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 Post subject: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #1 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 1:56 pm 
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So I've continually revised, revised and revised my approach to teaching newcomers to play Go; the aim always being to make it as simple and intuitive as possible (possibly not the right word, I just mean where the student doesn't have to work on grasping new concepts, it just kinda' makes sense). The following is my where I am currently in my approach to teaching Go:

I start off by saying “this is Go. The name comes from the Japanese word Igo which means “The Surrounding Board Game” so the basic idea of the game is that you’re using your stones to try and surround your opponent’s before he can surround yours.”
I always start on a 5x5 and I begin by placing a black stone in the middle of the board as depicted bellow. I explain that the format of the game is for players to alternate turns back and forth laying one stone at a time on any of the intersections of the board with black always moving first (when people ask me why black goes first, I say "because yin comes before yang" ;)). I don't even mention yet that there are occasional times when an intersection becomes an illegal move.
I then explain that the four adjacent intersections to the stone (as marked below, but I don't even call them liberties yet) give the stone its breathing room. Therefore at least one of them must at all times be either vacant or be filled with a friendly stone so that the stones can connect.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$
$$ ----------
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ | . . S . . |
$$ | . S X S . |
$$ | . . S . . |
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ ----------[/go]


I then demonstrate following board position and explain how even though the original stone has all of its adjacent points filled, one of them is a friendly stone and therefore the stone is not in jeopardy of losing its breathing room.


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$
$$ ----------
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ | . . O . . |
$$ | . O X X . |
$$ | . . O X . |
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ ----------[/go]


I then show the following board position and explain how when this situation occurs, the surrounded stone suffocates and is removed from the board and placed back in its user's bowl. I also lay out the second board position an explain how all the black stones are removed together at once and remind the student that the white stones all enjoy vacant intersections adjacent to them.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$
$$ ----------
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ | . . O . . |
$$ | . O X O . |
$$ | . . O . . |
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ ----------[/go]


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$
$$ ----------
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ | . . O O . |
$$ | . O X X O |
$$ | . . O X O |
$$ | . . . O . |
$$ ----------[/go]


I then explain that the object of the game is to remove all of your opponent’s stones from the board leaving the entire board one color which determines the winner.
(That’s right. Go is a game of total domination, IMHO.)


We then continue to play 5x5 with the student always taking black and we play until he begins to beat me consistently. At this point we move to the 9x9 however now, (realizing that my student will never beat me) I’m looking for that point during a game when the student “oh, you’re gonna’ win” to which I ask “how do you know that?” and the student’s response is usually something along the lines of “because you have more!”
At this point, we play another game where I play in such a way as to keep the score as close as possible and when the standard ending arrives where there are no productive moves left, I pause the game and say “now, let me teach you a little trick. You see, no game of Go ever has to be played to completion because the winner can be determined long before the game ends.” At which point, I explain area scoring to them.


After demonstrating the ability to recognize the more common ending to the game (as experienced players would have it), I then go on to say “There’s also another scoring method which can be used to determine the winner ahead of time that’s considered by many to be easier and faster. Regardless of whether it is or isn’t (I personally use area when playing over the board and territory on the internet), it’s far more common and is the method you will likely encounter most often if you choose to take up Go as a hobby.”
At this point, I instruct the student to keep count of the stones he removes from the board and to count territory alone. I also explain the player’s ability to pass and therefore pause the game. Most students at some time around this point begin to recognize that the game isn’t all about violently trying to capture stones and begin to appreciate the strategy of controlling territories.


I don’t mention komi until the student begins on a 19x19 and I don’t explain the Ko rule until it becomes relevant in a game. What I actually do is allow me and the student to capture back and forth until he says “this will go on forever!” at which time I explain how we solve such dilemmas. Also, the capturing rule (where your opponent stones get removed before your own after a move meaning you can deprive yourself of your last liberty as long as your capturing a nearby stone), I let the student learn the hard way. I take his stone and when and if he says “WTF mate?” then I explain myself but I find that most people kinda’ guess this rule and don’t have trouble with it.

I do not move a student to a student 19x19 until, being hungry for more, they ask to play on one and sadly this may never happen but Go isn’t for everyone. If the student does make the leap to the full board, I first take a moment to explain some basic etiquette such as starting in the top right, not rattling stones and not playing on in hopeless positions or trying to provoke drastic blunders.
Once a student hits the 19x19 arena, I explain the basic strategy of taking the corners first and why: because two stones in the corner control one point of territory where as it takes three on the sides and four in the center thus demonstrating the effectiveness of using the edge of the board. I show them the basic opening corner moves and tell them that they don’t want to start off too close to the edge of the board (though they must gain experience to understand why). Lastly, if the student is progressing well and continuing to enjoy themselves and starving for more, I explain the basic elements of life and death.

So there it is. What do you guys think? Any suggestions? I find this approach to be the most effective way to help newcomers experience the glory of Go without getting bogged down with concepts to try and remember. It seems to really demonstrate the simplicity of the game right from the start (though there’s usually a moment during the education when the student says “this is getting pretty complex”)

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #2 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:07 pm 
Judan

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Joelnelsonb wrote:
I then explain that the object of the game is to remove all of your opponent’s stones from the board leaving the entire board one color which determines the winner.
(That’s right. Go is a game of total domination, IMHO.)


That sounds like No Pass Go. See http://senseis.xmp.net/?NoPassGo

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #3 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:09 pm 
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Bill Spight wrote:

That sounds like No Pass Go. See http://senseis.xmp.net/?NoPassGo


At this point, it basically is. However a new comer isn't thinking about such questions and therefore I am not raising them.

If you want to include passing in the rule set then you simply say that the winner is the one to capture the most stones.

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #4 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:15 pm 
Judan

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Joelnelsonb wrote:
Bill Spight wrote:

That sounds like No Pass Go. See http://senseis.xmp.net/?NoPassGo


At this point, it basically is. However a new comer isn't thinking about such questions and therefore I am not raising them.

If you want to include passing in the rule set then you simply say that the winner is the one to capture the most stones.


No, but it is a different game. You could tell them that you are starting them on a simpler game that is like go. Like starting beginners on the capture game, or starting bridge players on Oh Hell. :)

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #5 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:28 pm 
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On the contrary, the technical differences found between my method and the popular understanding of the rules would never be considered until that player had been been playing for some time and gained much more experience. At which point, I think they would easily understand that the route I took was one based on simplicity and not technical correctness. Especially since I leave the student playing the game the exact same way as anyone else would. Notice that I say nothing of group tax. Neither will they.

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #6 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:36 pm 
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Joelnelsonb wrote:
On the contrary, the technical differences found between my method and the popular understanding of the rules would never be considered until that player had been been playing for some time and gained much more experience. At which point, I think they would easily understand that the route I took was one based on simplicity and not technical correctness. Especially since I leave the student playing the game the exact same way as anyone else would. Notice that I say nothing of group tax. Neither will they.


Maybe that will work if the students are cloistered until they are playing regular go. But if they try to play against other people before then, who knows what will happen.

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #7 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:47 pm 
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Bill Spight wrote:

Maybe that will work if the students are cloistered until they are playing regular go. But if they try to play against other people before then, who knows what will happen.



By the end of my teaching session, after learning to employ the territory scoring method, they are playing regular Go. There just thinking about it the less popular but (wait for it) correct way :o I jest of course.

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #8 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 4:00 pm 
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The whole point of what I'm doing here Bill is to avoid throwing the concept of territory at a student during their earliest exposure to the game. And doing this in such a way as to get to avoid saying "this is a game kinda' like Go" such as is done with Atari-Go.

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #9 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:36 pm 
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Joelnelsonb wrote:
The whole point of what I'm doing here Bill is to avoid throwing the concept of territory at a student during their earliest exposure to the game. And doing this in such a way as to get to avoid saying "this is a game kinda' like Go" such as is done with Atari-Go.


Why not adopt the French method where the object is to get as many of one's own stones on the board as possible? That is, at least, a traditional form of go. You may be able to engineer No Pass Go so that the result is the same as regular go, but that is quite a trick on larger boards than the 5x5, I think.

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #10 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:45 pm 
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See http://senseis.xmp.net/?DieterVerhofsta ... xperiences
and the distilled http://senseis.xmp.net/?DieterVerhofsta ... troduction

I recognize a few things.

The major difference is that I start from the fundamental objective: place more stones on the board than the opponent, by removing some of theirs and safeguarding your own against removal.

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 Post subject: Re: My Approach to Teaching Go
Post #11 Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:55 pm 
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Your overall method is really good, and works really well in my experience, as I've used something very similar to it and been very happy with it. I also agree with others on one minor change - the goal is to get more stones on the board than your opponent (and you are allowed to pass). Using that version of the goal of the game, I've had almost exactly the same experiences teaching as you with all the same advantages of simplicity and the beginner intuitively discovering for themselves what "territory" is and quickly recognizing regions they control or don't control and so on.

Using "more stones" this as the goal does basically no harm to the advantages you pointed out, and adds a few more advantages:

* It's a little easier for beginners to play each other without further supervision - "more stones" is actually perfectly serviceable as the scoring rule with no further changes or modifications - the only way it differs from "real go" is a "group tax" of 2 points because you can't fill in the last two eyes. In fact, with "more stones" as the goal, two smart beginners playing each other will usually invent area scoring (presumably with group tax in the rare case that the outcome of the game they play would depend on it, I haven't ever seen this) entirely on their own shortly after moving up to 9x9 within the first few games on that size because taking turns filling space is boring.

* Given the people I tend to be in contact with, I often tend to find myself teaching people who are mathematically-minded and some of whom *would* actually notice the difference between no-pass Go and real Go, or at least would attempt to question that the scoring method is correct at predicting the winner in the attempt to understand it. (e.g. for area scoring - "wait, one of us is going fill and run out of spaces first, so why shouldn't it only depend on how many empty spaces we have rather than also how many stones we have?" - and for counting only territory - "wait, what happens if I play stones in your space? Then I don't have to use up my spaces."). It's a lot simpler to just use the correct goal of the game in the first place, and costs nothing in simplicity given that everyone also understands "have more stones at the end" pretty much instantly as an objective.

Then, at any point after the first few small-board games, if you're still supervising or teaching, it's pretty trivial to explain normal area scoring and do away with the group tax - whether they've discovered it themselves or not, they'll have discovered enough "territoryish" intuition on their own by then anyways to understand.

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