Sunday, January 08, 2006

Three books = 12 kyu?

I was browsing through the second edition of Janice Kim's third volume of Learn To Play Go(1998) and I came across this text box on page 103.

How To Improve
If you study Volumes I-III in this series, with a little experience your strength should be about ten to twelve kyu (in other words, you would receive about five handicap stones from the six kyu who played Black in the last chapter). If you have a lot of experience, you may be even stronger.

Far from it of me to question the wisdom of a woman who has been awarded dan rank by the Hankuk Kiwon; but it strikes me as a bit optimistic to say that 12 kyu can be achieved with three books. Even taking Ms. Kim's qualified definition into account (i.e. being able to take a five-stone handicap from a six kyu player), I don't think that many would agree to that as being a true measure of 12 kyu strength.

I've exchanged emails and chatted with several of you who have studied even more extensively and/or played many more games than I. My impression was that 12 kyu cannot be achieved with just three books and "a little experience". Some of us (yours truly included) even find that our ranks drop by at least four when playing on the Korean servers, DashN and CyberOro.

Of course, there's the possibility that Go world may also have changed dramatically since 1998.


At 2:03 PM, January 08, 2006, Anonymous Krystal said...

More likely I think the reason is that, living and learning where she is, and surrounded by young players who are (let's face it) a hundred times more talented than most of us laypeople are, she has lost touch with how hard it is for some of us to improve. Certainly if I'd spent so many years in Korea surrounded by ten-year-old 3-dans, I'd be pretty likely to underestimate 12-kyu as well.

At 3:20 PM, January 08, 2006, Blogger Alfred said...

It's still a somewhat less ambitious goal than the gloriously-titled book "Master Go in Ten Days."

At 3:35 PM, January 08, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello Krystal! I would agree that Ms. Kim's assessment might be biased based on her experiences.

Hello Alfred! Master Go in Ten Days is unrealistically ambitious when you consider Yutopian's write up on it (bold emphasis is mine):

"The objective of the ten lessons is to help one along the path to reaching three or two kyu level in amateur strength."

At 1:49 AM, January 09, 2006, Anonymous seathief said...

Probably , players in KGS are more competitive :)

At 5:57 AM, January 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found Janice Kim's books to be very broad but not very deep (ie the concepts are explained but not drilled into your head with tons of examples and problems). If you actually understand all the concepts in books 1-3 you probably are an AGA 12kyu (in my experience there is about 4 stones difference between AGA and KGS, KGS being stronger of course). But to understand all the concepts you need alot of other support materials and much game play.

At 8:22 AM, January 09, 2006, Anonymous Riff Raff said...

And on the flip side the original Graded Go Problems for Beginners books were (in)famous for being horribly under-ranked. Each volume was supposedly an increase of 5k in rank, so Vol. 1 was 30-25k, Vol. 2 was 25-20k, Vol. 3 was 20-15k, and Vol. 4 was 15k+. I laugh at this because I've only recently finally reached the level of the starting problems in Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 is still well beyond me for the most part. Later reprints by Kiseido increased the ranks listed quite a bit finally.

I think one side of it (LTPG and Master Go In Ten Days) is just typical book publishing hyperbole. The other side (Graded Go Problems) is that strong players often have difficulty determining the appropriate difficulty of kyu level problems.

At 9:14 AM, January 09, 2006, Anonymous wolvie said...

Having purchased Vols. 1-3 of the series, it does deal with a lot of concepts that a beginning player needs to know about and digest. I'd say that Vol. 2 helped me the most out of the first three. However, there are some topics that beginners absolutely need to know that aren't adressed so strongly in the first three books in the series, the biggest one being life and death.

Working on 30-25k tsumego set from the Korean Go Academy helped immensely in letting me know if a group is alive or dead, and how to save/kill it. Knowing all the other concepts without a sturdy base in L&D caused the biggest problems in my early games.

Maybe Janice Kim is so used to the intense studying of L&D in the Korean study of Go that made it seem ubiquitous/intuitive to whoever picks up the three book set, to go off of Krystal's idea.

At 11:01 AM, January 09, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

After having played on servers where the majority of the participants are, by far, Korean, Japanese and Chinese, I had begun to wonder if the Graded Go Problems series may have been appropriately ranked by their standards. I certainly don't see myself as being able to progress beyond 20k on CyberOro unless I can quickly solve the problems in GGPFB Vol.2.

At the very least, the Korean and Chinese ranks seem to be stronger as suggested by this table of worldwide rank equivalences. (I don't know how accurate it is or how recently it was updated. Do Japanese kyu ranks correlate that closely to those of the AGA?)

The idea of publisher hyperbole also crossed my mind but I felt it was a bit too ... ah, ... blunt to suggest.

I have to agree that Ms. Kim's three books are rather shallow in their coverage. The ideas are presented; but you would need supplemental material and/or more than "a little experience" to raise and solidify your rank at 12k.

At 11:08 AM, January 09, 2006, Blogger snakeeater said...

Yeah, AGA rank appears really watered down. See my post

At 4:22 PM, January 09, 2006, Blogger G-Fav said...


I agree with you regarding the 12k claim; I recall thinking the same thing when I read that book, and I'm still stranded around 22k on IGS. Probably just an advertising claim...

Funny, though, that this week's news email from the AGA includes an article from Ms. Kim suggesting the importance of ignoring one's rank while growing as a player.


At 6:43 AM, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In reference to snakeeater many AGA 1 dans are not really 1 dans. The AGA ranking system is very reliant on what people claim. If you look at a distribution of the AGA ranks there is a huge spike at 1 dan, most likely meaning many people at 1 dan are actually weaker but claiming to be 1 dan. If you saw a game between two 1 kyus the level of play might actually have been higher.
Another comment about the Janice Kim books. Books 4 and 5 are pretty good. Book 5 seems to be a memory dump (I think she didn't want to write anymore books) that has a ton of information. Personally I am a huge fan of Bruce Wilcox's contact and sector fights. I improved 8 stones in 8 months (for a 33 year old with a toddler that is huge) and more importantly I now enjoy the game much more since I have some clue what I am doing after going through his material.
JMP (KGS, jmpr IGS)

At 4:12 PM, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An even more surprising claim, IMHO, appears in Kaoru Iwamoto's well-known "Go for Beginners". A very good introductory book, but on p. 113 we find: "A raw beginner starts at something like 35 kyu, but he will quickly improve, and after playing for a short time (about two months) he can expect to reach about 10 kyu."

Ten kyu in two months. Indeed.

Btw, I would agree with the previous post, that a) volumes 4 and 5 of Janice Kim's LTPG have a lot of information in them, making the series a must-have, and b) Bruce Wilcox's material is worth looking at. One of Wilcox's first rules, not to break off a contact fight until you have 5 liberties, was enough to bring me from 29 kyu to around 25 or 24 kyu. (Don't laugh.) His material is not easy reading (I have to read it several times before it starts to sink in), but he does lay out a much clearer path than you'll find in other go books.

At 4:40 PM, January 10, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

It's interesting to hear of that claim in Iwamoto's book.

Perhaps it was meant to say:

"A raw beginner starts at something like 35 kyu, but he will quickly improve, and after playing for a short time (about two months residing with and under the tutelage of a 9-dan Nihon-Kiin professional during which he must dedicate every waking hour, sleeping for only four, to the study of the game) he can expect to reach about 10 kyu."


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