Whose master games should I study?


As a beginner, I’d like to study a small selection of master games to get an impression, what really good, clear and healthy style in go looks like. As a chess player, I would recommend games played by Morphy, Capablanca and Tarrasch in this case. Are there similar recommendations for go masters?




Yes, there are similar recommendations for go masters. Go Seigen, Lee Changho, and Takemiya Masaki come to mind, as well as many others.

I would start with Lee Changho. He earned the nickname “Stone buddha” both for his peaceful playing style and his tight poker face at the board. He prefers commonsense moves over difficult infighting, and that makes his games somewhat easy to follow. He pretty much dominated the Go world for 15 years from 1991 to 2006.

Go Seigen is perhaps the greatest go player. He is known for resisting the territorial styles of the old players and pioneering a new way of opening (Shin Fuseki). His style is experimental, loose, and free, making his games as exciting as they are instructive. Although his moves can be difficult to understand, his mastery of turning thickness into profit is worth paying attention to.

Takemiya Masaki is known primarily for his natural “cosmic” style of play. If you want to get strong at building influence and using it for attack, there’s no better place to start than his game records.

As for the game records themselves, I recommend commentaries over uncommented games so you get a better idea what’s going on. Gogameguru is a good source of high-quality commentaries. There are plenty of other places on Ye Ol’ Google as well.

You may find this lecture on the styles of great go players worth watching, too. Enjoy!


Thank you for the hint and the link.


Thank you very much for your detailed answer. This is very helpful. I saw a commented game of Go Seigen on Gogameguru already and as well watched one of Takemiya Masaki, but the others were new to me.


One other famous player known for making extremely reasonable moves (to the point where other players got annoyed by his reasonableness) was Takagawa Kaku. He’s the only pro player I’ve really tried to replay games from so far (this will change as I got both Invincible (Shusaku) and Relentless (Gu Li and Lee Sedol) for Christmas), and I think it has definitely helped.

There is a large number of his games in SGF format here:


(Some of the other popular masters - Go Seigen somewhat and Takemiya Masaki in particular - are amazing to watch, but don’t necessarily play in ways that a beginner can benefit from up front. This does not mean you shouldn’t try the things you see them do! You should, absolutely, and you will learn useful stuff - just that the results may not immediately be victory :P)


AlphaGo! Although they say that many of its moves are strange and hard to understand, one thing seems clear and especially valuable: its aggressive effort to shut the opponent out of the center.


I was told by my teacher that the players in Japan in the 60s and 70s played very clear, proper style. That means Ishida “The Computer” Yoshio, Cho Chikun, and others who held titles in the 60s 70s and early 80s. Lee Changho is incredible but extremely subtle, and required deep reading of fighting situations that, while educational, will be a little dense for a beginner.


Thank you for your recommendation!


Surprising, and I am somewhat reluctant to take a software as a teacher, but maybe you are right.


Thank you. I will have a look at a few of their games.


My response will be more theoretical. I’m a new player and not strong in go. I play chess too and have some experience. I notice that your chess list is from old players! This is good, and i think that very good for young\ new players. Normally the old masters have an style that is more easy to understand, because have not much information in that time. The first master that i studied serious was Capablanca, because he was very good in endgame and more computer style of precision, but i think that the opening theory was not the strong point at that time, probably Go have the same evolution, there are modificacions and new ideas that come like an evolution from old ones.Probably the best games to study are two kinds, 1) old masters and 2) from new masters. Probably the difference is huge. I’m trying too apply the same idea in Go, because if you understand a old master, maybe you will understand the ideas behind a new one. Why we have this evolution? why the masters make this new kind of joseki? This is the kind of questions that comes in to the mind. In chess, maybe Kasparov and Karpov can be the best players to study after the masters that you quoted, because there are so many inovations in this two master that basically is a total different game hehe. the master John Watson made a book about middle game and compared the old ideas with the newones. This is a historical approach to the game and i like this idea, like Kasparov sayd in that collection os grandmaster in history, the ideas of the old masters normally came from a natural perspectiv in playing that game, and the newmasters play some inovations that is not so natural and to understand the difference is good to study all the masters hehehe, this is hard work ofcourse and will exist some masters that you will be more happy to study hehe and others no, but is like karpov says, you have to be able to understand the idea of all styles, dont matter if you like more tatical game, more positional game, dont matter besides you will have some especific styl you need to understand all styles at some point. Since i’m not a srong player in Go, i will not risk that this “idea” of study plan is the best or good, this is from my experience in chess and maybe is good for Go, because have this natural approoach, how to understand the game more naturally and not so using memory to know the moves but understand the ideas and evolutions in the ideas and styles in the game like they cam in the history, the main problem in to be a complet begginer is that maybe you will not be able to say what is a old master exemple (a place to begin) or a new master (that have inovations that are brutally diferente from the old styles. In chess put Fisher in this division point, but the russians made a lot of inovations with Botivinik styles and ideas, but was arround that time that the chess ideas became more new style. Well, i tryed not to say some bullshit but, maybe i said some and i excuse for that.


As a 11kyu what do I know of master games?

But I did memorize a couple of games, one of GO Seigen vs Fujisawa Kuranosuke, 1953. (an excellent commentary
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcWHOkggNfw )

and of the famous game between Honinbo Shūsai and Minoru Kitani in 1938. This is the game from Master of GO. I memorized it so when I reread it I will be able to get more out of the book.

What I found is that sometimes I see opportunities in games that remind me of games, and it gives me different ideas how to play. To not just play defensively. It may not always work, because of my deficiencies but it does make the game more interesting. GO Seigen plays beautiful amazing games, but I cannot hope to play like him. But I can at least remember to not get caught boxed up, and to try to use aji. A friend and I replayed a game from Kaoru Iwamoto beginners book yesterday. Kitani in that game made a stick live in the center of whites influence and reduce his territory what a beautiful game. We played later and rather than play defensively at one point I jumped lightly to the center willingly sacrificing a few stones for a large moyo in the center. It worked. I was inspired by the game we had just replayed.

So yes replaying Master games is very useful. Even if u do not fully understand the game.


Hi @Nghtstalker

I am not very good at Go, by any measure. However, I feel compelled to offer my opinion. Perhaps I misunderstood your posting – if so, I apologize.

Memorization of master games might be (for some) a profitable strategy. My personal opinion is that it is better and much more efficient to expend your efforts trying to extract common approaches/stategies/tactics from master games rather than memorizing the games. I, for one, am not so good at memorization, but seem to be much better at general pattern recognition and the recognition of similarities in game development.

For those with really good memorization skills, then your approach might even be superior, but I still think that it is not particularly efficient nor successful by itself.


– Musash1


My point was not to say you have to memorize games. But how I learned from those better than me. I did mention in the post a game I replayed which helped in my subsequent game. Best wishes and hope you continue to improve!


Hi @Nghtstalker

OK, I guess I was taking your post too literally. Actually memorizing complete games seems like it would be impossible for most people.

Best regards to you too,

– Musash1


Not necessarily. The idea behind memorizing pro games is not to remember the moves per se, but to first review and understand the logic behind them. Then you do not need to actually brute-force the sequence from memory, but you recognize what move is (possibly) the best given the situation. Sure, lot of brain power is still necesarry, but by taking this approach it is quite possible and can in fact help your game a lot.


AlphaGo could be a choice, but preferable if you can get used to hard-to-understand moves. Otherwise, I would prefer Ke Jie.


@Adam3141 isn’t that what I implied in my origial posting? If not, then I did not express myself clearly enough, because that (what you say) is exactly what I mean.


– Musash1


Oh, I am retarded :smiley:
for some reason I thought you were two different people not understanding each other, so I tried to expand on the original thought. Count on me to make a simple matter confusing :smiley:

But in that case we are all in agreement, which is also always nice to hear