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Subject: when should a beginner move from 9x9 to 13xx13, and then to 19x19? rss

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Drew Heath
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Hello everyone,

I've been learning Go for all of one week now. I'm curious when one should move up in board area. Currently I'm splitting matches on 9x9 with a 2 stone handicap + 6.5 komi against GnuGo.

I know from reading this forum that there are some people here who believe in 19x19 from the start, but that is not the popular introduction method. The book I've been working with, Shotwell's Go! More than a Game uses the wonderfully ambiguous benchmark of "lots" of games before moving to the next board.
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Björn Hansson
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Do not move up from 9x9 until you have reached a skill level where no living man or woman can defeat you. Only then will you be worthy.

Or an even better answer:
As soon as you start enjoying the game. The main reason to start at 9x9 is to avoid being overwhelmed as a noob and therefore leaving the Go hobby altogether. You seem to have passed beyond that point. Head over to that big 19x19 and never look back.
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Paul Davidson
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I suggest being able to beat the computer (regardless of which Go app you play) at a given size before moving up. It's all up to you and your opponents, though.
 
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Pedro Silva
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Being far from an expert or even a good player I think that 9x9 is ok as a starting ground for the first concepts but "lots" might be too much.

I'd say around 20 games should be enough to get you started on the concepts of life and death and a bit on territory (of which there isn't much in a 9x9 board).

In any case case I'd try to get in some games against human opponents, especially if they are better ranked than you and willing to comment on the game. From there you should get the best learning experiences.

Try some on line Go servers (DGS or KGS)... There is a BGG room on KGS, I think.
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Hey Shad! Great to hear you've been enjoying the game.

Why not play on both 9x9 and 19x19 for a while, and see which one you like better?

I think there is a lot that beginners can learn from 9x9 about the strategy of the game, because it's easier to see how the territory-claims you stake out turn into groups, and how the groups turn into life and death problems, and in the end how the final score depends on how much of the board you were trying to claim at the beginning. And also, 9x9 is exciting! It's a knife-fight in a telephone booth. It may take a while before you start to feel the same sort of electricity on a 19x19 board.

But at the same time, the size of the 19x19 board is what gives Go the feeling of fighting a war, rather than just a battle. Some people really enjoy that. I know I do.
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Bryan Thunkd
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9x9 is all about fighting. It's good to get the basics down. But it prioritizes tactics over strategy. I feel that if you spend too long playing 9x9 it hurts your play on the bigger board as you develop a style of play that doesn't work as well on the full board. It's better to learn both strategy and tactics together.
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Phelan
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taragalinas wrote:
Do not move up from 9x9 until you have reached a skill level where no living man or woman can defeat you. Only then will you be worthy.

Or an even better answer:
As soon as you start enjoying the game. The main reason to start at 9x9 is to avoid being overwhelmed as a noob and therefore leaving the Go hobby altogether. You seem to have passed beyond that point. Head over to that big 19x19 and never look back.
I mostly agree with this, but I recommend trying at least a few 13x13 games before moving to 19x19.
13x13 already has a bit of the strategy you find in the larger board, but it ends quicker, and therefore, allows you to see the results of your actions quicker.

When you feel like you're grasping the difference between 9x9 and 13x13, or you get tired/anxious, change sizes again. I think the transition is smoother this way.

Btw, I still love playing 9x9 and 13x13, besides 19x19. They're not just training sizes.
Also, people that recommend that beginners start on 19x19 by themselves don't know what they're saying. It's fine if you have a good teacher to help you, but otherwise it's a crapshoot. The beginner might "get it" faster, but on the other hand, they might just quit that horribly frustrating game faster.
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Randall Bart
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If you consider Go The Boardgame, and you want to dedicate your life to Go, then play 19x19. If you consider Go a boardgame, and it's one of many games you play, there is no reason to ever play on bigger than 13x13.
 
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Björn Hansson
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PaulDavidson wrote:
I suggest being able to beat the computer (regardless of which Go app you play) at a given size before moving up. It's all up to you and your opponents, though.


The strongest Go programs of today are ranked at 6 dan, so I wouldn't agree with that.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Go#Recent_results
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Phelan
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Barticus88 wrote:
If you consider Go The Boardgame, and you want to dedicate your life to Go, then play 19x19. If you consider Go a boardgame, and it's one of many games you play, there is no reason to ever play on bigger than 13x13.
I think there is.
The beauty of go really shines on 19x19. If you like playing it up to 13x13, definitely try 19x19. If you don't like it at 13x13, chances are that you won't like it on the bigger board.

And while Go is my favourite boardgame for life, I've stopped dedicating my life to it. I just have fun playing it.
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Phelan
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taragalinas wrote:
PaulDavidson wrote:
I suggest being able to beat the computer (regardless of which Go app you play) at a given size before moving up. It's all up to you and your opponents, though.


The strongest Go programs of today are ranked at 6 dan, so I wouldn't agree with that.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Go#Recent_results
Go apps running on a mobile phone rarely get to 6 dan.
And I think he meant beating the easiest setting on the computer.
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Björn Hansson
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Barticus88 wrote:
If you consider Go The Boardgame, and you want to dedicate your life to Go, then play 19x19. If you consider Go a boardgame, and it's one of many games you play, there is no reason to ever play on bigger than 13x13.


Totally disagree. 19x19 is THE game. It is strategic splendor and tactical warfare in one.
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George Leach
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See if you can get to an even game on 9x9 and win more often than not at that level. You can dabble with 19x19 before that but only if you feel there's a hurry.
 
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Thunkd wrote:
9x9 is all about fighting. It's good to get the basics down. But it prioritizes tactics over strategy. I feel that if you spend too long playing 9x9 it hurts your play on the bigger board as you develop a style of play that doesn't work as well on the full board. It's better to learn both strategy and tactics together.

I disagree mildly with this. Or more specifically:

9x9 is all about fighting. Yes!

It's good to get the basics down. Amen!

But it prioritizes tactics over strategy. No!

I think this must come from a certain conflation of tension-fighting-danger-tactics. Lots of people say this, of course. But the truth of the matter is, a tactical player will shine more on a bigger board, where he is sure to get more chances to unleash his superior tactics. Fighting is about strategy. The goal of a fight is to push your opponent into conceding the smallest advantage you can win with. Figuring out what risks you have to take to get that advantage is strategy. The margin for bad strategy is much thinner on a 9x9 board and when you mess it up, the yolk is in your face immediately, so you learn from it.

I feel that if you spend too long playing 9x9 it hurts your play on the bigger board as you develop a style of play that doesn't work as well on the full board. Maybe! But I don't actually know anyone who is an example of this.

It's better to learn both strategy and tactics together Definitely!
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Bryan Thunkd
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sollnurspielen wrote:
I think this must come from a certain conflation of tension-fighting-danger-tactics. Lots of people say this, of course. But the truth of the matter is, a tactical player will shine more on a bigger board, where he is sure to get more chances to unleash his superior tactics. Fighting is about strategy. The goal of a fight is to push your opponent into conceding the smallest advantage you can win with. Figuring out what risks you have to take to get that advantage is strategy. The margin for bad strategy is much thinner on a 9x9 board and when you mess it up, the yolk is in your face immediately, so you learn from it.

I disagree with this. Fighting is about the stability and life and death of groups. Strategy is about deciding when and where to fight, evaluating the whole board, deciding to give up one area for another, etc. A small board forces you into close quarter fights almost immediately and the player that is better at fighting will usually come out ahead.
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Phelan
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Thunkd wrote:
sollnurspielen wrote:
I think this must come from a certain conflation of tension-fighting-danger-tactics. Lots of people say this, of course. But the truth of the matter is, a tactical player will shine more on a bigger board, where he is sure to get more chances to unleash his superior tactics. Fighting is about strategy. The goal of a fight is to push your opponent into conceding the smallest advantage you can win with. Figuring out what risks you have to take to get that advantage is strategy. The margin for bad strategy is much thinner on a 9x9 board and when you mess it up, the yolk is in your face immediately, so you learn from it.

I disagree with this. Fighting is about the stability and life and death of groups. Strategy is about deciding when and where to fight, evaluating the whole board, deciding to give up one area for another, etc. A small board forces you into close quarter fights almost immediately and the player that is better at fighting will usually come out ahead.
I think you two are having a tomayto-tomahto discussion, replaced with the-word-strategy-in-general-game-play vs the-word-strategy-in-Go-theory.

I believe you're both right.
 
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Dan Cepeda
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Just want to toss my two cents in as a fellow learner. While I've been "learning" Go for about 5 years now, I have never really devoted myself to it in any way shape or form. (I've played about 10 games against other humans on a 19x19 board, 5 of which were probably my wife...) Almost all of my games have been against a computer on a 9x9 board.

I feel like I hurt myself a lot (back in the beginning, and even more so now) by being "afraid" to progress to a 19x19 board. (I can not even bring myself to consider a 13x13 board. I know that's not a "right" attitude, but it is what it is.)

My answer: as soon as possible. Yes, it's important to get the basics down. Yes, the 9x9 board, AND the 13x13 board have their merits. But if you're asking this question, I think the right answer for you is as soon as possible. Don't put it off out of "fear" or out of feelings of "unworthiness" or whatever your specific reasons may be. Just jump in and start splashing around. It's a blast.
 
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Phelanpt wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
sollnurspielen wrote:
I think this must come from a certain conflation of tension-fighting-danger-tactics. Lots of people say this, of course. But the truth of the matter is, a tactical player will shine more on a bigger board, where he is sure to get more chances to unleash his superior tactics. Fighting is about strategy. The goal of a fight is to push your opponent into conceding the smallest advantage you can win with. Figuring out what risks you have to take to get that advantage is strategy. The margin for bad strategy is much thinner on a 9x9 board and when you mess it up, the yolk is in your face immediately, so you learn from it.

I disagree with this. Fighting is about the stability and life and death of groups. Strategy is about deciding when and where to fight, evaluating the whole board, deciding to give up one area for another, etc. A small board forces you into close quarter fights almost immediately and the player that is better at fighting will usually come out ahead.
I think you two are having a tomayto-tomahto discussion, replaced with the-word-strategy-in-general-game-play vs the-word-strategy-in-Go-theory.

I believe you're both right.


I think we're actually very close to meaning the exact same thing by "strategy", and to the extent that we still have some conceptual differences, it will be useful to tease them out.

For example, Thunkd understands that when you put the stability of a group at risk you're fighting, or at the very least asking for a fight. And he understands that strategy is about deciding when to fight and when back down and submit, exchange a loss here for a gain here, and so on. Now, he says that the small board forces you into fights immediately, but that's not quite accurate. The small board forces you to think about whether or not you have to fight, immediately. No one can ever make you fight, or dictate to you the terms of the fight.

On the big board, do you know how most kyu players decide whether to fight? They consult their mood. Or maybe they just think fighting is exciting. Or they think they see a bad move and they want to "punish" it with a spectacular capture. It would be nice to decide whether or not to fight on the basis of a strategy, but to have a strategy you need to know what you need to win and many players have a very foggy idea of the score until the endgame. On the 9x9 board, if you choose whether or not to fight on the basis of your mood, you'll lose very quickly. But at the same time, even a ddk can mentally divide up the board and decide whether to play aggressively or cautiously.

It's still true that a player with a brilliant 9x9 strategy is going to get bloodied if he doesn't have the tactics to execute his strategy, move by move. But that's even more true on a bigger board. The bigger the area you might need to fight in, the more numerous are the tactical variations a player needs to wrestle with before building a strategy on them.

So again - on 19x19, as on 9x9, the stones are always in tension with each other, always threatening a wide range of possible follow-ups, some aggressive and some cautious. Deciding whether you need to fight to win (and if so, where, and how fiercely) is strategy. On 19x19, it's possible for a beginner to just play tactically sound moves everywhere and rack up enough of an advantage to win, whether or not those moves are made with an eye to the score; and in fact, figuring out the margin of victory you have to work with is pretty difficult. On 9x9, stylish tactics only pay off when they're strategically sound, and counting is much easier.

iidhaegn wrote:
I feel like I hurt myself a lot (back in the beginning, and even more so now) by being "afraid" to progress to a 19x19 board. (I can not even bring myself to consider a 13x13 board. I know that's not a "right" attitude, but it is what it is.)


Now, this is a perfectly realistic worry about playing 9x9. If you are ever in the BGG room on KGS, iidhaegen, feel free to ask me (or anyone there) for pointers in terms of getting comfortable with the flow of a 19x19 game.
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In my opinion, it's good to stick to 9x9 until you feel like you're playing the game--that is, you can explain why you make the moves you do, even if they're not the best ones available, not just playing a stone to see what happens...

Then it's good to try a 19x19 board to see how it changes the game. You'll probably feel like you're just randomly putting stones on the board again to start... Reading about opening theory can actually help quite a lot (ie, why play the corners first, etc)...

But don't abandon the 9x9 board... Play both sizes until uou feel like you're playing the 19x19 board... Even when you feel like you've advanced past 9x9, there's still a lot to be learned from the close fighting...
 
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