Tsumego question

I am a beginning Go player, and I was working on some Tsumego the other day. This one is marked as easy, but it has me stumped.

As you can see, I finally got desperate and clicked the hint button. I had already tried both of the two marked spots and the app told me those moves were wrong, but the hint shows that as recommended play. Can anybody explain what I’m missing here? Thanks in advance.

I would also appreciate some hints for how to best benefit from Tsumego. There’s never an explanation for WHY a particular move is right or wrong, and with my limited understanding, I’m not sure how much I’m learning from the experience. I try to puzzle through the strategy, but it’s often a mystery to me.

I’m going to assume that this is one of the “failed” positions. It would be more helpful if you posted a screenshot of the initial position.

Still, I’m going to assume that 5-4 (y-axis, x-axis, counting from from top left) was the last black move played.
If b instead plays at 5-1 (white’s last move) first, w needs to play 6-1; then b can falsify white’s second eye by playing 5-4. If w takes, b 4-3 and if w 4-3 b captures at 6-4. If two moves are interchangeable like this, we call that miai.

I suppose the problem is labelled ‘easy’ because the moves required to solve it are easy-to-spot shapes and fulfill easy-to-recognize functions (prevent double tiger’s mouth, atari, clamp).

Oh and here’s a tsumego guide for ya.


This is actually the initial position I was given. I just couldn’t figure out why it seemed to be suggesting that I play where it had previously told me that was wrong.

I will definitely check out the guide, thanks.

As far as tsumego apps go, I only use Tsumego Pro. It’s well-curated and large enough a collection to be worth it.

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That’s actually the one I use, and from which this example was drawn.

So am I understanding that the basic idea of Tsumego is to learn to recognize shapes? I was rather proceeding on the assumption that I’m trying to learn principles and strategy. Is this why I’m having trouble with Tsumego?

Strange, looks completely different on my phone. Must be my theme. :slight_smile: But yea don’t let the categories get to you. There are many people who think some of the ‘easy’ problems aren’t easy at all. Most TsumegoPro 5k+ problems I’ve seen are also easily dan level.

As for what tsumego are good for, I’d say tsumego are most useful to improve reading skills. If you can reliably read about 7 forced moves ahead, your reading skills would put you at dan level. Tsumego are usually of the 1 (new), 3 (ddk), 5 (sdk) or 7 (dan) variety (rough approximation). Sometimes you’ll come across up to 12-move tsumego but those are quite rare.

The most important factor that determines how difficult a tsumego is, would be how unintuitive the correct moves are. Of course there’s a way to identify the (most likely) correct moves but perhaps practicing that would be like teaching to the test. Recognizing shapes and shape deficiencies is a by-product of studying tsumego, not really the goal.

Most of the time you’ll just go

  • Can x make life in 1 move?
    – Yes? Play that move.
    – No?
  • Can x make life in 2 moves?
    – Yes? Does me playing either kill/make life?
    ---- Yes? Play that.
    ---- No? Probably a tesuji (unintuitive move) problem.]
    – No?
  • Can x make life in 3…

That makes sense, thanks. I think I’m discovering that I need to do some more tutorials. I’ve been through the ones on rules and such, but I need more work on understanding life and death, and territory vs. Influence, etc.

BTW, I think I remember changing the board appearance when I got it, which probably explains why it looks different to you.

I guess the most obvious benefit you should expect from tsumego practice is being able to hallucinate more stones. :slight_smile:


To answer the original question, the screenshot is NOT the initial position (white played the marked move and the rewind button is enabled). Maybe it remembered a move from before or something.

Normally when you press hint intersecrions marked green are the solution, intersection marked red are wrong, but they have follow up moves programmed (so you can observe refutations to that move).

And yes, the difficulties are almost meaningless. And rightfully so, some problems are hard for some people and easy for others… It us hard to score. Also I must say for a complete beginner even the easiest problems in tsumego pro seem kind of hard to me. But it you are having fun with them then awesome :slight_smile:

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There are Tsumegos about the opening, the endgame, joseki etc.; but most are about life&death and tesuji (skillful moves that safe your stones or bring trouble to your opponent’s).
Those are indeed for recognizing shapes, but also to practice the raw reading skills and what to read. For strategy and principles you look at theory books, videos etc.
From my experience i say that in the beginning tsumego and reviews by stronger players help most to improve.
With tsumego it’s important to solve mostly easy ones that take like 30 to 60 seconds, and only look at the answer when you read everything out.

And most important: enjoy learning go :slight_smile:

Bless your heart, @AdamR, I was starting to think I hadn’t learned anything about (tsume)go. Assuming that taking the three stones wouldn’t be enough of a solution (hence the thread) and trying to find a way to kill the group on the left was like tackling a koan.

@michaelpthompson, I would love to see the starting position if you can rewind back to it.

Took me a minute, but I found it.

I thought I had hit the rewind button, but you’re right, I had already played black, and then white played. From the initial position, the hint recommended I start by playing where the white marked stone was played in my first diagram. That also explains why the hint put two red dots, meaning they were both wrong because my initial move was wrong.

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Sounds good. I think I need to practice and understand life and death some more.

From that position, A15 is the correct move. White responds A14, black ataris at D15, white captures, black falsifies the eye with C16, and white is dead.

When I look at this problem, I first see that if white plays A15, white is alive. There’s nothing black can do. The easiest way to prevent that is by playing A15, which is sente, since A14 would stop white from getting two eyes. White has to respond with A14, so I look for a follow up. White has one potential eye at D14/15, and the only move that doesn’t immediately give white an eye is D15. Capturing at D14 is forced, and then I falsify the second eye.

Thanks, I’m starting to understand better.

@michaelpthompson: I just looked at some of your last games. I fear that you should fix some basic understanding before doing tsumego. For example avoid self atari, don’t waste stones in your opponent ‘s solid territory, don’t leave stones on the border with only two liberties and so on.

I think it would be more useful to have someone reviewing your games. I can’t do it now, I’m sorry, but here in the forum you‘ll find lots of people ready to help. Just ask! :slightly_smiling_face:

I believe you’re right. I’m working through some exercises on life and death, and some different beginner lessons that I haven’t done before. I’ve discovered that I don’t understand the basic strategies quite well enough for many Tsumego yet.

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Have you read the River Mountain Go series? They’re linked to in OGS’ “Other Go Resources” section.

I have not seen that one.
Working through the one by Mark5000 and Gosuke Sosuke. I will check out the River Mountain. Thanks.

@michaelpthompson: I’ve reviewed one of your last games.

Go is kind of a multi-layered puzzle. I’ve tried to do the most basic and simple comments. Much more could be said, but for now I think you should focus on:

  • avoid suicidal moves (auto-atari and so on)
  • don’t be quartered (avoid multiple cuts)
  • don’t try to capture by simply surrounding one stone at a time (opponent usually runs away and then cuts you) aka don’t always play contact moves