WGW 27: Stop Trying to Win in 50 Moves

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #27

After watching numerous kyu games over the last few months, there is a tendency that I’ve noticed among many kyu players that is not nearly as common in dan games: we try to establish a dominating position early in the game so that there is little to no possibility of your opponent coming back. In other words, it’s almost as if we would prefer to kill a large group in the beginning so that we can take it easy the rest of the game. And if we have any intention of getting stronger, we must get rid of this mentality.

A number of games out there lend themselves to that sort of mentality. For example, in League of Legends, if your team is able to score an ace (aka the opponent’s team has been killed and has yet to re-spawn) early on in the game, it can lead to a dominating position that can make for an easy win. Instead, go should be seen as a marathon instead of a 50 meter dash. There is no point in trying to sprint the first mile and gain a lead on everyone because what actually matters is your final time when you cross the finish line.

The primary reason this type of mentality is damaging for kyu players is that go is a game where you must prove yourself every time. In other words, no player (of approximately equal strength) would play the first 50 moves of a game, see a big moyo, and go, “Well, that does it. Game over. The moyo you sketched out looks so big I must resign.” So even if you manage to establish an advantageous position in the opening, failure to defend it or utilize your position correctly will often lead to a game reversal.

In addition, the pursuit of obtaining a huge advantage in the beginning can often lead players to making poor choices or creating a ton of weak groups (which translates to an epic disaster during the middle and endgame). Or, another common scenario would be starting a whole board fight that determines the fate of the game instead of simply establishing a favorable position.

My advice to you on avoiding this sort of mentality is this: stop trying to win in 50 moves. Just focus on keeping your groups strong, and play a balanced game. Your opponents will inevitably make overplays, and then you will have an easier time punishing their overplays and then gaining a winning position. After all, remember that you only need half a point more than your opponent to win.