Terrence's Road Map to 13k


Hello, I got serious about Go on 8/18/08. I was 30k on KGS then. I am 13k on KGS as I write this, 11/25/08. I have been 12k for a week or so now, it is 12/24/08. I would like to share what I feel is a good series of steps to learn go.

Table of contents

Beginner to 16k


If you simply play 9x9 Go against Igowin, you will eventually be able to beat it, simply by experience. It is nice to see your rating go up quickly and to be able to play a lot of games quickly.

Kerwin's Road Map for Beginners

In order to get a good idea of how to handle yourself on the 19x19, Kerwin's Road Map for Beginners is a good overview of the very basic principles of the game.

Go Program

I found having a program to analyze my games to be useful. I use Many Faces of Go, but you might find something else useful.

Update: I now use SmartGo.

Free, Quality Teaching

The absolute best place to get help is the KGSTeachingLadder.

LifeIn19x19 is good too.

xela: Also, if you want to talk about a specific position from one of your games but don't want to review the whole game, you can post it at BQM on this site.

16k to 13k

Life and Death

Life and Death is probably the heart of Go. The more you study Life and Death, the more power and connection you can feel in your stones. That being said, I am still quite weak on L&D in general and have managed to get by on the other study resources in this section.

The reason that L&D still has not taken first place in my Go study is that the opening is quite vital: the opening is when there are the most options for placing a stone. There are fewer options as the game goes on, and if you do not sketch out a map of influence and territory from the start, the game could well be over in the opening.

So even though L&D is important, most of my study is still focused on good opening as well as certain heuristic principles in the middlegame.

That being said, my friend Suto has skyrocketed past me and all he does is study Life and Death on goproblems.com. For me, I'm enjoying my slower path. And that is no suprise to Ben Teuber, based on his excellent article motivating L&D study.

The resources I have found adequate for L&D so far are:

"Fundamental Principles of Go" by Yilun Yang

[ext] Fundamental Principles of Go by Yilun Yang is an _excellent_ book. It really gives you a perfect sense of direction about how to play the opening.

It is well-written and has very illustrative examples. I cannot say enough about this book.

"Graded Go Problems"

The [ext] Graded Go Problems series by Kano Yoshinori has a lot of good problems.

To be honest, I have never really studied this book. But for some it might prove useful.

Bruce Wilcox's Contact Fights and Sector Fights

The material from Bruce Wilcox took me from 14k to 13k in 21 days. You can contact him via [ext] his website.

Start with the first two levels of contact fights and then move on to Sector Fights. His book "EZGO" is the most unique and entertaining book on Go you will find!

But the heuristics he provides on Contact Fights is solid gold. And sector fights as well...

I am now 11k

I was stuck at 12k for a very long time. In fact, it was the first case of me feeling I had reached an insurmountable plateu. You can see that in [ext] my rating graph.


My friend Suto started out in the low DDK at the same time as me... though I am 11k, he is 5k (no joke). And there is no secret: he simply studies Life and Death. And yes, I can attest that L&D will make you a strong player fast, if you dont believe me, just read [ext] Ben Teuber's guide to become strong.

I like using [ext] Go Grinder for studying tsumego, though Many Faces of Go is good too. And L&D really really makes a difference in your game.. I'm just too lazy to study it.

And many of Shygost's students dont. But it _does_ help tremendously.

The Shygost Era!

Shygost, with just a little teaching based on [ext] his list, has solidified me at 11k. A single stone gain and I am pushing 10k all the time.

You can download [ext] videos of my weekly lessons. A guy called "kaiji" said shygost was the best teacher for kyus, even better than Kerwin.

I was split between studying with Bruce Wilcox and Shygost. Bruce was the first person to help me see the Go board via his software packages. With Shygost you get a lot of help and he is always around on KGS. And you can even email him games outside of lesson time.

So far, I must say things are going quite well.

"Shape Up" by Charles Matthews

This is going to make a major shift in how I play go.

I improved just be reading the first section. I now know a lot more about running and can form eye shape as I run just by using the table shape.

You will see the table shape repeated over and over.

I am pushing 9k!

I'm on the brink of 9k. I have some performance anxiety when I play online.

At this point Shygost is still the key factor. I do look at Yang Yilun's book and I am going back through Bruce Wilcox's (EXCELLENT!) material. But shygost is the key. And there are two simple key things to good play: 1. look at all weaknesses on the board 2. a move in Go is designed to get free moves. you arent just mapping out territory. you are leveraging his weaknesses and simultaneously protecting yours and in the process gaining territory. And if you must fix a weakness, then take a move to fix it. Because the opponent has sente on that weakness even if he hasnt used it!

You can see all video lessons [ext] here


Today, 7/17/09 I made 9k with [ext] this game.

I mainly have to thank Shygost, but also putting up a game at GoDiscussions.com and then replaying it over and over based on the game reviews was also tremendously helpful.

There also was a good thread on [ext] the best Go books and 3 of them have caught my attention for future study:

  • "Opening Theory Made Easy" by Otake Hideo
  • "Making Good Shape" by Richard Bozulich
  • Almost everything by James Davies is beloved - "Attack and Defense", "Tesuji"

But it's too easy to get caught up in all sorts of shiny things you read about in books. That's where the simplicity of Shygost comes in to play.

Tsumego time


I have done nothing but lose since making 9k. I am playing very hesitantly. Also, I have too many ideas running through my head. I've read too many weird books, etc.

I bought "Making Good Shape" by Rob van Zeijst and am impressed with "Opening Theory Made Easy" by Hideo Otake but Ben Teuber's [ext] Guide to Become Strong is starting to echo through my head:

Be honest: How many of your last ten games were decided by just building territory, and how many of them by either killing stones or, if you are already a dan-player, by the implications of misjudging the strength of a group, for example being heavily attacked and therefore losing too many points by its implication?

And yes, it was [ext] this abysmal game that shows just how right he is.

Instead of 50 different ideas, I need to spend a period with just one: LIFE AND DEATH... let's see how it goes.

So I basically will be using 2 places to improve:

Tsumego - graphic proof

I started playing Go and met a guy from Germany who goes by the name of Suto online. I was 16k at the time and [ext] I beat him. We started hanging out in Freenode IRC. But we went different ways in study. I kept trying to find "magic bullets" and themes and I found 3 major ones - Bruce Wilcox, Charles Matthews and Shygost.

Suto did nothing but play Dan players and study tsumego. Now look:

He told me: you could improve your rank a few k easily just by studying Tsumego... it's time to find out!

hhw: Tsumego is helpful for improving, but this is not even an example, much less a proof of its usefulness. If you look in the KGS archives, Suto has not played a ranked game since Feburary 2009, when his rank was 11k. His rank graph looks to be the result of standard rank drift. I think you should play a game with him before deciding if his "magic bullet" is truly magical.

Terrence's Road Map to 13k last edited by tapir on October 1, 2014 - 22:14
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