Learning how to play Go

Today, three new guys came to the club to learn to play Go. Two of them are pretty new, so I became the sensei (Japanese word for teacher) and taught them some basics. Recently, more and more people became interested in Go and this is an excellent thing. We need more Go players here in Malaysia.

Prompted by an entry in another blog, I am tempted here to blog on how I learn Go and hopefully to be able to share this experience with other Go players.

When I first started, I was very bookish and wanted to accumulate as much information as possible and try to devise a syllabus for learning. I will list down all the books that I have, all the game records that I have bought, download articles, joseki and fuseki dictionaries, etc. and begin to set a framework which looks something like this (from one page in my old notebook):

Fuseki studies:
– Sanrensei
– Nirensei
– Chinese fuseki (high & low)
– Mini Chinese fuseki
– Kobasyashi fuseki
– Double komoku fuseki (facing and opposing)

For each fuseki, to study main lines and variations. Study counter measures.

Joseki studies:
– Komoku josekis
– Star point josekis
– San-san josekis
– Takamoku josekis
– Mokuhazushi josekis

For each, to study main variations and application to whole board position. To study possible trick plays.

In conjunction to the above, to do at least 20 life and death, tesuji and yose questions each day.

I have many Go books, including the whole set of the Elementary Go Series, the whole set of the Get Strong at Go series, basically almost each and every book on sale on Kiseido. I have books from Slate and Shell and Yutopian as well. On top of that, I own a large number of VCDs produced in China teaching Go plus countless Chinese Go books and game records.

Therefore, in terms of materials, I have quite a huge amount, and add on to that my subscription to the latest Go records, my database, which includes a copy of the GoGoD, is quite large. I analyse and replay games with SmartGo. On top of that, I have once enlisted the help of Cornel Burzo, the current Romanian champion, as my sensei.

Now that I have gone through all that, my idea of improving has changed considerably and I have relieved myself of any fixed structure or syllabus to study Go. Now, I rely on the following:

1. Play, play and play. Play seriously and try to apply what I have learnt so far and experiment on new ideas. Then review the game. During the game reviews, I will inadvertantly learn a lot of Go elements (concepts, if you may) indirectly, for example fuseki, the right joseki to use and some variations, direction of play, shape, fighting, strategy, etc. This is very important and these elements are best learnt during a game review because it is relevant to the game and I will tend to be able to understand and remember them more rather than mindlessly trying to “understand” and memorise it based on some chapters in a book or dictionary.

2. Solve life and death problems everyday to improve reading. Reading is the backbone of Go. Without it, forget about whatever strategy. It will be useless, like a house built on sand.

3. Replay and watch professional or high dan (5 dan and above) amateur games. In the process, try to guess the next move. It is very enlightening, especially in spotting mistakes in my way of thinking, and this relates and reinforces the elements as mentioned in item 1 above. Memorise some pro games.

That’s all I do nowadays.

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