Beginner Query

Funky forum software…

That’s not the query.

I wanted to ask how easy is it for an older dog (40’s) to learn and whether the game has plenty of tactical and strategic complications (it certainly appears to). I currently play a very complicated board game and an equally complicated LCG (living card game, I wrote the glicko2 engine for that so ‘yeh’ that this site does on). The LCG costs too much money so I am looking for something I can study without much cash beyond the (probably) many books I will buy.

This or chess probably. The board game I shall keep playing.

Any advice or recommendations then please say. i am pleased I found this site and have also persuaded my wife to get me a physical board set for my birthday along with the first two learn to play books from Janice Kim.

Anyway thanks for reading…


This is definitely the board game you shall keep playing, if you’re anything like the people on this forum. However, you’re asking a group of very select enthusiasts, so not sure how valuable that information is.


Easy to learn, impossible to master.

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Hello Matrimsaric, and welcome to the funky forums :slight_smile:

Sort of a running slogan that Go is easy to learn, but hard (or rather indeed impossible) to master. I cannot put it better than that. I have no doubt in my mind that you will learn the game easily, and unless you condition the enjoyment of a game on reaching some actual profficiency, I don’t think age should be limitation.

Currently we enjoy the happy age where for us amateurs (up to dan levels at least), quite an abundance of materials is avilable for free or some quite minor expenses.

As far as the strategies go, yes, without much of a hyperboly I think it is safe to say Go is one of the most complex games strategy-wise. Not sure if it is deterent or alluring for you :smiley: but that’s the way it is. I played both Go and Chess for some time, and quite personally found the freedom in Go much more captivating. It just felt much less restrictive.

best of luck in you choice, if you ever want a review or a teaching game or something, do not hesitate to ask here :slight_smile:


Is Go easy to learn? Absolutely. You can learn the rules and start playing within an hour. Is Go easy to master (especially for an “older dog”)? No. Go, as you have been told, is nigh impossible to master.

The tactics of Go are incredibly deep, often counter-intuitive, and can only be adequately understood through deep calculation (the chess term for what we call reading, in go). The strategy of Go has an elegance that borders on the philosophical; Go is a game of balance and struggle, a game of division and cohesion, a game of life and death. Go requires both a mind-boggling attention to detail and a creative spark. I would say that “complicated” is an understatement.


Thanks for the responses all. I seem to like complicated so that wont be an issue. I came to a realisation when playing L5R recently that the intellectual stimulation I received was actually the same as playing ASL (and they are very different games). With that came the equal realisation that I can find a game that has the same intellectual blast at learning and playing without the cost of the LCG (trying to pay the mortgage off). Plus it appears something I may be able to play with the family without them screaming and running out of the room AND online play nowadays is so much easier to access.

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Looks like we got a Crane Clan samurai on our little forum, I hope our manners do not offend you.

I am but a humble Shugenja of the Agasha family.

But after you have done the tutorials and mastered the rules, you must do the same as any art – try and fail many times. May the stones be kind to you, but never let your sword be dull.

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Having rediscovered Go in my 40s I would just warn that while you might save money studying it compared to other hobbies (although some stones and boards are very expensive!) you can spend all available time scratching the surface of the intricacies of the game…

^ not limited to late comers :smiley: think we all have the time sink problem (at least at some point)

Indeed but I think 40s is a particular bad decade for available time. If I look back to my student days and early career and look ahead to retirement I only see the green green grass of boundless spare time!

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Welcome to the forums and welcome to go!

Go is a wonderful game. The rules are simple, yet the strategy is endlessly deep. I think it is a game that one can spend their whole life learning and yet still find new things to discover and explore. Like chess, it is truly a timeless game.

The Janice Kim books are a nice introduction to the game. Actually, I started learning with those books, reading the first 3 volumes. The only downside is maybe their brevity and value (since you have to buy multiple volumes for material that might be covered more concisely by other cheaper options). See this review: Product Review: Level Up! vs Learn To Play Go

On the web, there is a nice go reference, Sensei’s Library, which is sort of like a Wikipedia for go:

Also, if you are looking for more books to read, here is a nice listing of many go books with reviews:


I tried to wrap my head around Go a few times in my late 30’s, but I had very few friends to play with, and even the “easiest” bots (i.e. GnuGo) still ran circles around me, only to create confusion and frustration. I knew there was something I SHOULD be doing, but no matter what I tried, it seems like I kept doing the wrong things. I’d pick it up and put the game away for long periods, never quite getting a foothold.

Then came the Lee Sedol / AlphaGo matches in 2016. Watching the Michael Redmond commentary taught me more Go theory in 5 days that I’d previously learned in as many years. Around the same time, I found a friend who was at a similar level, and the two of us helped each other blunder through from about 20kyu to about 12kyu. After that, I latched on and managed to find enough other resources that I could learn at my own pace.

Having gone through that - here’s what I would say to someone just at the start of that process. Above all - learning to play Go involves growing a new set of eyes - learning to do a very particular type of pattern recognition on much deeper and more entangled levels than you probably have ever done before. And every time you level up and learn to see something new, that knowledge then enables you to realize there are 3 other levels of even deeper pattern recognition you were missing before. This process seems to keep repeating over and over, pulling you ever-deeper, with the sense that there may not ever be a bottom…

The other thing that’s drawn me to Go - and continues to fascinate me - is the sense of multiple, non-overlapping fitness peaks. What do I mean by that? Let’s say you play for a while, and you find yourself getting good at one particular strategy, - REALLY good. You relish using it, and savor the victories it brings. And then you meet another player who is slightly better than you and - it’s not that they meet your strategy head-on and out-do you in it - they seem to completely ignore your strategy and somehow beat you anyway. It puzzles the heck out of you! It keeps you awake at night.

Finally, you figure out what that strategy is - and have that shocking realization of just how it exploits a hole in your previous winning strategy. You cast your old one aside and spend the time and sweat to master this new one. Again, you find yourself using it to great effect, and savoring the victories. And - again - you meet someone just a tiny bit more experienced, who seems to slide completely around your slicing sword strokes, and kills you in some other way you can’t figure out.

And this process seems to keep going - ad infinitum. No matter how good you get at any one particular strategy - someone who has the flexibility to continuously switch between 10-12 different strategies will end up winning in the end.

With all that in mind, my advice is - be patient. Imagine you’re going hunting in the woods for the first time with an expert hunter. As you both make your way through the forest, the expert hunter is going to see things (tracks on the ground, tufts of fur stuck to plants, etc) that will be completely invisible to you, and will make decisions as to which way they will walk (to be upwind of game, etc) and what they choose to step on (sand rather than crunchy leaves) in ways that will be completely foreign and confusing for you.

There might be SO MUCH STUFF going on in this experienced hunter’s mind that they won’t even be able to explain it all to you. It will be slow and frustrating as you learn to see and experience those things for yourself. But eventually, you’ll start having those “A-ha!” moments for yourself, and you’ll start to see the tracks, and hunting that game on your own.

One last little tidbit - when I started here at OGS with a 24kyu ranking, it was very difficult finding people to play with, because a lot of people put conditions on their game invitations that filter out people at the lowest ranks. As such, I would encourage you to pop on to these forums and ASK FOR TEACHING GAMES. I’ve seen a lot of players respond positively to that, and those are going to be the people who can share some insights that will be accessible at the levels you’re starting at, and will at least help you get your foot in the door.

Good luck!


well noted! Admittedly that image is Daidoji Uji so perhaps manners matter less (to that character)…

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I started quite late myself (24), but it is still possible to become decently strong and enjoying the game. I think the only real limitation for older people is that becoming pro is almost impossible. Apart from that most things seem possible.

Well I have no intention of going pro so that should not be an issue. I like the thought of a game where I can constantly improve and be challenged and never truly master. One big advantage is that I can take a book on the subject and study and learn (or watch online) and hopefully improve. This is something necessary when you have young children so the endless obsessional time sink abilities of younger adults no longer applies.

I say this for every beginner but it only applies once you’ve acquainted yourself to the game after a while: always question everything and be prepared to throw away your old knowledge. It’s way harder than it sounds, and it brings a lot of people outside their comfort zone. Which is why people get stuck in various skill plateaus after a while. Some can get out of it very quick, others may end up stuck for years. The difference is to always remain humble and, from time to time, question even the so-called ‘fundamentals’ you were taught from the beginning.


OK, one last thing. If you’re going to watch ONE VIDEO and get the most bang-for-your-buck in terms of understanding as many Go concepts as you can, this is probably the video you should start with:

Dwyrin’s Back to Basics - 01 - Fundamental Play

Yes, it’s somewhat rambly, and (honestly) it took me at least 2 times watching it before the big light bulb went off in my head and I started absorbing the information in a way that I could apply, but really, if you can make it through this 41 minute video, you will (hopefully) grasp a lot of concepts that it took me years of self-study to understand otherwise.

What’s the BOTTOM LINE? In Go, you are trying to create risk for your opponent and minimize risk for yourself as efficiently as possible. As such, being able to accurately assess the various levels of risk for all your groups on the board (and all your opponent’s groups) is a crucial first step.

Here, Dwyrin walks you through some basic rules of thumb for

  • being able to gauge the current risk to your groups (have you made shape? did you leave lethal cut points? are the groups “settled”? are you in sente or in gote?)
  • translate that to a matrix of actions (if you’re at Defcon 1 you defend, if you’re at Defcon 3 you secure, if you’re at Defcon 5 you attack, etc), and
  • shows you how to create the most risk for your opponent (big moves, direction of play, etc)

Even though he demonstrates these fundamentals with an 8 kyu opponent, and hobbles himself by not getting into capturing fights, the basic broad-brush-stroke strategic tips are things you can still apply in much more high-ranked and fight-centered games.

Basically - back when I was starting out - I thought that in order to win you HAD to capture some huge chunk of your opponent’s stones or pull off a risky invasion of a corner that looked already taken. What Dwyrin shows is that you just have to be slightly more disciplined and efficient in taking a bit more than your half of the pie, and breaks that process down into manageable and understandable steps.

Good luck!


Thanks for that Tony. I shall have a look at the video.

If you have access to Netflix you might find “The Surrounding Game” interesting

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i recommend getting igowin (or something similar for macs). this will give you 4 handicap stones on a 9x9 board. it;s very good for learning tactics. play it till you get the handicap down to 1 or 2 stones, then get another program that will let you set the board size and handicap and move to 11x11 board with many handicap stones. repeat until 19x19.


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