To Improve at Go, Play a Lot of Games

by Sorin Gherman

This is part of my "how to improve" advices.

This used to be "Play a lot of fast games" - but I found that so many readers were confused, that I decided to change the title. I discussed this briefly recently with Tei Meiko 9p, one of the official instructors during the period when I was insei in Japan - he suggested to change the title to something like "Play many winning games" to turn it into an advice everybody will enjoy following :-)

There are several aspects to this advice:

Among the first things that my sensei, Kobayashi Chizu 5p, told me when I became insei in Japan was: "Play a lot of fast games with the other insei - never mind the results, just play!". (As insei, "fast games" meant 10 seconds per move, no extra thinking time.)

Another related advice, that may not be applicable in your case, was to lure other insei into playing a lot of fast games with me by offering them candy or so - basically most of the Asian insei were kids :-) Instead of looking for strong Go kids and offering them candy - which may get you in trouble in some places - it is much safer and easier nowadays to just get a free online account on a Go server and you can find anytime someone to play with.

I don't think anybody questions the "play a lot" advice - after all it is common sense that one gets stronger with experience. But many persons asked me "Why fast games? What is wrong with normal, or even slow games?".

There is of course nothing wrong with playing slow games, but you should also play many fast games: try to force yourself, gradually, even a little bit at a time, to play with slightly lower time limits than what you are comfortable with. This way you will read faster, concentrate on the important areas, and think more efficiently. Just like athletes are pushing their physical limits.

If you only play within your comfort zone when it comes to time limits, you play mostly for enjoyment, not for improvement.