How to learn from Go problems

There is a new article in the “Korea Times” series: Lesson 90: Life-and-Death Problems (Part 2) It makes a few very good points about how to learn from Go problems:
  1. find the right problem set for your level - most of the time it’s in very simple situations where mistakes occur, so there is no real benefit to study very complicated problems if you’re missing simple ones
  2. don’t look at the answers – in the real game there’s no Fujiwara-no-Sai to tell you the answer :-) I don’t suppose there is any harm in looking at the answers eventually – but just don’t look before putting a significant effort into solving the problems.
In order to read other articles in this series, here is the index page.

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7 Responses to “How to learn from Go problems”

  1. Codexus says:

    I’m not entirely convinced by the ‘answers are evil’ thing. Off course, just picking a move and hurrying to the answer to verify it without doing the proper reading would be very bad.

    But once you’ve finished reading and you are sure of your answer, it can’t be bad to see it again in the answer. Seeing it could help with the memorization.

    And if a problem is a bit difficult and you can’t find the answer, is it better to skip it entirely? keep trying to solve it for a long time? or look at the answer?

    If you skip it you haven’t learned anything. Trying for too long isn’t very efficient. So why not look at the answer and learn from it? That way the next time a similar shape occurs you are already familiar with it and the chances that you’ll be able to solve the problem are higher.

  2. VincentV says:

    Imho looking at the answers shouldn’t really be necessary anyway if you’re entirely sure about your own solution. Just picking the first appearently correct way that comes to your mind is bad, one should always go through all possible variatons (even if the move seems unlogical) to make sure there really is no other way.

    I think it doesn’t even matter that much if you get a tsumego correct at the first try, if you have read for a couple of minutes you’ve already achieved the goal. And if the solution just doesn’t come to you it’s usually best to just skip the problem and solve it again at some later point in time (next day).

  3. Mef says:

    Nice article, I completely agree with “Don’t look at the answers.” I’ve generally thought of working tsumego for as an mental analog to lifting weights for athletic training…after your workout watching someone else lift 200lbs won’t make you stronger…

  4. Robert Solovay says:

    Does anyone have the first ten articles in this series archived?

  5. Sorin says:

    The Way Back Internet Archive has them.
    The way it works for any page: you go to http://www.archive.org/web/web.php , input an internat address and click “Take me back’; it will show you the copies it has (if any) of that particular page.

    In this case, I input the index page from the series, selected one of the earlier versions, and got:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20051128001856/http://times.hankooki.com/culture/fashion.htm

    which has valid links to copies of the first articles.

  6. funkyj says:

    Jujo Jiang told me “never look at the answer” years ago and for a long time I ignored his advice. Now I follow it (at least for tsumego) and believe in it.

    If you are a complete newbie then you need immediate feedback regarding your mistakes but once you have learned the basics of tsumego (the nakade shapes, bent-4) you can find problems that are easy enough that you can be certain of solving them correctly by checking your answer on the board and not looking at the solution.

    In my case, looking at the answer breeds laziness. I may still be lazy when thinking through the problem but I MUST be diligent when checking my answer on the board because if I get that wrong I am reinforcing bad thinking.

    I’ve also found that working this way has improved my intuition for recognizing when solving a position is very hard for me or beyond me.

  7. Sorin says:

    Hi funkyj,
    Not looking at the answers _at all_ is pretty hard, and must be a really good character building experience :-)
    If I think I solved a problem, I’m OK with not looking; but for some problems that I don’t seem to be able to solve, I’ll eventually want to look at the answer (and learn something), rather than getting depressed and losing sleep over that problem.