# SAT “Special Tactics”

Went down to Tacoma today to meet the family and just relax. Saw that my sister had purchased a bunch of SAT prep books from Princeton Review that were lying on the counter, so when I went to use the bathroom I grabbed one for some bathroom reading. I found a small section on Probability, and me being the enthusiastic probabilist I skimmed through the problems. This one caught my attention:

Maybe I’m being a little too picky, but I find this problem to be poorly worded because it fails to explicitly mention that the drawer contains just black, blue, and brown socks and only those colors. Regardless, I calculated the answer by letting x := total # of socks in the drawer and solving: x = 12 + (3/8)x + (1/3)(3/8)x => x = 24 (note to self: add LaTeX later). I checked the solution to not only verify whether 24 was correct, but more importantly to compare with their methodology…

??! Well, maybe there is some merit to this process of elimination approach, but shouldn’t they at least provide the simplest and most direct way of solving this problem as well? “…it may not be clear whether to pick a bigger or a smaller number, so just pick a direction”? Pretty disappointing for this to be considered a solution in the book. I noticed a similar phenomenon with some of the other problems as well. Hopefully my sister doesn’t read too deeply into these solutions.  Anyways, time to sleep and go to work tomorrow, w00t.

# Byoyomi 101.

• Added CyberORO/World Baduk to the Go Servers section, where I review Go servers I’ve played extensively on.
• Added a Tsumego section, which doesn’t have much for now but will basically contain problems I’ve composed.  There’s already one there, so see if you can solve it.
• Added a Links section, where I just post favorited Go sites and my bookmark.

Yesterday I made a thread over at Lifein19x19 forums to discuss the question: What makes someone a 9-dan?  I intentionally left the definition of 9-dan a bit vague for discussion sakes, but for this post I’m going to have it mean “anyone strong enough to reach 9-dan on a Go server”.  In the thread I provided several characteristics such a 9-dan has in their Go:

1. They can read with incredible depth and width.
2. They have a massive joseki database in their minds.
3. They can remember games they played eons ago.
4. They can adapt to various time settings and utilize it efficiently (since not all pro tournaments have the same, or even similar, time settings).

There are some others I’ve posted in the thread, and some of the response posts in the thread are excellent – so be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.  I think most Go players can agree with the first three points I made, but what about #4?  How can 9-dan players be better not only on the board, but with the clock as well?

First off, I’d like to note that regarding overtime systems, byoyomi is by far the most popular choice in Asia for Go players.  The big servers in Asia only support byoyomi, and most tournaments use byoyomi as well.  It’s also very popular in America and Europe, but nowhere as dominant.  So what I’m about to write only applies for byoyomi overtime.

9-dan players know how to utilize their byoyomi periods more efficiently than weaker players. This is especially noticed online, but can be seen in televised league games between professionals as well.  There are a handful of such videos you can find on Youtube, including a game between Umezawa Yukari 5p and Ishida Atsushi 9p seen here that illustrates my point.  Pay close attention to how much of the byoyomi period they use before making their moves (and sometimes using ko threats at the last second to gain more thinking time, a tactic some people call a “timesuji”).  The majority of their moves either spent nearly all of the byoyomi period, or was played quickly – the latter for many reasons, such as a move to play was obvious or was what they read.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, this is also noticed in online games.  When you watch 9d vs. 9d games on Tygem, you will notice that many players, especially the top 9d players, won’t make moves, especially in middle-game, until the countdown voice just finishes saying “9″ (it counts up to 10 once you have 10 seconds remaining).  It’s very exciting to see especially when they’re down to their last period and they continue to get it down to the wire regardless, brushing against the reaper of time losses.  Take a look at the bar plots below:

I observed a game between two top Tygem 9d players (along with nearly 800 others) and paid attention to their byoyomi (time settings were no main time, 20 second byoyomi x 3). Every time they used up a period, I just counted the time they spent on their next period instead.  I kept track of how much of their byoyomi period they spent for every move, went over a recorded video of it briefly to ensure accurate measurements, then threw the results into R to spit these bar plots out. I did the same thing in a game that was played between a KGS 2d and a KGS 1d with identical time settings.  The blue barplots are for the 9d players, and the yellow barplots are for the KGS 1-2d players.

You can clearly see that the KGS players, whose IDs I’ve removed for privacy reasons, didn’t utilize their byoyomi periods fully, the KGS 1d player only getting down to 2 seconds once on a period. Meanwhile, the 9d players got it down to the wire more frequently than for any other time leftover except for the 20-second mark, or moves that were played instantly.  However, if we look at the third row of blue barplots, where I took out the last 45 moves in their game to not count time spent filling dame and playing 1/2 – 1 pt. moves, you can see that the players got it down to the last second most frequently.

Now I know from a scientific point of view, two game samples are absolutely, nowhere near enough to start making claims, but these results are consistent with what I’ve noticed over the years.  Next time you see high dan games online or pro games on TV/Youtube, pay attention every once in a while on how they spend their byoyomi.  And it makes sense; whenever I’m in byoyomi I find it difficult to stay paced and read calmly (or at all?) because I keep worrying about the time.  Many players will, instead of trying to improve their reading under heavy time pressure, try to avoid the issue by playing the instinctive moves, or the moves with the best feeling instead when they hit overtime.  They figure there isn’t enough time to do anything except shallow reading, or god forbid counting (PS: it’s very much possible).

Below you will find observations I made for only one side in two other games that show similar trends.  I was on another computer at the time and didn’t have recording software, so I just wrote down the values as the game progressed, which is too difficult to do for both players. Oddly (and fortunately), the one side I observed for both games turned out to be the winners.

When I had Cho Seokbin stay over at my house a few years ago, I remember him giving a lesson to a player who was on the brink of reaching SDK and asked for some general suggestions after their game and review.  When the player told Seokbin that he played mostly slow games on KGS and DGS, Seokbin strongly recommended playing faster games.  Not blitz, but 15-30 second byoyomi with minimal main time.  Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to get more games in, this also helps increase the efficiency in your reading by putting more time pressure on you.

As a result, it also helps remove the bad habit of reading and re-reading the same sequence repeatedly to assure yourself that such-and-such is dead/alive (because you won’t have the time to do so).  Pros and strong players do not play like that.  Once they read something as dead or alive, that’s that – they don’t go back to re-reading it unless a surrounding situation changes, because they’re confident in their reading abilities.  And we can try to emulate them in this regard by learning how to make more use out of both our opponents’ and our own time, especially in overtime.

# Ratings and TGC.

First off, I’d like everyone to know that I’ve added a section on Go servers to my blog where I review many of the Go servers out there I’ve played extensively on.  So far I’ve covered Yahoo! Go (kind of), FlyorDie, GoShrine, KGS, and Tygem/TOM.  Later I’ll add in CyberORO/WBaduk, IGS, Netmarble, and some of the turn-based servers such as DGS and OGS.  But yeah, hope you guys check it out and if you see anything strange or you wish to discuss a point I made, feel free to leave a comment.

Anyways, first off: the results of the Cherry Blossom went in the AGA database today.  As expected, my disastrous performance had some major hurtin’ on my AGA rank, dropping from 5.7 to 5.5.  I guess this means I’ll have to try 6d later.  Looking at my AGA card, I was a bit struck to see that my win percentage in the last 6 months was 20%.  Seriously, can you fail harder than that?  Now, I’ve only played in two tournaments in the last six months but still…20% is a very dismaying number that I haven’t seen since my last Physics exam (ba-dum, tsh!) and I hope I can raise that up by going to some of the monthly ratings tournaments at the Seattle Go Center.

Sadly, tournaments held by the Tacoma Go Club (TGC) ceased so I can’t go to those to try and heal my ratings.  The reason is mostly due to inactivity.  The President of the TGC, Gordon, stopped going because he was rather annoyed when he went for a few consecutive weeks a while back and no one was showing up.  I can’t blame him though – he has to pay the toll and it’s not a short drive for him to get to the coffee shop where the club usually meets.  Another active member, Jonathan, stopped going because he’s participating in a NASA program outside Washington.  Mike also stopped going due to his busy day job.  These members were the crux of the Go club, so as a result the members that sort-of-kind-of went like myself stopped going and the TGC flopped.

Now, before anyone starts getting any ideas, I live 45 minutes away from Tacoma and only stop by for the weekends for family visits.  Also, the few times I did used to go, I would always be playing 13-32 handicap or -100 komi games.  It only takes so many games before one gets sick of playing such ridiculously-handicapped games.  But still, I feel like I should step up to the plate and revive the TGC.  I’ll see what I can do over the summer.

For those who read my last post on the fall of GoDiscussions and the rise of Lifein19x19 (L19) forums, great news – activity in L19 is increasing and more features have been implemented.  It’s amazing how much got done in such a short time.  I’ve also started playing in two Malkovich games, one against zinger 1d in a 2 stone game where I take White (thread) and another against Tabemasu 7d in a 0.5 komi game where I take Black (thread).  I completed one Malkovich game against Joaz Banbeck 1d in a 3 stone game which was excellent.  It lasted about 6 months and garnered over 36,000 views!  In the end I did lose though, and got the game reviewed by Andy Liu, also known as bigbadwolf[9d] on KGS.

# Cherry Blossom.

Yesterday I went to the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival, where the Seattle Go Center hosted two Go tournaments, one for everyone and the other for youth players in a lightning tournament.  It seems just like yesterday I was young enough to enter the youth tournament and went 2nd to Luke Allen when we were both 5k.  Anyways, I drove up to Seattle and went to the open tournament.  For this tournament, I chose to enter as a 6d instead of my usual 5d for several reasons:

1. There were only three dan players signed up: myself, a 2d, and a 1d.  Meaning, I would have to play medium to large handicap games since this was a handicap tournament.  I personally feel that there isn’t too much of a difference between, say, a 6 stone and a 7 stone game.  Thus, I thought it wouldn’t be too bad dealing with an extra handicap stone for this particular situation.
2. My rating was 5.7 at the time, and I figure rounding up to 6 wasn’t really an exaggerating self-promotion.
3. The tournament field was also not very large, so I concluded that it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Regarding the first point I made though, Maxwell (GameFAQs on KGS) had signed up after me and he is an AGA 6d player, so at least one of my games would be even which was nice.  This gave me a chance to get my revenge against him, as I was 0-1 against him prior to this tournament from a monthly ratings tournament at the SGC; he had just come from Minnesota, so maybe any Minnesota players reading this article may recognize his name.

However, I should have taken into account the possibility I would be up against Chris Cameron in a 5h game.  The last time we played, I found playing against him with 5 stones extremely stressful and while there was a chance for me near the end of that game for me to win in a complicated L&D fight, the opportunity only arose because he was running low on time and it was a desperate Hail Mary play that I made when I realized I was down by 20 points approaching endgame.  In case anyone has a tingle in their brain by the mention of his name, he was the Hurricane winner in the 2007 USGC (the same year I took the Keith Arnold award :p).

Anywho, long story short, my performance in this tournament was disastrous and ended up going 0-3 (which also means I’m 0-2 against Maxwell).  However, I learned a lot of new things, got a chance to know a handful of locals I hadn’t met before, and most importantly had a great time.  The tournament started in the morning and ended in the evening for nearly 8 hours of Go bliss with lunch break.  I also had a chance to check out the festival and watch a handful of performances.  There were a lot of people in the Cherry Blossom Festival and it seems the Go players weren’t the only ones having a good time (sorry for bad quality, taken from cam phone):

So yeah, I’ve posted my three games below and commentated on them, writing my thoughts on the moves made and what I thought about each of my games overall.  The first two games are complete and the last one has the first 150 moves (I was nearly brain-dead after my last game).  If you see anything particular that’s strange in the SGFs, let me know as I did transcribe them from memory and could have easily made a transcription error of some sort.  And of course feedback, questions, or constructive criticisms are more than appreciated!