I decided to go up to Rochester, NY to attend the the Empty Sky Go Club‘s 12th Annual Greg Lefler Memorial Tournament. Being a new player, I didn’t go with any expectation of winning. I mostly wanted to meet more players, play some games, and get some experience. Richard, who runs the Syracuse go club told me about Don, another player in my city who was interested in going, so I got in touch with him and he rode up with me. Now I know another person in my city who plays go. Score.
My biggest worry going into the tournament was time management. My games have traditionally taken 90-120 minutes to play. At this tournament, the time limit was set to 30 minutes per player, with 5 byo-yomi periods of 30 seconds. That didn’t sound like much time at all until somebody explained to me how byo-yomi works. Once you use up your first 30 minutes, you get 5 30 second periods to play. If you play within the 30 seconds, it resets back to 30 seconds. If you take longer than 30 seconds to move, you lose a period and it starts counting down from 30 seconds again. As long as you keep playing in less than 30 seconds, you can technically go a long time just in byo-yomi.
After I arrived and registered, I played a quick 9×9 game with my travel companion on one of the nice boards reserved for the highest-ranked players. These were 2″-thick boards with slate and shell stones. I estimated that the set was probably about a thousand dollars, and turned out to be right. I jokingly told Audrey she would have to let me get one when I reach single-digit kyu rank. It was my first time playing slate and shell stones and they really are beautiful up close.
I also had the opportunity to meet one of the people responsible for my continuing to play go. When I’d first posted to reddit about being frustrated with the game, a person named Joe reached out to me, and we’ve been playing a bit. He’s taught me a lot about the game, and it turned out that he was a member of the club at RIT. He actually had been the one to suggest I try to go and get some games in. It was great to get to meet him along with the other players in Rochester.
The first round of the tournament was my best. I made a couple silly mistakes of course, but by the end it looked like we were pretty even. I was honestly surprised when we counted up and I had lost by about 20 points. The first round was run with 0 or 1 stone handicaps. If I’d had a full handicap based on our ranks, I probably would’ve won. I walked away from this game feeling that I played pretty well.
The second round was pretty awful for me. My opponent played VERY fast, and I got intimidated. I found myself trying to keep up with him in speed, making a lot of avoidable mistakes. By the time I slowed myself down, it was too late, and I lost with negative territory. At this point most of us walked across the RIT campus for lunch. I was pretty impressed with what I saw of the school on our walk. After a quick burrito, we were back to playing go.
I don’t remember a lot about round three. I started off pretty well, but lost again. I at least had territory this time, but it was still a significant loss. I do remember my opponent being surprised in the early game at how I played out a joseki (a commonly-played set of moves) intuitively without knowing it. It didn’t help though!
The final match just sucked. At this point, I was exhausted and had nearly zero mental capacity left. I really felt like I was just tossing stones on the board randomly, and lost this game again with a negative amount of territory. Apparently, six hours of playing go in one day is about all I can handle.
Overall, I had a great time. I walked away with more experience and knowledge about the game, and should be receiving my official American Go Association rating within the next few days. My personal guess is that I’ll come in somewhere around 20-21kyu. I’m looking forward to finding out.