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UK Go player. Fenris is my KGS username.

I play less on KGS and more on DGS these days. What impresses me about DGS is that at any level, there are lots of people who have been hovering around that strength for some time and they are happy to be at whatever strength they are; there seems to be much more enjoyment of the game, and the enjoyment is less tarnished by worries about rank.

Printable (pdf) Go board

I was recently looking for a printable 9x9 board (my own board is double-sided 19x19 and 13x13 as, I believe, are many) and couldn't find a link on Sensei's. So for those who want it, here are a couple of links to printable PDF 9x9 boards: a [ext] colour and a [ext] monochrome PDF file.

And [ext] here is a pretty looking go board, haven't tried printing this one so I don't know what it looks like in practice.

(Thanks to PeterHB for the formatting help)

Progress in Go

I have had it in mind for some time to chart my progress in Go; to set out a roadmap showing the route that I followed, albeit not the quickest or best route to improvement. This may be of some interest to those who ask, "What do I need to do at this stage?" or "How do I get to xx Kyu?". There are of course other pages on here, such as the bottleneck theories page or rank and what you know. This is a personal record of a personal journey, and not intended to be prescriptive. I do not progress as quickly as others; I have been playing online for 4 years now and I have recently hit 13k on DGS (about 11k AGA, 13k EGF) and I know others progress more rapidly. And I am aware that what was happening 4 years ago is less available to recall than what happened a month ago.

I didn't start this page 4 years ago because I didn't know what it should look like. I still don't know what it should look like, but I'm more confident that it can change and grow and perhaps become more perfect than it is. To that end, comments and contributions are welcome.

Given those caveats, here goes.

30-25 kyu - Have fun!: Go is fun. You win a game by 100 points, you lose another by 100 points. Enjoy it while it lasts. Afterwards, it gets serious! What happens? You exchange large groups. You lose a dango, but that is compensated by taking your opponent's dango. How to get better? By looking after your own stones. There comes a point where you realise that if you protect your stones rather than simply exchange large groups, you can win more consistently.


Tesuji: basic tesuji such as the crane's nest; I don't think I have met a crane's nest in a game since I was around 28 Kyu. After 25k, everyone knows it so everyone avoids it. Around 26-25 kyu, the snapback.

Joseki: none save that the term exists; that it is theoretically possible to divide corners so that both sides are happy with the result. At this stage, regarding corner play, it is sufficient to know that corners are the best place to make a base followed by sides then centre.

Life and death: basic awareness of dead shapes.

Books: Iwamoto sensei's Go for Beginners. Also Graded go problems for beginners volume 1.

25-20 kyu - Don't touch it!: Hmm, getting difficult, isn't it? Key learnings: DON'T TOUCH!!!!! Touching is naughty! Touching an opponent's stone makes it stronger. The way to attack is from a distance. Attacking an opponent's group doesn't necessarily mean killing it - making it small is a successful attack.

Tesuji: I do not recall learning any tesuji at this stage that made a significant contribution to my game. Snapback continues to be important, especially knowing when you can set one up...

Joseki: You should meet the 3-3 invasion to a star-point stone now. The response to this is the only joseki you will need for a very long time.

Life and death: Some more advanced life and death such as killing six in the corner.

Books: Books? Avoid books! Unless maybe you are following Janice Kim's series, in which case stick with it. Otherwise, the only books to pay attention to are problem books - start on Graded go problems for beginners volume 2. And keep going over the problems in volume 1, but do them more quickly!

20-15 kyu - Read deeper!: Getting less like a game and more like hard work! Yet there is still pleasure to be had from seeing the results of hard work pay off. Depth of reading is the most important thing here, and doing problems is the best way to develop that.

Tesuji: at this point I first used the slapping tesuji. I was so proud of myself for having discovered the move. Later, reading James Davies' book, I realised I hadn't discovered it. Similarly with the belly tesuji. My advice: don't read about tesuji. You will very rarely meet the precise situation in your games that the book describes. Instead, improve your reading ability so that you invent them for yourself (and the best way to improve your reading ability is by doing problems) - then when you eventually read about them, you will understand them, and what is more you will understand when and how they work.

Joseki: the only joseki I had learned was the 3-3 invasion to the star point and the response. At this point though I learned that the side on which you block is important. Block on the wider side,

Life and death: Basic dead shapes should be well ingrained. The development here is to recognise before your opponent when a group is beginning to take on a dead shape, and to kill it by playing on the nakade point before the boundaries of the group are settled. And being able to do that depends on depth of reading - so doing problems is the key!

Concepts: Sente gets to be important, especially in the endgame. This is where I turned lost games into won games by paying attention to which moves are sente and which are gote, and playing the sente moves first. And learned not to destroy aji but to leave ko threats... and that thickness and influence is important, but not yet sure how or why... "Concepts" are added at this stage, to show how the game is getting more complicated.

Books: I found that there are no textbooks that are really appropriate to the 25-15 kyu period. There are beginners' books and there are so-called elementary books which are really quite advanced even for a 20 kyu player. But around 20-15 kyu, along with the realisation that some advanced concepts are important, comes the ability to benefit from their explanation. Sensei's Library, though, probably provides better and more appropriate overviews than most textbooks. Except, of course, for problem books! Graded go problems for beginners volumes 1 and 2 - keep going over them, but faster now! Look at volume 3 but don't be dismayed if the first section gets difficult and after that it gets impossible - it was recently upgraded from "20-15 kyu" to "15-8 kyu".

15-10 kyu - Influence!: still going through this stage so not sure what at the end of it will have turned out to be most important. But it seems to be using those concepts that began to push themselves forward at 20-15k. Most of all, using influence - not making territory directly, but using strength and thickness to make territory indirectly eg by pushing my opponent into my strong groups - "smashing eggs against a wall", as I believe someone else has described it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't... the eggs have a habit of turning round and destroying the wall! Sente grows in importance - having found out how vital it can be in the endgame, its importance throughout the game becomes more clear.

Most of all, depth of reading and long, hard thinking over every sequence of moves decide whether I will win or lose a game. Gone are the days when Go was pure fun. It is truly becoming hard work - but if I can improve, there is a reward for that effort, surely?

Books: OK, now it is time to read books! The Elementary Go Series will be useful now, whereas before its contents would be a little academic. Apart from the Elementary Go Series, I found Yang Yilun's Fundamental Principles of Go quite helpful, especially in my fuseki - it is written in a style that Occidentals can relate to, in that moves are classified, evaluated and systematically ranked (none of that wishy-washy "X is a good move, but in this situation would be bad..."). It gave me some logical rules to use to evaluate possible moves.

(to be continued)

Fenris last edited by bugcat on August 23, 2021 - 01:17
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