How Not To Teach Go

    Keywords: Humour

Let's share some anecdotes and principles illustrating the rich treasures to be mined in exploring the question of how not to teach Go. See How to Teach Go for good advice.

Vote for your favorite method!

How to teach Go badly and scare away new players:

Before the game

  • Before putting a stone on the board yourself, it is always wise to review some of the games of the old masters to really appreciate the beauty of the game.
  • Don't let your students drive the lesson. If they go where they're interested, then they won't lose interest. Your interests come before theirs! ++
    • corollary: Spend as much time as possible talking about Go and as little time as possible actually playing. If you simply let them enjoy the game they might start to like it. +
  • Introduce the Ko rule before it comes up in real play. It's a strange rule that is only interesting because of its consequences, which newbies are too inexperienced to understand fully. Talk about threats and fights and Ing rules and SuperKo, and the game's simplicity suddenly is gone. +
    • (but see /ko discussion)
  • Belabor the history and minutiae of the game before playing the first stone. Boredom is a great way to keep them away. Overexplain everything.
  • Show them just a few basic variations of common josekis in the second lesson. +
    • But mention that that now that we have AI small avalanche is actually not that popular anymore.
  • Don't forget to mention, that it is very likely, that a significant time of learning must pass before a sensible game will be played by your student, unless he is an extremely brilliant person. Humiliation will always work for you.

Terms of play

  • Start them on a big 19-line board, if possible, but at least a 13-line board. A large board is more than enough to be overwhelming, and games take a really long time before newbies see the fruits of their labour at the end. A 9-line board is small enough that newbies might actually learn something about the relationship between the beginning stones and the ending territory counting, so avoid it.
  • Stay on the 9-line board too long. Though it's great for teaching the basics of play, fortunately it's also good for boring your students after the 30th game. Even after they're ready to move to the 13-line, insist on the 9-line board. Say that 10.000 9x9 games will give solid foundation. Tell them that after that they will be allowed to start on the 11x11 board.
  • Give a too-low handicap, so they can't possibly beat you. +

During the game

  • Show off! Act as a performer to be watched, not as an assistant along the path to knowledge. You have plenty of knowledge that you can use to intimidate them! Use it! All of it!
    • All the while, explaining that black going first is such a great advantage there is no way you should win playing white. See also "give a too-low handicap".
  • Let others kibitz the teaching. "Too many cooks spoil the pot." If the lesson is slipshod and moves haphazardly in different directions, newbies will become confused. +
    • Or, taken to an extreme: have several players explain the game to a newcomer, each in their own way, rather than stick to a single teacher (for the evening)
  • Play psychological games outside of the game of Go: E.g.,
    • When your student takes a long time to think before playing a move, play an answer very fast so he's sure he has made a mistake. When he responds very quickly to a move, think a lot before answering.
    • Start off with a 19x19 Board. Give them 20 stones handicap, but don't explain anything but the raw basics. Proceed to capture all their stones. Gloat. (See "Show off!", above.)
  • Start speaking in Japanese during the game and never stop. Use prepared phrases like "Nan no tsumori ka yo" and "Zettee makenee ze" and add some "temee" and "onore." cf. "Temee, nani wo shiyagaru?"
  • Don't give any handicap but play a few empty triangles to make up for it.

General / Long-term teaching tactics

  • Talk about live and dead shapes before having seen a few full games played out. Overexplain everything. +
  • Criticize their moves, analyze every move. Overexplain everything and bore them to tears. +++
    • Criticize every move using high level concepts if need be. Bonus points for using Japanese terms. e.g.:
Teacher (to complete beginner): "This move is bad"
Beginner: "why?"
T: "It's aji-keshi"
B: "Whats aji-keshi"
T: "It means removing Aji"
B: "errr whats Aji then"
T: (with derisive snort) "it means taste"
  • Never make positive remarks, only negative ones. Newbies with positive feedback might actually feel good enough to stick around to learn. +
  • Drown them in new vocabulary: tesuji, komi/komidashi, fuseki, joseki, hane, moyo, aji . . . +
  • Discuss strategy too much. Only emphasizing the concept of territory probably isn't enough, so to really scare them off, talk about complex situations that they're unprepared to imagine fully. +
  • Start to quiz your students on Japanese go terms they can't possibly know. When they say they don't know them, respond with "Oh" and don't explain them. Begin a game and use the terms constantly. "Hmm that nozoki was aji keshi" "What's a nozoki, what's aji and what's keshi?" "Oh, you don't know? Hmm..." The key is to never explain what the terms mean while using them.
  • Teach them some other game that isn't Go first. By the time they figure out that you tricked them into not learning Go, perhaps they'll give up. (Please note, this isn't guaranteed to confuse, so have a back-up plan.)[1] +-
  • Teach specific things before general, complex tactical concepts before simpler ones.
    • E.g.: Lesson 1) Monkey Jump Lesson 2) Liberties
  • Never lie to your students - it's as bad as lying to yourself. Students will seize on oversimplifications, missing all the dimensions in a correct interpretation. If you can't be sure that your remarks are true, spend time taking your commentary to the next level - edit it and add all the necessary clarifying words and related ideas that give an full, accurate assessment of the position. This way both you and your student will learn during review, enforcing zero bad habits! They will walk away with a strong vocabulary and all the ideas they need.

Remember, this is a list of ways to teach Go badly. You shouldn't use these, of course, unless your goal is not to teach Go at all.


tapir: is it humour, is it theory? i fail to understand this page, the voting puzzles me even more... + means someone agrees that teaching this way is bad?

xela: I think the + votes simply mean that someone finds it funny. This page really shouldn't be taken too seriously!

[1] Anonymous: Actually, I'd like to see this item removed from this page, as it ridicules Atari Go (and in a covert way, by hiding the actual links behind innocent, unrelated text).

xela: The page is clearly flagged as humour, and good-natured ridicule is often part of humour. The comment "this isn't guaranteed to confuse" shows that the author is aware that atari go might actually be a good idea sometimes.

How Not To Teach Go last edited by on October 7, 2022 - 17:14
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