Repost of a repost -- an old discussion of the correct way to solve tsumego

In 2014, Kungfu_Panda reposted an essay from a Chinese forum, which was interesting but in quite poor English. After some discussion had taken place in the thread in 2019, I found it in the spring of last year and proofread the original post to make it more readable, correcting a lot of grammatical errors.

The thread (Repost: To become a master of Go is not easy, but to become an amateur 5D or 6D is not hard) was locked in the summer of 2020, but I just received a like on that post, so I thought it’d be worthwhile to open it for another round of discussion.


To become a master of Go is not easy, but to become an amateur 5d or 6d is not hard
proofread essay from a Chinese forum, originally reposted by Kungfu_Panda in 2014

I saw many friends in the forum complaining they can’t make progress. I will share my self-taught experience about how I improved from Tygem 2d to 8D.

Before discussing the details, I have to point out several points about study quality and study will.

1. Study quality
No matter whether you do tsumego or play games, without quality it’s insignificant. We can see some some Internet players who have played thousands of games, but still stay at kyu-level or low dan. This is because of study quality.

2. You should know the right way
If your study method is proper, you can avoid detours. I have played Go since the late 1980s and have had many detours, and wasted lots of time. I remember I would hold a joseki dictionary and memorise the contents. I could repeat every variation from memory to my satisfaction. After I improved some years later, I knew it had been a detour, and had wasted many years.

3. Strong-willed study
To be a Tygem 8d is not hard, but you need to play a lot. If you use all your free time on the game, to go from Tygem 2d to 8d needs three years at most. If you don’t want to sacrifice too much of your free time, it needs five years at most.

When you wake up, you should be thinking of Go; even when you visit your friend’s home, take a Go book; when you are idle, hold a Go book; if you do such then three years later you will be an 8d.

There are three main domains of study: 1) do tsumego 2) play matches 3) view kifu of masters.

About tsumego:

Tsumego is very, very important for a Tygem 2d. Two points should be emphasised:

1. Quantity
When you see a Go book, just buy it. Even if it is an easy book, you can keep it for your kids or students. Buy two sets of the classical tsumego books: one for everyday use (which can become dishevelled and fall to pieces) and another to keep as a clean reference.

2. Quality
Don’t do a tsumego only once. You should view it repeatedly, until you are clear of every variation in your mind. There is a difference between solving a tsumego slowly and solving it in ten seconds.

Two usual wrong methods of solving tsumego:
a) You don’t clear every variation in your mind, and instead just decide by feel. This is a critical mistake for your calculation.

b) You don’t calculate your opponent’s best response. This causes wishful thinking in a real game.

I will recommend a method of solving tsumego. Maybe it will help you.

Before doing tsumego, prepare a pen and paper for recording your mistakes. Generally speaking, there are three types of mistake:

a) You thought you were right, but when you saw the answer you found that you were wrong. Find the reason why you were mistaken.This is an effective way to improve the thoroughness of your calculation.

b) You couldn’t calculate the result. Don’t look at the answer until you solve it. If you spend too much time on it, that means your level is still far below that of the tsumego; abandon it.

c) You suspect the author of the tsumego was wrong. This is possible. You can consult with other players.

The above are the principles of doing tsumego. Let’s talk about the essential points.

You must choose a proper book for you – don’t choose a very, very hard book. If you can only resolve 10-20% of the problems, just abandon it. You should choose a book in which you can resolve 60-80% of the problems. Work through it repeatedly until you can easily resolve (clearing every variation) more than 95% of the problems. Then you should change book.

I think the proper tsumego books for a Tygem 2d are:

After you finish the twelve volumes, you will be above Tygem 4d. Although the author was not Lee Changho, the books are good. They contain almost every usual tsumego and tesuji found in real games.

There are three volumes: Junior, Intermediate, and Senior. The Senior volume is for amateur 6d and professional players, ignore it. The other two volumes contain about 2,000 problems, a few of them a bit hard. After my student finished the two volumes, he progressed from Tygem 5k to 4d.

  • Weiqi Sihuo Xunlian

If you finished all the books above (about 4,500 tsumego problems in total), I think you can sustain a Tygem 6d rank. After you finish Guanzi Pu (Guanzi Pu at Sensei's Library), you can go up to Tygem 7d.

Tygem 7d is a barrier. Calculation and comprehensive power are needed to break through. If you want to jump to 8d, read Tianlongtu. In my opinion Guanzi Pu’s problems require one clue, but to solve Tianlongtu’s problems you need to find several correct clues and compose them together. Maybe this is the difference between professional and amateur?

If you have done all the tsumego listed above (about 7,000 problems), your calculation is already ahead of common amateurs, and not far from real amateur masters. You can sustain an 8d rank.

Of course, you should calculate tsumego but not learn them by heart.

About games:

Let’s talk about quality first. A game is a contest of two players’ move efficiency. You should force yourself to play the most efficient moves. This is the only way from 2d to 8d. Examining every random set of ten moves from a game, except the opening (first ten - twenty moves) and endgame (small yose), we can see that the efficiency of the players is different. The side with high efficiency will win the game.

One game has about 250 moves in all. 200 of them can be compared for efficiency (except the opening and endgame), so if a man wants to win he should collect tiny benefits from every move of the game.

7 Likes

I love this guide. I put together a collection of links to these books for people interested in tsumego.

Sets suggested by the original post

Book Title 101Weiqi Link
Lee Changho Life and Death 李昌镐精讲围棋死活1-6卷 - 101围棋网
Lee Changho Tesuji 李昌镐精讲围棋手筋全集 - 101围棋网
Weiqi Tsumego 1000 Problems 围棋死活1000题 - 101围棋网
Weiqi Tsumego Training Beginner 死活训练初级篇 - 101围棋网
Weiqi Tsumego Training Intermediate 死活训练中级篇 - 101围棋网
Guanzipu 官子谱-吴清源解说 - 101围棋网
Tianlongtu 天龙图 - 101围棋网

And a little imgur guide I made to get started with 101Weiqi. Google translate works nicely with it too.

5 Likes

This is gold dust! I mean, in a way, it’s not saying anything that isn’t well known already - study tsumego, play games, review professionals - but the way it says it is authoritative and the detailed examples of how and what to study are very useful. I will certainly be trying out some of these ideas. Thanks @bugcat for reposting the repost :wink:

2 Likes