Chess player considering taking up Go

Hi all,

I assume I’m not the first to ask but I didn’t find anything using a forum search - so here I go…:

I used to be an avid chess player during school/university times and back then I spent quite some time on getting better at it. At the age of about 22 I quit playing tournament chess and since then haven’t played a serious games - I’m 45 now. I do have played the occasional internet blitz game every now and then though.
I am considering picking up tournament chess again because luckily I now have more time on my hand again and I still love the game of chess.

Concerning Go - I’m not a player as of yet, I barely know the rules. From what I’m reading about it it appears to be an at least equally interesting and rewarding subject as well and I feel somehow attracted to the idea of learning Go and dedicating time to this instead of picking up tournament chess again.
I can admire a genius chess game, but I can not yet admire a genius go game, so I have yet to grasp what “kind of beauty there is waiting out there” :wink:

I assume there will be other (ex-)chess players who have done that and I would love to hear what they have to say. I’m aware that this is a Go forum so I don’t expect any “Go is boring compared to chess - stick with chess!” anyway - you guys are biased, I know! :smile:

What would be an educated guess as to how long it might take to reach a level of basic but solid Go-understanding - to be able to start appreciating a commented master game for instance? I know how (incredibly) much work it is to get better at chess, so I somewhat shy away from being a total beginner again. But then again: why not?!

Thanks for listening!


Hey Horse, welcome to OGS!

I am a chess player myself, and have spent some years in a chess club prior to my “Go career”. I didn’t know Go existed, back then, but chess has been a part of my life aswell. I still play chess with my father from time to time, but not very actively.

I think a general comparison of the two games is very hard, especially because of the different styles of play. As a general rule of thumb, I would like to say: If you enjoy chess, you will enjoy Go, and vice versa. Both games are unique in their way, and enjoyable. :slight_smile:

In terms of solid understanding of the basics, Go is a little quicker then Chess. However, after gaining that basic knowledge, both games request about the same amount of time from you, to get better. (There is no shortcut to getting really good).

In Go, ranks are measured on Kyu and Dan ranks, where Beginners start at 25 Kyu and have to work their way up untill they hit 1 Kyu. Then they gain 1 Dan, which equals the first Amateur Master rank. The highest rank afterwards is 7 Dan.

There are also Professional-Dans, equal to Grandmasters in chess. Those are 1 Pro until 9 Pro. (Only very few players have these, obviously)

Regarding your question: A common way to measure progress is dividing the Amateur rank-sets into Double-Digit Kyu (25 Kyu - 10 Kyu) and Single-Digit Kyu (9 Kyu - 1 Kyu). It is generally agreed upon that you have a good basic understanding once you hit Single-Digit Kyu rank.

In my personal experience, reaching Single-Digit Kyu is possible within half a year, if you play a lot of Go. If you like to take it easy, and just study and play the game relaxed, it can take up to a year or even longer.

What’s important to note here, though, is: You can enjoy the game at any rank level. :slight_smile:


PS: You will make progress much much faster if you are a good chess player.


If you can find a stronger player willing to teach you for a few hours each week, you can progress a lot faster, as well.


Thank you very much for your answers!

Well, quite frankly, right now - being an absolute beginner - I do not really enjoy a game of Go yet. I rather feel lost - I simply have no idea what I am doing or what I’m supposed to do. That’s basicly why I started this thread. Ok - claim territory, surround enemy stones and such - but I don’t quite see the bigger picture as of yet.
I played one single 9x9 game here against the BeginnersBot (or so). I won, but don’t ask me how I actually did it. :smiley: :smiley:

However, since I’m more of a “delve completely into something” type of guy (ask my poor wife about it :slight_smile: ) I understand that it would still take me a couple of months of diligent study to reach a level of basic understanding - not surprising and probably very similiar to the amount of work needed to reach a similar chess understanding if you start at zero.
That would clearly be my first aim - getting to understand at least enough about the game to be able to “start seeing the beauty of it”.

I’ll most likely order a beginner’s book and work through it - maybe I’ll start to see if Go might attract me in the way chess does.

BTW - when I browse Amazon for books about Go I don’t seem to find any collections of commented master games or something like this - why is that? Or did I simply miss them but they are there? In chess going through brilliantly commented master games gives me great pleasure - is that possible/common in Go as well?

Thanks again!

Hey Horse!

Feeling lost at the beginning is a common feeling. It will fade when you learn/understand a new concept about the game, and then will start coming back when you don’t understand a new concept. It’s a constant journey. I am now at 7 Kyu rank and I still feel lost a lot of times. Some Grandmasters say, that they wish they could understand the basics of the game. :slight_smile:

A beginner book is a very good way to start the game. The first volume of the Janice Kim series is very well written for Beginners and considered one of the best Standard works for a Beginner.

If you are willing to spend more money, I can also recommend the “Level Up” series: although aimed for children, it splits the basics into even smaller, more solid bits. They strengthen you around 2 Kyu per Book, and are the best Beginner’s books in my opinion. (Just more cost intensive then the Janice Kim book)

If you have the money, order both books, and decide for yourself! (Absolutely worth it)

The best work in German is often considered the one by Thomas Hillebrand, however it can not live up to the two english works in my opinion.

There are also collections of commented master games. You can find a list of almost all Go books that have been translated to English here.

Also, if you would like to have a teacher, I am willing to volunteer and helping you out with the basic concepts. Send me a Private Message on the main website, when you are around and have time. :smile: ( I am living in Germany, so we will likely be able to speak German :slight_smile: )



Thank you very much for your help, Francisa!

I’ll go get the Janice Kim book, thank you.
Not so sure though about the children’s books - I mean, come on - I’m 45 years of age! :smiley: :smiley: (just kidding)

I might gladly come back to your kind offer after having worked through the beginner’s book. :wink:

Danke sehr!

Do not underestimate Go Books for Korean Children. :slight_smile:

The youngest Korean professionals achieve Grandmaster rank at the age of 11.

Happy to help! :blush:


If you’re looking for commented games, this is a classic, with some history of Go, as well:


Hi Horse.

I played chess when I was young too and finally gave it up when there were more interesting things to do in life :smile: I learned Go from a friend at uni and played both intermittently. Now that I am old I play Go.
I have lost interest in chess because the openings are analysed to death. I feel that I am playing the first 20 moves of a game from somebody else’s analysis. This doesn’t happen to me in Go. Although corner sequences (joseki) are analysed and you can learn them if you want, I haven’t done that and play everything from first principles. This makes the game feel more creative and I never feel that I am in a board position which I have seen a hundred times before (as in chess).

When you first play, Go can seem like you don’t know what you are doing or trying to do. I recommend buying a beginners book. First job is to learn how to keep your groups of stones alive (not as easy as you might think). Next consider the question …how big an area can I get so that the opponent cannot play inside there and stay alive. (Spoiler: there is no definitive answer but you can learn a lot trying to find out).
After a while you get the hang of what you are trying to do (make more area than the opponent).

As to appreciating the beauty of games of higher ranked players, I am afraid that is the job of a lifetime :smile: By all means watch games played by others but don’t expect to understand everything they do.
Read some books and just dive in to playing. Explore your own idea and see how they work out. You will get hooked as we are. Have fun.


You should quickly go through the interactive way to go:
I also learned a lot, and enjoyed immensely, reading some go books. Any good introductory book, “The second book of Go”, “Lessons in the fundamentals of Go”, “Opening Theory Made Easy”, any from the Elementary Go series, but particularly the volume on Attack and Defense.


I also learned chess from my father, and played against him when I was young, although I never really became a serious chess player… Only play very occasionally nowadays, hardly ever, since I started to learn Go. Broadly speaking, chess is a war game, very “western” (annihilate your opponent); Go is “eastern”, a game of balances and subtleties, where you win by half a point, and definitely lose if you try to get everything to yourself (don’t be too greedy… :-). Both are of course extremely challenging and interesting, but I definitely enjoy Go much more.

Welcome, and enjoy the ride!



Not quite sure whether it’s appropriate for a total beginner, but I really like Robert Jasiek’s book “First Fundamentals”


First Fundamentals is the must read book for anyone who achieved a 15k rank or stronger.

Easily the best Lower-DDK-Book out there! :smiley:


Hello Horse!

First off, you might know from chess that the extent to which one appreciates good play will change at ALL skill levels. I’m low-DDK (on the cusp of being a stronger amateur), and I can see the general direction of play in a pro game, but not with the depth of a master. Having said that, there is definitely a small series of “aha” moments as one crosses the 20kyu threshold.

A lot of people will tell you to steer clear of the books by Janice Kim, but for my two cents, those were the ones that helped me understand the basics. The downside is that they really are extraordinarily basic and are of no use once you have any basic knowledge of the game.

There are commented games; there are commented games on the Lee Sedol/Gu Li game series and the “master play” series. Also, youtube lecturers like dwyrin comment on pro games, although they themselves are only (very) strong amateurs usually.

If you’re looking to dig in, my recommendation is to buy one or two books and connect with a teacher who has a rank of at least 8 kyu or stronger (8 kyu is not a master, but is good enough to teach the basics without setting you up for horribly bad habits), and playing teaching games with regularity. Always accept the handicap the teacher offers; it’s hard to appreciate what makes early game moves good until you know some basic tactics, and handicap stones help with that.

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Greetings Horse,

I think much has already been said here that I do not need to repeat. I will say one of the things that makes GO much more interesting to me than Chess is the multiple unresolved battles. In GO you have to share you cannot have it all just a little more than your opponent. There are KO threats at the end of the game. These are moves which threaten captures and often territory. Good players will leave them around the board, and one has to make decisions which is a bigger threat.

GO I find much more fascinating due to its complexity, when played and its sheer simplicity of rules. You can still enjoy Chess, and other games. But GO is truly special.

You are probably not ready for this link but the commentator shows what I believe is an amazingly beautiful game from one of the greats GO Seigen. (One hundred years and still playing) The commentator has a very strong accent but if you listen you will understand. He is so excellent do not let the accent frighten you. I think this game will show you the beauty and complexity of the game.

Enjoy!! If you want to play a teaching basic game sometime let me know… :slight_smile:


Why am I so late to this thread?!

Welcome to the world of Go, @HorseBadorties! :smile:
I see that you have already received some book recommendations, which is fine.
However, they neglected to also add the following, especially since you are interested in the beauty of Go:

Making Good Shape
Out of a series of books about basic Go concepts and lessons, this one is most squarely in the realm of what we might call ‘intuitive Go’ or ‘Go esoterics’. While I’m at it, Direction of Play also fits that description. These diffuse concepts are really hard to learn from your own experience rather than from a book, or even better, a good player.

Invincible - The Games of Shusaku
Commented games and background information about the games of Honinbo Shusaku, perhaps the greatest player of his time.
Though the style of play may be outdated, that is no reason not to look at, say, Paul Morphy’s games :smile:

Some advice:

  • Be sure to learn Go from stronger players, ideally from a local Go club!
  • DO NOT try to learn it on your own, especially not against computers. That way will only teach you bad habits and half-truth knowledge which will be very hard to lose later.
  • Switch to the full 19x19 board sooner rather than later. The smaller boards are just not the same game.
  • Although the site which I’ve linked to for the books, Sensei’s Library, has some good English-language resources - BasicInstinct for example - stay away from their Beginner Exercises. Try instead. (French)

And finally, enjoy the game :slight_smile:


Hi there,

I was a club/county Chess player with a similar Chess journey to yourself. I stopped playing competitively after turning 30, however - so somewhat later than yourself.

I have good news - your Chess experience will help you greatly. After starting GO, I got to 13 kyu after about 3 months. That’s a very strong beginner rating and I think this was possible for two reasons:

  1. My Chess brain being able to adapt to Go. Those Chess skills aren’t as domain specific as you might have thought!
  2. The book, “In the Beginning” by Ishigure Ikuro. It’s very easy reading and turned me from a lost beginner into a competent beginner very quickly.

You should be warned that Chess will probably lose its appeal after learning to play Go. I still play a game every now and again to keep myself sharp, but really, the experience of playing Go has really captured my heart.



Thanks to all contributing, I’ve book marked this page. I play chess and took a break to look at GO 11 days ago. The main difference I find between the two is scoring at the end. A game of chess is clear when it is done.

A game of GO takes experience to score. I have seen some forums where ok players have posted games questioning the scoring. Also, you have to decide if groups are dead or alive and click a button to agree. It seems to me that you have to have a good solid understanding to even finish the game. If I played OTB GO, I’d be lost :slight_smile:

Scoring in Go isn’t that hard. Just count the points! Sure, it’s not as simple as chess where there’s checkmate and the result is immediately clear. But that’s because Go is about building territory (not trapping a game piece), so naturally you’ve got to count to see who built more. That’s inherent, you know? The only real complication is “mutual life” situations and misunderstandings that result from that. I’d estimate such situations happen in about 10% of games.

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As a beginner, I’ve played nearly 100 games, and never had that sort of problem :slight_smile:

Also as a beginner, I tend to fail just short of where I could have made a seki, or my opponent didn’t realize it was a seki and killed themselves.