My Learning Journey

As a very recent beginner of the game I thought I might document my learning journey in the hope that it might help other beginners, and if any others have any criticisms/ comments that would be most welcome.

My starting point was “Learn to Play Go” volume 1 by Janice Kim - I bought the book 20 years ago and didn’t get very far with it, and never played a game - so I guess this isn’t the best advert for the book.

What I really struggled with, and am still not clear how to properly explain is how the game ends, and especially how (when two beginners are trying to start playing) you deal with the situation that you resolve a disagreement on what are dead stones.

Anyway I was lucky enough to meet another player a couple of weeks ago who explained how the game works and the gave me a couple of games.

He pointed me in this direction and suggested reading 81 lions:

I used to play a lot of chess and the best way to improve there is to review your games - same I think applies to this, so I’m trying to keep the habit of reviewing my games. I’m trying to find mistakes without the use of the computer, which isn’t easy, but just relying on the computer to point out your mistakes I don’t think is nearly as effective - particularly when you play the early games many mistakes are just missing the fact you can be taken, and you shouldn’t need a computer to spot these.

I’m also using “GoChild” -

Practising these tactics I assume will make a significant difference in the ability to spot tactics, and start understanding life and death, what shapes are dangerous etc etc its already leading to tangible benefits where I’m now able to play moves I wouldn’t have even thought of.

In the short term I’m planning on just solving the 900 Basic problems a few times until I “see” the solution rather than having to calculate it.

I’m solely playing 9x9 at the moment - not sure quite when I should transition up to the next level.

So two weeks in thats where I am now - I’ve got just broken through to 20k. Plan is to reread 81 lions a couple of times, keep up the tactics, and read some of the thread suggestions I’ve received in a previous post.


So two weeks later and I thought I would try to sum up some of the lessons I have learnt.

I will use a game to show what some of the very early elements of the game I have learnt (please note this is not to suggest the game was a model, but just it illustrates my understanding of the game at the very earliest stages of my playing)

  1. the importance of trying to keep you stones connected. When you first start you have literally no bearings for deciding where to place your stones. Generally speaking in 9x9 I think as a first step, trying to keep you stones close to each other makes a lot of sense. Initially I was simply placing them next to each other, but being ‘connected’ is more complex than this, and one or two gaps between the stones still can keep them connected.
  2. Try and stop your opponent connected - in the game the stones on C7 and D7 became disconnected
  3. Try and visualise your territory - its very easy to just throw the stones down, but if you try and look at the whole board you can try and segment the board into your territory, their territory and unclaimed. I think looking to expand into the unclaimed bit whilst maintaining connection to your existing stones can be a good direction in selecting your next move.
  4. Dealing with invasions - I lost a lot of games early on by not immediately going after an invasion into my territory. Now unless it is very clear the opponent can’t live, I will attack their invasion and not pass.

Changing tack, one piece of advice I was given was to post games for review - I can only reiterate this. I posted my first game yesterday and was very lucky to get really instructive feedback, going through a game where a player explains his thinking really changes one’s understanding of the game.

Legault’s review of my game is really instructive -

He also introduced me to

Its an alternative to Go Child from my first post. I quite like it, and am focusing on that. It starts at the real basics, and you can quickly whizz through a number of very simple puzzles to build vision.

Doing puzzles is clearly helping me - I’m making far fewer howlers and starting to see when I can kill villains groups which would otherwise have lived.

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