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Improving Your Go With the Help of a Teacher

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I stumbled on a discussion about Go teachers at reddit/baduk and I thought I’ll share my story. For years I’ve improved only by solving problems, reading books, playing and occasional game reviews. This changed last November when I felt that I wasn’t improving at the pace I had hoped for. I thought I’ll try go lessons from a teacher.

I did my research and I actually loved the idea of a Baduk league (Korean Style Insei League on KGS, In-seong’s Yunguseng Dojang, Nordict Go Academy etc.) but I just can’t make such a time commitment. Go is a hobby that I can recharge my batteries with and also keep my mind sharp. Hopefully my quest for improvement won’t ruin it for me :).

I found 2 teachers through Google and had one online go lesson with each. After that I continued taking lessons from Kazunari Furuyama and I’m glad I did. I discovered another world of improvement that I had no idea even existed.

Kazunari prefers Offline Go Lessons although the first one I had was an online version. I’ll only explain how the offline go lessons work as this is what I have experience with.

Offline Go Lessons

You start off by playing some games as you normally do. I play on KGS, I like 20 min time controls with 5 x 30s byo-yomi. If you have accumulated 2 to 10 games you send them (the SGF files) over to Kazunari. He will analyze them and depending on his schedule you will receive a lesson from him back within couple of days or up to a week.

The lesson contains analysis of 1-3 games and about 25 problems (see Offline Go Lessons page for actual details as the number varies depending on the number of lessons you purchase). So you’ll be receiving a bunch of SGF files (not sure I’ve seen so many attachments to an email before).

The game analysis is either a very thorough 1 game review or shorter ones for couple of games. So far all of these have been eye openers for me.

Now comes the really fun part. Kazunari will have spotted your common bad habits throughout your sent games. He then composes problems based on your games to weed those out.

At first the problems seemed so easy that I couldn’t understand why aren’t I solving tsumego instead. After going through my first lesson I realized how profound those bad habits were. I was so used to making certain moves because for no good reason I was used to.

Even when I had read about hitting at the head of 2 stones for example I wasn’t using that in my games. To weed these out the problems actually can’t be very difficult.

Already after the first lesson my confidence in games increased tremendously. After 10 lessons I feel the meaning behind very many moves that before were just some moves for me. It also has helped me understand my opponents - seeing whether they take advantage of certain weaknesses or not gives me an idea of their strength.

Of course this doesn’t come without a price. You actually have to solve these problems over time again and again for them to actually internalize. Not sure I’m there yet but I’m working on it. I’ve taken about 10 lessons so far so my collection of custom problems to go through is large enough to be a challenge.

Also you should be going over the analyzed games every now and then. Whenever I go back to them I re-learn something or understand something more that I either had missed or wasn’t ready to understand.

Conclusions

I’m very glad that I found a new source of improvement that is working for me. I wish I had looked into getting go lessons before. And as with all the other sources of improvements you actually still have to work really hard to take advantage of them. I play 1 to 30 games a month, solve couple of hundred tsumego and get about one offline go lesson a month. Looking forward to being a KGS shodan!

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