How to start playing Go the boardgame

Tell me why I should care about Go? πŸ™‚

Go is a deep, rich, interesting territory control & capture boardgame. I like it for it’s combination of broad strategy and precise tactics.

I’m still on the fence about giving it a try. What’s one thing you think will sell it to me?

Try the documentary AlphaGo about the best Go player in the world playing an incredibly strong AI:

Any fair warnings?

There is a bit of a short steep learning curve at the very start. All I can say is when I was at that point I remember thinking “What the hell is this game. Why should I even bother?”. Learning the fundamentals and having some small wins (“Hey, I managed to do that right!”) can help at the beginning.

The game can brutally punish single mistakes.

Some parts of Go are considered “solved problems”, these are given the name josecki (English loanword from Japanese). You may be put off the idea of having to learn these. All I can say is that the robust ranking system helps match you up against other players/bots who have the same level of josecki knowledge as yourself.

Ok. I’m in. Where should I start?

I recommend starting in the order below to help mitigate the shock of the initial steep learning curve of Go.

  1. Do the OGS ‘Learn to play Go’ tutorials: Don’t worry if you can’t pass all the tutorials! And don’t be afraid to do the tutorial more than once.
  2. Look up any Go words or phrases you don’t know in Sensei’s Library:
  3. Watch In Sente’s ‘Top 5 Mistakes Beginner Go Players Make’ video: Just try to absorb the general principles if you can.
  4. If you take one thing away from the video above, make it your goal to take away at least one learning from every game of Go you lose. The concept that in Go all you are trying to do is improve your own play over time is an important one, and one that makes playing Go rewarding.
  5. To begin with, only play 9 x 9 games of Go. The bigger sizes can be overwhelming for beginner players.
  6. Learn how the ranking system in Go works: This is important as it helps you understand how to play against people and bots who are at your beginner level.
  7. Ok. It’s time to create an OGS account and have some unranked (make sure you tick this) play-around games against the easiest bot: Make sure you use ‘Estimate score’ from the menu to get an idea of where you stand during games. Once you both click the pass button, or one of you resigns, the game will end. Make sure you review the AI-generated analysis of the ‘Key moves’ of the game. This will significantly help you learn from the games you play.
  8. Watch In Sente’s ‘Beginner Go Series’: Don’t feel like you have to watch all of the videos at once. I recommend learning something new, trying it out, coming back to the Beginner series, trying it out, etc.
  9. When you are ready, start watching Nick Sibicky’s videos: They will really help your Go game. I recommend starting with #88 How to Make Better Shape:

Good luck!

About Dave Underwood

I write the blog Oblivion With Bells - an enquiry into life and death, and what we believe.
This entry was posted in Boardgames, Entertainment, Fun, Thinking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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