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Subject: Session Report rss

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Corey Butler
United States
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My friend Bill and I played three games of YINSH this evening. We're both pretty new to the game, so we are still trying to get the hang of it. I should mention that Bill is an active Class A tournament chess player, whereas I'm a "retired" Class B player, so we tend to approach abstract strategy games from a chessplayer's perspective.

In the first game we decided that we didn't know any kind of opening strategy, so we pretty much placed our five rings randomly. We proceeded conservatively and eventually "exchanged" a row of markers allowing us to each take a ring off the board. We tended to make crude threats of getting 5 in a row, followed by defensive play, and then opportunistic exploitation of the unpredictable patterns produced by the flipped markers. I finally overlooked an obvious row and lost 3-2. Duh.

In the second game we were already making comparisons to chess. Bill decided to take "control of the center" with his first ring, whereas I used a peripheral strategy. We also saw ahead a little more and were able to anticipate threats and the subsequent board positions following a line of flips. The rings started to feel a bit like Queens, and we talked about controlling the long diagonal, as we would in chess. Initiative and threats seem important, but YINSH is clearly much more chaotic, making defensive play more difficult. Another comparison to chess was the significance of multiple threats and playing on both sides of the board. I got behind in the second game but was able to develop a strong position and ended up winning 3-1.

By the third game, we were both playing more carefully and felt like we were beginning to know what we were doing. We talked less and thought more. On the box it says that YINSH can be played in 30 minutes, but all of our games went significantly longer than that. In fact, we couldn't even finish the third game because the coffee shop was about to close and we had to call it quits. For a long time we were tied 1-1, but I was able to grab a ring just before we stopped. I can't call it a victory, however, as I felt that the position could have gone to Bill's advantage after I removed my markers.

YINSH is a fine game and I can understand why it is rated so highly on the 'geek. As in chess, an eye for positional judgment appears to be vital, but there seems to be less of a role for "look ahead" calculations. I'd also say that because of its unpredictable nature, it is a less strategic game than chess. All of the GIPF games I've played seem more tactical than strategic. Then again, I'm pretty new to this. I may well change my mind after a few hundred games, and I'll be sure to follow up here if I do.
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