Helpful Information For Newcomers To Go

For those of you who are just starting out with the game of Go, I have prepared some tips and advice that might make your new journey a little bit easier to navigate.

Table Of Contents

  1. Just Got Started Playing Go?
  2. At It’s Core, What Is Go?
  3. Losing Is Progress, So Don’t Lose Heart
  4. I Want To Start On 19x19. Any Reason To Play On 9x9 First?
  5. The Importance Of Playing Both Sides Of The Board
  6. Does The Go Rule Set I Use Matter?
  7. Reviews and Teaching Games
  8. How Can I Improve At An Accelerated Rate?
  9. How Do You Personally Study Go?
  10. Is It Possible To Record Private Notes & Variations In A Match?


Just Got Started Playing Go?

I have written a large article for newcomers that talks about getting better at Go and lists a lot of resources.


At It’s Core, What Is Go?

Something that is really important to realize about Go is that, no matter which board size you play on, it is an exercise in pattern recognition. Go is not about winning or beating opponents. The game, in my view, is a solitary pursuit. For we only ever truly face ourselves. Each game is essentially a unique puzzle, being generated based on our decisions and our opponent’s choice of moves. Your opponent represents chaos, the unknown, or randomization; not a foe or force to be overcome.

Rather, Go is an exercise in memorization of shapes and how to employ and counter them effectively. Especially considering how the methodology of countering the same shape changes based on the surrounding board configuration. The myriad of possibilities in any given game with familiar shapes and patterns is breathtakingly complex. To this end, you should realize that the only true way to get better is to build your brain’s database of shapes, patterns, and how to properly employ and counter them.

This can only be achieved through raw experience. Maintaining mental focus while studying specific topics of interest, searching for weaknesses in your understanding through self analysis and third party analysis of your games, and deliberate practice will accelerate your speed of progress. It is also likely to teach you lessons or reveal aspects of Go game play that you would otherwise never stumble upon yourself.


Losing Is Progress, So Don’t Lose Heart

If you ever find yourself feeling poorly about your skill at Go, especially because of your rank, please read this post. Because your rank shouldn’t matter :wink:.


I Want To Start On 19x19. Any Reason To Play On 9x9 First?

The simple answer is that you should choose the board size that holds the greater interest for you. If you would like to hear about why people often recommend newcomers begin on the 9x9 board, I’ve shard some thoughts here.


The Importance Of Playing Both Sides Of The Board

A really important Go proverb is: “Your opponent’s next best move is also your own.” When we first start playing Go we tend to only consider our own moves. But with Go you should strive to get in the habit of considering what is best for both White and Black. Despite what move your opponent plays, there is something to be learned by analyzing every possible move of the game, versus just the half of the moves that are your stone color.

Not only will you learn at an accelerated rate, but it is extremely important to try and understand the challenges your opponent is facing and how they might move forward. A big part of countering most moves is to first anticipate their existence before they are played. In Go this is called “reading”, as in “reading several moves ahead”. The greater your reading capability the greater the chance that you successfully control your opponent’s opportunities and move possibilities.

While there are often multiple great moves on the board, there is usually a single move that is the best. The most crucial move possible for your opponent to get the biggest bang for their buck. Taking this move from them on your turn will cost them dearly. It throws a wrench in their plans and can force them to make multiple tough decisions. This is extremely true on the 9x9 where the amount of territory is so small and where the game progresses very quickly.


Does The Go Rule Set I Use Matter?

When you do not know anything about the differences between Go Rule Sets, no, it really doesn’t matter. However, once a player takes some time to understand the differences, they usually have a firm preference on whether they prefer a rule set that uses Territory or Area scoring. Personally, I do recommend any person genuinely interested in pursuing Go take a little time to familiarize themselves. Is it crucial? No. Is it beneficial? Likely. Is it interesting? Definitely.


Reviews and Teaching Games

If you are looking for some ideas on how to think about your moves and things to consider when playing Go, I have some reviews and teaching games you might find helpful. They give plenty of examples and advice. The teaching games are especially helpful as they showcase the thinking of each player as the game progresses.

Teaching Games

  1. Mulsiphix vs B1cK13z (??k) - Game #1, Game #2 ( finished )
  2. Mulsiphix vs dviener (24k) ( finished )
  3. Mulsiphix vs Gia (?) - Game #1, Game #2, Game #3 ( finished )
  4. Mulsiphix vs abbefaria (22K) ( finished )
  5. Mulsiphix vs Ghacam (20K) ( finished )
  6. Mulsiphix vs RedAgent14 (25K): Game #1 → Move 8, Game #2 → Move 16 ( resigned, partial )
  7. Mulsiphix vs Harold the Wood (19K) ( abandoned, partial game → Move 20 )

Study Games With Established Players

  1. Mulsiphix vs kickaha (1K) ( finished )

Full Reviews For Others

  1. PMEve (22k) vs pouta (22k) ( finished )
  2. drbeco (25k) vs Amybot-beginner (25k) ( finished )
  3. Go Student (25k) vs JoeWilliams (23k) ( finished )

Left Some Comments

  1. theorist (25k) vs. aurok (25k) ( finished )

Note that there is some overlap of teaching concepts at the beginning of most teaching games. There is also some copied and pasted text between them, as it saved me time :blush:.


How Can I Improve At An Accelerated Rate?

Like building any other skill, study, practice, and experience are required to learn and grow. Having access to a competent teacher will be the fastest route to improving. However, a vast amount of people make their way to the Dan level of skill through self study alone. That has certainly been my route.

Study is best accomplished by analyzing your own progress and obtaining new information to expand your knowledge about Go. A free, easy, and readily available way to analyze your own progress is to ask other players to review your completed games. This allows you to focus on the areas where you need the most immediate improvement. You can also use AI to achieve the same goal. Whether that be OGS’s implementation of KataGo or a more robust implementation like KaTrain. If you are a reader, there are plenty of books about Go on Go. For the 9x9 beginner I personally recommend the free book 81 Little Lions. If you are looking to learn about something specific, there is a wonderful Go wiki called Sensei’s Library.

Practice is pretty straightforward. The difference between a 25K player and a 1K really boils down to the gap in knowledge between them. Especially concerning how to respond to the different stone configurations encountered in a match. Learning to better recognize shapes and patterns, as well as knowing how to properly respond to them for the best outcome, is a simple and efficient way to improve your Go skills. There are Go puzzles, called Tsumego, where you practice killing a group by placing your stones optimally. A quick search on the internet or in OGS’s Puzzles section will provide you ample opportunities to practice Tsumego for free.

Experience is gained by exercising your Go knowledge and skill. Playing lots of games is about all you need to do. However, it is important to make sure that the games you play test your current skill level. If an opponent is too weak, you likely won’t learn anything new and you may even develop poor playing habits because the boundaries of your skills are not being tested often enough. If an opponent is too strong, you may not be able to understand the reasoning behind why they play many moves. Plus losing constantly can be really disheartening, potentially weakening the desire to play. Playing someone close to your skill is a good way to test the knowledge and skills you have. As well as to increase the likelihood you understand anything new you see occur in the match. You should also win around half of your matches, which should be enough to keep you engaged and coming back for more.

Wishing to grow my Go skills as quickly as possible, I created the New Zealand Tournament Group . I had the idea that competitively minded players would make the best opponents. Taking the game seriously, they would ensure my knowledge is regularly tested. It also seemed logical they would be able to teach me the most if I found new friends there. I decided that all games would use Strength Pairing, which means players are matched up based on their current rank. Whoever you face, they will be the closest your level of skill out of all the players participating. Running weekly tournaments quickly led me to have access to more games than I could ever keep up with. I have been playing there for about three years now and it has served me and many others well. Regardless of whether you win or not, joining tournaments is a wonderfully efficient way to gain experience in the game of Go.


How Do You Personally Study Go?

I am not sure if how I study Go would work as well for the 19x19, but it sure works for me on the 9x9. I get asked this question sometimes and so I’ve written a bit about how I personally study Go. Lots of tips by multiple players :wink:.


Is It Possible To Record Private Notes & Variations In A Match?

No, at least not as an implemented feature on OGS. The Chat box on OGS has a little arrow next to it. If you click on that arrow you can select Malkovich. Many people mistakenly believe that Malkovich chat is private, since your opponent cannot see what you type when in that chat mode. However, this feature is actually designed to allow Spectators to view what you type while hiding it from your opponent. If your opponent were to view the match when not logged into OGS, they would see everything you typed in Malkovich too. If you would like your chat messages and variations to be truly private, there is a work around you can use. This link provides a full explanation.


Note: I have written some helpful posts in various threads on this forum. I think many newcomers might find these useful so I’ve collected them here for my convenience and a single resource to refer newcomers to.


I really appreciate all these recommendations, thank you very much!