New player looking for a teaching game to help me learn and avoid pitfalls and stop loosing so much
I’ve been playing go for about 4½ months now. I am always trying to improve and I’ve found some good Go related learning resources. I’m not sure if these will be helpful to you or not, but I figured sharing them with other players couldn’t hurt. If I make a friend or study buddy along the way, then even better. So here I go =)
If you are just getting started, there is a free book available from the American Go Association, The Way To Go. It helped me understand how to play Go in the beginning. If you prefer, there is also a wonderful Go tutorial online, The Interactive Way To Go. Finally, if video is your preferred vehicle for learning, I’ve gathered helpful 9x9 Go videos on YouTube.
One thing you should prepare yourself for, concerning the progression of you own skill, is how a person achieves progress in the game of Go. When you begin, you approach the game as you would any other. You try to understand the rules, you play, and you hope you will achieve victory. However, victory in Go is directly related to your ability to recognize patterns of stones on the board. There is a famous go proverb that goes something like this: “When you begin Go, lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible.”
When you first begin, you are guaranteed to lose repeatedly. In the beginning, Go can be a very confusing game. You will likely struggle at recognizing when a game is over, often feeling unsure of when it is safe to Pass. You probably don’t have a clue how the score is counted and most of your games will be losses. Other players seemingly know something that you don’t, as you try your hardest but continually fall short. The best way to get started with Go is to simply witness the game being played. I personally lost my first 50 games. After my first victory I swear it was another 50 before I won a second time.
Progress in Go, at the most basic level, is measured by how many patterns your brain can recognize. You lose heavily when you first start out because the people you are facing are able to recognize more patterns on the board than you can. Their experience has taught them to recognize certain shapes and configurations of stones and how to respond to them effectively. As your own mental database grows, so does your ability to defend yourself. In time, so will your ability to exploit the weak patterns of other players. As you lose, pay attention to how you lose, and you can make these initial losses work for you in future games. Monkey see, monkey do.
Getting better takes a lot of practice. Just playing a lot of games will help you grow. Losing is learning, so try not to get emotionally invested in winning. Losing teaches us a lot of useful lessons. In fact, we learn far more about ourselves and gameplay when we lose, compared to winning. When you first begin your rank is likely to go up and down repeatedly. You’ll get strong in one play style, win often, your rank will grow, and then new opponents will test that style and punch holes in it. To further grow in skill, you will have to try new approaches, techniques, stone placement strategies, etc…, and as you do your rank will plummet as you attempt to formulate new play styles.
As these styles get stronger, you will begin to rise in rank again. Only to get high enough that opponents put you through your paces, just like before, and you will need to expand what you know all over again. This is the cycle of growth in Go. So take your rank with a grain of salt. It does not represent who you are or what you are ultimately capable of. It represents a general idea of what you know and what experience you have gained up to this point in your journey with Go, compared to other players. Whether you win or lose does not matter. You are only ever competing against yourself and to expand your knowledge of the game. Winning is only ever evidence that you have learned something meaningful along the way.
I learned a great deal about how to play better by playing Correspondence games and using the Analyze Game tool on OGS. I try to predict how the game might play out. I try several possibilities, playing 15 to 30 moves for each variation. Then I play the first move from the best variation. It teaches me to "read the board" better (predict how the game is most likely to progress). Also, it teaches me a lot about what kinds of move tactics and stone placement patterns fail the most and why. I cannot recommend it enough.
For the 9x9 board, practicing Go Problems is the most efficient and quickest way to train your mind to “read”. Recognizing common stone patterns and how to beat them is a big part of getting better at Go. I recommend Cho Chikun’s Encyclopedia of Life and Death. It starts at beginner level and progressively gets harder. When it gets too hard, you can just start over from scratch, working through them again. Each time you do this you should be able to go further than you did before. There is definitely a proper way to do Tsumego, and a wonderful treatment of that topic can be found in the free Go book, 81 Little Lions: An Introduction to the 9x9 Board for Advanced Beginners, by Immanuel deVillers, page 20. This book is a gem and I recommend you give it a look. If you are the reading type, there is another free book aimed at beginners that you might want to check out River Mountain Go, Volume 1. It is aimed at the 30K - 20K player, though the writing is not as eloquent as Mr. deVillers book.
One final bit of advice that I will leave you with, is to begin analyzing your own games. When you lose a game, especially games where you feel you were utterly destroyed by your opponent, go back to the beginning and watch the game unfold, move by move. It usually isn’t too hard to see when a particular move you play ends up giving the enemy a strong advantage. Whether it be they invaded you, you left an opening in your defense that they exploited, or you wasted stones trying to achieve a goal, like capturing a group, while your opponent took advantage of your distraction; building the framework of your defeat. You don’t have to spend much time doing this, but if you take the time, it will be possible for you to begin identifying your weaknesses as a player and with your tactics.
I actually really enjoy teaching newer players. Personally, I find Correspondence is a much better format than Live is, for teaching as play progresses. My time is fragmented throughout the day and I find it hard to predict when I will be available online. My username is Mulsiphix, I’m rated at 15Kyu, and I currently only play on the 9x9 board. If you would like to play a Correspondence game with me, I would be happy to do a teaching game with you.
Since a Correspondence game is more forgiving of me time wise, I could make comments and answer questions while we played. I can create and share multiple variations with you concerning ways to handle places in the match where multiple possibilities existed for you. You could use the Undo Move feature to allow you to try a different move when you make a mistakes. Of course, we can take the time to discuss mistakes and what could have been done to avoid them, or what moves you could play after a mistake to make the best out of a poor situation. If you’d prefer to just play a match and review the game afterwards, we certainly could do that too.
I wish you the best of luck on your Go journey. Please feel free to friend me and challenge me to a game in the future ^_-. I love 9x9 Correspondence games. I also organize a lot of 9x9 tournaments for Chinese Rules in my OGS group Chinese Tournaments, if you are interested. We have a lot of players in the 15K to 25K range =). Take care and I wish you the best of luck!
Here are a few other interesting sources for learning about Go:
Thank you so much. Very encouraging words. It is very frustrating to keep loosing again and again but the way you describe how to deal with it makes a lot of sense and reassurance to just keep practicing and not get demoralized.I really love the game and just have to rethink how I take loosing that it is building towards something. BTW I sent you a challenge for a 9x9 board.
Most beginners will stabilize at a winrate of about 30% unless they put in a lot of hours, so technically you only need to worry about roughly every 4th loss in a row.
When I began Go I got demoralized really quickly. It was 50-ish games until I won my first match, and I was playing against children. Then again, we were all figuring out the rules, so none among us knew what we were doing. Regardless, I was always on the losing end. Statistically I should have had some wins in there . After my first win, it was another 50-ish until I had my second.
Around my 70th match I picked up the AGA book, The Way To Go. Then we all knew how to play, but I simply couldn’t figure out how the game was being scored. It was around my 100th game that I hopped onto OGS. I won a couple of games, but I lost 20 for those two. Finally I read the Chinese rules online and started playing Chinese games. Now that I could count I had a fighting chance. From that point forward I began winning 30% to 40% of my games and I have only improved since.
It feels humiliating to admit this in public, but that was my journey. I don’t know what it was about Go but it truly took me a little while to wrap my head around it. During that time I developed a bit of a complex about losing. My sons shot up to the 20K - 22K ranks pretty fast and I continued to struggle to move past 24K. My rank became such a sore point for me that playing Go felt toxic. I felt like less and I was so flustered and frustrated. I began researching how progression in Go skills worked and looking for conversations on the topic.
During that time I found a Case Study performed on Go players that tried to analyze how playing Go affected the brain. It stated that when emotional states were negative or the brain was frustrated, a players ability would tank. That the type of analytical thinking that Go requires also requires the player to be clear headed and focused. I realized then that the state I was in was probably the biggest hurdle that I faced. The more I looked at advice from better players to new players, the more I saw the pattern of “take it easy”, “don’t sweat your rank”, and “you really don’t learn anything when you win, so don’t sweat your losses”.
So I stopped playing ranked games for a while, so that I didn’t focus on it anymore. After a little time I would start again. A little bit after I would notice myself getting emotionally attached to my rank and equating it’s value to my own capabilities and worth. I had this on and off again relationship with it a while and eventually the advice I had read really sunk in. Now if I catch myself worried about my rank, I will play during times I feel like I cannot give the game my full attention. I do this to tank my rank so that I can stop worrying about losing it. Once it is lost, the feelings subside and I go back to playing matches with little to no care.
Go has been this really crazy ride for me in the sense that it has helped me to learn humility. I’ve been competitive in past hobbies and activities and have enjoyed a lot of success. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to get away from that mentality, as I came to realize that to be number one, I had to live a pretty single minded existence. Now that I am older and have a family, I strive to be more flexible and to take things more casually. Old habits die hard though. I still struggle a little here and there with my rank, but I’m happier playing and more interested in Go than I have ever been.
I share this information with you in hopes that if you struggle in any way with your rank, to know that you are not alone. And if you don’t, as a cautionary reminder of what caring about it too much, might lead to if you aren’t able to reign it in .
If you are interested, there is this site where strong player used to review weaker player’s game. Though the site is not active anymore, they still keep an archive of a lot of reviewed games.
From the site:
The Go Teaching Ladder was a site where people could request reviews of their games from stronger players. The GTL was created in March 1994 and its active part shut down in April 2016, 22 years and 10.000 reviews after it first opened its doors.
Thanks to all our players, reviewers, and visitors. You made the GTL amazing. Thanks for being such a great community. We wish you all the best in go and in life.
/Arno, Matthias, Jon, and all other GTL admins past & present. The archive will remain online for the forseeable future - enjoy.