Beginners' Guide to Go Problems
This page contains tips for beginners who are interested in Go problems.
Doing Go problems is equivalent to solving a variety of math problems everyday in preparation for calculus or running for endurance no matter what your sport. Pros and especially insei are on a very strict regimen of Go problems. Unfortunately, they can be tedious and tiring, and produce no direct benefit in itself. However, at the end of the day, you'll find yourself making good moves very instinctively and also recognizing your weakness before your enemy brings it to your attention.
Just like any problem, the key is to solve as many problems as you can as many times as you have to for complete mastery. The greatest key to success is "repetition" pure and simple. The human brain is geared to absorb new theories or ways of thinking in 3 month cycles. You might struggle with the same type of problem and make the same wrong moves until you suddenly "see the light." After studying Go problems for several months, I guarantee that you will see the go board more clearly and advance more quickly.
The best strategy is to study problems well within your ability. Of course, if you are a beginner, you start with beginner problems until you are comfortable. Many mistakenly believe that the more difficult the problem the better. However, the ability is cumulative so "jumping" the gun leaves more gaps in your understanding and work to your disadvantage, since your play might become "quirky" or "convoluted" by using concepts beyond your grasp.
You might get frustrated at first or extremely fatigued. Patience is greatly rewarded and after a month you will find that you have a new level of endurance. The beauty of Go problems is the portability (if you are lucky enough to have access to a Go problems booklet) and can be done in tiny chunks of spare time. Just be sure to get plenty of rest and keep at it. Even 10 minutes a day every other day will pay great dividends in the future.
The approach to Go problems basically comes down to two schools of thought. One is the "quick and fast" and the other is the "slow but sure."
Get a sequence of Go problems (100 to 200) and keep going at them. Make moves solely on inspiration or instinct and check the correct move immediately. Work your way to the end and start all over again. Repeat until you completely master the problems.
This approach is recommended for fast players and young players (under 13). Young players have an advantage since their brains are still plastic and many can memorize the correct sequences after a minimum number of tries. Adults may doubt this approach, but this is the approach taken by most young insei and provides the foundation for future success. Sort of like memorizing your multiplication tables.
Struggle with a problem until your are 100% certain of the solution. Never look at the answer until you come up with your own. This approach is good, too, for building concentration and to create a rock solid understanding of a go problem. It is also more suited to adult learning patterns.
In Commented games by Lee Sedol, Lee's sister relates how her father, their teacher, would emphasize that accuracy was the first priority and one should be 100% certain of the solution, no matter how much time it takes.