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For children what is the youngest age that it makes sense to begin to teach them go? Is it best to start them on a 9x9 board? Will a child that has learned basic algebra be better suited to learn go well? Does anyone have experience working with their own children and can share what did and did not work? I find that teenagers want to instantly master a subject and are reluctant to invest the time it takes to begin to master go.

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5 Answers

I've never had this experience with "kids," only teenagers and older.

The way to get PEOPLE interested in Go is to let them watch you play it. During the game, you might make comments like, "I'm trying to chase/capture my opponent's stone's" or, "I'm trying to limit his influence, see the wall of stones he has." At appropriate points in the game, say "Atari," and point out what constitutes a capture. Or engage in a "ko" fight, and explain that players can't repeat moves in a ko, without making an intervening move.

Basically, you need to let the audience (including children) sort itself out. Some won't be interested, some will be very interested, and some will develop an interest at a later date.

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In my experience, kids like the colorful names for shapes, especially animal names like "tiger's mouth" and "dog's head".

If you want a kid to be happy about continued Go experience, do your best to make sure they're having fun. I'm not saying necessarily that you should let them win, but if you don't make sure they're having fun even when losing! Hint, compliment good moves, coach a little bit with a smile and a laugh. It can be most fun if you have >1 beginner so they can alternate playing each other and playing you simultaneously.

Just like any beginner, start on a small board with simplified rules. There's no need to explain "ko" until it comes up.

I think the most important thing is enjoyability. A kid who had a good time playing Go will be easy to talk into playing again.

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When I was teaching my cousin, I started out by explaining the rules for capture and the strategies of territory. We started out in a 9x9 area so she could get a feel for the rules without feeling overwhelmed by the size of the board. After a few games we decided to move to the full 19x19 play area.

I let her play as she pleased for most of the game. Towards the end, after defeating some of her weak strategies, I started to point out advantages of placing that would thwart or weaken my goals.

Even though I won the game, by a fair margin, the results were:

  • She got a basic understanding of the rules
  • She was able to freely try and explore options, which I would explain why they failed or succeed
  • Even though she didn't win the game, she had the satisfaction of beat or outwit my stones
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's usually a good idea to have an "outsider" teach, going by personal observations and hearsays.

My guess on why parents usually make for poor (beginning) teachers is that the children unconsciously think of it as the parent making them play a game that they will always lose to the parent at, and therefore tend to be less than enthusiastic. This may be why the children of pros so rarely play Go.

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I think you should teach them as soon as they're old enough that they won't eat the stones. One thing you have to watch out for with really young players is that they will focus too much on capturing, and you have to try not to encourage that. I started teaching my daughter when she was five, and she's surprisingly good at reading. Unfortunately she hasn't really caught the bug, so we don't play too much.

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