If you'd like to take up go from the beginning, I am always eager to promote the game, and would like to help you out a little bit here with some suggestions from my personal experience.

Starting from scratch

There are two easy ways to learn the rules. One is to download The Way to Go and follow its step-by-step course. Another way is to use Janice Kim's series Learn to Play Go. Both of these will work you through the rules and basic ideas a little bit at a time; you can go at your own pace and there isn't too much information to absorb at one time. Although the possibilities of go are great, the rules are pretty simple and elegant.

At this stage, you will want to play some games on a 9x9 board. It is best just to play a lot of games fairly quickly and get some experience, some feeling for the flow of play, and some instinct for dealing with typical situations. It is ideal, of course, to make another friend and go sparring partner, but if you have trouble finding a carbon-based opponent, nowadays you can find a silicon one: simply download SmartGo for iphone, or GnuGo, or igowin, and you'll have a pretty reasonable opponent. I actually started this way, playing igowin! I didn't try playing people until I was able to beat the computer on a 9x9 board. (True, that is only going to get harder in time.)

You will find that doing some exercises will be useful too. I highly recommend Kano Yoshinori's series Graded Go Problems for Beginners, and Volume One will be perfect for you at this stage. Go over it more than once to be sure you understand all the problems.

Moving on to bigger boards (30k-20k)

A good intermediate step is to play on a 13x13 board and feel the greater expanse of room on the board, and the slower pace of the game. At this point you could well be working on volume two of the Graded Go Problems. You can get some more theory from the later volumes of Janice Kim books. But mostly you should be searching out more different opponents and playing more games. This might be a good time to sign up for one of the Internet Go Servers: IGS (Internet Go Server) and KGS (Kiseido Go Server).

The time-honored method to improve is to play games, and have them reviewed. Try to join a local club, and join the American Go Association; play in a tournament. If you don't have access to a teacher or a strong player near you, there's a great resource called the Go Teaching Ladder. On there, you can submit your online game for review by a stronger player, for free, and remarkably enough, there are plenty of people out there kind enough to do this for you! You might also find it interesting to download and play over reviews of games by other people of your level; you should see many mistakes pointed out that you are making too.

From 20k working towards single-digit kyu:

This is a tricky time in one's development, because one needs some theory at this stage, but the literature is unfortunately sparse in material for people of your level. The beginning books are too basic for you, but most of the supposedly “Elementary” books may be a little hard to grasp with your limited experience, especially since most of them start to use some very technical vocabulary.

From the Elementary Go Series, there are two books that are really important: Tesuji and Life and Death. If you are serious about improving, you should really spend some time with these two; reread them a few times and try not just to learn the material but really master it. This is the real foundation of go strength. There are many collections of problems readily available, for example on SmartGo and at

From the standpoint of middlegame strategy (the essence of the game) I would highly recommend Michael Redmond's ABC's of Attack and Defense. This book really opened my eyes to what go is all about, and it's written in very simple language but has many interesting examples and sharp tactics in it. I'd recommend getting to know this material very well.

Finally, if you'd like to have a better idea about the opening, you can get that from either “In The Beginning” from the Elementary Go Series, or from Opening Theory Made Easy. Joseki books are going to be a little tough to follow at this stage, and the English literature is a little weak on the subject. The easiest way to start is probably “38 Basic Joseki”, from the Elementary Go Series, but this book is incomplete and out of date. You could also use the handy downloadable Kogo's Joseki Dictionary.

A further great source for troves of go instructional material at any level can be found at the Internet Go School.

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