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Subject: Stop! The Anti-Go Review rss

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Matt Thrower
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A while back, in the far-off days of the geekjournal, I posted a short series of articles about why I disagreed strongly with certain overall ratings on the 'geek. One of them was about Go and it generated a lot of discussion. Someone suggested that I post the article as a review since the existing material was so strongly positive. It's taken me a long time to get round to it, but here we are. At least I'm just going to rewrite my article into a proper review instead of reposting it verbatim! If you're interested, here's a link to the original thread:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/440366#440366

I've spent a lot of time trying to like Go - I attended a Go club for several weeks where I was told I had a marginally above-average aptitude for the game and I've played a number of games against freinds and against computer opponents. The reason I've been prepared to invest so much time in Go is that it's clearly a game which is simultaneously breathtaking in both it's depth and it's simplicity. There is no other game which comes close to squeezing so much gameplay out of so little rules. I won't bother you with the rules, they're easily available and easily learned.

In my opinion there are three factors that make a game fun to play. Firstly they can work through the power of sheer excitement, the feeling of playing the odds even though there's no real strategy involved. Obviously a lot of traditional dice and card games fall into this category. Second they can work as a social experience where one is trying to make judgements about fellow players in order to gain an edge. Popular party games tend to be all about this approach. Thirdly a game can be engrossing because it requires analysis and clever tactical play to win. This is the province of wargames and a lot of two player abstracts such as Go.

To my mind the very best game experiences manage to balance all three aspects. But of course games which really excel in providing one of these particular sources of entertainment are right up there as well - and Go is clearly in a class of it's own in this category. I enjoy playing Chess and Draughts which, like Go, are two player abstracts without recourse to random factors or social interaction so clearly I can get satisfaction from these sorts of games. I'll freely admit that Go is a superior design to Chess and Draughts so I ought to think it's a better game, right?

Well no. I can't stand the game.

In my opinion there are two issues with Go that make me want to just push the board away and go hide in a corner. The first of these is that for me, Go is the very definition of analysis paralysis. It's something we're all familiar with but when I'm sat with an empty Go board in front of me and stones in my hand I'm enveloped in a feeling of AP so acute that it feels like I'm drowning - flailing hopelessly around looking for a good move when there's so many good moves! It's almost a physical sensation and it's really horrible.

The problem is rendered more acute by the fact that it's at it's worst during the opening of the game which puts me off ever starting a game. If I enjoyed the opening then perhaps it might lead me on, into situations where I'd be encouraged to try and overcome a problem if for no other reason than for the sake of time invested. But it doesn't work that way. Although I can appreciate the theory behind the best moves as applied to the first few stones, it then just get absolutely mad. What do I do? Do I respond to an opponents move? Consolidate my existing postition? Attempt to expand to another part of the board? If so, which one? To quote the Go article from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_%28board_game%29):
Quote:
"Plays made early in the game can shape the nature of conflict a hundred moves later"

And you can see it happening right in front of your eyes. So how on earth supposed to plan for this? To me it looks entirely possible that you could end up loosing a game of go because of one carelessly placed stone near the beginning of the game. It might not become apparent that the stone was carelessly placed until many, many moves later by which time it's too late. And if you can loose a game on that basis, what's the pont of playing in the first place?

A lot of people had expressed surprise that I could enjoy other two player abstracts yet exhibit such a strong dislike for Go. To me the reason is obvious and very simple. In most two-player abstracts pieces on the board block the movement of other pieces. So in any given situation only a handful of the pieces of the board can be moved. Of those, only a fraction of those moves will result in a stronger playing position. So, many less possible moves, no analysis paralysis, much more enjoyment. In some cases - especially toward the endgame - there will actually be a mathematically "correct" move. In Go there's no such thing as a "correct" move. If you're sat at the beginning of a Go game you've got 361 potential places to move whereas in a chess game you've got 20 at the opening. Sure you can play on a smaller board, but 10x10 still leaves 100 moves compared to 20 - it still feels like looking over the edge of a precipice.

I have been told that the way to overcome this fear of an empty Go board is to make one's opening moves in a more "organic" fashion - "feeling" for the best places to put down a stone rather than analysing. This really surprised me. As I argued above, the whole point of two-player abstracts like Go is that they're supposed to be an excercise in analysis and strategy. If I'm playing a game like this it's because I want to do some analysis for crying out loud! Why would anyone want to play an intellectually demanding strategy game if the first, potentially vital moves come down to how you "feel" about them?

The second problem I have with Go is that, the apparently random nature of opening plays aside, it's just too deep. It's kind of a hard thing to explain but happily, someone else here on the 'geek put it far better than I can, so I'll quote him:
Quote:
"This is one of the most eloquent games I've ever played. So why only a 2? Despite the handicapping system, the game is too difficult to recommend to anyone else: it requires too much of a time investment, and too much time flailing around feeling stupid. If I only had one game to play for the rest of my life, I'd choose Go, but luckily, I have many games."

And that's it really. My wardrobe at home is full of great games and I don't have enough time to play them all as it is. One can become a semi-competent chess player in a very short amount of time after learning the rules but the same is not true of Go. You're in for months of playing against better players before you start to make significant headway. You might be able to win some games thanks to the handicap system but that just feels fake because you've started with an advantage.

So please, think carefully before you take the headlong plunge into Go. It's an immensley clever game, but it's not for everyone - even some of the people that seem like they ought to like it.
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Barry Figgins
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So, your answer to most of his criticisms is that there's a 'right' way to do things, that you can uncover if you study the game. That's true of all games, I think. I'm also one who passes on Go. I also pass on Chess. The sensation for me is akin to beating my head against a wall for two hours - I come out of it with a headache, and not particularly caring whether I won or lost.
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Matt Thrower
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JeremiahClayton wrote:

Recognizing the "correct" move is what seperates the kyu level players from the dan level players.


My meaning was that in many cases there is not a mathematically correct move. If there were, computer Go programs would be able to defeat all but the most competent human players with ease.

JeremiahClayton wrote:

Yes, there are 361 intersections on the board.. but this doesn't translate into 361 opening moves. If you have any understanding of the game as a player you'll understand why there are intersections that are played in opening and some that are left to be played after the opening of the game.


I chose to leave this out of my review for the sake of brevity and (to be fair) to emphasise a point. I realise that in the first few turns of a Go game there are a handful intersections which make much better plays than others. However, to continue the vein of my original argument, in a chess game only 4, or perhaps six possible opening moves are really useful plays - so Go still has many more options. In addition after the opening plays in Go, tactical placement of stones does become a much, much wider issue. Sure there's not ever really going to be 361 sensible moves a player can make but my point is simply that in Go the number of tactically sensible moves is much greater than in most other abstracts. I'm also trying to emphasise that to a novice player (and by novice I mean someone with less than 100-odd plays under their belt) it is much harder to differentiate the best moves from the good moves in Go than in most other abstracts.

Quote:
The opening in GO is not random. The level of depth is what attracts most players to the game of GO and for others the level of depth requires too much intelligence and wisdom.


I believe I said "semi-random". The point I'm trying to make here is emphasised by the quote from Wikipedia - an early poor placement can come back and hit you much, much later in the game. You would probably argue that a good Go player would forsee potential problems but it takes a very long time and a great deal of practice before you can reach that level of skill. Perhaps "random" is a bad word to use in the context of a game like go but the point remains that many players say that the opening phase of Go is based on inutition rather than analysis which seems like a very odd statement to make of a game which "requires too much intelligence and wisdom".

I resent the impliction that my paricular level of intellegence and wisdom is just too shallow for Go. Making statements like that is just contemptable elitism and I would suggest that it takes a measure of intellegence and wisdom to appreciate that Go skill is not the be-all and end-all measure of a persons' mental capacity.

Quote:
This is true of most any abstract strategy game.


Sorry, but it's not. No other abstract that I'm aware of allows the Go situation of being able to play on pretty much any open space on the board on each move. In most cases there are strict rules governing how a piece can move and whether it can move over/round other pieces on the board. Because of this, the impact of your moves in a game like this is usually more immediate whereas is Go it's possible (and indeed likely) that you'll spend turns placing a stone which has no immediate impact on structures of stones that are being built up on the board. It is difficult for most Go players to appreciate the impact the exact placement of that stone will have - they may have placed it simply to get a foothold in an empty part of the board. But as far as I can see, in Go, it's possible for a stone placed in this way to have a huge impact on the game later on and that the impact would be wholly different had it been placed one or two instersections away from the place actually chosen.

It may be possible for this situation to arise in a game of chess, but it's unlikely. In Go it looks like a virtual certanty.
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Michael Howe
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But as far as I can see, in Go, it's possible for a stone placed in this way to have a huge impact on the game later on and that the impact would be wholly different had it been placed one or two instersections away from the place actually chosen.

It may be possible for this situation to arise in a game of chess, but it's unlikely.


Well, this is a bad misstatement, in my opinion. A pawn difference of one square, the smallest possible difference in a game of chess, can often mean the difference between a winning position and a losing one. A one square difference in piece placement frequently means the difference between winning and losing, or winning and drawing, in master games.
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Philip Thomas
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In Chess, you can memorise the standard opening moves, up to say move 4. Is this possible in Go? Just to get a couple of novices started, even.
 
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I can certainly understand your feelings regarding Go. I used to feel the same way. It's a very long game played on a full sized board, and for a beginner it's just too darned intimidating. Playing a 2 hour game in which you're just not sure what you're doing isn't tons of fun.

I strongly suggest playing the game on a 9x9 board before passing final judgement. It completely changed my view of the game. Before my first 9x9 game against my wife I saw it as a game that I knew was good but that I just couldn't appreciate, for the very same reasons you mentioned. It was too complex, with too many possibilities that I couldn't even begin to evaluate. 45 minutes into the game I had no idea if I was doing well or not. On a 9x9 board everything changed. The game is MUCH shorter, so you see the impact of your decisions fairly quickly. The possibilities are significantly reduced (with less than 1/4 of the available spaces compared to a full board), so the level of analysis paralysis is not nearly as great. I found myself actually having fun.

Learning to play on a full board is a mistake, unless you happen to be a Go savant. No beginner could play a game on a 19x19 board and have any hope of understanding what is and isn't a good move. Play a while on a 9x9 and see how it goes. If you enjoy it, once your understanding grows you can graduate to a 13x13 board, and then finally to a 19x19 board. If you don't enjoy it, well, at least you only spent about 20 minutes on the game instead of two hours.
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Jim Cote
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Chess is 100% tactical. Every move on the board affects the entire board as one "local" problem. Go has the tactical level also, but has the larger strategic level. You can win a fight in one section of the board only to have the resulting shape be very bad in the big picture. Every opening sequence in the different areas of the board creates this flowing tactical landscape that collides at the strategic level. Playing a stone 1 space away creates different possible shapes in one area which ultimately affects the entire board. I've seen Go pros talk for an hour about the consequences of move 2!

Go is a game I will never fully understand, and that is partly why I like it.
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Matt, most of what you say about Go is pretty much on spot. For a
newcomer to the game, very well observed, really.
I'll state the conclusion first: Yes, what you fear is there, you control
freak . Take the plunge, by all means.

Comments on a few points you made:
Quote:
In Go there's no such thing as a "correct" move.


So near to truth - yet I realized it only very recently, when I've been
playing Go for years under the delusional Quest for the Best Move. Most
Go players follow this track, which requires the humbleness - I tend to
say "masochism", even - to accept you'll play bad to suboptimal moves
willy nilly and never see the end of it.
Only in particular cases - 10 or 20 times a game, say - is there a one
correct move. Most often you're facing a choice of moves, every 3 or 6 of
them perfect - as far as can be humanly said.
However, there are such things as bad moves in Go - all the rest!. This
is the real quest: recognize and eliminate them. For that, we rely on
principles, fundamentals, and analysis, too.

Quote:
It might not become apparent that the stone was carelessly placed until many, many moves later by which time it's too late.


Very true as well. This induces a (false, objectively) feeling of
randomness, which you pointed at, too. This feeling will subside
gradually, along with your progress.
As you are free with N "perfect" moves every turn, as is your opponent -
so you'll have to play moves that will be, errr, statistically resilient,
to maintain the "randomness" theme. It's what's called "good shape".
The job of a Go player along a game is both to make his stones look good,
or rather just correct, and, mostly, to make the opponent's look bad -
trying to make them poor choices a posteriori.
And if it's just not possible, 'cause you're facing a pro and the bugger
played only correct moves, then try and maintain the balance.

Quote:
And if you can loose a game on that basis, what's the pont of playing in the first place?


Eh . Of course, if the only "point of playing" you know is trying to
compare your Perfect Analysis Machine to the opponent's, then tough luck
- but I'm sure you can stretch your imagination.
My answer is that what Go puts to the line is your understanding of it,
some kind of "fluency", along with your ability to implement it on the
board, obviously. It includes a non-negligible part of pure analysis,
too - some local sequences have to be explored as thoroughly as can be.
By the way, the very nature of Go (identical non-moving stones over a
simple grid) makes reading deep sequences hugely easier (for a human
being) than in Chess or Checkers, so it can be very gratifying in that
skill as well.
But, you can lose some fights in which you erred and still win the game,
if you wake up in time to activate plans B, C... As you don't face a
perfect opponent, you may have played sounder previous moves giving
you chances to regain the edge. A common instance is the loss of a group.
Well, maybe it was not so much sacrificed as wrestled away from you - but
now you use it as sacrifice. Plus, the opponent has committed to
capturing it, and it involves the risks of a hard-line stand. He's lost
some of his future freedom, by so doing. So much that the pros say that
"losing an early group often wins the game". They are experts at keeping
open "sacrificing" and "saving" options both viable for as long as
possible - when to us amateurs these are worlds apart, and one is Wrong
and one Right.
Well, rereading the above, I side-tracked a little, sorry

What I meant to say is that this "fuzziness", the relatively low
importance of one stone or two, the width of choices... make Go a much
less catastrophic (litterally) game than many: it is more forgiving of
our unavoidable mistakes.

You repeat about the same question there:
Quote:
Why would anyone want to play an intellectually demanding strategy game if the first, potentially vital moves come down to how you "feel" about them?

This "feeling" is what led so often to compare Go to an art. I called
that, loosely, "understanding" or "fluency". But, there are some real
skills involved, even though we lack the words to describe some of
them. As one friend puts it, "Go is a game of luck but it's always
the same guys who win". The ratings are very consistent.

Ultimately, and though you might not find this so appealing (yet ...)
you win a game of Go because you made fewer/less severe mistakes than
your opponent. However, don't be afraid of losing what you like in Chess
or other, the analysis, the brilliancies... They're all there - and I'm
inclined to say, much more so.



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Billy McBoatface
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MattDP wrote:
I have been told that the way to overcome this fear of an empty Go board is to make one's opening moves in a more "organic" fashion - "feeling" for the best places to put down a stone rather than analysing. This really surprised me. As I argued above, the whole point of two-player abstracts like Go is that they're supposed to be an excercise in analysis and strategy. If I'm playing a game like this it's because I want to do some analysis for crying out loud! Why would anyone want to play an intellectually demanding strategy game if the first, potentially vital moves come down to how you "feel" about them?
I'd like to say that this is a good description of why a lot of chess players prefer chess to go. Go has more than just tactics. There are elements to go that can not be understood by humans (or computers), period. But despite these elements being beyond understanding, some people play these elements better than others. This is the "intuitive" aspect of go. There are some moves where you just need a "feel" for which is the best choice, because no amount of analysis will tell you. Sure, you need to always do analysis to cast out the tactical errors, and to an extent to gather more information about the remaining options, but in the end it does come down to which one just plain looks best.

This skill is (almost?) completely missing from chess - in chess, it's all analysis, followed by some heuristics for filling in the gaps that are beyond your abilities. The intuition of go is something that some people are better at than others, but you can develop it, and if you keep playing go you will eventually get better at it.

But if you don't like using your intuition, if (as MattDp feels) you want nothing but analysis out of your abstract games, then go is not the game for you.
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Philip Thomas
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Yes, but do we have any idea what opening moves are 'felt' to be best? I just think a few stones on the board might help. I mean I could start by playing on the handicap stone positions...they cant be positively harmful, surely?
 
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Yes, but do we have any idea what opening moves are 'felt' to be best? I just think a few stones on the board might help. I mean I could start by playing on the handicap stone positions...they cant be positively harmful, surely?
I sure do have a feel for what opening moves are best. But people's feelings are different; everybody (even the top players) plays the opening a little bit different from everybody else. Even though the "joseki" will teach you which opening sequences are (at least sometimes) good, there are so many of them, and you need to pick 4 that will interact together, so your choices are huge. When you're starting out, sure, playing star points (and/or the points next to them) is a fine idea. Another good idea is to copy what your opponents did that worked against you, see if you can make it work also.

Once you have 10 or 20 games down, then yes, you will get a feel for what opening moves are right in what situations, even which ones are right for you when you have an empty board. Later you can study opening theory and joseki, but that's really optional, just playing will give you a pretty good opening if you watch the results of your moves carefully.
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Cofee: Ships your cofee.

Or, since we are here, saves your ko
 
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matt: did you ever take up my suggestion of playing on smaller boards?
 
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Les Lauber
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Yes, but do we have any idea what opening moves are 'felt' to be best? I just think a few stones on the board might help. I mean I could start by playing on the handicap stone positions...they cant be positively harmful, surely?


I've recently been reading "In the Beginning: The Opening in the Game of Go." The author, Ikuro Ishigure, discusses opening moves and evaluates them. Also, in her second book "The Way of the Moving Horse," Janice Kim spends a dozen or so pages discussing the principles of opening moves. She includes illustrations of typical openings.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Thankyou les, will look out for those books.
 
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I harbor no ill will toward the original poster. I understand Matt's point of view completely. In case anyone has read this far into the thread I have a few things to say FYI about the game of Go. My own beginning (actually, the first three beginnings) were very rocky. I "gave up" the game two or three times before it stuck. I think the following things may help you if you "want to like the game" but can't help hating it. This game won't appeal to everyone.

I think if you can enjoy golf then you can enjoy Go. Both force you to deal with crazy situations that your own ineptitude created. But if you can have fun getting out of them and trying to learn something along the way, maybe this game will appeal to you.

Comments on Go:
* Concern yourself with learning; not winning. This is hard! But the darn game is harder...
* Start on a small 9x9 board. After you learn the mechanics and experience life & death in the game, move to a nice 13x13 board and stay there for at least 3 months (averaging here). The 13x13 board is a nice blend of tactics and strategy, and it’s not overwhelming. Things still happen pretty quickly.
* Learning the consequences of your actions far down the road is _part of the appeal_. If learning _why_ move 15 made the entire game difficult for you is not appealing, this game may not be for you.
* Lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible. Learn something small from each one; if you don’t take a lesson or two away from each game you won’t grow. After this point you will feel comfortable. You won’t be winning much, but the test drives will make you even more receptive to new lessons.
* Intuition plays a large part in this game. Don’t overanalyze…analysis is only useful in very local cases. I don’t think analysis has any place when considering all 361 spots on the board; only in restricted areas and in certain cases. Other times worry about good shape.

Hope these comments help someone some day.
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Oh, and think about this. You never make a wrong move until you discover that a move was wrong. And once you discover that the move was wrong, the most important thing to take away from it was WHY?
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Yes, but do we have any idea what opening moves are 'felt' to be best? I just think a few stones on the board might help. I mean I could start by playing on the handicap stone positions...they cant be positively harmful, surely?

Read these links for more info:

http://senseis.xmp.net/?GeneralOpeningPrinciples
http://senseis.xmp.net/?FusekiExercisesForBeginners

Most people don't open on the handicap points, but instead play off the point to set up a shimari. This is perhaps one of those intuitive things mentioned above, that's difficult to explain.

http://senseis.xmp.net/?Shimari
 
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Hi, this is my first message on the board, I usually don't write, just read, but as a very big fan of Go, I want to say something.

The first thing is that somehow I know how Matt feels, maybe this is a "my-game-is-better" kind of oppinion from a chess player, but in fact I will try to do some opposite version now, so it's a tie

Other people in this thread has pointed some facts that I also share:

Go is a hard game to begin.

I think most chess players think that knowing the rules and applying mathematical analyse can begin higher than the lowest level of go players. This is generally wrong because Go is a game with an unnatural feeling to those used to traditional wargaming.

One tends to think that to make an attack you must place your stone touching the opponent's (this is what "natural laws" say) but with this you made just the opposite because this leads to one go concept that you must learn to really understand the game : "the walls". Also, to attack you put a stone NEAR the other, but not touching.

AS has already been said, maybe there is not a "correct" move except for some special situations, but there are a lot of "incorrect" moves, which some experience and analyse can detect. Chess players can see a chess board position and know which player is winning, this also applies to go, so if a move leads to a "bad" position is a bad move, and if not, then is not a bad one (maybe not good, but sure not bad).

The mathematical approach to go just don't work, you can say there are 361 possible positions to start, but that's not true, you usually go for 5 or 6 "standard" positions (the board is simmetrical, so it doesn't matter wich corner you take) for the first player and a little more for the second (same but he has to choose the corner across or the adjacent), this also applies to the rest, when three corners had been played, you usually go for the other one, like in chess you don't move the king at the second move to bring it to the center of the board, in go there are some "zones" where you don't want to play a stone, and you can distinguish the zones by analysing the areas and the approximate scoring at a time (if you are behind you try an invasion to diminish your opponent's territory, etc)

I will reccomend everybody who wants to learn go two books, one for the basics and other more complex and abstract to read, but more rich as it shows the possibilities of the game.

The first one is : "Lessons in the fundamentals of go" of Toshiro Kageyama, who shows all the basics (NOT the rules) and concepts to begin the understanding of the game.

The second is : "The direction of play" of Takeo Kajiwara. As I said, more complex, but it "shows" more of the "flow" of the game.

Well, i think that's enough for my first post, so enjoy it and critisize me all you want
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Yeah, I'm afraid I have to agree with the original review, as long as the subject of the review is changed to chess. Played on and off for years, but I never really "got it". People tell me I just need to understand something called board position, but if I'm playing a serious chess player I get my head handed to me every time. And it seems like the only way to get ahead is to memorize openings and learn to analyze 12 moves deep.

I don't think the problem is with chess, though. I was able to "get" the basics of Go by playing against a few other people, and reading a few basic books (Janice Kim's "Learn to Play Go" series, in my case). I have a feel for when to switch to a new part of the board, and don't need to look ahead 10 moves to know if a play will generally be good or not. These are exactly the skills I'm missing in chess, despite having acquired them for another game. Which in turn leads me to believe that, while I may have spent time studying chess, I never found some vital insight or intuition that allows the game to start making sense.

I'm thinking the reviewer may have run into that same block, for Go. And, like me, he's decided to write off a bothersome game and play other games. Obviously, I can't really argue with this course of action . For prospective Go players reading a review, however, it pays to remember that you need to try the game before you can know whether it will make sense to you.
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Severian596 wrote:
I think if you can enjoy golf then you can enjoy Go. Both force you to deal with crazy situations that your own ineptitude created. But if you can have fun getting out of them and trying to learn something along the way, maybe this game will appeal to you.


Well said! I have only started playing Go. Read this tread (wonderful by the way) and must agree. I have played golf and chess all my life and love them.

My first few games of Go had me out right angry! I just couldn't fathom such a stupid game. With the computer set to the lowest setting I was trounced every time, and I walked away in disgust.

My problem was that I was playing the game as though it was any other game. I picked it up, read the rules, understood what I needed to do then went out and did it. I am very good at games I first pick up and usually do well or win, but not in Go. I knew I was doing something wrong so I jumped online and came here and a few other places for information. There was allot of talk about losing and learning from it, I didn't like the sound of that.
I like to learn from my mistakes, don't get me wrong, but it looks like I will be losing indefinitely at this point. After many more games now I have learned much, but some is still fussy.

Now I really like Go. I had a glimpse of just how deep the game can go and it fills me with a need to learn. This vision completely changed how I saw the game and now I really do play to understand, not to win or lose.

Unlike chess which is all right out in the open, Go is more of a "hidden" game. Concepts, positions and moves are more conceptual than apparent. The need for foresight, although still necessary, is not as far reaching as in chess. If you have ever played a game of chess on a four player board you may get more of a Go felling. You can see what moves are good, but the foresight to the end results of those moves are much harder or impossible to see. The game develops and only then do you see if it was a mistake, and then you need to determine why. The Why is teh most important aspect for sure. Without the answer to why you will be doomed to make the same mistake again and again causing only frustration.

On the subject of mistakes (again, I am new so forgive me my opinions) but I do not run into to many early mistakes. If a piece is laid that many stones later does me no good or hurts me I see it more as a fault of me not using that stone properly, rather than the fact it should not have been laid there. There are obviously many mistakes in placement I make later, but I do not think you can place an early stone badly. I think it is more about how that stone is then used that makes it a mistake.
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GJanse wrote:
On the subject of mistakes (again, I am new so forgive me my opinions) but I do not run into to many early mistakes. If a piece is laid that many stones later does me no good or hurts me I see it more as a fault of me not using that stone properly, rather than the fact it should not have been laid there. There are obviously many mistakes in placement I make later, but I do not think you can place an early stone badly. I think it is more about how that stone is then used that makes it a mistake.

Yeah, that sounds about right (in my limited experience). It's not so much that a play is bad, it's normally that a bigger move was overlooked. Or that the right plays were made in the wrong order.
 
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A bit late into this, but it's not that old and being a fan of games in general, but Go more than most, I thought I'd reply...

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In my opinion there are two issues with Go that make me want to just push the board away and go hide in a corner. The first of these is that for me, Go is the very definition of analysis paralysis. It's something we're all familiar with but when I'm sat with an empty Go board in front of me and stones in my hand I'm enveloped in a feeling of AP so acute that it feels like I'm drowning - flailing hopelessly around looking for a good move when there's so many good moves! It's almost a physical sensation and it's really horrible.


This sort of thing is a lot about how the player and game interact. I'm an impulsive sort of player at most games, I'll just make a play because it feels about right. It often isn't right at all, but it means I tend not to be subject to A-P nearly as much as some folk, as I'm more interested in flow of games rather than optimisation. If you're the sort that needs to be optimal then Go may well be just too hard to get right, at least on a full board. I'd echo the suggestions to not go near the 19x19 board for a while. Start at 9x9, then 13x13. I only ever played the smaller boards for quite some time, and even with plenty of half-board experience I remember being daunted by the full board when I started playing on KGS. It really does amplify one's feeling of being lost enormously. Go is still Go at 9x9 and 13x13, but it isn't so merciless, daunting, or nearly as long! A 9x9 game can be used as a filler, something that the full game certainly doesn't work as.

Another possible thing is play with timing. This might make things worse if you just take the time as a non-game element unfairly pressuring your thought process, but if you can take time as a tactical element in itself then playing at a reasonable speed can move you into "flow" rather than "analysis" play. Personally I find I prefer to play a little faster than the defaults on KGS, but I can't play "Blitz" worth a damn. I need some time, but not stacks. See if it works, if it doesn't then don't worry.

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To me it looks entirely possible that you could end up loosing a game of go because of one carelessly placed stone near the beginning of the game.


Yes, but then try buying a coffee plantation as your first thing in Puerto Rico and that will hose you pretty well too (yes, I speak from experience...)! Again, coming down to smaller boards tends to avoid this as less board means less space for Really Dumb Moves.

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Sure you can play on a smaller board, but 10x10 still leaves 100 moves compared to 20 - it still feels like looking over the edge of a precipice.


Think of that choice as a freedom rather than a problem. If you can't see what's best then you can play anywhere. After a few games you'll start to see that some combinations of "anywhere" work better than others, and on a 9x9 board you can get through games at a fair rate.

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The second problem I have with Go is that, the apparently random nature of opening plays aside, it's just too deep.


Fair comment. If you're playing to get really good at it, you won't. You have to deal with that. I will almost certainly never be a Dan level player, there will always be people who can crush me with a 9 stone handicap. But the same goes for Chess, which has far greater depths than I will ever plumb. The trick is play with people on your level (or within the level that the handicap system still works well), as then you can still reach further into the depths than your opponent to (a) win the game and (b) feel pleased about yourself. And again the case that the depths come down very significantly if you use the smaller boards. The 9x9 quarter board is, IMHO, much less than a quarter as deep as the full 19x19.

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And that's it really. My wardrobe at home is full of great games and I don't have enough time to play them all as it is. One can become a semi-competent chess player in a very short amount of time after learning the rules but the same is not true of Go.


For some values of "semi-competent" at Chess... I don't see that it isn't true of Go, as long as you start on smaller boards and don't try and run before you can crawl. While I see your depth problem, it should really apply to Chess unless you're seriously good at Chess. Do you take on Chess players at a local club, or just folk that know the rules? Though I'm considered fairly good at Chess amongst people that don't play much Chess, I'm pretty sure I'd have a new arsehole cut for me if I went to the local club, which is, I suspect, how you're feeling because you're playing local enthusiasts, rather than "everyman" opposition. But in reality the depth disparity in Chess between you and the really good people is still incredibly large.

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You're in for months of playing against better players before you start to make significant headway.


Not if you play in an environemnt like KGS, where there are always beginners to allow you to take on your peers, and usually a supply of good players happy to play teaching games. While you may have the latter at a local club, it's unlikely to have the former unless you're in the Far-Eastern heartlands of the game.

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You might be able to win some games thanks to the handicap system but that just feels fake because you've started with an advantage.


I dont see that that's any more of a cheat than me beating you because I started with the advantage of more experience! Just the same as I'd spot a Chess newbie several significant pieces, and they'd still be pleased if they beat me by working at it.

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So please, think carefully before you take the headlong plunge into Go. It's an immensley clever game, but it's not for everyone - even some of the people that seem like they ought to like it.


Yes, but I think that's true of any game. My partner stopped playing Go because, perhaps like you, she found it very difficult not to take it very seriously and that tired her out too much at a time she was otherwise very busy. But she does like it, and when her study schedule has settled down in a year or so there's a fair chance she'll be back at it.
But I can't emphasize too much the use of small boards to get into the game. It may seem like a "cheat", but if you think about it there's nothing to stop Go being played on a 29x29 board which would offer twice as much depth again as the "full" board. 19 is just an arbitrary board size in many respects, there's no shame in playing smaller boards, especially if you enjoy them!

Pete.
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Obviously the true challenge of Go, as with so many other games, is learning to spell "lose" and "losing".
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Two thoughts inspired by this thread:

1) re: nubmer of opening moves - Due to the symmetry of the board there are only about 40-50 opening moves (A single stone in one corner is functionally equivalent to being in any of the other three corners). It isn't until 4-5 moves in that you've eliminated most of the available symmetric positions


2) Re: larger (29x29) boards - I wonder how Go would play on a "spherical" board (No corners or edges, wraps around in both dimensions). All fighting takes place in the "middle" of the board.
 
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