3 questions on how to improve as a new player

The title basically says it all, I am a brand new player looking for tips on how to get better. I have a few specific questions regarding that:

Should I play only on a 19x19 board? I started on a 9x9 and got the basics down, and have now moved up to playing more 13x13 games and trying a few 19x19 ones. Though the concepts are similar, wow are those boards completely different to play on. Is it better to just focus on the full sized board so as to learn the game as a whole from the ground up? I guess I am just not wanting to develop bad habits on small boards that are difficult to get rid of when I move up in size. If it is your recommendation to play on a smaller board first, at what level would you recommend moving up to the 19x19?

How much of my time should be spent playing vs. “studying”? By studying I mean watching informational videos, reading books, solving problems, etc. I’m new enough that I think playing more will be the most helpful for awhile, but what % of time do you think should be spent trying to learn in ways other than playing.

How long of a time control should I use for most games? I think that playing hyper fast blitz games will just teach me bad habits and not really let me think about my moves. However I don’t think I can stare at a Go board for lengthy periods of time and formulate much of a plan yet. So I guess what I am asking is how long is a “normal” time to spend on each game so I can give my moves careful thought without getting too bogged down.

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Should I play only on a 19x19 board?
This one’s up for some debate, however the general consensus tends to be yes. 9x9 is basically one big fight and it’s all over. It’ develops some basic reading, but teaches you nothing of influence or any of the more “big picture” ideas. A few more of these come into play on a 13x13, but even that is a bit restricted. Once you have a good feeling about your ability to read through a group’s ability to survive and get a feel for the basic mistakes that kill your groups, I’d personally say you’re ready to move on. Note that some people just really enjoy playing 9x9, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’d very different than a game on 19x19.

How much of my time should be spent playing vs. “studying”?
At this point, spend time playing. Studying typically doesn’t even start to be helpful until the upper-to-mid-teens kyu ranks. Play more games and you’ll have a more solid foundation, and a better idea of why things work. That’s the important part of studying. However, some tsumego when you have a few minutes doesn’t hurt and is accessible enough to 20k-22k no problem.

How long of a time control should I use for most games?
Don’t play blitz, but don’t spend minutes on a move. Most of these points boil down to “lose your first 50 (100) games as quickly as possible.” - a typical Go proverb for starting off. Playing blitz definitely reinforces bad habits, but playing too slow means you’re thinking too much. This is detrimental because at 24k you need to branch out and try things, and agonizing over the next move is fruitless task that ends with you playing fewer games. Play quickly, but don’t spend less than 10 seconds on a move. The typical time controls around OGS seem to be 10 min + 3x30 sec byo-yomi. This is a pretty decent compromise.


Should I play only on a 19x19 board?
I am likely in the minority here, but I don’t think it is necessary to avoid playing games on the smaller boards. The 9x9 boards is used to limit the possibilities to keep a beginner from getting overwhelmed. Even when no longer abeginner, there is still much that can be learned on 9x9. It will, by necessity, be tactical. But that is it’s strength. You can play many quick games and get a feel for what works for keeping a group alive. I played many 13x13 games when first learning as a coworker and I could get three in during lunch. Again, the benefit is the ability to play more games. There are differences in what is more important, but the concepts apply to all sizes. Once you can, definitely play 19x19, but I don’t think you should be restricted to 19x19.

How much of my time should be spent playing vs. “studying”?
The more you play, the faster you will learn in the beginning. I would suggest playing almost exclusively until you get the point that you would start to benefit by studying. You will know when study will help when recognize a situation that keeps coming up in your games and you don’t know how best to handle it and what you have already tried isn’t working. The key is to be able to know the situation when you see it. This will allow you to look for answers to a specific question. There are a few opening shapes that tend to go poorly, or there is a situation that you think you should be able to handle better. Study at this point will help you find options to use in those situations. Then you have a few more things to try in your games. Once you start recognizing getting a feel for the flow of the game, you can spend time on deeper study as most situations depend on the larger picture (up to the whole board). This is when looking at strategy instead of just tactics will be useful.

Joseki are a special case and I don’t really know for sure when to use them. Ideally, these are the shapes you recognize and you look at the related joseki to see how they could be handled. Studying joseki isn’t just memorization. Best approach is to understand why each move is considered “proper”. Finally (and a higher level concept), which joseki to use will depend on the shape you want at the end of the sequence. This will depend on what is happening on the rest of the board.

How long of a time control should I use for most games?
A noted above, you should play with a time control that allows you the option to spend time on each move. If you are just playing the first move you see, you aren’t going to improve as the evaluation of your choices the skill you need to develop. As a low level player, you don’t really know enough to spend much time thinking about the next move. You should be able to see and evaluate a few possible moves. You should be able to anticipate what the likely response will be. Eventually, you will be able to run this out a few plays. The key to strength is knowing which moves are most likely to be useful, which ones are worth looking at longer, and which ones are traps.

Good luck and welcome to the game and this server.


“also”, not “only”, and then my answer is YES :slight_smile:

I like the smaller boards too, you learn other things there – which may help you later on 19x19. Fight, withstand, capture, try not to be captured … and sacrificing seems to have another flavor here.

“Should”? Well, at your current rank I’d say …

  • Play as much as you can. (and humans, of course!)
  • Study as much as you enjoy it.

Quoting EdLee on the L19 forum, in “How to play games?”, I recommend reading his whole comment there.

[quote=“EdLee”]About thinking time – another eternal question (browse other threads).
Don’t think too long (e.g. 3+ minutes on every move is too long.)
Don’t play with zero thinking (e.g. 3 seconds or less on every move is too fast.)[/quote]

Sounds like a very good advice to me. Note the italics.

See also here.

And @Kartigan, you forgot one point:

Tsumego! Tsumego! Tsumego! :slight_smile:


Excellent answers guys, thanks for the tips! That was exactly the type of info I was looking for.

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Oh, “one more thing …”

Please don’t dismiss proper Handicap. Many newcomers don’t like it for different reasons (like not taking their own wins serious if they win with HC, or thinking it’s “unfair” or something) but don’t realize that HC is actually for both sides to learn and not be bored.


I’ll state the obvious:

Should I play only on a 19x19 board?

Play the board size you want to get good at. Each has value, and each has some carry over to other sizes.

How much of my time should be spent playing vs. “studying”?

You’re overthinking it. Improvement comes from playing as many games as possible and using those games to apply new information you as you learn it. Be hungry for new ideas and don’t neglect application.

How long of a time control should I use for most games?

“Long enough.” That is, the midpoint between impulse playing (no reading, reinforcing existing habits) and overkill (limiting the amount of games you can fit in and boring your opponent to tears). I like 30 sec byo yomi, but your midpoint could differ.

Good luck! And don’t forget to enjoy the game. :smiley:


I feel like the answer to your questions should be: Which do you find the most fun?

Obviously, such a simple answer comes with some caveats. Reading is important for playing well, and you should try and do it even if you don’t like it. That’s a good reason to avoid blitz games and try some tsumego a couple of times a week, no need to go through any more than 5 or 6 puzzles a week unless you want to. There’s also always the need of putting what you learn into practice, which means at least one or two games every so often.

However, what you enjoy the most, whether it be 19 x 19 correspondence or watching Nick Sibicky’s lectures, should make up the core of your regiment. For one, it’ll keep you interested, and a player that is interested, rather one that finds studying Go a chore, is the one that will learn more.

Also, NB regarding puzzles: If you use a computer, try to avoid the temptation of clicking though until you find the answer. It would be almost as bad as not doing them! Instead, try and spend a bit more time, or try easier puzzles. If you get to a “wrong” solution, more than once, you’re doing it wrong!


Only ~16k, so big grain of salt.

I’m personally just the kind of person who likes studying. I’ve lost several nights’ sleep to a combination of tsumego and Nick Sibicky videos. Playing games is where you get skills, and lessons are where you learn to use those skills, right? I’ve risen 2-3 stones personally on nothing but lectures, but then, those were like 23k-20k. Point being: if it works for you, study. Of course, if you find it works better, play. Or both. Probably both. I just felt like there should be a study-advocate somewhere in this thread.


Exactly. Studying is essential, especially once you’ve hit a wall. See those old fellows who get stuck in a certain range (mostly kyu) since they picked it up years ago and can never improve? Because they just keep playing (mostly with the same guys if in real life) and neglect study and tsumego. No fresh ideas or concepts, nothing new to inject in their game or thinking and to suddenly improve miraculously doing the same things that kept them stuck at whatever level they were in? Not likely.


I have written tips for beginners at https://is.gd/ideasPJ_go_beginners and https://is.gd/ideasPJ_go . I would be happy to hear whether they were helpful.

I also devised an intense training method for weaker players ( https://is.gd/ideasPJ_go_cocktail ). It would be interesting for me to hear if someone tried it and whether it helped.



Should I play only on a 19x19 board?

Play 9x9 to learn the bare basics of stones. How a capture race works, life and death. I alway recommend getting into 19x19 ASAP. This is because the game is never over from 1 lost fight – a common bad mindset that long time dedicated 9x9 players tend to develop. Most people think it’s confusing on a big board, but there’s more room for mistakes, more chance to catch-up if behind, more possibilities, to put simply.

How much of my time should be spent playing vs. “studying”?

Playing quality games is best way to study. Review your serious games yourself or ask a stronger player. Only by playing do you get to put what you studied into practice.

How long of a time control should I use for most games?

To play a serious, quality game I recommend 30 min / an hour main time, with 1 minute overtimes x 5. Long games help train your reading, so make sure you use as much time as you can and really think about your moves.

I also recommend an occasional dose of blitz games, as much as people say to shy away from it to improve. It’s a nice balance to the exhausting long games, and it lets you see the game from a different perspective above all else.