Have you ever felt your brain is not big enough?

What a fascinating game Go is!

I started learning Go about two months ago, then felt pretty good about myself - I always feel I’m relatively above the average IQ level… until I discovered how deep the knowledge is and how big the Go world is. Then I started being defeated again and and again on various levels and had to look into the fundamentals. Then…

I realized my brain is not big enough. A simple joseki requires every move to be precise. To elaborate: if I go this, he goes this, I go this… It does not work. Then I go this, he goes this… Every move is like that and there is a tremendous amount of calculation, or “reading”. No wonder AI wins - it’s all brute force.

I felt so bad and felt so humble that I almost quit the game. I feel my brain is so small that I couldn’t even advance above the average level. I could spend 5 minutes trying to figure out if this ladder work or not, but I may never be able to calculate every move in the Avalanche joseki variation. As I said, I never felt I’m a dumb guy until I met the game of Go.

Have you ever felt this way? How do you enjoy playing knowing that you are so incomplete in knowledge:)


I enjoy the braintickle. I mean, I needn’t be a professional singer to enjoy singing a song, I needn’t be an athlete to enjoy moving my body, etc. :slight_smile:

But yes, I understand what you mean: even before those strong AIs appeared, I had to realise I’ll never get very far in Go. I mean, even reaching Shodan in this life is not sure for me. But also not that important meanwhile … I’m in it for the fun and the process, not for making it a chore.


If you want to feel as if your brain spanned the entire universe, there are some ways to accomplish that for a brief period of time…


New bots on neural net able to beat dans with 0 simulations. You can play moves purely on intuition too. Go is like drawing a picture.


don’t worry - reading is hard but the more you practice it the better you’ll get and the less likely it is to induce a headache. It may seem like reading is mostly about brute-force computation, but it’s not - the primary skill in reading is your overall understanding of shape, tesuji, and general game sense. As you get better at these things, you will start to be able to read the moves and see them on the board more quickly and accurately than before. Eventually you may see whole patterns at once, because they have become second nature to you as a result of your experience and game-sense.
And remember - this game is too big for anyone’s brain - it’s too big for yours or mine, but it’s also too big for the top professionals, and it’s also too big for the best AIs - even the best AIs understand only a small fraction of the game and play as much from intuition as from deep reading.


I never wonder that my brain is not big enough: it is a collection of millions of neurons and billions of synapses working together in such a way it is incredible that it even functions.

I wonder if my brain is not efficient enough. How many of my synapses are dedicated to infinite loops that don’t help anything? What would it take to get my neurons to wire to get better at go.

Your brain makes more operations per second than any man made computer: it just has to do many more things than a computer as well, and it’s not always right.


Dumb guys don’t play go! :wink:

Because I know that my opponents are incomplete too! :smile:


It sounds like you might be trapped by an assumption that the only way to do well is by brute force reading.

Possibly because you are accustomed to being able to use the brute force of your brain to outplay other people?

It is certainly sobering that natural brainpower alone is not going to get anyone to the top. That means that other things are required as well - like “investment” or “study”.

You can’t read out every variation of Avalanche, but if you set your mind to it you might memorize the significant ones. Or you might invest in a different study for better effect… a hard choice: where to invest?

My main reaction to Go is not that my brain is not big enough, it is that I am sadly too lazy or not dedicated enough to do as well as I would like. I’m sure that’s more of a factor than brain size.

By being continually amazed at the variations and possibilities…

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The game of Go is too complex to rely solely on brute force, even to computers. What you want to look for is something that we humans actually do pretty well: pattern recognition. With practice you will start to see how there are a bunch of shapes that come up often in pretty much every game, and from that you will be able to tell, without reading, if a particular group is weak and you can attack it, or if you can tenuki because that corner group is actually alive no matter what.

As far as joseki goes, stick with the most common and simple ones so start with. You can continue studying more and more variations over time if you are really into it, but it’s not as much about memorizing as it is about understanding the purpose of your moves (and your opponent’s). Everybody’s mind works differently of course, so you may find it easier to memorize more sequences if that makes you feel more comfortable, but even with the most basic joseki should be enough to rank up and get a better grasp of how Go works.


Also, don’t worry, brains don’t work like computers. You don’t have to cram every possible joseki in your brain in order to learn joseki. Most joseki are largely forced moves with a few tesuji’s, and most of those tesuji’s appear in several situations, so it’s better to get used to the flow of the moves than to learn each move individually. Try understanding the purpose of each move (that way you also see how to counter people who don’t follow the joseki). This is comparable with how we can form sentences in our native language without learning the grammar rules explicitly (usually one learns the grammar afterwards). We don’t “know” the rules behind our language and don’t have all the possible sentences stored in our head, but still everybody can form a coherent sentence.

Actually computers nowadays don’t even work like computers: we have absolutely no idea how AI think about the game of go. From an outside perspective they don’t have any rules written in their memory. An AI plays 100% “by intuition”.

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I soon found out the Go community is a bunch of logical, sensible, level headed people - even when they argue, they argue in a highly logical way. Maybe it’s the nature of the game that attracted such minds alike. I really appreciate all the advice.

I find that’s very true. I realized a while ago that there’s really no talent but just hard working. Whether it’s golf or guitar, it’s dedication and repetition that eventually makes one better. I found studying Go is just as important as - in my humble opinion is actually more important than - actual playing. Only by thoroughly studying how to respond to a 3-3 invasion can I comfortably react to my opponent’s such move in real game. Otherwise I’m just repeating my naive ideas: not too different than repeating mistakes in golf swing or guitar fingering. Also studying can give me the right idea of what’s a proper move and what’s an overplay and how to take advantage if there’s overplay, etc.

Sadly doing hard work is always tough and we always like to play. After studying a while, I couldn’t help feeling tired and because the computer is right in front of me and I’m logged into OGS, I’d start to play some games. It almost feels like a kid escape homework to play games - but in this case doing the homework will help him play much better!

I agree and I realized the importance of good shape and good pattern. However at this stage I’m only imitating, for instance, one-point jump into the center after a two-point extension to establish a base on the third line. I saw pros play like that and I kind of have a vague idea of while that’s good. Then when my dad - a much better player - play very aggressive or unreasonable move against my “good” shape, I will suffer and disaster can easily come. So I am reading the pdf book “Shape Up” from the site resource right now to further my understanding of the reasons behind the shapes. But that’s one baby step and the more I learned, the more unknown the Go world appeared to me.

I still cannot form a sentence most of the time using the correct order of adjectives:
Quantity or number, Quality or opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material), Purpose or qualifier

A beautiful little old round off-white Japanese clam shell Go stone?

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Man, the thing is, that you measure yourself too high. Understand, that a pro who can calculate the Avalanche-Variations spent years, if not even decades studying the game.

You should really understand how to get better at the game, if you want so. I mean: you can’t get better just from one day to another, thats just not how it works.

Here are some ways that maybe help you, to get better:

  1. Play 2-3 games per day. Not blitzing, but with maybe 20 minutes main time or so, and really try to use this time to figure out strategy and tactics. That’s why I said only 2-3 Games; A regular online game goes for me about an hour, if not even longer. Just playing kinda improves your gamesense´, reading skills, strategies you play etc etc,… just overall good training.
  2. Do Life & Death - Problems. You can do them even on OGS, at “puzzles”. Especially helpful to improve reading skills.
  3. Learning Josekis: Will not improve your gamesense nor your reading ability, but it often gives a shortcut. I mean: enemy plays 4-4, and if you know some 3-3-Invasion Josekis you don’t need to read it out every game. Also, if you know josekis better then your opponent, you often will come out of the beginning of the game with a lead.
  4. Understanding Openings: smth like “low chinese”, “high chinese”, “orthodox”. I wrote “understanding” by intention - because understanding the general ideas of some openings improved my general gamesense.
  5. Read a go-Book: depending on what you read, you will improve strongly at that particular point. Just by reading some chapters of “Attack and Defense” , a book I would recommend every 14k or stronger, I moved up by 2 kyu.
  6. Watching some go content: you can look for “Nick Sibicki” or “Haylee” on Youtube. Just listening to what stronger players say may help, depending on what is talked about.
  7. Analysing your own games, espacially those you lost. Ask yourself: Why have I lost?

Just some ideas what you can do. See your way to become a better player as a long, never ending journey. No matter how much you improve, you will never be happy with how good you are; Keep that in mind, and you will not be frustrated that much if you are not happy with your current state.

For the first time in my life, I realise that the order of adjectives changes the semantics of a sentence. :stuck_out_tongue: So actually it’s a perfect example, as I would never say “a Japanese beautiful Go stone” (even considering English is not my native language, but I guess Dutch works in the same way).

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It’s fine for one to feel their brain is not big enough.

It’s when one’s heart is not big enough that it is a concern. :purple_heart:


Generally we put the most specific last. So offwhite and clam-shall would go last, beautiful and old first.

However this is a trick puzzle to solve, because there simply is a limit on how many adjectives you can sensibly use in a sentence. The problem is not getting the order right, when there are too many adjectives. The problem is then fixing the paragraph so that the object is described in more than one sentence.

Maybe your general problem is that you apply the brute force solution to all situations :wink: :smiley:

(Trying to read out Avalanche variations in Go, and applying all adjectives in one sentence in language)

I haven’t seen an example of this. In 3mushroom3’s sentence, clam-shell is an adjective (describing what it is made of) so the order of the adjectives doesn’t change the meaning: it all describes a white go stone. AFAICS.

EDIT: I take it back. Possibly it is Japanese Clam Shell that the stone is made of, or possible it is a Japanese stone made of Clam Shall. So you’re right, the order at least does introduce ambiguity. But only in the case where you are using a noun as a shorthand for an adjective. (IE clam shell is a noun, and stand for “made from clam shell” in this sentence, introducing the problem).


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But then Japanese is an adverb, not an adjective, right? I did mean that swapping those words is strange since it does not adhere to your general idea of having the adjectives ordered by specificity.

Anyway, this is getting pretty off-topic as well…

LOL I tried to keep it a little on topic by linking brute force in Go to brute force in long sentence :wink:

Japanese is an adjective.

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In order to genuinely create an adverb, you have to directly modify a verb (or gerund or participle) with a properly chosen adjective, that’s why it’s (somewhat) naturally called adverb.

Broadly speaking, if you can’t legitimately add “-ly” to an adjective, you cannot idiomatically use it to correctly form an adverb. Have you actually heard of anyone ever Japanesely cooking a meal? :slight_smile:

So then ‘clam shell’ has become an adjective, but Japanese modifies not the adjective ‘clam shell’ but the noun.

I would have loved it if Japanesely was a thing…

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“Japanese” and “clam shell” being adjectives was the very premise of that digression though.

If you wanted to emphasize that the material was sourced from Japan while staying the (all-adjective) course, perhaps you might be able to do that by using hyphens: “Japanese-clam-shell”.

That’s no less convoluted, of course.

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