I recently took A. Dinershtein's Go style test. It was useful to me, as the test is aimed at finding professional players who might think the way you do, for study purposes. It has definitely worked for me. But what should I bear in mind while studying professional games?

  • Dumb question, I took the test, but it didn't give me a list of professional players to study. Where can I find such a list. I got the "flexible" result. Jan 25, 2012 at 6:40

7 Answers 7


A lot depends on your strength. I find that memorizing them is useful for me. I've also heard a lot of people suggest that you need to play them out on a real board. It helps teach your fingers where the pro moves are :)

If you're not a dan-level player, you probably shouldn't focus too much on fighting sequences - you won't be able to understand all of the variations the players are considering.

It's a really good idea to look at each sequence or exchange in the game and try to tell what each player got out of it. From an amateur perspective almost everything that happens in a pro game is an even trade, so you should look for sequences that don't seem even to you and try to figure out why they actually are.

  • 1
    "almost everything that happens in a pro game is an even trade." Unless one of the (pro) players (or a third pro) says it's not.
    – Tom Au
    Dec 6, 2011 at 16:45
  • 1
    In which case, it is usually going to be close enough to even for the vast majority of amateurs. As Janice Kim one pointed out in a lecture: if an amateur played as well as the losing player in every pro game, they'd still be much stronger than most amateur players.
    – dclements
    Jan 8, 2012 at 7:49

Most pro games are fairly even until a "turning point." This is when one player makes a mistake, as related by the author of the game commentary, usually a pro. Sometimes the commentator is one of the players, who says, "I made move X that lost the game, or "My opponent's move Y lost him the game."

Then the thing to do is to study the game up to the turning point, to see why it was even till then, and then after the turning point, to see why the winner had a clear advantage.

Some games are closely matched to the end, with White finally winning by less than the komi, or alternately, Black beating komi by say, one and a half points.

A model book in this regard is Kato's "Attack and Kill," about his winning streak of some 20-odd games, in which he points out his opponent's "losing moves." He is also self-critical, pointing out places where he made move X, which should have lost, but that the opponent's move Y was an even worse mistake, that resulted in a Kato victory.


I used to memorize games as a fairly large staple of my studies. Some general points:

1) The position at any point is approximately even. A "losing move" to a professional–one that everyone agrees is bad–is still probably close enough to even for anyone but a high-level dan. If you are at that point or getting close to it, be sure to look up the commentaries if there are in and read through them.

2) Take your time on each move. Analyze how you would move, see how the professional moves, and analyze why the professional might have moved there. It is oft repeated that you are about 3-4 stones stronger when you study, so take advantage of that and try to see as much as you can. Even if you are wrong, the process of thinking about it is very valuable.

3) Start with ten moves at a time and see if you can increase it over time. So put down ten moves, then reset. When I would do it I would go back to a blank board every ten moves and try to play back to the current point.

4) Replay your own games from memory immediately after you play them. If you played a person at a club, see if you can get them to go with you. Memorizing pro games is training your pattern memory, and replaying through your own games after you've played them is excellent practice here.

5) During the endgame try to count the value of each move. This is an easy time to do that, and it is excellent practice.

Hope that helps!


Replay through a game twice. Each time focus on just 1 side. Memorizing games can help, but it's even better to memorize games that cover variations and/or provide commentary. Don't try and understand every single move though, that is just too daunting even with provided in-depth commentary. Instead, try and gain the overall idea and feel the flow behind their play.


Yuan Zhou just published a book on this topic. Check out Slate and Shell for sample pages. I am a big fan of Zhou's books and will certainly buy this one. He has a nice way of writing towards kyu level players.

Title: Learning from Pro Games

Author: Zhou, Yuan

Year: 2011

ISBN: 9781932001-57-0

Price: $20.00


  • nice. i like yuan zhou too. i may have to check it out. hopefully schaak- en gowinkel het paard will have a copy.
    – magnetar
    Dec 15, 2011 at 22:24

I am a novice player, so take everything I might say cautiously. But I have been working through "Invincible - The Games of Shusaku" by John Power and I think it has been helping me, even if there is a lot I don't understand yet.

It is mostly commentaries on games from Honinbo Shusaku, who is arguably one of the greatest Go players. The one thing to keep in mind is that these games were played before Komi was invented, so generally black can be more defensive and white must be more aggressive then you would likely see in a modern competitive game. Still, the general tactics should remain the same.

  • It's a fantastic book. Dec 29, 2011 at 18:55

I learned the game's rule when I was 5 or 6 years old. However, I was really hooked after I read a go book in a small bookstore in Xian (西安) when I was eighteen. The book was written by Go Seigen (吳清源-名局細解).

The book explains every single detail in games between Go Seigen and other top Japanese Go players. It was so inspiring. It was like reading a great painting. It was just beautiful.

I'd say I fell in love with go because of the journal to Xian.

More than twenty years later, I have written a program on iPad to read the annotated games of great pro players. The first game to test the program with, is a game of Go Seigen XD

So, I'd say pro games, like great paintings, are art.

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