Here is the latest advice ( Last updated in March, 2023.)
Is it a good idea to study AI moves and AI joseki?
This is how I see AI. I could be wrong. And you don’t have to agree with me. But I have good reasons to state that I don’t recommend AI moves.
Here are the reasons:
- Some top pros in Japan such as Hane Naoki who has gotten dozens of titles and Hikosaka Naoto 9dan, another top pro in Japan, have not studied AI moves at all. Nor do they use an AI program to examine their games. Yet, they continue to win many games against top pros.
In 2019 Hane got a big title, Gosei title, from Hsu Chia Yuan Gosei even though Hane was 42 years old, and Hsu Chia Yuan was 21 years old at that time. In general the younger, the more games they win. And Hsu Chia Yuan has been actively studying AI moves and using AI programs to examine his games. And the winner is decided through a best of five match. If Hane had won only one game, that could have been luck. But Hane won 3 games to get Gosei title. So this result tells you that using AI moves or AI programs may not have anything to do with getting strong or winning.
- Only a handful of Japanese pros win many games throughout a year. Many of them lose more games than wins. Many of those pros have studied AI moves. However, they still lose throughout a year. Even if they play against Hane 9dan or Hikosaka 9dan, they always lose. This means that studying AI moves has nothing to do with making you strong or win games. Studying AI moves simply means that you’re just copying AI moves.
- I avoid teaching AI joseki & opening moves and top pros’ opening & joseki moves. This is because many of those moves are exceptions. However, many kyu and dan players do not understand them. They think they can use them in other situations and use them incorrectly all the time.
- If you want to get strong, it’s far more important to learn about basics than exceptions.
WARNING: When I teach 5 kyu players, I teach 5 kyu basics. When I teach 3 kyu players, I teach 5 kyu basics. When I teach 2 dan players, I teach 2 dan basics.
If you learn basics, you can apply them to many other situations. If you learn exception moves, you can never use them in other situations.
In my teaching I focus on teaching basic moves. For example, the Chinese opening has many exception moves, so I avoid teaching that unless my students really love it.
- Learning the basic moves, basic shape, and the basic fighting pattens are helpful because when you face unknown situations, you can use those basic moves, so you can often handle it properly. If you memorize AI moves, on the other hand, and if an opponent deviates from the AI joseki, you don’t know what to do. When that happens, most people up to 3dan do not know what to do and just follow AI moves anyway, which is often a big mistake because the situation is completely different.
I’d like to explain more about why it’s crucial to learn about the basics.
For example if you want to build a tall building ( that is like a strong dan level), you want to build strong foundations, right? Without strong foundations, a building could collapse if an earthquake hits.
When it comes to ski jumping, children who are beginners learn step by step. First they have to master a 50-centimeter jump. When they learn the basics and get used to it, they try 1-meter jump. When they learn the basics and get used to it, they try a 2-meter jump, and then 4-meter jump, 8-meter, 10-meter, 20-meter, 30-meter jump, and so on down the line.
Without learning those basics and try a 100-meter jump like Olympic ski jumpers do, they would end up with broken bones or death. (When it comes to Go, even if you try AI moves or top pros’ moves, you never end up with broken bones.)
Suppose you like to play tennis and watch Roger Federer’s games, who is one of the best tennis players. Suppose you imitate his tennis, but that does not make you a better player. Federer has been practicing years and years, thousands of hours and reached that level. Without having experienced all that, imitating him will never make you a better player.
- Memorizing AI and top pros’ joseki moves are not useful.For example, when I examine my students’ games, all of them are trying to memorize all the AI joseki moves and never look at the entire Go board. Even if they successfully follow all the AI joseki moves, if a situation is inappropriate, the result is bad for you. This happens all the time. But they never look at the Go bard. It may be a good idea to choose a simple joseki and make a good result globally.
The late Takagawa Kaku 9dan in Japan, who got the Honinbo title for 9 years in a row, and got the Meijin title, played simple moves often. The Honinbo title the Meijin title were the top titles in Japan at that time. He was a master of examining the entire Go board and made a good result, which other top pros could not do as well as he did. So many top pros could not defeat him.
- If you play an AI move, you have to keep playing AI level moves in order to maximize your 1st AI move. Many people play one AI move and then play mistakes, thus making your 1st AI move a bad move.
This is the same as top pros’ moves. If you play a top pro move, you have to keep playing top pro level moves in order to maximize your 1st top pro move. Can you do that?
Let me give you a simple example. If you learn a ladder and capture a stone by ladder, your ladder move is a good move. But suppose an opponent escapes a ladder, and you follow it incorrectly and fail to capture it, then your moves become bad moves.
That’s what often happens when amateurs play AI moves.
I mean that if you play an AI move, you have to keep playing AI level moves in order to make your first AI move a good move. If you play an AI move, and after that, if you make a mistake, your AI move could become a bad move, too. But most adults never think about that.
- Pros and top amateurs try to study AI moves because in order to win, they have to learn all the new moves. And they teach those moves because that’s what they are most interested in and fascinated by. That does not mean that kyu and dan adults have to study them.
- Learning AI moves could not be helpful at all. Even top pros use AI moves, fail to maximize them, and lose a game. An AI never explains the meaning of each move. Top pros have been studying 8 hours every day and struggling to understand AI moves. No pros have ever mastered all AI moves. BTW, AI can read 1,000 moves or more in a second. Top pros can read 200 moves in a minute. Can you read 200 moves accurately in a minute? I certainly can’t read.
And AI moves and top pros’ moves will not make you a better player. You don’t know the meaning of each move, so you cannot maximize them. Nor are you able to use them in other situations.
- If top pros fully and completely understand AI moves, they should be able to defeat AI in an even game. But the fact is that they lose even if they play a two-stone handicap with an AI. This means that even top pros do not fully understand AI moves.
- Learning new AI and top pros’ joseki moves are not useful. Nor does it help you improve. It’s partly because they are exception moves as I’ve stated. If they are basic moves, you should be able to use them in other situations. But when adults who study AI moves all the time try to use them in other situations, they often end up with a bad result.
I teach basic moves because you can use them in many other situations.
Let me remind you this. When I teach 5 kyu players, I teach 5 kyu basics. When I teach 3 kyu players, I teach 5 kyu basics. When I teach 2 dan players, I teach 2 dan basics.
- Learning new AI and top pros’ joseki moves are not useful. It’s also because those moves change every several years or so.
Every several years, a new and stronger AI comes out. And a new AI presents new opening and joseki moves. This means that old AI opening and joseki moves become obsolete. Also every 5 years or so, new and stronger top pros come out. They play new joseki & opening moves. Every time that happens, old joseki & opening moves become obsolete.
When it comes to basics, that will never change. Basic moves are the same for more than 1,000 years. Learning tesuji and life-and-death problems are very good, too, because they are the same for more than 1,000 years. They will be the same for the next 1,000 years, too.
However, mastering the basics will take a long time. You need many months and possibly many years of training. Unfortunately, most adults study basics only a few weeks or a few month and stop. If you study only that short, you will never master the basics.
- In my 25 years of teaching experiences, I’ve learned the following. When adults memorize joseki variations or opening, after a month I give a test. All of them don’t remember them. Then, I realize that pure memorization does not work for adults. They have to understand good shapes, tesuji, etc. Equally important they have to use them often. Then they will remember them for a long time.
This is why I don’t recommend that adults memorize AI moves and top pros’ moves.
- In my 25 years of teaching experiences, I’ve also learned the following.When adults memorize joseki variations, and when an opponent deviates from a correct joseki, they don’t know what to do and make a mistake. However, if they learn basic shape, basic patterns, basic tesuji, etc, they have a much better chance of dealing with an unexpected move.
- Most importantly, those students of mine who try to master basics have been improving. One of my best students keeps studying my problems all the time. When he started taking my lessons, he was 3 kyu. In 6 months, he got to 1dan.
Those students who try to master AI moves have shown very little improvement for the past 5 years. They keep making the same million-dollar mistakes for many years and even today even though I keep pointing out those mistakes many times. This makes sense because they learn about AI moves all the time than the basic moves. If you cannot learn from your biggest mistakes and your worst habits, I don’t think you can improve even if you study AI moves. The more you study AI moves, the more you focus on using those moves, many of which are exception moves rather than basic moves. In my 25 years of teaching, I can confidently say that learning the basics will make you strong fast.
Some of my students told me “I lean AI moves because an opponent plays it, and I have to know how to deal with that.” Well, that’s not true. I have ways to avoid AI moves. So if you know that, you can avoid AI moves. And if you can do that, then whoever has the strong basic backgrounds is going to win rather than whoever knows AI moves better is going to win. If you take “Special Lesson B“, I’ll send you all the AI prevention moves. Please check Special Lesson B.
There is a game, shogi, the Japanese chess. Shogi is as famous as Go in Japan, and there is a pro system just like Go. Some Japanese pros play shogi because they can learn from shogi about the strategy. Many Go players hang around shogi pros because Go and shogi have strategies helpful to Go players.
The best shogi pro is Sota Fujii, who has gained 8 top titles on October 11th, 2023 at the age of 21 years old. ( Iyama Yuta, the best Go player in Japan, gained 7 top titles, but not 8.) Sota Fujii is the first person who has gained 8 titles altogether. He is the youngest person to gain 7 titles at the age of 20 years old. He became a pro at the age of 14 years old, the youngest pro. Right after he became a pro, he won 29 games in a row, which no pros have ever achieved. He has achieved many other new records. Now many Japanese people respect him almost as well as Shoei Otani, a Japanese Major League baseball player in the U.S.
He is famous for using an AI software when he studies. Interestingly, he never used an AI software one year before he became a pro. This means that you could be a pro level without using an AI software.
It’s not necessary to learn the latest joseki or the latest opening (fuseki).
I often recommend that you have your own favorite opening.
How long humans can concentrate? What about Fujisawa 9dan? Key to learn Go quickly!
As is known, concentration is a key to learning quickly as well as to playing a good game.
By the way, generally speaking, how long how long is it possible for humans to concentrate at maximum?
The answer is probably 3 hours.
As an insei, I learned this number from a book written by Serizawa Hirobumi (芹澤博文) 9 dan Shogi pro (Shogi (将棋) is Japnaese chess) and also a 5 dan amateur Go player.
Serizawa and Fujisawa Hideyuki (藤沢秀行, Shuko is also known as his name) both loved drinking, and they drank together often; they were like brothers. (I have an intriguing story of them at the end.)
Serizawa Hirobumi wrote in his book that once he thought of a move for a long time and played it. When he saw the time, he spent 3 hours for that move. Then he felt that natured called him; he went to pee, and pee and blood came out. He concluded that a human being could continue concentration 3 hours at maximum.
(I also read the same kind of story somewhere; someone concentrated for 3 hours and peed with blood. But I don’t remember which story that was… Sorry! But I do rememberthe number “3 hours”. )
Later I learned that Fujisawa Hideyuki Kisei (棋聖) also thought of one move for 2 hours and 57 minutes and played an unbelievable killing move against Kato Masao (加藤正夫) 9 dan in the 5th game of the 2nd Kisei best-of-seven title match.
Kato challenged Fujisawa’s Kisei title and won three games and lost one game. All he needed was win just one more game to get the Kisei title.
But Fujisawa’s tenacity to kill the group in the 5th game overcame Kato. After this game, Fujisawa was completely and utterly exhausted and couldn’t move for a while.
But because of this winning, Fujisawa revived!
He won the 6th and 7th game and defended his Kisei title. (This 5th game is shown in my website: http://www.kazsensei.com/ ).
So this means that you can improve your concentration up to 3 hours. (I haven’t. 🙁
Whoever concentrates his/her study can learn quickly. And whoever concentrates a game better than the opponent is likely to win.
Pros often say in a Go magazine that“I lost my concentration momentarily and made a mistake, which turned out to be the losing move.”
So concentration IS important in order to win.
Pros are usually an expert at concentration.
They have built the ability to concentrate for a long time. But this ability didn’t come overnight. Years of training as a childhood has made them build such an incredible concentration.
Amateurs can improve Go as well as concentration if they don’t have one, yet. They just need some training.
The problem is that unlike children, many adults don’t have much time to study Go; they have to work and take care of the family, etc.
So even if you have only 15-minute study time every day, I think it’s a good idea to create an environment in which you could completely absorb yourself in Go.
Using a timer is one way to improve your concentration when you solve Go problems. You may think that “studying only 15 minutes” doesn’t help me much.
But in fact concentrating 15 minutes is not an easy thing, I think. Being able to concentrate for 15 minutes anytime anywhere is not easy, either. I mean can you concentrate your study or work in an ear-splitting construction site?
But if you could do that, you could learn Go anywhere anytime. So you could become stronger faster than other people.
If you have trouble concentrating even for 15 minutes, that’s a good start. When you get used to it, then you can increase the time little by little.
If you really want to become a strong Go player, you should use your time efficiently as well.
For example many people watch games on the internet and on TV Go program in Japan. It’s fun, a lot of fun. But are they really concentrating? Are they thinking about next moves and reading moves as much as you play a serious game? If the answer is “no”, then
you may have to find a better way to study Go.
I also sometimes think that watching a strong player’s game on the internet may not be the best use of time.
Let me give you an example.
Suppose you’re a 10 kyu player. Does watching a game between 5 dan amateur players help you learn? I’m not sure if that’s helpful.
1. How do you know that those strong players have solid basic foundations? If they are full of common amateur mistakes, then the chances are that you’re learning common amateur mistakes.
2. Suppose those two 5 dan amateur players have built solid basic foundations. In that case you can learn something.
But what if they started playing an “avalanche” joseki?Is it going to be very useful for 10 kyu players? Isn’t it better for them to learn at their own level? It’s very likely that they are learning something way advanced, which may take you 3 or 4 years or possibly longer to understand.
If you’re a 10 kyu player, you can’t tell how easy or difficult a game is. Is it better to solve life-and-death problems at 10 kyu level than watch a an “avalanche” joseki? It’s up to you to decide.
By the say, I have already written on my blog that it is important to “Find a book or problems at your own level” ( http://kazsensei.seesaa.net/article/251502535.html).
I must say that my advice is often for adults, especially those in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, since a more than half of my Go students are at those ages.
If you’re a child or a teenager, then you could become 5 dan from 10 kyu in a few years if you study hard; in that case learning an “avalanche” joseki may by okay.
But for adults I think it’s wise to know that you could avoid an “avalanche” joseki and can still become a strong player. To become a strong Go player, you need to build basics foundations, not an “avalanche” joseki.
Pros have developed an incredible concentration when they were teenagers.
This is one of the biggest reasons that many pros often learn other subjects, different from Go, very quickly and become good at it.
For example cosmic style Takemiya Masaki (武宮正樹) 9dan is known as an expert in golf, backgammon, mah-jong, and singing. He even made a record debut once as a singer. He also won a backgammon title once.
By the way, here is an intriguing story about Serizawa Hirobumi (芹澤博文) 9 dan Shogi pro and Fujisawa Hideyuki (藤沢秀行, Shuko 9 dan.
Suppose a god of Go knows Go 100. How much do you know of Go?
Fujisawa and Serizawa once drank and talked about it. They decided to write down on a piece of paper and handed it in. Fujisawa’s answer was 6, and Srizawa’s was 7. Fujisawa liked his answer, and Serizawa was embarrassed by his answer because his number was higher than Fujisawa.
(Serizawa, by the way, was a talented, and one of the top Shogi player, but never got a major title.)
Reviewing is also important in order to be a better Go player
Reviewing your game is also important.
I’m aware that many people have a hard time remembering a game, and that’s fine. It takes a lot of time and training to remember your game.
In order to record your game I highly recommend playing on the internet because a game is automatically recorded.
It’s also a good idea to review your game right after you play. If you review it, you may not remember why you played your mistakes.
(By the way, many, many amateur players have told me that they don’t remember their thoughts after they played a game. So for those people I always give comments during a game. )
Pros review their game 4, 6 or 8 hours if they have time. Top pros review their games days and weeks until they are satisfied.
Amateurs, of course, don’t have to review one game for many hours. And if you review the most important part just for 15 minutes, that will be wonderful.
Ideally you ask a pro or a Go teacher to give commentary on your game. It’s because unless you’re a 5 dan or stronger, you may not find your own mistakes and proper moves easily.
If you have never asked a pro or a Go teacher to review your game, I highly recommend it. You would be surprised by how much you can learn.
I’ve been teaching Go for many, many years. Usually I teach the same people for a long time… 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, and longer.
Based on my experience some people learn more from your games than from playing with a pro or a Go teacher. The reason is that some amateur players play with peers completely differently from playing a pro or a Go teacher.
It’s like “Jekyll and Hyde”.
They change their Go personality drastically.
I’ve taught people like that. One day I realized that I should teach them differently.
By the way, I should mention that you don’t have to review all your games. Even if you get a game commentary from a pro or a Go teacher once a month, and if you go over it for a while, that will help improve your Go.
How much you can improve depends on how much you review.
If you get 100 game commentaries and don’t have time to review any of the games, then it’s better to get one game commentary and review it many times.
The important thing is to review continuously.
It takes time to learn.
One of my Go students got my lessons and keeps reviewing it at least once or twice a year, depending on how busy he is at work. But every time I meet him, he has been improving.
In order to become a better Go player, reviewing a game is essential. Otherwise, you keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
But I think it’s the same as chess and other mind sports, and physical sports such as baseball, soccer, Olympic sports, too. And I bet reviewing is necessary for business and investment. I don’t think any company lets workers keep making the same mistakes and lose money over and over again.
When it comes to Go, even if you don’t review your games, you never lose money. But if your goal is to become a better Go player, then you should find the more efficient way of improving, and one important study is reviewing.
If you study very hard, then you can become stronger, but without a reviewing process, your improvement would be slower, not efficient.
If you don’t study Go and don’t review, but only play many games, then you may very well keep making the same mistakes, which are going to be ingrained in you. The longer you keep making the same mistakes, the more they become a habit. When the same mistakes become second
nature, it’s going to be very hard to get rid of them.
After that, even if you try to learn basics, it’s not at all easy because your mistakes prevent you from learning basics.
I can tell you this because of my teaching experience.
In Japan I have taught so many amateur players who never studied basics for 10, 20, or 30 years.
One day they started taking my lessons, but I have always had a hard time making them stronger because getting rid of their common amateur mistakes takes 2, 3 or 4 years. At the same time they also learn basics.
But it’s much faster to learn basics from the very beginning.
Sadly they eventually give up learning basics.
For amateurs I think it’s important to get basics as soon as possible before you land in common amateur mistake syndrome.
It takes adults much longer time than children. So adults have to study basics much longer time than children if they want to become stronger.
Reviewing is one important way to prevent you from making the same common mistakes.
The following is an unusual pro case; just FYI.
When Yamashiro Hiroshi(山城宏）challenged Kobayashi Koichi (小林 光一) Kisei (棋聖)
of the 16th Kisei best-of-seven title match, the score was 3-3.
They played the last game to determine the winner.
In the final game Yamashiro was winning by half a point in the endgame. Interestingly during the game both Yamashiro and Kobayashi thought that the Kisei title was going to move to Yamashiro about the same time.
But at the very end, Kobayashi found a move to gain one point and turned around the game. As a result, Yamashiro not only lost the title, he also lost the glory and about $600,000.
After his loss, he kept studying the game for almost 3 month in Nihon Kiin.
(Like I said, this is just FYI.)
I’m not encouraging any amateur players to do this.
The importance of life-and-death and tesuji problems
Life-and-death problems are the one of the
most important if you want to become a strong go player. Even if you study the opening, the middle game, and the endgame, if you
make one mistake in a life-or-death situation, you would lose a game.
Also most Go players I taught always lack the ability to solve life-and-death problems.
For example when I taught adult kyu players, they often had a hard time recognizing a false eye. So they didn’t realize that their big
group was dead until the end.
In fact this happened to me and others when they and I were dan players… Oops! In other words, recognizing a false eye may not be as easy as you think. I think it’s partly because in a real game many stones are so mixed up that things don’t look as easy as life-and-death problems.
(That is why I’ve been making many false eye problems in my website: http://www.kazsensei.com/ )
If you don’t know what to study, I would recommend life-and-death and tesuji rather than any other study.
This is because
1. life-and-death can often determines the winner,
2. studying life-and-death and tesuji will definitely help you become strong whereas reading Go books on some abstract concepts such as moyo may take a long time to understand,
3. when you learn tesuji, your fighting skill improves significantly. In fight if you make a mistake, you may lose many stones.
So whoever knows more tesuji is more likely to win a fight, thus more likely to win a game. Additionally if you learn tesuji, your shape becomes beautiful and strong. Tesuji can also appear in the endgame as well.
So learning tesuji helps you throughout a game.
(That is why I’ve been making a lot of life-and-death problems, tesuji problems, and shape problems in my website: http://www.kazsensei.com/ )
Ideally, of course, you study everything if you have time, but still you should focus on life-and-death problems.
Pros who are good at life-and-death problems often become a top. This also proves how important life-and-death is.
Cho U 9 dan (張栩先生) has been making records of the fastest winning ratios, getting more titles, etc. He is famous for being good at solving life-and-death problems as well as making great life-and-death problems.
Sha Imin 6 dab (謝依旻先生) has been getting more women’s titles in Japan than any other women. Her most favorite study
is life-and-death problems.
By the way, solving them once or is not good enough.
I always recommend that amateur Go players solve many easy problems over and over again.
I emphasize “over and over again” more than “many problems.” Reviewing problems once or twice is not good enough. 10 times, 20 times. The more, the better…
You don’t have to repeat every day. You could repeat it over a year or some years.
If you like more advice, please take a look at my blog: http://kazsensei.seesaa.net/