Fun Method to Teach Beginners

Dear OGS,

I was reading “EZ-GO: Oriental Strategy in a Nutshell” by Bruce and Sue Wilcox and I’ve actually fallen in love with the way that it makes me conceptualize go. For reference I’m 7k OGS, so take my opinions with that in mind. The reason I’m reading it is because I found the table of contents to be labeled with a wonderful sense of humor. With chapters titled “Darwinian Evolution” and “Rampant Machiavelliism,” I had to read at least part of it. I haven’t gotten very far, but the first chapter has already enlightened the way I teach go to my school students. The use of extended metaphor is wonderful for introducing and retaining concepts, especially abstract ones to beginners. This book, coincidentally, is chock-full of it. I wanted to share this little nugget to all of you go educators out there in hopes that it might work for you, too. Here’s an excerpt from the book.

The Goal of Go: Imagine a freshly-baked square pan of brownies. Smell the aroma
wafting through the air toward your nose. See the chocolate icing spread over the top.
Savor how it would taste in your mouth. Now, imagine you have a friend with you.
Naturally you want all of the brownie for yourself. However, your mom is standing
nearby, so you know you can’t get away with it. Instead you are supposed to cut the
brownie fairly, in half. Will you? Or will you wiggle the blade to get a slightly bigger
half? Or cut the brownie so that the best frosted bits are on your side? In other words,
you will want to get something better than your friend, but not enough so that Mom
will notice and take the brownie away from you and divide it evenly.

OK. Back to being an adult. The Go board is like the brownie. You want it all. But you
don’t deserve it all and you won’t get it all. If you try to get it all, you will surely get less
than you could otherwise. It’s the nature of the game. So you must aim to share.
Cooperate, but be greedy. Aim for a little bit more than your opponent. Something
almost unnoticeable. That is your goal.

It is as if a great white light descended upon me from the heavens and an angelic choir sang Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with such fervor that I wept tears of joy. Okay, maybe that’s a little much, but all of the bad habits I had been trying to fix in my student’s greedy capture-go approach to the game disappeared instantly. They felt sneaky like they were actually slicing a brownie with each move, and reviewing games using the extended metaphor makes it funny to younger ones, too. They started playing more one-point jumps on 9x9 instead of direct extensions, they stopped playing inside of their opponent’s territory, and stayed more connected throughout without me having to teach any of that to them.

Now, I still teach “capture go” (aka “atari go”) first to get them familiar with basic shapes, but teaching it in tandem with the “brownie method” is making life so much easier all around. I hope you all can take something away from this, as well as support the authors by buying this gem. If for nothing else, get it for a good laugh. It’s a riot, and inspiring - need I say more? Good luck in your future games!

Sometimes dies in gote,


Ah, I’ll sacrifice myself for the greater good:

So… whoever wins gets the most brownie points?


I don’t know if I should assault or embrace you… LOL

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Not even kidding here: if you ever decide to combine your skills with that sweet spot of greed and offer a course on The Principles of Go Applied to Copywriting, I’ll be your first student.

Anyway, Wilcox used to sell EZ-GO in PDF format for $25. His website seems to be offline, but I think he might still be reached at, in case @AlexSmiles’s post has gotten anyone else interested.

P.S.: The rule that one gets to cut, but the other chooses the slice really takes the Game of Cake to the next level. :wink:


Great idea. Put me down too :heart_eyes:


Thus a business is born. Do I get a discount on the course, @AlexSmiles?

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@lucasfelix and @Mulsiphix1,

I’m probably going to actually start a thread that will act as blog of sorts about teaching go to beginners during my summer program starting in July. I feel that there aren’t enough resources for teaching go in a structured way that also cover how to convey each fundamental. Most resources I’ve seen give bullet points on the order of what to teach and outline those concepts clearly to an adult. I’ve never really seen any comprehensive resources on how to teach these concepts much less make them fun to learn. I’d like to change that, giving multiple ways to teach each fundamental concept/rule of the game so that it can reach as many people as possible. Granted I don’t have a lot of free time as a teacher, so I may not be able to fully document everything I’d like. I will do my best though!

I think there are a lot of potential go players who never pursued the game because their beginning curiosity was met with either boring or convoluted explanations of the game. Go is also about the social aspect of connecting with people, and some emphasis should be placed there by the way we teach the game, you know? Anyway, I’m ranting and I still need my morning coffee so I’ll leave you all with a question. Would anybody would be interested in me putting my thoughts on teaching go in a pdf book? This is my first year teaching, so obviously my methods will change over time, but I’d like to contribute something to the go community at large that covers a wide age-range and has high retention rates for new players. I’ve never done anything like that before, but it sounds fun. Let me know what you guys think.



This sounds great @AlexSmiles. I have taught many children (4 to 12yo) but would really appreciate a structured system. At the moment I just muddle along and it works somehow but I feel it’s a struggle to get through certain hurdles of getting key concepts across. Not assisted by my own inabilities of course!


@AlexSmiles I very much look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this. I have begun teaching new players and I’m just trying a bunch of different methodology out, without much structure. I look forward to see how this unfolds :wink:.


“How to not be a good friend”

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Hi Alex! I’m 32 years old. Live in Argentina. I play chess, and recently i started learning Go! (3 or 4 weeks ago). I’m super interested in learning more and very curious on how you will manage to put your thoughts in a pdf book. I offer you my attention, time and Go ignorance to use me as a student…

Also i can help with anything involved in making the pdf book. Have no expertise, but yes the motivation!



@WISHMIRRA, I would like to suggest something you may be interested in: @JethOrensin wrote a free book, A Go Guide from a Beginner, and started a collaborative project in order to translate it into as many languages and release it in as many countries as possible:

I’m working on the Brazilian Portuguese translation myself and I figured you might be want to contribute with the Spanish one and provide your fellow Argentinians with a book in your native language. Take a look. :slight_smile:

P.S. @AlexSmiles, I hope you don’t mind my posting this suggestion here. If you need any help with your book, and there’s anything I can do, I’ll be glad to help.


Thank you @lucasfelix!

I haven’t seen this book before, but it seems like it’s a great resource for beginners learning how to play! The aim of the book that I’m writing, though, is that it teaches teachers instead of beginners. It goes over some common pitfalls of teaching and addresses them through a standardized curriculum for both individualized and large group instruction.

Eventually, I’d also like to include a workbook, but that will be for later. I feel like there’s enough resources out there for beginners to get started on their own accord, but not so much for the teachers who want to bring the game to those less inclined to teach themselves. This applies especially to elementary students.

Hopefully this can play a part and a standardization of go and schools, but since I’m a new teacher, I don’t expect the first edition to go viral or anything. I’m just doing my best. :slight_smile:


Aaah reading is not just for Go! So reread it. There is some stuff out there but go is more art than science so it’s hard to put up a method, in Basketball you can always tell somone what they need to work on. Go is just weird and needs to be experienced and shown

@cromone I agree that go is both art and science. I do think there should be a method on it, though. Music is an art and a science as well, being often categorized as more on the art side. That said, there’s a standardized curriculum for music in school that works.

Obviously every student you will ever teach will be different. So as the teacher you have to adjust to their needs and maybe even work with them on an individual level. I think the more time a teacher is able to spend focusing on the student’s needs while having a good base to work from is important. That’s all I’m trying to do is make a base for go teachers (who aren’t necessarily school teachers) to work from.

OfftopicMusic class at my former high school was almost as bad as art class. The only instrument we ever got to play was a frickin' xylophone. The rest was 10% "our teachers playing the piano" and 90% incredibly boring theory. In retrospect, what they did wrong was simply the format. If instead of the status quo - "here's the theory and here's some boring piece of music no one gives a shit about, let's analyze that boring piece of music" you do "here's one weird trick you can use to write your own chord progression / melody and make it sound awesome" and then provide people with a way to create that music, it would probably be way less boring.

Art class was worse because the art teachers I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with were all lunatics who couldn’t draw for shit, but reveled in berating kids’ drawings. You hate to prime the paper because it gets all wrinkly? Here’s an E. You don’t like watercolor in general? Here’s an E. You drew a car? Cars are evil, here’s an E. Useless people.


@smurph Oh gosh. I’m so sorry to hear that. I’m a music teacher, and I’ve never met anyone who teaches like that in my professional career. Same for art. Like, I do teach a little bit of music theory in class, but I always make sure that it serves a purpose to what we’re working on at the moment. My purpose as a music teacher at a high school and Elementary is not to make professional musicians, but rather Foster a love and understanding of music. To do that, you have to make it interesting and fun. You know, like the ENTIRE point of music? I’m sorry to hear that the arts weren’t taught right at your school. That honestly sounds like some reddit level stuff…

P. S. How’d you do that “off topic” thing?

EDIT: Thank you! :slight_smile:

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Not @smurph, but the answer is the same:

Like this. :)
Music class at my former high school was almost as bad as art class. [...]

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I haven’t seen this book before , but it seems like it’s a great resource for beginners learning how to play!

Yeah … Marketing is harder than writting … :stuck_out_tongue:

The aim of the book that I’m writing, though, is that it teaches teachers instead of beginners.

In this case, maybe you will like this lecture by Andrew Jackson titled : “Hard Boring Work and Sneaky Tricks - Teacher’s Workshop 2013” and it might help you get another point of view on the matter, by another Go teacher:

Personally I have found it very interesting and I really like that “informal” way of lecturing. :slight_smile: