British Go Journal No. 62. July 1984. Page 28b.
Dave Andrews has some words of encouragement for the faint-hearted...
"I never play in tournaments"
How often have you heard that remark from beginners and the not-so-beginners down on the bottom rungs of your club's ladder. But I would like to suggest that such an attitude is misguided.
I well remember playing my first tournament two years ago. From the dizzy depths of 20 kyu I hacked my way through the first three rounds against equally bewildered opponents and triumphantly emerged with two wins. The world was my oyster. The Honinbo League beckoned.
But wait, by then I had played everyone of my strength and was drawn up to a 15 kyu with a three or four stone handicap. I don't remember much of what followed... .except for an enormous White group in the centre of the board which spent the entire game struggling to live. It did, and I lost, but I enjoyed the game immensely.
Next I entered the London Open at 18 kyu, and finished four days later at 17. Sixteen months on and I'm 12 kyu. Next year single figures beckon.
The point behind these figures is that I reckon I owe much of my advancement to tournament playing. At that first tournament I imagined that 15 kyu would always be beyond me. Such players were on a higher intellectual plane, superior beings. Of course I know now that was naive rubbish - it's shodans who are superhuman.
To attain that exalted grade (and the due deference and hero-worship it commands) takes study and practice. (Incidentally anyone who is stronger than shodan cannot have a proper job, as they must spend all their waking hours reading text books translated from Japanese, learning 30-stone joseki, arcane tesuji, and Machiavellian rip-offs.)
For us DFKs (double figure kyu's) study is all very well if you are really keen, and sooner or later becomes obligatory. But for practice you just can't beat tournaments. Nothing concentrates the mind more than knowing that you've paid an arm and a leg for the privilege of making pretty patterns with your stones. Good heavens, you can even find yourself reading two or three moves ahead. Occasionally.
Of course it is dispiriting to turn up at a tournament and discover a field of two dozen dan players, a clutch of first kyu acolytes, crowds of 2,3, and 4 kyu hopefuls, one 5 kyu (too honest for his own good), two 8 kyus and the 16 kyu girlfriend of the organiser. I mean, who are you to play after the first round?
But this problem will only be solved if mare DFKs come out of the closet. Remember, there is safety in numbers.
And don't imagine that you can be too weak to enter a tournament. Nothing is further from the truth. Tournament organisers greet DFKs like prodigal sons, because they are invaluable for producing a balanced draw. Finally, don't forget that prizes are awarded to players of all strengths, and the MacMahon system ensures that you play people at our about your own level.
Between you and me it is a lot easier for us DFKs to win a prize than for dan players, since they have to beat a lot of other dan players, something we DFKs know to be nearly impossible.
But what makes the whole exercise really worthwhile is that if you've got a kyu grade larger than your shoe size, you can almost guarantee coming out of the tournament a grade stronger (I did say almost). Now you realise what a lummox you've been all this time missing out on the goodies, enter a tournament and prove to yourself how fame, fortune, and maybe even shodan, can be yours.
As for suitable venues, you need look no further than the August Tournament at IVC in London (see tournament calendar) where an especially warm welcome awaits all DFKs.