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 Post subject: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #1 Posted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:44 pm 
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I've set myself upon the path of improvement in Go. It is a journey I don't expect that I will ever complete, but I hope to enjoy myself along the way. The unending nature of my walk should not be taken to mean there is no path to follow, however. This journal is intended to help me stay upon the true road, as well as to be a record of what I see along the way.

I'm starting this journal as a low DDK--my guess is that I'm around 12K on KGS, though a few rating anomalies make it hard to declare my current rank with certainty. At this level, there are so many things I can improve that it can be hard to pick one. But like a game of Go, my life has time limits so I need to choose my approach to maximize efficiency. My current plan is simple: do at least 20 minutes of tsumego six days a week, and play a minimum of two games each week. I also plan to have at least one Go related book I am working through at any given time.

These are modest goals, to be sure, but it is important that I choose initial goals that are sustainable. And these are the lower boundaries on my time spent with Go; nothing but my own time and energy prevents me from going above and beyond. These goals are, however, chosen with intentionality.

For the time being, I plan to work on relatively easy tsumego. I would also prefer to get 25 minutes of consecutive practice. My reasons for focusing on easy, time-limited tsumego are as follows:
  1. Improve my reading ability. As a DDK this is probably my single biggest area for improvement.
  2. Improve my reading speed. It does me no good to be able to read out a hard problem in 10 minutes when I play games on KGS with a 20 minute time limit. When I move slowly, I enter byo-yomi earlier than my opponent and end up making poor moves because of time constraints. Also, even when I have plenty of time remaining I can find myself abandoning my reading and going with intuition because I sense that I am spending too long on a single move. Working on easy tsumego is an attempt to shore up my fundamentals so that I can play the simple moves that make up most of the game with confidence.
  3. Improve my reading stamina. It's easy to take turns off when playing Go, simply because the sustained mental effort is taxing. I hope to increase my stamina for reading by working on consecutive problems.

The reason for playing games should be obvious: the reason I study is for the game. If I don't play games, then my studying is for naught. It is also in the game itself that I can measure my improvement. Two games a week is not a lot, but it is a goal that I think I can sustain. And it is important to have some goal for playing games; I am the type of person who can easily get wrapped up in studying for its own sake.

Staying on the path is more important than hitting any particular landmark, but I'm hoping that I can improve at about one stone per month (e.g. I would like to be a steady 8k on KGS by the beginning of the summer). I think I'm at a spot in my Go where this is realistic, but if I don't improve this quickly I won't be discouraged.

I plan to use this space to monitor which tsumego I'm currently working on, post reviews of my own games, offer thoughts about the books I'm reading, and generally track my progress. I'd love to have you join me in my journey! A long walk is always better with companions.


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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #2 Posted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 11:41 pm 
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An interesting choice for the name of your study journal.

Here is the start of Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go Chapter 3 - The Stones Go Walking -

Quote:
Go is the kind of game in which you are an expert if you can just keep on making ordinary moves. You need not play any especially brilliant moves at all. Amateurs' moves, however, are frequently far from ordinary... so often that I had difficulty knowing where to start in on a topic as broad as 'the stones go walking.'


You are walking a broad path when you go along with the stones. There are many options for moves, and the key is to follow the stones where they want you to play - to find the moves that, in retrospect, look totally obvious. I sometimes worry about the fact that I rarely come up with a move that seems to radiate power across the board; I almost never play a move that leaves my opponent stunned. Instead, I simply seek to play moves that look right. And I think this is a great way to start your rise into the SDK ranks - not trying to master the game to the point of coming up with amazing one-of-a-kind moves, but instead learning from tsumego and books and games how to play well.

I hope this study journal, and the rest of us here on the forums, can help you achieve your goals.

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"You have to walk before you can run. Black 1 was a walking move.
I blushed inwardly to recall the ignorant thoughts that had gone through
my mind before, when I had not realized the true worth of Black 1."

-Kageyama Toshiro on proper moves


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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #3 Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:53 pm 
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Thank you for the comments, moyoaji. The use of Kageyama's phrase was intentional, though I admit it has been a while since I read that chapter. I like the part you quoted, though. I would be happy to play a game devoid of brilliance but filled with good, solid moves.

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #4 Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:52 pm 
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Saturdays are a day of rest for me and my family, and I have chosen to rest from Go as well as work. I played no games and solved no problems today, and I think this pattern will allow me to make more progress in the long term. The break gives my mind a time to rest and synthesize what I've learned during the week. After a day off, I'm eager to get back to studying tomorrow!

As part of my reflection, I thought I'd post a game I played on Thursday. I lost this game by over a hundred points, which is not necessarily an encouraging place to start. But this is a journey of improvement, so I'll try to identify some of the reasons I lost so badly.

1) My rank on KGS is currently inflated. I lost my account because of disuse, so when I signed back up my rating was unsettled. I played a few games and got a rank of 12K, and then had a couple of consecutive stronger opponents whom I was paired with via automatch resign without playing a single stone. As a result, my rank shot up to 9K. The posted game was with a 12K opponent, so I was giving him three stones.

2) Because of point #1, my most comfortable strategy (build a solid moyo and push on my opponent once I've got some settled territory) was out the window right away. It's funny… when I'm playing a stronger opponent, three stones don't look like much. When I'm giving a three stone handicap to an opponent of similar strength, it looks like a ridiculous amount of influence to overcome.

3) Given this situation (and my opponent's early play), I tried to go for a large center territory. Once I let the opponent break through along the top, any hope of a decent game went out the window. I didn't have a real base on the edges from which to push out, so the rest of the game was simply reacting to his moves and trying to live. (Moves 65 and 69 sealed my doom. I suppose I was trying to save the stones in the corner with move 65, but it probably would have been better to sacrifice them for the center. I had another shot at sealing him out with 69 at H14, though that would have allowed him to play a lot of forcing moves that may have nullified the value of having a wall along the top. At any rate, once he connected solidly with 70, I had nothing to work with.)

4) I've been reading Attack and Defense in between games and problems, and I tried to apply a few of the concepts I've been learning (e.g. leaning attacks) in this game. However, I did so very poorly. This is pretty common when learning new aspects of Go, so I'm not discouraged by this first attempt.

5) My few attempts at late game invasions were complete failures. I should have been able to live with at least one of them, but I was in byo-yomi and massively behind by that point so my play was not very solid.



Despite my crushing defeat, the game wasn't a total loss. My opponent stayed around for a review afterwards, so I made a new friend on KGS. I also learned a few important concepts that I can apply to my games:
  • Even when (perhaps especially when!) giving handicap stones, settling my early groups is important to keep from being pushed around.
  • If you set a strategic goal that is fundamental for your game, be willing to sacrifice to attain that goal.
  • Losing is not something to be afraid of.
  • Surprising your opponent with a seki in an area he thought was territory is fun. (Top left corner.)


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Post #5 Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:56 am 
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Hi Jeromie, Welcome (back) to Go. :)
Some ideas.
jeromie wrote:
If I don't play games, then my studying is for naught.
My rank on KGS is currently inflated. I lost my account because of disuse,
At this level, there are so many things I can improve that it can be hard to pick one.
Correct. I don't know how many games you played on your previous account,
and I took the liberty to look at your current games with your new account. Out of the total 7 games,
discarding the 3 "non-games" ( 2 with zero moves, and 1 against WeakBot50[23k] ), you finished 4 games.

My suggestion is you play, play, and play. At your current level, experience is hugely beneficial.
Direct experience of hundreds and thousands of different shapes and situations.
jeromie wrote:
4) I've been reading Attack and Defense... and I tried... (e.g. leaning attacks) in this game.
However, I did so very poorly. This is pretty common when learning new aspects of Go, so I'm not discouraged by this first attempt.

5) My few attempts at late game invasions were complete failures.
All correct observations. It's good that you enjoy books like A&D, and also good that you don't feel discouraged.
The biggest reason, maybe the main reason you have trouble executing the ideas and strategies
lies in your basics. For example, basic shapes, basic tesujis, basic life-and-death,
basic direction, basic timing, etc. Your basic shapes are currently a huge problem (see SGF above).

It's as if we are learning to build a house. We can read all kinds of interesting books full of
beautiful ideas and photos of different architectures and designs (e.g. traditional, modern,
contemporary, transitional, etc.). But we have trouble hitting a nail with a hammer.
We keep hitting our own thumb instead. If this is the case, then it doesn't matter
how many hundreds or thousands of gorgeous pictures and designs we "study",
we are still hitting our thumb. First, we must learn to hit a nail correctly, efficiently.
Among other hundreds and thousands of different basic (construction) skills.
(You can substitute your favorite analogies here. Like, learning to play the basic piano scales.
Or, learning the alphabet of a completely foreign language. Such as Go. :) )
jeromie wrote:
I'll try to identify some of the reasons I lost so badly.
The main reason is your basics. (See above.)

Continue to enjoy and play. And occasionally post an interesting game here. :)
You may also enjoy Kageyama's Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go. Books like A&D and LiTFoG you can revisit for many years to come.

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #6 Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 8:18 am 
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Thank you for the comments.

Recognizing how bad my fundamentals are is a double edged sword. I have to accept the truth of how much I struggle at this game, but it also means there is a lot of room for improvement. Go is a humbling game!

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Post #7 Posted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 7:02 pm 
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Hi Jeromie, you're very welcome.

See also LuckyJim's similar experience with A&D in this thread.

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #8 Posted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:51 pm 
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I've put a lot of thought into Ed's words regarding focusing on the fundamentals. I realized that this is an area where my Go reflects my life: all too often I want to reach for greater things without building (or maintaining) a sound foundation. My Go reveals how poorly that works. As a result, I've tried to incorporate an awareness of fundamental principles into my study and play.

My games are still a mess, but I am learning. I have a desire to make fundamentally sound plays, even if I can't identify what those are yet. (In fact, I think I've reached a point where I'm just good enough to realize how bad I am. I don't know if I should find that encouraging or not.) Here are a few of the things I'm trying to incorporate into my play:

  • See what is there. I stared at a few of the problems I was working on for much longer than I should have because I mentally added a stone that wasn't on the board. Before I can begin reading deeply, I must look at (and accept) the board as it actually is.
  • Be able to read life and death in a timely manner. As a corollary to the first item in this list, I also need to accept the results of my reading instead of throwing good stones after bad. (I played a game where I won by making a group live when my opponent blundered, but it felt like a hollow victory since I knew my play should not have led to life.)
  • Practice reading deeply and accurately. I set down Attack and Defense and returned to Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go, and Kageyama's ladder reading exercise really struck me. I have trouble with visualization of the board during deep reading, but it really is important.
  • Recognize good and bad shape. This is probably the hardest thing for me right now. I think the only way I'll really grow in this is by playing a lot of games (not that that will stop me from reading books, of course).
  • Play more! It can be a little tricky to find the time to play a whole game, but I obviously need as many as I can get.

As a side note, it seems my rank is settling into about 10k on KGS. This is a little higher than I thought it would be (though it could still end up dropping), so my rank goal looks to be realistic. It's funny, though. I thought a 10K would be better than I am...


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Post #9 Posted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 2:12 am 
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Hi jeromie, it really is uncanny how much of a person we can see through their moves. :)

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #10 Posted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 10:29 pm 
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After the last few games I played, I came to a realization. Yes, my basics need a lot of work, but that is true of everyone at my level. This is actually encouraging. I'm not an impostor at my current rank; I'm simply going through normal growing pains. If I can reduce the number of basic shape and reading flaws in my game, I'm likely to see significant improvement.

I'm continuing to work on reading by working through tsumego. My primary source right now is the Graded Go Problems for Beginners series, though I'm mixing it up with online problems and books like Lessons in the Fundamentals and Tesuji. I'm trying to make sure I get in as many games as possible, too. I just signed up for the Advanced Study Room league for March, so that will hopefully be a good source for relatively slow games against a wide variety of opponents.

I'm also beginning to see the value in joseki study. By looking at how the moves I play deviate from joseki, it helps me to get a better understanding of good shape. Right now my only resources for analyzing my openings are online, but I'm considering making a joseki book my next go book purchase. I know it's not necessary at the moment, but I like books about as much as I like go. :-)


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Post #11 Posted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:26 pm 
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jeromie wrote:
If I can reduce the number of basic shape and reading flaws in my game,
Correct.
jeromie wrote:
I'm likely to see significant improvement.
Baby steps. They add up. With enough baby steps, eventually you'll see significant improvement. But not before.
jeromie wrote:
I'm also beginning to see the value in joseki study.
By looking at how the moves I play deviate from joseki, it helps me to get a better understanding of good shape.
Yes, there is a tremendous amount of treasure buried in josekis.

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #12 Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:35 pm 
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I can't believe it's been two months since I posted in this study journal! I've played about 20 games on KGS, and my rank seems to have stabilized at about 10K. I made an attempt to play in the ASR league, but it was too hard to find opponents in my class who were available during my limited playing time. I've made some progress in getting my stones to work together during the opening phase of the game, but I've also been prone to blunders that were totally avoidable (even for me). Here are a few of the lessons I'm trying to make myself apply:

  • Learn from my mistakes but forgive myself quickly.
  • Always look at the current state of the board, not the board as it was 5 moves ago.
  • The best attacking move is often the one that makes one of my groups stronger.
  • It's important to find ways to take joy in the game while I am working at improving.

I'll post a couple of my more interesting games here. This first one is a win I felt pretty good about: I think I timed a 3-3 invasion at a time when the outside influence my opponent built up didn't help him too much, since the influence was confined to an area that was likely to become his territory anyway (at least at the 10k level; I had difficulty seeing a better way to invade his moyo without just giving him stones). This game also demonstrates just how valuable the corners and sides are in a game of Go:


This next game made me upset: I had a clear lead and threw it away with a really, really stupid blunder that I had ample opportunity to correct. (The white group at C6 should not have lived.) I also made a fool of myself during the endgame by not taking a stone that was on the board into account. (The sequence beginning at 226; I ignored the effect of the stone at S4.)


I'm looking forward to playing more often during the summer. I'm a community college faculty member, so I will have greatly reduced hours at work during the summer. I think the extra time will give me more opportunity to play AND I'll be more well rested when I do have the chance. I'm hoping that a clearer mind will be reflected in my Go.

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #13 Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:14 pm 
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At around move 11, d2, q2, and k3 (Edit, I thought black played k4. Nevermind) might be answers to invade black's moyo-thing. Don't trust what I have to say about them though, I'm at your level.

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #14 Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:37 pm 
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Comments about your second game:

8: This is a bit weak. If you must extend into the center, a more solid play like P14 or O14 or N15 would be better.
Even better would be an attacking move at Q17 or R16 or N16 or Q13.

14: You had to come back and protect the keima. ( BTW, O15 looks like it might start making eye shape. )

22: Cut at Q10!

24: This does not feel compatible with O3. If you want to work with the left side stones, playing at N4 last move would be better.
But like this, you have two stones competing with each other.

33: A bad move by him.

34: Good!

50: Usually, one does not run for three spaces on the second line. It gives him too much. Just run two spaces so that the eventual hane is not sente.
You should really tenuki here.
You have a weak group in the upper right that could use some help. R3 or S14 might help. So would the cut at Q10, or the hane at L7 or the jump to K8. Just the simple O10 would not be bad.
Or you could leave those stones to their fates and go for the moyo with J15.

54 This is small, gote, and it does not work if he defends properly. ( How would you reply if he plays L2? )

62: He has played badly, saddling himself with a weak group, and you have done well to play along.

64: This is small. Look at K8.

66: This has the right feel. :clap: But again, you are playing a kiema in the middle of the board. K8 would acomplish much the same thing, and it would be stronger.

68: This kiema is good because you have lots of stones to back it up. ( But it would be even stronger if L8 were at K8 )

70: Why force him to run that way? If he does, your K-file stones could get cut off. Try F8.

72: Generally, contact moves make it easier for the defender to counter-attack. C7 is better style. But F8 is better direction.

73: Ouch! Nice play by him. See what I mean by the wrong direction?

80+82: Again, contact moves are usually defenders moves ( until it is time to extinguish liberties ) Now, E3 is the counter-attack.

84: Good, you spoiled his eye shape.

88: You have problems of your own to tend to. You should be attacking from the other side, reinforcing your own weak group(s) while doing so. Something like J 12 or J11 looks better.

92+94+96: It hurts to watch you get pushed around like this.

102: You are probably ok: you get one eye around J8, and another at M1 unless he kills it in gote. So you do not need to play so defensively. J11 is big.

It's late...maybe more later...

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 Post subject: Re: The stones go walking, and I with them
Post #15 Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:41 pm 
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Here is a review of your first game.



I agree the game shows the importance of the corners-sides-center principle. It also shows why playing tons of stones in one area (over-concentration) is bad. Black got exactly what he wanted - territory in the lower center - and still lost.


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"You have to walk before you can run. Black 1 was a walking move.
I blushed inwardly to recall the ignorant thoughts that had gone through
my mind before, when I had not realized the true worth of Black 1."

-Kageyama Toshiro on proper moves

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Post #16 Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:20 am 
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I have to disagree with Moyoaji's review on move :b31:. This is joseki for 3-3 invasion under a 4-4 and 7-3 enclosure. Normally, white cuts first, then plays the hane on the other side, since the aji of the cutting stone lets white get that hane in sente and possibly use it later.

In this particular case, black is strong enough outside that he shouldn't need to spend another move worrying about that hypothetical cutting stone, so throwing away that stone to end in sente doesn't work, and haneing directly may be fine for :w32:.

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Post #17 Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:15 am 
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Some comments on the first game. :)


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At some point, doesn't thinking have to go on?
— Winona Adkins

Visualize whirled peas.

Everything with love. Stay safe.


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Post #18 Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:55 pm 
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Thank you all for the comments. I feel fortunate to have so many strong players at L19 look at my games.

The attention to the 3-3 invasions in the first game is helpful. I haven't actually played the 3-3 invasion very often before; this may be the first game where I used it successfully. Most of the time it seems like a bad idea to give my opponent outside influence. I haven't seen the 3-3 invasion used against me a whole lot at lower levels, either, though I imagine it will become more common as I get stronger. I feel like I"m just starting to get an idea of how to live in small places.

I also find it interesting to see how close black came to winning in that second game despite the (very) non-traditional fuseki. Bill's comment that black played a good game despite his strange play is well-advised: at my level, it's important not to be dismissive of my opponents just because they didn't make the "right" moves. After all, if I made the right moves I wouldn't be 10k!

Joaz, it was also good to have some comments about the game I lost. I appreciate that you pointed out some of my good moves along with the bad ones... it's really helpful to have an idea of when I made a good play. It was also good to see some comments about when I had the right idea but the wrong move; this also gives me something to build upon.

Abyssinica, since you're around my level we should play sometime. I'd enjoy playing against someone who is active on L19 and chatting about the game afterwards.

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Post #19 Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:49 pm 
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jeromie wrote:
Abyssinica, since you're around my level we should play sometime. I'd enjoy playing against someone who is active on L19 and chatting about the game afterwards.


I am going to play so many games tommorow evening (Is this even a phrase? 16:30 and later is not the afternoon!), you have no clue. Let's go.


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Post #20 Posted: Tue May 27, 2014 8:18 pm 
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I didn't get to play go very much during the first part of May, since I was busy finishing up the semester at work. My rate of play has picked up quite a lot since school ended, and I even got to go to one of Denver's go clubs last week for a couple face to face games. Both of my opponents offered me a 9 stone handicap... that was instructive! I don't ever play with handicaps that large online. (I won the first by 4 points and resigned when I was very clearly losing in the second game.)

My mini-goal for the summer is to play 100 games. That may not seem like a lot to some, but that will require consistent play. I've certainly never played 100 games in a 3 month period before! I'll post a few interesting games (and my own comments on them) when I have some more time, but I wanted to announce that goal and my progress toward it so far.

Games this summer (which, for me, began on May 15):

KGS: 7 games
Tygem: 1 game
In Person: 2 games

Games so far: 10 games

I'll still read books and do problems because I enjoy both, but I think the most important thing for my progress right now is simply to play more games.

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