If I would only study one thing in Go, which should it be?

Of course I’m planning on studying a variety of things, and there’s no right or wrong answer here: feel free to express your personal opinions and preferences (and biases, why not :woman_shrugging:t2:).


I’ve heard studying shape alone can get you to Dan :man_shrugging:

For me personally growing from DDK to SDK I think the biggest thing was learning about locally strong and weak groups (not objectively but relative to their neighbours) and the importance of keeping groups connected. I found play high handicap games like 7/8/9 against a strong teacher really helpful for that last one.

At your level I mostly just watched a lot of nick sibicky videos.


If you could only study one thing, study only the thing you like best :slight_smile:

In general, I think that reading is the most important skill


Obviously a very narrow answer, but I feel like L&D can get one pretty far


Tsumegos >____>

Or rather, i would just browse senseis library on sleepless nights >__>


Efficient answer: pro games. You get reading exercise, joseki sequences, tesuji, endgame sequences, life and death. Pretty much all you need in one package, though scattered across many games.

Real answer: reading. Everything in this game can be made to work or refuted by reading. All the shapes can be secured or broken by reading. Every sequence can be reinvented or made by reading. It’s the essential component underlying everything in this game. Without reading the game becomes mahjong - just combine shapes and hope to get lucky.


I guess it depends on what do you really want to get from Go?

Is the main goal to get stronger as quickly as possible? Or is enjoying the hobby along the way a more important thing?

I think that for using time as efficiently as possible in order to get stronger, the most important things are:

  1. Playing as many “valuable experience” games as possible. By “valuable experience”, I mean that these should be ranked games (so that opponents properly try) against players that are at least as strong and ideally several ranks stronger, that provide a challenge and punish your mistakes and demonstrate more efficient plays with their own. If you are winning more than 50% of these games, then the opponents are not strong enough. This is about learning through observing stronger players and experiencing how they challenge your own weaknesses.
  2. Review all of your games, first by yourself, and then with feedback from others (say, by asking for reviews on the forum). This is about learning from observing yourself and figuring out where your mistakes and weaknesses are, in order to understand how to improve.
  3. Solve lots of Go problems. From many different sources (I recommend https://blacktoplay.com, by the way), and of varying difficulty. This is about strengthening your fundamental reading ability and pattern recognition, which is such an important skill that even just doing a lot of tsumego alone should efficiently improve one’s strength.
  4. If you are willing to pay some money, seek lessons from a professional instructor with good reviews. This is all about getting focused feedback from a human teacher that can understand and observe your current style, skills, and weaknesses, and then teach in a tailored way to address improvement.

However, I think that following a heavy dose of the above regimen can be a bit overwhelming, and for some, like myself, might even lead to a feeling of being burnt out. Intense studying can begin to feel like a chore after a while. So, I think that it’s also very important to find and focus on activities that one finds to be fun and enjoyable as well. Maybe that’s watching entertaining videos/streams, or even just chatting about Go related topics in a forum. Sometimes, speaking from my personal perspective (and this would not necessarily apply to everyone, of course), I feel like it’s more productive to just keep having fun and remaining interested and enthusiastic about Go, rather than studying as hard as possible in ways that might be more time efficient towards getting stronger, but feel rather hard or dull, in a way that makes me lose interest a bit.

I guess that’s why I just goof off a lot on the forum, making memes, discussing rules pedantry, playing variants, etc., rather than focusing more on harder study.


The following is a redacted version of the full text, which is on the linked page.

Professional James Kerwin’s advice on improvement (aka Professionally Speaking)

Getting to 10k

What is the fastest way to improve from 20+ kyu to under 10 kyu?

Play as much as you can … Simply try to play correctly, the best way you know how. …

Second, go over your games. Even without assistance you can see a lot of your mistakes if you look for them. …

If you do want to study, the most valuable thing is solving tesuji and life and death problems. Don’t do problems that are too hard, concentrate on problems you can solve in 1 minute or less. The next most valuable thing is taking lessons from a pro.

Other forms of study are far less useful, although they have their place. Next best is studying pro games. …

Studying joseki in a systematic way is a waste of time … I recommend using a good joseki dictionary to look up joseki only when they came up in a game and you think you got a bad result.


If I could only study one thing, I would choose tesuji problems.
They can be basic and still challenging, and life and death problems can get kinda long sometimes. Tesuji problems can be short, long, easy or hard, and no matter what they will help you improve.

(if this is a question you asked so you can have recommendations for improvement) I would recommend doing Tesuji problems, but doing them correctly. There are a lot of apps, and it’s all to easy to brute force the problem. You need to solve them in your head, and then try a move to see the answer. I prefer books especially ‘get strong at tesuji’ from the Get Strong at Go series. How it’s set up forces you to read instead of brute force it.

(if this was meant more as a rhetorical introspective question) sorry for babbling :slight_smile:


If you have to study one thing:



In my experience, if you pay attention to what strong players both say and do, four things are at the core:

  1. Play
  2. Review
  3. Tsumego
  4. Lessons

Even reviewing with AI is just another type of review. Reviewing can be done in many ways, eg. on GoKibitz. Simply chatting about a certain position, like in Quick Positions or on Discord, is a form of review.

I’ve rarely had the energy for tsumego or the money for lessons, so I can’t speak personally. Some people, I’m sure, don’t benefit from either. But this quartet of activities is what will come up again and again in advice from almost every reputable source, I think.

In contrast, studying professional games or systematically memorising joseki is recommended a lot less often.

Right now a big drive is going on to educate people in how to use 101Weiqi for tsumego, but TsumegoHero and Cho Chikun’s Encyclopaedia of Life and Death are also good ways to grind.


I usually have 3 types of questions here:

  1. Please give me a specific answer. After we get that, y’all can keep the discussion going to your hearts’ content. These are specific questions I might have.
  2. Let’s talk about this. I will engage in the discussion because I think I have insights to offer.
  3. I find this interesting/ fascinating, but above my rank/ IQ level/ pay grade. I’d love to watch y’all talk about it, though, have at it.

This is mostly in the style of 3, so you were on point, but in any case I’m very interested to read what everyone has to say.

We all generally blab in the forums with much gusto anyway. :wink::woman_shrugging:t2:


On the topic of studying from books, it’s my impression – a subjective one – that most Go books are meant to be read as part of a study group, guided by a strong player who can explain the content and answer questions using a demo board.

I have both Attack and Defense and The Breakthrough to Shodan, but I haven’t felt that I learnt anything from simply reading them.

There are book studies run by DanielML, Gooplet and BeginnerGo through Discord and Twitch.

It could be argued that the books can then be viewed as a tool of one of the four central activities, lessons or review / discussion.


If i stick to the question (1 thing) i say: your failures.

Study your failures to not make them again. Get help from stronger to be sure you saw them. don’t study too many at the same time so you can remember.


It depends on one’s rank. At DDK: understanding what moves are big (see Dwyrin’s Basics videos). At SDK: improving one’s understanding of what is sente and when to tenuki, which are related (watch strong players and study game reviews). The sente/tenuki question is my current struggle, and I am finding that believing in one’s own judgment is the most important barrier. One must simply try the tenuki in the belief that it is sente, and if your opponent ignores it, trust that you will come out ahead because your move was bigger. If it fails, then you have learned something.

Reading is important and improvable by tsumegos, but probably not by a whole lot for most people because it depends on visual memory, which is largely a genetic endowment. A long-ago study of top chess players (probably in the 1960s or 70s, I don’t remember) found that visual memory was the only factor to significantly correlate with strength. Some players, even some dans, don’t do any substantial reading, but depend on their experience and knowledge of shape. Obviously, this isn’t the case with pros or AI—but they constitute a minuscule percentage of the playing population.


I think go books :slight_smile:

I second this, because it’s also Michael Redmond’s recommendation. Learn Go however it is enjoyable for you.


I’m going to take this as an endorsement of my plan of study: playing lots of unusual board size tournaments and weird multicolor variants :sunglasses:

But more seriously, I’m going to suggest studying how to estimate the value of moves in terms of points and sente - even if you can’t read them out very far.




Learning from your mistakes is important, but we can’t play millions of games like AlphaGo, we have to take advantage of knowledge that accumulated for centuries, and instead of focusing on our bad moves, another learning method consists in imitating good moves. You can find good moves in pro games, or in books. Just reading books passively won’t be enough of course, you have to apply ideas and sequences you learned in your own games, then the sequences won’t always work because the opponent doesn’t always reply as expected, so you have to refine your knowledge…

About tsumegos: I believe they are useful, they helped me a lot. On the other hand Lucas Neirynck 6d says he didn’t start studying tsumegos until he became 1d on KGS, so one shouldn’t exaggerate its importance. He does recommend kyu players to practice tsumegos among other things, though.