An Open Letter to Beginners

Welcome to OGS!

I think it’s pretty wonderful that you decided to play go, and use OGS as your server of choice. I hope you enjoy your time here as much as possible, which is one of the main reasons I am putting together this letter including an overview of a couple challenges, common mistakes and misconceptions, and resources that you can use to improve.

First things first, you are probably going to lose your first few games. Badly. This is because we seed people in at a rating much higher than a rank beginner actually is, and this has been the subject of much debate on the forums here. And it’s probably for the best that you do lose your first few games, or it’ll take a bit longer to actually go down to your rank.

From that topic, one thing I notice is a common idea that an opponent is “thinking fifteen moves ahead.” This is simply not the case. In fact, you’re probably facing a somewhat strong opponent if they’re even thinking three moves ahead, and fifteen moves doesn’t really happen much until dan level (with the exception of ladders, but most people don’t read through those either).

You see, most go players don’t actually like to think ahead at all. It’s a lot of work, and most of us are lazy, so we use our intuition (along with some strategic heuristics) in order to choose a move. Really, we’re just picking the move that “looks best” or just plain seems obvious to us.

This does not mean you can set “traps” for a given player, and in fact, it more often seems like we’re setting traps for you. But really we don’t see these so much as “traps” as techniques of capture, the things we call traps are much more complicated.

So, how do we intuit all this information that you have a hard time getting with brute analysis? Well, first of we played. A lot. In fact there’s a go proverb that “You should lose your first 50 games as fast as possible” in order to become stronger. Now, this doesn’t mean you should play blindly, but that you should look for what didn’t go well (as well as what did) and see what you could have done differently, and try to apply that to your next game.

“That’s a lot of work!” You say, “I thought you said go players were lazy!” And I don’t back down from that statement. The reason we play and review so many games is because we genuinely enjoy playing the game, so it doesn’t feel quite as much like work (until you get to Single Digit Kyu (SDK) and actually start – gasp – studying). But, there is a bit of a shortcut in the form of tutorials a bit of a shortcut in the form of tutorials like the one called The Interactive Way to Go. This tutorial is a wonderful one that makes you begin to understand capture, the techniques of capture, and how ending and scoring the game works. It is the one I used as a beginner (as well as many others on this site), and it is one I highly recommend.

Aside from that, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them here on the forums or in the OGS chat room, where you will probably be met with some friendly people (including me if you get on at the right time) who will be happy to answer your questions. Just hold back on all the puns on the word “go,” We’ve heard them all.

Well, that’s all I can think of right now, so if more experienced players think I missed something, add it below.

I hope you enjoy your time here, and once again, welcome to OGS!


So true - I hate having to think for more than about 5 secs at a time