Should I start by playing bots or humans?

Hello! I’m new to OGS. I learnt to play go many years ago and am familiar with the rules but in terms of playing ability I still consider myself a beginner.

I see that OGS has a number of bots and am looking for some advice. Would you recommend I play a series of games with one or two bots before moving on to humans or should I just dive in at the deep end and start playing humans? If you think I should start with bots, should I just play a set number of games or carry on until I’ve gained confidence?

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Don’t waste your time. Play with real people.
These are actually shallow waters to get your feet wet.
Don’t expect to gain confidence playing a game that you are not yet good at. You’re going to lose for a little while. Bring the confidence with you and have fun learning :slight_smile:


Hello Shenzhou (and welcome to OGS, I suppose)!

Reflecting on your learning process is helpful. But you shouldn’t spend all your resources on this, especially not in the beginning, where knowledge and understanding comes naturally anyway.
In go there are many proverbs. This one applies: Lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible.

Whether program or human, that won’t matter. Just make sure that your opponent is not too many kyus above your level. And if he is, then tell him that you want a teaching game (not possible if you play against a program). The idea here is that to learn one has to identify mistakes, be it ones of your opponent or (more likely) your own. If the ranking difference is big, you won’t be able to recognise mistakes as such, since you won’t understand how your opponent took advantage of your bad moves. (How to take advantage can be very intricate in go in my experience.)



For me, starting with bot has been more comfortable. I found an app for android and played many games on 9x9, also going back and forth, changing my moves to see what happens.
You can’t do that playing with humans.

This way I was able to understand life and death and went to play against humans with a little more confidence.


Hello and welcome. :slight_smile:
Go is a game (a beautiful one), so make sure it is as much fun for you as possible. And while I personally prefer to play humans (and think it is easier to learn from them) if you do not feel comfortable playing them yet, then don’t! Nowadays we have manny options, so make sure to pick the one that is most fun for you.

If you decide to play a few bot games first though, then I second @lysnew’s opinion and recommend playing on android as well. I feel like bots on OGS are a bit too hard for beginners (apart from master mantis maybe, but he does not play 19x19) and you can’t undo moves, which is also a good way to learn IMHO.

Check out Crazy stone light (free) or Go free (no 19x19 though) if you want.

And have fun


Welcome @Shenzhou,

I’d always recommend playing humans, IF you have a choice, they’re so much more fun :slight_smile: Also, if you play the weaker bots too much you will learn their mistakes.

Plus, humans can (and often will) explain and review, while bots can’t and won’t.

Wish you lots of fun, there are many many very cool players here,


I don’t think we even have a bot that’s less than 15k.

I used to be playing bots a little in my early Go days. Interestingly I feel like they did help me get some basic understanding of game mechanics and maybe I wouldn’t have picked up go for real if not their patience.

Be mindful, that the amount of ideas you can get from bots is fairly limited, but they may be a good sparing partners for testing ideas and experiments. In my early days I have learned the most from the post game conversations with my fellow opponents, so there… bots won’t help you with that :slight_smile:


Thanks very much for the warm welcome and advice, everyone; plenty of food for thought. I’ll check out the links and apps you’ve suggested and look forward to enjoying the game!

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I recently started on OGS myself and like you, I learned the game long ago but I’m still very much a beginner.
IMHO, if you are playing on OGS, you might as well play people because the experience isn’t that much different.
If you feel more comfortable playing bots, I know I do, then you would be better off downloading or buying a bot to play locally on your computer. That way you won’t have to deal with the clock and like others have mentioned, the ability to undo moves and the ability to partially rewind the game that you lost and try something different is a great help at first.
That said, there are downsides. Bots tend to be repetitive so make sure you pepper your bot playing with real people on occasion to get some variety.

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I’d recommend one or two days of bot play. Play something like 50 games on 9x9 to get a feel for some of the basic patterns that you need to watch out for. I like bots for this because you can spam out games quickly, without waiting for opponents to move or looking for games. Just roll back to back bot games until you can beat something like GnuGo with a 2 or 3 stone handicap. It’s how I learned Go, the first time I picked it up.

I wouldn’t recommend finding a bot that lets you undo moves, just lose quickly and start a new game. Your goal should be to familiarize yourself with how to play, again, and you can’t undo moves in a game.

Once that starts to feel comfortable, play people! People definitely play differently from bots, and you can learn a lot from playing people close to your level that you couldn’t learn from playing handicap games against bots that probably outrank you by 10+ stones. You’ll probably lose a bunch of games against people, as well, when you start playing. The 19x19 board (which I’d recommend!) is very different from a 9x9, and an even game is different than just trying to link stones in a 9x9 handicap game. You’ll have a basic grasp for things like whether to worry about an atari near the edge of the board, and how to make eyes, though, which will help immensely. That sort of sense is gained through repetition, which can absolutely be gained by spamming out 50 bot games to get your Go brain working again.

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Either play real people or take white against Leela and play mirror go, trying hard to understand the moves.

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I played my first 100 games against SmartGo Kifu (this brought me to maybe 8 kyu OGS): it has a learning mode that adjusts its strength to your level automatically, which makes for a great learning experience.

Now, it is important to reflect on your games and see why you won or lost. You can feed your game record to some open-source program and they will help you identify mistakes and good moves, and will “explain” their reasoning by providing the corresponding sequence of moves.

One big caveat with lower-level programs is that they have their weaknesses and strengths, so you will also sometimes win only because you exploit one of the program’s weaknesses (e.g. play in the center).


There’s lots of helpful advice here. Thanks very much, everyone! I appreciate it.