Your beginnings with Go

So I had my first game around two weeks ago. I don’t feel like I’m doing as good as I would like to, I’m a bit flustrated, which is why I want to ask about others’ expirience in that matter.
I play igowin at three stones handicap, I won around 50% of games since the beginning (started 8 days ago, had only 3 games before that). I went as far as to 16kyu (I know it’s not accurate), so two stones handicap, but I can’t get past that.
I feel like my play is all over the place, I can’t defend when someone barges in my “already secured” territory, have trouble with life and death problems and killing my opponent’s stones… I felt off the rythm after playing someone with aggresive style recently, so I’m feeling even more bad about my games. Like I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, lol.
Well, I will add that I don’t have much expirience with mind games, not even with chess. I’ve read it might actually have something to do with our progress on a long range or something.

So my questions are:

  1. How long have you been playing Go?
  • How were you doing at the beginning?

  • How old were you when you started? (Btw, I’m 18, almost 19)

  • Why did you pick up Go, how you got in touch with it for the first time, what was your motivation at the beginning?

  • How do you think a person should do at the beginning? What would you expect from a beginner in the first few weeks since they started?

  • How you progressed since the start?

Well, you don’t have to answer all of it :joy:

I don’t really know what to expect from myself, which is why I’m asking. I know it’s different for everyone, but I have to start to worry at some point and idk if I’m at the right track or not :weary:


I picked up Go this Christmas. I’m 50+

My motivation was to be able to play with my teenage children, who started at that time.

It’s taken me these 4 months, playing a couple of games a week, to get to 20k.

There are some big help things that I found:

  • InSente’s beginner go series

These were definitely best “getting started” thing I found.

Note, though, that this series takes you only so far: really beginner stuff. It’s great for that. It changed me from always losing to my son, to being able to beat him for a while.

InSente’s other material is good, but not “the best”. “The Best” I found are:

  • Dwyrin and Nick Sibicky video lectures. Especially Dwyrin “basic shapes” series

These are pitched at “DDKs” as if that term means “beginners”. But an 11k person is a DDK. An 11k person is a guru compared to me and you. Me and you are really “TPKs” … twenty plus Kyus … and we need much more basic help, like InSente’s :slight_smile:

But after InSente’s, you do need “the next level” which Dwyrin and Nick supply. So you have to pick the material and just not get lost in the advanced stuff.

What worked for me:

  • Learn the rules on 9x9. I found I was quickly impatient with this, so I quickly went on to…
  • … try 19x19 for the feel of it. You can have some fun games stumbling around, until you realise you have no idea about life and death (tsumego)
  • Go back to 9x9 with a goal of getting excellent at tsumego.
  • When you can count liberties and fight, go back to 19x19
  • Find out what “corners side centre” means, and what “big moves” means, and do those
  • Look for “basic beginner joseki” videos, to give you some grounding in how to respond in openings
    … but don’t get to hung up on memorising. Just be aware that they exist and the most basic ones you can expect.
    … Sensei’s library has good coverage of these too: eg… from this page, you’d only really need the first one to start with (low extension)
  • Same with fuseki (standard openings). The only reason for a “TPK” to know one or two of these is to have some clue what the opponent is doing, but don’t get hung up on them. I read somewhere that “The first 10 moves of Kyu games don’t even matter”. Obviously that is an exaggeration, but maybe it illustrates the point.

That gets you to 20k :slight_smile:


Two weeks is very very short in go time. Dont sweat it youre not going slow


I would expect that a complete beginner would not recognize problems with their shape being poorly connected and easily cut apart. Not recognizing where there are potential liberty issues, which inevitably leads to huge groups of stuff dying all of a sudden. It happens, we’ve all been there.

I suggest watching the Dsaun shape lecture video on Youtube, which talks about basics of good and bad shape.


I have started around 4 weeks ago, so I’m still a newbie but I do my best to learn and get better


For someone your age, you’re still incredibly impatient to be feeling down after just a week. I started the same age as you so no worries if you think you’re starting too old.

I would really caution about taking Insente’s video advice word for word as the fellow spouts bad advice on a constant basis (probably not on purpose but simply because he doesn’t know better) and acts confident about them.

Expect to fail a lot, like everything else that you just start out in. If you have no experience in strategic or mind games then expect your progress to be slower than others. Also ask yourself how long you’re willing to devote to this.

Aptitude + Time Devoted = Your Rank

If you hated studying and school then Go is not the game for you. You need to study and do homework if you want to improve to a decent enough level.


I feel ya (and I am 5k :P). All of those sound like how I feel about Go… maybe they never go away. Except maybe the last one, I know people who like playing calmly against aggressive people.

In answer to your question 5 (“How do you think a person should do at the beginning? What would you expect from a beginner in the first few weeks since they started?”), I think it varies hugely. How often are you playing? Who is teaching you? How hard are you studying? What are you studying? What else are you occupying your mind with? All of these matter.

It sounds like you are doing fine.

As I implied with my (truthful) comment at the beginning, Go is hard. That is the beauty of it - you can improve strongly and continuously for years, and it will always be hard. And it will always be fun.


Go is hard. That is the beauty of it - you can improve strongly and continuously for years, and it will always be hard.

This is so true!

What really astonishes me is that someone who is 22k is measureably better than someone who is 24k - likely will beat them most of the time - and so with 20k to 22k, and with 18k to 20k and … so on!

That tells you that there is so much to learn and so many ways you can improve, yet there will always be more…


If you hated studying and school then Go is the game for you. You don’t need to study and do homework if you want to improve to a decent enough level. “Decent enough” is up to you not someone else. It will probably take longer to reach a target level but if that’s not what’s most important to you and you still enjoy playing, so what? After all, everyone reaches their limit. If that’s the reason for playing, when you do it is time to quit unless the new goal relates to how you manage the plateau or decline that follows.

  1. about 3 years actively
  2. throwing stones on the board without seeing any meaning, thus losing badly
  3. played my first game here day after turning 25 :3
  4. watched hikaru no go around 2006, learned the basic rules and played <5 games on small board. but felt like playing enough to improve would have been too timeconsuming, so decided to pick it up again when i had more time to spare. (yeah it was my 25th birthday when i realized i finally have enough time to spend on go)
  5. to lose bazillion of games XD
  6. i think it took me about 2 months to get a hang of it, and till i got my rank up for the first time. now i’m 4-5 kyu :wink:


  1. Three years ago.
  2. I was awful (still am).
  3. I’m ~25.
  4. I had been fascinated with it for a long time (not sure about the first contact), but I never got around to play it. Then I had a bit of time on my hands, and I wanted a new hobby. Boom!
  5. I think a person should have fun playing. I would expect them to learn the rules, be able to count liberties of any given group, recognize an atari and count territory (for 9x9).
  6. Beginner → ~7k. (I was a lenient player in the last year though.)

Go is a peculiar game, it can be very frustrating and unrewarding at first, because it lacks quick feedback and the connection between cause and effect is tough to see (that’s why it is generally recommended to start on 9x9).


Just something to say about InSente, since I recommended those and an experienced person said they are flawed.

After some time, and looking at further of his material, I too realised that they were flawed, and he makes no secret that he isn’t an expert.

So just to emphasise that it’s his “Beginner Series” that I found most helpful. Even if there are errors in there (which I’m not aware of BTW), the whole basic pitch of them is exactly what I needed at the time that I knew the rules but nothing about what to actually do. At that point, the odd error in advice, if it existed, was outweighed by the benefit :slight_smile:

They took me from having to clue and just trying stuff to having something to work with and winning against my son who was also learning at the time (until he looked at them too and overtook me again :smiley: :S )

The other generous experts who teach online (Dsaun, Dwyrin, NickS) have a gap here. They put up materials for “beginners” targetted at “DDK” and they mean “10-15k”. From where they sit, 15k is like a baby. But there is a galaxy wide a gap down from 15k to a “TPK” (20+k).

That’s why I was grateful for and recommend InSente’s Beginner Series (only). Once you learn a little and are ready for more, probably like me you’ll actually be able to see the limitations of the other InSente material and move on to the other guys.

  1. Just over a year. I played my first game after hearing about AlphaGo in March last year. I actually watched all of Michael Redmond commentary on the 5 AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol games before playing my first game here :slight_smile: I had no idea what was going on in the commentary but I did get an appreciation for the rules + complexity and Mr Redmond’s enthusiasm for the game was contagious.

  2. Everyone is awful at the beginning by definition. And yes I am still awful at this game.

  3. 22

  4. See my answer to question 1. I had not heard of this game before AlphaGo. My motivation at the beginning was trying to understand what the all the hype in the AI community was all about.

  5. Everyone does badly at the beginning but a desire to learn is a great start

  6. Just hit 5 kyu OGS for the first time today which I am really proud of myself for! (but am really somewhere between 6-7 kyu OGS)


Fun fact: everyone has their own strength when it comes to go
some practice more and get their rank really high into dan-levels
some practice less and won’t get past DDK-level

Still they are all just amateurs who enjoy playing this game as a hobby. And level of enjoyment (and also the frustration) will be the same no matter the rank, main thing is just to have fun ^^


2,5 years

Playing lots and lots of 9x9 games against other players of the same rank and due to the ranking system plus improvement winning slightly more than half of them as it should be.


I knew about go from a former colleague. I was sick and needed some distraction, so I googled go and played lots of games for two weeks.

I think that a beginner should try to figure out if he or she likes the game.

Seriously, you are a beginner, I expect you to play on the intersections instead of inside the squares. I do expect you to die. Everywhere. I regarded myself as not a beginner anymore when I played my first 19x19 game with all my groups surviving (still lost of course).

Also, I certainly think that “first few weeks” is much less relevant than the number of games and time spent on the games. Furthermore, to help you understand some of the reactions that you get here: few people get to 16 kyu (accurate or not) within two weeks, so when you emphasize how bad you feel about this and how old 18 is, you are actually also accidentally implying that you feel bad about most other people here which makes some of them feel bad. It is a lot like some women who are thinner than the other women in the room and start talking about how fat they feel because they gained 1kg. Don’t be that woman :slight_smile:

I am 6 kyu by now, but I think that talking about “playing two weeks / two years” is a distraction from the time and energy invested which varied a lot throughout the last years.


Well, I knew the rules before, but I did not really start playing until like 8 months ago

How do you think? :smiley: I was the best player you have ever seen, duh.

about 26

Now that’s a good question, but I honestly do not really know :smiley: I always liked eastern cultures, I am a big tea enthusiast, did “lots of” martial arts, I just figured why not. And then I found out it had a very calming effect on me while very pleasantly occupying my mind… So I stuck with it. My motivation was and still is the shear amazement how large the gaps are between players. I find it extremely stimulating that one can improve that much and still have so much to improve.

To seek help. Preferably from a stronger player (rather than just books). It will speed up to process significantly and the game becomes much more fun when you at least sort of know what you are doing.

Not much. :smiley: I swear to god sometimes I feel like I still have no idea where to put that stone.


not gonna answer your questions :slight_smile: my experience is pretty similar to everyone elses. except to mention that my rate of progress has been effectively zero for at least 10 years, and I’m ok with that. I still choose to play the game daily without guilt :slight_smile:

if you want to get better without turning it into a chore -
o you mention igowin. I don’t suggest you play robots when starting out, they don’t keep a narrative. which for alot of us is how we make sense of the game
o the hardest thing for me is convincing myself to think about moves (tactics) and read things out
o the even-harderer thing for me is to remember to look up and assess the state of the board, think about the direction of play and the status of groups/moyos (strategy)
o try playing correspondence. it doesn’t force you to think about what you’re doing, but at least it gives you the opportunity. you don’t feel the desire to just slam a stone down. its not as boring as it sounds, if your opponent is online you can easily get through half a game in the course of a day. and if you keep 40 games running, thats alot of go per day with complete freedom to step away and deal with your actual life or ignore it if it bores you
o pick up tsumego and see if you enjoy those little puzzles. don’t get all narcissistic and try to solve the dan level puzzles. settle on a level thats requires you to think for a bit but actually gives you the reward of solving them.
o there are some really good intro books. I didn’t have very much luck picking up the jargon and the underlying meaning as a beginner. but the best ones leave you with some hints about whats going on even if you don’t get the full meaning. and they paint a picture about what it means to play go even if you can’t really do it yourself.
o its pretty hard to do these days, but if you possible can, play IRL. the game becomes alot more human and less abstract, and go players are often pretty nice to hang out with

  1. Either 50 years or 8 months. You see, 50 years ago I played sporadically for a number of years, then stopped for a lack of players. Took it up again 8 months ago when chance brought me into contact with a local go group.

  2. In my first incarnation I thought I was pretty good. I won nearly all of my games, regularly beatng a college player when I was in high school, and later beating a few other college players when I was in college. I also solved most of the 10k-level problems in Games and Puzzles magazine toward the end of that period. However, today it is clear that most of my former opponents weren’t very good.

  3. Almost 12 when I started. Now I’m nearly 63.

  4. I was always keen on all card and board games. Saw Lasker’s book in my father’s library and read it. Go appealed to me more than chess because it is more abstract, and because the pieces don’t move. Today I agree with those who say it has a calming influence on the mind. Its quasi-static nature is like architecture. Building a moyo is like building a foundation, and when your moyo is invaded, it’s like an earthquake!

  5. No opinion.

  6. Today I play mostly IRL on Saturdays because I am too tired during the week. This past Friday, I felt good and hoped to play a game or two here, but when I got home I found that a severe storm had caused some damage to my roof, which I had to deal with (and now I’m exhausted). Such is life. I do enjoy studying go through books (I had collected several over the years even when I wasn’t playing). I also get considerable enjoyment from this forum and from watching games, which I think is very instructive. And I live in hope that my typical 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. day will ease up so I can play a little more online.


Oh I love questions like these!

1. How long have you been playing Go?
As of now (11th Apr), 1 year and 10 days :slight_smile:

2. How were you doing at the beginning
I went online and found myself (supposedly) the easiest 5x5 bot possible. Lost to it 20 times out of 20. I thought to myself: I really should not waste more time on this.

3. How were you when you started?
17. Now I’m 18. I really don’t think age matters, though starting young will mean more years of enjoyment.

4. Why did you pick up Go, how you got in touch with it for the first time, what was your motivation at the beginning?
I watched Hikaru no Go as a kid but never really picked up on it until a friend at high school showed me the livestream of AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol. There were no ‘major spark of passion’, just thought it’d be interesting to place a few stones on a digital goban.

5. How do you think a person should do at the beginning? What would you expect from a beginner in the first few weeks since they started?
9x9s. Lots and lots of 9x9. Selling your soul to the devil in hopes of capturing your opponent’s stones. Feel the intense satisfaction that your opponent missed your atari. Or feel the frustration of ‘STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM ME!!’.

After a few weeks, I realised trying to kill stones is too hard. Surrounding empty space on the board is easier. At around 21k - 25k, play on a 19x19. Place 10 stones together as a ‘bait’. Watch as your opponent waste 15+ moves to capture it, while you surround the rest of the board :slight_smile: (That was my carrot-on-a-stick strategy that got me from 23k to 19k)

6. How you progressed since the start?
I never had a ‘fear’ for playing human players. After losing 20 times against the stupid 5x5 go bot, I thought I had enough. The next day I came onto OGS and played my first few games against 20k - 25k beginners on OGS. First 8 - 9 games were losses. The first game that I did win was what set me off on a Go tangent for probably the rest of my life.

Occasionally, when time allows, I go on (Chinese) and solve up to 300 tsumego problems a day. Other days, I just play casually. I do not remember a single day since April 1st that I have not played or interacted with Go in one form or another.

Since my first win, something just ‘clicked’ inside me. I made a habit to watch Go videos everyday (by Nick Sibicky and then dwyrin, both on YouTube). I then played around 4 - 6 games each day on average, almost without pause.

Now I’m 5 kyu on OGS, and is still aiming for the stars (the dans).

What should you expect of yourself?
This game, like everything in life, is what you feel comfortable. Some people will never take the game seriously, and they’ll be satisfied with being a kyu level player. Some will continue with this passion and become dan level players. Heck, some dedicated players turn into professionals.

Play it to your heart’s content. Go is a game. Like all games, it’s great when you’re having fun :slight_smile:


Great attitude!