Kageyama 7-Dan on Amateurs and Professionals


In yesterday's post I quoted Toshiro Kageyama 7-dan, author of the fantastic Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go. If I were more self-indulgent, I would have quoted nearly half the book.

But I just realized something: I have a blog, and I can do whatever I want!

In the quotes below, all emphasis is mine.

On amateurs and professionals

On the beauty of the professional's work:

Watching a professional game, one can sense beauty in the flow of play and beauty in the shapes created. Amateur go does not even begin to approach this.

The simple difference:

To put it simply, amateurs play at the game; professionals labor at it.

Making the leap:

[W]hat changed me from an amateur into a professional was getting a really firm grip on the fundamentals.

The universal rule:

Faithfulness to fundamentals seems to be a common thread linking professionalism in all areas.

On trusting the basics:

Go is the kind of game in which you are an expert if you can just keep on making ordinary moves. You need not play any especially brilliant moves at all. Amateurs' moves, however, are frequently far from ordinary; in fact, I see them making the most nonsensical moves imaginable[.]

Like your craft; be willing to learn; and put in the effort to do it right:

No doubt the first requirement for becoming strong at go is to like it, like it more than food or drink, and a second requirement is the desire to learn. A third requirement is to study it, using proper methods, patiently, little by little, without cramming. Ask dan-level amateurs and you will find that they did not become stronger just by playing their opponents for fun. Each one kindled the desire to learn more, and put in no small amount of time studying.

On fundamentals

Internalizing the fundamentals:

The most important thing to learn from professionals is not where they play but why they play there.

Fundamentals are endless:

When he advances to the point where he begins to think of himself as a strong player, the thing he needs to do to become ever stronger is to go back and study the fundamentals once more.

On making them instinctual:

[...] the game lasts for two or three hundred moves, and you cannot stop at each one to consider each of the fundamentals. You have to soak up the fundamentals as you practice on your own, studying them until they become a part of your very being. If the fundamentals do not operate subconciously when you sit down to play, you have not mastered them yet.

On the dangers of amateurism

Collapsing due to shallow, brittle knowledge:

[Those who memorize fixed opening patterns] tend to become too dependent on patterns, thereby crippling their innate strength, and fall easy prey to the former, who have nothing but innate strength to rely on.

On the disastrous end of the amateur path. My favorite quote from the book:

The reason that so many people never master this elementary skill is that they keep ignoring it as being beneath them. They are the people who cannot be bothered to 'read'; who try to capture the uncapturable group because it just looks as if it can be done or because they figure they can muddle through somehow, and so they rush headlong into disaster. They are also the people who, when they face a slightly stronger opponent, do not try to capture the capturable group because with their fuzzy reading they are afraid of messing it up; who innocently add unnecessary stones to their already alive groups; who take fright without cause; who tremble when they sit down at the go board; who play through the whole game without a sullen expression; who lose every fight; who eventually come to hate go. Sorry wretches, through choice they have abandoned the most interesting and enjoyable of all games.

On emotional management

Avoiding despair:

Anyone who leads an abandoned and dissipated life because the end of the world is near is going to experience his own personal destruction first. Desperation and despair are to be feared most of all.

On effort

Effort in everything:

There is a saying that a lion gives its all when chasing even a rabbit.

The pain of effort is worth it — but only if done right:

Of course one cannot make progress in any discipline without effort. 'There is no pleasure without pain.' Pleasure is progress, and pain the pain of effort. Study in the wrong way, however, and the result may be just pain with no pleasure at all. One must, without fail, learn the correct way to study.

The reward:

No professional regrets the time he has to spend studying. [...] The way young players have taken over the game can only be called terrifying. The time they spend studying every day defies the imagination.

Talent is not enough:

Professionals do this unquestioningly. Even a gemstone has to be polished. 'A man is always moving either forward or backward,' says Kano, 9-dan. 'He never stands still. This should be every go player's motto, and he should keep piling effort on top of effort no matter what his age. He can be confident of always making progress.'