Lose Your First 50 Games As Quickly As Possible

    Keywords: Proverb

As a beginner, go can be a very confusing game! It is difficult to start learning strategy and tactics when you're not even sure how to count the score at the end of the game... That is why the proverb advises beginners to play their first 50 games as quickly as possible. Don't worry about winning or losing or finding the "right" move, just put some stones down, get used to looking at the shapes that come up, and get a good feeling for how the rules work. Of course, a consequence of that attitude is that you will lose most of those games, but it doesn't matter. Once you have a bit of experience under your belt, then you are ready to begin systematically studying go--but it will make more sense if you have played a few games first.


Discussion

Beginners lose -- that's just the way it is. I lost a lot when I was a novice, and I still lose a lot. Winning my first even game felt really good, but it didn't come until I had gotten stomped into mush by every opponent I came across.

Don't think of losing in terms of failure, especially when you're a novice. Think of it as a stepping stone to future victories. Don't delude yourself -- if you lose, you lose. But don't beat yourself up over it the way a lot of novices do. Seize the lessons in the loss and stay positive.

-- Scartol

Hu: When I think of this proverb, I also think of Thomas Edison's famous quip. An assistant asked, "Why are you wasting your time and money? We have had failure after failure, almost a thousand of them. Why do you continue to pursue this impossible task?" Edison said, "We haven't had a thousand failures, we've just discovered a thousand ways to not invent the electric light."

So it is with the first 50 (or pick your own number) games. One can learn dozens of simple mistakes to avoid, such as self-atari. Of course, one can also make those mistakes at high ranks, but getting them out of the way quickly is a good idea.


the reformulated proverb is:

 'Who wins, just has the wrong opponent'    -- tderz

[Diagram]
What was he thinking?  

mgoetze: It really bothers me when beginners think and think and think, just to come up with a really brilliant move of this category. I always end up thinking, he would have learned a lot more if he had played 3 fast games in the same amount of time. But it's always hard to get this point across to beginners without hurting their feelings.

emk: its not all about getting better... its about fun... so let ppl play like they want or they will lose interest imo

mgoetze: Uhm, it's not quite that simple. Nevermind that getting better is a lot of fun on it's own, it's also not very much fun for someone who already is somewhat better to play people who aren't getting better and taking a long time to play moves like this.

cliftut: Actually, it IS that simple. Perhaps they aren't getting better because they are being rushed by a teacher who doesn't have the patience for his/her student? The better player should be understanding, since they themselves were in the same position at one point or another. With an attitude like this, of course they aren't getting any better!

I'm not saying to just wait it out or go all self-sacrifice, but a certain amount of leeway should be given. Such a student would probably benefit from being told (preferably before a game is played so that it doesn't sound like you're implying things) about keeping a healthy pace in the game. Or you could simply announce the game to be a 'sketch game' where emphasis isn't on getting every move right, but on developing good instincts.

Fhayashi: With the advent of the internet and internet go servers, the proverb may have to be modified to "Lose your first 150 games as quickly as possible". I think losing 50 face-to-face games is probably more enlightening than losing 50 internet games, mainly because you're probably going to be losing 50 face-to-face games with someone significantly stronger than you.

Malweth: When someone with beginner skills thinks for a long time and makes a move like that, it could certainly be more beneficial than playing as fast as possible. If you think for a long time and make a decision resulting in bad outcome, you're more likely to remember that (and how) it failed then if you played purely on instincts.

Bignose: Beginners often underestimate the length of time it takes to play a game -- that's one of the things it takes (hopefully a relatively short) time to really learn.

This has the result that some beginners will consistently throw all their energy into the first thirty or fifty moves, and find themselves mentally exhausted before the middle game has really begun. When they realise this, the rest of the game seems like a grinding descent into what is sure to be a loss anyway.

IMO it's part of teaching to point this out, and encourage the beginner to play more games rather than extremely intense games, before it saps the beginner's will to play.

argybarg?: I'm an elementary school teacher, and it surely doesn't "bother" me when students think and think and think and come up with the wrong answer. Nor should it bother mgoetze that beginners come up with obviously dumb moves. At the beginning level, everything is hard -- and that includes just seeing three moves ahead on four possible moves.

The key, I think, is to balance working through some problems with great intensity with working through some others with great lightness of thought. Eventually, you can combine the two modes, which constitutes mastery.

Bill: If time is a problem when playing beginners, I think that it is fine to just stop after an hour or half hour and discuss the game so far. It's a teaching game, after all.

markgravitygood: Online, or with face-to-face games, a clock should be used and set to a time limit the teacher is comfortable with. Learning to play Go within certain time limit frameworks will help the student improve his thinking skills and his play efficiency. It will help them be more conscious of Basic Instinct, and they will learn from the mistakes they make. I take this experience from 34 years of playing and teaching chess.

annodomini: As a beginner, I find I do what mgoetze describes a lot. The reason is that I sit there thinking about my move for a long time, realize that each of the options I have just spent a minute or two thinking about is bad, and then in frustration just make a quick move because I'm sick of thinking about this position or feel like my opponent is getting impatient. The problem is that I'm trying to read as far as I can, but I'm not very good at reading, so it frustrates me after a while. I'm not sure what the best way around this is other than just getting stronger, or having my opponent actually jump in and try to help me out at this point (since it's presumably a teaching game).

DeathWind: I disagree with the proverb, not that it is not true for most novice, but I feel that it is something that can be avoided. If a beginner go through the right training, preferably under a professional trainer, he or she can get through the beginner phase in a short amount of time. The core basic of Go is learning to read (calculate moves). This can be accomplished by doing lots of tsumegos, tesuji problems, life and death problems. When he or she is grounded more or less in this skill, he or she can start playing some games, preferably on 9X9 board as it is simpler to play through, and subsequently proceed to 13X13 board, followed by 19X19 board. It would be great if those games are reviewed by strong players.

Jonii: I personally don't think reviewing and such has any place in learning phase. You need to grasp how the game works, and monkey see, monkey do. We learn by testing out and seeing how things work. Because as a novice you have pretty much no idea how to evaluate what is good and what is bad move, you should just play around until you start to understand how game flows. That will take many games, and there is little point in wasting your effort in those. Just play and lose.

After you understand how game flows and you start to grasp how things are likely turn out in each situation, you can start planning ahead. Only after that it's even possible for you to make real mistakes, mistakes where you intend to do something and fail. Only after that there's any point in studying or getting reviews. Only after that there is a point in trying to win.

DIVINATION?: my first game of go was played with a basic rulebook and a friend drunk after a party, and lasted a long time, it was a great experience trying to create dragons and live shapes. Against a more experienced player I might have felt that urge to play what I thought was a good move as in the example, I feel that if you have learned to understand the rules up to a point where you can see that atari is next and capture soon after, you are ready for teaching games and no one should be impatient. Those first 50 (or 150) games can go fast against someone of the same knowledge as you. However, there is no room for impatience from someone offering to teach, and all players should be willing to teach as all learners(hopefully) should be willing to learn. I feel it's not the time spent in each game or on each move, but first as a beginner, the experience of something new and interesting. It's not hard to figure out atari on the board. I think Ko is harder, and that was our favorite thing that first game, Ko, realizing it was something special, trying to figure out why...which is what I discovered after hundreds of games, and where it was special. This was another revelation. Wondering why if I don't like Ko I shouldn't play Go, wondering why not to fill. It all ended up wonderful, great experiences, teach with patience, learn with gusto.

hhatcher?: I feel like this proverb is a generally applicable proverb for life - you are going to fail many times before you learn the skills you need to succeed at any serious endeavor. It's one of the single best things I've taken away from learning Go. Don't be afraid to lose, get out there and lose so you can learn what you need to know to win.


Lose Your First 50 Games As Quickly As Possible last edited by hhatcher on December 9, 2012 - 22:06
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