ko threats that are enough larger to make it worthwhile to ignore that sente move.

Despite all of that, it turned out well. My ko threat wasn’t a threat in the way I thought it was; fortunately, when I read it more carefully, there was a more subtle shortage of liberties there. Which my opponent missed, so he won the ko; he captured four of my stones, lost twenty of his, and didn’t manage to capture the other ten of mine that were threatened! (In our post-game review, we decided that the best play after his initial capture lead to my group living in seki, but as it was it lived outright.) A very odd result: we both misread my ko threat, and the result was that, as an outcome of a ko fight that I’d initially miscalculated as small, the game turned from a close game to one where he resigned!

My fourth game was really weird. My opponent’s grasp of large-scale structures was even worse than mine, but he constantly wanted to get into fights with me. And, in doing so, he left himself weak, so I was constantly attacking him! Really bloody, and we both misread situations in significant ways; I misread more than he did, and lost. I really shouldn’t have misread some of those situations; the flip side is that I should probably look for clever attacks more often, because if he can find weaknesses like that in my positions, I’m probably missing some in my opponents’ positions.

One big takeaway from my first two games, which jives with my memories from other recent tournaments: I’m probably doing a better job of building up influence than I did a few years ago, but I’m also being far too cavalier about letting my opponents getting significant territory on the sides. In particular, I really underestimate how valuable it is to have an entire side of the board.

The nice non-go-related aspect of the tournament was that it was in the SF Japantown. I had lunch at Sapporo-ya, which doesn’t look like much from the outside but which we discovered has quite good ramen when we tried it out because we NEEDED FOOD NOW the last time we went to Japantown. And I did some shopping at Kinokuniya; they didn’t have what I was looking for (more Puzzle Nikoli books; fortunately, the ones I have will last me through the only upcoming trip we have planned), but I found a go book I didn’t already own.

And I browsed through the instructional language section, and acquired more inventory there. Which doesn’t entirely thrill me, but I’ll be finishing my Japanese textbook in about half a year, I’m not sure I’ll go to a Japanese bookstore between now and then, and I could use ideas from browsing in a bookstore. And if I learn about books that I want to buy while browsing in a bookstore, I’m going to almost always buy them there, instead of noting them down and buying them elsewhere. The haul:

  • Collections of essays and fiction with “translations of all the complex passages”, copious notes, and a dictionary. (And a CD and profiles of the authors.) I’m really excited about these: they look like a great way to make the transition from book learning to reading real Japanese.
  • Two volumes of Japanese in MangaLand: I liked the other introduction-to-Japanese-via-manga book that I read, so I figured I’d give these a try as well.
  • A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar. I bought this partly because I figure it might be a reasonable thing to read once I’m done with the textbook and/or a reasonable reference, but mostly because there’s an intermediate grammar in the same series, which I expect will be a good follow-up to the textbook.

All in all, if I’m going to accumulate inventory, it doesn’t look like too bad a choice: I have specific triggers coming up in the not-too-distant future that I expect will cause me to start reading all of them, and I’ll probably start reading the manga volumes sooner than that: the first one would be a good candidate to bring on vacation.

A quite pleasant day. I even got some studying done over lunch, so I didn’t particularly fall behind in my regular activities.

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