Newbie: Learning Go?

I have been trying to learn Go for literally years. I still do not get it, but there is a good reason I just realized. All teaching of Go is done by “Correct” / “Incorrect” messages. If I hit upon the “right” placement of the stone, then it is “Correct.” Otherwise it is “Incorrect.” Great – except that I have no clue why a particular stone placement is correct or incorrect. I cannot see any mental process going on, complete lack of the “why.” I have two goals:

  1. I am looking for an Android App that would do exactly that: tell me why certain placement of a stone is correct. Knowing what would be incorrect and he reasoning behind would be great as well, but I am trying to limit my needs.

  2. I am looking for any other help with understanding Go. I feel like I am stumbling in a darkened room when it comes to Go, while I can hear others just walk through it confidently. So any help with this would be very much appreciated.

So if you can please help me reach these two goals, I would be very grateful.
Kurt, the Big Lame Bear


Explaining why and exposing/explaining the mental process behind why some move is good or bad is really the hard part. I don’t know of any software that does a good job of that.

There are a variety of good beginner guides and material. Some might be found here #go-resources and here:

I expect that many others will soon post other helpful links.

You can also use these forums to find someone to give you a teaching game #teaching:teaching-games


Welcome BigLameBear!
Ok go is difficult but if this can make you feel better we all had some difficult start too, and if you persists, you’ll get into some wonderful lands.

So a big part of first steps can’t really be explained. You can try simpler introducing games, like capturing game (who capture the most stones) and what you will discover will be useful to play go later.

For the flow and the goal of the game you can just watch or replay some finished games here to get an idea, even if you don’t understand the underlying mechanism.

Some well-done go problems contain the refutation of each failures…

Now if you still have difficulty you may try to find players in the real life (some go meeting near you, the go federation of your country usually keeps an updated list) because I think it’s much easier to learn the game like this.

Have fun!

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What do the colors of users names mean and how do you get them?

Do you mean on the main site?

Here is what I can think of off the top of my head…

  • Blue (most people) – regular user that does not fall into another category
  • Gold – site supporter (you can get this by donating)
  • Gray – bot account (only for accounts used to host AI)
  • Purple – moderator (only applies to site staff, of course)
  • Green – professional player (need to go pro for that)
  • Orange/brown* – AGA staff (need to become part of AGA staff)

*the description of this color is a contentious issue


AI: artificial intelligence (go software run by computers)
pro: professional go players (status given by national professional organization, mostly in Asian countries but not only)
AGA: American go association, the main go association of USA.


Well , I think this is a big fail.

There’s nothing definitely right or wrong in any move.
As an example, playing on the first line is usually bad, but sometimes is good and in few cases it’s mandatory to survive.
Another example: you don’t want to throw stones in your opponent’s territory because you’ll lose them, but in some cases a throw-in stone can kill a group.

Moreover: good moves for a kyu player can be slow or slack for a stronger player. And good moves for a strong player can be not-so-good for a pro.

So you can’t just learn what’s right and what’s wrong. You have to manage your game at your pace and your skill.
Weak players make a lot of mistakes. Playing against other weak players they have the chance to fight for win. Playing against slightly stronger players they can see why their moves don’t work.

Just avoid playing against much stronger opponents unless it’s a teaching game.

You have no games at all here on OGS.
Please, play few games against human players to set your starting rank.
Then you’ll be able to find a good match in strength for your games and some teaching game to improve (just ask for them here in the forum).

We all play because we enjoy it. Don’t crush your head against abstract rules: just play and have fun!


This is a surprisingly big demand :smiley: BUT (and sorry for promoting my own stuff) we partly tried to do that in the It is only limited to the few basic concepts where we tried to explain both good and bad moves in the interractive puzzles. It is far from an exhaustive list of all the possible moves and situations, but pehaps it could be a start. It is also not an app, but the web should work decently on your smartphone if you can access the internet.

There is lots of ways, and hard to guess which would be the best suited for you. I can’t see any games connected with your account, so maybe you played elsewhere? Personally I still believe into the old: “Play a lot of games” and “have some reviewed”.
Pick one of the games you have played recently, ideally one where you had reasonable time to think (not blitz), one that was more or less against a similarily strong opponent, and one that you lost but are not exactly sure why or when. Just give us the link here and we will be happy to review it and perhaps we will stumble onto one of the missing pieces :).

Welcome to OGS


You are probably correct, but how would you do it otherwise?

Are we talking about “all teaching of Go” or maybe more about how go problems are presented? Life and death problems are usually given as correct/incorrect but it’s not always obvious why a move works or not.

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True. I think that many writers who present L&D problems assume that their readers / problem solvers have a certain strength and that they are able to discover themselves why a move works or not.
Providing the readers with too many easily available solutions for why a move does (not) work, will make the readers lazy. The most effective way of learning is discovering it yourself, not reading a ready made solution.

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My main principle in Go is: what is good for you today won’t be that good tomorrow.
Through learning you discover that your old beliefs where wrong or, at least, just a part of the whole thing.
So a TPK needs knowledge that is weak and slack for a SDK but is good for him and lets him grow to the next stage.

The goal for a teacher (or a teaching friend) should be to listen, observe, evaluate and then suggest some weaknesses to work on.
But obviously a book can’t do that.


Tactics and life-and-death problems are by their nature binary: this is right and that is wrong. With these, the key is to learn the structures involved.

However, I think you are really referring to strategy. As others have noted, this is very difficult; it is a lifelong study, which makes the game fascinating. At the most general level, a move is stronger if it does more than one thing at a time (e.g., threatening your opponent and strengthening your position at the same time). There are also priorities: URGENT (the immediate safety of an important group or territory) is more important than BIG (a move that accomplishes a lot, such as securing a large territory). SENTE (moves that retain the initiative by forcing a response) is preferable to GOTE (moves that lose the initiative), unless there is an overriding reason, such as urgency. Yes, it is very complicated.

In addition to the recommendations that others have made, I suggest watching Dwyrin’s Back to Basics series on YouTube. Also, although some players disagree, I think it is useful to progress from 9x9, to 13x13, to 19x19. The big board is daunting, and I think it becomes less imposing if you first become comfortable with the smaller boards.


Thank you

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Calling @tonybe to link his brilliant beginner-focused teaching threads.

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Hello BigLameBear

I really identify with your struggle to wrap your head around this tangled and complex game. The problem here is you have to “un-ask the question” – to borrow a term from Zen Buddhism.

You’re thinking about Go as a game where there is always One Right Answer. And there is a limited context where that might apply - usually in very high level games where both players have achieved a high degree of mastery.

For beginner and intermediate players, it’s much more useful to think of Go as a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where you always have 4 or 5 options available to you, with varying degrees of risk/reward and complexity attached. Choosing the appropriate fork in each part of the story then becomes a matter of

  1. what sort of complexity / risk are you comfortable with, and
  2. can you actually execute the plans you see in your mind?

The short answer to your question is that there are computer programs that will examine a given board position, and provide you with a range of responses, including what the computer thinks is the “best” response. However, these programs are complex enough that they won’t really fit on your smartphone - you’re going to be looking at desktop computer programs due to the processor/memory requirements. Here are my two favorites:

Katrain (here’s a nice OGS thread about it with images:) KaTrain: AI analysis/playing/teaching tool based on KataGo

The desktop version of Leela:

Both of these programs will give you a heatmap of possible responses to a given board position. Katrain will even provide you with a 10-move look-ahead to give you some idea of what the consequences of each move might be.

The PROBLEM is - these AI teachers are providing the beginner with very high level instruction. In the Choose Your Own Adventure metaphor, they are encouraging the beginning player to try out strategies that might be much more complex and risky than you’ll be able to understand. Katrain has some neat settings you can tweak in this regard, but - in general - it will take you some time to digest their guidance, and apply it to your own level of learning.

For me, the thing that made the biggest difference was learning to see the interactions of individual stones and groups on the board in terms of the risk and opportunity available at that moment. Think of it as learning a new language. Until you begin understanding the MEANING of various stone placements, you don’t know whether it’s time to attack, or defend, or play somewhere else. You’ll keep doing the “right things at the wrong time” and not understanding where things went wrong.

I’ve been writing these 19x19 for Beginners articles for a while, trying to help folks learn the language of the game. In order to really benefit from the teaching that these AI are going to try to give you, I would encourage you to read them and try to grasp the fundamentals of

  • what are the various goals you’re trying to accomplish in the game
  • paying attention to the interplay of sente / gote and knowing when breaking that order is worth the risk
  • settling your stones or leaving things unsettled for a good reason
  • knowing which opportunities on the board are bigger than others.

Here are the 4 articles I’ve written so far:

Hopefully, once you begin learning this new way of seeing the board, the underlying reasons for each given move will start making more sense, and you can begin to digest the lessons that the AI are trying to teach you, and be more selective about which branch of the Choose Your Own Adventure story you’re comfortable exploring.

Good luck!


Correct/incorrect are difficult things to define automatically, let alone reason about.
A teacher can call the top AI move (say, a 3-3 invasion) ‘wrong’ in teaching a 20k player, and be correct about it. Teaching a computer to teach this way is very very difficult.

In making KaTrain I thought a lot on how to give useful feedback automaticallly, but in the end I think my principles are fairly basic:

  • Focus not on the ‘top move’ AI recommends, but try to find an alternative move that is ‘good enough’ and you like and can understand.
  • In understanding why an AI says a move loses 15 points, just play against it for a bit in several sequences, see the consequences and watch the ownership prediction change.
  • When things look too complicated, just move on. Your goal in review is not to correct all your mistakes forever.


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I am not good enough to play even beginners. Any places for toddlers?

Thank you, @tonybe! I have tried everything I know and I do not need AI to beat me. Randomly placing the stones would be plenty to beat me. :frowning:

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