I am now at a level where I don't consider myself to be a complete beginner, and I can now recognise at least some of the mistakes made by lower level kyu players.

I would like to help other people but I'm sometimes to afraid I'll give them wrong advice and push them in the wrong direction. Having someone stronger than me in the same room do a review of my review can eliminate that problem, but that's rarely the case.

How can one know when he's ready to teach weaker players?

  • 2
    You can TEACH go at any level. Are you talking about giving lessons, either for free or for money?
    – Trevoke
    Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 22:03
  • @Trevoke: I meant only reviews/teaching games on KGS. Though it would be nice to earn money as well..maybe one day :) Commented Nov 13, 2011 at 13:42

7 Answers 7


You can start to teach beginners as soon as you develop a basic grasp of Go, which I'd say is typically around 15-20kyu. Do not be surprised if your students surpass you quickly if you start teaching at that level, though.

Generally, people feel comfortable teaching players whom they can beat comfortably and consistently. But this is not necessarily the case. Some of the older players serve as teachers to younger players who are actually stronger than they are--this is fine as long as the difference is due to readings skills, which cannot really be taught.

Remember, players of any rank can give students the wrong advice. After all, nobody knows the solution to Go, and even the strongest professional players frequently disagree with each other on the appropriateness of moves.

  • Very good points, especially the last paragraph! Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 20:09

Whom to teach

You definitely can teach beginners. Showing scoring, atari, ladders, simple shapes and tsumego is not a problem at all, and as your students improve, you will still be able to give them a few hints, show them tesuji and shapes they missed.

You should however bear in mind that your knowledge is limited. You can't be completely sure about some things, so it is a good idea to tell when you're not sure, and to give ideas and reasons instead of just telling "this is wrong, and this is right".

Another good idea is to keep a reasonable distance between you and your students. Personally, I prefer to teach people around 4 to 9 stones weaker. If they are closer, it's a little hard to teach, instead it becomes more of a joined study session (which is not necessarily bad, but it's simply not "teaching"). If they are further apart, I tend to dive into details too quickly and confuse them with too advanced thoughts, but this is probably just my personal weakness.

There is one aspect to this that greatly helped me when I was DDK. At that time I had several teachers that were advancing the ranks at a similar pace as I did, and they were just a little step faster. This meant that they clearly remember the mistakes they just fixed in their play. A teacher who is many stones stronger won't necessarily remember which tesuji is learned at what level, while those slightly in front of you more often do.

Using references

It may be useful to copy from the lessons of stronger teachers or from books. Those resources tend to be reliable, and give you a good overview of what to cover in a certain topic. For instance, if you recently read a book about various 3-3 joseki variants, or about a specific fighting shape, or a cool yose tesuji, then transfer your newly acquired knowledge to your student: Ask him if he's interested in learning about an awesome tesuji, and show him!

Like this, you will certainly get some questions that you didn't think of yourself yet. If you're reasonably sure about the answer, tell him, else, refer to your original teacher (or the book) to inquire about it. The nice side effect is that you gain a more thorough understanding yourself.

  • I definitely like the idea of "learning through teaching", and that one of my motives to teach actually. Assuming the estimate on KGS is valid, I'm ready! :) Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 20:12
  • My mind still feels too messy to teach anybody but an absolute beginner. The only things I'm decently sure about, are those I can read out. And telling the student where he misread isn't very useful. Teachers are useful to learn strategy. But in that area I'm never sure myself. I can only say "Feels bad", "I would play elsewhere". Not very useful either. Commented Nov 13, 2011 at 13:27
  • @CodeInChaos-LiKao If it's really that tough for you, you should probably have a look at a few books. As an amateur, it's very difficult to be sure of some things, even if you're a strong player. You need backup. -- Apart from that, if you present your ideas as, well, ideas, it should still be fine. The student will still gain some insight, at least he knows of your pov and your reasons and can take them in consideration in the future.
    – mafu
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 0:39

The best people to learn from are generally those a little stronger than you are, as most people rarely have opportunities to learn Go from professional teachers. In my experience on KGS/IGS as well as in the real-world, the strength difference should be no more than 5 kyu. If a 20kyu needs help, a 15kyu is the best person for the job, and if a 10kyu needs help, a 5kyu is the best at explaining things. This is of course a separate argument from 'teaching skill'- some people are simply better suited for teaching than others, because they understand and follow the rules below.

In case of more than 5kyu gap- A professional teacher for something as complex as Go would tell you that you'd need to keep in mind advanced concepts when teaching a beginner, so as to not steer them in the wrong direction, but not to try and teach these concepts directly, if at all. The worse thing you can do is overload someone with information that they have no idea how to process yet- you do things incrementally, very slowly. Decide what information a student needs to advance to the next level, and give them no more than that. A beginner learns next to nothing when observing a professional game, and they'd likely learn nothing from the discussions of said game. The level is simply too high- and this idea is universal, trying to learn from a 5kyu when you're 15kyu isn't likely to have much effect unless the 5kyu understands the rules of teaching and doesn't delve into anything that's too deep to follow.

I'd say personally that once you reach 15kyu, you're proficient enough to teach complete beginners, but as I mentioned before, your teaching skill is also an important factor.


Here are some ideas that I believe make for a good student-teacher relationship:

  1. The student is motivated to play and learn more regardless of the actual information passed down -- sometimes the simple fact that someone at least a bit stronger is interested in the way we play and is willing to discuss our play is enough to keep us in the game.

  2. The lesson helps the student think about the game better. This can be facilitated even by a weaker player asking good questions e.g.: "Which of your groups are weak and which are strong? How could you avoid making so many weak groups?" or "How much territory do you have right now? Are you leading or behind?".

  3. The teacher helps the student avoid easily preventable mistakes. For example: "I noticed you tend to always respond right away. I think you could be much stronger if you resolve to breathe twice before every more even if the move is obvious."


For review / teaching games, you can do this with anyone who is at least 3 kyu weaker than you. I would recommend 5 kyu after you're used to it and you've learned to tailor your comments to something the other person will understand.


A thumb rule for amateur players is, if one cannot win handi 2 games, probably he shall not teach. For me, if I can't win handi 3, I'll recommend a stronger teacher.


I strongly dislike if someone who is just few(4) stones stronger pretends to teach.

Let's imagine: 10k level teach 15k. He will talk about all that second line moves in the beginning, stick to weak stones, all that silly moves instead of just jumping out to build territory. He is not completely familiar with living forms, and cannot count it. He does not know some principles like attacking for weaker side, or getting points from attack and a lot of more.

My proposal is

  • sdk for rules and intro to go /before 15k
  • up to 9 stones handi before dan level,
  • and pro/7dans for dans.

I personally never analyze other games on goladder if I not 4 stones stronger, and if just 4-6 stones stronger, only suggest some common things that I sure can suggest player more stronger than myself. I can analyze my own game better if 2 stone stronger will look on it.

Otherwise do tsumego (not goproblems which is bad for the same reason), read book, listen pro lectures.

  • That's a strict view, and I think it has a very true core. However, and also for practical reasons (7 dans to teach dans for free are very limited in number, after all), I would add that a student can also learn a lot from simply listening to the teacher's reasoning. While the move may still be wrong, the student will gain some insight from learning a new perspective, if possible even those of several different teachers. However, the teacher has to be careful to clearly differentiate between (highest certaincy) facts and their personal opinions. Just this also enables same rank study sessions.
    – mafu
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 1:36
  • Referring specifically to the goproblems.com issue: Indeed, sometimes we (as students) are presented wrong problems/solutions. I believe it is very important to challenge everything that looks suspicious, in a constructive manner: First try to find a counter claim yourself, and try to refute it - if you cannot refute it, ask a stronger player. Either he will explain something you missed in your reasoning, or he'll confirm that in fact the problem is flawed. This process is extremely important in actual games: You should challenge every move your opponent plays in the explained manner.
    – mafu
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 1:41

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