Our Learning-Journey Memories

Here is a place to tell how you learned some go concepts: ladders, snapback, the importance of sente, etc. Was it a lightbulb moment, a humorous or disastrous experience that forced the lesson, or perhaps the help of a community member whom you would like to acknowledge? I am curious which concepts have led to the most memorable moments, and what the most common avenues of learning are. I will kick things off:

I don’t remember much from my first experience with go, 56 years ago, but in 2016 I started over, playing with a library group and studying Iwamoto’s Go for Beginners. I also watched a lot of videos of pro games and noticed that seemingly dead groups often came back to life and caused big trouble. In a supremely silly act of presumption, I began to think that the pros were too quick to tenuki. It took some IRL games to come to my senses and realize that killing the dead is very slow, to say the least.

Learning the basics is like moving from a state of complete darkness to one of dense fog. And choosing a move is now more difficult than it ever was.


My 60 Memorable Games • Life In 19x19 is a post with 60 of my most memorable games.

When I decided to learn the very basic rules I was confused by the fact that a group must be surrounded even “internally” to be captured. I came to the conclusion that in order to survive a group should have at least two “holes”, since you couldn’t place two stones simultaneously, and I was happy to see that I was right.
Now I call those holes “eyes” and I have learnt nothing since.


My learning journey has been very slow, without lightbulb moments. What has been most useful:

  • regular practice of tsumego
  • reading books, mostly on basics (Attack and Defense, Tesuji,…). As a complement, a few Sensei’s Library articles have been quite useful, like the ones on the L-group and on the J-group.
  • listening to advice from stronger players
  • having experience of losing games in various ways
  • reviewing my games with Katago (not very seriously, mostly watching its fascinating moves and sequences)
  • checking my games with josekipedia whenever I get a corner sequence wrong
  • replaying pro games.

Most of the time I don’t study or play very seriously though, typically I study seriously for 1 week-1 month and then “rest” for 6-12 months.

For instance I learnt that you make territory by playing corners, then sides, then center. Play on the third line to make territory, the fourth line is for influence. But the fourth line can make territory too, and letting your opponent make 4th line territory is bad. Except when it’s good, when you want to build strength to attack.

Do not make territory passively. Invade! But don’t invade too early, you need to build strength first in the center, except when early invasions are good.

Moyos aren’t meant to make territory. Don’t enclose territory, except when you can enclose it. If your opponent invades your moyo, don’t try to kill but just attack for profit, except when you can kill. Conversely, if your opponent makes a moyo, don’t invade too deeply, a reduction by playing at the border is enough, except when weaknesses allow you to go more deeply.

When you have the initiative, make forcing moves like peeps and cuts, but don’t make them if they are aji-keshi or waste ko threats.

Try to keep sente, don’t play passively. However watch your weaknesses. Repairing them with a gote move is important, that’s called “honte”. Except when what you think is honte is actually a slow move.

At the beginning of the game, when you have a weak group, make a base if possible to secure your group. But no, don’t waste a move like that, the center is important, jump towards the center. But no, the group is strong enough, don’t add a move there, tenuki. But no, don’t tenuki, play urgent moves before big moves, make a base.

I could go on forever… In the end I never know if what I learned is correct, except that groups with two eyes are alive.


(fyi, that link wouldn’t open for me; I’d be keen to seen them).

My lightbulb moments, in chronological order:

  • Dwyrin: No weak groups. I literally, and permanently* went up 2 ranks overnight (against my phone which is a known value). I’ve gone full circle on this one, I now leave them a little weak for laughs, but do so knowingly
  • Nick Sibicky: Don’t use influence to make points.
  • Dwyrin: Efficiency. It blew my mind that it is sometimes not only acceptable for stones to die, but desirable. I want you to waste moves killing those stones. On the flip side, killing opponents stones is a means to an end, not the end itself.
  • Clossius: Have an objective. Amazingly I’d not considered this possibility before hearing it. Yes, there’s a clever move locally, but does it help globally? Consider the “why”, as well as the “what”.
  • Ben Kyo: Generally play in the largest space, it gives more options. It’s such a simple thing, but again, vs my known-‘opponent’ phone I went up 2 ranks overnight.

Even so, every game I feel that there’s still another Grand Unifying Realization that will tie everything together, after which I will win literally every single game. Yeah right.


I remember when i was still very much a beginner, maybe still ranked 30k here, and i had a game against ~2k or so player who tenukied after almost each of my moves and let me capture all of the stones i tried attacking toward.
He then won by big margin without capturing any of my stones, and explained that every time i spent 4 moves to capture just 1 of his stones, he’s was gaining much more elsewhere with the 3 stones he got to play in exchange. That game really changed the way i thought about go.

Another which comes to my mind one was this 7 hc game in one of the early tournaments i attended. I was still ddk but playing as white againt some ~20k and managed to kill couple blacks groups and make myself some big territory, but then in end-game my opponent didnt connect after blocking my 1st line push!
Because thinking i was ahead, i thought that i wont bother punishing my opponent, afterall why be a bully when already winning… So we played some other end-game stuff until i couldnt see anything but gote moves and the clock was ticking, so i finally cut on 2nd line and destroyed big part of their side territory. Right after we both passed, some stronger players who were watching our game told that black would have actually won by connecting at almost any phase in the end-game!
That game taught me that “being kind” toward your opponent is usually horrible idea, even if the game feels like already won, one should always play the best move they can see on the board.

(tho even now i often find myself in troublesome situations which could have avoided by just keeping those lessons in mind… bad habits die slowly i guess xD )


It appears lifein19x19.com is down, hopefully back up soon.


My experiences with go started in the 1970s, when I learned from Bruce Wilcox when we both worked at a software company called Intermetrics. He was a great teacher, and always won even though giving me an enormous handicap.

Over the years I have worked with a teacher (Cornel Burzo) and read books. I think I have purchased and studied about 25 books.

Over those years I’ve increased my rank to about 9k, staying mostly with 9x9 games for speed and to develop tactics, but I’m hovering at this level apparently permanently, never quite getting much better.

I realize I’m missing out in learning joseki and strategy by not playing 19x19 games, but I can’t spare that kind of time, as my life in retirement strangely keeps filling up with software projects and other work. Even 13x13 is difficult to schedule. So I enjoy my 9x9 games, especially my rare wins.