Really on the fence about how long it takes to get strong starting from zero

Hi everyone,

I posted this here about me being already old (30+) and starting to learn Go from zero (23k) and wishing to get better in a reasonable amount of time.

AFTER, my initial above postings, I was searching the Google and came across this blog post:

Obviously he started the project more than almost a year ago, but since it was my first time coming across and reading it, I didn’t know the outcome, and was full of excitement to finish reading to see how he turned out.

Needless to say, I am humbled and disappointed by his glacierly slow process of spending entire year and only going from 13k to 10k, hardly an improvement at all, and certainly not the sort of 1 dan/shodan he was aiming for.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are guys like this:

So I set out to find what was the biggest real different between guys who make it to shodan and those that hit a hard wall at the SDK levels… it seems that the real variance is the person himself or herself, and not any technique or study method or dedication or hard work or persistence or consistency.

Perhaps there are those who are just not “cut out” to be 1 dan (amateur) regardless of how hard he or she tries.

What do you guys think?

If that is the case, for a beginner like me, how would I know if I was one of those stubborn learns at Go or if I am capable of getting to 1 dan if I try hard enough, without wasting an entire year to find out like the first OP did?


While who the person is has some affect on getting to 1d, I think a bigger contributing factor is the mindset. While I strongly disagree with the method in which the player made it to 1d in the “Shodan in a year” link, what he did have was the flexibility to completely change his playing style when the moves he plays wasn’t working. The difference in moves between a 20k and a 1d is huge. Almost every move needs to be different (like 95% of moves). If you’re stuck on “I’ll just improve a couple of my moves” then you wont make as much progress as “All my moves are bad. Lets try a bunch of new things I learned about that are completely different than what I usually play and see what works.” Be open minded and willing to throw away moves you thought were good and don’t get settled in the rut of playing only the moves you normally play. But to do this you must learn what is normal and good from studying to trying them out.

That all being said, I do strongly disagree with the method described in the reddit link. The advice of “just play games and you’ll be good” doesn’t work and I’ve seen players that have played for 3 years and are still 22k or 6 years and just made 9k. Also in my opinion, the reason many players get stuck at 5k-1k is because they don’t study until they get stuck at a rank. When they finally do study, they have to overcome many bad habits and many ignore these bad habits and instead study sdk or dan level information then their problem is ddk mistakes. My feeling is the 1d in 1 year guy did a lot more studying than he put on but just didn’t call it “studying.” Instead he called it watching go videos, looking at pro games and reviewing his games vs a stronger player.


Just to add another data point. I’m currently 11kyu here, 14kyu on DGS, and 16kyu AGA.
My wife taught me the game when we were dating. That is about 22 years ago.

I have played mostly correspondence time standards. I’ve always had a game or two going, but only against a couple other folks of about my strength. I have had years where that was all I did.

I have recently played a bit more seriously. I’ve been watching videos and reading books. I am now a couple stones stronger than I have been. I am continuing to get better. I seem to have acquired a better understanding. It is still DDK, but it is improved.

While I have done some study, I feel most of the gains have been playing and reviewing many games. Also, I was basically 30 when I started.


From my experience in a year it’s possible to get from zero to 6kyu mostly by playing and watching youtube videos. But I would say it takes more than 8 hours per week.

I’ve experienced this “ceiling effect”, when you can’t get any stronger no matter what you do, in chess. Maybe it’s because I was taking too long to improve, so all my bad habits just hardened in my brain and I couldn’t get fresh looks on things, and this inflexibility of the brain just stopped me from improving. And I feel like I’m steadily reaching ceiling of my go skill, soon I’ll have to simply accept that I’m too dumb for this game and enjoy playing silly games at my level.

[quote=“TheBeginer, post:1, topic:10618, full:true”]if I am capable of getting to 1 dan if I try hard enough, without wasting an entire year to find out like the first OP did?

I think two things about this (in addition to my reply on /r/baduk about age, which I think is not important in this case):

  1. You may or may not be capable of getting to 1 dan, but it is highly likely to take you much more than a year. This is fine. You should absolutely try.

  2. If you spend a year playing go and hit some kind of wall, and you decide that you can’t ever reach 1 dan… why would that be a waste?


Just to add another data point and some opinions.

For context: I played my first every go game on the 15th/March/2016 so exactly 11 months ago to the day. I have played 430ish games (according to stats) and I am now 9Kyu. I have gone through stages of studying/reading daily and weeks where I barely think about go.

I will echo what others have said about mindset. When learning you have to realise that everything you currently think and the ideas you have is (on some level) wrong. But play them anyway and get destroyed. Repeat. Repeat Repeat. Then suddenly you are 2 stones stronger and can punish some of your opponents wrong moves. But (and this is what I struggle with) this doesn’t make your moves correct. Your move’s only have to be slightly less wrong to win.
Then you read a book or two and learn some new things and the way you think about the game completely changes. While your thoughts and ideas might be better now, they are still wrong. I feel like we need to view our current thoughts and ideas as stepping stones to slightly less wrong ideas/moves. But they are important stepping stones and required in order to improve IMO.
I know this is something I have struggled with. I will keep playing some move and win. Then I get 2 stones stronger and still expect that move to work. But now my opponents are 2 stones stronger too so that move now becomes bad/suboptimal against slightly stronger players. I think this idea of viewing all your moves as different shades of wrong helps your bad habits not get too ingrained… Because we will all get bad habits.
Related to this is a willingness to lose games. You won’t try new things if you are afraid of losing or are too attached to your rank. And it this attitude of continuously questioning everything and willing to let go and try out new things that makes one improve quickly IMO. This is what I think of when people say a good mindset for playing GO. Of course, one should also review games, play stronger players, do L+D etc as well.

My 2 cents/rant


Why do you feel like your time would be wasted if you don’t make it to 1 dan? If you start playing the game with this mindset, it’s likely to make the game a frustrating slog rather than an enjoyable pastime. Improving is fun and there is nothing wrong with setting goals, but the game can be enjoyed at every level.

  • No, “30+” is not “old”. Get rid of this ridiculous idea first. At your age, you should know better.

  • Since you signed up for Guo Juan’s site, do her basic step-by-step course, slowly, as she recommends. I recommend that when you do the exercises there that you only mark them correct if you have the right move and you remember the context of the lecture what this move is all about. This course alone plus basic tsumego is more than enough to be solid SDK.

  • The tsumego you are doing are obviously too hard for you. I am 5-6kyu on ogs and Tsumego Pro easy problems are not super-easy. Do easy problems. It is not a problem if you occasionally look up a solution, but if you do it systematically and learn it by heart, you are not using your time efficiently. Do one pass of the “Easy Life and Death problems” and the “Reading Ladders” on Guo Juan’s website without peeking at the solution and report back if they are easy for you. They are much easier than tsumego pro.

  • I question the amount of time you invest in writing and reading the reddit thread. It seems to be comparable your weekly allotted go time. If I had to guess why you do not get better than 23k automatically like some other people, I would say “overthinking” which, again, is not an efficient use of your time. Therefore, I would recommend you to play fast blitz games until you lose this habit. Then you can play slow deliberate games again.

  • I have not seen one of your games, but at 23kyu it should gain you several stones if you do not play too close to your opponent and you check if one of you is in atari or will be after a move.


PS: If this kind of mindset were about eating instead of learning to get better at go it would be orthorexia.


If I gave only one advice, I think it would be: just learn how to learn. I mean how to learn better.

I believe it’s true for anything, what is your point of view ?


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While I agree on principle, I do not think that your advice will help here, because the OP already suffers from spending time obsessing about the perfect way to learn and is procrastinating that way (which is fine as long as they are entertained by it).


“It took us centuries to learn that it doesn’t have to take centuries to learn it” (Anij: Star Trek: Insurrection)

Its always buging me, since i heard it there. I feel there is a truth behind. Sometimes I expirience such flow moments, were playing, learning and understanding become one. But its more difficult with a straight brain-game (rather then just body movments).

I just had a look at the Project Dan. There is no way he could have made the exercise sets for the basic course properly if he “learned” a lesson per day.

I agree. Learning how to learn is more important, because then it applies to everything else…

Deliberate practice
Spaced Repetition.

What do you mean? Which sets?

So he did not study as much as he indicated?

I always felt that way myself. For someone like me, I could play 1000 games and still be 23k

for example this unlucky guy:

Opportunity costs in life, also the time value of aging. Lets say you know AHEAD of time that you would spend 7 hours a week, for the next year, and not get any improvement at Go, would you still make that investment? No. You would use that time to apply to other interests or hobbies or even career self improvement or personal improvement in which your efforts have a higher return on investment, just like in Go, as in life, one should go after the low hanging fruit first, the things that make the most impact.

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Investment? Will you get anything if you get to a dan after a year? Is there a prize or something? :smiley: Me, personaly, I do it for fun and to occupy and exercise my mind. Sure it is rewarding to see that I am somewhat better than when I started but that doesn’t mean it is a goal. As with everything in life there will always be an asian who is better than you. Doesn’t mean you won’t do anything, right?

If you do not enjoy go, do something else. If you do enjoy go, forget about ranks and enjoy the game. And the ranks will come with time naturally.


By investment I do not mean money, I mean pleasure. 7 hours a week for 52 weeks is many hours. If one knows one is a stubborn Go learner and not cut out for this game, that same time could be used to get a private pilots license, learn how to skydive, learn how to shoot, learn photography, pick up dancing, and a million other things that one might be better suited towards in terms of making intrinsically satisfying progress towards these other interests. It is about gettingbetter in order to more appreciate and enjoy the hobby. If someone hit a permanent wall in Go, why not use that time to do other things in which one has not hit a wall?

I guess I really do not understand your thinking.

You WILL hit a wall. Chances are you will never be the best player in the world, quite probably nowhere near the top… If you consider it a waste of time to pursue something that has no end then by all means do something else. Go hit a wall in photography or go hit another wall anywhere else. Just make sure it is the right wall for you to hit. As Budha, master Bra’tac or somebody similar would probably say, it is not about the destination, it is about the journey.

There is no one here who can tell you how far you will get…