[Image: Game example]

How to Teach Go

A wonderful new method of teaching Go to beginners is gaining popularity in Japan and maybe other places as well. I learned it from two AGA members, Bill Cobb and Bill Camp, who went to Japan for six weeks on a Nihon Ki-in scholarship just to learn how to teach Go. I have slightly modified their program into three simple stages.

Stage 1: The Capturing Game

  1. Start on a 9x9 board. No ifs, ands, or buts.
  2. Very patiently, show where a stone may be played, including the edge of the board and the corner. Show the students that the lines must be touching the stone.
    In the center, 4 lines are touching a stone.
    [Image: 4 lines touching]
    On the edge, 3 lines touch it.
    [Image: 3 lines touching]
    In the corner, 2 lines touch a stone.
    [Image: 2 lines touching]
  3. Show the students how to capture one stone. The concept of "lines touching the stone" will now become more important to them.
  4. Show them a 2-stone group and point out that it has 6 lines touching it. Show them how to capture it.
  5. Show them a few more small groups of stones and how to capture groups. Do not mention "eyes" or "living" or "territory."
  6. Your students are now ready to play "the capturing game," the first stage of Go. In the capturing game, the first one who captures anything wins.

Some longtime Go players may be skeptical about this method, but I have tried it -- and it's amazing how much the players learn on their own by playing this way with other beginners. What's more, it's really fun! Right away! No waiting!

If you are just learning how to play Go, please see the quick tips page

Stage 2: Capture Three

After people have played the capturing game a lot, their games begin to end in a draw (like tic-tac-toe). At that point, you take them to Stage 2: The first person who captures 3 stones wins.

This can mean capturing three at once, or one at a time until the total prisoners for one player is 3.

At this stage, Ko will happen for the first time (you don't get a Ko when the first one who captures anything wins). It's good if the teacher is present when the first Ko occurs. Don't show it to the students in advance; just wait until one appears.

Stage 3: Counting Territory

What is very very very cool is that after people are playing "capture three" for a while, they start to make 2-eyed groups on their own. And after they do that, soon their games are ending in a draw again.

At this point, you tell them there's another way to decide who won: Count the territory.

And now they're playing real Go. And they basically taught themselves -- without pain, without confusion, without feeling stupid or thinking it was too hard.

If you teach Go this way, the game could actually catch on.

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