Game analysis...a crutch?


Protecting cutting points is about shape.
Killing in real games is also often about shape. You need to see what you can poke, what are the key points. Have you heard about “shape game”? It’s called “shape game” and not “reading game” for a reason.

Yeah, we all need to read 3-4 moves here and there. But usually kyu go is not about amazing sequences, it’s about key points and available moves. Most of my mistakes aren’t about reading too shallow, but about some kind of misjudgments or not seeing opponent can play there.

And I discovered it by forced breaks in my go. After a break my reading is even worse than before the break. But magically I could still win games against equal opponents (after few warming up games). I was baffled that with such a bad reading skills I’m still ok. So now I gave up on reading. Even if I’ll get better at it, I’ll forget everything anyway after another forced break.


Yes playing well often comes down to well placed stones that work well with eachother. And shapes are not an easy thing to really forget. Its a bit like muscle memory… it just sorta comes back with little effort.


Reading isnt quite like that. Its an applied skill that go players have for the game. Its all well and good to be able to spot the moves you need to make once you have made them. But what reading does is allow you to pre-preceive a sequence of moves that is likely to happen after you play a stone.

Reading allos you to be able to quickly know how something should turn out… giving you the olayer an option as to what is really needed in the game.

So… if you can read out something on one side of the board you know roughly what impact that is going to have on the rest of the board along with a guess at point value, allowing you to judge what is biggest and most urgent in a game.

Not only that, what reading does well is enable a player the option of descision making rarher than being pushed around the board and only playing in a responsive way. Because reading is more than playing variations. Its also judgement of the game as well as counting. Its a nebulous skill.

Now… the reason that reading gets worse over time when not used is because it is a lot like a muscle. It is prone to atrophy when not used to the point where it can no longer be used. Which is why people play go problems and tsume go… and why they play them in high quantities, with little time per problem… its to build oth speed and strength of this skill… not just in life or death. But for the rest of the game… because lofe an desth and tsume go shapes appesr time and time again in all areas of every game we play. So if we know what will happen… simply know because of experience then we can read out more conplicated variations where we dont quite know the answers.

Knowladge and reading come to gether. Even people who say they cant read the game have some level of reading abililoty because its backed up on the knowladge they have anyways. Its a nebulous skill that draws together all other skills that are used on the fo board…

Skills like

Knowladge of shape
Knowladge of territory
Counting ability
Influence play
Territorial play
Urgency vs big or small
The abiloty to keep calm under pressure.

It is my opinion… just an opinion mind you… that reading along with pure knowladge of go is what makes a pro player a pro player.

Not just knowladge alone but deep deep reading of the game in a way that i frankly do not understand or comprehend… but they have that ability.

And for me… building good reading will help in live games as well as IRL and all other games.

This is just my opinion… and my educared guesses of what reading and other skills are at go. Im still a low level player at 8kyu. /9kyu. So my thoughts are subjective here to what i understand of the game thus far.

Also… i want to point out that this thread isnt meant to rile anyone to the point of argument. Just debate. Opinions and ideas.

Thanks for reading.


I guess, to me, it feels like shape and reading are deeply connected with one another. A “good shape” move is often good because it protects against a cut with some sort of tesuji. Then again, I often struggle to figure out what the good shape points are, so maybe I’m just backing up my bad shape skills with my bad reading skills. :slight_smile:

And yes, I’d definitely agree that it’s around 3-4 moves deep, most of the time. At a kyu-level, if anything is deeper than that, it’s usually a fairly obvious sequence, like a ladder or “if these stones run along the wall, they eventually run into those stones over there”. Reading out all of those 3-4 move sequences, though, makes a huge difference in my games. Noticing that a cut leads to a snapback, or that the basic defense against it shorts my liberties (and therefore that the cut needs to be defended) can be the difference between losing sente or a big move, or between a honte play and losing a group.


I’m sorry, @lysnew, for taking so long to respond. My moderator duties have been cutting down my Forum time considerably. I do see that I wasn’t quite clear enough in expressing what I meant. I spoke of reading as not being inherent, but I really meant the memory component of reading. Analysis is, of course, inherent to go, chess, and any game of intellectual skill. But the use of memory rather than tactile means of analysis (whether moving physical pieces on a board or clicking a mouse to place stones on an electronic board), is, I contend, not inherent, but an historical concession to practicality. If, for example, go and chess had been invented 5 years ago, I venture to say that the use of phones or tablets to analyze in IRL games would predominate—no one would think twice about it. If memory is an inherent skill of the game, then the game should be played blindfolded. Calling tactile analysis a crutch is like calling sight a crutch for game play. This is, of course, a reductio ad absurdum intended to sharpen the point.

We would all like to improve our reading skill (I do L&D regularly for that reason), because it is a practical necessity for IRL play, but that doesn’t make it an inherent skill. By inherent skill I am referring to things like understanding influence, or miai, or whole-board strategy.

And again, I much prefer to win or lose based on good play rather than on a memory lapse.


After reading the more recent posts, I am struck by how they are almost uniformly arguing about the value of reading even when addressing me. I have never disputed the value of reading. But the fact that it is valuable does not make it (the memory form of analysis) inherent to go. It does not arise from the rules or nature of go itself, but rather from the historical physical circumstances of game play.


Sorry I don’t get your point. Whether you use stones or dots on a screen don’t change that you need to see. Seeing is inherent of the game. Can’t elaborate any strategy if you don’t see (liberties, captures, connection or not …) I don’t really understand why seing ( and then reading) is downgraded as not inherent…
I myself love just reading go books, admire Goseigen or Shuko’s games even more as solving that harder puzzle, have more interest in the “feeling” side but how many times did I lose because of this?


FWIW, I think it’s a crutch. I don’t really understand the arguments that it isn’t.

An argument that it is not a crutch would be “when you use the analysis tool, your reading skill gets better than if you don’t”. If that were true, then it would be a learning aid, not a crutch.

However, my experience is that this is not the case. Whenever I try to play Go without the analysis tool, I am “at sea”. Suddenly everything is harder - because someone took my crutch away.

If I kept not-using the analysis tool crutch my reading legs would grow stronger.

Alas, I am lazy-as and so my reading legs remain weak and crutch assisted.



Seems to me there are two different aspects of reading, as some in this thread already went into.

The first is the ability to visualize and systematically go thu variations without losing your train of thought.
For training this skill, i think Analysis Tool is a crutch.

The second is experience. Actually seeing the result of choices and expanding your shape-memory by seeing and experiencing different situations and variations.
For this i think the analysis tool is a boon.

I think we are all in agreement that if you go 100% serious and do 100 tsumego a day and really work hard on trying to improve your reading, thats the fastest way of improving since you get exposed to alot of different situations that you then try to read yourself.

But that doesnt mean that the analysis tool is bad for you, just that it helps in one are but makes you a little lazy when it comes to reading (at least for me)

So its a matter of what level you are at and what you need to focus on. I think the analysis tool is a better learning tool the lower your rank is because early on you get better at reading by seeing sitations that are easy to remember (cut on second line) vs a 10 move sequence that ends in a ko.

just my two cents


That makes great sense.

It’s almost like “if you have decent reading skills, then analysis tool is a learning aid for exploring the result of shapes, but if you don’t have decent reading skills, it will be a crutch for that skill”.


I think there is also the question of how you use the analysistool. You could just quickly play out all variations, or you could try to read something and then play it out to see if you were correct. That way you are basically studying variations and reading durring corrgames.


Ha! I have been lazy from the day one!


@Conrad_Melville waters are getting a little muddy here i think. so using our brains to play go is not inherent to it? only a circumstatial choice due to the fact that there was nothing else with computing power availible? a brain is certainly not required by the rules explicitly, so i might as well not use it, neither are reading and analyzing. reading and analysis are what happens when people try to play go well and meet the winning condition. that is not part of the rules, but a presupposition of games and sports in general. without the desire to at least play well there is no point really.

that doesnt get us anywhere though :wink:

as it is most rulesets (including online go servers) dont allow tools for live play. so anyone who wishes to play well in a live environment or even irl environment will want to train without using tools. thats pretty simple imo.
@entropixel i agree that the analysis tool can be used as a learning aid. it can help your understanding of the game tremendously. what it doesnt do is hone your skills and speed when it comes to unaided reading, those are essential in live play.


thats not the point though, is it? practicing counting (and/or reading) is not about doing it right once. its about repetition and by that get as efficient and consistent at it as possible. when counting in a live game time management is the restricting factor, not the ability to count. a well trained go player will be able to count a game even in byoyomi, without getting too distracted from the game itself. that certainly is not easy and requires pratice.
of course if you dont aim for this skill because you dont enjoy the situations it is useful for, that is fine. after all the goal dictates what strategies we employ.


I would emphasise that I was talking about using the “analize game” tool while playing a correspondence game.

I don’t think I would be able to do that in a live game because I would lose by timeout. Trying variations is quite time consuming :slightly_smiling_face:. Perhaps someone quicker than me is doing it, I don’t know. But I don’t like the idea of someone using his smartphone to play out variations while playing an IRL game.
Actually I don’t know if there’s any rule to forbid that in tournaments. It just sounds weird to me. I would find weird too if someone uses another wooden board to try tactile variations while playing that game. :smiley:
Has anyone done so before?
My uninformed belief is that in IRL games one should only rely on his brain


Never heard about a real life tournament with this kind of allowance myself. All kind of help have been out of the rules.


I don’t think anyone disputes that using tools to analyze in a live game would be considered cheating. But we are conditioned by centuries of pre-technology practice to think that way.


I get your point; I guess it’s too hazardous for trying to organise this (will players come?). With electronic devices it can be hard to check if you are asking advices or just trying variations too
Now still remains a debate who will be the more efficient between old and new.

For the sake of the matter we can think about the common use of electronic calculators, some people doing perfectly well without them, being quicker in their head. Not a reason good enough to prohibit the use of calculators. Now we are talking on a mental leisure with go, so it’s not exactly the same :slight_smile:
And we would have to keep fairness like same equipment for everyone available.
Let see first if players here are interested in a change like this:
I would like to participate in a real life tournament with electronic tools allowed for studying my variation (but no outside help)

  • I like it
  • I don’t like that idea
  • One time to try maybe
  • Other (please comment)

0 voters


Not sure why you opened that question. No one here was advocating for that, least of all me.


I think it was worth asking even if the response is more or less unanimous.


I agree.

Few years ago it would simply be impossible to check variations while playing, except the case of having another board at hand (that would sound silly, wouldn’t it?).

Last summer I participate to the European Go Congress and lots of people, including me, used smartphone, tablets or iPad to do transcription of their games while playing. Paper kifu is out of date. But the same tools would allow to check variations too… if just one wanted to do that… (I bet the opponent would complain for that).
Furthermore, some of those app and devices would be able to run some AI, as Leela or similar.

So now technology lets us do things that were impossible few years ago.
It’s up to us to choose which kind of competition we want to play.
I remember when I was young a nice programming game, if I recall correctly it was called “Core wars”, where human players had to program “software robots” to fight each other. I never actually played it, but I was fascinated by the operating principle.

So I have no problems imagining a virtual arena where many AI play Go between each other, each one of them controlled and programmed by its human operator. I have in mind countless examples of similar situations in sci-fi books, movies and comics.

Today it’s possible even in a IRL game: both players may have their own devices (smartphone or laptop) and play moves on a real board, based on their AI calculations. It could be fun! :slight_smile:
But it would be another game than “humans playing Go”.

If we want to stick for the moment on “humans playing Go”, my personal opinion is that the “real” game is the same as in previous centuries: just board, stones and mental effort. So, in that specific situation, I prefer that variations are checked only in memory and that’s why I think that using “analize game” tool in online games is a choice that would eventually hinder players when playing IRL.
I did so. I felt hindered. So I’m trying to get rid of it. :slight_smile:


@Conrad_Melville Nothing personal, i was curious but maybe the result would be a bit different if I opened a new topic for running the pool, it’s a bit sunken here !
@lysnew Quote: “some of those app and devices would be able to run some AI, as Leela or similar.”
run or even worse: communicate with!

Because as said “we are conditioned…” I would rather have done the pool so you get the result but not who choose what. (Is that the “private” option?) So if someone miss the analysis button he could opt more freely.