I often wonder exactly how we progress in Go, or any skill for that matter. What separates a professional from an amateur? How do some improve rapidly while others do not improve at all? There are many important factors which are sometimes overlooked. Allow me to share with you what I have learned.
My current perspective is that Go is a skill. As with any other skill, one improves by practising that skill. There is a difference between playing music and studying music. There is a difference between playing Go and studying Go. Of course, Go is a game; above all other things it should be enjoyed. However, there is always room to improve in Go. Perhaps that is why it is so appealing to its players. Why, then, do some players have a more difficult time improving than others?
There is a good chance you have heard of the “10,000-Hour Rule.” The concept was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success. He claims that the key to success in any field is to practise it for ten thousand hours. In Go, “practise” is a very ambiguous term. There are so many areas to study! Life and death, professional games, joseki, fuseki, tesuji… the list goes on. Which method is best? Unfortunately I cannot answer that for you, as I am still discovering these areas myself. I believe the answer depends on the individual. Which method do you want to work on? How do you want to progress?
I would be very surprised if you finish reading this and say, “Okay, I will go play Go for ten thousand hours now.” It is important that you do not take that statement literally, rather, think of it like this: When you are so passionate about something that you dedicate a large amount of time to it, you almost can’t help but improve. Mastery is something that comes not by chance, but with persistent effort and dedication.
Regarding my own goal, I have improved by one stone since I started. I am now rereading Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go by Toshiro Kageyama. It was an excellent book which I would strongly recommend. I have been following my study plan and I expect more progress over the coming weeks.
I will leave you with a snapshot of my KGS rank graph. It is important not to obsess over your rank (many players become frustrated when they lose because of the negative effect it has on their rank), but at the same time it is a way to measure progress. The red circle marks the two weeks in which I read Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go and advanced to the rank of 5-kyu.