I am a 7k EGF. There is a 7 year old girl, that is a relative of my wife and lives next door. Once I managed to start her interest in Go by playing several Atari-Go games against her. I decided to move to territorial Go after an Atari-Go game where she didn't allow me to do any capture. But maybe this was premature. We play from time to time. She beats me on 9x9 5h, but mostly loses on 4h. If I correct some of her obvious mistakes (like putting herself in atari, missing an obvious way to capture a stone on 2nd line etc.) we can play quite evenly on 3h.

Some of my observations:

  • She wants to play and is happy to do it almost any time and doesn't get bored even after playing for about 45 minutes.
  • She doesn't show any signs of being discouraged by losing.
  • She plays very fast and often repeats the same mistakes.
  • I believe she wants to capture very much, not so much securing her territory.

My questions:

  1. Should I correct and allow to undo bad moves or just exploit them?
  2. Should I do some review of the game after it is finished? (this two questions have obvious answers for adults, but is it true for children as well?)
  3. Is it a good idea to do simple tsumego with her or should we just play as much as possible?
  4. What should be the sign, that it is possible to move to 13x13?
  5. What else can I do to improve her strength without discouraging her?

2 Answers 2


My recommendation is to:

  • Introduce recording of the games. This would allow her to study her own games offline, and come back with questions. The habit of recording one's own games is a gift beyond price, and the sooner introduced the stronger the habit will be.

  • Ask this young girl her own opinion on these questions. A sense of control I believe is vital, and she may well have different choices each meeting. In presenting these choices try to describe them in purely factual terms - just the data without any bias you may have. For the 13x13 board, describe how the balance between corner-play and centre-play will change for example, and ask her when she thinks she is ready for that. Avoid presenting it as a "promotion", so there is no shame in going backwards. Just present it as two different variations that will practice different skills.

  • In regards tsumego, I would introduce the various types of study, joseki and others, and show her that these are specialty skills that can be practiced and studied on their own. Then let her choose.

I was just two yeas older when I learned chess. Every Thursday evening at 7:00 my dad and I would setup the board under his favourite chair, and I would lose. I bought a book on Openings and another on Combinations and studied those during the week. I found a couple of friends to play against as well. Eight months in I got my first draw against my Dad, and a couple of weeks later my first win. One of my fondest memories.

  • 1
    To record the games one could of course play them in a computer. That would also give the option of mailing her a review later, though I suspect that would not interest her as much.
    – PJTraill
    Nov 21, 2018 at 22:48
  • @PJTraill: Not only would it be less interesting, I firmly believe it would be far less valuable. A key aspect of the practice is the discipline of doing so. From my experience playing Bridge, it also enhances long-term memory of the play. Nov 22, 2018 at 9:45

N.B. The links to terms are for third parties, rather than the questioner, who as 7 kyu will already know them.

Where she is now

The best approach depends on the sort of person she is and what she hopes to get from playing go, so stay alert to any feelings, wishes and opinions she expresses. As Forget I was ever here’s answer says, I think you should find out what she thinks about your ideas by asking her as well as by staying alert.

It sounds a bit as though she is not too bothered (yet) about improving, given that she plays fast, repeats mistakes and does not mind losing. Perhaps at the moment she just enjoys the feeling of placing the stones, the patterns they make, capturing stones and maybe some simple problems. If that is the case, you should be patient; for now, I would keep the games fun and let her see she can learn more when she wants to.

Try not to be too disappointed if she does lose interest in what she enjoys now but does not get interested in improving. It would be great to have a go-playing neighbour, but it all depends how she develops personally.

Learning from mistakes

In friendly games (which they probably all are), when she makes a mistake for about the third time I would ask/tell her something like “are you sure you want to do that?”, “last time you did that it turned out badly!”, “do you remember what happened last time you did that?” or “can you see why that doesn’t work?” without saying what the mistake was. If she does not like that, you could try just saying “Aha!”.

As long as she just plays for the fun of it without really wanting to improve, I would be fairly easy-going about letting her take back moves, especially if you have pointed out the mistake. But if she starts showing off (too much) about how well plays against you, you could suggest a match on stricter terms, i.e. still with a handicap, but no taking back moves once she lets go of the stone, but probably not a clock unless she shows interest in trying it out.


Given her current attitude, I would be surprised if she wanted to review an entire game. What you could try is to analyse the last mistake she makes, especially if it causes her to lost the game. Perhaps “Do you want to see how you could have won if you had played your (e.g. third last) move differently?”

Other skills

I would not expect her to be very interested in joseki, but you might be able to work in a little tsumego if you do review a game, by asking her to find a better move in a position from the game, and if that interests here, changing the position and see if she can spot a geta or a snap-back.

If you want to move her on from capturing, I wonder if it might help to show her a throw-in; it is still about capturing, but letting your opponent capture first shows that capturing is not always a good move. A next step, if you can manage it, might be to engineer a situation at the end of a close game where she can win by making a big move instead of capturing.

See also

You may want to check out the Teaching Methods page in Sensei’s Library, though the section on teaching children does not seem to provide much specific help.

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