Nate Eagle

Front-End Developer

Half-Point Loss

At December’s group lesson, I played Nathan for the fourth time. I was up two games to one, at the time. We did nigiri for color, which Nathan won; he chose white. I asked, curious, “Do you always prefer white?” “Well,” he said, “Not with only 6.5 komi,” — which is the standard compensation for white, who plays second, by Japanese rules — “But when it gets to 7.5 komi,” — which is the compensation according to American Go Association rules — “I feel better off with white.”

I was happy to let him take white; most players prefer black despite the compensation white gets with the komi. As black, it’s easier to set the agenda for the game, following your own plan. But I find the notion of preferring white appealing: if you’re good at ruining your opponent’s plan and breaking the game up into a lot of small fights, having that komi can seem awfully appealing.

I thought I had won this game, though I was worried that it was closer than I realized. I was in byo-yomi by the final third of the game, so I didn’t have a chance to count after the middle game. I was dismayed to find that I’d lost by 0.5 points. And in go, it just doesn’t matter what the margin of victory is: the winner by half a point takes it all. Nathan’s foresight proved accurate.

It showed that I still have a hard time not over-valuing captured stones: because of the white stones I captured on the bottom, I just had this feeling that I had more points than I really had. It’s an instinct I need to overcome by counting more and assuming less.

Thanks to Bill Cobb and Myron Souris for the game record, which they created from Yuan Zhou’s review after our game.

It’s hard for me to get too down about this game since Nathan came back and beat me by resignation in January, taking the lead against me with three wins to my two. It shows I have bigger things than half a point to worry about.

On the other hand, I’m managing to hold steady at two kyu right now on KGS, which is amazing. I still have disturbingly weak parts of my game, but I’m getting more resilient, and more of my games are won or lost by smaller margins, which is a heartening sign of steadier play. If I can figure out how to be more disciplined about doing tsumego and life and death study this year, I think I could tap shodan level on KGS some time this year.