How fast can you make progress
Dieter: In response to someone asking whether it is fast to progress from 23k to 8k on KGS in 3 months.
Firstly, strength is measured by rank. Therefor, your rank progress is a measure of your real progress. The more accurate the ranking system you fall under, the better your idea of your actual progress.
Secondly, every new player starts out with a different raw strength, depending on their calculating and visualizing abilities and their experience with mind games. The first months of competitive play, the ranking system will mostly go after this raw rank. In the meantime the learning curve has started.
In my opinion, real life play, which tends to be less frequent and take more time per game, gives the associated ranking system a hard time getting a grip of that raw strength. The gap between actual playing strength and rank can be quite big. Also, because you play less in real life, you have less opportunity to practise new ideas, abundantly present in the first years, which will also slow down the progress.
In server Go, results are transformed into rank adjustments immediately and people who have discovered server Go usually spend a lot more time playing than people who depend on weekly club nights. They will find their raw rank quite fast and the initial learning process will go faster too.
To rise to 8 kyu in three months sure is promising. In our club we have a player who rose to 13 kyu in half a year from a total beginner. Although this is not bad at all, I think the time he spent playing on KGS more or less justifies his rank improvement. Another Belgian player took only a year to rise towards 2 kyu, also from being an absolute beginner. Now he's on a plateau.
To speak of myself, I never played server Go until one year ago. Hence, my rank progress has been rather linear. I became 12k after one year, and progressively 9k, 6k, 4k, 3k, 2k, 1k, 1d, 2d. The last five years I have been improving one grade a year. I would have thought for someone to be 9k after two years it would be rather impossible to become a dan player, if they don't change their way or amount of playing and learning. But to my surprise and relief, it isn't.
Blake: It depends on your personality, as well. I tend to jump around between interests, and so after a few weeks of playing go I often get bored and quit for a few weeks or months, so my progress has been retarded somewhat (I'm 13k after about a year). If you have a personality similar to this, you will find progress slower than Dieter's experience suggests. Don't get discouraged, just keep coming back to go whenever your interest swings back around.
mgoetze: Well, go progress seems to be one of the great mysteries of life; sometimes you work very hard at it and don't get better at all; other times you do next to nothing and yet suddenly find yourself 3 stones stronger. Right now I'm just kinda cruising along from 12k at my last tournament to about 7k right now, without any really intensive study or playing; mostly I just idly watch high-dan games on KGS and let myself get distracted by the kibitz... ;)
Floris: Also fast is Antti Törmänen (Antti 3d on KGS although 1k in Finland, 14 years old) who is currently sandbagging at KGS at 3d level having played only since April 2002. ^_^ Very friendly finnish boy :))))
Alex Weldon: I went from 23k* IGS to 5k* IGS in something like 7 months. Of course, then I've been on more or less a plateau for several months since then, although surely part of that problem is that I haven't been playing as much, and I'm in Korea, so getting English language books is impossible - all my theory comes from Sensei's these days.
Andrew Grant: Improvement at Go depends on a lot of things, but willingness to play a lot and study a lot are the important ones. I took a year to reach 20k because at that time Go was just another game, and I just played around but didn't take it seriously. Then something hit me (God knows what it was) and I pretty much dropped all my other interests for some considerable time and concentrated on Go. I was 5k in a year and 1k a year after that.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work for me as well now, as a weak 3d. Those of us who learnt in the seventies from the handful of books then available in English picked up quite a lot of bad habits which are hard to eradicate. Guo Juan has said that the main weakness of European dan players, the reason they stop progressing, is that they don't properly understand the fundamental principles that Chinese pro pupils learn right at the beginning. Trying to retro-fit these to your game is a bit like trying to replace the foundations of a building without knocking it over.
Scartol: It's easy to get wrapped up in one's rank, to the point where the game isn't enjoyable unless you're winning rated games. Everyone on KGS seems to be comparing themselves to one another, and it's created an atmosphere of cutthroat competition that I find stifling. I agree that it's impressive when someone makes it to 7k in a year, but I think it's important to realize that we're all different, and will therefore progress at different rates. Of course, the important thing is having fun, not rocketing to the top of the ranking ladder.
Tamsin: I'm surprised nobody yet has come out with the old chestnut, "How long is a piece of string?". Everybody's different. Some people achieve dan ranks very quickly, others don't. Some people improve at a constant rate while others go through plateaus followed by large increases in playing strength. A lot depends on study techniques, motivation, time and opportunity, and (there's no getting away from this) talent.
For my part, I got to be about 3k in the UK very quickly (about a year), having learned in 1999, but it took me 2 years after that to get to be genuinely 1k. Now, I believe that I am either a "strong" 1k or a shodan, although to my chagrin I cannot compete in many tournaments, which means that my BGA rating (on the BGA website) bears little resemblance to my actual ability, being based largely on games I played before 2001.
I have definitely begun to improve again, having stayed at roughly the same strength for about 9 months (August 2002 to May 2003). I put this down to having used force feeding to improve my tactical ability and to increase my understanding of aji (I used the force feeding technique on the relevant chapter in Strategic Concepts of Go).