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Go School Forum > Go discussion > How long does it take to Go from 23k to SDK?

How long does it take to Go from 23k to SDK?

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2017-02-15 18:22
thebeginer Really on the fence about how long it takes to get strong starting from zero
I posted this here about me being already old (30+) and starting to learn Go from zero (23k) and wishing to get better in a reasonable amount of time.


AFTER, my initial above postings, I was searching the Google and came across this blog post:


Obviously he started the project more than almost a year ago, but since it was my first time coming across and reading it, I didn't know the outcome, and was full of excitement to finish reading to see how he turned out.

Needless to say, I am humbled and disappointed by his glacierly slow process of spending entire year and only going from 13k to 10k, hardly an improvement at all, and certainly not the sort of 1 dan/shodan he was aiming for.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are guys like this:


So I set out to find what was the biggest real different between guys who make it to shodan and those that hit a hard wall at the SDK levels.... it seems that the real variance is the person himself or herself, and not any technique or study method or dedication or hard work or persistence or consistency.

Perhaps there are those who are just not "cut out" to be 1 dan (amateur) regardless of how hard he or she tries.

What do you guys think?

If that is the case, for a beginner like me, how would I know if I was one of those stubborn learns at Go or if I am capable of getting to 1 dan if I try hard enough, without wasting an entire year to find out like the first OP did?

2017-02-16 15:59
ndbgo Hi beginner,

Like you, when I started playing go, I figured I would be shodan in 1-3 years. Fast forward 6 and a half years, and I'm now at 6k.

I did study quite a lot, worked through the complete "Elementary" series, some of the "Mastering the Basics" series (opening theory, shape), and "Fundamentals." I participated in Inseong-Hwang internet school for 6 seasons, and I'm now using Guo Juan's training system for a year. I've played maybe 1000 games on internet, and maybe 100-200 in real life (much more fun, BTW).

Like you, I started at a later age (45). There's a saying among go-players that if you want to become shodan, you should be playing go by the time you're 19 or you won't make it. Every year you start earlier or later makes the final level that you can ultimately achieve half a stone higher or lower. I'm not sure that translates literally, in my case I should have been stuck at 12k-13k, but it seems that it's quite true for younger players: all dan-players I know started playing in high school or earlier.

The last link you share gives some very good advice, especially the first tip: question every concept. It's great to learn concepts, but it's better if you understand them, and you only really start to understand them if you see what happens when you don't follow them. So try to deviate from concepts in your games, see what happens and try to understand why.

About playing lots of games: you mentioned you weren't sure how helpful that is. I think playing lots of games is very helpful, but you should make sure that you review *every* game. Preferably with someone a bit stronger, but if that's not available, just by yourself. Try to understand where things went wrong, where you could have made a better move (knowing the answer your opponent came up with in the actual game), and try to learn from that. Just playing lots of games without thinking about why you won or lost them is far less helpful than spending 5 or 10 minutes after each game to figure out what happened.

2017-02-16 16:05
ndbgo And to actually answer your question: it took me 3.5 years to go from complete beginner to SDK, and then another year before I didn't oscillate between 9k and 10k at every tournament I played but stayed solidly at 9k. And then another 2 years to be were I am now, at 6k.

2017-02-16 16:12
ndbgo And one other thing I forgot to mention: if you're having fun playing go, does it really matter knowing how strong you can ultimately become?

2017-02-16 16:49
WT I think those 2 reddit threads cover things pretty well. There simply is no easy answer.

Some more anecdotal "data":
- A ~13yr old kid at our club just went from learning the game to KGS 8k in 4 month
- All the people (ages < 30) I've seen rise quickly (~6 month) from first learning to about 5k shared a certain obsession for the game during that time. They spent at least an hour a day.
- Like ndbgo says, just have fun. In my first Go club there was a gentleman in his 70s, he never had played higher than 15k, but he came every week and had fun.
- I learned the game pre internet with very limited access to reading material. No problem books. 2-3 games once a week at the club was typical. It took about a year to SDK without ever playing or meeting anyone above 1k. Made it eventually to 2k, but then stopped playing for 10 years. Came back to the game for a couple of years to play at the local club (never played online, servers were just coming up), had relearn quite a bit. Club folded and I took a 12 year break (I'm old ;), found a club again a year ago and this year I decided I'll give it a push to see if I can make it to 1D even at the advanced age of >50. I still didn't get into playing online, just like the real life experience so much more.

2017-02-16 22:49
thebeginer ndbgo, do you have a KGS or OGS account?

Where did you hear about the every year, half a stone thing?

I know all pro's started early.

I'm curious if there is anyone that started later than age 30 that made it to shodan?

2017-02-16 23:04
ndbgo In The Netherlands, we used to have a slightly different classification system, using grades, with the formula kyu = (grade-19)/2. So grade 19 would be 1d, grade 29 would be 5k, etc. The saying was that the maximum grade you can reach equals the age at which you started to play. So if start playing at 30, your maximum grade is 5.5k, if you start playing at 45, your maximum grade is 13k.

My KGS name is flutenic, happy to play you sometime.

2017-02-16 23:08
Darrell Malick I started in my 40's. I'm 57 now. With the use of this site I've gained more than 4 stones in the last year and am 1 Dan now in both the US and in Canada.

2017-02-16 23:12
thebeginer Thanks for the data point and feedback, yours is the first instance I heard of someone starting late (40) that made it to 1 dan amateur. Of course that doesn't mean anyone/everything could do it, but at least that someone has done it.

2017-02-16 23:13
ndbgo Ah, so if I keep it up I can be shodan by the time I'm 57, with a progress of one stone per year (which is my rate of progress since I'm using this site and the training system).

2017-02-16 23:18
thebeginer https://forums.online-go.com/t/really-on-the-fence-about-how-long-it-takes-to-get-strong-starting-from-zero/10618/17

I saw a guy on OGS with 500 games under his belt and still at 21k.

Make me sure that playing games does not help without study and other things.

2017-02-16 23:18
Darrell Malick ndbgo - and everyone else - I think you can do far better than 1 stone per year based on my experience. Just get through the Basic Course and the Joseki - step by step and you'll have gained a LOT.

2017-02-16 23:20
WT Ah, that gives me hope :)

2017-02-16 23:22
Darrell Malick By the way, you improve MUCH faster if you learn *good* moves from the start. Then you don't have to unlearn bad habits. That's what has slowed me down more than age. On a trip I took some years back in China, I visited a Go School. They had professionals teaching young beginners. I was surprised. I asked why. Why not a middle level teacher for the beginners? "Because middle level teachers will teach wrong and then they have to unlearn later."

2017-02-16 23:25
WT Number of games played and number of quality games played is different. To me a quality game takes about an hour and is followed by a review. Against players of similar strength the reviews are short. When I play teaching games against a 3d we usually review the first 40-50 moves and go over variations.

2017-02-16 23:28
ndbgo About learning good moves from the start: yes, that's definitely true. I know the phenomenon from learning musical instruments, where unlearning bad habits takes forever. I assume it would be similar with learning go.

2017-02-16 23:35
thebeginer Kids growing up these days should be able to reach 10Dan pro if they start at age 2 with the help of deep learning like AlphaGo and Zen etc since with these, even human professional moves are no longer "best" moves.

2017-02-16 23:40
ndbgo Darrell, wait a minute, how on earth could you work through the complete Basic Course AND Joseki Step-by-step in one year? That's 100 lectures for the Basic Course, and more than 70 for the Joseki Step-by-step lectures. You would need to do 3 or 4 lectures every week, there's no way I could find time for that.

2017-02-16 23:41
thebeginer Well if he signed up for annual membership he is sure getting his monies worth

2017-02-16 23:59
Darrell Malick ndbgo - I started 2.5 years ago on the Training System. I was very stuck in the 4k - 5k band. I haven't actually listened to all of the Basics lectures, they tend to be a bit below that level. But I do all the problems, and if there's *anything* non-obvious, then I DO watch the lectures. I have watched all of the joseki step by step lectures and do those problems. Actually, I have 6617 problems in my review now. You can figure out the math from there. The trick is to work consistently on the Training System. A little every day. And play games. And get reviews when possible (ideally from Guo Juan, but she's pretty busy!) But it was a thrill when I made 1Dan! I entered the Canadian Open in July 2016 as 1Dan a bit optimistically, and won 4 out of 6 rounds. Then entered the US open as 1 Dan in August and won 4 out of 6 again. So - confirmed! Oh, and a very exciting but probably anomalous moment: I went to Japan in January and beat a 5 dan! Of course, he beat me twice, but still, one out of three... I also beat a Japanese 2 Dan and a 3 Dan in even games in a tournament, so I'd put my Japanese ranking in that range currently. I recently added a bunch of middle game lectures and problems and I feel like I gained at least a stone right there. I'll try to promote to at least 2D at this year's US Open. Oh, ndbgo - I'm in Amsterdam as of this morning. Where are you?

2017-02-17 00:08
ndbgo Your approach to lectures and problems is exactly like mine, so far. And yes, a little every day works very well. I aim at 50 problems every day, and usually can keep that up (my streak is 101 now!). I'll make sure to finish all Basic Course material and then on to the Joseki lectures...

Great to have won from a 1-dan! I had a similar feeling at this year's NK Dames, where I entered as by far the weakest player (out of 8 participants). My goal was to win at least one game, but I managed two, and I finished on a shared 5th place!

Usually I'm in Eindhoven, but this weekend I'll be at the Leuven tournament.

2017-02-17 00:15
Darrell Malick 101 excellent!

Eindhoven - home of Phillips, right? Ever come to Amsterdam?

2017-02-17 00:23
ndbgo Yes, home of Philips. I don't come to Amsterdam very often, it's just a bit too far to do conveniently in one day. I might come to one or two days of the Amsterdam tournament, but I'm also considering a holiday in that period, so still undecided. But you're playing in the NGC, aren't you? So we'll probably meet in June (although not at a go-board).

2017-02-17 01:23
DavidA thebeginer, there is a person on ogs with 28,000 9x9 games played. Started at 10k, 28,000 games later still 10k. oh wow, actually 11k now.

2017-03-17 22:38
Ethelor Yeah, I find that there comes a point where number of games played doesn't translate into improvement. Sometimes extra experience and practice doesn't help if the underlying ideas and strategies are wrong.

Furthermore you need to try different things and stretch yourself. After seeing how different people improve online I think that the soundest way is to do the following.

1. Play games against people who are 3-4 stones stronger than you in an even game.

2. Review these games and have those games reviewed by stronger players.

3. Perform regular meta-analyses in order to figure out general deficiencies in your game

4. Use that direction to study the game further. Towards this end, this website is one of the best resources around.

This is the best general method that I've been able to come up with. Its strength is that it adapts based on what you don't understand which is what is required to find what's holding you back.

2017-03-17 22:46
Ethelor > Darrell, wait a minute, how on earth could you work through the complete Basic Course AND Joseki Step-by-step in one year?

Slowly and steadily, studying every day. It's not hard, you just need to be diligent.

I started using the training system properly early last september. Since then I've covered "Joseki: Step by Step", "Beginners step by step", corner L&D, all about attacking and now I'm working on "Typical Mistakes by Guo Juan"

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