Friday, November 04, 2005

Lesson plan? There isn't one!

How to learn Go

Someone out there might claim that there's an orderly and sequential way to learn and improve at Go. In my humble kyu-level opinion, the only thing that is guaranteed is a lifetime of non-linear learning.

It's been five months since I started studying this game in earnest (as earnest as a salaryman-husband-dad can be without shirking his other duties). I don't have a natural talent for the game so my progress is made in measured and hard-won steps.

What I've noticed is that, shortly after I acquired the basics, I've been jumping from one area of study to another and back again: life-and-death, joseki, life-and-death, tesuji, fuseki, tesuji, shape and so on and so forth. I get strong in some area and win a few matches. Then I start losing matches and decide that "I need to study your_choice_of_Go_area_here."

Considering how deep this game is and how varied one's mental abilities might be, this pattern of non-linear study seems only natural to me. All the areas must be acquired in parallel and at increasing levels. Talent might sometimes allow you to ignore one area for a while, but sooner or later you'll have to get back to it. It's like your verbal and analytical skills as you progress through school; both are developed gradually but at the same time.

I imagine that some of you, like me, wish that they could map out a lesson plan that progressively builds a well-rounded Go player. There is a progressive curriculum out there. Kiseido, for example, has its Elementary Go series which is followed by its Get Strong series. However, there are many kyu levels that are encompassed by all those books and one can't be expected to read everything in the series before engaging in any matches. Realistically, your acquisition of skill will probably look like some Darwinian method of survival. You will learn and adapt as is needed by your performance against your opponents.

Last night, I finally broke through the 21k KGS mark for the first time. My thanks to saiclone (18k, frankiii's new ID), yoyoma (3k) and Ellendar (15k) for the recent helpful game reviews.

A board for ... someday


Look at that distinct grain.

Mr. Kuroki responded to an email I had sent to him. I inquired about table boards which had a warmer orange-shade finish which is a matter of personal preference to me. His first recommendation was this beautiful Hyuga Kaya board but it is, unfortunately, out of my budget.

I thought I would share two of his photos with all of you in case anyone was interested in it. The price for this specialty board is 48,000 Yen (US $404).


At 7:55 AM, November 07, 2005, Blogger Woodard said...


Thanks for fixing the coding on the site!

I would recommend getting your games reviewed by someone higher level than you as the first step in deciding which way to go.

Having Yang Yilun review my 24k, 9-stone handicap game this weekend was laughable in some ways but he took it very seriously and I was very surprised at the results. I thought I had a bad sense of shape and close fighting tactics that prevented me from successfully implementing my strategies. He made a lot of positive comments about my tactics and showed me that my problem was my sense of strategy.

The next day I played someone I normally take 9 stones from, no handicap, reverse komi. Mr. Yang said the improvement was dramatic and in that particular game I only played about two stones below my opponent. (Of course, the white player had stayed up until 3 am the night before, but that's another story.)

The point is, as Einstein once said, no problem can be solved at the same level of thinking that caused it. Even better than the Go Teaching Ladder would be cultivating relationships at the Go Club. I have brought my laptop to club and played back a KGS game with higher level players and gotten great feedback. Also, at the workshop some of the high-dan players who had seen my games for three days were able to recommend books that would address my weaknesses most effectively.

Hope this helps.

At 8:37 AM, November 07, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello Brad, and thanks for the suggestions! Yes, in-person review and analysis is very likely the most efficient way to learn.

I am, for the time being, still pursuing my studies by books and with the help of online mentors because of time constraints and typical commitments. Eventually, the right opportunity for in-person study will present itself to me.

Mingjiu Jiang (7p) will be conducting free reviews at the Berkeley Go Club on November 19th from 7:30pm to 9:30pm but I would need to inquire if these are for members only. I have not officially joined the club as a member. In addition, I'm yet uncertain if I will be able to visit them on that Saturday evening.


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