Learning Pro Games/ Discussion

Sub-page of LearningProGames

Is there anyone who has experience of this, as teacher or pupil?

Charles Matthews

AvatarDJFlux: Long ago a strong Korean player (he was the Korean Consul in Rome) tried to improve my game (alas, with little result) and, apart from playing me a lot, told me to memorise the first 50 moves of 100 professional games.

As far as I know, this is the traditional Asian way of teaching, in all arts, from martial arts to taiko drumming (I had some experience of both): the Sensei performs his/her Art, the pupil watches and tries to repeat. Almost no verbal teaching.

I've heard that's the way even sushi masters are taught. The apprentice just does chores around the kitchen and watches the sushi master for a few years ;-) Migeru

This could also account for the very short comments Pro usually give during an informal commentary: mmmhh... good move... new joseki? They'd rather show the proper move (or sequence of moves), maybe just nodding. This is at least my personal experience.

unkx80: It could be that the intention of memorizing professional games, at least the opening moves, is to teach the player the flow of the game.

Charles: I can see the intention. Well, one comes across dan players who say 'I can't understand pro games'; but stronger amateurs tend to say 'you can't completely understand pro games', which is completely different. My question is really - do people who try this genuinely get some 'fundamentals'?

Sorin Gherman: I got the same advice as an insei. I wouldn't say though that the purpose is to learn fundamentals (as in "first things you learn after the rules"), but to feed your brain with good moves and learn about good shape, direction of play, etc. in an unconscious way, as opposed to the occidental way of learning everything rationally and explaining the "whys" behind every action.

Charles: Agree. But we have a big problem, generally, with the 'fundamentals' concept. Because we're weak ... Everyone with experience knows the game analysis situation where the player says 'and then my opponent did something complicated', which is supposed to explain everything. It explains nothing, while 'fundamentals' explain - enough (explaining everything is particularly worthless in go, I think). I entirely agree about shape and direction of play. It would be interesting to me to find out what anyone else may have learned directly from pro games.

John Fairbairn: Mark Hall has possibly transcribed more pro games than anyone in the West (the world?) and he reckons that - and that alone - has got him from 2-dan to strong 4d (European). I have tried to pin him down as to what he has learned but he finds it hard to get much beyond "new ideas".

I think I know what he means. I haven't transcribed anything like as many games as him but I've done a lot and I find it improves my understanding of what is going. I hesitate to say it makes me stronger as I rarely play in tournaments, but - delusion or otherwise - I feel more confident about judging a game.

I too find it hard to put my finger on anything specific, except "new ideas." I think what happens is that you play over lots of games and your brain subliminally sorts out most of the dross by saying "seen that before, I'll tick this box". As a result, the more you've seen and the more mental boxes are ticked the more your brain (a) records the weight of the various repetitions - and perhaps translates this into pattern recognition, and (b) sensitises itself to mark something "never seen before, not ticked", i.e. new. I (and Mark?) therefore tend to have a fairly strong reaction when something new turns up. Now that not so many things are new to me, it actually feels like a kick of surprise. Because it's such a strong reaction, and a pleasurable one, I tend to feel inspired to think about the novelty. I presume this enhances the learning process significantly. Mostly these kicks of surprise come in the opening but they do happen in the middle and end game too.

I never make even the slightest conscious effort to memorise any games I am transcribing, but I find (as I do not infrequently when I've wiped out a game without saving it) I can usually play it back straightaway without much effort. I think I learn far more by transcribing than by just playing over games, probably because I have to pay more attention.

Bill: I hear that brain scans indicate that experts' brains typically have enlarged memory areas (using areas not normally devoted to memory) for their expert knowledge. Although I did not use memorization, myself, in learning go, it is probably a good idea if you take the game seriously.

Dieter: I'm replaying pro games at Gobase these days, and yesterday I suddenly thought such a "new idea" came to my mind. Maybe this new idea is a wrong idea, but I'll try to explain. I expected the pro to connect his weak group to a strong group, but instead he made eyes in the center. I understood that this had the double purpose of making life and simultaneously preventing the stones attached to the group from being cut off and captured in the process of seeking life through connecting to the outside strength. I have seen this quite a few times and now I have gotten better at guessing whether to connect or to make eyes. I expect this to make me connect along dame less in the future.

Malweth: Until now I've concentrated on one or two pro players, but I've decided that I should just take the latest games from go4go and GoGoD. I'm finding that playing through the same players over and over again results in very similar moves over and over again... this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when fuseki and joseki are a concern, it can limit what you take in. -- For the beginning player I still suggest Takemiya and other simpler style players.

Thad: I think I need to point out a logical flaw in the argument here. I don't know if studying pro games is the best way to learn or not, but the idea that present strong players have done it is not an argument for it.

The argument, "I am strong because I studied progames, so it must be the best way" cannot be demonstrated false because it is what people are told. The ones who became strong were told to study progames. So it is unlikely that you will find a strong player who has not studied progame, irregardless of whether it worked for him or not!

What we do not see are strong players that did not study progames, or strong players who tried studying pro games but it did not help them, because there are no established techniques to become strong without studying pro games.

Consider an example in a different area to illustrate the point. Prof Harry Higgins comes to town, selling his "think system" of playing music. He has his students think about the song they are going to play without actually playing it. Eventually two or three students actually become good musicians. The rest stink, ostensibly because they "are not good musicians".

Of course what has not been explored is having these "not good" musicians play scales in different keys and read sheet music with those scales at the same time. Or by learning a few simple somgs and then going on to other songs. Or by learning music theory...

THe same argument goes here. Since the alternates are not tried, it is presumed to be the way.

Bill: Thaddeus, you are making a big assumption yourself. Various alternatives have been tried, both by individuals and within the go playing community. While it is true that most good players will have studied professional games along the way, they will also have studied life and death, tesuji, fuseki, middle game strategy, the endgame, sacrificing stones, shape, etc., etc. In fact, most dan players that I know give little credit to the study of professional games for their advancement. You are reading things into what people are saying.

Learning Pro Games/ Discussion last edited by PJTraill on September 12, 2018 - 22:22
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