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Subject: Not even beginning to 'get' it - Help! :) rss

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Ron
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A couple of weeks ago, I played my first few games of Go at a local gaming convention. I was immediately shocked at how I had NO IDEA at all what to do. Usually, when learning a game, I have some intuitive idea of valid ways to start. But with Go, I got - and get - nothing. Nothing at all. It makes me question my intelligence, makes me wonder if I missed the rule that lets it all make sense. But I don't think I did. So now I'm intrigued
After reading some threads here on this board, I bought Kageyama's Lessons In The Fundamentals Of Go. I read the first bit, and even if it's an engaging read, I think this book is aimed at people beyond where I am right now. It even says so: 'Play about a hundred games before reading this book', it says.
Well, I'm trying to do so. I have a Go app on my phone and downloaded a Go program on my PC. But here is the thing. Even when I put the difficulty to the easiest mode possible, I still lose. Today, I won my first game. Against the easiest GNUGo AI that I can set, with four handicap stones and no komi on a 9x9 board. And it still felt more like luck than any skill. As a matter of fact, I don't even know why I won the game. So I have two questions:

1. Why did white pass instead of playing F5 and H1 in this situation? To me it looks like there's nothing I could've done to prevent losing the whole group. Or is that just the super-easy AI helping me out?



2. How do I get to a level where I have enough of a working knowledge of the game to at least feel like I'm making decisions, rather than placing stones almost randomly? Should I just keep playing against the easy AI until it starts to click? I don't mind blundering, even blundering often. But right now, every move I make seems to be one

So in short: I'm not looking to become a good, or even decent, player overnight. But a gentle push in the right direction would be much appreciated
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Zack Stackurski
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I have no idea why the AI didn't kill your group. I think your hunch about easy setting is correct.

When I first started out I read a bit about corner openings... I think in an old Hoyle book. This gave me a better understanding of how to start and gave me a safe foothold or two on the board to build from. A quick search on "Go Openings" online should get you going in the right direction.

I'd also suggest bumping up to a 13x13 to learn on. It seems counterintuitive to play on a larger board when you're struggling... but having more space to play on you have more room for area enclosure strategies to develop and more room to recover from mistakes. A 9x9 board has more of a fistfight in a phonebooth feel than you find on the larger boards.

I hope you find some enjoyment soon... though if you find out its not for you don't despair. There are plenty of other wonderful games out there to play!
 
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James Ludlow
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Wormaap wrote:
1. Why did white pass instead of playing F5 and H1 in this situation? To me it looks like there's nothing I could've done to prevent losing the whole group. Or is that just the super-easy AI helping me out?

You know more than you think. The black stones are dead no matter what, so white doesn't need to make any more moves to kill them. They will be removed as dead at the end of the game, counting toward white's score.
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Ron
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Thanks for the opinions on the diagram. It shows that I'm at least learning something when I'm right that I should've been killed off there.
In the meantime, I found this site in another thread: http://playgo.to/iwtg/en/

Maybe I should've made it more clear in my first post, but the struggle is actually enjoyable so far. It's just that I'd like to get the idea that I'm actually progressing, even if it's very slowly.
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Zack Stackurski
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jdludlow wrote:

You know more than you think. The black stones are dead no matter what, so white doesn't need to make any more moves to kill them. They will be removed as dead at the end of the game, counting toward white's score.


Ahhh... I had assumed this was the game you won. Most Go apps would indeed just kill those stones in the scoring. If yours didn't I'd look for a different App.
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James Ludlow
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Wormaap wrote:
I bought Kageyama's Lessons In The Fundamentals Of Go. I read the first bit, and even if it's an engaging read, I think this book is aimed at people beyond where I am right now.

Correct. This is a good book, but it's way too hard for your level.

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Bryan Thunkd
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Wormaap wrote:
1. Why did white pass instead of playing F5 and H1 in this situation? To me it looks like there's nothing I could've done to prevent losing the whole group. Or is that just the super-easy AI helping me out?
I'm not sure what the app is thinking here. It seems to be considering your lower right group as a live group. In actuality, that group is dead and the app should be marking all those stones with white x's showing them as points for white.

There's actually no need to play the F5/H1 stones however. If you and I were playing, I'd pass as white. Then as we went to score the game I'd check with you and ask "We both agree those stones are dead right?" If you didn't see that they were dead, we could play it out, but generally players don't need to do that when it is obvious that a group is dead.

Wormaap wrote:
2. How do I get to a level where I have enough of a working knowledge of the game to at least feel like I'm making decisions, rather than placing stones almost randomly?
Play against better players and ask them to review the game with you. There are players who would be willing to do this on KGS (https://www.gokgs.com/) which is a Go server. Or if you'd like, we could play a 9x9 game on dragongoserver.net (which is asynchronus, not real-time) and I could go over it with you afterwards giving my thoughts.
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Eric Brosius
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In situations like this, I find it helpful to play through a game played by experienced players, just so I can see what people do. It doesn't mean I understand it, but at least I can say "I should aim to be doing something like what they are doing."

I learned Go (to the extent I know it) using this method. I also learned Paths of Glory and some other wargames. [I suppose Go is a wargame, too, if you think about it in the right way.]
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Ryan James
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If possible, I would recommend playing with Chinese scoring rules. It doesn't affect who wins a game, or by how much, but it doesn't penalize playing out lost situations so you don't have to worry about passing or recognizing when a group of stones is dead. You'll come to understand those things after playing more, and then you can go back to passing at the appropriate time.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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autoplectic wrote:
If possible, I would recommend playing with Chinese scoring rules. It doesn't affect who wins a game, or by how much, but it doesn't penalize playing out lost situations so you don't have to worry about passing or recognizing when a group of stones is dead.

If it doesn't affect who won nor by how much, then there can be no penalising meeple. Except for game time, of course, because IIRC the original intent of area scoring was to play on until nothing but massive groups containing two eyes only remained. Nobody does that these days, although a case can be made that it is instructive for absolute beginners to do so for their very first few games.

But yes, I agree, under Chinese rules scoring is easier. When you get to the point where dame become important for your games, you can switch to the quicker Japanese scoring rules... although they come with a few odd quirks.

Another tip: you'll be wanting Kaoru Iwamoto's Go For Beginners, or Janice Kim's series.
 
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Ron
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Woah, I thought I started this thread a week ago, not three days...
So, in these last days, I watched a couple of hours of basic Youtube videos, read a dozen or so articles, played and analysed a practice game against James, played a practice game against Bryan (still in progress, but I almost lost ). I also played dozens and dozens of AI matches, and a couple of matches on IGS-PandaNet. Even one with a fellow Dutchman who gave me more useful pointers while playing

And I still felt like the worst Go player in the world. I felt like I'd still lose to any random person of reasonable intelligence I explained the rules to.
And then I did. I played a game against an intelligent friend today. He hadn't played before, so I taught him the rules, and off we were. I won as white, with a 105 point gap on my little 13x13 board. I overreached twice, so he captured two of my stones. But I had 28 of his. I actually managed to read sequences and tell him a group was beyond saving 6, 7 stones before it happened (we played it out because he wanted to see).
So it was an unfair match. But it was the match that showed me that I actually did learn something Even if I'm still bad, I can learn this!

*Hurray-moment over, thanks for reading*
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cymric wrote:


Another tip: you'll be wanting Kaoru Iwamoto's Go For Beginners, or Janice Kim's series.


I'll second this, as I too am a beginner, and the Kim series really spoons it to you in bitesize bits.
 
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Ramon Mercado
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Check out the resources here (http://www.usgo.org/learn-play). It should provide some very basic knowledge. Then move on to Janice Kim's books as the others suggested.
 
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Ron
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Alright. I ordered the first three books of Janice Kim's series. I also ordered the first volume of Graded Go Problems for Beginners. I considered grabbing the second volume first, but I'd rather repeat stuff that I might already know than miss stuff I don't.
And, of course, I should simply play a ton of games I still don't 'get' it, but at least I'm beginning to get how to get it. Actually 'getting' it will probably take the rest of my years

Oh, and a proper board and stones are underway too. I wanted a board with a 13x13 on the back side, but couldn't find a set at a good price. So I'll draw the 13x13 myself
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J R
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I began getting into Go around August. I have toyed with Go a few times, but this is the first time I've really gotten into it. And the difference is that I've been playing games online against humans rather than against computers. It doesn't seem like it would be such a huge difference, but it's just so much more fun to play against real people. I played on IGS-PandaNet a few times, but I've had a much better experience at online-go.com. Lots of players, it's easy to get into a reasonable game almost anytime. There are also a lot of Go lectures on Youtube, like Nick Sibicky's series. And a bunch of Web sites that have Go problems, it's a good way to practice.

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Shevek
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I want to reiterate what Thunkid and Brosius said about playing with more experienced players. Many, many players on online servers are happy to play with less experienced players, which is of huge benefit even if they don't go over the game with you afterwards (and many of them are happy to do this as well). If I recall, there's even a tilde (~) next to users' names on KGS if they don't play less experienced players, which I assume is to dissuade selfish playing (ie just playing more experienced players so you get better with out passing it on to less experienced players). You'll learn way more playing real people than you will AIs; I hate to use such a cliche, but there is a certain nuance to playing against real people, and I think this really aids in the learning process. Maybe not, or maybe YMMV, but I pretty much learned exclusively up to around 9k just from playing other people on KGS. (unfortunately I stopped playing and am now probably like 15k)
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Ron
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Well, if people are replying to this topic, I feel obliged to give a quick status update.
In the meantime I read the first two books of Janice Kim's series. I also started on the third, but put it away for a bit since I didn't want to rush through it without actually understanding what I'm reading and applying. I also created an account on KGS and found out just how many friendly Go players there are I've played two dozen or so teaching games with different people and I'm starting to get more of an idea of what I should be doing. The first two volumes of Graded Go Problems for Beginners also arrived. And I'm glad to say that Volume 1 is simply too easy right now. I went through the first part of Volume 2 too, and those weren't too hard either. Made a couple of mistakes, but still managed to get ~90% of them on the first try. I do still lose most of my games when I play on KGS. But there is a rather short supply of +/-20k players there, so it does make sense. Maybe I should check out OGS, since at this moment it seems that I simply need to play lots of games and learn to apply what I've been learning. I'm at 41 games now, so still nowhere near my first 100 losses (there are actually a few wins in there! ), but still going strong.

Oh, and Go also helped me get my 10x10 done for this year
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Virginia Milne
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If you still have no feeling for what Go is about, maybe the following idea will help. "Go is an abstract game with no theme" many will repeat, because they heard someone else say it. Try the following "pasted on theme".

Imagine, that instead of a Go board you are on a basketball court with surrounding walls, and that the lines of the Go board are painted onto the floor of the basketball court at one metre intervals.

Imagine that there are two groups of people, perhaps from rival street gangs. You are standing on your position, and a few metres away one of the opposition appears. He stands there swinging his baseball bat, contemplatively.

You also have your baseball bat. How do you feel? A bit worried? A bit on edge? Keen for some action? You look around for support from nearby friends. Where would you like your next friendly player to appear on the basketball court? Where would the appearance of a new player for the opposition most alarm you?

What are the urgent places to play on, both for your team and the opposition?

With the above visualization, even if you had no idea of the rules of Go, would you have some idea of the next place to urgently play a move?

Was the above any help to you?
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Ron
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Haha, thanks Virginia, that's a fun visualisation! I'll keep it in mind
 
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calvin chow
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Way back when, someone once described Go to me as paratroopers landing in farmland who needed unoccupied space to stay fed (with orthogonal supply lines)...

It always made me think of Operation Market Garden (or at least, the movie A Bridge Too Far)--where you have the speed of the paratroopers rushing ahead to take the bridges contrasted with the slow but strong army advance up the road... Light/fast vs thick/slow...
 
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