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Learn to play Go 碁
A short step-by-step tutorial on how to learn Go with the help of a computer
1. Kiseido Go Server
How to connect to the server
The first step would be to have a look at one of the most suitable Go servers, KGS. Go to http://gokgs.com/, click on Play Go Now! and open a new account for yourself.
You may have to install Java on your computer, which is probably a good idea anyway. You can download and install the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) from http://java.com/. This is done automatically if you use Java Web Start as described below.
The KGS client software comes in two different forms. The one you've seen and used now is a small Java applet embedded in the web page. The bigger and better one is a standalone KGS client (also based on Java), named CGoban3, which is also a good SGF editor and viewer. The client is written in Java, so you can use it under Windows, Linux, Solaris, and MacOSX.
Here is the download page, and my recommendation is to download it through Java Web Start, because that automates the updates that come from time to time. You can't avoid the updates, because they are required to connect to the server, which is also updated.
What to do on the server
First you can watch a game, if you like. Click on the "Active Games" tab and click on a game. You can even chat with other onlookers, but not with the two players, who cannot see kibitz comments.
Then have a look at the many rooms. Click on Rooms, Room List, and visit some of the rooms. For English speakers the main room is the English Game Room, for Germans it's the Deutsche Ecke, for example.
There are also rooms where beginners play and get lessons, like the Beginners' Room. A room where players are encouraged to give weaker players lessons is the KGS Teaching Ladder.
To play a game, you can simply click on Play Go, or you can open a game with your preferred rules and wait for somebody to come in and play.
Make sure your opponent understands that you are a beginner. It would probably be a waste of time if you played against a master (dan player) who is not aware that you are a beginner.
If you play ranked games, which I recommend, then you will get a rank after a couple of games, which makes it much easier to find well-matched opponents and automatically get a well-measured handicap (stones placed on the board for the weaker, black player to compensate for the strength difference).
I also recommend to play on a small, 9 x 9 board first. If you can win games on that board and if you get a rank of 15k (15-kyu) or better, move up to a 13 x 13 board and still later to the full size of 19 x 19.
2. Playing Go against your own computer
In the last year a new crop of Go playing programs has appeared that are several grades stronger than the previous ones. Examples are CrazyStone, Mogo, and Leela. Mogo is available for free, but it is primarily a Linux program that is unstable on Windows computers.
Leela runs well on Windows and may well be the ideal opponent for a beginner. The free version, Leela lite, is limited to boards up to 13 x 13, and the full 19 x 19 version costs about €50. I recommend to download Leela lite and play your first games with it.
If you play rated games with Leela (the second toolbar icon), it will quickly determine your rank. Once you reach 15k (15-kyu), you are certainly strong enough to play other beginners on KGS. Of course you can start out on KGS just as well. I recommend to switch regularly between computer and human oppontents.
As you become stronger, you may want to play larger games, like 19 x 19, against your own computer. For these you can buy the full version of Leela, or you can download another program that is free, like GNU Go, gnugo.exe, available as gnugo.zip here. Then download and install Panda glGo as a graphical user interface for it, because GNU Go itself does not have a playable user interface.
However, GNU Go is currently not as strong as the newer programs. If you reach approximately a 10k (10-kyu) level, you may find that GNU Go plays a weak style and can be beaten using counter-tactics. At that point you should stop playing GNU Go to avoid learning a style of playing Go that is useful against GNU Go, but useless against human players.
Please add a comment here if you have any hints that help with installation and use.