Here came the last day of Australian Go Congress 2017.

2 wins, 4 losses, 1 bye, it was not the best result for someone at 10k competing in kyu division. But I felt overwhelmingly proud of myself for making continuous progress in these 4 days. The games I played the day after were much more better than the day before. It was just that 2-week training and on-the-spot weakness fixes could never be enough for a player who far from being called “casual” let alone “serious” to win the tournament.

One might say I’m taking laziness as an excuse for not playing so well, I am like you just underestimate how much hard work and determination needed to get stronger at Go.

Many Go players I know give up playing after a series of losses or get discouraged when they cannot break through a certain level. I believe it all boils down to the lack of mental strength and efforts spent doing the homework. If one really wants to get stronger, he must be willing to go through all the struggles that David Mechner wrote in his guide  “How to improve at Go”.

I progressed relatively fast to 10k within a year, but my attitude towards the game was not good enough since I stopped attending Go classes and rarely played. So around September I find myself baffled between joining the tournament to learn or letting the opportunity slip away and forever remaining weak.

A high-five to the past me who overcame the fear of losing straight all the games and its consequent embarrassment. In life, having a thick face skin would really work to one’s advantage.

Okay now I’m going to note down some small little stories about the tournament in general, about my opponents and most importantly about my games.

1. Handicap in Kyu Division

Didn’t read the tournament rules carefully beforehand, it came as a big surprise to me when the congress chair announced that all games in Kyu Division would be handicap games, which means higher rank players need to give his opponents several handicap stones to allow for an interesting game with roughly equal challenge for both. For example Me 10k vs. Opponent 5k, I am allowed to take Black and place 5 stones on the board.

Ill-prepared and never played a game with handicap on me before, I got so intimidated just by seeing my 18k opponent making his 8-stone placement. “Man, I’m going to lose for sure”. And it just happened.

When I came home, I thought hard about these handicap stones and became fully aware that, for even games, for games that you get handicapped, and for games your opponent gets handicapped, the strategy of playing needs to be adjusted accordingly.

Besides, I was always under impression that those who could give 9 handicap stones are super strong. But the next day after being able to crush a 20k opponent with more than a hundreds points I realised the handicap does not mean a thing if there’s a gap in strength between the two players.

2. The Handshake

After 2 losses on the first day, I got a bye (a half win without playing) and received teaching games from An Young-gil 8p while waiting for the next round. Later when one of his students came we were asked to play against each other as his rank was also 10k.

Being young but experienced, he guided me on overall strategy and worked together with me in fixing some basic weaknesses in defence. What he said made so much sense and I felt like it was indeed a scratch on the right spot.

Life is interesting because of its unpredictable settings, that young boy turned out to be my next opponent. Our match progressed with me playing quite well at the beginning but gradually lost stamina and resigned. When I was cleaning up the table, to my surprise he offered a handshake.

“It was a good game”
“You always had sente moves”
“You were leading”

And another handshake:

“It was really a good game”

Looking back, there was no doubt that the two games I played with him and his kind words helped me to perform significantly better in the following days.

Talent has no age, and so does being a gentleman.

3. A Close Game

On the last day of the tournament, I won a very close game.

The tournament referee came and offered to help with the counting and he told me I won 5.5 points ahead. My opponent looked very disappointed, as losing a close game is definitely more satisfying than winning an easy game but at the same time more painful than losing far behind.

There was no komi in our game, should there be, he would have won with 1 point and it would be me who feel bitter after the match.

So it’s important as a player to be able to count quickly and accurately his territory when end-game happens so that he could take initiatives and gain some extra points.

In a close game, even 0.5 point counts.

4. Pro Yeon Woo

One of my best moments in the tournament was being able to meet Yeon-Woo Cho 1p, joined her simultaneous games and attended her lecture on Life and Death problems.

Yeon-Woo Cho got to pro level when she was 16 and has been playing Go for roughly 19 years. Compared to other pro players, her rank and achievement are not so impressive but she is very prominent on Youtube with the channel “Pro Yeon Woo”. Apart from game commentaries, she also films random videos such as the cosplay of Justin Bieber or mukbang (streaming her eating).

Having a good command of English but she makes all the video in Korean. Well isn’t it another reason to work harder on my TOPIK?

5. The Road Ahead

I remember during one lecture, a 5-dan player sitting next to me solved a Life and Death problem within a few seconds when I still struggled in understanding the board situation. Then I get even more astonished knowing that pro players can read up to 100 moves ahead. It’s like seeing a kungfu master performs incredible feats when you can barely do a high-kick.

“Amateurs play at the game, professionals labour at it. This put amateurs and professionals on parallel tracks that never met” (Toshiro Kageyama)

I guess my goal is simply being able to read ahead 1 more stone every year then.