Recently I have shown my son how to play Go. He was five years old by that time. I tought it would be very hard to teach such a young kid the basics of go, but I was surprised by the speed they pick-up things at that age! He likes games very much and is always interested if I replay some go-games at home. He also likes boardgames a lot but I've never tried anything "abstract" like Go.
I didn't use any special teaching method. I've just explained the purpose (fence-off as many points as you can) and explained the capture of one, two and three stones. I did not introduce the ko-rule or the concept of eyes. After that introduction of 5 minutes, we started-off at a 9x9 board with 5 stones handicap. In the beginning, if I did put one of his stones atari, I told him "I am going to get you!" and immediately he extended his stone.
I was also surprised that I didn't have to warn him (exept for a few times) for auto-atari. I saw him pointing at the board and thinking... If I play here, dady is going to get me! One of the problems however was the connection of groups. I had to explain realy a lot that groups were only connected by the lines on the board and not diagonally.
After the third game he started the opening as follows.... already very difficult to follow-up! I was impressed!
I tried to explain the two-eye principle in the third game. He got the point realy quick, althought he still needs some coaching with that point (I can still take this group, what do you have to do now...?)
The concept of false eyes remained very difficult. I still have problems in explaining him that the black group in the diagram on the left is not save. The problem is two-fold:
- I have to explain him that white is allowed to place a stone at a. This is very difficult if you've just explained that suicide is not allowed
- The group looks like it has two eyes, already a difficult concept by itself.
It is very well possible to teach a five-years-old the game of go. Most of the concepts they understand very fast. I hope the more difficult concepts will become second nature if we play more games. I am very interested in the experience of other people in teaching small kids the basics of go.