'Why are we still SDK?" -- some thoughts

I’m taking a walk in this cold English sunny evening and being gently drizzled on, and dwelling on my regrettable tournament results as a 5k at Durham (1–3, skipping two rounds). I started to wonder why many long-time, committed players never reach EGF 1d or an equivalent strength.

  1. Have you been playing for less than three years? I think that with the effect of lockdown, to even reach EGF 5-9k can be considered to have been good progress.

  2. Have you been playing enough? Try to play at least three 19x19s each week. Ideally try to make the main time at least 20m / player. If you’re already playing three, try to play five or even more, depending on the extent of your Go leisure time.

  3. Are you reviewing your games? Some games we don’t want to review because we don’t like how either we or the opponent played. Try to review at least half of your 19x19s, though, and ideally as much as 75pc.

  4. Are you doing tsumego? Tsumego are a largely solitary activity so they can be boring, but try to do at least a few, eg. an hour a week.

  5. Are you in a league and / or teaching community? There are both free and commercial options depending on the level of teaching desired.

  6. Do you consume Go content? Consider watching a youtube lecture next time you’re winding down in the evening, and then trying to apply what you learnt the next day.

Well, since I played my first game in January of 2016 and I have still yet to even reach my longstanding goal of EGF 2k, this could just as easily be considered a guide for what not to do. Still, I hope I opened some discussion.


Just give up, if this doesn’t come naturally, there’s little reason to put much effort into go.


“Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.” Lance Armstrong

“Tsumego is not necessary to reach 1d.” drifterwolf :stuck_out_tongue:


Some of my thoughts, cause I have a goal to be 1d for quite awhile now:

  1. Play live games. No disrespect to correspondence games, but the actual games are always live games. The way it is played is quite different. Also I am thinking it would be a little awkward if I achieved OGS 1 or 2 d, but couldn’t beat 1-2k regularly in AGA in person games. That would make myself confused about my true strength.
  2. Play more games. I’ve not done enough.
  3. Establish a good game play habit: scan the board, ask if this is sente, good shape etc. haven’t made much progress myself on this. I was playing a 5d yesterday. One of my opponent’s comment was my shape is not good and he/she gave a couple of examples. Well, in the game, as soon as I placed those moves, I realized it. So it is not like I did not have this level of knowledge, the consistency is lacking. The consistency comes somewhat from a good playing habit in my view.
  4. Study a little seriously: that I agree with bugcat, except Tsumego. For example, I’ve watched 40+ episodes of pro taught Joseki videos, but don’t remember much. :sweat_smile: At one point, I realized I could enforce my learning/memory by practicing them right after watching, but I am lazy.
  5. Play stronger players: I played 4-5d three games recently. Felt like every single slow/bad move was punished/exploited. This does not happen in the games with same rank. Maybe I will consciously seek this kind of opportunities.

I am in the same situation as bugcat, playing go for 5 years and still EGF 5k. I believe the reasons why I am not stronger are:

  • Not always studying seriously.
  • Superficial reviewing of games.
  • Not applying the proverb “if you found a good move, find a better one”.

Age may be a factor (approaching 50) but the three points above are the main explanation.


I think it’s about finding that opportunity to understand the whole board and make better strategic decisions. Studying tsumego, tesuji helps, but if the strategic decision consistently leads us into (unnecessary?) complicated fights, each game is an uphill battle.

Around this level (mid-SDK) is where I find it very useful to have a teacher of near pro-level strength, who can communicate the way they understand how moves are exchanged, how they perceive the relative value of each group, how the next moves affect more than just shape, but the thickness and thinness of the position.

Of course finding a teacher isn’t the only way to get insights like that, but it is for sure a quicker one :slight_smile:

Years ago, I showed a Fox 3d game of mine to my teacher that involved 6 groups in a running battle. He said: “Yes you can score a win this way by sheer reading prowess, or a stronger player can nimbly come out ahead by not having to fight at all. For sure their lives are so much easier just because the strategic decision is superior.”


Too young to use age as an excuse … :grinning:


That’s all I saw from over 100 teaching videos from pros reviewing amateur games. They never said, look, if you did this, you would’ve killed this large group. They never promote this kind of thinking.

That’s my learning from watching above teaching videos too. They way they think about the game is so simple, clear and insightful.

My next action item. I need to finish my current learning materials, and also I feel I can get to 1d without 1:1 teaching, so I can claim I am self-made.

1 Like

I hate to say it,but it could also be that you aren’t really trying to be Dan.

What got you to mid SDK isn’t going to get you to 1k, and certainly won’t get you to 1dan.

Consider that ranking up is like an arms race. You have to really be putting in a lot of serious effort and pain to overcome your opponents who are also trying to beat you in the race to get ahead. Only one of you will win, so it all depends on how much effort you are putting I to the live game and how much effort you put in outside of the game in terms of studying. If you put in less than your opponents, you’ll likely never surpass them.

I was studying abut 6-8 hours a day on average when I was in high ask so that I could hit dam as fast as I could. I played 1-2 games a day for a total of 10-12 hours a day. I went from 3k to 1d at about 1 rank per month. I also had Clossius give me weekly lessons to keep me on track.

I got what I wanted but it burnt me out.

So in all honesty, if you enjoy the game at your current rank and can’t really devote the massive amount of time it takes to reach Dan, then don’t feel bad.

Feel good that you still enjoy the game no matter your rank. Losing your passion for go isn’t worth the rank.


No, that’s no way enjoyable for me.

It’s an arm race at top pro level maybe. Not at a 1d level. If I don’t get it, I am just doing something wrong or not smart enough, which results in only one thing: quit. :grinning:

1 Like

If you underestimate your opponents and just say “well it doesn’t really matter”, then yeah you won’t be hitting Dan any time soon unfortunately…

No, I am not underestimate others’ intelligence. I just don’t think most 5k-1k have enough interest or time to study and try to achieve 1d, nothing wrong with that. Then that presents the natural chance for whoever wants it to get it. It’s almost a given as long as one wants it and is willing to put the effort in.

1d is nothing. 3d+, that may be a different animal.

1 Like

“Why aren’t I in the State Championships…” … similar sort of question really.

As others have said, there comes a point where sheer talent is not enough, and hard work is also required…


Because you spend too much time on these forums instead of studying Go :slight_smile:


Stopping at Technological maturity (C) makes sense and is very cost effective.


I could ask the same questions for my level (3d EGF).

When an 8d EGF reviews my games, it is very much in line with this:

The advice I got from my 8d EGF (former) teacher to overcome situation D (plateau) in this graph…

… could be translated as “switching to a different technology”: change your playing style.
Are you a moyo player? Become a territorial player.
Are you an (over)aggressive player? Become a calm player.
Are you afraid of tactics? Become a tactician.

The goal is to become a more all-round player with fewer obvious weaknesses in your game. Your results in competition are determined more by your weaknesses than your strengths.


I attribute my growth from an almost-dan to dan to the improvement in reading. By almost dan I mean I was tygem 3-4d then. I made tygem 5d in a few month and 6d in less than two years. Part-time self-taught only.

Things I did in that period:

  1. Tsumego.
  2. Play online games and some simple self-review
  3. Watch videos (tournaments live commentary, pro reviewing students games, pro tygem games, opening, tsumego).

Things I didn’t do:

  1. Deep review, either by myself or with a stronger player.
  2. Reading books.
  3. Finding a teacher.
  4. Partner or study group.

I’m not suggesting things I didn’t do won’t help. In fact I tried to join a study group but it turned out to be inactive for some reason.

Things I did may not work for others too. I knew reading was my weakness. So it comes down to understanding your biggest weakness and work against it.

Anyway, I think working on reading is a good idea for most high sdks who mainly study by themselves, for the following reasons:

  1. Poor tactics ruin good strategies. In the end borders are to be closed and stones on the borders are to be involved in contact fights.
  2. Reading study can be done alone.
  3. You’ll eventually work on reading if you want to proceed to a higher level.
  4. Most sdk, if not all, are weak at reading more or less, from a (OGS) 5d’s view.

Some more specific suggestions if you want to improve your reading:

  1. If you’ve never been taught how to read, read the following article by Antti first.
    Train of Thought, Part One
  2. If in a fight too many candidates cause you a headache and you tend to play on your intuition, then work on some hard tsumegoes, the ones that you don’t even want to do at the first glance. Try to solve them by brute-force.
  3. If you have enough patience to brute-force a hard tsumego then work on easy ones and time yourself, to improve intuition.
  4. Don’t avoid studying complicated positions, either from actual games or in a video. “This is too complicated and we can avoid simply so let’s not spend time on it” might be a legit suggestion to ddk but come on we are talking about how to become a dan.

Everyone is different so my experience may not apply to others.


I can confirm that I need to improve my tactics, especially the accuracy of my reading.

But a bigger issue for me was a lack of self-control, leading me to many overaggressive moves/overplays. That hurt my game even more than reading inaccuracy.

Another issue for me was bad endgame/not enough appreciation for territory. I was aware of my poor endgame, so I tried to cover that weakness by winning in the middle game, trying to subdue my opponent with sheer agression so they would resign before the endgame even started.

But this very often lead me to unsound play (see above). The proper way to handle this endgame/territory issue is to fix that weakness. Play a calm game and be prepared to let the game go into a close endgame and be comfortable with winning a game by 1.5 points.

So the most important thing to fix for me was my emotions.


There are many different skills that contribute to your go playing ability. Some players excel at one, some at another. Ordering them by importance is very difficult and subjective. I personally feel one should try to improve all of those skillsets little by little.

I like to distinguish between strategy and tactic.

the big picture on the whole board; what are your long term plans, how do you view the relative strength / weakness / influence of groups on the board, what are your general priorities?

the “small” picture or in other words a local situation, what to do in contact fighting situations, ability to visualise sequences, also knowledge and experience about generally good shape moves, tesuji etc. or generally, are you aware of the possible future plays in local situations on the board?

In my opinion you need both to be successful, and they are intertwined. For example for understanding the big picture of the whole board, you often need to judge how strong a group is. If it gets surrounded, does it have / can it make two eyes? Those are the questions to solve with tactic, and the task of the strategy is to use this information and shape it into a whole-board view.


While I agree with this, I do think that strategy tends to be overrated by human players (at least this is something that I’m getting from reviewing with AI).
I mean, strategy is obviously important, but when playing an equally skilled opponent, many different strategies are viable with proper follow-up play. But in the end, it’s points that count.

1 Like