Where do I always go wrong? (~19k)

This game is just an example of many. I am good in local battles. I know a few little tricks/traps in corners and edges. But I have no clue about openings and how to get a good position. People advice me to learn about josekis or to learn about the various dead/alive puzzles. I don’t see the relationship. In this game (like in many others) I think I just do a reasonable defense. Nothing super-smart, I know, and I am sure there are more brilliant things to do. But even for my low level, I should do better. Not brilliant, but better. Around move 75 it’s already clear to me that I am gonna lose. But I have no idea why. Black has a huge territory in the right bottom that I never had the chance to attack or imitate. I defended as best as I could. I attacked. I even made a few “weird” adventurous moves to get some bigger chances. But it’s useless because I am missing something fundamental. No idea what it is.

I am not asking for a review (it would be pointless anyway), but just the key moves that caused me to lose.

I’m not too much of an expert but maybe something about thinking about which moves are big and small. E.g. move 24 didn’t gain you much if anything, a very small move. Instead you could have planted something in the open lower side of the board, a big move. That would have blocked blacks territory down there before it even started.

Okay, so that would mean that I am losing too much time “defending” stuff that doesn’t need defending. That’s useful advice, thanks, I will have to keep on reminding me of that.


Yes, the other way of looking at it is to ask “what would I do if my opponent played there?” To stick with the example of move 24, you could still have easily blocked. Therefore it was not an efficient move. Whoever uses their stones most efficiently wins. I’m trying to learn how to do this!

It was very useful for me to go and watch Dwyrin’s youtube videos. Especially the “back to basics” series.
He talks a lot about simple but effective opening moves and how to avoid to be surrounded and let you opponent create big moyos that you then need to invade or reduce too much.
That’s one weekly video of about 1h. You don’t need to start from the beginning of the series


you said a review would be pointless… i disagree :slight_smile:, which is why i made one, though just a very short one.

basically you are correct to blame “small” moves. try to devellop a feel for what is important. look for 2 things:

1 empty space: wherever there are few stones played, there are likely points to get. avoid clumping up stones in one area too early in the game.
2 weak groups: the best way to collect points is to find a group you can attack. that way you can build while it is your opponent playing inefficinet small moves.

its not an easy matter by all means. knowing whats small and whats big is always going to be an issue, and a stronger player will find the slow moves you play and pull ahead, no matter whether you are a 20kyu or a 1dan :smiley:.


Thanks for the review. I think I am going to look it over a couple of times, I see certain patterns in my behaviour that I have to fix. Thanks… I am not sure I always see an alternative when you say “too small move”. They seem like necessary defenses to me. In any case, I have alreay learned that instead of losing from move 75, it’s clear that at move 47 I’m already lost :slight_smile:

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Thanks, I’ll try. Unfortunately I am very impatient (which is partly why I am a slow learner) so I am not sure I will manage. I tried watching Nick Sibicky’s videos but he’s too high level for me, his advices are so much above my level that they only make me playing worse.

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i added some comments and tried to offer alternatives as well. your instinct to defend is not wrong in general! its about timing. what makes the moves small is that they are gote at a time when so much bigger moves are availible.

its just painful to defend on the second line and then watch your opponent play an extension from an enclosure along an entire open side. youll learn to appreciate that pain in time xD.

thats why such defenses are for endgame or situations where you stand to lose an entire group.

Looking at this single game I would recall few rules of thumb that you can find very often in Dwyrin’s videos:

  1. Leave your groups unfinished if they are “alive enough”. If a group of yours is not in danger, play elsewhere. Try to understand when your groups are “fine” even if they aren’t completely settled.
  2. If your opponent has corner enclosure, grab extension. If he has extension, grab enclosure. Don’t let an opponent’s corner have both. Don’t ever let him to have enclosure and TWO extensions
  3. Don’t attack if you aren’t strong enough. First reinforce, then attack.
  4. Play small moves only if you really need them (to escape or reinforce or avoid to be surrounded) or in endgame. Look for bigger moves expecially in fuseki and middle game.

In this game your opponent had a huge bottom left corner, with enclosure and double extension. You lost only by 15 points, so you managed to reduce a lot his potential. Not bad at all.

Another quick cheklist that I find very useful is this one, in order of importance:

  1. If you have a weak group, fix it.
  2. If your opponent has a weak group, attack it.
  3. If you can make a move that claims a large territory, do it.
  4. If your opponent can make a move that claims a large territory, deny it

I don’t remember the source of this one.


Don’t want to be an old grandpa here, but back in my days we used to think about our moves. All your games last 10 minutes or less. At best 15 minutes. That’s about what, 3 seconds per move? You talk about “reasonable” defense, but can you really tell what’s reasonable and necessary if you play that fast?

I’d try slower games with aim to tenuki as often as possible.


A complete 19x19 in just 10 minutes??? :scream:

Usually, I push beginners to not play too slow and waste time in too high thinking as long as they can put some idea or will in their moves.
To try to understand far too much is a good way to give up playing the game.

Now the OP can surely be at the point where he could start to take a bit more time to think and ponder his moves!

For me it was useless to play only Blitz-style games. If one never ever has enough time to ponder one’s every single move one soon is getting into a click-click-click-lost-again-vicious-cycle. I would’ve lost interest into the game if I had stuck to fast games only.

A mixture of playing slow games with a lot of thinking about every single move / where you even have time to read about new ideas / concepts you haven’t experienced on the board so far and fast games to test if the stuff that you just have learned in the slow games is “automated” works best for me.

Ah, yes, I see there have been comments about how fast I play. I was expecting those, and I deserve them and of course, you are right. But as I mentioned before: I am extremely impatient. I saw someone was shocked that I play 19x19 in less than 10 minutes. Believe me: even that’s too slow for me. What bugs me often even more is that with most timing schemes, you set it to 2:30 each, but then during the game, after a turn, the time gets incremented again. Drives me crazy. I am with violaine here: thinking too much often seems counter effective, a bit like watching Nicky Sibicky: there’s no point in trying to be clever when it’s too high level. So maybe I have to just to be content with losing a lot :slight_smile: I can see I am lacking time to properly “read” a situation and I don’t mind losing because of that. What bugs me are the situations where even if I would think for an hour I wouldn’t see what I did wrong. Most of it has the do (as has been pointing out by you guys) with the balance between big moves and small moves. What repeatedly happens in my games is that I manage to secure two corners and even one edge and then I see my opponent has two corners and three edges and I wonder how the hell did he do that? Then I proceed doing “crazy moves” which often go a long way against players of level 18k or less to “confuse”, cut a bit here, a bit there, have attacks from various sides and with a bit of luck I can make up for the bad position. Or I win on time, which I admit is a bit lame, but I really enjoy playing fast. Anyway, thanks for the help. What I got mostly from this is focussing a bit more on big moves and creating influence.


Sure keeping playing quick can lead to discourage too. I didn’t mean a timing like blitzing more a relax approach of the game, it looks fine if a beginner from times to times pause a bit and consider his moves. When I was hanging around with my board and stones, I met someone who wanted to try and I did spend a whole night in a party on a single game. I got the patience for that but I know it was meaningless. Indeed looking back trying to present the game turned a few times into a bitter experience: I remember that chess player who couldn’t agree to take handicap and after losing on even went to lose on 4 and then again 6 stones and then disappeared. Another of my friend did well with hard work and studying problems but I found very unusual between beginners to go that way so early.
I found more players discouraged because they got too much to study, too much to think as because they played too relaxed games. Mainly it was their own failure as they did just put too much pressure on themselves, in an understandable wish to play better asap.
Many things can be discovered in-game and it’s a pleasure I’m afraid to steal away if I teach them too Snap-back, Ladders, closing the territory,… I do think the better you play the more pleasure you get but I think you can still enjoy the game a lot when your level is low and short cuts may not always been possible or even necessary. The most relevant is simply to feel somehow comfortable even if you leaves some of your stones in Atari or if you get attacked because you did attack if you forgot to connect or died in gote or whatever strange things you discover.

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So in general I would say the problem with your opening is that you are playing a lot of slow, gote moves, which allows black to just keep playing big points on the board to develop a better framework. Specifically a lot of the moves you play to defend your own shape are not threatening black in any particular way, so black can just ignore them and continue to secure a larger area.

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I have some suggestions how you can think about your game:

Identify something that did not work out well. For example, as you said: Black got a lot of territory in the lower and right parts of the board.

Now, starting at say move 29 when Black first has stones at the extremities of the future territory ask yourself at each move: Would this have been a good moment to jump into Black’s potential territory?

Another example: Let’s say that you decide that you defend too much and should attack more. Then play a new game and at each defensive move ask yourself if you are sure that this is necessary. If not, then tenuki until something dies. Then you have learned which moves are necessary :slight_smile:
Or, if you were more like me or become more like me and groups die left and right, play a game with the single objective that nothing dies (but I guess that you already successfully do this).

Another example: You are unhappy with your opening. Do not learn too much theory, just big points:

  1. Empty corner
  2. Approach to corner with one stone or enclosure of own corner with a second stone.
  3. Empty space in the middle of a side.

As long as one of these points is empty, ask yourself at each move if this would not be a good moment to play at the empty spot.

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Review your games thoroughly. Understand why you lost. It’s important. If your opponent got more territory than you did because you “never had the chance to attack or imitate” it’s probably because you are playing too slow, i.e. being too defensive. BTW, you need to temper your impatience. I know it’s hard, but just take a few seconds to think about what you want to do and how to accomplish it. You need to have a strategy to win a strategy game!!

But, if patience isn’t your thing and you want some quick lessons-learned from a ~9k, here are some things that would have helped me when I was a 20k:

You should always remember the rule of 2: you can only play one move at a time in Go which means that as long as you have two ways to escape, two ways to connect, two ways to live, two eyes, etc., you can go play somewhere else. If you ever find yourself in a situation where there’s only one way to connect or live or escape, that is an urgent move (in general).

At the same time, you can’t have everything! This isn’t an all or nothing game. Sometimes you just have to give up a stone, or a group, or even a whole corner or a side to win the game. It’s counter intuitive and painful, but somewhere around my 150th game I lost a group of like 20 stones and instead of resigning (as I thought I should have at the time), I kept playing and won. It turns out that my opponent spent all his/her stones eating my group while I made territory elsewhere. Once he/she committed to killing that group, I had tons of forcing moves that let me play free stuff. The lesson here is that not all stones are of equal value. Make this your mantra! One stone that is separating your opponent’s weak groups is worth much more than that clump of 5 stones doing nothing in the middle of the board. Next game, try giving up your useless stones. Even if that means losing a small group. Let it go!

Don’t follow your opponent around because they will happily show you where to play to lose the game. Every time your opponent plays a move, think: “What does this do? Does this threaten me in some way? Do I have to respond to this move?”. If the answer is no, go find the biggest thing you can play (remember corners > sides > center, in that order) on the board and play it. Is there a move that threatens your opponent? Play that instead. There’s a word for this: sente. It’s an incredibly subtle and powerful thing; one that even at SDK I still do not take into account enough. Having the initiative means you are the one calling the shots for the game. Never under estimate the power of having sente. Remember, komi is the compensation white gets for not having sente at the beginning of the game. By that measure, having sente is worth 6 or 7 stones!! Remember the thing about giving up useless stones? If your opponent wants those three stones, let them have it! Now you have sente, and probably some forcing moves to go with it (just threaten to take those three stones back)!

Finally: Never stop playing. Play as many games as you can. Play against GnuGo or something until you can beat it every time. Yeah, I know it’s not the same as playing a person, but it can help you learn at least enough to be a single digit kyu, plus you can easily take back bad moves, experiment with strategies, etc. Just keep playing. There is no substitute for thousands of games under your belt.

Hope this helps you!


Thanks for all the advice. I don’t think I ever will really enjoy thinking about strategy, for me the fun comes from the sneaky battles, laying traps for the oponent or circling him in unawares, even though in the long run this gives less points. But it guess it won’t harm playing a bit more “strategically”. I have tried to play a bit less “slow” lately, making bigger steps, and although most of those moves seem completely unnatural to me, it’s kind of fun and as a matter of fact later in the game can give rise to all kind of interesting battles, so I guess it might help indirectly in having more fun too. Cheers for all the good advice

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