I am 1-kyū.
Long ago when I was 3-kyū, I wrote the following guide for newbies, and I can't believe I never thought of posting it on Sensei's Library until now.
Xom's guide for newbies
Start with The Interactive Way To Go.
After IWTG, check and make sure you're absolutely clear on the following basic game mechanics: eyes, false eyes, and Japanese scoring (i.e. you understand how playing inside your territory costs you point(s) and how removing already-dead stone(s) by filling their liberties doesn't otherwise affect the score except that playing inside your territory costs you point(s)).
Then, two brief items:
- Vital life-and-death points and killing shapes
- Hane, Cut, Placement is a proverb about where to play to kill. "First, consider the hane. Next, consider the cut. Then, consider the placement."
- Beginner's Mistakes (mostly regarding the edge of the board)
- EDIT: see also Preventing escape on the first line
Next, I would distinguish the areas of focus Life & Death, Basic Instinct, and Strategy:
- Life & Death
- Do tsumego to train reading. Five tsumego once a day is more effective than a hundred once a week.
- In addition to being a heuristic while reading, Hane, Cut, Placement also describes how to play when you can't read it all out. The orthodox way to kill is to reduce the eyespace until there is a single vital point. Hane is most common way to reduce eyespace. If there are defects in the defender's boundary stones, cutting may result in a fatal reduction. As for placement, even when there's more than one potential point for partition, a placement at one such point may simultaneously threaten to occupy the remaining potential partition point and also threaten to connect out (or falsify a potential eye by crosscutting, or w/e).
- Some basic instincts; some basic two-color shapes; see appendix below for basic three-stone shapes
- EDIT: see also no-no shapes, small gaps
- Strategy: Shygost's Three Questions
Appendix: Basic Three-Stone Shapes
Unfortunately I've found no such article on one-color shapes that's short enough to recommend, so I'll make a few remarks here. I'll restrict myself to three-stone shapes.
This is the empty triangle, which is inefficient and usually bad:
If a white stone is on the marked point, it's not the empty triangle and the proverb doesn't apply. If a black stone is on the marked point, it's even more inefficient and bad. See the linked page for more about the empty triangle.
Here are some standard, efficient shapes to pay attention to and experiment with:
*Not a widespread term.
**Not a widespread term; unrelated to the tripod group!
***Not sure if widespread term.
EDIT: I am prompted by discussion to clarify that these shapes are not efficient in isolation; they can only be efficient in the context of what opposite-color stones are nearby. And don't be too eager to make one of these shapes when it's better to tenuki!