Go/How to Learn

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Go is a learning game. You learn something every time you sit down to play, and every player has a truly unlimited potential to learn more. The emphasis on learning is part of what makes the game enjoyable. There is no question that go is a competitive game, but when players respect each other enough to appreciate what they have to learn from one another and the game they play, there is a cooperation of learning which enriches the experience. Because go is also a philosophical game, lessons learned on the goban often apply to other areas of life. Attributes such as open-mindedness, flexibility, humility, honesty, and respect are truly important and helpful to your go game, and just as beneficial to life in general. Improving your go game is satisfying and enjoyable in its own right, but as you learn you should also be on the outlook for larger life lessons that just happen to be illustrated in stones.

As enjoyable as it is, there are parts of learning go that can be challenging, even frustrating. Many novice players have had the experience of playing their first games with an enthusiastic, more experienced friend, and hopelessly losing every game. Because there is so much to learn in go, and because those lessons learned can immediately and dramatically affect the quality of one's play, even modest gradiations in skill (particularly for novices) can be insurmountable hurdles. The handicap system helps to some extent, but does have its limitations.

The purpose of this chapter is to give guidance to the beginning player on how to progress -- what sorts of games to play, what to study, what to focus on learning at what stage, etc.

The standard board for playing go has 19 by 19 intersection points, but may not be good for the real first-timers. Both the complexity and the duration of the game would make it hardly enjoyable. That is the reason why smaller boards are preferred for learning and tutoring. The traditional way is to start with a board of 9 by 9 for the first couple of games. After getting some experience and learning the basics of go tactic the player may step on the slightly larger board, 13 by 13. Here one can learn the most simple elements of the go strategy. A good number of games should be played on this board, too.

Games on the 9X9 board

This is smallest board which used for teaching the real beginners traditionally. Combined with the proper amount of handicap the game will be enjoyable for both players. Games are relatively short, and both the size and complexity can be overviewed by the unexperienced players. The players are fighting each other very quickly, so this board is very good to teach go tactics.

Games on the 13X13 board

The medium sized board increases the complexity, but not too much. Having learnt some elements of the tactics we are ready to start with the basic elements of the go strategy.

Games on the 19X19 board

The full complexity and beauty of the game waits for us. The starting point of a long learning curve.

The reader at this moment may ask how many games should one play on the smaller boards to learn and develop at the optimal rate. Though it is a very important issue, the answer is not straightforward. It depends on one's dedication to learn, on the fighting spirit and on the amount of time we are ready to use for playing go. The clear sign that one reached the appropriate strength to step a level higher is the ease and proficiency of using the basic tactics and strategies. A good tutor will see it. It's a good idea to have somebody teaching us the game.

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