Why Is Go So Hard? | Including Tips And Tricks

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So, why is Go so hard? The rules are pretty simple and you can learn to play in minutes. However, you will often lose to more experienced players. So what is it about Go that is so difficult?

Go is so hard because, whilst the rules are simple to learn, they have nothing to do with winning the game. They are simply the framework that allows the game to be played. Winning the game involves gaining the most territory and this requires not only the strategy to beat your opponent but also experience.

Playing a piece on one side of the board can have an effect in a completely different area many moves later. Understanding this and having the experience to know how this will affect your game will be key to playing and winning Go. Playing can also sometimes require an intuitive understanding of the game that only comes with experience.

The fact that Go is hard is part of its lasting attraction and probably why it has lasted for over 4000 years with relatively few changes. It may take some time to get better at this game but in the long run Go will always have more to give you as a player.

If you are finding Go hard to play then let’s look at some great ways to increase the speed that you learn. These following tips will also make the game more fun to play and get you off to a flying start.

Why is Go so hard?

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How to start playing Go

If you are interested in learning Go then let’s take a look at some ways that you can start playing and get the most enjoyment out of playing Go as a beginner.

  1. Start on a 9 x 9 board

The full 19 x 19 board is huge for a beginner to start playing on. Start by playing on a 9 x 9 board as you won’t feel so overwhelmed by all the empty space.

A 9 x 9 board will help reduce the area in which you play and so make it easier. As you progress and feel confident you can then progress to a 13 x 13 board size to further develop your skill at gaining and controlling territory.

Once you have gotten the 13 x 13 game down to about 15 minute play throughs and you feel ready. You can then begin to play on the full 19 x 19 board with a good understanding of the game.

You’ll also have enough experience to be able to lay your stones down with some plan or strategy.

Beginner Go board sizes
Various Go board sizes
  1. Play with players of your ability

I know this is obvious but hear me out. The thing about Go is that you are going to lose a lot. Best get used to it. When you win it will be oh so sweet.

However, there is no point in learning to drive and popping down the race track and racing experienced race drivers. You just ain’t got their experience and knowledge. The same is in Go.

The better way is to learn Go by playing against opponents that have also just started. You will be at the same level, learning the same things and enjoying the same game. Play a mix of players.

Some that are newer and some that are better than you to get the most from the game. Not too much better though. It will be much more balanced and give you much more opportunity to win a game.

  1. Play against human opponents

It is fine to play against a computer when you first start playing and need to fully understand the rules. However, in Go there is no competition between computer AI and humans.

Humans win hands down – at least for now. So play as much as you can against real people.

If you don’t know anyone to play then there are some great organisations you can check out. The American Go Association has a list of Chapters and Clubs and also ways of playing online Go.

So even if there is no club near you then you can find a community online to play with. You can find their website by clicking the link here: https://www.usgo.org/.

There are more sites for other countries too such as the British Go Association that you can find by clicking here: https://www.britgo.org/.

This will be the best experience of playing Go and you will also meet more experienced players who will help you improve.

  1. Play with handicaps

Go has a brilliant handicap system that is designed to level the playing field so that the weaker player has a better chance of winning. This is done through a ranking system similar to martial arts.

If you do want to play better players than a handicap will be a must. Each Go player starts at 35 Kyu and works their way up to 1 Kyu. Once there they can progress to 1st Dan and continue up to 9th Dan.

The handicap is then worked out depending on the difference in rank between the two players. So a 35 Kyu playing against a 32 Kyu would have a difference of 3. This would mean that the 32 Kyu player would give a 3 stone advantage to the 35 Kyu.

The 35 Kyu player would start as black and have 3 stones placed on the board. The 32 Kyu player would then commence with the next turn.

If you want to find out more about handicapping then there is a good Wikipedia entry here. This is a really great way of playing and you should always try and play with handicaps to give yourself the best experience at Go.

  1. Practice by playing Go problems

You can practice your Go by playing Go problems. These are pre-set stone layouts on the board that pose a puzzle. They are designed to teach varying concepts and solutions that you can then incorporate into your Go gameplay.

They are also lots of fun to puzzle over if you can’t find anyone to play with. Here are a few websites that provide Go problems that you can play to your heart’s content.





So, that is why Go is so hard but you should not be put off by this excellent strategic game. If you bear with it and understand that at first there is a learning period you will succeed. Using the above tips will also help you get the most out of your games.

If you are looking for a good Go board set then the Yellow Mountain 11inch magentic Go Board Set is a great starter board and also has the benefit that it is a travel set you can take round friends.

If you want something a little more substantial then the Brybelly All Bamboo Go board set is perfect as it also has a 13 x 13 beginners board on the reverse side.

Finally, I would recommend connecting with a local or online community who will be able to help you improve. You will find that Go will provide you with years of enjoyment and will keep you reaching further in your ability to play.

If you still find Go hard then perhaps Santorini will be a good alternative with some great strategy involved. Read my Santorini Board Game Review. Wingspan is also a beautiful and unique board game that you can play on your own. Read How to Play Wingspan Solo.

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