Yes, I'm go-blogging again. Sorry if you thought this was going to be something more interesting.
So, I am now beating MFOG at the 12-kyu level almost half the time. But when I win, it's usually by a small margin (in one case, I won by half a point), and when I lose, I lose big.
One of the things definitely hindering me is that my reading skills are poor. In go, "reading" means being able to assess the board and predict the outcome of a sequence of moves, or what in chess would be called "looking ahead."
I suck at this, largely because I am a very visual learner and I have a hard time holding multiple alternate "views" in my head. Which is to say, I have a hard time picturing the board with more than one or two imaginary stones laid down; I lose track quickly. Which means in situations where you need to decide whether to keep fighting to keep a group alive or cut your losses and let it die, or alternately, whether or not it's possible to kill an enemy group, rather than playing out the moves in my head and making a correct decision, I play out one or two moves, get confused, and say, "Ah, fuck it, let's see what happens." Which is a good way of learning, to a point, but it's also a good way of getting your ass kicked when you guess wrong.
These are called "life and death" problems, and good go players have to be good at them.
I am now working my way through Toshiro Kageyama's Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go. Kageyama is humorous and self-effacing, and fills the book with many amusing anecdotes about his go career, in between practical advice laced with hard-assed lectures about how there is no excuse for doing such-and-such or how pathetic it is that even professionals make this kind of mistake, etc. I can picture him being one of those old Buddhist monks who walks among the students with a bamboo stick with which to whack the ones who aren't paying attention.
Anyway, here are four elementary life or death problems from Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go. I was able to figure out the first two in my head (the first one is easy, the second took me a moment), but for the last two, I had to lay stones on the board and work through alternate moves to make sure I was right. Considering these are all elementary problems, I am afraid Kageyama would be whacking me with that stick and declaring me hopeless.