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Remember the L-group is dead

Remember the L-group is dead.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, remembering the status of the L-group would be it. The status of the L-group has been verified by professionals whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and conviction of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and conviction of your youth until they've been destroyed by playing stronger players. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at games you played and recall in away you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous your ability to play fast and confidently really looked. You are not as weak as you imagine.

Don't read too far ahead. Or read ahead, but know that reading more than five moves ahead is about as effective as picking up good shape by learning Japanese. The real blunders in your game are apt to be things that never crossed your furrowed brow, the kind your opponent springs on you in the yose when you're in overtime having idled through the middle game.

Play one move every game that scares you.


Don't be dismissive of other people's wins. Don't put up with people who are dismissive of yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy of your opponents territory. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember the good moves you find. Forget the blunders. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old trophies. Throw away your old game records.

Learn some kanji.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do in the opening. The most interesting players I know don't know what to do until a fight starts. Some of the most interesting fighters I know still don't know what's happened until the fight is over.

Learn plenty of tesuji. Play good shape. You'll appreciate it when you're attacked.

Maybe you'll make shodan, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll win tournaments, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll be a double figure kyu player at 40, maybe you'll get promoted to seven dan on the 75th anniversary of learning the game. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy playing. Play every day you can. Don't be afraid of having your own style or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest game you'll ever play.

Play through professional games, even if you have nowhere to do it but on a plastic go mat.

Ask for advice, even if you don't follow it.

Do not read debates on the rules. They will only make you feel stupid.

Get to know your local strong players. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your fellow learners. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that opponents come and go, but a precious few you should regard as permanent rivals. Work hard to bridge the gaps in aptitude and style, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were really weak.

Play on the net, but not so much it makes you hard. Play friendly handicap games, but not so much it make you soft. Enter tournaments.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Joseki get more complicated. Older players will rip you off. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasise that when you were young there were only 38 joseki, kyu players were patient, dan players were noble and all players respected their betters.

Respect your betters.

Don't expect anyone else to run a local club. Maybe you have an enthusiastic friend. Maybe you have a local pro. But you never know when either one might move on.

Don't mess too much in a won game or by the time you've reached the end it will be a lost one.

Be careful which books you buy, but be patient with those who supply them. Books are a form of nostalgia. Writing them is a way for authors to fish the past from the rubbish bin, wipe it off, paint over the ugly parts and recycle it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the L-group.