RazorBrain's Go Journal

RazorBrain’s Go Journal Has moved by tomobenchain
September 21, 2010, 14:54
Filed under: Go Journal

I recently dropped the $10 and grabbed the razorbrain.net domain name (passing on the $1,000 razorbrain.com option LOL). I’ve now launched my updated template and finished the installation of the latest WordPress 3.01 on my hosting platform.

I’ve also moved my last four posts and will be migrating content that I feel people may want to continue to look at. This may take a while. So, for now I’ll leave this old site up for reference. However, all new content will be posted to the new razorbrain.net site. I hope you’ll visit me there and let me know how you like the updated look and feel.

Get the latest posts from RazorBrain’s Go Journal at:


Another One Bites the Dust by RazorBrain
September 18, 2010, 08:00
Filed under: Game Reviews, Go Journal, Go Study | Tags: ,
The game I almost won

Too many of my game records end up looking like this. How can I stop this from happening?

Growing up in the 1970’s, I was sure flying was a bad idea.

I remember watching the “Airport” movies, each of which featured innocent passengers and plenty of potential death and destruction. And if Hollywood drama wasn’t enough, the evening news was peppered with regular air disasters.

In 1978, a Boeing 727 collided with a small plane near San Diego,  just 3 years after the first airport disaster flick starring Charlton Heston movie featured a 747 colliding with a private plane. No wonder my family seemed to drive everywhere.

So, what happened? Hollywood has stopped making airline crash movies, even in this  age of remakes. More importantly, the news doesn’t have much to report in the way of airliner downings either. Why are the skies seemingly safer today and in the 1970’s?

Answer: The National Transportation Safety Board and other similar organizations world-wide. It seems they figured out that studying the causes of crashes yielded information about how to improve safety. Go figure . . . (no comment on the pun).

Over the past 30-40 years, the United States and other countries have actually reached the rank of transportation shodan, reducing fatal crashes by some 5,000 percent. They studied what went wrong and followed through on improvements. What does this mean for me besides the fact that my fear of flying is serenely parked on the tarmac? It means that I need my very own Goban Safety Board.

Well, okay, a government agency probably won’t help my game, but I do need to study what goes wrong, especially in the games I lose, and then do something about the weaknesses I find.

A go player called Vultur writes a blog titled “Lose 100 Games.” He advocates embracing your mistakes to learn from them. I like that idea.

“The idea of being patiently mindful of our errors is encouraging, unlike the feeling of frustration that comes from erroneously thinking that losing is necessarily a bad thing.”

The idea of being patiently mindful of our errors is encouraging, unlike the feeling of frustration that comes from erroneously thinking that losing is necessarily a bad thing. Playing should be a learning processes. Perhaps we teach others when they make mistakes in games that we win. Are we then too proud to learn from our mistakes when we lose? We do this I think when we pout about losing. If we’re playing at the right level, winning and losing is a 50/50 thing anyway. I know I’ll enjoy go more when I start to enjoy the losing efforts more. (Ha, maybe I don’t want to enjoy them too much, eh?)

Anyway, I’m going to follow Vultur’s lead and not only lose 100 games  (I’ve actually lost many times this already) but I’m also going to review as many as possible when I lose and ask, “Why did this plane crash?” Unlike with aviation, where at least some of the crashes can be blamed on mechanical failure, in go it is always pilot error. Granted there may be opponent induced ice and fog, but . . . well, no excuses, right?

To start off my safety board investigations, here’s a game I lost recently to a player named ‘loot’ on DGS. I played white. The result was Black + 7.5.

I didn’t put hours into the review. Instead I quickly ran through the game to look for any obvious mistakes that cost me the 8 precious points that brought about my crash. I found one at move 128. Check it out and see if you agree with me that it was a simple case of carelessness with perhaps a little greed tossed in for good measure.

Also, I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with improving your safety record on the goban through your own ‘after-crash’ reviews.

BOOK REVIEW: How Not to Play Go by RazorBrain
September 11, 2010, 10:25
Filed under: Go Study, Product/Book Reviews | Tags: , ,
How not to Play Go

Yuan Zhou's book that helps SDK players get closer to shodan.

At this year’s U.S. Go Congress, I stopped by the vendor room and chatted with William Cobb from Slate & Shell. He had a nice selection of go books and I was itchin’ to spend a little money on my addiction.

I mentioned that I was a single-digit kyu (SDK) player looking to improve and asked what books he would recommend. Yuan Zhou’s How Not To Play Go was his first choice.

I started reading it that day. But, as most of you understand, go books are not typically quick reads. Reading the text and comparing the various diagrams that most go books are filled with means a little work is involved.

So, I’ve just now finished this short (32-page) book a month later. I’m pleased to say that I began practicing what Yaun Zhou teaches in the book after reading only the first part of the book. So, my games on Dragon Go Server (DGS) became my lab as I studied.

The points made in the book are simple and straight forward. The message is essentially “stop ignoring the whole board.” So, I guess I could end this review with that wisdom, eh? Were it only that simple, we’d all be shodans by now.

If you’re an SDK player looking to move closer to shodan, here’s a quick preview of the major advice from the book:

  • Stop automatically following your opponent
  • Pay attention to the whole board
  • Begin taking sente seriously
  • Stop assuming your opponent’s areas are bigger than your own
  • Realize that every play involves the whole board (If these sounds similar to point #2, realize that this is the book’s mantra)
  • Stop practicing wishful thinking (or ‘not thinking’ as Yuan Zhou calls it)

If you’re a moderate to strong kyu-level player, do yourself a favor and give this book a read. The author uses three games to illustrate the points I share above in a what-not-to-do style that will have you shaking your head and saying something like, “Yeah, I do that, too.”

The book includes examples from three games, an 8-kyu game, a 4-kyu game, and a 1-kyu game. So, no getting off the hook for the 1-4 kyu players out there. Yuan Zhou shows how the same weakness exists at 8 kyu and 1 kyu. It’s just that the 1 kyu players are closer to kicking the bad habits. But the point is, they are still there!

So, reaching shodan seems to be less about complex knowledge of joseki and the like and more about approaching the game in a new way through the elimination of some bad habits. Hmmmm . . . sounds a lot like life success in life. That’s why I love go!

The book is available from Slate & Shell for $10. Click here to visit the book’s page on the Slate & Shell website.

Where do you play go? by RazorBrain
August 31, 2010, 15:26
Filed under: Go Journal

I’ll get this started by revealing my own go habits. Currently, I’m slammed with lots of good things in life and so, my go fights to get nearer to the top of my priority list. But, my go is not greedy either. For now, this means that I play on DGS the most with an occasional game against a computer and occasional game online or against a friend. I haven’t been active in my local club for a long while now. :(

Where do you play?

Finally, a DGS Client for the iPhone by RazorBrain
August 30, 2010, 09:36
Filed under: Go Technology, iPhone | Tags: ,
DGS for the iPhone

The iPhone DGS client looks good and has enough features to keep mobile go players happy--for now.

Every once in a while I search the iTunes app store for go related items. I typically find a variety gnugo-playing apps and study guides. I already use many of these. The one thing missing is a dedicated client for DGS or the Dragon Go Server–until recently, that is!

I’m busier than ever before and my go playing is suffering because of it. And while I don’t second guess my priorities in life, I would love to play more. For me that means DGS. I rarely have an hour for a good online game, but I can always squeeze in a few turns here and there on DGS. In the past this meant turns made on a computer or through the iPhone using the mobile Safari browser. I’ll admit I’ve made DGS moves on Safari before, but it’s too much of a hassle to do all the time.

With Justin Weiss’s new DGS app, I can now make moves from my iPhone with ease.

With Justin Weiss’s new DGS app, I can now make moves from my iPhone with ease. I’ve been using Justin’s app DGS for about a week now. I’ve made 750+ moves in that time and frankly, it’s got me excited about turn-based go again.

So, here’s what this modest but long-awaited DGS client offers. It has a zoom-to-move interface, which I prefer to the magnifying-glass style interfaces found on David Fotland’s Igowin series of apps.  The app allows you to see the games where it is your turn to move, but not all you running games, nor your finished games. Finally, it also allows you to place games in the DGS waiting room, but only allows for board size, komi type, main time, byo-yomi settings and comments.  An that’s it! And I’m okay with that. It’s enough to do the job. If this is all that is ever released, I’d be grateful, especially as this is a free app!

One important thing to note is that you need the 4.0 iPhone OS. I know this is slowing down folks with 3G and 3GS units that are hesitating to make the jump to the the new OS. Hopefully, the issues will be worked through soon.

The app’s creator’s web site (http://dgs.uberweiss.net) lists the features like this:

  • See the games that are waiting for your move
  • Tap-to-zoom makes it simple to play the right move, every time
  • Supports the entire game flow, from placing handicap stones to scoring
  • Post new games that Dragon Go Server users can join

Here’s what is noticeably missing:

  • In-game comments
  • The ability to view the DGS waiting room and join games
  • The ability view all running games and finished games
  • The ability to send messages/invites to other users
  • The ability to view user profiles
  • A number of options normally available when setting up a new waiting room game
  • And a few other things

Let me be clear that I’m not complaining about what isn’t there.  I’m just stating the facts so that those interested in the app will set accurate expectations. I’ll admit that I am hoping that Justin is working on more features. But there is definitely enough there to make DGS players smile. I see no need to wait for an update to begin enjoying this app.

However, if I had to ask for only one thing,  it would be the ability to see messages and send messages during games. If I were so greedy as to ask for a second upgrade, I would request  the ability to join waiting room games (just in case you’re reading this Justin . . .).

My Games

The list of games waiting for moves refreshes every time to pull up the app.

Go Group

The DGS iPhone app is a must-have for mobile go players

I’m happy to say that I’ve gone from mostly inactive on DGS to happily making 50+ moves a day, all thanks to this new app! I’m making moves all the time:

  • At the gym–no more wasted time on the stationary bike, eh?
  • Waiting for my children after school, after work, etc.
  • At the airport and even in the plane right up until the stewardess threatens to vaporize me for using my phone.
  • In the car (of course, only if I’m a passenger–duh!)
  • And just about anywhere else that I can thumb my phone on and make a quick move or two.

I’ve even checked for waiting moves while drafting this blog post (since I do some of my writing via the WordPress iPhone app). I’m also playing more short time limit games, ones that I used to avoid because I was unsure if I’d move often enough to stay out of trouble with the clock. So, if you’re and iPhone owner and you’re up for a game, download this app and then leave me your DGS name as a comment and I’ll send an invite.

Game Screen

A nice looking game screen gives you what you need to quickly and easily make moves on your DGS games

Zoomed View

The tap-to-zoom interface offers the easiest way to may quick and accurate moves

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