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I'm currently the maintainer for SLoT, a Java program for turning a Sensei's Library database dump into very small static HTML pages intended for use on handheld devices such as Palm Pilots. You can email me at rosswerner at users dot sourceforge dot net, or IM me on gtalk at rosswerner at gmail dot com.

Playing Beginners

Here are my "golden rules" for playing against DDK, beginner players.

  1. Do not "let" them win, but do your best to keep the game within one or two points.
  2. Try to maximize the presence of interesting "problems" that are at their level.
  3. Don't talk during the game. Don't suggest why a move they made was bad, or explain why you're making moves yourself.
  4. At the end of the game, give one piece of advice (a proverb, or a shape lesson, etc).
  5. Play quickly, and encourage them to do the same.

Teaching Beginners to Play

Here is the pattern I use for teaching people who are interested in the game the basic rules.

  1. Start on a small board! 5x5 or 7x7 is good, but nothing larger than 9x9.
  2. Place a single stone on the board, and give the other color of stones to the beginner. "Place as many stones as you need to capture this stone." Don't explain the capture rule, just let them figure it out. Once the last liberty is taken, congratulate them, and if they used more stones than necessary (e.g. on the diagonal points), explain the idea of liberties and show that the extra stones are not necessary.
  3. Continue the same exercise by placing two adjacent stones in the center of the board and on the edge of the board, and have them place stones to capture those groups. Congratulate them for success.
  4. This time, create some groups on the edge and corner with a single eye and have them capture those stones. If they try to place a stone in the eye initially, explain that that's illegal because it's self-capture. If they surround the outside and look confused, explain that they can now place a stone in the single eye and capture the stones.
  5. Create groups on the edge with two eyes and have them try to capture the stones. They'll typically start by surround the outside, and then look confused. Explain that these groups cannot be captured, because they can't play in both eyes simultaneously.
  6. Explain that, in the actual game, players alternate turns, so it will be harder to capture a stone now. Place many handicap stones on the board (e.g. at least 9 on a 9x9 board), and say whoever captures the first stone wins. You might win the first game, but if you've placed enough handicap stones they should be able to trivially win. Every time they win, remove a handicap stone and play again.
  7. Once you've removed enough handicap stones to enable yourself to make a living group, try to make it through a game with no captures. Explain the idea of territory and count each player's area, and explain that in the actual game, this is how the winner is decided--not by the first capture. From then on, play "real" Go.


  • explain the ko rule until it comes up in play. They'll understand it much better if they see it in action.
  • talk to them about ladders. The ladder shape is actually a very advanced concept, and not very useful for beginners. Resist the urge to teach it!

rosswerner last edited by rosswerner on August 30, 2009 - 18:50
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