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 Post subject: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #1 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:07 am 
Oza

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I ran across this post recently:
viewtopic.php?p=171886#p171886
SamT wrote:
3 games of go with my 5yo daughter, ..., she was focused on making eyes -- the more eyes the better, to her.

...and it got me to thinking...

This is why I believe it is wrong to teach beginners about two-eyes.

Two-eyes are not a rule of Go. They shouldn't even be a goal in Go. They are merely a natural consequence of making a group uncapturable, and as such, can easily be discovered on one's own.

There are many professional players who become pro in their teen and even preteen years. This means they were probably already dan level around age 6.

How does a 6 year old become dan level? Not by making as many two-eyed groups as possible. And probably not by being taught about two-eyes at all. Additionally it probably takes some discipline that we Westerners tend to shy away from these days (but that's perhaps a topic for another thread).

Now, I'm not intending to say anything negative about Sam, his 5 year old daughter, nor Sam's teaching methods. Its a game. They should enjoy the game, and Sam should enjoy time with his daughter as much as possible. That's the most important. But I suspect, when Sam learned the game, someone taught him two-eyes as part of the rules introduction. So he, in turn, taught it to his daughter. Just a guess. I've seem it happen a million times, and I cringe every time I see or hear it.

Its the same argument people have against using Capture-Go as an introduction to learning Go. They feel it focuses the student on an unhealthy obsession on capturing. (I believe it doesn't have to if taught properly, in fact can teach just the opposite, but that's a story for another thread (or later in this thread)).

Don't teach about two-eyes (or ko either) when you introduce the game to new players. Let them discover those concepts on their own. Teach them about efficiently trying to own (control) more area of the board than their opponent. Plant your flag, stake out a claim, and prepare to defend your claim, and attack or reduce your opponent's claim. (disclaimer: I may change my mind years from now as I continue to get stronger)

As I've heard some Go teachers say when teaching beginners, "don't answer a question that hasn't yet been asked".


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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #2 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:23 am 
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xed_over wrote:
As I've heard some Go teachers say when teaching beginners, "don't answer a question that hasn't yet been asked".

This is true not only for the game of Go.

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #3 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:23 am 
Judan

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I agree that teaching the concept of "two-eyes" may end up being confusing for someone that's just learning the rules. I also agree with the quote you reference:
Quote:
don't answer a question that hasn't yet been asked.


Perhaps a common dialog after playing one's first game might be:
A: Why are these stones dead?
B: Because they can eventually be captured, no matter what moves you play.
A: How do know?

To maintain a philosophy of teaching in a simple manner, how should this question be answered? Perhaps it's easiest to illustrate by example, playing out the moves. But this can still be confusing, because the learner may have difficulty applying to other scenarios. Is it simpler to explain about two eyes at this point? Maybe not. Probably what will help the most is to play several games. Either way, there seem to be challenges, until the learner has gained the experience and intuition necessary to understand.

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #4 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:28 am 
Judan

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Part of teaching someone to play is to teach them the objective of the game. What does it mean to make territory? Or what does it mean to control a point on the board? If you cannot make an invulnerable group you cannot make territory or control points. IMO, you have to show them an invulnerable group. Otherwise you are talking nonsense. Kos are part of the rules, too, necessary to prevent interminable play. (With rare exceptions under some rules.)

As for capture go, make it no-pass and eventually it will become about territory and control.

So maybe a beginner focuses on capturing stones, or making eyes. Me, I liked to play keima. ;) Who cares? The trouble comes when these things become habits.

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #5 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:34 am 
Judan

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That said, it is true that I like to have a beginner take Black against me on a 3x3 board before teaching all the rules. The 3x3 has lessons about eyes, kos, and dead stones. Edit: And seki. (I was in a rush.) :) But I would not have them play on, say, a 9x9 without knowing the rules.

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Last edited by Bill Spight on Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #6 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:51 am 
Tengen

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For an absolute beginner just having learnt the rules, the topic of two eyes can be postponed. However, pretty soon the then stronger beginner needs to know about two eyes and how to make / prevent two eyes. So it is not a matter of do or don't, but a matter of teaching style combined with when one plans to teach it.


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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #7 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:20 am 
Judan

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Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc Example 3x3 game
$$ -------
$$ | 8 3 6 |
$$ | 4 1 2 |
$$ | 9 5 7 |
$$ -------[/go]


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Wcm10 Continued
$$ -------
$$ | 3 X 1 |
$$ | 4 X 2 |
$$ | X X X |
$$ -------[/go]


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Wcm10 Final board
$$ -------
$$ | . X . |
$$ | X X X |
$$ | X X X |
$$ -------[/go]


Teacher: You win. Do you see why?

Lesson about 2 eyes follows. Then a replay up to :b5:.

Teacher: You win. Do you see why?

Lesson about dead stones follows.

Etc. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #8 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:54 am 
Judan

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I think it's clear that, at some point, students need to learn what allows for their groups to be alive.

The danger is that, in some cases, it could be easy to lose sight of the big picture.

If you focus only on making two eyes, it doesn't matter if your group surrounds just 2 points or 30 points - just that you have two eyes. If you focus instead on surrounding many points, you'll inherently have a group that's strong enough to have two eyes in the process. The minimum conditions for having a live group is an important topic in go, but I'm not convinced that it's more important than the general strategy of making strong groups and gaining a lot of points. Winning go isn't about living minimally, so it's important to avoid focusing too strongly on this concept.

Eventually the student needs to learn all of these things, but why not focus on the bigger picture first?

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #9 Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 12:25 pm 
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Yeah, it is rather Go “physics” that two eyes are alive, and the “rule” that leads to this is that in each turn a player may play only one stone (or none, if they pass, or if they resign, or if the game as been decided as over).

“Ah, it’s because I can’t play two stones at one time!”

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Post #10 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 2:50 am 
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Quote:
I've seem it happen a million times, and I cringe every time I see or hear it.
People do the following when introducing Go to raw beginners, and I cringe every time:

  • Start with the grid. (An empty Go board, size irrelevant, but starting with the grid-side up.)
  • Mention "stones".
  • Mention "liberty/liberties".
  • Mention "atari".
  • Mention "eyes".
  • Mention "real eyes".
  • Mention "false eyes".
  • Mention "2 real eyes". (this thread, finally)
  • Mention "ko".
  • Mention "ko threats".
  • Mention "nets".

From what I've seen, here, in real life, on YouTube, etc., 99.999% of the people do most of the above with first-timers. This includes myself, until a few years ago.

Additionally, some people also mention other Go jargon, e.g. capture race, seki, hane, nobi, etc.

Now I do absolutely NONE of the above, with first-timers.

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #11 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:42 am 
Oza

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Ed, whilst I don't do the later things in your list, what is the objection to the first few? Start with the grid? I start with "Go is a game for 2 players" (after social introductions etc.) and soon go on to "here's a board", do you cringe at that and if so why?. "Stones" because technical term, you prefer "pieces"? Likewise "liberties" objecting to the word not the concept?, because I don't see how you can introduce the rules of Go without that key idea, though you can say "free spaces" or such. I will be more likely to mention atari later if I expect they've heard of the computer game company as that makes a nice little factoid.

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Post #12 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 4:10 am 
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My "first 3-minute introduction" to first-timers has evolved quite a bit over the past decade. Sometimes, there were incremental improvements. Once in a while, there were step functions.

Getting rid of the grid at the start was a step function. A breakthrough.

We probably both agree, in the long run -- meaning, after the first 10 minutes --- it doesn't make much difference anyway. People who are drawn to Go, for whatever reasons, will stay a while. People who show no interest won't. There's probably a bell curve of sorts if we plot the number of people v. how long they stay with it.

I noticed some first-timers get confused, maybe even overwhelmed, by the grid, especially the 19x19. Coupled with the fact that I've noticed many people mention "liberty/liberties" within their first FIVE sentences -- I cringe so much.

The breakthrough happened when I realized the square grid was incidental. As we know, other people have tried many other variants -- triangular grids, hex grids, 3-D grids, etc. The square grid is incidental. It is not an essence of Go. It's part of it, of course, but the grid does not have to be the first thing the first-timer sees.

I guess most likely, 100% of the videos on YouTube, AGA booklet, etc. start with the grid, and very soon they mention liberties. I should make my introduction, but I want to do a good job before posting on YouTube, and that takes a lot of polishing.

I don't care for the jargon because I want to introduce the most fundamental concepts to the first-timer. I find the jargon a hindrance, and a huge one at that.
Quote:
"Stones" because technical term, you prefer "pieces"? Likewise "liberties" objecting to the word not the concept?
Correct: I object to the jargon, not the concepts. I do in fact use "pieces". Instead of liberties, I point and say "here".
Quote:
soon go on to "here's a board", do you cringe at that and if so why?
Yes, I do cringe, because I've discovered a better intro, and once it's out, I cannot go back to the old way.

The evolution of the intro is interesting. I got rid of starting with the grid probably a few years after I removed all jargon.

To get a feeling of how I got to my current intro,
try this thought experiment. Imagine you want to satisfy these 2 conditions:
  • You have zero equipment. You must explain verbally, only. No props. No stones, no board. You can gesture. :) But no drawing on surfaces. Just your words.
  • After your introduction to the first-timer, he has a good chance to re-introduce, in his own words, all the key concepts you've just told him, to another first-timer.

I'm actually very curious what others can come up with, given these 2 conditions.

I'm not satisfied with introducing the key concepts to just one level (of first-timers), I want to make it meta-, that the first-timer can repeat the process, make it exponential.

( Of course, there will be many big gaps in his understanding. This is to be expected. Actual examples, on a real set, with the full 19x19 grid, is necessary later, yes. Which is why I finally flip the board over, at the end of my intro, and show them where to place each stone. But not at the start. )
Quote:
I will be more likely to mention atari later if I expect they've heard of the computer game company as that makes a nice little factoid.
I do the same; we're 100% in agreement here.
Of course, after the key concepts, then I slowly introduce the jargon, one by one.

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #13 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 4:44 am 
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What sort of person is your intro aimed at? Most of my experience is with university students, with a bit of young children and general public. Promoting Go to the public at a stall in a mall has quite different requirements to students who turn up at the university go club (or freshers' fair). Charles Matthews has taught Go to people with brain injuries which would require a rather slower approach than Cambridge undergrads...

When you point "here" for a liberty, what is here? If you put a stone on a blank piece of paper/wood it could have 2 liberties or 6 depending how many you fit around it. I think it helps to have a board to explain liberties and that 2 stones being joined on the lines form a group that needs to be captured together by taking all 6 liberties (start in the centre of the board, in a group there will normally be someone who asks "What about at the edge?").

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Post #14 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 4:48 am 
Judan
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Quote:
What sort of person is your intro aimed at?
Everyone. I'd love to introduce Go to everyone.

Children, teens, adults, I've introduced it to a medium-severe autistic friend.

I adjust the intro depending on the audience, which is only natural.
My current intro is the evolution of -- I lost count, how many ? Hundreds? -- of people of all ages, at coffee shops, libraries, friends' gatherings, gamers' groups, grade schools, high schools, college level, professor-level, etc. for more than a decade.

Getting of the grid at the start, and later, getting rid of the board at the start happened as a happy accident, as these things tend to be. One day I was standing by my front door, and my pro painter had just finished putting a layer of paint on it, waiting for it to dry. We had a few minutes. He asked me about Go (again). I had zero hardware equipment with me. I only had my voice and my gestures. ( By that time, I had already been teaching Go to first-timers for over a decade, and had already removed all jargon from the intro. )
Happy accident. :)

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Post #15 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 9:53 am 
Oza
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EdLee wrote:
[list]
[*]Start with the grid. (An empty Go board, size irrelevant, but starting with the grid-side up.)
[*]Mention "stones".


I can agree with most of the list, but I don't see why saying stones is bad. I have to call them something and it works as well as "game pieces".

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Post #16 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:04 pm 
Judan

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EdLee wrote:
To get a feeling of how I got to my current intro,
try this thought experiment. Imagine you want to satisfy these 2 conditions:
  • You have zero equipment. You must explain verbally, only. No props. No stones, no board. You can gesture. :) But no drawing on surfaces. Just your words.
  • After your introduction to the first-timer, he has a good chance to re-introduce, in his own words, all the key concepts you've just told him, to another first-timer.


Well, there is where we differ. I think that the basic concepts of go are not linguistic. :) True, you can use words to link to similar concepts that beginners (especially adults) already have. Also, it is useful, perhaps essential, to label the basic concepts with words. It is also useful that those labels be in common use among go players, i. e., jargon. And it is true that if you start with jargon before you have gotten the concept across, you sow confusion. But that, IMO, is another reason not to start with words. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #17 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:18 pm 
Judan

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Well, we can discuss, more or less in the abstract, what is the best approach or approaches to teaching go to absolute beginners. However, I think that people do a pretty good job, just as they do a pretty good job of introducing beginners to other games, such as chess, poker, soccer, golf, etc. I think that the evidence is pretty clear that in the West, anyway, people do not do such a good job of teaching one very important thing to beginners, namely when the game is over.

In the old days, we just said that the game was over when neither player wanted to keep playing. That was not ideal, perhaps, but it got the idea across to most beginners, who played against more experienced players, anyway, who could tell them when the game was over. Nowadays beginners play beginners on the internet, and different rule sets have different rules, often complicated, about ending the game. Whether we tell beginners about nets or ladders, about two eyes or seki, we need to teach them when the game is over.

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #18 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 2:30 pm 
Gosei
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There is no best way.

Some people enjoy figuring things out for themselves, others feel more comfortable being told in advance and then trying to apply their knowledge. Some enjoy being posed open-ended question and thinking about them for a few minutes, others feel put on the spot and become like a deer in the headlights.

As a teacher, you should focus on trying to figure out what the student needs to have fun and keep playing. Do they clearly feel uncomfortable with open-ended questions? Ask leading questions that they can answer easily to boost their confidence. Are they struggling to end the game? Unsure how to continue? Jump in and tell them!

They will have to know about two eyes, atari, liberties and all that anyway, and they will learn it regardless of teaching method. If you're too hung up on trying to force your own idea of the "perfect" teaching method on every student, you've lost sight of the goal of teaching.


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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #19 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:05 pm 
Oza

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HermanHiddema wrote:
There is no best way.

While I don't disagree, in principle, with anything you've said,... I do think there is a method that produces more higher ranked beginners sooner than what appears to be our current methods. And I'm willing to experiment to try and find the "best" results.

Here's an interesting take I've recently stumbled upon, and somewhat along the lines of what I'm searching:
https://fallingstones.wordpress.com/201 ... beginners/
He seems to be talking about influence, frameworks, and territory (and perhaps a little closer to Bill's idea of how to end a game). Staking out a claim (I often talk about planting a flag and the Oklahoma land rush)

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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts: teaching two-eyes as a rule
Post #20 Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 5:56 pm 
Gosei
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I think now I must, in the next introduction to Go that I give to whomever, try this:

• 9x9 board (perhaps even 5x5)
• stones
• just demonstrate a quick game and a few typical situations — SILENTLY

… until I get some “ah” and “oh” reactions.

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