Why I never can play IRL: Have you experienced this?

In the summer of 2014 I discovered go. I played my first game in real life against my wife, for whom it was also her first go game ever; it was an amazing experience and we both got a small glimpse of the majesty and depth of the game. I can’t even remember who won. I was so taken by the game that I read up on strategies, played many games against AI / bots, and spent much of my idle time considering various positions, playing against myself, etc. By the time my wife and I had time to play our second game a few days later, I was noticeably stronger and took an early lead; she did not have much fun with the game after that (and it was only our 2nd game together).

I tried to introduce the game to my friends that year as well, but no one wanted to play more than a couple games against me; I wasn’t even very good (maybe 23k at that time). I thought, how great it is that go naturally allows for handicaps, but neither my wife nor my friends would ever take a handicap (one of my friends even mentioned that his father told him never to play a game with a handicap). There is also a strong aversion to the idea of resignation in my culture (United States), so whenever I did get to play a friend IRL, it ended up being boring for both players. It was usually this long drawn-out battle where I would be ahead, and my opponent, who refused a handicap, would suffer through to the end. Then if I ever suggested playing the game again, I would get a response along the lines of, “Sure, but I know you’re going to win. Want to watch something on Netflix instead?”

During the Winter of 2014/2015 I started a go club in my city of roughly 60,000 people which was moderately successful at the beginning. I met some other players, and some were several stones stronger than me. Unfortunately, no one attended more than a few meetings. By the summer of 2015 I was the only one going each week, and I ended up just reading a book, waiting for opponents who would never arrive. Needless to say, my go club soon ceased to exist.

Now, in 2016, if I want to play a game against another person, I must play online. I am very grateful that servers like OGS exist, and I truly appreciate the opponents I get to play online. However, I am left feeling a little disappointed in myself because this great board game I discovered can now only be experienced like a video game, by sitting in front of a screen. One of my part-time jobs is web-based, so I already feel like I’m spending too much time on the computer. Have you had similar or different experiences trying to play go IRL? Your empathy, stories, and suggestions are much appreciated.


Indeed, playing in real life gives different feeling than online. Luckily, I live in big city, so I can find opponents in go clubs (still, there’re few people there, compared to chess, for example).

On the topic of resignation: since a lot of people in my country know chess to some extent, I think not resigning is also less of a problem.

And in terms of handicap I even think that go club members tend to overuse it - I won a lot of games just because handicap was clearly too high. Or maybe it’s just that I prefer even games, and for example two stone difference (or even three) doesn’t require handicap in my opinion.

I like to playing online, so I dont have the problem (for the moment)

But, I do want to brainstrom a little bit, probably you have already thought about it or tried:

Keep going with the go club

  • ask your former members what the need to maybe come back again from time to time (with no preasure)
    work on it
    (maybe lose the club form and make once a month a gathering, maybe work on your social skills)

  • Flyer your neighbourhood

  • start a newcomer aquise, maybe for kids (flyer in schools)

  • get a journalist from local media to report about go and provide a adress for intrerested people

Go somewhere else:

  • visit a go-congresses

  • organize a go gathering in your region

  • go to a chess club (word game, yes! :smiley: )
    In a chess club you will maybe find go-player or some guys that intrested in learning go

  • go to a hippie festival (there are open minded people who are e wiling to learn or already did)

  • go to a nerd festival (hacker congress maybe)

  • find the next go club in the nearest city and attend

outside the box

  • blackmail your wife to play against you otherwise you have to move to an other town :smiley: (give her in the games enough handicap to win, so that she get positive contitioned )
  • make kidz and force them to learn go
  • bribe kidz with eatable go stones (what you win you can eat!)
    -> M&Ms for example
    or extacy for the party generation :smiley: :smiley:
    or viagra for elderlys :smiley:

hm…thats it for now, maybe not he best ideas but maybe enough for further thoughts :slight_smile:


Never had your issue with playing IRL. But perhaps asking these questions might help.

Could there perhaps be an bigger existing club that’s pulling your members? You could go to theirs instead.
Is commuting distance a factor as to why the players are not coming?

Try mingling with the Asian communities. They should have at least a few people who have heard of or played the game before.

Sadly, rank disparity is the biggest killer of clubs. The easiest and most easily obtainable common rank is the SDK rank, which you can get pretty fast and also stagnate at for a long time. Strong enough to play with DDK but still able to lose to with moderate handicaps; vice versa for the dan players. Have enough of these players and your club should be able to sustain its no. .

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Sounds familiar. No Go club in my country.

IRL are overrated.

Fast? Like in a month? Year? 5 Years?

I bet most people never make it to SDK and quit while DDK.

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Depends on how much you play and study, and of course, talent.
On average just from anecdotal experience, it could be a few months to a year for the average guy with average talent. 5 years is definitely not the average time taken for a person to reach SDK. I’m talking about the minimum standard for SDK which is 9k btw.

I’ve heard that with regular, frequent study, 10k in about 6 months is a reasonable average.

I try to play a game or 2 per day but I am stuck at this 17-16 range for months now. Just cant get past it. I’ll give it another month. If nothing changes, I’ll just quit and never look back.

Playing a game doesn’t count as study. I could play 10 games a day for weeks and not improve if I kept making the same mistakes. I find problems most productive for study. Reviews also help for an overall perspective of your game, but they can be a bit too broad sometimes.

I was the same. Was stuck around 18K. I then read the book called “In the beginning” and something clicked and jumped about 2 ranks in the next few days.

I have been stuck on 12-13K for the last few weeks and I am doing a fair amount of study. I feel like I am waiting (studying) for the next aha moment.

Getting stuck on a rank for months at a time is normal. Provided your enjoying playing, don’t give up!

With that attitude and unrealistic expectation of jumping from 17k to 9k within a month, you’ll not improve much later on even if you do miraculously hit your target because you have neither patience nor enough passion for the game.


I do not have those expectations. No idea, where you got that. I said I am stuck at 17-16 for months now and cant get out it.
If I cant get out from 17-16k in next 30 days, there is no point playing any longer. BTW, this means about 14 and not 9. And if I get stuck at 14 for too long, it means there is no more evolving so why waste my time with it. I’ll just forget it and move on. It’s just a silly game (and a massive waste of time), btw.

[quote=“hiryuu, post:13, topic:9774”]
you’ll not improve much later on even if you do miraculously hit your target because you have neither patience nor enough passion for the game.[/quote]

I think you are confusing obsession with passion. Why? Because it’s a board game! :slight_smile:

Guess I misunderstood your statement on the 1 month thing.

While I do agree with your sentiments on Go just being a game that does take up a lot of time, I get the feeling that you’re simply saying that out of spite for your own lack of progress.
Be honest with yourself, you probably say this for every single thing you picked up in the past and will pick up in the future that you’re not good at.

So obsession and passion is based on your own prejudices on what’s worth devoting time for then? -.-


Wow, thank you everyone here for the many responses! I think the reason why many of the members stopped attending my club was because they were almost all college students (it was in a “college town”) and they got more busy with their studies, then left on vacation when classes were finally over. Unfortunately, last summer (about 1 year after my go club disbanded) I moved to a different town which is even smaller, and lost touch with the old members.

@S_Alexander Very good points.

@sTan Those outside the box ideas are hilarious! And this comment is great: “maybe work on your social skills” Easier said than done =) A lot of those ideas are actually pretty good! I’ll give them a try.

@hiryuu Great questions… In the town I used to live in, where I started the go club, it was the only one locally (also it was walking distance from the college that many of the members attended). But, there is a major city with a go club about 2 hours away where many of the college students would go home to visit their families anyway, so that was probably a factor. That’s interesting about the rank disparity being the biggest killer of go clubs, I was wondering if that was the case. It makes sense, but it is definitely sad as you said.

@myAccount Thanks for the empathy! Good to know I’m not the only one.

@ifnotmaybe I’ve been about 17k for a while now too. If you really believe that the game is “a massive waste of time,” then by all means move on to something else. In my humble opinion, it’s fine to be whatever rank you are for whatever amount of time as long as you’re enjoying the game. The ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi once wrote, “He who knows himself is enlightened!”

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Bummer on your living situation. You need a high enough population to get some luck with the recruiting numbers. Sadly Go is not as attractive as other games because it’s not as quick-rewarding and visually stimulating as the latest game fad so only a small fraction of people will like it. Too small the population and you’re better off playing with your wife in the comfort of your house.

On the issue of stubborn players accepting handicaps, perhaps phrasing it in another way might be better. If the respect card for the stronger player is not respected then you could always point out that it makes for a more exciting game for both players and is win-win. The other guy does want a fair chance at winning right?


@hiryuu You’re totally right. Sometimes I mislead myself by thinking “I really love this game, so surely ____ will like it too!” But if that’s how the world worked, I’d probably be playing Pokemon Go or Call of Duty everyday because some of my friends love those games. I guess I’ll just have to use some of those tesuji that @sTan mentioned to get my wife to start playing go with me again =)
I’ll try your idea of phrasing the suggestion of a handicap in a different way. Certainly, the term “handicap” has some negative connotations which is part of the problem. And…“a fair chance at winning,” very well put, I wish other people would see it that way!

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Our club’s city has almost the same amount of people but we managed to have a durable club with 5-6 regulars.
Sometimes a newcomer come and disappear almost as fast but we still manage to have new people trying go every year because we join in external events to make the game known (sometimes getting a shot for the newspaper).
It takes time, but every year we find new opportunities (this week we have an event at the multimedia center) and a player or two that stays. And of course, we keep it fun and relaxed.

I find you have three kinds of people:

  • They try just once because it looks interesting but it seems they don’t care about the game or don’t want to spend efforts. Not everyone naturally loves to mess around mental problems and we’re not used to delayed gratification in games.
  • They become easily fascinated by the game and don’t mind doing some studying at all; the motivation is natural. They always come.
  • They like the game but only come once in a while. Becoming stronger is not really important.

My two cents.

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What an excellent posting! My experiences have been very similar. However, I have attended successful Go club meetings (Cambridge, MA, USA) and have been mentored by a top Go player I worked with (Bruce Wilcox) and played many games (years ago) IRL. I tried to start a Meetup Go club, but no one showed up more than once.

In my opinion, the reason I can’t play Go with my wife (and failed with many others IRL) is that I don’t play like Bruce and others play. There is nothing wrong with my rank (currently 17k), it is an attitude that I give off when I play that makes people not want to play with me.

That much is clear. I loved playing with Bruce and others, but I feel strange when I play with 35k people, trying to teach them the game.

Someday, someone will publish a really good explanation for this phenomenon, with tips for how we can really interest other people in Go. For now, I only know that there is something wrong with how I relate to people when playing IRL.


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