Returning to the Fundamentals


Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #44

Credit to TheChangeBlog
Credit to TheChangeBlog
Up until a month or so ago, my go had become quite rigid. In fact, it could be compared to an ice sculpture where the curves and angles have all been predefined. And though it is admirable in one aspect, it also represents a sense of rigidity and does not have much room for growth. And since my goal was to build something way better, it was only natural that it was time to set it on fire and let it melt away. And now that I am left with this pool of water, while the prospect of building a grand ice sculpture sounds great, it’s been rather difficult figuring out where to begin.
For those who don’t use Twitter, I recently tweeted about picking up Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go by Kageyama 7P again. You might wonder why I’m doing this. After all, I’ve read this book at least four or five times at this point. However, I’ve noticed that my progress in go has reached a vulnerable stage. It’s not stagnant, yet it is not necessarily progressing either in the traditional sense of climbing ranks. Instead of complaining and being frustrated however, I’ve decided that this is as good a time as any to return to the fundamentals.

I am currently at a place where my go feels directionless, so I have been trying to establish some new foundations through standard training exercises: life and death problems, studying the Jump Level Up series, replaying Go Seigen’s games, and playing games as well. While all those activities will surely benefit me somehow in the future, my go felt as shapeless as ever. And since I don’t have a true teacher and mentor (in terms of taking private lessons), I was rather lost in terms of what to do next.
As I was perusing my bookshelf and picking up book after book (i.e., The Basics of Go Strategy, Positional Judgment, etc.), the bright yellow binding caught my eye and I breathed a sigh of relief as it hit me. Just go back to the fundamentals.
It’s true that having a teacher would make my life a lot easier. After all, he/she would know me so well that devising a customized training program would be a piece of cake. However, for the numerous players out there who either haven’t found a teacher or it is too expensive, I wrote this post to remind you that there is still hope out there for people like us.
While gaining a stone becomes harder as you climb the ladder, remember that it only becomes truly difficult as you climb into the higher ranks of dan. Until then, remember that a lot of our weaknesses can be found in our lack of the fundamentals. And if there is anyone who can give you a swift kick in the butt to remind you of that, it is Kageyama.
So if you’re serious about getting stronger at go, make sure you have a copy of Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go in your collection of go books. It will be your beacon of light as you try and make your way into the dan levels and above.

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<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="5442">17 comments</span>

  • I really like this post because I agree with your statement that going going back to the fundamentals will solve most problems with someone’s go. However, I do think it’s worth that for someone of your strength and playing style, I get the impression that more of your mistakes in your games are caused by a misread here and there rather than, say, playing in the wrong area of the board. I for one get the feeling like your time might be better served if you picked up a life and death book for low dan level players. After all, in your last Monday Go Meditation, it was faulty reading that you most commonly pointed out in your commentary rather than poor understanding of the board.

    • I never thought about it that way. I’ll be sure to start incorporating some changes into my training to try and accommodate that. Thanks for your insight man. Really appreciate it!

  • Hey Ben,
    I feel your pain now, and I dont agree with your statement to go back to fundamentals ~ yeh theyre important, but even tho you gain ur insight in term of fundamentals lets say 1 hour daily for week for that book is kinda erm, wouldnt call it a waste, but miss conception, most of your mistakes are like Moboy78 said, reading, and only that. If u say that ur game is shapeless, that means only one thing, fundamental reading skills, cause you get fundamental shapes with go problems. There is big diffrence between Go players here and for example japan/korea/china. We are goin mostly for strategy and they for reading and thats most fundamental diffrence, nothing else.
    One more add for goin with go problems instead of kage is Go Seigen games. His games arent about direction, his games are bout speed, and reading, so You need to read out your opponent, and read where you can play tenuki (sacrifice something) to gain sente somewhere else. That is more important for You than anything else. Not sure if u remember when we read some article or you were talkin with me but most of go ability to play is bout reading. Its more than 90% of level. And we both are now at certain stage/wall where we need to make our reading way stronger
    Think bout it.
    At current point I dedided to give up on books in terms of raw knowledge, I started to do go problems especially life and death. I’m doing Cho Chikun v1, and helpin my friend do v2 of same encyclopedia (usually checkin if those are good, but mostly I must do them on my own).
    Its just my opinion.

      • Don’t apologize! Haha. Wall of text is extremely welcome since it ensures that your thoughts are fully expressed! Don’t ever worry about writing too much. Long comments are almost always very helpful.

    • To start, I was more or less just reading it casually as opposed to like dedicating a large chunk of time to the book. Haha. So hopefully that helps to clear that up.
      You bring up an excellent point about Go Seigen’s games. His games are all grounded in speed and reading, so I will need to find a way to really work on my reading abilities.
      Thanks for taking the time to write such a thought out comment. It’s really helpful to have people like you and Moboy giving me a different perspective on my journey.

  • Might I just point out that reading is precisely the core of fundamentals. I think you all are saying pretty much the same thing.

    • Now it’s just a matter of finding a way to consistently improve at my reading. It’s sometimes difficult to gauge whether or not I’m getting any better or if my methodology is working. Haha.

      • There’s actually an easy way to tell if your reading is getting better. You kill more, die less, and getting stronger (rank/rating wise). =)

        • well, thats only half true with rank/rating wise =)
          I can say only something similar to old japanase saying bout learining joseki. When you learn joseki, u became weaker 5 stones, but when You understand it You gain 6 stones 😛 so its like +1 in rank, but not sure how much of truth it is.
          When I was weaker – I learned only some basic josekis, most peacefull ones, and thats it. At this point I can say, for us SDK and some low dans players learing them is a waste of time, study maybe ok, but doing life and death problems and tesuji ones too is more important, that way You learn most of josekis.

          • Yeah I’ll need to do a better survey / study of joseki soon, but for now, I’m not too concerned with it.

        • True… I just wish there were a more accurate way to measure it (aka like experience bars to leveling up on an RPG). Haha.

By BenGoZen