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Servers | KGS | An Exclusive Interview with the Legendary 'smartrobot' 9d (Jin Jing 2p)


2011-10-16 Expert: DanielTom Rate: (5)  17 ratings

An Exclusive Interview with the Legendary 'smartrobot' 9d (Jin Jing 2p)

Where were you born and where are you currently living?

I was born in Wuhan, China, and I am now living in Beijing.


How (and when) did you start playing Go?

I started playing Go when I was 7 years old. At the beginning I learned from several amateur teachers, and from some professional teachers one year later.


Can you tell us a bit about the Go culture in China?

Go originated in China, and it is said that the history of this game has more than 4000 years. Nowadays, many parents are willing to send their children to a Go school to cultivate logical thinking (I think Go is a good choice for children as a hobby). But because of the fierce competition, if one wants to become pro, he/she has to study at a Go school, giving up normal education (quite hard). Go is more like a sport than a culture in China today.


Did you stay at a Go Institute to study and become a professional? How did you train yourself to reach such a high level?

Yes, I studied at a local Go institute in Wuhan. At that time, about ten children had close strength and similar age with me, and also several experienced pro teachers taught in Wuhan, so there was a good environment for us to study Go. Both serious training games and advice from teachers are the most important factors, and of course, self-studying is the basis.


How was it like passing the pro-exam? Please describe your experience!

It is really hard to pass the pro-exam. There were many strong children, and only about 20 can pass each year, so I failed at first three times. When I almost lost hope, finally goddess of fortune helped me to pass in the fourth time.


Have you beaten any famous professional player in the past? And what was your most memorable game?

I have beaten several players who are in the teams of the Chinese Top Go League now, but at that moment they were not that strong. My most memorable game is the decisive game which I won to pass the pro-exam. In that game I was behind a little after middle game but I caught up in yose, and finally only won by 0.5 point.


Where did you learn about KGS and what is your impression of the server?

I learned about KGS from my friends MilanMilan [Liu Yuanbo, 2p] and Finnish8d [Jeff Chang] in 2008. My impression of KGS is that the user interface looks simple and very convenient to use, and it is the most international Go server.


What made you choose your username ('smartrobot')? We guess it is because you are a fan of Doraemon. :)

Yes, I liked Doraemon very much when I was a child. Another reason is that I'm interested in Go program development. I think it is a challenging and meaningful work. But I feel sorry that I haven't spent any time studying Go programming.


Who do you think is currently the strongest player on KGS?

No one has the absolute strength to be the strongest one (among active 9ds).


Are you accepting online Go students? And will you be teaching Go again in the next editions of 'Experience Go in China'?

Yes, and yes.


About six months ago you participated in the Pandanet Go European Cup (Paris Finals) and took 3rd place (only behind your Chinese teammates). Are you planning to participate in more European Go Tournaments in the future?

If I have the chance and time, I would like to.


There are many kids in Europe (and the USA) who aspire to reach pro-level, but who later find it hard or impossible to actually achieve that goal. Suppose one of them is reading these lines right now: what advice would you give to him/her?

I think the biggest limitation for kids in Europe and the USA is that they don't have proper opponents, and the lack of teaching resources is another problem. I hope an official organization (e.g. EGF) can gather promising kids together to play league games online regularly, and invite several teachers to discuss games or variations with them.

As for kids self studying, my suggestion is:

1. Playing more serious slow games instead of blitz games.

2. Reading more Go books.

3. Paying attention to Asian top pro games, trying to guess the idea behind each move.


A standard question: how many handicap stones do you think you would need to beat God?

Lee Sedol's answer is 4, so I think I need 5 or 6.


Perhaps a harder question: what attracts you in Go?

Go is a strategy game. If chess is like a battle, then Go is like war. Go includes more philosophy ideas.


What are your immediate plans?

I'm a graduate student at the Peking University now, so my current work is studying.


Some trivia questions:

Who is your favorite Go player?

Wu Qingyuan [Go Seigen] and Lee Changho. They both changed the trend of Go theory.


How would you describe your playing style?

Risk aversion. I like peace more than fighting.



Other questions:

noth1ng: If one is looking for a teacher how he should decide which teacher to choose?

I think we'd better learn from different style teachers, so that we can get different ideas. It can help us to avoid extreme style.


Nef: I think that you play fairly simple moves most of the game. If i correct about your playing style, is it good or bad? Can it be advise to amateurs to always try to keep game simple? or it depends on fighting abilities.. Please describe what is right or wrong in this area of Go knowledge

We can't say whether simple playing style is good or bad. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. What we need to do is make up for weaknesses. In my experience, most western players are not good at fighting; if you are in this group, you can try to play more actively. If you're good at fighting, but always get punished due to your overplays, you need to consider playing more solidly.


davy014: Are professional activities enough to your future or do you plan to quit professional go world ? In other word, could you live decently just with your go stuffs?

I haven't professionally studied Go since 2004. I think I can live, but not decently, just with my Go stuffs.


breakfast: 1) It's hard to find your name in recent Chinese Pro tournaments. Do you attend them?

2) What is, in your opinion, the difference between your level and level of top Chinese pros like Gu Li or Kong Jie?

3) Is it common to use Go databases (with old games) in China, or are they still replaying games from books?

1) No, I didn't attend any recent Chinese Pro tournament.

2) The difference between my level and top pros' depends on how we define it. They can't give me 2 handicap stones, but even if I keep studying Go, I probably can never reach their level.

3) It is very common to use Go databases (at least for me) in China, we can get old games from, but it is a Chinese website.


Go19x19: How should we structure our study (many tsumego, more fuseki, joseki, etc)? Thanks.

My own opinion:

Weaker than 3k (KGS rank): basic tsumego

3k --- 2d: tsumego > yose > joseki > fuseki

2d --- 5d: joseki > tsumego > fuseki > yose

5d --- 6d: fuseki > joseki > hard tsumego > yose > replaying pro games

Over 6d: replaying pro games > fuseki > hard tsumego > yose > joseki


Nation: Would you be willing to play a simultaneous game against some of the amateurs?

I don't often play simultaneous games publicly.


kenny: What do you think of Antti ['Tien' on KGS] becoming an insei in Japan?

I think it will be a good experience for Antti. I hope he can achieve his goal.


Bobby: In your opinion who is the strongest player in Europe?

I'm not quite familiar with European players. I learned their strength mainly from KGS. I think both Catalin and Ilya are outstanding, and Artem is promising.


lipo: Do you still study Go? and if yes, how long do you spend studying?

No. I spend most of my time on school work instead of studying Go. 


1d 2011-10-17 09:10
Really good interview, questions are much better this time and Smartrobot seems like a really smart guy with good attitude.

Next time I'd like to see Breakfast, he's one of the most active people promoting Go in Europe.
3k ( RU ) 2011-10-17 08:10
Thank you for answers - it was very informative and interesting to read
1d 2011-10-16 11:10
smartrobot claims that top pros can't give him 2 stones handicap. Well, I personally, would bet on Lee Sedol giving him 2 stones. Or is 2 stones handicap such a big advantage on their level?
3k ( JM ) 2011-10-16 10:10
> Yose is more important
> than joseki?

yose is extremely important for winning games. its important grows with the level of the players, assuming they have not resigned and the game is close.

in top-ama or pro, players usually resign if *before* yose (half the moves!) the score diff is greater than 15-20 points.

1d ( FR ) 2011-10-16 10:10
@DanielTom: thanks a lot for the interview, it was very nice!

@Nagilum: I believe that studying yose helps to link local thinking to global thinking - you read lots of variations and many outcomes, and have to assess both the resulting shape (local) and situation (global). This ability comes quite handy in fighting, it helps develop active/dynamic play. At my level (1d), even if I get behind in the opening, I feel that I can probably manage as long as I can play actively and grind back some advantages from better assessments of positions or tactical sense. Also, even if I diverge from joseki, it might not be obvious to my opponent how to punish this. Just my 2c!
4k ( DE ) 2011-10-16 06:10
Nice Interview. Much better than the last one.

"3k --- 2d: tsumego > yose > joseki > fuseki"

Yose is more important than joseki?
Why? It would be interesting to hear more explanations for this point.
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