Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Secret of Getting Better at Go

It's been almost five years since I've blogged about go, and even longer since I've written about my online rating.

Going to go tournaments or go club was a major investment of time, and I found that I would rather spend my game-playing time with friends. Of course, with toddlers, I have no time for competitive in-person go, though in a few years, I hope I can teach them and start taking them to compete against their elders.

I have, however, recently started playing online again, after Ben gained a renewed interest in it. Despite the fact that I don't have time to study my go books, or even devote that much thought to it, my rating is now 15 kyu, higher than it ever was before I took a break from playing. It even got to 14 kyu at one point, but it's been bouncing around as it tends to do.

The go server that I use now allows you to plot your rating versus number of games played, rather than just time. That graph for my account is reproduced above. Though there's a fair amount of volatility (including a significant dip when I took up the game again in late 2009), the pattern is clear -- in fact, almost linear.

So what's the secret of getting better at go? Play more games! I don't claim that's an original observation; I think there have even been studies to that effect. But I find it interesting that it continues to hold even in the mid-teen kyu range I have now achieved. I had suspected my go abilities had plateaued (and was just happy to steal time for a move here and there). Since I don't have time to play as much as I used to, my rating will improve more slowly, but it would be really cool to achieve single-digit kyu status some day.

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