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 Post subject: Beginner to 5 kyu in 6 months?
Post #1 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:49 am 
Judan

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Is it possible for nearly all adult beginners who are willing to devote, say, 10 hours per week to go to reach a reasonable level of competence (such as KGS 5 kyu) in 6 months?

Well, maybe, eh? ;)

This question was inspired by recent discussions here on 19x19 as well as a video about learning a foreign language in 6 months. (I watched the video because the guy, Chris Lonsdale, did not seem to be selling anything. ;) The URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0 )

Lonsdale based his talk on psychological research and the experiences of people learning second languages quickly. He also has a low bar for learning a language, as revealed by his acceptance of a vocabulary of 3,000 words. That vocabulary is not enough to read a newspaper. 6,000 words is a minimum for that, and the average adult native speaker has a vocabulary of some 50,000 words. (That also seems to be around the number of instantly recognizable patterns for chess and go professionals.) But 3,000 words is enough for fluency. And learning 3,000 words in 6 months is no mean feat.

BTW, some people here make flash cards. What would be a good deck of 3,000 flash cards to reach the 5 kyu level? :)

OC, learning a language is different from learning go, but I think that a number of ideas carry over. More in the next few notes. :)

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Post #2 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:06 am 
Judan

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The first thing that Lonsdale recommends is immersion. OC, as he says later, immersion is not enough. He makes the important point that you do not have to understand, you will pick things up, anyway.

The go advice to "lose" 100 games quickly has to do with immersion. You don't have to win (or understand), you just have to play. A lot.

Playing over pro games is another way to immerse yourself in go. And you are less likely to pick up bad habits. :) Again, you don't have to understand, you just have to replay the games.

Online go offers great opportunities to immerse yourself in go. You do not have to play, you can kibitz. Preferably high level games. Again, you don't have to understand, you just have to watch. :)

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Post #3 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:14 am 
Judan

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One thing that Lonsdale recommends not doing is studying grammar. Now, the analog of grammar in go is, I think, basic tesuji and life and death. Do we want beginners to skip that? Truth to say, I did, except for the idea of two eyes for life. I reached 4 kyu without having studied the basics. :oops: OTOH, I found Maeda's 8 kyu tsumego problems easy at that point.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner to 5 kyu in 6 months?
Post #4 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:36 am 
Judan

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What Lonsdale does stress is understanding, understanding others and making yourself understood. That, OC, is the main purpose of language. Grammar is important for understanding, but for a beginner to stress grammar is to take your eye off the ball. Children pick up grammar, but their first efforts to speak are not grammatical.

Now, the main purpose of go is winning. Of what use is it to play a tesuji and miss the winning play?

If the focus of the beginner is properly on winning, then the beginner has to play. :)

But, IMO, just playing is not enough. Understanding is important in learning go, as well. My main study, as a beginner, was my own games. Not by myself, OC. It was the custom to go over virtually every game immediately afterwards, and my opponents were much better than I. :)

Every game a teaching game.

Or at least a learning game. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner to 5 kyu in 6 months?
Post #5 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:57 am 
Judan

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Another thing Lonsdale recommends is to get a "language parent", someone to help you much as your parents helped you when you were a kid. This, I think, is very important. I did not make 5 kyu in 6 months, but I did make 4 kyu in 10 - 11 months, and I would not have done that without the help of a 5 kyu and a 2 dan, who were my main opponents and teachers.

Now, a go parent is not exactly the same as what we think of as a coach or teacher. Guide is more like it, I think. (See also John Fairbairn's remarks elsewhere about the teacher being a signpost.) Lonsdale tells the "parent" not to correct the beginner's errors. It is not necessary, and can be counterproductive. The focus should be on understanding. (BTW, that is one thing that I discovered for myself when teaching English in Japan. :) )

Consider a game review, which is one thing that the go parent should do with the beginner. We tend to say, that play was wrong, this is right. And maybe that is what a teacher or reviewer should do. But the go parent should go further, IMO, and help the beginner to understand the position or situation. With better understanding, the beginner can find the right play herself. This is the kind of thing that normally requires interaction to help the beginner to explore the possibilities of a position, or to point out similarities with other positions, or to suggest different ways of looking at the position. The focus should be on understanding, not on mistakes.

Now, if the goal of the beginner is to reach 5 kyu, how strong should the go parent be? IMO, dan level. OC, there is no need for there to be just one parent. But at any time, I think that the parent should be at least 5 stones stronger than the beginner.

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Post #6 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 12:31 pm 
Judan

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EdLee wrote:
Hi Bill, curious to see the results. Interested to see the statistics.
Not only for Go, but other fields as well.


I don't think that there are any statistics for Lonsdale's claims. After all, it requires a commitment that few students will make, and the help of a go parent who must commit to at least 2 - 3 hours per week. And besides, the aim of reaching 5 kyu for almost any adult beginner may be unrealistic. So this is mainly an aspirational idea.

OTOH, I am sure that there is a whole lot of research in language learning and education. I have not kept up, but nothing Lonsdale said surprised me, except that now there are people who agree with me about not correcting errors. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner to 5 kyu in 6 months?
Post #7 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:23 pm 
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Bill Spight wrote:
This question was inspired by recent discussions here on 19x19 as well as a video about learning a foreign language in 6 months. (I watched the video because the guy, Chris Lonsdale, did not seem to be selling anything. ;) The URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0 )


Nice talk. He is not saying anything particularly new, however. What is interesting to me is what is the difference between people willing to take this approach and those who aren't? One thing that comes through is that it must be necessary to have very strong willingness to be totally incompetent in a potential embarrassing scenario. It takes a lot of guts for an adult to show up somewhere thinking "I'm going to learn language like a baby" and actually do it. To spend time doing that rather than taking a formalized class or using something like Rosetta Stone in private. You'd have to be okay communicating mostly in gestures when you know 10 words.

Internet go may slow down learning for some people as the anonymity dulls the sense of embarrassment.

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Post #8 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:29 pm 
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Bill Spight wrote:
Now, the analog of grammar in go is, I think, basic tesuji and life and death.


I think that's more like vocabulary. Maybe a better analog of grammar would be opening theory. A speaker with poor grammar is understandable but crude and nonconforming.


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Post #9 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:54 pm 
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Bill Spight wrote:
Now, the main purpose of go is winning.


Metaphors are breaking down here, but I think this is a bit off. A very strong fear of losing or strong desire to win can be very motivational to some, but losing is about making mistakes and making mistakes is essential to learning. I think that's why Takemiya famously says: play the move you want to play. It's not because doing that will win the game in front of you. Although it might! But it's a good way to learn and win more games later. But you have to play the move you want to play and pay attention and remember what happens and not judge the result too soon. "Oh, I ignored my opponent's move and my group died, so I'll never do that again!" Go is a game of negative reinforcement sometimes.

So I'd go back the idea of learning like a baby. No timidity = desire to win, but no fear of losing.

One thing I'm trying to learn better is how to make bigger exchanges. It's risky at first, because I give up a lot and don't get what I think I should get in return, my choice looks insane during review.


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Post #10 Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:04 pm 
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Bill Spight wrote:
BTW, some people here make flash cards. What would be a good deck of 3,000 flash cards to reach the 5 kyu level? :)


It should be personalized: one's first 3000 mistakes. Seriously, this shouldn't be hard, but I wish it were easier to do---you make mistake, it gets corrected in a game record, that part of the game record is used to create a problem you can quiz yourself on later. That would be a powerful feature in SmartGo or other program.

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Post #11 Posted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 12:53 pm 
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Well if it's flash cards for 30kyu -> 5kyu.

You could make many definition flash cards.

Starting with simply what is the name of this shape/move.

Then probably what is the purpose of such a move.
What are the weaknesses of this move.

I'm a believer of the proverb "If it has a name, learn it."

and then a bunch of flash cards of information from this page

http://senseis.xmp.net/?HaengmaTutorial ... gPositions

I don't think you would really need many personalized flash cards until around the 15 - 10 kyu range. And even then many generic flash cards would be good enough.

Just because you already know the concept doesn't mean you wouldn't want a flash card of it.
I think there's a lot of value in learning something you already know.


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Post #12 Posted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 12:55 pm 
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Unusedname wrote:
I'm a believer of the proverb "If it has a name, learn it."

And if it doesn't... give it one. ;)

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Post #13 Posted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 2:43 pm 
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I'm pretty sure everyone can reach the understanding of go of a 5k, playing at that level is another matter though. My view may be based on personal experience though, so it might in fact be possible for the broad masses =).

From how I see it there are three steps to every move:

1. Evaluating the situation
2. Finding candidate moves
3. Validating the candidate moves through reading

While I think every human being with a somewhat functional brain can get point two down the other two are another matter.

Evaluating the position: I guess this is something that comes with time for most people but its hard to put into a ruleset that fits 100% of the time. For example most people can see a wall, but making an accurate assessment on how much value that wall actually has is hard to put into numbers. I think Wilcox proposed something in EZ-GO to serve as a guideline for measuring influence, but I'm not sure if its enough to get to 5k or you need to get a deeper understanding at some point.

Reading: This is kind of the odd one out, since its the most "visual" of the go skills(imo) and some people are just not good at visualizing things(I'm living proof of that). Ultimately reading is somewhat required for getting better, so if there is a cap for you it likely limits your overall rank.

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Post #14 Posted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:03 pm 
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After watching the video in the link, I am convinced that there are similarities between how one learns a language and how one learns baduk.

And, a disclaimer. It's late at night where I am and I had a busy day of babysitting, so I'm exhausted and probably incorporated more than a few errors in my composition. For this I ask your pardon :bow:

The learner of a second language starts off by listening to several samples of conversation. These are real-life pictures of how the language is spoken by fluent speakers and so can serve as models to emulate. The novice, of course, will only hear unintelligible gibberish at first, but with guidance from one fluent in the target language, little by little bits of conversation can be deciphered and the learner can begin to apply them himself, albeit in a rudimentary way. Constant repetition of this process will lead to steady progress.

In any language, certain words appear more frequently than others. These words often perform certain grammatical functions, such as articles, conjunctions, noun markers, etc. The learner should familiarize himself with these and know how to use them, as they will aid in communication with speakers of the target language.

In learning a second language, grammar, far from being an exercise in sadism on part of the language professor, is a set of basic ideas and concepts governing the use of a language's vocabulary. Almost all languages are governed by a set of rules of grammar. The learner should always keep the grammar in mind when speaking and writing in the target language. Doing so will allow him to communicate clearly therein.

Finally, once the learner has gained fairly advanced fluency in the target language, he should learn about the culture in which that language's speakers use it. This added bit of knowledge will get the learner that much closer to native fluency.

As many of us know, baduk is so much like human language that one name for it is (in Korean) soodam, meaning handtalk.

The novice taking up baduk for the first time should replay a few pro games to get a feel for how baduk is supposed to be played. At first, it's all just a meaningless string of moves. However, commentary by a pro or strong amateur can shed light on the meaning of different moves and guide him on how to apply what is learned from replaying. No need to question every single move. It is enough to get insight on just the hard-to-understand moves. (In baduk, one thinks in terms of relationships between moves, just as in language one thinks in terms of relationships between words.) Constant repetition of this process will lead to steady progress.

Also, the same novice will be well served to replay a few pro games, or games on 9x9 or 13x13, before learning the rules; with the memory of replayed games to serve as a background, the novice will have an easier time seeing how the rules apply. To explain the rules of baduk without first demonstrating how the game is played is like explaining grammar without first providing demonstrations of a language as it is spoken in real life.

In baduk, certain moves occur in certain situations frequently across several games. The learner should acquaint himself with these and know their function. Reading a book on tesuji is very helpful in this regard.

The beginner in baduk will find that different approaches to the game govern what moves are good and what moves are bad. Strategic considerations often determine which tactical approaches are best. For instance, territory-based strategies tend to emphasize first making moves to delineate territory, accompanied by fierce fighting to avoid falling behind. Influence-based strategies usually prioritize fighting in the middle game, with territory being a consequence thereof. Competent players tend to apply both strategic approaches in varying proportions. Also, the phase of a game determines which tactics are suitable and which are not suitable. For example, a monkey jump to the first line during the opening would not be suitable, since it only reduces the opponent's territory by a few points; the worth of big moves in the opening are in the dozens of points and so a monkey jump is a waste of a move. However, a monkey jump in the early endgame is serious, since the biggest moves at that phase are worth at most 5 or 10 points. As the endgame progresses, just 1 or 2 points is a BIG gain or loss.

Another example. There is the proverb, "A one-point jump is never bad." Does that mean playing one at every opportunity? During a game the learner should judge the appropriateness of a 1-point jump based on his experience. One-point jumps are certainly helpful in the middle game in most situations, but one-point jumps are best used in the opening as auxiliary moves. (Beginners, especially timid ones, will tend to make one-point jumps in the opening.)

As in spoken languages, irregularities do occur in baduk and the learner should familiarize himself with them.

In essence, the learner of baduk should familiarize himself with both influence-based playing styles and territory-based playing styles to know what tactics tend to occur in games when either is employed.

Finally, once the baduk learner has advanced a bit in the game, acquainting himself with the ideas behind a certain style of play will be very useful and bring him a bit closer to mastery.

So, having explained the above, here is my take on a program for a novice seeking to get to 5k in 6 months and having 10 hours daily to devote to baduk. Replay a minimum of 5 pro games a day for the first month, then a minimum of 10 for the second month, and finally 15 or 20 a day for the remaining 4 months. Do puzzles in the categories of opening, middle game, jōseki, and endgame. Tesuji and life & death should make up about 70% of the puzzles solved; the other categories are basically applications of these two. Of the four other categories, endgame is probably the most important since, between 2 competent players, games are often won or lost based on endgame calculations. Finally, a minimum of 2 serious games a week, preferably against a stronger opponent.

It would be nice if I could present a magical method for getting to 5k in 3 months, but from experience I find that putting in the hours produces more consistent results.


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Post #15 Posted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:09 pm 
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paK0 wrote:
I'm pretty sure everyone can reach the understanding of go of a 5k

Many years ago, a friend and favorite sparring partner told me that "anybody can get to 3d by just reading books, but after that you got to be smart." He was a german 2d, in case this is important.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner to 5 kyu in 6 months?
Post #16 Posted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:59 pm 
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Bantari wrote:
paK0 wrote:
I'm pretty sure everyone can reach the understanding of go of a 5k

Many years ago, a friend and favorite sparring partner told me that "anybody can get to 3d by just reading books, but after that you got to be smart." He was a german 2d, in case this is important.


Obviously he was not speaking from experience. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner to 5 kyu in 6 months?
Post #17 Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 1:42 am 
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Bill Spight wrote:
Bantari wrote:
paK0 wrote:
I'm pretty sure everyone can reach the understanding of go of a 5k

Many years ago, a friend and favorite sparring partner told me that "anybody can get to 3d by just reading books, but after that you got to be smart." He was a german 2d, in case this is important.


Obviously he was not speaking from experience. ;)


There is such a level, though. I would put it at 2d, which allowing for grade deflation may be much the same. There is another, higher level which is where you get to if you also saturate yourself with tournament go, and I take that to be 4d. Leaving western players falling short of 5d, about which there is not enough in "the system".

I think this is fairly helpful in terms of "resources" (do your own research, intensive use of pro games, playing with others of really different backgrounds, access to strong amateurs, getting the feel of pro thinking) that allow some perspective on what you take to be "quotidian".

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Post #18 Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 3:33 am 
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If there is in fact such a level (which I have no doubt of) its probably different for everyone. Also reading books might give you knowledge, but applying that in a game is another matter.

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Post #19 Posted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 5:53 am 
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paK0 wrote:
If there is in fact such a level (which I have no doubt of) its probably different for everyone. Also reading books might give you knowledge, but applying that in a game is another matter.


Well, OK, but getting some sort of "model" relative to "book knowledge", and deciding what should be written in the books to be useful, is a perennial debate.

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Post #20 Posted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:31 am 
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I've always felt that 1d is no big deal, 4d really is a big deal and beyond that you need to be either exceptionally talented or exceptionally well trained (and early). A combination of both should allow someone to become 6d.

I believe the reason why so few people make it to 1d in a short time frame is that they're working on the wrong things, not that they are not talented. You have to put up with a lot of noise really, in your own head mostly ("Oh I'm so bad at X!") and when trying to get some advice too.

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