How to not crush beginners

Well… I probably still count as a beginner. But i teach h a lot while working I’m lucky like that. So how do You guys try to keep games even when playing new players?


When I do teaching games with my friend, we both use AI bots for a “centaur go” kind of thing (previously discussed here: Centaur players)

Basically, the point becomes not so much winning the game, as helping the lower-ranked player see the risks and opportunities they might otherwise miss, and help them wrap their heads around the best ways to respond.

Don’t cut things, don’t throw-in, don’t play tesuji, leave some big moves open for them as a buffer. When they get themselves in trouble, try to push them a little bit to play more in the area. Tenuki when they keep playing too much in the same area.

Although, don’t be too lenient, especially if it is a repetitive mistake. You don’t learn much from winning :slight_smile:

You might actually see it as a learning experience for yourself as well: try to win the game without capturing anything, or try to win the game while giving away all your corners (but don’t give them away without a fight), etc. that way you both get to learn something new. This works best if you do it secretly, so your student doesn’t try to take advantage of it


What size board are the games being played on? I imagine that can make a difference, e.g. the advice don’t cut on a 9x9 wouldn’t leave you with a lot of options, especially with handicap stones on the board.

So far when introducing friends, we play with handicap stones, (although sometimes initially they’re reluctant), usually 9x9 to start just to get a feel for capturing stones, and 13x13 with another friend - 13x13 just to get a feel for surrounding territory. Sometimes I give them advice on what can happen with a certain move, if it’s an atari, self atari, ignoring something big. Sometimes I won’t say exactly and say lets play it out but give the option to revert back to the previous state if there’s other playable alternatives.

I think that way they can learn bits and pieces as they go along, and I can still play more or less properly. I don’t always win, especially if my counting lets me down :slight_smile:

I do think the 19x19 board can be a bit daunting at first glance when you start playing (it did for me) but I enjoyed it a lot more once I gave it a chance.

It’s a great question because of the tradeoff between

  • having them not get crushed (making sure they have opportunities to play good moves) and
  • having them learn from their mistakes, and seeing what good play is

If you don’t punish a mistake, does the person learn it was one? Then … how to gently point out it was one without crushing their position.

I do a moderate amount of teaching games, and find this to be a fine line.

I found Vstovep’s advice to be spot on: don’t play smart-arse clever moves, but do play solidly.


The bigger board has been the thing since it seems cooler than the nine by nine. Even got some kids to look at pro game or two. and they take handicap stones winning über alles you know

I sometimes show a mistake after it’s been done and some kids ask me what would be good. Which feels horrible since I’m no good but still better.

The hardest part of it is not making life or killing stuff that is easy prey. But I’l consider the no cutting part and trying not to kill except for when the handicap is huge and I’ll keep it at some kind of limit

“No cutting” and “no killing” I think need to be seen as kind of guidelines.

I would rather say “no tricky or aggressive cutting” and “no setting out to kill groups”.

This is pretty much how Dwyrin plays his Basics games.

If someone “gets themselves killed”, then you take them. If you need to atari a stone for a basic purpose, there is no reason not to, otherwise the other person ends up thinking “wait, what? I see that, surely he did, why didn’t he take it”.


Also fun: make your groups almost alive. For example, leave a bulky five open, or keep corner territory invadable for ko or seki. Then, if they spot it, good for them, and if they don’t, it’s an easy thing to show at the end of the game.

I played go in the first year I started against the head of a go club in Japan, he was seeing how strong I was. After about 50 moves, he decided to call the game and assign me an opponent of about equal strength, but not before showing me that there was a group on the board for a couple of moves already that I could have killed with a snapback (which I hadn’t heard of yet). That was a pretty amazing revelation to me.


Dwyrin also generally avoids any deep reading in the basics games, just playing based on shape.

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Handicap. When I was still high sdk, I used to give newbies 9 stones on 9x9 and had them slowly work their way up to about 4-5 stones. Shouldn’t take more than about a day or two. You get to be fierce and they only have to make very few decisions (due to the lack of empty space).

You could also start on 5x5 to teach very basic mechanics.

If you’re playing more advanced beginners, you can give them (reduced) handicap on larger boards and/or adopt a passive ‘honte’ playstyle, always protecting your weaknesses etc.


Thank you guys. Making sure not to fight and just try to stay connected makes for more fun games for my wee ones. I still take here and there and usually against the edges because they will learn to protect themselves. And they are improving and dragging others with them.

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I probably still count as a beginner, but when playing against someone a lot worse than me, I play like I normally do but share variations that demonstrate moves he missed so he can learn from that.

:pleading_face: You are adorable :hugs:. Accept in Pinnochio, you have been a real boy for a very long time :wink:

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Student? Yes. Beginner? No. Certainly not.