The weather was kind to us again! It snowed a couple of days before the tournament, and a couple of days after it, but December 6th was a nice day. Iím considering the possibility of moving Te wo Tsunaide to early November. If I do that... weíll have another Pair Go blizzard, right?
At least a handful of us seem to think this year ran more smoothly than the previous years. We had our systems in place and, on top of that, I ran 7 tournaments for Tigerís Mouth (web site for kid and teen players, http://tigersmouth.org) over the past year. This made me more comfortable with glancing at the details and making the necessary snap judgments. I suppose getting another 7 tournaments worth of experience in less than a year can do that!
Tigerís Mouth is also where I acquired my partner for this year (itís his web site). Back in March I mentioned on the forum that my previous partner would be leaving the country (not my fault, I swear, but he actually didnít leave anyway) and that I needed to find a new partner. Paul suggested that we play together.
I told him we needed to do a test game, which we did in a little for-fun Pair Go tournament on KGS (one of the Tigerís Mouth teens organized it). We played Diana and Albert and... we sucked! We completely blew it! And that was okay. To be able to be okay with sucking together, he was a good choice for me. If you looked at the Awards page first, you know we didnít suck so much in the end after all. Thatís nice, too. I think good partners should be able to enjoy playing together whether they win or fall flat on their faces in a truly embarrassing fashion.
The funny thing for me this year is that I had ďquit GoĒ (though without any intention of never again playing Go itself). I left my club in my husbandís care (heíd been helping me with it for over 4.5 years, I felt he could probably handle it), sorted out some other odds and ends, announced that I was doing one last Tigerís Mouth tournament (which I did, slightly under a month before Te wo Tsunaide) and the Pair Go tournament... and then I wouldnít be seen for who knows how long.
For a couple of months I didnít play anyone outside of my family (thatís my version of quitting: playing my husband, playing 9x9s with my daughter, playing my son when he visited for Thanksgiving, teaching my Dad how to play at the same time).
The night before the tournament I saw Diana and Albert (who qualified for both Fighting Spirit and Out-Standing Youth this year, and who won Most In-Sync last year) looking for practice games on KGS. Diana asked me to join in, but I didnít see anyone I really knew and, after so little playing Go at all, I felt a bit too insecure about trying to partner up with a stranger. Honestly I suppose I also felt a little apathetic, because I thought I would be waving bye-bye to the Go people at the end of the tournament.
But then I went to the tournament and... had a great time!
Paul and Dave got the room set up for the tournament. And whoever helped them, I was a little later than Iíd wanted to be as usual. Getting to Boulder was stressful. First we were going to zip down 13th to pick Gordon up, and 13th was closed. Then we found ourselves stuck downtown with a Lightrail train in the middle of the street in front of us. My fear of bad omens kicked in, and I asked ďDoes this mean itíll be a bad day, or does it mean weíre getting all of the struggling out of the way right now so the rest of the day will run smoothly?Ē. Fortunately, I do believe it was the latter!
Aside from tiring myself out by carrying too heavy of a bag from the car, and then needing to haul it around yet more while I got lost in the 3rd floor as usual (the tournament is on the 4th floor, I always seem to want to think itís on the 3rd), things started going pretty well. Karen was there with a tray of Brownies, and that saved me from my exhausted shakes.
There was one situation. One Pair didnít make it. That sorted out another situation (a not so High Kyu Pair that wouldíve been in the High Kyu section, with only 2 Pairs in their 9 stone range... they moved to the main section with us). Very encouragingly, this year there were a lot more Pairs who came close to making it but didnít quite manage in the end (or had to cancel). I feel like we seriously are on the verge of being able to have a better number of players soon. I didnít feel neurotic about the tournament itself for a change.
Bruce was getting the hang of being TD, too. He carefully checked his pairings and handicaps, and mostly asked me a lot of questions between rounds instead of during my games. The only difficulty for me was needing to handle photography duty for part of round 1 (apologies to my partner and opponents for needing to get up to take pictures every now and then!). Aside from that, I actually sat down and played my games all day!
The main section entirely consisted of people who had previously played at Te wo Tsunaide. Most of them had already won at least one award there, if not up to 4 awards. Thatís individually, though. Pair-wise, it was year 3 for both Karen and Bob and Albert and Diana. Laurie and Stu debuted as a Pair last year (Stu played with Jessica in year 2), as did Katherine and Dave (Katherineís played all 4 years, Dave has played since year 2). Paul and I have both played all 4 years, but never with each other before. It was also year 4 for both Jessica and Yaphet, and their first attempt at playing together.
The high kyu section had some new faces as usual. Thatís always great to see! We had some veterans in that pool (it was Amaraís 4th year, and it was the 2nd for Jessie and Thomas... though they had different partners last year). Aichan (also a 4 year vet) came a little late after a test, and became part of an impromptu Pair.
The tournament format needed to change this year. We had line-up issues that wouldíve resulted in a knock-out only being 2 rounds. We had been aiming for 3 rounds, and it was too late to fix things by changing the number of sections (the plaques are award-specific). This was okay with me because 1. the knock-out format always gave me headaches that Iíll be glad to be rid of (especially in how easily the # of rounds can change) 2. I had run the aforementioned 7 Tigerís Mouth tournaments as 3 round Swiss. And those were extremely fast-paced tournaments. I felt confident about being able to rapidly iron out any potential problems.
So, round 1! Paul and I played Stu and Laurie. With a strange sense of deja vu I told Paul that they had knocked Jessica and Kellin out in round 1 the year before (yeah, I do it every time... 50 years from now Iíll be hobbling in on a cane, commenting about that game). As we prepared to take our seats, I humbly apologized to Paul for losing our first game. He humbly apologized for doing the same. (Self-defeatists, sheesh, heh, well we were being light about saying it.)
The game started off a little rickety, we were attacking groups that were surviving -- which left us with at least one vulnerable position (perhaps that was my doing, I tend to enjoy destroying territory more than I enjoy building it... though I do try to be reasonably balanced). Eventually it seemed like we were faring extremely well, until we biffed a big corner in the end. We both tried to take the credit for that one (I had a definite time pressure flail moment!).
Stu gave us a nice In-Sync vote for keeping a steady attack up against multiple groups. I had wanted to vote for him and Laurie because they held up so well against the attacks, and then pulled off a victorious one of their own in the end. By the time I wouldíve voted it was already clear that they were the 1st place Pair, so I didnít vote for them after all. I think we can all safely assume a Pair who won all of their games were pretty in-sync!
That was a fun game. I had moment of scowling intently at it, wherein I commented ďI thought I quit GoĒ. Stu chuckled and said ďAnd now youíre remembering why?Ē. I laughed and agreed. Actually, though it was a nail-biter moment, Iíd made the comment moreso from the perspective of ďGee... for someone who quit playing, I sure am locked in with this...Ē.
There was all of the usual confusion, many tables seemed to be a chorus of people trying to figure out whose turn it was. Weíd decided to have Laurie sit across from me, and Stu across from Paul, so we could get a certain turn order flow going (which caused issues in the next game, when our opponents were seated the opposite way and that kept making us feel like something was out of order... I think it might work well, and cut down on confusion, if we do always pick certain seating arrangements).
I felt some stress in the game (my poor Ing clock got the brunt of it when I told it to shut up multiple times in byo-youmi), and I was hearing and seeing more stress in the room. I guess round 1 is difficult! (It seemed to clear up by round 2.)
I didnít feel too stressed, I settled in a lot faster this year than I have in the past. Paul and I vented well enough with occasional poke-wars (not a comment on moves, merely a comment on our greedy pokey fingers often trying to hit the clock button at the same time. That happened whenever he had the clock. When I had the clock for the final game, I sat there spacing out and Katherine was kind enough to hit the button for Paul. Acting like a couple of 5-year-olds with the poke-wars was probably the better choice, unseemly though it may be to all of the more mature teenagers around us).
That game was a loss for us, but as it turned out it was the best losing score of the round. The best losing score Pair (the Pair who lost by the least points) always recycles if we have an odd # of winners (in knock-outs they would remain knocked-out, but they could knock-out another Pair). There were 3 winning Pairs in the Main section: Laurie and Stu, Katherine and Dave, and Jessica and Yaphet.
And such scary Pairs all 3 are, I wasnít sure if it was lucky or unlucky to be the Pair who would get flung back at another one of them. Well, okay, I thought for sure we would lose against any of them, but that would be fine.
Lunch was first, though. Since weíd gone into byo-youmi, most people had already disappeared for the break.
I had my neurotic moment of asking Paul if Iíd done okay. He said I did well, and that he felt like it really helped him a lot to play with me. That sometimes he would be fixating, and then I would break off and play a big point move somewhere. I was a very happy person.
The support aspect of Pair Go is good for me, because in normal Go Iím never really sure about my timing or my plans or... anything. Having someone else there to help me out when Iím feeling at a loss is comforting. However, there had never really been any indication of anyone feeling the same about playing with me. Obviously I wouldnít want to always be the partner who drags my Pairs down, so it was such an immense relief to hear that I had been helpful. I felt much much better about myself as a Pair Go player.
(That was the moment when her confidence came into being, heh. Well, seriously, Iíd had plenty of confidence in partners before. It was self-confidence that I sorely needed. Thanks, Paul!)
As noted, the main section had 3 wins amongst it. The High Kyu section had 2. Well, okay, it had 3... but one was a fake stand-in Pair. Aichan came after lunch, before that Bruce was sitting in her spot and his fake Pair team (with CJ) won. Sometimes you simply need to fudge things a bit with Pair Go tournaments, and a fake Pair stand-in for 1 round seemed immensely better than an odd # of Pairs. Plus the poor hard-working TD got to catch a game, good for him. We couldnít count the winning fake Pair as a real Pair (if their opponents had won, it would have counted... and obviously CJ winning with Aichan in rounds 2-3 would count as well).
Interestingly, I just noticed this upon staring at Bruceís round pairing notes, Jessie and Thomas lost against Bruce and CJ but won against Aichan and CJ. Itís a bit strange that they played CJ twice, so I asked Bruce about it. Meg and Forrest wouldíve gotten a game out of their 9 stone range if it hadnít been set up that way. This was probably my fault. When I heard there were only 2 real winners in round 1 I recommended playing them off immediately to have that verdict settled and out of the way. I think this was also what led to Tucker not realizing his Pair was still in the running for 2nd place, and being absent from the award pictures. Sorry!
The good news: everyone returned after lunch! Yay! For that matter, there wasnít a single drop-out in the entire tournament. There were plenty of resignations, but everyone played the full # of rounds. I saw a lot of playing between rounds, too, thatís always a nice sight. There were also normal games, and there were spectators ala Larry and Victor giving handicap or teaching games to High Kyu players while they waited for the next round (they played each other during round 1).
This is where the tournament became yet more scary for me, on the playing end. Initially when I heard that Paul and I had the best losing score, and Diana and Albert had the 2nd best losing score, I thought I could generously offer to let the next best score have our spot amongst the winners. Then I heard that this would entail Diana and Albert playing Katherine Lin and Dave Weiss immediately after losing to Jessica Lin and Yaphet Tewahade (any other arrangement would have left Jessica and Katherine playing against each other, family members only get paired against each other when it becomes necessary for tie-breaks... Laurie and Stu arenít exactly any less scary anyway).
Those Lin Pairs are always a terror, I lose to them every time. Suddenly my attempt at a generous offer looked a lot more like me trying to cheap out and dodge a bullet that had my name all over it. Noooo.... Canít have that, I accepted my fated place in front of the bullet. Diana and Albert won against Karen and Bob, and stayed in the running as well.
I thought I would be leaving the running, Paul and I played Jessica and Yaphet. It was a very tough and tense game, though that was fine for me since Iíd come to feel a lot better about myself as a partner during lunch. Iím not sure how In-Sync Paul and I were on that one. There was a lot of fighting, and I know we both kept having very different ideas about where it was headed. Or in the brief post-game discussion it turned out some of the ideas were the same, it was moreso the sense of priority that wasnít quite the same. EG I was attacking a big group, and left a secondary attack option on the side. I guess Paul thought I would be going for that secondary attack sooner, which I did as soon as my greedy bigger attack plan fell apart.
It was all fine, I believe, because the greedy failed attack was part reduction and part linking up of 2 weak groups. The secondary attack was there to contribute life later as needed, and in the end it both accomplished that and gave us a goodly chunk of middle territory. Whatever differing thoughts we were having -- likely due to Jessica, Yaphet, and I all being somewhat more on the vicious side of Go-playing than Paul -- it all came together well in the end and we won.
And if we were having any concerns about our In-Syncness we made up for it in other ways. Paul took out his chapstick at one point. I saw it, said ďThatís a good idea!Ē, and pulled out my own chapstick. Then I feared that may have sounded dangerously like a compliment about a move and clarified ďI meant the chapstick is a good idea because Iím dehydrated, I wasnít talking about movesĒ. (Bad Organizer, watch your babbly mouth!) Paul said ďAt least weíre In-Sync with our chapstick!Ē. Heh. Itís a good start, right?
Actually Iím surprised we did so well, because we really have very little experience playing each other. We both run clubs on Sundays, at the same time, his in Boulder and mine in Denver. Itís rare for us to manage to bump into each other for a game. I always thought it helps to have more familiarity with your partnerís style and habits, so I was very pleased that we so aptly survived not having enough of that.
We went into byo-youmi again, and I needed to pretty much run like mad from game 2 to game 3. I spent a little time getting questioned by Bruce, while saying ďPlease, I really really need to go to the restroomĒ, then I had my quick run outside... Ah, yes, there was the real challenge of the day: the elevator broke, and those stairs are awfully extensive in between floors. My quick run was slower than I wanted it to be when I got lost on the 3rd floor as usual. We decided to call it our Pair Go and Stairs-Climbing marathon. You get your cognitive exercise, and you get your physical exercise!
Our next opponents were... the other Lin Pair. Katherine and Dave, last yearís 1st place Pair, because they had also only lost to Stu and Laurie (who played Jessica and Yaphet next). If the tournament format had been a knock-out, the results after only 2 rounds would have been Stu and Laurie in 1st place and Dave and Katherine in 2nd place. At that point every single Pair in the tournament, except Stu and Laurie, would have already been knocked out. That wouldíve been a little silly. Since it wasnít a knock-out, it made sense to make sure that Dave and Katherine would be 2nd place by having them play Paul and I.
Or at least thatís what I thought was going to happen when I found out who were playing, and why. O ye of little faith, I suppose (well, no, I have tons of faith in my ability to lose against the Lins! Really, itís not only Pair Go. When I see myself paired with one of them at a normal tournament I assume Iím headed for the slaughterhouse. I have immense amounts of respect for them, and they always have good partners).
We couldíve easily lost that game. It was almost immediately an all-or-nothing fight. Maybe Iím remembering it wrong, but I believe if they had removed one more liberty on one of our groups while we were cutting we would have lost the fight. Itís also possible that we didnít give them a chance to do that, though, I would need to see the game record. What I do remember for certain is that all of the cutting upon cutting was getting really funny. I wouldíve been laughing about it whether I was winning or losing, some of us really just seemed bent on making that board one big avalanche of death.
After we won the fight (lucked out or whatever happened, ultimately a forcing move leading to a snapback gave us enough liberties to pull through), we continued playing for a while. Then we had some fun, but smaller, fights in other areas. I guess I pulled off a nice attack on an invasion, then Bruce and Paul set me off and I giggled and said ďI rock!Ē. I was reprimanded and apologized. Really, I swear I would never say anything like that without being entirely facetious. I blame Mojo Jojo of Powerpuff fame, for cracking Bruce and I up too much with his ďI rock soooooo hardĒ line.
Eh. Iím pretty insecure.
After that I got to do my running around, then dole the awards out. Which was all pretty uncomplicated, barring needing to do a full camera shuffle to handle Paul and I winning something. Paul had my main camera, Bruce had my other camera, I got twitchy about giving an award to myself so both of them needed to hand my cameras off to other people while Bruce presented to us.
I suppose I shouldíve presented to myself. Itís just a little embarrassing for me, I tend to aim for losing some really good difficult games. I felt great about this win, though, especially because Iíd thought winning against the Lin pairs was outside the realms of possibility for me. That made it feel very well-deserved (and a bit surreal). I had to joke ďWow, I should quit Go more often! Quitting was really good for me!Ē.
Quitting probably did clear my head a bit. Finally developing some confidence in myself as half a Go Pair definitely helped a lot, I worried about my moves far less than I used to. Itís also entirely possible that the trade-off for Paul and I lacking experience with each other is that heís had far more experience with most of our opponents than I or my previous partners have. (Though I have also seen this type of scenario back-fire, with the experienced partner being cautious while the inexperienced one charges alone into the shotgun barrel.)
Beyond all of that, I also feel like we played well together. We both messed up each otherís plans from time to time like any Pair Go partners do, itís inevitable. The few times I lapsed into sitting there desperately thinking ďPlay there, Paul. Play right there. Please... just... play... right... there...!Ē he actually did play right there. Any other time I didnít bother. I had enough confidence that his moves made sense, even if I failed to grasp the sense. There were also plenty of times when we did seem to work successfully toward the same, or similiar, plans. I know I would've been hurting on my own because I'd only been playing against handicaps (I'm the strongest player in my family), which can make me too cocky and reckless.
The Awards page has my account of the Awards, naturally. My one big regret is that I didnít let Jay and Tucker know they were still in the running for 2nd place. All of the other round 3 games had already begun, I believe, when my 2nd round game ended (lots of byo-youmi) so I didnít have time to think about things like that in between the rounds. Fortunately it was easy enough for Paul to get a plaque to the missing Tucker the next day.
It may have been best for Jessica and Yaphet + Stu and Laurie to spread back out amongst Karen and Bob + Diana and Albert in the final round, but perhaps there was another handicap issue going on that I was unaware of.
Thatís the one thing I really wouldíve liked: a slightly bigger number of Pairs with a slightly better rating distribution. I definitely want to keep the tournament a 3 round Swiss. Previously I was a little torn between wanting 3 rounds and wanting more Pairs. Pair Go tends to run slower than normal Go (I hardly ever go into byo-youmi in normal Go, I almost always do in Pair Go), so at the least itís nice for the beginners to only have 3 rounds instead of 4. Switching to Swiss, we can have our 3 rounds plus tons more Go Pairs! That sounds pretty perfect.
And it sounds plausible, since we had so many near-Pairs this year. Hopefully next year more of them can finish coming together, and enough of the existent Pairs will stick together. I feel like itís going to happen, I feel pretty confident about the future tournaments.
As for my Pair... Paul said at the end ďYouíre my permanent Pair Go partner nowĒ. I laughed and said okay. We shall see what happens! I was really very happy about it, because I have always wanted a good partner who would stick with me and vice versa. Itís a pretty neurotic feeling for me to settle in with new partners, and being done with that ordeal would be sooooo nice.
I definitely enjoyed playing with Paul, and Iím glad he asked me to. Itís not because we won a lot... that was a bonus bit of frosting on top... itís because I was comfortable and felt good about playing with him. I was in dire need of some cheering up, and he really came through for me there.
The nicest thing is that I honestly did believe I was shambling depressantly away from the Go life, and this would be the end (for a while, at least). I would say goodbye, and walk off and cry or whatever. Instead I walked off feeling happy and looking forward to more Pair Go.
Pair Go can be truly wonderful... Iím really looking forward to next year, I hope everyone else is too!
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