Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions. I am feeling better after getting so many ideas and will keep going. The method I have found to work the best, especially with younger players is to start them on a 9x9 or smaller and get them playing first capture within minutes of sitting down. The kids usually love getting to play right away, and I just explain things as their games progress. When they are ready for the full set of rules I've just been doing a 4 stone handi on the 9x9 if there's no other kids for them to learn with (as if often the case).
I know the thread has been dead for some time, but I just remembered something, so I could not resist the urge to revive it.
We have discussed capture Go, but there are other ideas that are worth mentioning. The following is sure to result in a method that instills core fundamentals of Go in perhaps as little as 1 easy lesson. First, teach the rules. Second, show liberties for different (eyeless) groups of stones and how each is captured. Third, play a few games on 5x5 board, then 7x7 board, and finally 9x9 board.
The rules are simple enough. In essence there are only 3 and can be explained as follows. First, a stone can be placed on any point where a horizontal line and a vertical line meet. Once placed there, it does not move. Second, as long as a stone or group of stones is connected along a line to at least 1 empty point, known as a liberty, it can remain on the board. If only 1 liberty remains available, this is known as "atari" in Japanese and it means only 1 turn remains until a stone or group of stones is captured and removed from the board. Once a stone of the opposite color is placed on this last liberty, the stone or group of stones that just lost said liberty is removed from the board and considered captured. Third, any position in which immediate and consecutive recapture of a stone can occur indefinitely (known as "ko" in Japanese) must be left alone by the side that just lost a stone in said position for at least 1 turn before playing therein. (Of course, if immediate and consecutive recapture were allowed to go on indefinitely in a ko position, the game would be stalled.)
After explaining the rules, you continue with explaining the rule of liberties & capture. For this, you use a 9x9 board. One beings by placing a single stone on the center. Count liberties for that (4) and say that (4) turns are needed to capture said stone. If you prefer, you can let the learner place the stones on the liberties surrounding the stone and correct him/her by showing that only the empty points connected directly to the point where the stone is, count. Reinforce this whenever the need arises; often the learner will place more stones than necessary to perform the capture. Afterwards, place the same single stone on the edge. Count liberties and turns needed to capture. Finally, place the same single stone in the corner and do the same as before.
Then you go on to 2-stone groups. You show that this group is formed by placing a stone on 1 of 4 liberties of a stone of the same color. One liberty is taken away, but 2 are given back to make 6 liberties for the 2-stone group versus 4 for the single stone, when it is in the center. Then place this 2-stone group on the edge. Place it in 2 positions, lying down and standing up. Count liberties and turns to capture. Finally, place 2-stone group in the corner and count liberties plus turns to capture.
In each of the examples mentioned in this post, you and the learner count the liberties and turns to capture. When you get to 3-stone groups, there are 2 shapes of this group, Straight 3 and L-3, or "foot 3" (also known as empty triangle). Each shape is placed in the center, then on the edge in 2 positions. For straight 3, the 2 positions are lying down and standing up. For the L-3, the 2 positions are foot on the edge and toe on the edge. Finally, both shapes are placed in the corner. Straight 3 appears in only one form in the corner, but Foot 3 can appear in 3 forms. Ankle against corner, toe facing corner, and upside down. You and the learner will observe that one shape can have different number of liberties depending on its relative orientation. When Foot 3 is in upside down orientation, it has an enclosed liberty. You can explain that in the capturing process, occupy outside liberties first and inside (enclosed) liberties last.
Finally, you arrive at 4-stone groups and there are 4 different shapes of this form. Dumpling 4 (or "bale of hay 4", if you prefer), straight 4, or "stick 4", L-4 or Leg 4, and T-4 or "hammer 4" (because its shape resembles that of a hammer). First, set up the Dumpling 4. This shape is one commonly made by beginners in the mistaken belief that it secure from capture due to its size and the fact that all the stones are together in a group, so introducing the characteristics of this shape is beneficial IMO. In the center dumpling 4 has 8 liberties, 6 liberties on the side, and 4 in the corner. You can explain that since it does not work well with other shapes of stone groups to surround inside liberties (territory), the dumpling 4 and other dumpling shapes should be avoided whenever possible.
Next, set up the Stick 4 in the center. It should have 10 liberties - 8 on the sides and 1 on each of both ends. That means 10 turns needed to capture. Then place the Stick on the edge in 2 positions, lying down and standing up. In each position the number of liberties will be different. Finally, as with the Stick of 3, the Stick of 4 can go in the corner only one way.
Leg 4 has 9 liberties in the center, so 9 turns to capture. On the edge this shape can be found in 4 positions. Foot on the edge, leg lying down, foot up in the air, and toe on the edge. In each relative orientation the number of liberties will vary and so will the number of turns needed to capture. At this time you can introduce the concept of surrounding from the top, then the bottom.
In the corner Leg 4 can be found in 3 relative orientations. Toe against the corner, leg lying against the corner and knee above the corner. The 1st orientation will have 6 liberties, 4 atop and 2 underneath. The 2nd will have only 4 liberties and the 3rd will have 7 liberties, of which 2 are enclosed.
At last, you get to the Hammer of 4. In the center the hammer has 8 liberties. On the edge the hammer can be found in 3 positions. Upside down, standing on its side, and standing up. In the first orientation there are only 5 liberties, in the second there are 7 liberties, and in the third there are also 7. Notice, though, that in the third orientation 2 of the 7 liberties are "underside" liberties and placing a stone on one of these liberties will result in that stone being in atari.
Then on to the corner. There, the hammer can be found in 2 orientations, face down on the corner and 2 legs on the edge. In the 1st one the hammer has only 4 liberties and in the 2nd there are 6, of which 1 is an inside (enclosed) liberty and 1 is an "underside" liberty.
After the rather lengthy explanation, you and the learner are ready to play some games. I suggest playing the first few games on 5x5 or 7x7. It goes by super-fast, which allows you to play multiple games in a short time span, but you can still play a normal game of Go or capture Go, depending on preference. Although, if you choose the former option you can omit the pass rule and just play until one side runs out of liberties. (The side that runs out of them loses.) The learner will learn 2 important lessons with this. The importance of increasing liberties for one's own groups and the importance of passing when the only remaining choice is to play inside one's own territories. If you go with the capture Go option, the learner will acquire the ability to protect his/her own groups in addition to capturing those of the opponent. Many fundamentals can be learned from both methods, even before going on to capturing techniques per se
, such as ladder and net. Increasing liberties to avoid capture, reducing liberties to facilitate capture, connecting stone groups of same color to increase liberties and so avoid capture, disconnecting stone groups of opponent's color to reduce liberties and so facilitate capture, direction in which to impose atari, correct sequence of moves to execute capture successfully or to avoid capture, etc.
Whenever I play a teaching game of capture Go or normal Go on the small boards with someone, I intentionally make mistakes to see whether they are paying attention or not. I make it easy for them at first so they can begin grasping fundamentals. As the learner gains more experience, I increase the level of difficulty slightly and slightly.
Once the learner has played for about 2 or 4 weeks on the 9x9 and smaller boards, depending on frequency of games, you can introduce them to the 13x13 and 19x19 boards. In anticipation of games on the full-size board, you can have the learners replay pro games. It is the closest many will ever get to having an East Asian professional for a Go teacher. A caveat, though. Some beginners may have difficulty replaying games from a diagram, which is how the vast majority of games are recorded. One alternative is a list of coordinates, such as those found in Oskar Korschelt's Theory and Practice of Go
. I recently opened up a thread on this very topic, of game records in coordinate list format as an alternative for those beginners who may find it frustrating to replay a game from a diagram. viewtopic.php?f=15&t=11764
For beginners it is better simply to replay pro game records from start to finish and the more they do, the better. Some time will have to pass before the beginner is advanced enough to begin understanding the reasoning behind the moves in these games, without the help of comments. However, if commentary is desired, a book such as Invincible
, by John Power, is a good choice. There are other commented game record collections out there, but comments only serve to help organize what the beginner learns through replaying pro games. Thus, the first thing to do is for the beginner to replay pro game records from start to finish, as often as possible. Development of good playing habits and conditioning of the brain to remember long sequences of plays are a couple of major benefits. Another important benefit is easier attempts at solving life & death and other exercises; all tsumego and similar exercises are essentially fragments of a game of Go.
And for those of your students that dislike doing exercises, replaying pro games should be sufficient since there is not the stigma associated with getting the wrong answer. In fact, it is likely that after a period of just replaying pro game records such persons will gain confidence enough to try out the exercises.
I am still working on graphical approaches to enticing new kids to learn as I feel there must be one that will work. Beyond this I will continue approaching the elementary teachers to see if I can win one of them over to the educational benefits of go and dispel the enigma that it's too difficult for youths to pick up. I'm also going to look into organizing events that may draw out the hesitant ones. There is an inservice coming up soon so hopefully I'll be able to bend a few ears that day. I'd love to pull in the chess club and work with them but...they don't exist, there are absolutely no board game clubs in the school besides Go club.
I recently discovered that Go is probably the easiest game to pick up. It's just that one must use the rule of liberties and capture as their point of departure, for everything that happens in a game of Go is based on this. It's like everything humans do. It all boils down to the need to survive and reproduce. Human beings struggle to live in a place and expand their numbers, but unless the amount of available living space can be increased, after a certain point there is always bound to be large groups of humans fighting and killing each other in pursuit of the same. In Go this occurs as groups of stones striving to attain permanence and expand their reach, but in many games groups of stones are either captured - or made permanently subject to capture - or reduced when secure and permanently safe from capture, since the number of stones on the board increases, but the amount of intersections does not.
Even fuseki can be explained in terms of the rule of liberties and capture. Only that, instead of connection & separation of groups and direct occupation of an enemy group's liberties, it's the occupation of areas of influence - and potential space for expansion of a group of stones and the territory they surround - on the board. It's the difference between having one big moyo on one side of the board and having the same moyo be divided in two because your opponent played a stone right in the middle. To make it easier, think of fuseki as the phase of large-scale shapes, middle game as the phase of medium-scale shapes, and the endgame as the phase of small-scale shapes.
When it comes to using apps and such, each classroom has a small set of iPads they use as a station - the next time I get these iPads in for updates I will push the TinyGo app onto all of them. Even with no explanation there are likely to be a couple inquisitive ones who will open the app just to see what it is.
If the app is available, by all means use it and promote its use. For many it's the only way to play Go when physical sets are not handy.
If you happen to know someone that works with ceramics, perhaps you can have them make some porcelain Go stones for you. These are rather simple to make. Nothing more than round porcelain discs of 2 different colors, between 3/4 and 7/8 inch in diameter and between 3/16 and 1/4 inch thick. A small radius can be made on the upper and lower edges and a bulge made on the upper side to facilitate placement and removal of stones from the board. These will likely have to be single-convex, since double-convex stones can be difficult to render in porcelain. Go stones can be made from marble and even volcanic stones, but these materials are hard, so making them by hand, with even the proper tools, can be the most laborious of chores.
I do not work in the same town I live in so teaching people outside of the school club isn't going to help it unless I get local students interested enough to start their own school go club so we can have competitions. I do get over to the library and teach during the summer - on nice days I play in the Library's pocket park just off the main street. I only got a kid here and there but it was something. This next year will be my second year doing that so I will work with the library to hype it up and get the word out, I'll also be doing a single day "seminar" on a Saturday. The seminar idea was the Library coordinator's as we had a lot of people calling in asking what the go club was and hesitation due to their not knowing how to play. So even though the club ads said "absolute beginners welcome" people were disinterested because of a perceived gap in "regulars" and themselves. So to remedy this and the "I might try it next week..." we decided to schedule an event where I do introductions to the game and that's the entire purpose of the day. At the very least I should be able to give introductions to a decent number of people this way because events pull in many of their regulars and we'll do it in the youth area where they hang out and game on a regular basis.
I know from a USGO.org article that there was a high school student in the Lower 48, probably in California, Washington State, or the Northeast, who started a Go club in his high school and the first thing he would do is just show games and explain the game of Go to newcomers. No boards, no stones, just explanations. The first lesson was pure exposition of the game. If anyone was interested, they could return for the second lesson to being learning the rules and playing Go. I think this approach might be effective in your situation.Getting strong at Go is a matter of effort, not talent.
(I have been playing Go for almost 9 years, but I have yet to clear SDK level since I have not spent much time playing and when I did play regularly I did not have an organized study program to encourage my progress.) I recommend you institute an organized study program for all the members of the Go club so that there are no lasting disparities in skill level. As well, a Go club that has just such a program in place will be able to function well even when you are absent.