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4.1. How can I improve? (Go)

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This article is from the Go FAQ, by Morten PAHLE gofaq@pahle.org.uk with numerous contributions by others.

4.1. How can I improve? (Go)

The basic ways to improve are:
1. Play lots of games
2. Review games
3. Read go books
4. Study go problems
5. Take lessons

- Playing many games

Playing many games is undoubtedly a good way to improve. You should
play against someone who is a bit stronger than you, (ideally, around
3-5 stones stronger) so that you can still understand his moves and
see your own errors. However, playing against weaker people can teach
you a lot about avoiding obvious mistakes as well.
It is often said that as a beginner, you should play many games quite
quickly instead of few games with a lot of thought, as you will learn
more from your mistakes than you can through (often wrong) analysis.
The truth is probably that you should do both. Practising reading
(predicting a sequence of play), through taking your time, is also
very helpful.

- Reviewing games

This applies to your own games, but also to the games of others.
Reviewing your own games is a good way to find out where you make
mistakes, and is something you should always try to do after a game.
You should be able to replay the first 20-30 moves of a game. Replay a
game not by memorising the moves, but by rethinking the logic you
followed in the first place. If you cannot remember where you played,
that means that the move was probably a bad one. (Often, remembering
your opponent's moves is the most difficult ..)
It is even better to have your games reviewed together with someone
who is stronger than you. Preferably, he should be so much stronger
than you that you trust his advice. Being reviewed by someone who is
your own level will always leave a nagging doubt..
Reviewing someone else's games, for instance professional games, is
good because it gives you a good feeling for good shape, strength,
direction of play etc.
It is suggested that you play through professional games quickly,
without paying much attention to the comments, just to get the feeling
of it. Try to understand the logic of the opening moves ('fuseki'),
attacking moves, endgame move order etc. look to the comments only if
you cannot understand a certain move. (A word of warning: real
understanding of pro moves usually requires pro level; what you are
looking for here is appreciation and feeling for good plays.)
Reviewing games should improve your 'feel' of the game, i.e. you will
find yourself playing moves that seem reasonable, without necessarily
being able to explain why.

- Reading books

Many players find Go theory books very useful for introducing new ways
of thinking, for learning new methods and for improving the
understanding of specific aspects of the game. General books exist
which treat the entire game, but there are also more specific books
which deal with certain aspects of it (opening, endgame, life and
death etc.).
When reading a book, try to understand what is said. It often makes
sense to, after each section, think back and try to put the ideas
given in the book into your own words. Do not try to remember the
examples, but understand what they show.
Section 4.3 below gives more details on books.

- Studying problems

Problem books come in different flavours; life and death, endgame,
tesuji, invading etc. They also come in various levels of difficulty.
Going through them is useful in may ways, and is sure to improve your
Some tips when going through problems:
- If you cannot see the answer after, say, a minute, then look it up.
Problem books are meant to teach you something, spending too much
time on a diagram will not improve your understanding.

- Do not use a goban to solve the problems. You could not do that in
real life. (Having said that, it can be useful to lay out the
diagrams on the board, to accustom the eye. Pros are even said to
recommend playing the stones in the right order to accustom the hand

- With the exception of classical positions, do not try to memorise
problems. They aim at improving your feel for the game. You will
very rarely encounter the same situation on the goban as you just
read in the book, it is the method you should know, not the result.

- Although you will rarely encounter the same problems, you should
find that you recognise shapes and can predict sequences better.
This will save you time, and (for instance) save you from trying to
rescue dead groups or kill live ones.

- Taking lessons

This speaks for itself. Locally, your Go-club may offer lessons,
otherwise, there are teachers which will teach you on one of the
internet Go-servers.

Check out:
- Gotutor: <http://gotutor.hypermart.net>

- Guo Juan's Internet Go school: <http://home.wxs.nl/~guojuan>

- Chull -type 'help Chull' at the IGS prompt.

- FJ Dickhut's teaching site:

As for the mix of these methods, you should do them all if you can.
Mix them up, do a bit of each. Study whatever seems to interest you at
the moment. Every Go player can improve any part of their game.
Whatever you choose to study will do something to improve your game,
so you may as well study what you find interesting. By studying what
interests you, you are likely to do more study than if you force
yourself to study something that does not interest you.

This, alas, only holds true for players in the Kyu range. Upon
reaching Dan levels, expert players find their progression hindered if
they do not accept hard study of those parts of the game which seem
boring to them :-(


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