Improvement / Frequency Of Play

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Calvin: I'd like to do an informal survey on player's thoughts about the frequency of play required to improve. This question is motivated by own experience: I find that I have periods of my life where for a few months I have a reasonable amount of interruptible free time to study Go, but little uninterruptible time to play full games. I once asked an AGA 7d if this is okay, and he asked, "Well, how few games are you talking about?" I said maybe two full games a week. He said that's fine because the brain can't assimilate information faster than that anyway. (Or maybe he was referring to my brain and not his.) So he told me to go ahead and study tsumego and tesuji in my bits of free time and not to worry so much about game frequency. But clearly he had some threshold in mind and two games per week surpassed it. On the other hand, I know some strong players who literally only play and do no other form of study, so I'm sure opinions vary.

Here are my questions. Thanks for your input. (Deshis: feel free to reformat this page if there's a better layout for this type of survey.)

1. If given 100 hours of uninterruptible time (in large enough blocks that game play is possible) what percentage of it would you spend actually playing games vs. other study such as pro games, tsumego, books, or reviewing your own games? (This is assuming you want to improve and not just goof off.)

2. What's the minimum frequency of actual game play where doing other things such as tsumego and not playing enough will cause you to develop a weird style or produce symptoms like kyu disease that might be hard to shake?

3. Is actual game play so important that you would resort to blitz games or 9x9 games to get up game count if you don't have much time, or would you refrain from that and wait until you can play more serious games? For example, if you have 20 minutes, would you play a blitz game or 9x9 game, or just do a few easy tsumego instead? (Again, I’m assuming someone who wants to improve and is not just addicted to play.)

unkx80: I am also one who do not have a lot of uninterrupted time for play. And sometimes I am just plain lazy.

Anyway, here is my take. I won't answer your questions point by point, though. I would recommend doing a mix of all, actually. Some time reading books, some time doing tsumego, some time reviewing professional games. As for games, a mix of serious and blitz can be good, I am saying both because blitz trains on intuition. An occassional switch to 9x9 can be good, because the tactics are different, but beware that too much of small board go can destroy the intuition for the usual 19x19 board. Anyway, a couple of serious games within a week should be good, and if possible, all serious games should be reviewed.

Anyway, these are all my personal opinion. But as I said, I have been goofing off all these while and not practicing what I preach.

ThaddeusOlczyk: The first thing I would note, is never to play more games than you can comfotably review. I have seen some of the dan players trying to modify their style and have difficulty, That's because they play 5 games a day and probably never have time to review their games and see where they are ineffictive in their new style. I've also seen some dans who stink it up for a few games and then stop playing for a while. Allowing the break to clear their heads.

I would limit the amount of blitz. It inculcates a degree of impatience which hurts your slow game. So balance each blitz game with at least one slow game. There are times when I know I don't have enough time to play, but I won't play blitz. Instead I watch someone elses game.

Vincent: About 50/50. It's important to strike a balance. There are some things you can only learn through experience, while studying can introduce you to concepts and ideas that might otherwise have never occurred to you.

It depends how much you study. As Michael Redmond said: "If you study something, you have to use it in a game, otherwise you haven't really digested it and made it your own." That said, I would play at least one serious game every three to four days to keep your mind sharp.

Ditto to the above comments on blitz games and smaller boards.

BillM: What about playing on Dragon go server if you don't have much uninterrupted time? You get the benefits of actively thinking about all parts of the game, while spending only as much time as you have on any given

Malweth: I personally find that, if you're only playing against opponents who are within a few ranks of your own, playing is completely unnecessary (at least once you've reached about 15k or so). Playing versus a stronger player, however, is much more worthwhile and (if possible) playing 3-4 of those a week is probably a good limit (a minimum of once is great if possible).

I have very little time for playing (less now than previously), but playing against my teacher was probably the most useful. I do find that practicing tsumego and memorizing pro games is an ok replacement for playing, and I find it more useful than playing equal opponents.

I do play on Dragon go (etc), but those games are really more for fun because I find it hard to take them seriously. The only games I can play seriously are played in person or against stronger opponents.

I don't recommend the minimum, of course -- but for many of us *below* the minimum is a necessary evil.

Chris Hayashida: I don't have much time to play, either. I'm lucky if I get in two teaching games a week, let alone trying to play someone at my own level. However, I still think it is possible to gain strength, even if you only play one game a week.

A stronger player once told me, "You can get strong without playing Go every day. If you do something with Go, replay a game, review your own game, or do tsumego, that is good enough."

I don't think blitz and Dragon Go help as much as a "real" game, would, though, but that could just be me. When I play blitz, I don't count the board, nor do I read as deeply, and I think both of these skills are necessary to hone to get to a higher level. I think that your time would be better spent to play "real" games, and spend the rest of the time you have analyzing your game.

With Dragon Go, I think my train of though often gets derailed because of the long pauses between moves. I suppose it would get you better at positional judgement, though. I strongly advise against playing out moves on the side to try and figure out what to do... I often hear that some of my students do that, but I think they are robbing themselves in the long run.

After all, no one wants to brag, "I'm shodan at blitz and 4-dan on Dragon Go, but when I play real games, I'm only 5 kyu." :)

damien: Recently I was told to play 20+ games a day by a 2kyu. At the time of writing, I'm 20kyu kgs. It while large amounts of play would logically lead to better play, it seems that,

  • Given at least 30 minutes a game, that's 10+ hours a day of play. Last time I checked, I'm not an insei.
  • Such large amounts of play, if taken seriously, would most likely lead to headaches and possibly insanity.

So my question is, how many games are the maximum for one day? I can usually play 3 games on a 13x13 with a local 25kyu and one 19x19 with an even or stronger opponent before I'm mentally exhausted.

tapir: Playing a lot isn't necessarily bad, playing only one game isn't either. All the way from 30k to 5k kgs I played a very small amount of games with some reading (kageyama, attack and defence) and reviewing in between. Playing seldom and rather slow games - I still improved fast. Absorbing some basic ideas, concepts, shapes is the issue here. Later, I learned playing blitz is also fun and helps me in managing time control problems and developing reading abilities (yes!). I'm around 1k now.

20+ games are evidently meant to be really fast games. I've no opinion to that (I sometimes but seldom play that amount of blitz games a day.). But in my opinion you should try not to exhaust yourself during play (regardless of the number of games) but to enjoy playing along and trying to grasp something new in each game (or in the review) a mistake, a weakness of shape, a whole board consideration - stretching a little each game for an even better result here and there is of course necessary to improve but this should not lead to the edge of mental exhaustion in my opinion.

With 100 hours (4 days) uninterrupted time, I would sleep in between, meeting friends to cook and eat nice food, go out for a walk or swimming or dancing (see Takemiya :)) more than once. In the remaining time I would dedicate myself to go, but I would like to have people around once a while to play games, and discuss them collectively. In the remaining time I would do tsumego or other studies, I used to replay games but mostly during a phase of stagnation (and probably in a wrong way) and I lost this habit recently. I would cut off internet connection during this time. (Not viable if you re going to play online of course.)

Dieter: The 2k who told you to play 20 games a day ... There will be no time left to absorb new ideas or analyse old habits, so after a while you will just make horizontal progress, that is, you'll be able to win more games with the same toolset. After some more time you'll hit the roof and your improvement will stall.

Look at DieterVerhofstadt/Ideas on improvement for the rest of what I would write here.

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Improvement / Frequency Of Play last edited by on January 26, 2015 - 08:03
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