When I first starting playing Go, I was more in love with the idea of playing than actually playing. As a result, I wasted a lot of energy on Go-related pursuits that didn’t necessarily improve my game. Recognizing these mistakes and correcting them has done a lot for my recent improvement. So, without further ado, how to get stronger (and avoid some of the mistakes I made):

  1. I began reading books on the subject entirely too early in my study, and while I could make the rough outline of what was suggested, these strategies existed without the context gained by personal experience (and thus considerably less useful). Avoid this, and during the time you would have been reading, play games.
  2. Play games as many games as you can – Get the personal experience you need by playing as many games are you’re able to. You’ll eventually reach the stage at which books on Go will be useful, but don’t count on it happening too soon. Suggestions on local responses will be much more useful and meaningful to you at this stage (see #7, below) which no book could be thorough enough to cover.
  3. Play quickly and base your play on intuition – In order to get a good number of games under your belt quickly, play quickly. Remember basic principles of shape (bamboo joint, table) and template (attach, hane, extend, connect). Try to stay connected. Eventually, you’ll try to simultaneously cut your opponent.
  4. Don’t try to read ahead too early. Typically, you’ll follow the wrong path in your reading (based on what you HOPE your opponent will do) or you’ll simply read wrong. First, play where you think something needs to happen. Keep doing this and you’ll eventually develop ideas of what you want your opponent to do and how to encourage him to do it.
  5. Once you begin developing pattern recognition of board situations, study life or death problems. Go Problems possesses an incredible database of these, both timed and untimed. Wait until you’ve read the problem out to your fullest ability, then try it. If you get it wrong, look at the solution, but then stop your study for awhile and go back to playing more games. Give yourself awhile to build up stronger reading skills, then tackle more problems.
  6. Study fuseki before joseki – Fuseki study is easier to comprehend. General board principles and the type of pressure they put on your opponent are much more straight forward and obvious at lower levels. Find out what a three star opening is. Learn Chinese fuseki. What did Go Seigen suggest about openings (and why)? These will begin helping your “whole board” thinking and awareness. 
  7. Ask a player stronger than yourself to review your games. If it was saved automatically because you were playing on the computer, simply submit your game for review to the Go Teaching Ladder. Be gracious to your reviewer and accept that the advice given is correct (or at least, more correct than what you did). Then, try to implement that advice in future games.

Not necessarily as a suggestion for improvement, but remember to start wild fights. Don’t just play something that is going to be chased and killed, but threaten your opponent’s life and try to simultaneously make yours. Whether or not you do this should be determined by the importance of the game but this is a very fun way of playing and will assist in the development of your reading skills. I linked to this article a few weeks ago, but this is part of what I interpreted as “Spirit” from this article by Cho Hun Hyun.

As always, I appreciate any comments about this article. Feel free to add your own voice on how to study (even if that means contradicting a point here). Based on my experience, what I listed above is true, but Go is a big enough game that what is true for me may not be true for the next person. Don’t be greedy with your knowledge and keep it to yourself rather than strengthening those around you. I look forward to hearing from you in the comments.