Appreciation threshold for Go

I’m curious to have some more experienced players weigh in: What rank/level would you say a player can begin to truly appreciate Go?

Specifically, I am referring to the point at which a player can even appreciate a loss by recognizing exactly what judgement/vision supported the accuracy of the opponent’s play.

Currently I feel like I’m flailing at many steps, and when I get outmaneuvered I basically have no idea why or what I did wrong to set that up. At 20-18k I realize there is a long road of improvement ahead. My concern is for the time it will take to reach a level where I can make informed decisions at each step, and where I can understand the reasoning processes of more skilled players.

I’m 3k and I would say it’s a bit different for everyone depending on what kind of skill got you to your rank. I’ve seen 10k player who can comment and explain other’s games to some extent but when I was 10k I had no idea what’s going on in other’s game including those that are weaker than me.

-At ~15k I think you will have a good grasp of the rules and clearly see why is it bad to play inside opponent’s territory after endgame in most cases.
-I’m sure you’ve heard(or will be hearing) people saying things like 'this group might not have enough eye space" when the group still has an amorphous shape and might feel confused on why other’s can gauge if things have enough eye space at such an early stage. I started to understand that at around 10k.
-Then around 7k I finally start to pay attention to weak and strong groups.
-At my current rank, I still find myself not knowing what to do when I’m not in a fight. But I know at my rank, there are people who have sort of a plan for every move.

edit: as for understanding the reasoning processes of more skilled players… never managed to do that yet, but go has been a fun game for me since ~24k.

Before 10k, I feel happy after losing to stronger players a lot since I felt like I gain something from playing them. (like a specific opening, joseki, local patterns and I try to copy them in my next game) After 10k, my sense of pride and urge to win started to kick in and my appreciation for losing began to dwindle… which is very unfortunate.

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I’m not sure about appreciation. I mean this was Ke Jie appreciating his loss:


Appreciation is subjective, so only you can answer that. “Truly” is one of those “weasel” words that creates mischief in discussions. It opens the door to elitists who will disparage anyone below their level or specialty. I once had a pianist tell me that you you can’t truly appreciate Chopin unless you play the piano. A composer might respond that the pianist can’t appreciate Chopin because he is not a composer. All BS. No doubt stronger go players appreciate much more than weaker players, but that doesn’t mean there is no appreciation at lower levels. If there were not some appreciation, people would stop playing go. There is no “truly” about it. @spatula very nicely itemizes levels of increasing appreciation all along her go journey.

I would also caution against over-intellectualizing this question. One’s strength doesn’t depend only on one’s ability in an intellectual sense. Emotional factors affect all game play. This is most obvious in poker. In go, one’s personality can have a significant effect on how one plays; most obviously, at all levels some players are more aggressive than others.

Personally speaking, I have a pretty good idea of my weaknesses in a game even before the game ends, because one sees the results pretty quickly in most cases. A year ago, doing tsumego, I had the epiphany that it all involves dividing the space; one has to see how the space is divided to make two eyes. That was a gain of appreciation at about 18k. Reading the Forum 8 or 9 months ago, I learned the proper way to shut down a dragon, and just had occasion IRL to put it in practice. Another gain in appreciation. I’ve recently gained appreciation for the vital importance of sente and am struggling with the art of tenuki. The scattered, acrostic-style of play that you see among high dans and pros, however, is baffling. It obviously represents really long-range planning of an order beyond what I expect to ever understand, given my advanced age.


Surely when you play others who are at your level you can see, in retrospect at least, things you did wrong. For example when you loose a group of 3 or more stones (the most common error at the about 20k level,) you should be able to find a move that would have saved them.

I would think that counts as “recognizing what supported the accuracy” of your opponents play.

You aren’t calling me a weasel, are you? :laughing:
And if one of those elitists proffers his or her disparaging opinion then I promise I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

By “truly appreciate Go” I meant “appreciate Go beyond its surface aesthetic”. In other words, I already appreciate Go for its depth, simplicity, and ancient origin. Yet I currently lack the knowledge and skill to appreciate even thoroughly annotated games.

When I studied chess, I remember reaching a tipping point around 1200 Elo where I was able to grasp much of the logic in well-annotated master games, even though I could not reproduce that level of play on my own. So I am curious now to know if and when various players have reached a similar point with Go.

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The thing about go is, if you ask 100 people they will tell you 100 different stories about their go journey and how to get better at go. Since most of us here are kyu players, that difference between us is bigger because there are so many ways to get better at kyu level and depending on your skill set, what you see is different. (like you can be bad and reading and good at direction/good at reading and bad at direction of play and end up in similar level/good at joseki and bad at some other stuff). I think for me, go is like a continuous journey where I discover new things along the way so I haven’t yet encountered a distinct ‘tipping point’.

A know a lot of us kyu player set their goal to 1d, but from what I heard people usually feel nothing special after they actually reach dan …


It’s hard to tell why you lost though. Yes, you can spot easy mistakes and generally point out what you didn’t like in your game. But often when you ask for thorough review of the game, often stronger players stress completely different parts of the game. So I think the question is better rephrased as “level at which a player can understand what’s going on in the game”. Of course, every player’s path is different, but saying that kinda avoids the question. Let’s put a number on it. I’d say that people are starting to understand stuff at around mid-sdk by modern Glicko standards. Before that it’s all about lower-tier basics and somewhere in sdk land it’s all starting to come together to some extent.

You probably were just more honest with yourself. I know some players can talk confidently about anything.

I think this quote deals with true appreciation of go nicely:

(It’s a joke, by the way)
Credit to jammerjoint from reddit.

In my beginnings I’d constantly nag opponents who beat me for the bits of information. I would actually spend more time discussing my games afterwards than actually playing them. You can accidentally make few friends on the way. Even today, while people are slightly less talkative, I’d meditate over my wins / losses retrospectively verifying ideas I had through the game.

I still remember first such question I asked one of my opponents. After painful defeat in a 13x13 game, I was awed by my opponents skills (probably around ~18k). I just asked ‘at which point did you know that that group was dead?’. That way not only I got some general knowledge about the amount of space a group on a side needs to be reasonably safe, but it also helped me to focus on the moment of making bad decision and consider corrections to apply in future. The process might even have a name, I think it was… ‘learning’ ?

And to your question about appreciation - never. Go is almost infinitely complex game. The closer you get to perfection, the more difficult the choices become and you run into the same problem of ‘perception horizon’.

Eventually you’ll be able to appreciate most of human knowledge that was gathered around the game. After you reach the dan level, your basic toolbox starts to feel complete. But after that you are on your own. There are no more simple answers, every decision comes after heavy analysis and unfortunately AlphaGo will not explain to us in simple terms why certain moves are better than others. And AlphaGo is definitely not the end.

So back to my point from previous post. Make sure that with each game you’ll discover single problem and find a way to correct it. Make sure to focus on the obviously wrong moves and not overanalyse. Look for key decisions, you can use those questions as guideline (ask them to yourself or your opponent):

  1. Where exactly was my first mistake?
  2. At which point did I fall behind?
  3. I feel like the outcome of X was bad for me, where did I make a mistake?
  4. I wanted to achieve X, but got Y. Did I make a mistake, or was I trying to get too much?

No, not at all. “Weasel” words are a well-known concept among writers and debaters. They are modifiers that increase the ambiguity of nouns or verbs, for a variety of nefarious purposes (such as setting a standard that can’t be met). I don’t believe that was what you intended. Unfortunately, we live today in a garbage heap of language, and it is easy to inadvertently grab the wrong word. (Government writers are the worst at this. I think you are not allowed to work for the government if you know any synonyms for “provide.” But I digress…)

Your chess example highlights an important point. It’s quite possible to understand and appreciate more than one can do. This is obvious in the arts, where audiences would be even smaller than they are if we all had to play an instrument or get an art degree before enjoying a piece of music or a painting. It may be more obscure, however, when it comes to games, which communicate less directly with the observer. However, far more than mere intellectual understanding is necessary for success in games like chess and go. I remember reading about a study some 40 years ago in which they found that visual memory was the only factor significantly correlated with success in chess. Visual memory (reading in go) is not a measure of understanding. Hence, you (and I) could understand far more about the theory of chess and the ideas in a game than we ourselves could do over the board, and I believe the same holds true—at least to some degree—of go or any other game.

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Players of every level has their way of appreciating the game. On the other hand, even pros sometimes do not understand the judgement/vision of fellow colleagues. Mimura Tomoyasu 9P confessed to that when he was assigned to write a comment on other pro games. He did not understand why his fellow pro made such a move.
I also see confessions by high dan players that the stronger you get, the more you realize that you do not know, and high kyus and low dans are the sweet spot where you think you are close to mastering go or maybe think you have mastered go, yet not aware of deep and wide world ahead that awaits you. For personal satisfaction, maybe this is the level you ought to be aiming for.