How to improve my opening?


I was wondering if someone could give some suggestions on how to strengthen my opening.

I think this game (below) is a good example of how I get lost in the opening. I feel my response to my corners being invaded is suboptimal.

I would appreciate both specific suggestions re this game but any other general suggestions on how to improve with my opening.

Thank you


There’s a lot of general advice I can give you, sure. Professional games can help, as can playing against more skilled players and reviewing the game afterward.

Openings can be hard. They’re not as cut-and-dry as fights or endgame counting. and require you to get a feel for setting up your stones across an enormous area to prepare for the next phase.

Remember that plays on the fourth line are best suited to influence toward the center, and plays on the third line are best suited to establishing territory along the sides or corners. I point this out because it’s extremely common among DDKs to see one play on the fourth, such as with a 4-4 opening, and then lament when their opponent plays beneath them, as if their territory was “stolen” from them. That’s a distressing way of looking at thing! As long as you got a wall on the fourth line facing a direction, you got just as much as your opponent did, in most cases.

The final piece of advice I can give, based on the play I saw in the first ~50 moves or so of your game, is that 90% of the time, you should never play on the second or first line during Opening. Pretty much the only times you would do this are if such a move is vital to give a cut-off group shape, or to establish an eye if a fight is impending (in opening… for… whatever reason)

The white player peppered SO many moves on the second line on the bottom there. I imagine you felt like he was stealing your territory away from you, but in truth, like I said above, that’s a time when you should be happy because you had a long wall facing the center, which was worth WAY more than second line territory.

Oh! I hate to say “Study Joseki”, since a lot of players interpret that to mean “memorize joseki” and the advice ultimately hurts their game. With that said, there really is some merit to studying the standard lines of play. Rather than focusing on memorizing them, though, try to understand the logic behind why each move is made. It’ll be a tall order at first, and you may need the help of a stronger player to get the hang of it, but if you keep playing and studying, it’ll all click into place.


first you have to learn to understand about long-range interactions. there are lots of books on openings and lots of teaching videos on YouTube, including my own:

Mental Imagery in Go

You lack knowledge of common shapes, and you lack basic reading skills. This is not to sound harsh, we all start like that. But I think you should focus on those aspects before digging too deep into opening theory. Even if you did understand opening theory, you would not be able to execute it anyway without those fundamentals.

I would strongly suggest doing lots of tesuji and life and death problems, and replay lots of progames to develop a feeling for shape.

Once you feel comfortable in the close combat area, pick up a opening book and read it. For example Opening Theory Made Easy – Twenty Strategic Principles to Improve Your Opening Game.

Good Luck!

I actually think your general opening behaviour is good for your level - at about move 30 or so I thought, “Black is doing well here.” With help from your opponent, you built up some massive outward thickness, but then let it get nibbled away.

I think your issues in that game were more basic and psychological, to do with letting your opponent boss you around and decide what was important in the game. Disobey! If your opponent wants to crawl around on the second line, let them (I thought kitten1’s point about feeling like “your” territory is getting “stolen” was insightful too.) If they want to waste a move putting a stone into atari, first ask “do I need that stone for anything?” :smile:

Someone else mentioned shapes, and indeed an understanding of some of the very simplest, most common joseki (say, the ones that are concluded in three or four moves) can teach you those. Like kitten1, I am not saying “study joseki” at all - just see some of the common simple shape moves that show up again and again in the opening. Kicks, jumps, extensions, enclosures. Sensei’s Library is a great place to start.

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On joseki, I am in the Study camp.

Study is not memorize. Look at the joseki move in each case. Try to understand why the joseki move is the best in that situation. Don’t forget that the moves of a specific joseki are evaluated locally. The effect may change the global picture, or be changed by it. Frequently, which joseki sequence is used will depend on the rest of the board.

Most of this will make more sense as you grow in the game, but it is another tool to gain insight in to proper play.

I’ll close with a foot stomp on practicing life and death. I’d even consider a lot of games on smaller boards to hone your tactical skills.

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Hey guys,

Thanks so much for the helpful comments.

Its given me a few things to focus on.

I agree i need more work on my reading skills. I find that I do better in correspondence games but in timed games I just play “bad” moves and make basic reading mistakes due to time pressure. I think part of it is a lack of confidence in my reading ability and so only practice will improve that!

Thank you for the suggestions regarding openings. I think I’ll slowly look at Joseki’s and try understand them but I will also look into improving my knowledge of good shapes and maybe watch a few videos about basic opening theory.

Thanks again :smile:

I tried to review it in detail… and messed up saving… but a couple of comments overall:

  • already mentioned – study some joseki… your response to his attachments are not optimal
  • other than that, W invasion in lower right was very poor… and you sealed him in, allowing him to “live small”, which was good… but then you kept making very small moves and allowed him to take Sente… e.g. you had several opportunities to play Q10 before W and essentially the game would be over.
  • you failed to use power of wall when W invaded at Q10… when you have such power near, you need to fight HARD… use it… when white captured your stones and settled his group, he gained back most of what he had lost…
  • after that, you both continued in that area unnecessarily… missing the opportunity to play in upper right several times.
    In Opening – “think big”… don’t defend small stones unless they mean life/death… every 3-4 stones you should look around and assess “status” of each of your groups… is it “alive”? Is it “almost alive”? is it “influence”… what am I doing? Don’t let yourself get caught up in small fights early… unless they are forced on you.

Also, in most cases, Go is played “live”… your ability to read is only as good as your ability to read quickly. You’ll learn faster by studying a little (life and death and joseki) and playing more games