Questions and Answers with Tei Meiko Sensei

by Sorin Gherman
Tei Meiko photo

Tei Meiko 9 dan was born in Taiwan in 1963 and moved to Japan in 1978 as he became insei. He became professional one year later and was promoted to 9 dan in 1993.

I met Tei Sensei in 1994, when I became insei in Japan. He was one of the 3 official Nihon Ki-in insei instructors and he commented most of my official insei games. In fact, many of the lessons I wrote are based on Tei Sensei's comments on my insei games.

He is a very nice person and also very special among professional players in Japan: Tei Sensei speaks English well and he is also a self-taught computer programmer! He is the author of Wakaba, a Go playing program than competed in several computer-Go tournaments in the past and also wrote software utilities like a game viewer applet.

I recently had an email exchange with Tei Sensei and asked him a few questions about studying Go, which I hope you will find interesting and useful.

I offer some study advices on my website and the most controversial one is "Play many fast games" - people think I tell them to only play fast games, which was not my intention. What do you think about this advice?

Since playing games should be a pleasure, I think it's a nice advice.

Maybe you can advice something like "Play many winning games", then everyone will agree with you, I suppose. :-)

What about recommending to review one's games?

Reviewing one's games is a good habit for someone who want to improve their Go skill. At the same time it needs one's (strong) will and efforts.

What would you recommend amateurs at different levels to study: say, a 15 kyu vs. a 5 kyu vs. a 5 dan?

I recommend the 'Read and Play' method for all levels:

  1. Read something new (Go book, article ...)
  2. Play games to use the new knowledge
  3. Beat your irritating Go-rival
  4. Your skill and health will both improve :-)

At what stage in one's Go career is it best to learn joseki?

At any stage, as necessary - for example, I am still learning joseki now, when some opponent makes a fishy move or so... I learn joseki both from books and from study groups (ken-kyu-kai).

Should joseki be memorized (even if not fully explored and understood), or just studied? This is a very popular question among beginners and I am also very interested in it because I found that when I know some joseki my brain tends to stop looking at other options.

Memorizing joseki is a short cut to win games. Therefore one should memorize first and understand later.

I think for beginners it should be enough to memorize probably 5 basic joseki.

So there is no such thing as "Don't learn joseki too early", or "Don't read go theory books too early"?

The person who says "don't......" is just showing he doesn't know Go at all, I think. :-)

Is memorizing games a popular study method in Japan among strong amateurs or insei?

I think so, yes. Since it's a convenient way to get knowledge by oneself. But the word 'memorizing' seems a little heavy, because it may need young brain. :-) So we can say 'viewing' pro games is popular among strong amateurs/insei.

How would you compare memorizing pro games with studying them analytically (as in trying to see the meaning of moves)?

Trying to understand the moves is a good method for sure, but it may require some strong teacher to help the student figure out the meaning of the moves in a pro game.

To compare the two studying methods above, memorizing is more popular I think.

Basically studying pro games by oneself is not easy (even to me :-) ). So it would be better to study pro games with commentary and replaying them. Then you can memorize those games long and well.

Do insei and professionals in Japan use game database software for studying purposes?

Young pro players do use computer to research and study games played by masters. As for database, I seldom hear that. Professionals normally find games they are interested in using their memory and books.

On the other hand, for pro players, they want to know eagerly how to win a game, but they may not need to know so much what was played in the past.

Ordinary pro Go players get their knowledge from books, magazines, study meetings, playing experience...(etc).

The only exception I know of is Hane sensei, from the Nagoya branch of Nihon Ki-in. He was famous for checking out Chinese-Style fuseki's win-rate statistically and using that knowledge in his games.

What kind of Go books do professional players read for studying?

All kind of books, if the content of the book is new and fresh to them. Pro-players who like reading would have interest to all kind of Go-books. And, of course, pro-players who don't like reading would not read any books at all.

Are there Go theory books that all insei/professionals normally read - for instance are there any "must read" books?

I don't know about "must read" books.

For Go theory/strategy, I had read some books that I personally liked, for example "The Zone Press Park" and "Lee Changho's Strategy"

Did the popularity of Hikaru-no-Go have any effect on the number of insei in Japan?

The number of insei increased: 2 years ago there were more than 100 insei. Now the number of insei is down to about 80 (in Tokyo).

Do you know what is the current age limit for Western (non-Asian) insei? Many players dream of becoming insei in Japan after reading Hikaru-no-Go manga - then they find my website and ask me about it.

Ordinary the age-limit for becoming insei is 14 and for pro is 26. But for Western young people (maybe under 30) with a pro's recommendation, it would be OK to study as a insei I suppose.