Is it supposed to be fun in the beginning?

I have a history with Go. I have started and stopped multiple times and I have always stopped because the game never got fun for me. I find Go fascinating, which is why I keep picking the game up (and why I own several books on Go) but it’s always a year or more between when I put the game down and pick it back up again and since Go is not a “bicycle skill” (at least not for me) I am always starting from the beginning. And maybe it’s just me but starting out in Go is the opposite of fun. It’s a long, hard, slog of frustration, misery and defeat, that for me, lasts months (longest I’ve gone playing Go is about 2 months).

So my questions are: Is it that Go has a minimum cost of entry payable in frustration, aggravation and defeat; and if you want any enjoyment out of the game then you have to pay? Or is Go like buying a pair of shoes, if they aren’t comfortable in the store they aren’t going to get comfortable later so try a different pair of shoes?


Exactly how did you begin playing (multiple times)?
Puzzles, playing with better players (and handicap), online, against software?
Maybe you are just lacking players of roughly your same power level (bloody beginners) to play against, ideally in person.

That makes a huge difference, at least for me - I stopped out of frustration years ago after growing about to 12k EGF, because due to circumstances I couldn’t ever meet and play in person, and even almost never online in realtime. I just got frustrated with playing turn-based games one drip drip drip at a time and reading books or solving puzzles (they say we shouldn’t that do anyhow before having played at least a 100 complete games).
I’m also just now trying to start again, because I have a rare but constant possibility of real life games. But I forgot and lost so much, which is also frustrating.

Or maybe for you it is something else… or maybe you are fascinated by the concept and structure of the game, but not by playing by yourself. That can happen with every hobby.


I’ve bounced around KGS multiple times. The first couple times (I’m on my 3rd try now) finding 25k on KGS was easy, this time not so much, which is how I found OGS.

First time I just jumped in and played matches. 19x19, ranked, standard 10min 5x30s clock. Occasionally I won, lost most of the time. I just assumed everyone is bad when you start out and you have to push through it. One week turned into 3 weeks turned into 6 weeks and I was done. I was also doing a Ph.D. in cancer cell biology so spending my limited free time banging my head against a wall carried ZERO appeal so I quit.

Came back a few years later this time I bought a bunch of books (Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go, A Second Book of Go, bunch of problem books–opening, life and death, several “Mastering the Basics Series”, couple from the “Elementary Go Series”). Read Lessons and A Second Book and worked about 25% of the problem book on opening and then jumped back on KGS. Grind out to about 22k (2.5 months) and then quit. For me winning at 20-something kyu was not fun. I didn’t feel like I played better than my opponent and so won the game, it just felt like I got lucky.

This time came back when Twitch had the AGA Masters on. Thought “third time’s a charm?”. Not so much, so far.

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Shoes? No. To be a go player means you’re walking around barefoot. In the beginning even walking over dry grass hurts, but then you set goals like sdk and you find yourself having to pass through the remains of a bone-dry harvested cornfield. So you develop some thickness along the way but that doesn’t prepare you for your next goal, the long road of hot gravel that leads to dan level. If you have any kind of social life, you won’t even be able to make enough time just to play, much less practice regularly.

To improve you need iron will, countless hours and you have to be able to take a lot of punishment.

To enjoy the game,… it’s probably best not to try to improve? Find people you like and play friendly games with them, I suppose that’s the only way for most casuals people to really enjoy it.


Well said. Try to have fun, and you will improve.

Even better said. Hey guys (or gals), you need to find a club or something and play IRL. This is not a video game, at least not at a primary level. At least these are my 2c.


Learning Go is just like learning any other ‘hard’ skill. I like comparing learning Go to learning the piano (mostly since I have mastered playing piano to a degree where it’s nothing but fun to play, something which I’m glad my parents forced me to do until I got to the point where it became fun). Equivalently you could compare it to any other skill, like sports, painting, or being an expert on cancer research (because I guess that you have fun in studying that if you’ve completed a PhD in the subject)

At the beginning it’s almost impossible to do anything that’s fun, since any piece you play is inherently uninteresting. It’s no surprise, since you need to learn how to control your fingers in a very precise manner and you probably need secondary skills like reading or listening in order to learn new music. After you have managed to learn those things to a certain degree, you can try incorporating “fun” into it, for example by challenging yourself to play music that’s actually beautiful, or by learning how to improvise or compose. Actually in my experience, you don’t even have to put effort into the “fun” part: it just starts happening to be fun by itself after a certain moment.

The analogy with Go is quite accurate in a way, you need to learn how to control your stones (capturing, eyes, that kind of jazz) in a precise manner and you will eventually need secondary skills (appropriately still called reading and counting). When you’re ready for it, you can start learning actual ‘pieces’ by studying joseki or professional games, and improvising is easily translatable to Go as well. And just like with playing the piano, after a certain moment, it just starts being fun. But yes, it takes an enormous amount of time and hard work before that happens.

Yet another thing that’s similar: l bet you that you’ll never feel like you’re a “good” player: there will always be someone who is a way better player and you will always feel like you’ve just scratched the surface of being a beginner.

Nevertheless, even if you don’t have control over your fingers / stones, it can still be a lot of fun to play if you let go of your more competitive side, and just try to enjoy the game. Don’t try to win against stronger opponents, instead give yourself a smaller goal, like capturing a significant group, or securing a corner, and try to enjoy just that. Winning does not necessarily equal fun. (contrarily, close games that can be lost at any moment are way more fun!)


I had fun with go pretty much right from the start. That’s not to say that being a beginner wasn’t frustrating, but overall the enjoyment outweighed the misery of playing stupid moves and seeing my walls getting cut apart.

I still make stupid mistakes, and I still have fun. If I didn’t, I’d probably stop playing.


I would guess the only go players not feeling incompetent most of the time are those who are extremely incompetent! :wink:


I can relate to the comparison. I entered college as a classical guitar major.


Edit: Whoops, misjudged your comment by a double negative…

This is a known phenomenon though (the self-misjudging part, not my misjudging) called the Dunning-Kruger effect.


“[I]n the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

  • Bertrand Russell, The Triumph of Stupidity, 1933

“modern” is the only thing he got wrong, I’m sure it’s timeless

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W.B. Yeats had it even earlier:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
—from The Second Coming, 1919

I wonder if this was a common sort of aphorism of the early 20th century UK, or if Russell was borrowing from Yeats.

Sorry to go completely off on a tangent here. The quote interested me.


“Good artists steal, bad artists borrow.”

  • Harry Chapin

Thanks for the feedback. What I’m hearing is that you pretty much have to devote a large part of your life to Go to be good (good = amateur dan). Will and thick skin I have, countless hours I do not.

Thanks again.

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I believe it can be traced back to Confucius (~500BC):

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Or otherwise Socrates (~450BC):

I know that I know nothing


You need to devote plenty into becoming strong, indeed, for having fun in playing Go, I think 20k is more than sufficient already.


I’m just a beginner myself, and have started and stopped several times. The last time was the first time I tried to improve. I lasted maybe 4 months before getting burned out. This time I’m trying to do things differently and I’m trying to keep updating my goals and methods in light of how current efforts are making me feel while playing.

Goal #1 isn’t to become good, but to get to a point where it’s fun. And I find that this is already the case some of the time. And that isn’t reliant upon victories. There’s a stronger correlation with a social element. When I’m playing someone I’ve gotten to know a little and chat with a bit, then it goes better.

Goal #2 is to improve. And that’s really flipping hard. And I don’t think a month or two here and there is enough to make any progress on this goal. So, back to Goal #1 and pay some lip-service to trying to improve by reading books when I have time, doing tsumego for as long as they’re fun, watch videos if I feel like it. But mostly, just trying to be up for playing as often as possible and trying to find something to improve on from recent games.


Yeah, I quote that bit of The Trial of Socrates pretty frequently. The key wisdom is ages old, but the form of best/worst doubtful/cocksure seemed a bit particular to me. Good stuff for any age, no doubt.

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If you want to be dan, yes you have to devote a good part of your life to study.

And if that’s what you’re after, then why start playing a game which has been around for thousands of years with a long history of professional play? Or any game with professionals, period.

If you just want to have fun, then I’d say the feeling of luckiness from being a 20k is fun.

I also see that you’ve only played 5 games on the site, which isn’t much for getting a good feeling of the game. Most people recommend 50-100 games to figure out how it all works (I recommend 9x9 blitz to get this quickly). Also, people tell me that the Interactive Way to Go (which requires flash, so I recommend using Firefox to do this) gives you a good idea of what’s going on in a game, if you haven’t done so already. It only takes 1-1.5 hrs to complete, and got me to 20k first time, 18k second time, and that’s when I had the most fun playing.

After that, you can just play for fun, most of the games you play will be giant fights to kill (most of which are unnecessary) and you have two routes:

  1. you can get better at fighting by reading books on Tesuji (not recommended, but I imagine it’s more fun)
  2. you can figure out when to fight and when not to fight by reading Attack and Defense (and read it again and again until you reach a high level, probably sprinkle in an opening or tesuji book in there) but don’t stop playing while you do this, or it won’t sink in

But definitely find live opponents. Games done in person are often the most fun. Find a Go club near you and see if you can ever show up.