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It is well-known that learning about Go is a never-ending process. This question is on resources that I believe to be useful in a certain stage of this learning process.

In the very beginning, there are a lot of fundamentals to be grasped (and really understanding them fully takes way longer of course) and this question addressed resources that may be helpful for beginners.

I am now advancing into the SDK stage and find that these resources are not helping so much anymore. On the other hand, I also have trouble profiting from the analysis of pro games, because I still have a lot to learn about the reasoning behind moves.

What I found to be most effective for me at this stage, are resources like these youtube videos or these articles on opening patterns.

Is there a place, where learning resources are available that are similar to the above? To make this question a bit more concrete and answerable, I am looking for material that fits the following criteria:

  • suitable for SDKs
  • not a simple listing of fuseki/joseki/whatever
  • not life&death problems
  • focuses on the reasoning behind moves
  • suitable for broadening one's knowledge (i.e. do not cover one topic in immense depth, but concentrate on the underlying principles)
  • bonus points, if grouped by topic (so you can f.ex. quickly get material related to micro-chinese, or leaning plays, or large knight jumps, or counting, ...)

In terms of textual resources (though I'm open for videos/podcasts/sgfs/...), I am looking for roughly something along the line of one-two pages per discussed topic.

A few resources that I know about, but do not fit these criteria:

  • sensei: Way too deep coverage of topics. I believe it is an awesome reference for dans and higher SDKs, but I mostly found it more confusing than helpful. Not to mention, that every second word links to more information.. there is the point of TMI.
  • eidogo: Great for looking up names of josekis.. which I would then like to read up upon in the resources I am looking for in order to understand the underlying principles.
  • various pages of L&D problems: while interesting and certainly helpful to learn, they do not help much in terms of opening and mid-game strategies.
  • various books (at least those I have) : they either are for beginners, or they cover a topic very well, but in frustrating depth (meaning you'd have to invest into an extra library room if you want to get a broader picture).
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With all due respect, I really don't think you've given sensei's a fair shake. There is loads of material at all levels, and the reason that so much information linkage appears is because there is so much information to link. There really isn't anything that can be done about that. –  Karl Knechtel Feb 17 '12 at 0:04
I agree that you may be too quick to discount Sensei's library. From the question description it sounds like you are looking for an encyclopedia of go topics...which is more or less exactly what sensei's aims for (and likely the best of its kind in English). That said, what you describe that you are looking for may not be the thing you actually need to reach your goal. –  Mef Feb 20 '12 at 21:17

5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

How to study Go wrongly, a practical reference

Even though you already directly pointed in the right direction, let me disregard part of your actual question and answer differently first. Consider it a supplementary answer.

A common mistake in studying

I believe there is a typical trap many Western players easily fall into (I'm guilty of this myself): Relying on books too much.

Around 10 kyu, studying books should take only a small part of your time. Instead, focus on playing games and reviewing. I'll try to explain my reasoning.

Why you should not study pro games

On the other hand, I also have trouble profiting from the analysis of pro games, because I still have a lot to learn about the reasoning behind moves.

As you said, studying pro games at your level is of lower efficiency since you simply won't be able to understand the moves. This applies to dan players, too, but they possess enough shape and (midgame and corner) joseki knowledge to grasp the basic ideas. So apart from seeing what a game should look like and potentially learning a few common shapes, you won't gain much from pro games. It's just not suited to your level yet.

As a student of a foreign language, you will eventually read lots of texts in that language and learn a lot from first hand resources, but before that you have to learn the basics in your native language.

Why you should not study fuseki (yet)

What I found to be most effective for me at this stage, are resources like these youtube videos or these articles on opening patterns.

Josh's videos are just as excellent as Matthew's lectures, but again, you won't gain much from studying fuseki. While I most certainly agree that it's fun, I can't say for sure that it will benefit your games.

You have to both remember and understand the fuseki shapes, which is not easy at all since every stone on the whole board is very important.

Are you sure you can remember the basic Kobayashi openings until around move 40? If you do and you are not high dan you were setting wrong priorities! ;)

Disregarding that, actually every stone is important and may change the meaning of moves considerably. For instance, you know the basic Chinese Fuseki, right? Consider this board:

$$ ---------------------------------------
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . 4 . . . . . , . . . . . 1 . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . , . . . . . , . . . . . , . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . 2 , . . . . . , . . . . . , . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ ---------------------------------------

Did you know some pros call 5 a mistake due to the position of 2 at komoku (3-4) instead of hoshi (4-4)? White could make a corner enclosure and the main direction of the Chinese opening, the lower side, will be a lot less interesting all of sudden. Subtle differences like this are very important if you really want to benefit from fuseki study.

So while you definitely will gain some insight from intense study of fuseki, this activity becomes way more efficient at strong SDK to lower dan level. By the way, I recently read how insei nowadays don't study fuseki as much as they used to but instead focus on tsumego - the improved reading helps more than a few moves more depth of knowledge in fuseki.

Why having superior fuseki is useless

Another point to consider is your reading ability. Personally, I grew up with fuseki study and was able to easily solve strong SDK level fuseki problems as a DDK. But in my games, the opponent simply played a move I did not know and I had no clue how to continue - I was completely unable to read how to punish, and ended up losing even though I was supposed to be ahead. That eventually made me study fighting more, and that in turn massively increased my understanding of the fuseki positions I played earlier.

And still, there are actually high dans who have a far worse position during fuseki in even games with me, but their insane reading power makes more than up for it and I always lose even with very high handicap. There is a saying that you should not start to study fuseki until there is nobody who can beat you at 9 stones, and it should be considered.

Why you should not memorize patterns

"Memorize joseki, lose 3 stones."

By always playing known sequences, your will grew unable to see other moves. You won't notice subtle differences compared to the position you know, and miss sharp moves that a player with better fighting senses will spot immediately.

Notice that I am not only talking about actually "memorizing certain sequences" but also "blindly only considering known sequences and shapes instead of actually reading each move". This is exhausting but hey, noone said improving in Go is easy ;)

If you don't know the sequence to play, you have to consider all options, forcing you to read carefully. Eventually, you'll decide on a move, and your understanding of the position has been increased so next time you'll be able to decide on the right move faster - depending on the surrounding position.

This means you will have a deeper knowledge of the position and the moves involved, and you will be able to explain with actual sequences why your chosen move is the best. Or why it was a mistake, which is fine, too.

Why playing games and doing reviews is important

We just noticed that you should try to play lots of games to learn patterns by understanding the moves. If your understanding of the position is flawed, this could lead to mistaking good and bad results. This is why you should have someone stronger review your games to point out wrong decisions that you did not consider as such. Gaining this knowledge will in turn directly affect all your decisions in similar positions - practical reasoning behind high level ideas is one of the points that distinguishes strong from weak players with a shallow understanding.

Why this answer is wrong

It's not. Not yet at least (for DDK players). Or not completely.

If you closely follow the approach explained you'll eventually have excellent fighting abilities and win all the (local) fights but still lose the war (game). How is that possible? It's because you did it wrong to the other extreme: Not caring about theory at all.

By slowly applying more and more theoretical study as you grow stronger, you'll not only understand high level concepts (e.g. in fuseki), but also (thanks to your acquired raw abilities) be able to punish opponents for their overplays.

The actual answer to your question

With all that being said, the original question already contains the important hints:

  • not a simple listing of fuseki/joseki/whatever
  • focuses on the reasoning behind moves

In fact there are books that help with these, as mentioned in other answers, so I won't go into them here. Books about tesuji, hopefully with exercises, are likely the most useful kind you will find.

Even with these books, you should keep the basics I was talking about earlier in mind. Many players capture stones out of habit because they know the awesome tesuji to capture them, but they miss that all groups were already alive and the capture was only worth 2 points.

The fastest way to strong SDK level

Apart from the mentioned kind of books, at weak SDK level, playing games and reviewing them is still the most valuable resource. Make as many mistakes as possible, remember them and never do them again, and you will be strong SDK in no time. Theoretical study could never have advanced you that quickly.

There also is a very simple but difficult to follow hint I can give to players who are willing to put in a lot of effort for quickly improving. It is to simply read 4 moves ahead on every turn in the game. This requires more self-discipline than you may think at first, but it ensures you applied enough reading to a) not make stupid mistakes and b) consider all (or at least most) of the options the opponent has in answering. Which boils down to "avoid sloppy reading". You should literally sit on your hands.

And once you find yourself puzzled about situations more often, unable to find the right direction even though you can see the sequences, it's time to switch to theory and study aspects not easily visible.

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+1 for playing and reviewing being the most important things to do! –  Gregor Feb 16 '12 at 19:37
I tried the resources given in the other answers and for comparison had stronger players teach me, too. I find it rather telling that I cannot refrain from accepting this as the correct answer, even though it specifically does not list any resources. Thank you for the thorough explanation! I heard "just play games" before, but this was much more enlightening. –  Frank Feb 19 '12 at 13:11
+1 Good answer - especially with regard to over-emphasis on the opening. I was just reviewing a game today (for a KGS 5K) where after the first noseki/fight one player had a significant advantage. Immediately following this fight however, there were two moves made that were essentially passes (defending 'weaknesses' that weren't there - letting the opponent get large plays in sente). Suddenly the game was equalized, and before long the position was more comfortable for the other side. It is quite astonishing how opening theory can be overcome with solid tactics and developing a sound plan. –  Mef Feb 20 '12 at 21:47
Note that this same advice also applies to chess, and most other strategic games: studying openings/theory is useless if you do not have the tactics to back that up. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Mar 30 '12 at 20:28

Get Strong at Tesuji is an excellent way to get stronger for anyone up to dan level. It has problems in a range of difficulties, and even the harder problems are usually localized enough that you can work out the variations if you can't just read them out.

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I found these videos by Catalin Taranu to be very helpful when I was around that level. Pros always make defensive moves that look a little slow to me, and in these he shows over and over what happens if they leave those moves out.

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The Daily Yomiuri had a weekly column called "The Magic of Go". The column only ran until 2007, but archives can still be found here and here.

The articles themselves are brief and cover a range of topics from week to week. They often involve analyzing short segments of pro games, then detailing a fundamental theory behind the plays.

Unfortunately they are not organized by topic, which can make finding a particular article difficult.

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As you transition into SDK, you're getting to the place where the book Tesuji will be comprehensible, and I think you'll find it very useful. It's an excellent book. Quoting from one of the Amazon reviews

The first chapter is devoted to reading, then continues into the tesuji. Each chapter's theme is accomplishing a certain objective, and provides a few tesuji that are used to accomplish it. At the end of each section on a tesuji, the reader is given a problem or two to try it himself, and at the end of each chapter, around 10-12 problems, using all of the tesuji. The difficulty of the problems vary, but are never frustratingly hard.

I'd also recommend continuing to look at problems. The vast majority of problems are life & death, but you can also find fuseki problems such as these, and I know I've seen an app (maybe GoGrinder?) that let you sort problems by type.

As a gateway to analysis of pro games, the book Invincible is expensive but well worth it. The commentary is very interesting, and by choosing how much you read and how many of the variations you follow can be of adjustable depth.

KGS+ also has frequent audio lectures that target SDKs. Also the Go Teaching Ladder is a way to get game reviews.

Most importantly, play! Want to learn about the mini Chinese? Use it exclusively for a week. Play even games against stronger players, and always go over them afterwards.

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Yes, the Java version of GoGrinder lets you sort problems by type, as long as they're tagged. –  TimK Feb 16 '12 at 19:16

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