What reading feels like

I’m curious about descriptions of the mental process of reading, esp by high dan or pro players. Has anyone seen such a thing available online?

I think I have seen a good description of intuition by Kasparov in his book on AI, and as a kid remember seeing one that was very mechanical in a book about chess.

I’m curious what stuff is written on this, esp as different people will experience it differently !

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Sensei’s page https://senseis.xmp.net/?DifficultyReading has nice comments

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That’s a really deep philosophical question.

What does thinking feel like?

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What does it feel like for you?
I guess for me it is like having stuff being said to myself in my head.

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Right about now would be a good time to add a write in survey. I don’t think these forums have one, but it would be cool. We can see all of the different opinions and thoughts all lined up in one place, and we can sort of combine the similar answers to get what most people put in the survey.

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A write in survey? Kind of like…replying to the thread?

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For me, it is what I could best describe as desperately trying to remember a dream. It’s like you know the stones were there you can focus on some details and some particular stones - some of them you can see so clearly, but you can never be sure if you got them ALL right.

But I am nowhere near high dan, so… :smiley:

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Thinking often feels like an internal dialogue, but that’s mainly when that thinking revolves around language. It’s harder to describe what it feels like to think about geometric structure (like envisioning what happens when I twist a Rubik’s cube), or imagining the sensation of colors, scents, flavors, music, etc.

Of course, I’m just being pedantic. I believe @Sallmard was asking a more specific question about the thought process of reading, but the thread title seems to suggest a more philosophical question about feeling.

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But instead of it being spread out among a lot of different posts and comments on people’s responses, it shows all of the answers in one location instead of in 100 different places spread out between comments in the thread that don’t answer the question, just ask people about their answers. It might not work, but I feel that for some things it would work well.

A wiki post with some rules about how to use it could serve as a form of “write-in” poll. However, for complicated questions involving discussion, clarification, debate, etc., I think the format of people posting replies in a forum thread works quite well.

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I find reading exceptionally difficult. Im not good at visualising things in my head at all. SO when it comes to reading, the visualisation of that is very difficult to do. Most of the reading i do is based puerly on what i feel is the correct response to a move. Though when i am able to read, its almost like seeing stones on the board that are not actually there.

But the feeling of thought itself. Well i spend a great deal of time in my head because of mental health difficulties. Go feels different from any other thought in my brain, there is ambition, fear, anxiety, hope and so much more going on.

To to refine what i feels like, its like searching for the right word when writing poetry. Its like trying to identify a familiar but uncommon scent. Its like trying to work out the material of somethign you are touching but unable to look at it. Its like hearing a song, and trying to remember who sang that song, and when.

The feeling when i play go, is all encompasing, there is little space left for other things when i focus on a good game of go. And as such, it very much feels like walking on a winding path at night that diverges with possibilities, each possible divergent path is a different move on the board, some are more dangerous that others, but you know you have to get where you are going. And sometimes, you get a little lost and have to backtrack in your head a little.

Its like falling, but knowing that you are never going to hit the bottom, just stop faling at the end of the game.

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I think, but I’m not sure, that Yeonwoo and the Chinese pro in the AlphaGo documentary have mentioned something relevant. I don’t recall specifics, sorry.

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Subvocalization is only a very thin layer of what thinking encompasses. If you really pay attention, there’s a lot more happening in every thought than the words you form in your mind.

Reading for me is beginning to feel similar in certain shapes. There’s more going on in the background than the “If I play here, they play there, and then I go here…”, and I’m not even good at reading. I can only imagine the amount of reading that takes place subconsciously for professional players.

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I’ll reply without reading the other answers.


It feels quite similar to how I think about algorithms, in particular about brute-force algorithms, but it also has something similar to what I feel when trying to draw something. The first in that I try to think of a goal, then try to go through the steps to reach that goal and recurse when it does not work. The second in that I have to visualise the position on the board to judge the position: I can’t discover an atari without “seeing” the stones.

My eyes follow each move that is played, and my brain puts an imaginary stone on the place where it belongs. This is similar to what I do when trying to work out an algorithm or prove something mathematical: I see the object before me, and manipulate it in my mind towards some preferential goal.

However, the goal is not so clear with go as with algorithms, thus it feels more like drawing, where I try to visualise the finished drawing on top of the partial one, and judge if it will look alright.

Of course, as with both, I can only imagine things until a certain point, hence with drawing you sketch to help your imagination, and with algorithms / maths I almost always use a piece of paper to track progress with a difficult problem.

I also have to admit that thinking about a difficult math / programming problem kind of feels like I have to “start up” a section of my brain to dedicate to it. It’s pretty darn difficult to get this part of my brain “running”, but once it works, it’s quite difficult to get distracted. I have not felt that same kind of concentration when playing go, except for during byo-yomi and during the Thue-Morse Go matches. Oh, and it definitely starts up during games with equal / strong opponents in real life.


Now that I read the other comments, I also have a ‘voice’, and I ‘hear’ a sound for each stone, which helps remembering the sequence. Often it’s not the actual sound of stones, but more some kind of vague hum hum hum.

I never have dialogues in my head, only monologues, were I discuss things with myself. I do have different voices when thinking about things other people would say, but not for my own reasoning.

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I’m pretty sure Yeonwoo hears a very loud “Taak” with every stone being read

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The voice is usually summarising whatever the rest of my brain is doing. Like a sports commentator trying to follow a match played by neurons. It also usually lags behind any actually useful thought.

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My “reading” is more me guessing where someone “good” would go. I sometimes just go too fast through my games and don’t read. I know it is a bad habit for me to have gotten into, so I am trying to start reading, even if I have started with only some of my games to look at what the opponent might do. I think because of this, I am better at live then correspondence because I can remember what I am trying to do and I will remember to try and read more. I have also probably gotten used to playing some people a bunch in live games, so some of this might be from that. Everyone else’s reading sounds so complex compared to my attempts that fail half the time. I was once trying to guess where someone would play if I played somewhere I wanted to play, after I got my mind set on playing that one spot. Probably not super important for me to guess that if it isn’t influencing where I will play.

Lol, and I’d argue is a ttak. :stuck_out_tongue:
I remember her mentioning something, maybe she replied to a comment? My memory fails me.

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In Korean, I agree, my “taak” was more how English speakers would interpret it :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s a very plosive tt, not the softer t.

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Thanks for all the responses :smile:

As someone pointed out, the question is somewhat ambiguous, but by ‘feel like’ I was trying to understand what may be for some a slightly inchoate, shapeless process, and for others very visual, stone by stone, iterating over a tree.

I remember a Michael Redmond commentary in which he seemed to say a pro would see a fully formed sequences spring up in his mind.

I find when I’m not looking at the board images are much more vivid for me, but I can’t count liberties clearly. Looking at the board I usually read a sequence stone by stone and after a while start losing track of branches. Sometimes though the right shape springs up fully formed - e.g. in a corner where I know the shapes that could live.

If I’m solving other logic problems - e.g. maths - I see it all in my minds eye and probing it one way or another I gradually understand it better until what remains might be a mechanical cross-check. I don’t feel able to carry that over to reading in Go though.

“Reading” makes it sound almost as if in principle you could read like a book - maybe slowly, but clearly.

Either way given the many different ways people think I’m curious about what has been written about it :slight_smile:

PS I think the Kasparov description at looking at options in a position was like walking into a bakery - you immediately know what you like having tasted a bit of everything before, but you still go and read through all the ingredients before making a final decision

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