Go, Igo, Weiqi, Baduk Go, Igo, Weiqi, Baduk. Kaz's original Igo-advice & fundamentals of Igo

"Playing many games will make you strong!?" Not necessarily

"Playing many games will make you strong!?" Not necessarily

I've recently learned that both Ootake Hideo 9dan and Iyama Yuta 9dan claimed that "in order to get strong, one should play a lot of games."

I confess I was rather shocked to hear this- in my experience, adults who make an effort to play a large number of games at the expense of studying develop a playing style in which many common mistakes become solidified. I have visited dozens of Go clubs and witnessed hundreds of adults who play common mistakes over the years.

I have great respect for these pros- after all, they are some of the best in the world- but I could not understand why they said this. So I decided to look into their biographies and playing experience. Some relevant facts I discovered:

1. Both Ootake and Iyama had wonderful Go teachers when they were kids.
2. They began learning Go when they were young, so they learned everything very quickly (young children often learn something once and never forget).
3. In addition, they also happened to be extremely talented Go players.

When Ootake was a child, he went to a Go club near his house and played with many adults. In this Go club, there were some strong players. When I read his biography, I can infer that those strong players had a properly training, so they knew advanced tesuji and techniques. He also had a 5dan Go teacher (at that time, the rank of 5dan was equivalent to what we would today consider 7dan or higher). Under his tutelage, Otaka improved miraculously. Later on, he became an apprentice of Kitani Minoru 9dan.

(It is important to have a good teacher and / or to be surrounded by players who have been well trained. As far as I know, in a majority of Go clubs in Tokyo many of the strong players never have proper training, so they don’t know tesuji or good shapes. But their styles still work because their opponents are also not properly trained.)

When Ootake started living in Kitani Minoru’s house, there were already many talented Go prodigies who were pros and insei (Go apprentices), living in the house. Ootake played stronger players all the time.

Iyama also had a good Go teacher. His grandfather was a 6dan amateur and taught him for a year. Iyama stared playing Go at the age of 5. He became 5 kyu in half year and then became 3dan in another half year. It appears to be like the grandfather had a proper training, so he could teach his grandson well.

Then, he was introduced to Ishii Kunio 9dan pro who entered the Meijin and Honinbo Leagues. About 95% of the Japanese pros cannot enter these leagues. Some pros enter it only once. So the fact that he entered three leagues prove that he was one of the top pros when he started teaching Iyama.

Ishii 9dan taught Iyama twice a week. At first he played a six-stone handicap games and gave the commentary over the phone. Ishi continued to teach Iayam even after he became a pro every week.

Also another pro, Kenmochi Jyo 7dan, played with Iyama once a week before Iyama was a child. He also went to Kenmochi’s house in summer and winter vacations and played with him, Takao Shinji pro, who later became Honinbo, and Akiyama Shinji pro, who later becamse 9dan.

One day Iyama also joined the late Fujisawa Hideyuki Go camp and played many games with top players.

Ootake and Iyama were prodigies, had great Go teachers who played a large number of games and reviewed their games.

But not all pros had this kind of wonderful environment.

For example, Fukui Masaaki 9dan did not have a Go teacher when he was a child. He had only famous Honinbo Dosaku game collections. Dosaku was once the strongest player during the Samurai period. Fukui played those games so many times that he eventually memorized all the games.

I was once an assistant of Sensei Fukui’s class and taught with him for three years. During that time, I never heard him say “amateurs should play as many games as possible”. He seemed to give advice differently to a different student.

Consequently, pros’ advice has a lot to do with their personal backgrounds.

Also the advice of Ootake’s and Iyama’s may not apply to adults becuase most amateur adult Go players have different situations.

1. Most adults don't have very good Go teachers. So they may study for years without learning proper tesuji, shape, joseki, etc.
2. When adults learn tesuji, shape, joseki in a Go class, they have a hard time remembering it. (Kids who are dan level can learn shapes, tesuji, patterns and retain this knowledge for a long time.)
3. Most adults are not Go prodigies like Ootake or Iyama.
4. Most adults started learning Go when they were an adult, not a 5-year-old.

In my experience it takes adults a certain amount of time to learn just one tesuji; it may take up to a month. That's not what happened with Ootake or Iyama. They could learn one tesuji and begin using it in their games immediately, and they would never forget it.

This is not to say that all children are natural Go players. There are many children who are not as talented as Ootake or Iyama; quite a few stop playing Go because they cannot
improve quickly.

Also without a Go teacher who teaches and cares about kids, it may not be easy to improve or enjoy playing Go. The other day I had an email from Mimura Tomoyasu 9dan, who has entered the Meijin and Honinbo Leagues many times. He runs a Go school for children. Quite a few kyu players quite because there aren’t a Go teacher there. All the pros are busy teaching dan players.

In conclusion pros tend to give advice based on their experiences. But that may not be applicable to anyone.

Please also read a related topic: http://kazsensei.seesaa.net/article/409180298.html

I can't helping thinking about a move for a long time! Well, pls read this!

I can't helping thinking about a move for a long time! Well, pls read this!

Recently a student asked me about how he should manage the time
because he loves to think of a move for a long time. In fact
since he likes to think each move for a long time, he likes to play offline.

I answered as follows:

To be honest with you, since I was a child, I always couldn't
play quickly. I had to think, think, and think...
Even if I became an insei, and even if I had 4 hours in the final insei
tournament, I couldn't stop thinking. I spent 4 hours in 100 moves or so.
It was a terrible habit.

Interestingly, after I quit an insei (Go apprentice), I could start playing fast.
Over the years I have also observed many people, teenagers and adults who couldn't stop thinking.
Based on my experiences, I'd like to tell you what I have discovered and learned over the years.

1. Thinking a move for a long time does not necessarily help you play a better game.

2. Thinking a move for a long time in a game does not necessarily make you strong.

3. When you play a game, there are points at which you have to think; that is a life-and-death situation and a capturing race.
But there are many situations where you will never know the best moves.

Let me elaborate on these.

With regard to 1. and 2., I need more explanations.

The reason thinking a move will not help you is that
without solidifying the strong basic foundations, you may not be thinking
correctly. If your thoughts were incorrect from the beginning, you may very well
end up with an incorrect result.

( My definition of basic foundations is that there are basic foundations for 10 kyu players, for
5 kyu players, for 1 dan players, and so on. I believe that you should learn various levels of
basics as you improve. )

This happens often because you still have to learn a lot about tesuji,
life-and-death, shape, etc. at your level. It takes time to learn one tesuji.

This is why I always emphasize learning basics.

With regard to 3., there were interesting Go articles in Japan, asking top pros to play where in the middle of a game.

Almost always every top pros play different moves. This means that even top pros may not know what's the best.

Go is that deep, I guess.

Cho U 9dan wrote in his book that he always intentionally plays fast. He's been
doing that since he was an insei and even now. The reason is that when there
is a crucial moment in a game, he needs time. When he has time, he could find
the best move or a winning move. His opponent often doesn't have time and makes a mistake.

Of course, he is one of the strongest Go players, and that's why he has won
lots of titles in Japan. But even for him, how to manage the time is strategically important.

I do understand that it can be very frustrating not to have time in an online game
when you need time. I send the following advice to those who play tournaments.
But I'm pretty sure that these are also helpful to you, too, when you play online.

☆ Go advice ☆

★ The time ★

When you play a tournament, you have only limited amount of time. You shouldn't spend time on the opening. You should use your time in the middle game, especially fight and life-and-death.

And in the endgame if you don't have time, you often end up miserably. Even if you are 20 points or 30 points ahead, your opponent could turn around the situation if you don't have time to think. I have experienced this so many times when I was an insei. So use your time wisely.

When I play a game, as soon as I play a move, I try to think of possible opponent moves and come up with a response. So when an opponent plays a move, I can immediately respond to it without spending the time.

When I made a mistake and was way behind in the middle of a game, this strategy really worked well because towards the end of a game, my opponent had little time left, and I had more time, and I managed to find a move to turn around a game.

Of course, it's easier said than done. But that may be something to think about.

★ The openinge ★

In order not to spend time in the opening, I think the following advice helps.

When you're Black, you should certainly play your favorite opening.

The problem is White. When you are White, you should try to prevent your opponent from playing her / his favorite opening such as the Chinese opening (fuseki).

The Chinese fuseki is really hard to tackle unless you have studied it extensively. Even if you have studied the Chinese fuseki, new patterns come up often, and it's very hard to keep up with everything.

Later on when I played a tournament in Tokyo, and when my opponent played the first move at Q16 and the third move at Q3, I played my fourth move at Q5 immediately (for kyu players, I recommend Q5 and not R5 because R5 has far more variations). After this, he and I had to face a new fuseki. So whoever strong was likely to win (and I won).

If I had let him play the Chinese fuseki, he would have played the fuseki just like top pros play. So all his moves were as wonderful as top pros up to a certain moves. But when I played the fourth move at Q5, he had to play his own moves rather than top pros' moves. So it's much harder for him to good moves.

In addition, if you let your opponents play their favorite fuseki, it's very likely that they don't spend time because they know what to do, but you probably have to spend time on finding out how to tackle an unfamiliar fuseki. So you may lose your time very fast in the opening.

To prevent your opponents from play their favorite fuseki may also be helpful psychologically. If you prevent that, they can be discouraged.

I'm sorry that this is getting too long.

I really hope this helps.

Playing many games will not make you strong. Acquiring basics will.

Playing many games will not make you strong. Acquiring basics will.

I always think adults play too many games.

Adults need to learn basics.

I know there is a myth in Japan and in the West that "you have to play lots of games if you want to be strong".

But that's wrong.

That's for pros and children at 5dan, 6dan, 7dan, or 8dan level.

They learned basics when they were 8, 10, or 12 years old. They already knew all the basics.

But not adults. Adults lack a lot of basics.

Also playing many games will not improve pros or 5dan, 6dan, 7dan, 8dan children, either. Pros review their games for many hours. Cho U 9dan often reivews his games 10 hours or even more if he has time.

Most adults never review their games and keep playing the same mistakes.

Keep in mind that learning one tesuji can take a month. Being able to apply that tesuji to your games can take even more time.

If adults play more than 10 games a week, I don't think they will ever have time to master even one tesuji.

There are so many things to learn.

There are lots of tesuji. There are opening, middle game, and the endgame. Adults also need to learn basic tesuji, joseki, fighting pattenrs, sabaki, shinogi, etc.

Compared to children, it takes adults 3, 4, or 5 times to learn things.

Yet, adults have much less time than children. Adults have to work, take care of a family, meet friends, do social activities, go see a movie, etc.

It's not easy for adults to find time to study Go, let alone learning basics.

Still, many adults keep playing without learning basics.

In my 16-year teaching experience tells me that adults play too many games
and learn too little basics.

I've seen hundreds of adults who keep playing and never improve. I've never seen any adults who improved without learning basics.

Many adults claim to be a dan player, and they can win among other adults who have never studied basics. But when they play with a pro or a child with a strong basic foundation, they are always beaten badly.

When adults play too many games without solidifying basics, they will only build their own styles, filled with common amateur mistakes, which are far from basics.

I have taught many adults for many years in Japan. Many of them are full of common amateur mistakes and of very little basics. They had played 10 or 20 years with their own styles.

Then I started teaching basics. I taught many of them for 5 years, but it was still very hard for them to acquire basics because their own styles were completely ingrained in their mind.

Despite my advice, I've found that many of my students still keep playing more than 10 games in a week or a month. Each game lasts 3 hours or more. This means that they are practicing their common amateur mistakes for 30 hours. Instead, they should study basics. If they play only one really serious game in a week or in a month and study 27 hours a week or a month throughout a year, they will definitely improve in a year. But very few people do.

If playing many games is a way to improve, then most adult Go players in Japan and in the world would have to be much stronger today and be filled with strong basic foundations. Why isn't that happening? It's because they are only practicing common amateur mistakes.

I once learned karate as an adult and repeated practices 6 hours or 8 hours a week
and did a fighting only once in a while. Fighting doesn't last long. It's usually a minute for 5 or 10 bouts, and each bout lasts only a minute.

Yet, I have improved quickly and got the black belt in 5 years.

Please read my blog to see how important and how difficult it is to acquire basics:

In my experience, playing one really serious game a week is good enough for adults, maybe 2 at most. (If you're serious, you should concentrate a game from the beginning to the end. Chatting during a game is not a serious game. That's for fun.)

If they have time to play lots of games, they should learn basics.

If adults have 10-hour free time, I believe that adults should study 9 hours and play 1 hour a game.
That's my suggestion. If you want to improve fast, if you want to win, that's what I suggest.

Of course, adults don't have time to study Go for a long time.
Then studying an hour a day is still very good. One of my students, George, is making a big progress by studying an hour or an hour and a half every day.

He started playing Go in his 30s. Now he is in the 60s. He started taking my offline lessons in July, 2014. At that time his KGS rating was bouncing around between 4-6 kyu. In November he is currently a 2 or 3 kyu player.


I hope this advice helps.

The importance of repetition and the continuation of reviewing

The importance of repetition and the continuation of reviewing

I had a student who didn't improve much and decided not to take my
lessons anymore. I asked him how many times he has reviewed my problems.
His answer was once or twice. Sometimes more, but not many.

Then I thought I should tell all of my students about the importance
of reviewing and the importance of reviewing continuously.

I'd like to ask you to review my problems, preferably several times
a week, if not every day, because repetition is the only way to improve Go.

If you spend 5 minutes to review my problems maybe 3 times a day
for example in the morning, at noon, and at night, it should make
a difference after six months.

Of course, the more you review, the faster you improve.

I think it's a good idea to make it a rule to review my problems.

I've taught hundreds of students, and some of them don't improve much
The fact is that they don't review my lessons enough.
Solving my problems once or twice is not at all good enough.

Please take a look at my blog on these pages:

I reiterate "Repetition is the only way to improve Go."

If you stop reviewing my problems, you will fall back into your old,
bad habits, and soon your Go will be back to your original level.

Then your time and money to have taken my lessons will be wasteful.

If you forget everything I taught, and one day you decide to take
my lessons again, you have to do the same thing all over again.

But if you continue to review my problems, even for 5 minutes a day,
you could still build a certain basic foundation. One day if you decide
to take more lessons, then you will be able to learn new things
more easily in the future.

Endurance makes you stronger.

I've been studying Chinese by myself. Like I studied English
by myself, I repeat listening to some Chinese every day and
many times at lest for 10 minutes a day and often more.

I'll listen to the same lesson not once, but 20 times or 30 times
or more until I master them and be able to use them in conversation.

"Repetition is the only way to improve Go."

I hope you understand the importance of repetition
and the importance of continuing to study.

Incidentally, some of my students have been reading various Go books. I’ve been making problems based on their weaknesses and mistakes. No books are written based on their weaknesses or mistakes. So it makes more sense to solve my problems rather than reading various Go books.

Besides, all of my students pay money more than a Go book. So they should make the most of my lessons. To do so, they should repeat solving my problems far more than Go books.

I just want all of my students not to waste their money and time.

Good luck to all of you.

An ideal invasion and an ideal attack

An ideal invasion and an ideal attack

In my commentary, I often state the following:

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: In the opening and in the middle game you should avoid a fight in a place where you're outnumbered. Instead you should try to fight in a place where you outnumber an opponent's stones.

Yet, many people invade an opponent’s moyo or territory first, which is unnecessarily. And then their invading stone gets attacked; they give an opponent’s a chance to get an advantage.

I understand that "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." But you have to overcome this.

If you get Black, you always have one stone ahead. So in many cases it is White who has to invade first. If you are Black and make a moyo by making the three-star point opening or the Chinese opening, it is definitely White who has to invade. This means that Black will attack a white group.

If you have a chance to attack a weak group, you will have various opportunities to attain an ideal attack such as the following:

1. You attack a weak group while increasing your territory.
2. You attack a weak group while expanding your moyo.
3. You attack a weak group while erasing an opponent’s moyo.
4. You attack a weak group while reducing an opponent's territory.
5. You attack two or more than two weak groups at the same time by making a splitting attack. (I’ll elaborate on this below.)

As you can see 3. and 4., you should let an opponent invade, attack an invading stone, follow it, and then invade an opponent’s moyo. You usually follow a weak group and get an influence in the center, so your invasion becomes safer and easier.

If you invade first, you will get attacked and let an opponent invade your moyo or your territory more easily, and that’s not good.

So if you play Black, especially if you make a moyo, a person who has to invade is White, not Black.

In fact, even if you have White, this strategy works.

If you are White and make a moyo by making the three-star point opening or the Chinese opening, and if you keep expanding your moyo, most people as Black will invade your moyo because we all have “green-eyed monster” in our mind.

So if you see an opponent’s invasion, your strategy works. But that’s not enough.

The question is how to attack an opponent’s invading stone. If you attack incorrectly, then you will not attain an ideal attack above.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: Before you attack, you should look at the entire board, find where you can make the most profit, and then consider which sequence of moves will lead you to an ideal attack.

As I have stated above, making profit can either make a bigger territory, expand your moyo, erase opponent’s moyo, or reduce an opponent's territory.

But you can also make a splitting attack (A splitting attack is attacking two or more of the opponent’s groups at the same time.)

An ideal splitting attack is to separate two group right before they are about to connect.
(This is why ‘Romeo-and-Juliet shape’ is really effective because they split two stones right in the middle, right before they are about to connect. If you haven’t received ‘Romeo-and-Juliet shape” yet, please ask Kaz to send problems in the near future.)

All ideal attacks are not easy to achieve. You will have to learn how to attack an weak group. But at least you will know that in many cases you don't have to invade frist and put yourself in danger first.

BTW, if you read this blog and follow my advice, and if a game didn’t go as well as I explained here, please you MUST tell me that. I’ll find out why your strategy didn’t work or where you made mistakes.