Durham Go Club - Frequently Asked Questions

Periodically, questions arise - and sometimes the same questions frequently. This section should hopefully answer any questions that you might have. If it doesn't, please let us know, and we might add it to this page in the future.

Club related questions

So what's this Go thing? Is it a bit like Othello? Is it harder than Chess? Is it easier than Chess?
It's a game; No; Yes and No; and Yes and No; in that order. It's a highly addictive board-game with very simple rules. Other people have explained it far better than we can hope to - see the Links Page for places to find more explanations.
Do I need to pay?
That depends on what you want out of the club! We will teach you to play, and we will very gladly play you (including on club equipment) if you're not a member. We aim to charge as little as possible for club membership (often free).
Okay, then, what's the point in joining?
You are eligible for prizes in the termly competition, and you can borrow books from the library. And you get the happy glow from knowing you've helped pay for equipment and so on. Oh, and, of course, once your strength is over the threshold, you're eligible to join the Training Committee, which technically administers the club. In practice, we share out jobs willy-nilly to people who are willing and able to do them, whether or not they're on the Committee.
Should I bring board and stones?
It's often useful, definitely, if people who have their own kit can bring it. At the same time, we really don't want you walking four miles in the snow carrying goodness knows how many kilos of stuff! If you're a very regular attendee, and you live reasonably centrally, we may well end up asking you to look after club kit, and if you do, you really have some obligation to make sure it gets to sessions. But if it's your own, there's no actual need - we usually bring more than enough kit to every session.
I can't attend a given session. Do I need to worry? Should I let you know? What if I really don't know how often I can show up?
Don't worry! It's not like an orchestra or sports team where one person's presence or absence affects everyone else directly. We understand that life sometimes gets in the way of important things like Go. We have a lot of members who we only see every few months, when other commitments allow.
What if I really can't attend any/many sessions at all? Are there any other chances for me to play?
If you have decent internet access, playing online may be the simplest solution, since you can do it at times to suit yourself. We like KGS, but there are lots of other servers as well, many of them listed at Sensei's Library's list of servers. It's worth emailing the club, too, and we'll put the word out that you might be looking for other times to play.
What happens during University Vacation?
We're not just a student society; many of our regular players live in Durham, and what's more, several of our students are post-grads who are here full time as well. So we carry on playing, mostly, as long as there are still people around - there's a separate mailing list for the vacations where people can arrange when they're available to play. The ladder continues only informally, with no prizes available, but in order to keep tabs on how people are improving, and sometimes to experiment with changes to the system. And, of course, people who go away can always visit their local clubs, where they will be welcomed - the BGA website contains a convenient list of British clubs which we find useful for pointing people in the direction of other places to play.

Beginner questions

I keep losing all my games! Is this normal?
Sadly, yes, when you're first learning. On the bright side, you shouldn't worry about this - almost everyone does! There's a saying that you should lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible. Enjoy the games for the playing, not for the result, and look forward to winning your 51st game. (If you're snot a complete beginner, losing all your games is sometimes actually a sign that you're about to get stronger!)
I keep making stupid mistakes that lose me the game! Am I a really bad player?
Everyone makes mistakes - even very strong players. The only difference is the type of mistake. Your mistakes will get better and better over time, and don't forget that your opponent is probably making mistakes too - you just need to be on the lookout for them.
Am I making any improvement at all?
Almost certainly. Even if you're losing all your games, and even if your rank is getting worse. The more games you play, the more you'll be learning. Once you've been playing for a couple of months you can play a complete beginner and see how far you've actually come. You do get some irritatingly good people who have never played before and become dan players in 6 months. Most people aren't able to do that, otherwise there'd be a lot more strong players around!
Is it cheating to take a handicap?
Not at all. The handicap is there to make the game as even as possible, so (if you're playing with the right handicap) it's not cheating - it's just normal practice. If a 9k played a 1d, the 9k should take 9 stones on a 19x19 in just the same way as if a 25k plays a 16k. On a 19x19, each handicap stone is roughly equal to 10 points - if your ranks are 9 stones apart and you take no handicap stones, you ought to lose the game (on average) by 90 points.

Ladder specific questions

What's the Ladder for?
The ladder lets us, and you, keep an eye on how strong you are. This is helpful if you're going to tournaments, of course, and it also helps you to decide which books are most likely to be useful and interesting. And as a motivational addition, there are prizes, termly!
Prizes? What for?
Each term, we award prizes for improvement and for persistance. The prizes in question usually consist of membership of the British Go Association, a contribution towards something from the BGA Bookshop (kit or books), or (usually) something non-Go related and often edible (beer, chocolate, etc).
Which games count for the ladder?
Whichever games you want, during term. The more the better, as far as we're concerned - the more data we have, the better the whole ladder works.
What about games I play online/against a friend/somewhere else?
Again, the more data the ladder has, the better the ladder will reflect true strengths. So please, let us know about these games - but about all of them, not just the ones you win, otherwise your rank won't be reflected accurately! It's often best to report games only when we can find an accurate rank for your opponent, such as their rank in the European Go Database. KGS ranks are slightly suspect, as they aren't entirely matched to BGA ranks.
What is a Shoe?
It's a step on the Ladder, so-called because of a very bad pun. As Paul describes in his history of the club, we were founded by one Simon Shiu. Shiu being approximately pronounced like "shoe". And since one takes "steps" on the ladder ... Yes, a very bad pun.
How is rating calculated from Shoes?
One's rank is equal to the natural logarithm of (your Shoe plus nine) divided by 22.3, all multiplied by 12.5, and then finally 25 subtracted to give a kyu grade or 24 subtracted to give a dan grade. You did ask. It reflects the exponential speed with which beginners learn ...
How does board size affect rating change?
Once a player is beyond "beginner" stage, games on larger boards counts for more improvement points than games on smaller boards.
Will I gain rating points by playing high handicap games?
If you're the weaker player, you can gain points by winning against a much stronger player. If you're the stronger player, you cannot gain points by winning against a much weaker player.
Will I lose rating points by playing high handicap games?
No. If the difference between you is large, you will not lose rating points whether you are the stronger or the weaker player.
What about persistance points?
It doesn't matter what the handicap is - any game that you play will gain you a persistance point.
Is this completely ad hoc and made up?
Yes and no. It's derived initially from other clubs' experiences using ladders to measure progress, with refinements and additions according to our experience. In some ways we are trying to measure the un-measurable ... but one way and another it seems to work. We appear to get grades which reflect reasonably accurately our performance at tournaments, and generally everyone is satisfied each term that the most improved prize-winner really is the player who's improved the most over the term.
Can I have the code for the ladder?
There has been talk of releasing the code under the GPL, but I'm not sure that this ever happened... It may well become public at some point. Do feel free to email Edwin if you have more specific technical or programming questions about it before then.

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