Dragon Sensei

    Keywords: Online Go

[ext] The Go Teacher (Sensei) at Dragon Go Server was created by jbrod ([ext] jbrod).

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This is a team account whose sole purpose is to teach the game of Go. Thus all members (the teachers) have agreed to the following rules:

  • The teacher will only make a move if stronger than the pupil (by Dragon rating).
  • When playing a move the teacher will leave his or her name in the comment field.
  • The teacher will always comment on the pupils last move except for some obvious moves. The comments are between <c></c> tags, so that other people can read them.

Please note that we do not have a no "one teacher per game" rule. Different teachers may play moves in the same game. It is recommended to use some sensibility so that over the game discussion does not get disturbed.

How to...

  • If you want a teaching game just send a match request with the following settings
 even game without handicap
 6.5 komi
 sensei playing white
 Fischer time with 30 days and 7 days extra per move.
  • If you want a game review send a message with the game ID and your email-adress to this account.
  • If you want to become a teacher yourself send a message to this account.

Advice to Students

  • We are normally able to teach players up to 12 kyu. For stronger players stronger teachers must be around the whole time during the game, so this is limited when stronger teachers are not around regularly.
  • We play games set as above.
  • You are expected to know the basic rules of the game. See e.g. tutorial at [ext] http://www.playgo.to/.
  • If you are below 25k, please ask for a 7x7 or 9x9 game first. If you are between 25k-20k, we would prefer a 13x13 (this allows us to play more games).
  • It is important that you comment/question the moves as much as possible, so that we can give better teaching.
  • Please enclose your comments between the <c> and </c> tags. They will be saved in the SGF file and will be viewable by spectators as well

Advice to Teachers

  • You are free to play in any game where you are strong enough to make a good move, and strong enough to comment on the student's previous move.
  • Use "<c> [TeacherName] Movement Commentary </c>" for your movement comments.
  • Where appropriate, write notes to your fellow teachers into the Private Note Section on the right. Please state the relevant move (if any) and your name ([TeacherName]). Entries regarding a move should be done in a last-message-on-top fashion.
  • For mutual exclusion write "[TeacherName] lock move XX" into the Private Note Section. Wait a short time, load again, and see if it is still your name. Make your move and edits. Remove the "lock".

Message Folders

  • to be processed : folder for messages just opened (not "new" anymore) and requiring some action, but no action taken yet;
  • being processed : action is on-going, but interesting info should be kept for a little while;
  • sensei talk : "notice board" for internal communication among sensei members, should remain on status page for a few days.


  • Attention, the received messages won't remain "new" once they have been opened once, so they will disappear from the status page. If you would like other sensei members to read them, you should move them manually into the "to be processed!" or "sensei talk" folders, and they will remain visible on the status page.
  • messaging from sensei to sensei is possible (after the system-upgrade from 2006/08)
  • don't delete messages, simply keep it in the Sent folder or move it into the Main folder.
  • do not add any additional folders.

FAQ for the teachers

Who plays in what games?

Question: Does one simply play and comment in a game or is there an agreed protocol about who helps where? I can't see any way of knowing who is commenting on the running games.

Answer: As I understand it, you are free to play in any game where you are strong enough to make a good move, and strong enough to comment on the student's previous move. The format I have seen is to use the following convention:

<c> (TeacherName) Game commentary goes here. </c>

-- John

The teacher can make private notes about the current and next moves, strategies and wishes of the pupil.

-- JUG

Question: What happens if two sensei are trying to make a move in the same game at the same time?

Answer: I'm often paranoid about the possibility. It would suck immensely if I wrote a 200 work comment on a move only to find someone else had written a really short comment and submitted a move in the same game while I was writing mine. But, well, I don't think there's anything we can do. But I'm certainly open to suggestions.

-- Bildstein

Answer: Sadly, there's nothing we can do to prevent that.

Answer: Actually, I have a suggestion. If possible, they could fix the account so that only one person can be logged on to the account at the same time - that is, on only one computer - and limit the time you can be logged on, like for an hour, and then block the user - by IP or something - for getting back on for the day.

Granted, that last part may be complicated, so I guess it may not be 100% necessary. OneWeirdDude

Then again, there may be another way. My second idea is to make a note in the Private Note Section about who's going to make a particular move if it's an especially long comment (e.g. 16. JUG or 32. Vose, to name a few actives) - and be sure to include the date and UTC time so that the other teachers know if this one has been taking longer than a day to answer.

Answer: It actually happened to me. I had thought a lot on a game to find a move, had written a comment, and when i clicked on submit, I got a message like "sorry, it's not your turn to play in this game". At least, it was comforting to see you had played in the area i intended to, though not exactly the same move (you were bolder). I assume it will happen more and more, and we can do nothing about it. That's live :o)

-- Marc

Answer: togo: Note in the Private Note Section would be my suggestion, too. But keep it simple:[NAME] lock is enough. If nothing has happened until the next day, you'll notice. And you can send a message to NAME.

How should we play?

Question: Are we playing teaching games, where we try not to win too convincingly, and try to create instructional problems in the game, or are we rather trying to win as convincingly as possible so that our students can see the strongest possible play, and then explain to them what was wrong with their play?

I don't have any problems with either, but I think there are some issues...

If we go with teaching games, I think it will be important to maintain communication about the games "behind-the-scenes" so that everyone who is playing moves know what fantastic sequences we're trying not to play. This can be done using private notes for each game.

If we go with slaughter-fest, I think it's very important to explain what's wrong with the student's moves. Some things take a very long time to learn by experience. Fuseki, joseki (in so far as it is correct for us to be teaching joseki) and life-and-death are some examples I can think of.


Answer: Well Ben, what do you think is the best? Currently, we play without handicap (partly because teachers have different levels). So probably we shouldn't try to play the most severe moves. Personally, I often try to explain why I play a move. In many cases, that prevents the student from playing a bad response. We can also mention as <comment> stronger moves that we see but chose not to play. Do you think the teaching as we do it now is working well, or can it be improved?

Question: Hello fellow sensei. I'm in what might be called a conundrum. I'm finding it difficult between choosing a play that encourages the opponent to "have a go" (no pun intended), so he/she can learn the aspects of invasion or what have you; or playing by the book. For example, in a game, I played so black could not invade at that point. Had I played elsewhere black may have played there and learned something from the invasion. There are many more examples I could give, but perhaps you have noticed them already. What are the guidelines?

Answer: I don't think we need to "artificially" ceate go problems in our games. There are anyway plenty of occasions to learn many things in each game.

In general, it is probably more instructive to play the move that you consider the right move at the time. But you can explain, e.g. "I play this move to prevent an invasion. Indeed I think the best move for you was to invade there for this and that reasons...". That way, the student will have learned something about invasion. Once again, this is just my feeling, I don't intend to write a rule :)

Answer: I think there is an exception, if the pupil explicitly asks for a specific subject. For example, the pupil may ask for invasions, then the teachers may create easy invadable structures and big moyo.

How to comment?

Explaining your moves is a good thing. There can be no doubt about that. And if you can't think of anything more to say about a student's move than "that seems odd, but I can't say why", so be it. You can always suggest what you would have done, and why, if nothing else. Of course we all endeavour to explain what's wrong with the bad moves that the students make, but there's still a lot to be learned without that sort of analysis. And most importantly, the more time you spend teaching, the easier you will find it to articulate yourself, and the more often you will be able to find specific things to say about the student's moves.

-- Bildstein.

What if I don't feel strong enough to make a move?

Question: If Players are NOT true beginners and I could probably beat them, but I don't feel that I can really give them a teaching game, because I am not strong enough myself. What is the suggestion for handling them? Just don't make moves in those games and leave them up to all you stronger players?

Answer: In my opinion, the trick is that you can play moves in those games, but if at some point, you do not find a satisfactory move, just wait for another teacher to play and see what he has been done. Leave a private note with proposals and wait for other teachers adding to that discussion or directly making a move. That has happened, and it was very interesting. And do not worry too much, we are not obliged to find THE best move. If the student manages to prove our move wrong, then both will have learned something.

Question: I want to make a move, but am not sure about it. How to discuss other options ?

Answer: At the right side of a game there is a notes section, which can be used by the teachers to discuss different moves or to leave messages about strategy, wishes of the pupil, other move-relevant information. The teachers may use this notes area to discuss moves or exchange information about the game. If asking for a move, the other/stronger teachers can add comments as well, and so also the weaker teachers can learn something.

What game settings?

Question: I think that when teaching some principles to 30-20k a 19x19 board is to large and cumbersome. It makes faster simpler teaching to play 9x9 and 13x13 until basic principles are learned. Different things can be taught using different sizes. A 30-25k can learn joseki and opening strategy, but it makes more sense to start with 9x9 so that they get a feel for the game unless they are playing quite a few of them with other players. Does anyone have any thoughts on this subject ?

I think we should do 30-25k on 9x9, 25-19k on 13x13 and 19k and up on 19x19.

-- Vose

Answer: I think what you say makes sense: there is enough to be learned by a beginner in a 9*9 game. Moreover, real beginners should start with 9*9 games (after they have learned the rules by themselves).

Also, there is another point: playing more small games would allow us to accept more invitations, and cope with the incoming rate of moves to play (though it seems that it is no real problem to date).

I have sometimes proposed to reduce the game size with players that were 30k, and they always agreed.

But I don't like the rule very much. After all, 19*19 is more thrilling, so if they want to play a big game... I wonder if you have played a lot of 9*9 and 13*13 yourself when you did begin go? I must say I did not ;-)

-- Marc


Question: I'm not sure what to do when a previously talkative student goes silent in response to a direct question. Some are discontinueing to play. My first guess is that a big loss can be an emotional shock; and that the pupil has no idea what we are talking about. An outgoing person might ask for clarification, but a somewhat shy person might not.

Our options are limited. We can ask more questions in the game comments; we can try to communicate by DGS message; we can continue as though nothing has changed; we can refuse to move until we hear back from them; we can resign the game; we can keep playing but refuse to comment. I can't think of other options right now.

Some of those sound silly to me. Useful perhaps are inquiring in the game comments and/or the DGS message system, and playing & commenting as though nothing is different. Silly are refusing to move, refusing to comment, and resigning.

What do the sensei think?

Answer: Well there might be a lot of reasons why a student does not talk back, e.g. he may not have a good grasp of english, may not have a sufficient grasp of Go to answer the question, or even to understand it, or may be dissatisfied with the way we do the teaching or play the game, ... At least, I hope they read our comments! I think the best should be to inquire to the student, so we can adapt one way or another.

-- Marc

Answer: Mike gave us pretty much all the options, and I agree with him about the ones that are simply unacceptable. But I can't keep making comments in these games when I'm being ignored.

I understand that the students might take it pretty hard when we have a local win, or end up ahead by the latter part of the game, but they shouldn't, because they have to acknowledge that we know the game better than them, and to stop talking to us is both rude and counter-productive.

But I don't know how to raise the subject with the students. I don't want to sound angry, because that will only make them less confident about talking to us. I want the students to feel free to make comments like "I wouldn't have played there. I think it's too small.", etc., not just be dutiful, respectful, quiet students.

Anyway, in summary, I don't know what to do, but I can't continue to write comments in games where my comments are being ignored.

Answer: I was just thinking: If I went to my local go club and started telling people what they were doing wrong, they might well become a lot less enclined to play. Imagine this: I play a teaching game against someone, and each time they make a bad move, I say something like "That's not the best move. Here would be better." Then, after a while they'd get disillusioned, because I was continually telling them that there moves were bad without explaining why the move I suggest was better. What I'm getting at is this: if our criticis isn't constructive (or isn't constructive or positive enough), then players will get disillusioned. Now I don't think I've been doing that, but we teach all kinds of people with a diversity that I'm sure I don't realise. So I might well have been inadvertantly turning people off with my comments, without even realising it.

So if anyone has noticed comments (from me) that seem to fall into this category, please point them out to me and suggest how I could have said the same thing but phrased it in a more friendly way.

-- Ben

Comment: If a student like me asks for a teaching game then they should be prepared to be told a move is bad. However, the student should also be told why the move was bad, what move would have been better and perhaps how best continue from the bad move.

-- PatG

Comment: We don't have to say that a move is bad. It is much more instructive to describe the effect and particularly the strength of a move. Then I could give some indication, how to evaluate such a move, and finally one example of a better move according to the above explanation. However, this might sometimes be rather lengthly :-(

-- Eberhard

Who can teach?

Question: The question was something like "How comes kyu players dare to propose teaching?" and "it's much harder to teach a 30k when you are 18 than teaching a 20k when you are 8k for many reasons ..."

Answer: I understand your remark about teaching at different levels, and I'm ready to believe you. But there is also the practical aspect of "relatively better" players teaching "relatively weaker" ones in a kind of teaching pyramid. As I said before, you cannot let all the teaching to the few dan players (although it would be nice if they did agree to spend nights and days teaching all the kyus). Moreover, at our level, maybe we have not the ambition of teaching the "real spirit" of go, I see it rather like an open discussion like "I would have played differently" where the "student" is invited to challenge the "teacher"'s advise, and where nothing guarantees the teacher will always be right.

What is the teaching language?

Question: Most teaching should be in English. However, there are people not so good in that language. I could also teach in German, but not in French etc. Any comments?

-- Eberhard

Answer: English is the agreed language on sensei. That is the language that all the teachers speak. If one wants to teach in a language other than English you could do so, by indicating what the comment language should in the game comment box. This would likely guarantee that only you comment on the game though, so until and unless someone does a language census I think using your own account might be just as good. Except maybe for feedback from other teachers.


Dragon Sensei last edited by JUG on May 14, 2011 - 23:35
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