How to tell whether a long winning streak represents real improvement or luck/other reasons?

I know that OGS ranks are more volatile than ranks on other servers.

When I returned from hiatus earlier this year, my rating gradually increased from 19 kyu to 16 kyu (as expected since I need time to warm up again). Then my rating stabilised at 15 to 17 kyu for a while, so 16 kyu appeared to be my real strength.

My rank has shot up to 14 kyu after 15 wins and 4 losses from my last 19 games (opponents averaging 17-18 kyu). Have I really improved? Or am I just on a good run but waiting for “real” 14 kyu players to beat me by 50 points?


The answer may come not only by numbers, but by looking at what you learned. It’s easier if a stronger player helps you to point out these progress, but you can still ask yourself if you did practice something new in you games, and if you did digest it.

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At my current level, it feels like I know a lot but I understand very little.

For example, I know “hane at the side of two stones”, “two-space extension from one stone and three-space extension from two stones”, plus common shapes such as keimas and tiger’s mouths, all of which I regularly use in my games, but I do not understand when to use what or how to follow up.

Likewise, for fuseki, I play a mix of orthodox, low Chinese, nirensei and sanrensei, but what is my strategy after the first few moves? I know the 3-3 invasion on a 4-4 point joseki, but how do I use the outside thickness?

Basic tactics are easier to apply, which is one reason why I win 90% of my fights. The other reason is because I tend to play solidly, or per the principle (from a quick skim of Lessons in the Fundamentals) “keep your stones connected and the opponent’s separated”.

Per advice from past reviews, I am trying to look harder for big and sente moves, but I have little understanding of what makes a move big (other than the very obvious like taking an empty corner) and my attempted sente moves are often endgame moves too early or worse, thank-you moves.

Once I start to understand and not just know all the above, I believe my rank would jump from 16 kyu to 11-12 kyu. If my winning streak represents a genuine improvement, it may mean that I am already starting to subconsciously understand and properly apply the above.

Most important with thickness is to find an attack somewhere else to use it instead of simply enclosing territory.

For shapes you can have a look at “shapes up” in the resources here on OGS although I prefer a book like tesuji (J. Davies) myself

Idea of big is more to be opposed at small as to find a definition of it. Sente in most cases means double value as gote, because you gonna play again the same value, but of course it’s a bit more as just that.

You are researching on these, and that’s great, that’s what will be (later maybe) a real progress.

And if you fail short of ideas, go ask for a review again!

Number of wins and loses means nothing.
If you will play against stronger opponent after each win and against weaker opponent after each lose, your winrate will be inevitably 50% - (same will happen if you always play equal opponents.)

Your rank is the only thing that indicates something.


I was going to say something to this effect as well. It depends on who the wins and losses are against. If you lose 10 even games against different 1 dans, it would be hard to judge if that would make you a good/bad 10kyu, it would really only conclude you’re possibly not a 1 dan :stuck_out_tongue: (or you’re a 1d having a bad run of games :slight_smile: )

I think though if you’re consistently beating players below a certain ranking, say you nearly always beat 16+kyus, then it would seem reasonable to say you’re confidently at least a 15 kyu say.

There probably will always be players that are x+1,x+2… kyu that are on a win streak and pushed up to this rank, or …x-2,x-1 kyu players pushed down to it, so individual wins losses are trickier to interpret.

I think similar to what you mentioned

If the same seems to happen again, that you find yourself stabilizing around lets say 13-15 kyu, after a bunch of regular games, then it seems reasonable to pick 14kyu as your rank, and hence looking back conclude that you’ve improved (a good bit! :slight_smile: - and also congrats on the wins! ).

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I think most reliable way to tell your rank is to notice against which ranks do you have easy games, against which hard games, against which fair games.

You can be overrated or underrated because Glicko is easy to trick.

But when you know that X-1 rank should be beatable, X rank is ok, you have chances, and with X+1 rank you’ll probably need some luck to win. Easy to see that your rank is X.


Already thinking like a dan, where x+1>x>x-1, while in kyus x+1<x<x-1 :stuck_out_tongue:


To be fair, I’d consider 3k a higher rank than 5k, just like 1st place in a foot race is a higher place than 3rd.

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This is the test. Simply play few games against 14 kyus (your current rank) and see what happens. If you win 50% of the time you are almost there. If your win too much your rank will grow again (let say to 12 kyu) then… repeat the test with 12 kyu players.
Actually is what already happened when you were at 16-17 kyu I think.

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I did something like this


Thanks for all the replies! I will follow this advice (the same from three people written differently):

My most recent 20 games can be broken down as follows:
2 vs 15 kyus: L+12.5, W+3.5
3 vs 16 kyus: W+16.5, L+6.5, W+R
5 vs 17 kyus: L+0.5, W+R, W+36.5, W+R, W+49.5
3 vs 18 kyus: L+R, W+4.5, W+8.5
4 vs 19 kyus: W+43.5, W+R, W+28.5, W+R
3 vs 20 kyus: W+12.5, W+R, W+R
(R = resignation)

Two ongoing games against a 19 kyu opponent are very close to completion; I am leading in one but expected to lose the other. Another game against a 15 kyu opponent is in the early endgame and I am behind by about 20 points.


  • Comfortable wins against 17-20 kyu opponents, with the occasional upset loss
  • 15 out of 20 games were against 17-20 kyu opponents because those games were started before or when my rank began stabilising at around 16 kyu
  • Close games against 15-16 kyu opponents.
  • Unlikely that I have improved by two stones but possible that I may have improved by one stone (rank to stabilise at 15 kyu). Starting games against 15-16 kyu opponents will help give a more complete picture.

Need to decide what books (other than tsumego) to study after I finish revising The Second Book of Go. There appears to be many good books for TPKs and even more for SDKs but not so many for mid-DDKs. For me, the focus should be on understanding (at a basic level) rather than just knowing stuff.


That book could deserve more as a quick skim

When I was around 15-17 kyu I read “Tesuji” and “Attach and Defence” both from Ishi Press (Elementary Go Series). No so elementary as you can expect.

“Tesuji” is quite difficult and slow to read since essentially it teaches you how any position (even non-tesuji related) should be read to exploit all the possible variations to finally choose the best move. Now with the on-line analysis it’s a simple task, but in a real game where you cannot try position putting real stones on the board, learning how to analyze those variations in your head is a skill that should be reinforced imho.

“Attach and Defence” is a must to read (and re-read when you will progress). From this book you learn definitively how attaching and defending are two faces of the same coin in Go. Really one of the Go books that influenced me most.

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I am aware of its stellar reputation as a classic (and the quick skim justifies that reputation) but it seems too advanced for my current level (15-16 kyu).

That is what I meant by “many good books for TPKs and even more for SDKs but not so many for mid-DDKs”.

At around what rank/level would you suggest one start with Elementary Go Series? “Nearly SDK” (10-12 kyu)?


Honestly I started the series when I was around 18 kyu. “In the beginning” was a complete surprise for me. It was a fundamental reading to learn how to deal with the wide-open space in front of me in the opening on a 19x19. “Life and Death” also can be read - tsumego after tsumego - even in a long period of time. You can learn some basics that are essential even if you are high-DDK.

The two books I mentioned can be read at different levels I think and you can learn in each lecture different things. Taking apart “Tesuji” that can be used to learn the most very basic tesuji at mid/high-DDK, “Attach and Defence” open your mind even if you cannot get the maximum from the first reading. It makes you aware that there is a different way of thinking looking at the board. When you are defending in the correct way, you are creating the prerequisite for attaching and vice versa. You will find yourself in your game situations where positions change completely their destiny due to a single stone placement. I have read it 20 years ago, so probably my enthusiasm is affected by nostalgia, but probably someone else who read it recently can confirm and add more comments on this beautiful book.


In the beginning was a jewel that I discovered early. Attack and defense and lessons in fundamentals are a bit too difficult for DDK I think too. I can’t justify maybe it’s more easy to agree and fly with a book on the opening. Tesuji I started later as 9k so I can’t tell for a DDK but sure it boosted me like 5 levels up. By the way maybe tesuji was the only book then that I put all on a goban and search each problem on my own.

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This loss by 53.5 points to a 14 kyu opponent (which brought my rank back down to 15 kyu) is further indication that my winning streak does not represent real improvement:

Despite saving a large vulnerable group from moves 27 to 41 and another from moves 101 to 113, I knew I was slightly behind at that point and had to grab some space from the right. From moves 142 to 154, White managed to separate my top and top-right groups (the former died), sealing my fate.

A review would be nice.

Thanks. If I had actually improved to 14 kyu, I would likely purchase In the Beginning (or Opening Theory Made Easy which others have recommended but is harder to get), but since I have not, I will go slower with my revision of The Second Book of Go and other resources I already have.

Perhaps what would help me improve by 5 stones would be addressing the following:

Starting Tesuji is like starting to go to gym. But don’t stay watching the others, do that book like a go problems book. If you can’t, leave it for later.


For me reading a tesuji book or what I presume is “Tesuji” by Davies is like someone pointing out invisible moves on the board - “hey did you know that this first line magic works”, “hey did you realise sacrificing 1,2 or possibly more (under the stones) can actually work?”.

It’s a bit like telling people who want to drive to re-invent the wheel first. I think you can read it and have your eyes opened, and then come back again and try the puzzles or try other puzzle books and apps. BadukPop for instance recently added tesuji problems.