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 Post subject: Re: Factor of age on learning
Post #21 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:16 pm 
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kirkmc wrote:
Have you ever been a teacher of adults? I have. As I said above, I've studied this stuff regarding second language acquisition. There's no doubt that learning is much more difficult as one ages.


Depends what you learn, no?

Languages seem to be easier when you're young.
How about Math, though? Quantum Physics? Brain Surgery?
Certain things require not only some initial body of knowledge, but also mental discipline, which seem to suggest a level of maturity. Also things like devotion, motivation, patience, perserverance, and other resources (money?) which are not always available to children.

So I say - generally you are right, learning gets harder... but there are other factors which can balance this out and still give an older person an edge.
I think Go has a lot of such factors in the West. In the East things might look different, I dunno...

My advice to everybody worrying about being to old to learn is: Nonsense!
Just learn what you can, and the pace which is comfy for you, and you'll get there soon enough... ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Factor of age on learning
Post #22 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:46 pm 
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entropi wrote:
Just compare the language learning ability of young children with adults. Why should Go be any different? The way of thinking is of course not the same but instead of learning words and phrases, you learn shapes, patterns and sequences.

Yes, exactly! There are clear developmental advantages with children and their capacity to pick up languages like a sponge. This should be a clue about what's going on when we learn. The worn-out cliché that the brain is a muscle is really not that far off. The more actively you use the old grey matter the more quickly and efficiently you learn. Yes, there are physiological factors that Joaz points out very well, but they're not terminal. The problem is that most people stop using their brains in the ways they did when they were "students," which is typically what most cultures reserve for childhood.

The answer; don't let yourself be socialized into adulthood. Think like a kid and don't let anyone make you feel guilty for doing so.

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 Post subject: Re: Factor of age on learning
Post #23 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:03 pm 
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cuttingblue wrote:
Would you say it is possible to become a high-dan amateur if you are just starting to learn the game at age 28?


Why rely on anecdotes? Try for yourself and find out first hand ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: Factor of age on learning
Post #24 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:34 pm 
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kirkmc wrote:
Joaz Banbeck wrote:
The older ( post 35 yrs ) brain does not so much get worse as it gets different. The number of brain cells that you have maxes out sometime in your teens or early twenties at about 10^11, and weight maxes out at about 1400 grams.

We lose about a gram of brain weight every year thereafter. The is sometimes incorrectly translated to the alarming conclusion that we lose a million brain cells a day. We don't. Some of the loss is brain cells, some is glia ( the support cells ), and some is myelin ( the sheathing ).

The trade-off is that the connections get denser. You will have fewer cells, but more connections between them. You will suffer some decline in the ability for high speed linear calculations - like reading in go - but gain the ability to handle more subtle and complex ideas - like getting along with women.

You can learn go at any age. You will just learn it differently.


Actually, this is not the case. I heard an interview the other day with a science writer who wrote a book about the "middle-aged brain". She said this received opinion has been shown to be wrong.



Details, please. Don't just say that one or more facts are incorrect, tell us what is correct. ( I'm not trying to challenge you. If my info is out of date or innacurate, I want to know about it. )

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Post #25 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:13 pm 
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kirkmc wrote:
There's no doubt that learning is much more difficult as one ages.


I don't think that this is necessarily true. Learning, IMO, should be a lifetime pursuit, and thus become easier the older one gets since you have more knowledge and experience to draw upon. Learning is a skill that someone can develop even at an old age. I personally believe that the most inhibiting factors are time, memory, and patience/motivation. Maybe just time and patience/motivation, since there are ways to improve memory.

Bantari wrote:
With age, learning gets harder. :!:
However - this is not really such a decisive factor. You can still run fast, its just slightly more uphill. ;)

My 2c is that it gets harder, but by no means impossible. The argument about pros is slightly off since pros usually reach the peak of their intellectual capabilities, when age lowers these capabilities, as it surely does, so the strength of a pro decreases. With amateurs, especially weak amateurs (up to low-high dan, I'd say, 5d and below) - this should not be that much of a factor since our limitation is not really our mental abilities.

Point #1:
I would say that unless you really aim at the very top level and wish to realistically devote your life to the game, the biggest obstacle is simply the time. As you get older, you find yourself to devote more and more of your time to other things: family, career, further education, putting food on the table, etc. The change is especially visible with young adults - when they finish college, when they get married, when they have the first kid, etc. This is why you have so many strong young players who seem to stagnate when they get older.

Point #2:
Another obstacle is simply motivation. You need to study more and more to get stronger and stronger. At some level you need to study more and more to simply stay where you are. :!: Taking into account that most of us don't enjoy studying hard (no matter how 'cool' we think the game is) and that motivation is derived by playing, at some point you reach a saturation point - the sweet spot of balance between how much you are willing to study vs. how much you like to play... And this usually determines the rank you finally settle on. It is different from person to person... and even from age to age.

Given the limited time stipulated by Point #1, I see Point #2 to be the decisive factor on how strong you can get, not really your age per se (although age has some influence.)


I agree with 99.9% of what you said. The only things that I disagree with are bolded and have an exclamation immediately after them. Regarding learning, see above. About the second point though, my study time for chess is practically zero. With that being said, I've stayed within a range of ELO points on FICS ever since I've signed up back in 2006. I haven't improved much. I think studying is only linked to improving, based on what I've experienced.

topazg wrote:
I cannot believe someone starting at 28 can't make it to virtually professional strengths given a) enough natural talent, b) enough time, and c) enough motivation.


I agree with this. I think that motivation will go a long way in determining your final go rank.

JoazBanbeck wrote:
The older ( post 35 yrs ) brain does not so much get worse as it gets different. The number of brain cells that you have maxes out sometime in your teens or early twenties at about 10^11, and weight maxes out at about 1400 grams.

We lose about a gram of brain weight every year thereafter. The is sometimes incorrectly translated to the alarming conclusion that we lose a million brain cells a day. We don't. Some of the loss is brain cells, some is glia ( the support cells ), and some is myelin ( the sheathing ).

The trade-off is that the connections get denser. You will have fewer cells, but more connections between them. You will suffer some decline in the ability for high speed linear calculations - like reading in go - but gain the ability to handle more subtle and complex ideas - like getting along with women.

You can learn go at any age. You will just learn it differently.


All very interesting. However, I would like to add one thing. The Human Brain will make all the connections it will ever make by the ripe old age of 23. Given that information, I started this game a little late at 21-22 ish.

I also want to take issue with the statement, "You will suffer some decline in the ability for high speed linear calculations". IMO, this is one of those half-truths that can be dangerous, especially if you grab the wrong half. Let me explain, in chess the young players tend to do better at tactics which are high-speed (almost) linear calculations. In the book How to Become a Deadly Chess Tactician, the author, David LeMoir writes, "I too am a player who delights in tactical play. Particularly in my earlier days, I played daring attacking chess with little concern for the material situation on the board. As I got older (I've now passed the half-century), I started to believe that my tactical flair was receding faster than my hairline. Oddly, I think that I was wrong."

He then explains his reasoning. He spent a lot of time over the summer of 2001 collecting sacrificial games, and studying them. In his chess season when the summer ended, five games out of the first nine were sacrificial efforts. He then shows the readers three of the games, and after that he concludes that the sacrificial desire just needed to be reawakened and that he still had what it took.

I, in fact, would argue that older players learning the game will experience a similar phenomenon.

Quote:
"Just compare the language learning ability of young children with adults. Why should Go be any different? The way of thinking is of course not the same but instead of learning words and phrases, you learn shapes, patterns and sequences. The aging effect could be even worse."

--entropi

"It makes sense, biologically, for children to learn quicker than adults. They're blank slates and need knowledge to survive as quickly as possible. From a certain age, when the basic patterns are there, the brain can switch focus to fine-tuning, rather than raw learning."

--HermanHiddema


It goes without saying that I think this is wrong, and I believe it all comes down to motivation. I think that adults just don't have the same fiery passion that they once did and that their children do. I know, at least from my experience, my drive for learning as I've gotten older has waned. In high school, I was more motivated so I learned at a faster pace than I do today four years later. The things that I'm motivated to learn, I still snatch up like you wouldn't believe though.

Quote:

Please do not worry about whatever ceiling a twenty something start implies - just strive and enjoy the journey.


I think that everyone regardless of rank, as hard as it might be (for me it's nearly impossible), should try to achieve this level of commitment for just about anything one can accomplish.

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 Post subject: Re: Factor of age on learning
Post #26 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:47 pm 
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Suji wrote:
About the second point though, my study time for chess is practically zero. With that being said, I've stayed within a range of ELO points on FICS ever since I've signed up back in 2006. I haven't improved much. I think studying is only linked to improving, based on what I've experienced.


I don't know your circumstances, but I know from personal experience that once you reach a certain level you need to study to stay there. Sometimes you study and your skill still deteriorates. Examples abound...

Check aging chess grandmasters, since this is the area you are into. Most of them reach their peak and then their play deteriorates. I assume that they still study a lot and fight hard to stay at that peak. Same goes for Go pros. There are exceptions, but not many.

But ok, I myself said pros are not a good example for that.
So take regular players. I think most people would probably agree that if you stop playing and stop studying for a while, your strength will go down and you will need to overcome this by 'getting back into the game' which implies playing and studying.

I know this from personal experience. And it did depend on my level.
* When I took long breaks from the game when I was 10k or so, there was very little negative effect. I guess because there was little to forget.
* when I was around 3k, I needed to work at it for a while to get back to 3k after a break.
* when i was 5d, I did not have time to study enough to stay at that level, and dropped to 4d. Now I don't study at all and the occasional game I do play shows me that there is a negative effect.

The above is part of the basis of what I say. One might say that part of the issue was lack of play instead of lack of study, but what is playing other than just another way of studying?

Maybe you are an exception, or maybe your chess style relies more on intuition and attitude than on solid knowledge. I have no way of knowing. But I would be interested how many strong dans think they can afford to take a few years off of Go and not suffer any negative effects. How many SDK players?

Maybe I am wrong... but this is what I think.

It also touches of the first point you disagree with.

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 Post subject: Re: Factor of age on learning
Post #27 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:05 pm 
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Suji wrote:
...The Human Brain will make all the connections it will ever make by the ripe old age of 23...


Huh? I think you mean cells. The ability to make new connections between cells lasts most of one's life.

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Post #28 Posted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:56 pm 
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...And recently it's been discovered that the brain continues making cells, too, in small numbers.

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Post #29 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 1:15 am 
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Joaz Banbeck wrote:
Suji wrote:
...The Human Brain will make all the connections it will ever make by the ripe old age of 23...


Huh? I think you mean cells. The ability to make new connections between cells lasts most of one's life.


Sorry, both wrong. Both of those are two of the commonplaces about the brain that were common until the past decades. Scientists have found that not only does the brain make new cells all the time, but also makes new connection. This "brain plasticity" was once thought to not exist, but has been found to be a constant process.

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Post #30 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:41 am 
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It's amazing how unpopular this concept is, that as an adult you might not be able to learn as quickly as children do. As far as I can see, the only reason people hold the belief that there is no difference in learning ability is because they don't want there to be. They don't want, in any way, to be unable to do something. So they tell themselves things like "It's not that I can't learn as quickly, I just don't have the amount of time that kids do, what with my job and all!", "It's not that I can't learn as quickly, it's just that I don't have the motivation!", "It's not that I can't learn as quickly, I just don't have the energy right now!", "If I really put my mind to it, and moved to China maybe, I could be pro!"

But all the evidence clearly suggests that children simply learn faster...

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Post #31 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 4:26 am 
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HermanHiddema wrote:
But all the evidence clearly suggests that children simply learn faster...


You raise a valid point, though something that is overlooked often is the fact the children are in a situation where their learning is encouraged and, in fact, is pretty much all they do. They have to go to school, they have to study, they have to learn a trade, etc. Being young is all about learning. They have the environment, the social support, the financial freedom, access to the institutions, friends who also learn and study and, above all, time.

How many adults are in a situation where they don't have to succumb to routine? Jobs become monotonous after a few years, it's required to spend eight or more hours a day (and most of one's daily energy) to dedicate to earning money doing the same thing over and over for rent, food, etc.), then time for shopping, cleaning, "social duties" with family, etc. You may end up with 2-3 hours of study time a day, if that, and then it's usually at the end of the day when you're worn. Most adults also aren't in the "study mode". They usually "replay" what they learned a long time ago. If learning is like most abilities, then it becomes easier the more regularly you do it, the more you practice it.

That said, I don't doubt that children pick up knowledge and "skills" naturally. I am not quite as sure whether the difference to the speed of learning as an adult is really as significant, though. Adults are more burdened, by expectations, pressure to succeed, convictions (that they learn more slowly and that they may be past their learning prime -- just believing this might easily lead to a mental block), jobs, other time drains, and so on.

At the end of the day, though, I have to ask (myself, and maybe you): Does it really matter?

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Post #32 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 5:46 am 
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Mivo wrote:
HermanHiddema wrote:
But all the evidence clearly suggests that children simply learn faster...


You raise a valid point, though something that is overlooked often is the fact the children are in a situation where their learning is encouraged and, in fact, is pretty much all they do. They have to go to school, they have to study, they have to learn a trade, etc. Being young is all about learning. They have the environment, the social support, the financial freedom, access to the institutions, friends who also learn and study and, above all, time.

How many adults are in a situation where they don't have to succumb to routine? Jobs become monotonous after a few years, it's required to spend eight or more hours a day (and most of one's daily energy) to dedicate to earning money doing the same thing over and over for rent, food, etc.), then time for shopping, cleaning, "social duties" with family, etc. You may end up with 2-3 hours of study time a day, if that, and then it's usually at the end of the day when you're worn. Most adults also aren't in the "study mode". They usually "replay" what they learned a long time ago. If learning is like most abilities, then it becomes easier the more regularly you do it, the more you practice it.

That said, I don't doubt that children pick up knowledge and "skills" naturally. I am not quite as sure whether the difference to the speed of learning as an adult is really as significant, though. Adults are more burdened, by expectations, pressure to succeed, convictions (that they learn more slowly and that they may be past their learning prime -- just believing this might easily lead to a mental block), jobs, other time drains, and so on.


You're really pretty much exactly repeating my points: The excuses that adults don't have the time, energy and motivation to learn. And I still don't buy it. Where are the unemployed adults that quickly reach pro strength? The retirees? The students? The rich people on sabbatical?


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At the end of the day, though, I have to ask (myself, and maybe you): Does it really matter?


No, it doesn't. As has been said plenty of times in this thread, in various ways: The journey is more important than the destination.

I'm 4 dan now, and 32 years old, and I have no illusions that I will ever be pro strength. Not even if I quit my job and spent the next 5 years in China. I enjoy playing go at my level. I also enjoyed playing go when I was 20 kyu, 10 kyu, 5 kyu, 1 kyu, etc. I have always enjoyed playing the game. Enjoyment is why I play.


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Post #33 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 5:55 am 
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i have seen toomany korean old man who plays the game everyday for past 30 years in a club. they stopped improving and remain sdk. which prove that age does matter.
but i know that every little kids if they play everyday for one year will reach dan level.

age does matter but i will like to say that if a person (regardless of age) really want to improve i am sure they will reach high dan (5 dan).

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Post #34 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:10 am 
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Magicwand wrote:

age does matter but i will like to say that if a person (regardless of age) really want to improve i am sure they will reach high dan (5 dan).


Motivation is certainly important, but there's a lot more than that. You also need the time, and the ability to set up an efficient system for studying (assuming you're not taking lessons).

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Post #35 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:12 am 
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HermanHiddema wrote:
You're really pretty much exactly repeating my points: The excuses that adults don't have the time, energy and motivation to learn. And I still don't buy it. Where are the unemployed adults that quickly reach pro strength? The retirees? The students? The rich people on sabbatical?


How many children are there that learn Go every year, and how many of them reach professional strength? How many of them reach amateur 1-5dan compared to the percentage of players who learn the game at 20-25 and reach the same strength? Would the latter have become stronger had they learned the game at 12?

There are no figures, of course, so in the end it's all speculation. I don't really claim that adults learn as fast as children, at least not as a general rule. And perhaps I'm in denial and afraid of the decay that comes with old age (I'm thirty-eight) ;), though my only "point" was that I don't think the only relevant factor is the age of the brain.

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Post #36 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:30 am 
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Mivo wrote:
HermanHiddema wrote:
You're really pretty much exactly repeating my points: The excuses that adults don't have the time, energy and motivation to learn. And I still don't buy it. Where are the unemployed adults that quickly reach pro strength? The retirees? The students? The rich people on sabbatical?


How many children are there that learn Go every year, and how many of them reach professional strength? How many of them reach amateur 1-5dan compared to the percentage of players who learn the game at 20-25 and reach the same strength? Would the latter have become stronger had they learned the game at 12?

There are no figures, of course, so in the end it's all speculation.


What do you mean, there are no figures? 99% of professionals started playing before age 12. Most really strong professionals start really young, at around 5 years old. Zero professionals started playing after age 18.

Quote:
I don't really claim that adults learn as fast as children, at least not as a general rule. And perhaps I'm in denial and afraid of the decay that comes with old age (I'm thirty-eight) ;), though my only "point" was that I don't think the only relevant factor is the age of the brain.


Of course age is not the only factor. Talent, dedication, access to teaching, etc, etc, all are factors.

But age really does make a difference. Children just learn quicker and easier.

And I'm fine with that. My brain doesn't learn as quickly as at 6 years old, but at the same time it provides me with a lot of benefits that most 6 year olds don't have. Patience, foresight, social skills, the ability to make long term plans, etc. Lots of things that kids still have to learn. It is the necessary switch that your brain makes.

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Post #37 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:40 am 
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Magicwand wrote:
...if a person (regardless of age) really want to improve i am sure they will reach high dan (5 dan).


Is there a ground for this statement?
It sounds like "anyone who really wants can win the national lottery". Of course, but only if he buys all (or most) of the available tickets.

The question is what it takes for one to reach 5d. How many games, how many books, how many mega-tsumegos per second?

It obviously differs from person to person. Therefore, I don't even believe that everyone who really wants (and tries) can reach 10kyu, let alone 5dan.

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Post #38 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:51 am 
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entropi wrote:
Magicwand wrote:
...if a person (regardless of age) really want to improve i am sure they will reach high dan (5 dan).


Is there a ground for this statement?
It sounds like "anyone who really wants can win the national lottery". Of course, but only if he buys all (or most) of the available tickets.

The question is what it takes for one to reach 5d. How many games, how many books, how many mega-tsumegos per second?

It obviously differs from person to person. Therefore, I don't even believe that everyone who really wants (and tries) can reach 10kyu, let alone 5dan.


given proper training and studying ...anybody can reach that level.
that is my belief and probably is true.

10 kyu?? anybody can reach that in a month (given proper training).

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Post #39 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:58 am 
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entropi wrote:
I don't even believe that everyone who really wants (and tries) can reach 10kyu, let alone 5dan.


Obviously it depends on what you mean by "everyone", and how much flexibility you demand in the surrounding circumstances.

I'm sure you'll find some people who have trouble reaching 30 kyu, because of some reason (perhaps a severe physical handicap, e.g. deaf-blind, or some mental illness). You'll also find some overworked people for whom it's just impossible to spend even half an hour a week on go.

What people really mean when they say "everyone" in that context, is people without severe handicap or illness, with average spare time (let's say 40h work week plus a family with no small kids). And what people usually mean when the say it's possible is of course under the assumption that you are willing to allocate a significant amount of your spare time to it.

Under these assumptions, I think 5 dan is a reasonable estimate for what "everyone" can achieve.

EDIT: Of course it also depends on what you mean by "5 dan". EGF 5 dan would be a bit stronger than AGA 5 dan (which I assume is what Magicwand is referring to). And supposedly I'm Japanese 3 dan, so I'm not that far away from "5 dan" if that really counts ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Factor of age on learning
Post #40 Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:05 am 
Gosei
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Magicwand wrote:
entropi wrote:
Magicwand wrote:
...if a person (regardless of age) really want to improve i am sure they will reach high dan (5 dan).


Is there a ground for this statement?
It sounds like "anyone who really wants can win the national lottery". Of course, but only if he buys all (or most) of the available tickets.

The question is what it takes for one to reach 5d. How many games, how many books, how many mega-tsumegos per second?

It obviously differs from person to person. Therefore, I don't even believe that everyone who really wants (and tries) can reach 10kyu, let alone 5dan.


given proper training and studying ...anybody can reach that level.
that is my belief and probably is true.


I seriously doubt it.

There are plenty of people out there who simply don't "get" go. Their brains are apparently not wired that way. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I am really bad at learning languages. I had to learn five foreign languages in high school, and I was always struggling with them. No matter how much time and effort I put in. And at the same time I excelled at things like maths, physics and chemistry, despite the fact that I hardly put any effort into them. And there were people in my class that were exactly the other way around. Always struggling with math despite all the hours they put in, while effortlessly getting high grades on their languages.

And I think the same is true for go. Some people learn it effortlessly, others are struggling with every step ahead.

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