Discussion of the relationship of student rank to commercial teaching

For DDKs, it’s not that hard to get free reviews and teaching games since there are many SDK and low-dan players happy to provide them. It becomes gradually more difficult to find free teaching as one ascends the SDK ranks. At dan level, from what I can gather, almost all serious teaching has to be purchased from higher dans or even professionals.

I wondered what the thoughts of players from different ranks are about the relationship of financial expenditure to teaching, eg. how much money they spend on learning materials – not just lessons but also books, league memberships, and so on.

I know that even many SDK players are spending at least $100 / month on teaching leagues.


Also, do you think that expenditure on teaching has decreased with the growing availability of free, superhuman bots for home use?

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I had noticed that such things exist, but I have never joined any of such courses and/or leagues, because of the simple fact that I do not believe that I have put enough effort on my own to get better.
In a sense, to me, it feels like I exchange my own effort with taking “ready knowledge” from someone else that DID the needed work, put in the needed time, and I do not think that learning really works that way.

If you are to pay for lessons, you are expected to actually put even more effort for those lessons to have meaning, in order to not waste your teacher’s time and your money.
But if I had the time and mind to put in that effort, I could have still be growing and getting better on my own. There are so many books and things and pro games to study and I have done none of that yet.

I do not know if this makes sense to anyone else, but unless I feel that I have done my absolute best in something, I just do not feel like asking for help.


In my experience, having strict deadlines does wonder to get me to actually put in the effort I need to actually get better at something. And getting regular assessment from stronger players helps a lot with regard to not picking up bad habits. But I don’t really have any way to know how my go journey would have gone otherwise.


All of human history… from the language we speak to the jobs we do or games we play are inherited knowledge.

But anyway I do in a sense know what you mean about wanting the motivation or time to commit if paying for something.


How do you set deadlines for yourself, sorry? I have to get better at ko by April, 15? What’s the yardstick here?

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Well when you take lessons from someone, for instance, you usually have homework you have to finish before the next lesson and thing like that. Tournaments are usually also quite a good motivator.


I think people have learning styles that differ a lot. The two extremes are people who can not learn (or motivate themselves to learn) anything without a teacher on one side and people who learn best by themselves with rare input feedback from teachers if at all. I’d assume most people are somewhere in the middle.

Myself I’m fairly far on the ‘by myself’ side. My estimates for how I learned when I was at university would be:

  • 85% from books
  • 10% from discussions with peers
  • 5% from lectures/seminars

The latter where largely for telling me what I should learn.

Also possibly interesting for the discussion: Tsumego Hero (A 6 dan’s opinion about teachers and tsumego.)


Of course. And I’d say I’m also mostly a self learner, but when it comes to spending years of effort on hard tasks, wether in university or learning go, I find having a teacher scheduled to look over my progress extremely helpful at getting me to actually do it instead of spending half my time procrastinating.


Pretty much this. :slight_smile:

But I also know the feeling that JethOrensin describes:

I’m usually a pretty good self-learner, but I have too many interests and too little time. :wink: Also, there are phases when I have a lot of motivation and energy for Go, and phases when I don’t - and then I would not get much out of Go lessons.
However, yesterday I signed up for the waiting list of a Go seminar. That would be my first time to pay for Go lessons.


I say that most things (I’d say all, but I’ll inb4 potential objections) have a “cutoff” point after which specialized guidance is needed. Since this specialized guidance means specialized knowledge (time, effort and money), it makes sense for the people offering that guidance to get paid.

In general, I don’t agree with the “enlightened people ought to pass on knowledge for free” (big discussion for another time); this isn’t to say I don’t deeply appreciate people who offer free teaching (I enjoy passing on what I know-NOT GO OBV- to other people just because it feels nice) or that I think a pricetag should be on everything, but I do not object to the direct relation of paying to get better, when aiming for excellence.

I think (my personal opinion, don’t ask me for stats) there is a specific subset, not the majority, of people who view Go the way that the AI approaches it, meaning “make all the variations and find the best move, the end goal is to solve this thing”. There’s always some personal style in there, and only studying with the bots seems to me like parroting at school, but not really learning, expanding the player’s horizons and all those lofty things mentioned when we talk about education.

I would say availability to other stronger players and their guidance, exchange of opinions/ styles, tsumego and related apps, previously scarce Go books (all because of leaps in technology), have affected expenditure on teaching much more than the bots.


I, personally, have found it easier to get people to teach me as I went up the ranks. In my early days, few were invested in my relationship to the game (thanks CJ, Kaworu and Frosted) so even if I got casual tutoring sessions, they were incidental and there was no continuity to the teaching. As I ranked up, finding people who have the same (or higher) level of commitment got harder but the chance of forming a personal relationship on the basis of that commitment got easier. High dans just love the game and when you show them you share that love and dedication, you get lots of freebies.


It is a bit like the gym or doing a sport. Look at how many people end up having a gym membership and subscription, but do not ever set foot there O_o
I followed the same principle in my fitness problem as well. If I cannot create the good habit of going to train for basketball when the weathers is nice and do exercises at home when the weather is bad, then going to the gym is pointless.

Maybe I am not good at expressing my point, but it is not the lack of a gym subscription that I am a bit overweight and it is not the lack of a Go tutor that I am “stuck” at 3-4kyu. I am not putting in the effort and, in my opinion, no amount of tutoring can change that, before I change my attitute :slight_smile:


I put memberships roughly under the “self learning” category, a proper teacher offers something different.
But in any case, the horse must be ready to drink that water, whether it walks there or the teacher guides it. :wink:


(Forgive me for not being so calibrated to new ranks yet)

IMO, one does not need a teacher in order to improve to SDK (or perhaps higher). Therefore, any teacher trying to directly monetize would be kind of silly.

I agree. To add to that, I think there is a fairly straightforward comparison for learning languages. Go is, as it were, a language.

It is very common to see language schools “prey” on students who want a guarantee of results, or hand-holding, or both. While it is perfectly reasonable to get at least the basics of a new language on your own.


I think it would be foolish to underestimate the use of AI as a learning tool. After all, it’s pretty good, no?

That said, not just anyone can be “the best” at anything. How many people could golf like Tiger Woods did? But if you are “self-motivated and self-learning” you can probably get to be pretty good. What Dan-level do you have to achieve to be satisfied??? : )

Idk it’s pretty easy to cargo cult with AI. (See early 3-3 invasion at every level of play) AI is strong, can be useful, but it doesn’t explain the thought process. If you really go into variations, you can often parse out the reasoning for moves, but it’s not very likely to teach you useful new concepts like a human teacher or book might.


Yes, benjito, but after you’ve acquainted yourself with various Joseki, the AI may be able to help you see whether you were “early” or “late” for instance, or whether a particular choice of Joseki didn’t work at all. After one has enough concepts under one’s belt, I think AI is the “ultimate” teacher.
Of course, I mean that in the sense that the student is playing an active role in translating what the AI is revealing. Isn’t that pretty much how the professional players are learning these days? I just reached 10k, so I am still a relative newbe.


I’m at a similar level as you (new ranks 9k) and in my experience using AI (supporter OGS AI and local Katago) the problem is reading strength. AI can tell you there is a sure kill move that you missed, but it might be many moves long sequence that is hard to understand. That’s the difference between pros using AI and kyu players.

In contrast, a good teacher might have very strong reading, but know the student’s limits, and so focus on what moves are practical for the student to play. They can help a kyu level student with strategic blunders and explain their reasoning, instead of just pointing out that some deep sequence works in your favor.

Just my limited experience getting occasional game reviews and watching folks like Clossius teach and review