Improving Reading

    Keywords: Tactics

On Reading

There are three primary elements, it seems, to reading.

  1. Depth
  2. Clarity
  3. Speed

These three elements are key. "Depth" is reading out a ladder for 30 moves. "Clarity" is reading 20 moves and seeing the ladderblock. It's also seeing the other ladderblock that lets you make it work. And "speed" is doing this all in less than 2 minutes.

Ignoring these three elements, there is something even more important.


When you see a corner problem that has 10 different starting points, reading all those variations can be done...if you have great speed. But logically, there are a total of 10! variations to be read. That's a lot.

Intuition is the answer. (See article referenced below.)

It will provide you with an idea for the first move and let you stop reading several moves into the problem.

Several interesting questions rise:

How to improve these various areas?

  1. Speed: Doing lots of problems in a short amount of time may help. This also improves intuition, as the first move must be correct or almost correct
  2. Clarity: Do problems that force you to see 20 moves ahead and then see clearly little twists?
  3. Depth: Do long problems?
  4. Intuition: Doing lots of easy problems in a short amount of time is believed to improve intuition (see Force Feeding)

Reading uses the pattern recognition areas of the brain which can be strengthened by daily mental exercices, preferably doing go problems. William Cobb [ext] writes how daily Sudoku puzzles improved his go reading.

More on intuition

And finally, how does one improve intuition?

How does one gain the ability to solve problems like this:

White to play  

This would be a moderate depth problem, but mainly an intuition one. It would seem that to learn to solve this problem you would need to train your intuition to a fantastic degree, yet training something as vague as intuition seems a difficult task.



Per the article referenced below, the answer is Practice, Practice, Practice. ...what matters is not experience per se but "effortful study," which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence

How long?

Another question: How long does it take to improve reading? Quite possibly, only one aspect would improve at a time, but how long does it take to improve reading? What does improving at reading mean? (I.e., you study problems for a month. How much can you expect to improve at reading, and how can you test any actual gains.)

Bob McGuigan: I think improving at reading in go is similar to improving at other mental tasks such as reading in a natural language or reading music. When people begin to learn to read in a natural language they go very slowly, maybe because they can't recognize words at a glance. To learn to read fast at go we need to recognize go "words" (i.e. shapes and common move sequences) at a glance. Music students can't play fast at first because they can't recognize "clumps" of notes at a glance. In both cases rapid reading requires rapid pattern recognition. In go the only way to do this is to play a lot. I'm not sure solving hard problems helps since it doesn't appear to encourage "clumping". Pros I have talked to have said that for them most reading is more like seeing. They look at the board and the patterns being read out just seem to flow onto the board. Gaining this kind of facility requires a tremendous amount of exposure to go shapes or patterns, i.e. "clumps". Until you have this you may be able to recognize certain situations but slight deviations will slow you right down because they aren't familiar. Even pros have to slow down when unfamiliar situations arise, but because of their experience these are not as frequent as for amateurs.

Chris Herries?: I don't know if I have the right to comment, because I'm very new to Go and rather young, but I've found reading is also a matter of simple patience and concentration. I learned to concentrate first on the phrase 'good shape is intuitive' and then began to explore what that meant. I've found I learned a lot more through self exploration than anything else. Tinker with ideas, but never have any more stones than the problem requires, so you're not tempted to just throw them on the board. I dropped from 25 kyu to 10 kyu in three months just from fiddling around in my head. Sorry if that all seems irrelevant. :/


[ext] The Expert Mind by Philip E Ross in [ext] Scientific American

Improving Reading last edited by on November 16, 2010 - 08:15
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