Is it normal?

Hi there!
I’m new at Go player. Now that I’ve play 10+ games (25k) and start understanding strategy and moves, I realized that begginers tends to attack and capture stones as a priority rather than expand territory as higher Kyu ranked players do.

Did you feel the same or had the same attitude when you started playing this amazing game?
Share your thoughts!


Of course. Being short sighted is a hallmark of beginners in almost every field.

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I think that it is a sign of weak understanding how people learn if someone calls this short-sighted or not normal.

This Christmas, I let my two young nephews play a go game against each other. They took great joy in capturing each other’s stones and yet, they overlooked more than half of the many ataris on the board. It is a necessary step of learning that you start to see them and act on them even if it means that other aspects of the game are neglected (and may even get worse for a time).

When children learn their language, they usually learn the irregular forms of the most common words first (be, have, go). When their brain finally automatizes the general rules of forming the past tense, they start to say the common words that they already knew wrong. This is not a backslide, this is how a neural net learns.


Yes, it is completely normal.
To quote a famous Go book, “Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go” by Kageyama:

After you have learned the rules, your first step should be just to play for a while, and by ‘a while’ I am not referring to any length of time, but rather a number of games, say fifty or a hundred. During this period, if you see an enemy stone, try to capture it, try to cut it off. If you see a friendly stone, try to save it from capture, try to connect it. Concentrate on this alone as you build up some practical experience.



I’d want to suggest to keep in mind that many recommendations that are appropriate for a total beginner are not as appropriate for an advanced beginner, etc. etc.

Like what @stdnms quotes from Kageyama, which in essence is this:

“Cut where you can cut, connect where you need to connect.”

Good exercise for a total beginner, and after a while they’ll realize that it’s useless to cut groups which are independently alive anyway (likewise to connect stones which also are independently alive), and that it’s a total beginner’s mistake to atari every stone that you can atari, but first one’s got to learn what Atari actually is, and how stones can be connected and cut.

There’s even a proverb for that: “Only beginners play Atari.” :wink: (Of course, like with all Go proverbs, it applies only to specific situations, and it is clearer to say “Only beginners ALWAYS play Atari.”)

And sacrifice, i.e. NOT connecting all stones that I could connect, is something which I, for example, only learnt around 20-17k; before that I needed to focus on keeping my stones alive, and on how to do that.

Like … at a time in our early childhood it was really important to learn to crawl, but once we have learnt to walk, that’s obsolete, and we need to “un-learn” some of the habits and skills we have worked so hard to acquire.

Nevertheless we cannot just skip the crawling phase—there will be situations later in life when we need to remember our crawling skills, e.g. when we’re drunk :wink: or when we have broken a leg in our house and need to get closer to the telephone. (remember telephones? :wink: )


There are some really great points here. I wanted to add I made just as many mistakes as most beginners, but I would actually avoid attacking and play a more territorial game. In my case, the reason is because I don’t have a very competitive personality, and after reading the rules I realized that it’s certainly possible to win a game of go without killing anything. As much as I enjoy games like chess and checkers, I always (strangely) feel bad when I kill my opponent’s pieces, to the point of wanting to apologize or ask my opponent if they want to undo their move. The fact that I could do well without killing anything was one of the aspects of go that really appealed to me. Now as I strive to improve my game, I don’t avoid attacking but I still have a territorial style in most cases.