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The day I discovered Go

I think it was in the autumn of 2008, though it might have been earlier. I was working in a web company which had a very nice office with a coffee table area and some sofas. One day when I was looking through some cupboards and found a chess set. I thought it might be fun to have some games of chess in the office and put the set out.

We did play a few games of chess, but it wasn't long before someone suggested bringing in a Go set. I had heard of the game but had no idea how to play, so I asked him to show me the basics. I thought it was very interesting: different to chess, but deep and fascinating. I stared at the little plastic stones so much they would float before my eyes as I was going to sleep.

I downloaded GnuGO to get a bit of practice, and was soon looking for online opponents. Dragon Go Server was great for this as I didn't need hours of uninterrupted time to play; I could just make as many moves in a day as I had time for. Also, I had a long-running over-the-board game going with my desk mate in the office. Each of us would probably make two or three moves a day, and I would copy the moves into an SGF file so that we could reconstruct the board if necessary if it was upset by the cleaner (which happened a couple of times). Sometimes there were long lulls where neither of us would play for a while. Over two years we probably only played 6 or 7 games!

I did not improve very fast at first. Playing only correspondence-style games is not a great way to get stronger as it is often difficult to remember what happened in the earlier stages of the game, and what was going through your mind when you made certain moves. However, it is very useful for keeping the Go muscles exercised daily, as I mentioned in the post on motivation.

I think my first real attempt to improve and do some serious study came about a year after I first started playing. I got the SmartGo Pro app for the iPhone and used it to do lots of tsumego problems, and also the Tetsuki app to watch live games online.

The books I found most helpful were Charles Matthews' invaluable Teach Yourself Go and Life and Death by James Davies.

Probably the biggest asset to me as a beginner was Sensei's Library, an amazing Wikipedia of Go which explains all sorts of technical terms and allowed me to look up certain openings or corner patterns in my games and understand why some moves are better in certain situations.

I also watched all of the excellent 123Go videos on YouTube by Catalin Taranu, which while many of them were (and still are) over my head in terms of the level of play, they were nonetheless really helpful for understanding how strong players think - and what they think about.

So how did you discover Go, and what got you interested in the game? Let me know in the comments.

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