Not getting better

I mentioned all of them in my post above, but I’ll link them this time: Aside from as the most instructive interactive introduction, I consider River Mountain Go 1 and RMG2 to be the best free books for beginners. Shape Up! is great, but it’s not meant to be an introductory text.


@smurph, I’m Brazilian but I can understand English despite having been to school. Most in my country can’t, however, so, if they want to learn about Go beyond the introductory level (The Interactive Way to Go and OGS’s tutorial are both available in our native language), the only option would probably be the translation of the Nihon Ki-in’s Go: The Most Fascinating Game in the World—which is hard to find: I’ve found a single offering for it, its two volumes costing around U$ 80.00 plus shipping at a used bookstore online.

What you referred to as an exposé is actually A Go Guide From a Beginner’s introduction, in which the author, Haris Kapolos, presents the reasons for his deciding to write the book, the first and foremost being that the situation in Greece, when it comes to resources about Go, is similar to my country’s. Given that, not only did he want to offer a book written in his own native language, but he also wanted to make it available in as many languages as possible—for free.

I am sure most people would agree that the idea is commendable. As for the execution, of course there will be imperfections: the author himself makes it clear that he is not a professional or a high-dan-level player—and he did the whole thing alone. But the book is a work in progress, and the whole point of the project is the ease to make changes as the need for them becomes evident.

I’m translating the book into Brazilian Portuguese and, since I’m one of them meddling kids, I’ve made a number of suggestions concerning the original text and the overall project and there hasn’t been a single instance when said ideas were met with disregard or a straightaway refusal to change things. So, the author is approachable.

(In fact, the only idea I presented so far that hasn’t been implemented was a minor one: using the convention, seen for instance in Janice Kim’s Learn to Play Go series, of using masculine and feminine pronouns to refer to Black and White respectively, but while Kapolos chose not to go with it in the English version, explaining to me why, he said that I was free to use that in the translation and make other changes that I deemed fit.)

I can’t offer suggestions about things like how the book could or should be otherwise structured or which subjects could or should be approached first and so on—I’ve been playing Go for little over two months and I’m currently ranked as 20k, so I don’t know better (and sutor, ne ultra crepidam)—but Kapolos would surely welcome, and thoroughly consider, any recommendations made by an advanced player such as yourself. Even if someone can’t, or would rather not, participate in any of the translations, feedback would be much appreciated.

Anyway, to conclude my deviation from the thread’s subject: I will pass along your suggestions to Kapolos. While my involvement with the project is as a translator, I’m personally grateful for anyone who helps improving the book—after all, if for nothing else, that would benefit Brazilian readers as well. So, thank you (and @Animiral) for the points you presented and, in advance, for anything further you might wish to contribute.



But it was written by an amateur Go player and probably not thoroughly edited/vetted.

Indeed it does have this problem, but the target group is beginners and people who want to get to SDK. It is my hope that people will send me feedback so I can make the content more accurate or correct any proof-readable mistakes.

Skip the chapters on joseki and fuseki (opening patterns) as they are mostly last-century obsolete.

This is done by design … I could have gotten into the AlhpaGo patterns and plays, but those are currently being explored by professionals and, let us face it, a lot of the AI moves we simply do not fully understand.

So, I wanted to get to the basics, things that everyone - at any level - should grasp with relative ease :slight_smile:

This is why stronger players will tell you to learn from patterns, but not to learn patterns (by rote)

I am sorry if I conveyed such a thing, but I explicitly say around three times that joseki and fuseki are not to be memorised, but understood. If you learn things “as they are” you get weaker … if you understand why those particular moves where chosen and not others, you get stronger. Or, at least, that is what I think and worked for me.

That is why simply joseki take up pages to explain and I honestly cannot come up with more ways to explain those moves.

Thank you for giving my book a shot and please, if you find ANY mistakes or if you have any suggestions, please send them along, I can correct mistakes very fast and I do upload new versions of the book almost every month.

Have a nice day!



The ‘book’ starts off with a 12-page exposé on… something.

Excuse me, but you are counting in those 12 pages the index and pages “intentionally left blank” which is obviously not correct … out of the whole book (192 pages) only pages 1 and 2 in the beginning and 191 and 192 in the end are not strictly Go related. I really do not think that having a 2 pages introduction and explanation, as well as an 1 page outro and an “about the author” is really that bad form.

Every book I’ve ever read has those, so I didn’t think it was “bad form”. Besides, as you said, they can be easily skipped :slight_smile:

If a stone has empty intersections next to it [see diagram x]
Badly copypasted diagrams that are way too crowded for beginners to make sense of

Indeed there is no [see diagram x] in my book and this is by design .
I dislike the usual form where the text is crammed in one place of the book, all the diagrams are in the side and are referenced, forcing you to stop reading and try to look for (and through) diagrams and then try to return back to the point.

I, as a reader, would have liked a book where the diagram and its text are one and the same. That might look cluttered, but at least this way the reader knows what the diagram is all about. So, that is how I made the whole thing. I understand that it veers quite a lot from the traditional Go book standard, but I believe it is more easy to understand this way.

The diagrams do get better and more “zoomed out” after chapter one, btw :slight_smile: In the first chapter they are indeed a bit messy, mostly due to trying to zoom in on specific shapes and concepts that are being talked about.

elementary life and death is tackled in chapter 6 (pdf-page 149!)… it just doesn’t make any sense

But how could I talk about life and death without explaining shapes first ? And invasions and fighting and some basic tesuji ? If you have an alternative, I’d be very happy to implement it, but I think that, as a beginner myself, there are more basic things to learn, before dwelving into life and death.

“rare case of dual life” is in fact so rare that even this contrived example doesn’t qualify

If it is not dual life, please explain it to me and I will change the diagram :slight_smile:

“White…ignores…and win[s] the ko fight” - No, no white doesn’t win that ko fight. It’s now another ko.).

Well, White does fill the liberty and wins that Ko fight, does he not … should I have honestly told people in page 13 that “later on, Black can force another Ko fight and kill this group” ? At this point, presumably, the reader barely knows the rules and the next Ko, which I assume you are talking about, could have been missed by most DDK players.

Did I mention that it’s also a bad idea for the ‘author’ to claim copyright, considering he’s breaching copyright by using KGS graphics?

Ehm, sorry but before laying such heavy accusations have you considered that I might have emailed them before publishing the book and that I do credit the KGS free client for being used in all diagrams?

Given this opportunity I want to add I was very careful not to offend anyone with usage of outside materials that is why all the diagrams come from my personal games in DGS and the only images within the book are the photograph by Ailin Hsiao in page 5 (which is credited and I contacted her about it both before and after the book was made) and the image of Yasutoshi Yasuda from the public profile of the Nihon Kiin.

I am not a professional author, so if I made some mistake by taking an ISBN, please let me know.

Thank you for your feedback, I hope that some of my explanations for my choices where satisfactory. If you find any mistakes and you have any other suggestions, please contact me via the book’s website contact form or though OGS messages to exchange emails and we can discuss them.

Have a nice day :slight_smile:


They get the struggles and haven’t forgotten yet the stupid questions of “huh?!” levels.

How can I forget ? I go “huh?!” every day and that is the magic of the game :smiley:

Incidentally, in the book, whenever you see a player making a huge mistake or a blunder, that players is usually me. Which is the underlying message: we can get better!

I am happy you are finding the book useful. If you spot any mistakes, please let me know.

Be well!


Dear @JethOrensin,

I appreciate that you are actively looking for feedback. :slight_smile:

If there is one suggestion that I can make right away, especially since you are seeking contributors, it would be to change the license. In the first line, you write that you hold the copyright and that the book may not be reproduced or used in any manner without your approval. I would not give my own time to an educational effort with such a hostile attitude.

Why not put it under Creative Commons instead? That way, you reassure your future contributors that your collective work will always be available to everyone and under what terms (e.g. noncommercial).

I disagree vehemently with this. The old openings are not easier or more basic than more recent ones. Neither are the moves of AlphaGo generally hard to understand. I wonder which specific examples you have in mind here.

Maybe your point is that when you show a beginner a modern variation of the star point invasion on 3-3, they will not understand the implications of every move. Well, neither will it help them to explain the idea of the Kobayashi opening as conceived by professionals in the 80s and their counter-strategy from the 90s. Stick to general opening principles. If you need an example, choose a contemporary pattern of which we can say confidently that it is balanced, like Orthodox with a large enclosure.


Yes, I understand all those caveats, and after all I’m not critiquing any other than the English version. Obviously the structural weakness doesn’t depend on language, though.

If I were to write an introductory book on Go, this is how I would structure it:

  1. List all topics I want to cover
  2. Prepare a second list with all related elements I can think of
  3. Work out -per element- which other elements are required in order to explain it = create a ‘precedence table’
  4. Translate precedence table into a logically coherent order of topics

Reply to J.O.'s post coming up.


I would not give my own time to an educational effort with such a hostile attitude.

As I mentioned in another post above, I am not a professional writter, so for such typical stuff I just went along with the flow, found a typical disclaimer and just used it. Most of the books I read, have it or something similar, so I thought that this was something standard. Apparently I was wrong, so …

Why not put it under Creative Commons instead?

I will check it out and see what I can do, though taking that ISBN cost me a lot of time and some money.
In the end of the day I fully explain the purposes of the project in the webpage and the book is free to download, so I am a bit perplexed why this is an issue. In any case, I will look into it :slight_smile:

The old openings are not easier or more basic than more recent ones.

Well, the ones I used are as basic as it gets (e.g. the usual approach joseki of a 4-4 corner, the 3-3 invasion, the forth line approach to the 3-4 opening etc). I didn’t go for taisha, magic swords or avalanches.

Well, neither will it help them to explain the idea of the Kobayashi opening as conceived by professionals in the 80s and their counter-strategy from the 90s.

No argument there, but we have to keep in mind that most of those issues are so large that they have had dedicated books only for those subjects. Granted, I was unable to explain all the intricacies of the Kobayashi fuseki (not that I claim to understand all of them, but I didn’t even cover all the things that I do understand), but having first presented the “usual” approach joseki to the 3-4 opening, I was able to demonstrate what the main trap of the fuseki was about. That was my goal, after all. ( page 86 to page 92 or page 93 to 99 in the pdf pagecount )

Of course there were some solutions back then (I analysed one) and AlphaGo now has found even better refutations of the fuseki (Nick Sibicky made a video about it recently). The human solution is not “the best” but it was something concieved by humans and thus a bit easier for me to understand and a bit easier to explain. The AlphaGo solution is better, but it just much more complex. I do not fully understand all the subtle threats behind AlphaGo’s choices of moves, so I cannot explain to others “why this move and not that one” which, for me, is very important.

In the end of the day I think that in order to explain something, I had to be the first to understand it very well. If there was even one move that I couldn’t explain to myself, I thought that it would have been very bad manners for me to say “play this because the pros or AlphaGo say it is the correct move” without being able to offer some insight to the reader.

After all, the goal was not anything lofty in terms of gaining Go strength … it is a book for beginners that want to get into the game and DDKs that want to make the jump to high SDK, so I think that establishing some good habits (like studying a move, not just copying it) and insisting on the player having fun at this level, is more important than trying to brain-storm every subject. There are much better authors and players for that, with books dedicated on each particular issue. :slight_smile:

You mentioned you read some books and I am wondering what books have you read, cause you only mentioned life and death problem as an example. my own experience is after reading a series of introductory books like listed below, i could get easily 5kyu level. I actually read those books, maybe not the exact same books, 20+ years ago and after 20+ years layoff, i started playing on OGS three months ago and was able to get to 3k and stayed there for quite some time, just based on my memory of the those books. I am re-reading them.

Those are basics written for beginners. For example, opening is about opening principle. An opening book about chinese opening does not help that much to kyu players, myself included, in my opinion, it is too complex, especially without understanding of those basic concepts.

I am reading In the beginning: the opening in the game of go.

Will read: opening theory made easy.
the elementary go series:
attack and defense
38 basic joseki


Opening Theory Made Easy is a great book. @evan_keeney, I would recommend this book as it definitely helped me improve my understanding of the game.


I feel I am at fault for creating an issue by posting a link.

I can’t help but feel some hostility towards an honest and well-meant effort. Studying sometimes means finding material that is not optimal, but conveys in a helpful way a piece of the puzzle. For me, as a beginner, this book offers exactly that (I know bad habits are difficult to unlearn, but everyone has to work with themselves the difference between memorizing and studying). I am a very weak Go player, with no aspirations to become a dan player, so maybe I lack the competitive spirit that requires to study specifically the right, the correct, the efficient and only that.

As a reader of the book and as a student of Go, I would be extremely thankful to anyone who would contribute to make it better, but the idea of tossing it out (not anyone’s exact words, I’m not quoting) seems misplaced. There is a gap between ABC books and abstract theories books, but there is an audience for this gap. So, maybe we should nurture efforts to fill it.

P.S. I had no idea the author of the book existed before I happened upon his book, a few weeks ago. It just happened to be the first book I personally found that was not written with the unshakable belief that everyone can and should access books in English AND everyone who starts a hobby must firmly want to become a pro.


no worries. not necessarily hostility, just open honest opinion.

1 Like

This is where I’d have to disagree, in terms of what to teach DDKs for openings. Computers think that the large enclosure is better than the small, but it gains its strength from being flexible, rather than solid. For teaching DDKs, I’d rather teach the small enclosure, since playing solidly is generally more important at that level than maximizing territory. Suboptimal, solid plays with simple follow ups will be easier for a DDK to figure out, and more likely to address the weaknesses in their play. Their opponents will blunder enough points away that playing the best move, every time, won’t be necessary. I’d probably add a caveat that the ogeima and the two space high enclose are ‘better’, but I’d still teach the keima every time.

I do think that teaching the early 3-3 invasion fuseki is worthwhile, though. It’s reasonably solid, balanced, simple, and requires a specific approach. Knowing what the general idea is will be helpful for a DDK, just as is knowing the general idea behind a framework fuseki. Again, though, I might just teach the old school way of responding to it, with the caveat that playing looser to gain sente is “best”, but can lead to complications.

1 Like

nah, if you teach, you would mention the basic pros and cons of either, then it is fine to play /experiment either way.

the problem occurs only when players mimic without knowing the difference.

i give you a real story:

in my recent tournament, i plays 4-4, my opponent low approach, i extend at the other direction, he slides in, i take 3-3, he extend 3 spaces instead 2. i put my stone in between. my opponent pauses for minutes, then simply let me split his three stones.

and this happens twice with one 5kyu, another 4kyu.

you can guess who won both games. :smile:

1 Like

I’d mention it, but I wouldn’t go through any variations, or recommend that a DDK play the move. DDKs don’t have the reading skill necessary to understand the variations on the large enclosure variations, or what their strategic ramifications are. Playing the small enclosure will lead to fewer mistakes, and make it easier for a DDK to apply/understand basic principles, such as direction of play and shape.

Fundamentally, that’s what I think should drive selection of fuseki to teach a DDK: what will allow them to best learn their basic principles. If an opening is going to lead to giant fights that they don’t understand, or if it should lead to such fights if their opponent understands the principles behind the position, they shouldn’t play it. They should play the keima until they can effectively make use of it, and then check out the bigger enclosures.

That’s what’d guide my selections in a book aimed at beginners, and how I’d present it. “A, B, and C are all reasonable. B and C are modern moves, aiming at speed and flexibility. A is older, and has fallen out of fashion among top players, but the principles behind it are munch simpler. Focus on simple until you understand it, then learn more about larger enclosures. Here’s the orthodox fuseki with the keima. You should play it, and here are some common, sound variations with easy to understand explanations.”


Come on, @Gia! You shared a resource that others might find useful! Not only that, but in doing so you supported the project itself, both by helping potential new translators, for example, to discover it and enabling those already involved with it to receive welcome criticism.

And, I mean, it usually takes ninjas to start throwing shuriken at me before I cannot help but find their behavior excessively hostile—and if working with those shouting bosses in Misaeng can sound like a walk in the park, what about words written in a forum by people who share the same goal of helping others learn more about a wonderful game?

The only issue, which is not your fault either, nor anyone in particular’s, is the deviation from the thread’s subject—sorry about that, @evan_keeney!—but I have already asked the moderation if it would be possible to split the discussion into a new topic. All is good! Play a match with me sometime. :slight_smile:


you are too serious. :joy:

  • I meant at fault for creating an issue in someone else’s thread, you are right, the way I wrote it sounded different. And I meant hostility towards the author, not me. But everyone seems past this, so… I find it a passionate but fair community, this little time I’ve been part of OGS. :slight_smile:
  • Geu Rae is a treasure.
  • For the life of me I can’t find how to search people on the actual OGS site based on their nickname on the forum site, I’d love to play a match with you sometime. :slight_smile:
1 Like


For the life of me I can’t find how to search people on the actual OGS site based on their nickname on the forum site, I’d love to play a match with you sometime.

You need to press the OGS button up on the left top corner. Right on the top of the menu there is a search bar where you can put the nickname you want to find.


Then the usual process ( right click on the nickname -> challenge )

1 Like

I think there are plenty of good go books that are aimed at complete beginners.

Janice Kim’s “Learn to Play Go” series is a very gentle introduction to the game. Although, given that it is spread out over 5 volumes, I cannot recommend that it is a good value to buy new at the list price (see more discussion here). However, if you are able to borrow it or find possibly used copies at a discount, it is worthwhile to take a look.

Another good beginner book is Cho Chikun’s “Go: A Complete Introduction to the Game”.

Also, here are some free online resources that are very accessible to beginners: