Have you never experienced inexplicable periods of regression in your strength?

I have just a mere curiosity. Do anyone out there experienced - after a quite constant increase in strength (or rank if you like) an inexplicable pause with some clear regression? This is what is actually happening to me. This happened already just 15 years ago when I started studying go more deeply.

What is inexplicable to me is that if you got a certain level of confidence and awareness you shouldn’t fall again back. Had any high single-digit kyu had such experience? If yes, how did you work out? What about the reasons? How did you deal with it?


I cannot comment on Go specifically, but this is rarely the case in real life. I see myself and others fall back all the time, in things that we mastered years ago. It can be due to stress, overworking, some traumatic event, difficulty sleeping and a lot of other things.

For example, my work involves LOTS of writing and I’m close to 40, I’ve been writing formal texts literally for decades and I’m a spelling/grammar pro (in my language, don’t @ me). It has happened to mistype a certain word all day, my brain was just having a rough one because of a deadline. I didn’t actually worry I was starting to regress in spelling, it was a temporary thing because I was tired.

I’d say it’s an important thing that differentiates us from machines, no? That we might master something and, due to life happening, miss perfection once in a while. If it weren’t true, professional athletes or marksmen would never have to prove their worth ever again.

tl;dr, I think it’s perfectly normal, it’s not a big deal and it happens to everyone. :slightly_smiling_face:


It also seems quite natural to me.

One reason will be new ideas messing up the old. For example, I just learned how badly I understand sente and the importance of it. Now I am trying to do better, and so my play is worse, because I am experimenting with something I didn’t even do before. If I did not do this, I would stay plateaued. Hopefully after one step backwards working this out, I will make more forwards.

(I recall golfers describing this too - they need to adjust their swing, or try a different club to advance, and this sets them back miles).

Also, the world out there is not static. If you stay still for some time and don’t look around, suddenly everyone else is invadinv 3-3 early which they weren’t doing before, so you are worse by comparison because you haven’t come to grips with this.

And Gia’s life-reasons is another of course.



i can support that :slight_smile:.
conversely, in my experience a lack of new ideas can have the same effect. you think you are playing like you always do, but in actuality you are just going through the moves, just not trying as hard as you used to :smiley:.
it is possible, that your attitude toward go has changed. maybe just a little. maybe you have entered a phase in your go-development, where you dont take it as seriously? that would certainly explain careless or even sub-par play (emphasis!: that does NOT have to be a bad thing, you can even have more fun that way sometimes.)

also, while i find that my “pure” go skills… if you will… are relatively stable, other skills fade more quickly, like the ability to play under pressure (timepressure or other) for example. as a correspondence player who rearely finds the time for live games, my live skills are considerably worse than my corr skills to begin with. after a longer period (a couple months?, sometimes longer) without playing a lot of live games i can feel old insecurities creep into my game again, concentration is also an issue in this regard.

EDIT.: and yes :slight_smile:, ive experienced all those things.


I agree with all your explanations even if I would like to avoid parables with other life experiences. It is sure that in real life you can have some fallback in your capabilities and this often depends on external factors, but in this post, I would remain more on the technical side of the go learning path.

This probably can be the main reason. In fact, two things happen when I feel I’m reaching a plateau in my strength.

The first is that I have the tendency to decrease the right tension/attitude in games against weaker opponents. As a consequence, I become prone to the initiative of my opponent that at the end can lead him to victory.

The second is that I can feel that I’m reaching a plateau and that if I don’t try something new (or something more similar to what I see in a pro-games) I couldn’t progress anymore. And then (being me not a pro :slight_smile:) I make horrible moves or dangerous overplays that a stronger opponent uses systematically to defeat me.

Probably the way to deal with this is to understand the correct way to introduce new ideas in my games. At the end of the day, it is not so strange if the learning path often (if not always) is represented by logarithmic growth of the rank (both for humans and AI). Logarithmic function is an interesting mathematical function. It doesn’t have a plateau. It increases indefinitely (reach infinity) even if the rate decreases constantly tending to zero (like 1/x as his derived first says).


I am having one right now :<

Koba 6k (former 2k)


I fully agree and think this effect is quite significant for a lot of concepts in go (life and death, joseki, endgame, ko fights, attack and defense, etc.)

For joseki, there is even a well-know proverb “learning joseki loses two stones strength”, which I believe is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way of actually saying two things:

  1. Playing memorized joseki without understanding them is counterproductive.
  2. Encountering and incorporating new ideas into your game will often be rough at first, even though it will ultimately help you in the long run.

I suspect that this is saying “I should be able to introduce new ideas without going backwards”.

I’m not sure that this is true - I think that the process of introducing new ideas surely must involve learning and experiencing how they go wrong, which surely will cause a short term backwards step…


I feel I suffer from this - a thinking along the lines of “I’ve been Xkyu for a while now, I can easily beat someone [however many ranks lower]” which leads to lazy reading or assumptions about not quite sente moves that lead to an avoidable loss. And once it’s happened a few times then I lose confidence and it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy that I’m bound to lose when I shouldn’t…


When we climb the mountain, sometimes we might lose the trail and have to backtrack to find our way.

Other times, even when we are walking on the right path, we must temporarily lose altitude on the way to gaining more.


This is (probably) off-topic, but I feel a need to ask: running with the “mountain climbing” analogy, what does one do if he starts off every day energized but loses that motivation/gets bored and backtracks all the day’s progress at the end, in a repeating cycle?

It seems like you’re describing burnout or general fatigue. If we’re talking specifically about Go, I would suggest changing up the routine or maybe even taking a break. For changing things up, there are many different ways to study/enjoy Go: playing games, reviewing games, reading books, solving Go problems, watching videos/streams, posting Go memes, etc.

There are limits to any analogy. If we’re talking about mountain climbing, abandoning a venture and/or urgently seeking help may be necessary if one finds themself unable to make progress.

However, it’s good that Go (unlike mountain climbing) is a mental pursuit. Since ambitious endeavors in Go cannot kill you, they can only make you stronger.

My personal opinion on this is that if you have a sincere attitude to learn and progress in go and you spend energy to improve but you are imprisoned in a such cycle, probably you should spend some more time to fix some founding concept that you probably are not yet aware about.

Being energised in the morning do not help you in knowing your weakness and correct them before the evening. For sure - however - energy helps. Studying and being energetic combined together allow you to progress quickly. I don’t think that you can learn only with experience.

I’m from another generation compared to the most here on OGS (I’m a 50’s), and I know that approaching books for studying is considered by new generations - how to say - obsolete?

Have you never tried to buy a go-book (paper) at your level and study it? Did you notice some change? If never tried, please try and tell me the results.

Hmm I would say that experience is one of the few ways to learn. Most people dont have the time to play to get that experience quickly or don’t want to (say) take a year to increase in strength by a couple of ranks and want faster ways of improving.

Hence all the other things we do which is not specifically playing go.