Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tsumego: Speed up by Slowing Down

I'd like to start this post with a short portion of my favorite book of all time.

Suffering produces Endurance 
Endurance produces Perseverance
Perseverance produces Character 
Character produces Hope
and Hope does not put us to shame.

There are many many things I could say about this passage, but I'm not talking about this passage. Today I'm talking about Tsumego. Tsumego can be opposed to Tsumeshougi which I just learned a few days ago and gives me some more context for what tsumego means. If you don't understand what I just said that is by all means completely fine and you are not missing out on much more than a joke between school friends. 

Several months ago I was going through Cho Chikun's elementary and intermediate Tsumego collections which I finished in just under a month going at an alarming pace of several hundred per day.
The results were in and I gained about a rank and a half on KGS. Although it was fun and I did have some gains, I have now switched my whole methodology of doing Tsumego.

As an aside I would like to say to those of you who have questioned me in private, public, or begrudgingly in the back of your minds that it is impossible for a 10k to go through Cho Chikun's Elementary and Intermediate Collections, I offer my complete agreement and condolences. I'm quite sure that I did not get more than 60% of the Elementary and probably less than 20% of the Intermediate correct. I was young and niave`, however I must say that I did still get something out of it.

My new methodology is something I invented in about 8 minutes one morning sitting out on my porch after an argument with my mother. I had spent 4-5 hours on the computer supposedly doing Tsumego but when all was said and done I had watched 2 anime episodes, browsed the internet, played a game of go and done only 11 Tsumego problems.  Thus leading my mom to, quite wisely if I may say so, take away my computer privileges until after 4 o'clock.

As an aside I would like to say that I do not, in fact, speak with a british, australian or texas accent.
However if it would make your reading experience more interesting I highly recommend that you pretend I do have one of the listed accents as you read through this post. I believe it may make your already enjoyable experience more entertaining and enjoyable.

The new method is simply this
I am going to go through Cho Chikun's Elementary Again at 30 a day by splitting my work into 10 12 minute sessions and doing 3 problems per session. this will allow me 3-4 minutes on each problem to fully think out the problem. If I finish the problems early in the 12 minute period, good for me and I can  take a bit of a break. if I do not finish a problem in the given time I will simply post it on KGS and have 
one of the stronger players there help me figure it out. After about 30 days at this pace I will have finished the set.

Step 2

Repeat step 1 doing twice as many of the Tsumego in the alloted time.
This basically means spending 10 12 minute sessions going again through the same set of problems but doing 6 problems every session. this time it will take 15 days to complete.

Step 3-7
keep repeating and doubling your speed until you reach the point at which you can solve atleast 100 problems in each 10 minute session.

if this takes more than 7 steps go ahead and continue until you make it there. But it probably wont.
After this point I sugguest going back through the whole set in 1 day twice a month to keep it in your mind. And also starting this same process again with the Intermediate set  or any other large set of tsumego you come across that you like.


Well that's basically the method. One problem allot of people who have done this have said is 
"It's hard to get the perseverance to keep on keeping on with these problems" My advice to you 
is to go through a bit of suffering. It will help you build your endurance and perseverance.


  1. This reminds me of a Janice Kim essay I read online a while ago that I'm struggling in vain to find again. She said that when she was an insei (or, you know, the Korean equivalent), they weren't supposed to say they had the answer to a problem until they would stake their life on it. She said that if the problems you're doing make this too difficult, you should simply be doing easier problems, doing more of them, and coming to absolute clarity.

    So your plan sounds good.

  2. Like Nate, I think your plan sounds solid. I would follow this approach more but I know that with my time constraints, my current approach is to increase exposure to different problems and solutions. I will instead see how my fundamental instincts guide me regarding my reading. After about 15 seconds to a minute, I'll check the solution guide to see how I did, and then if I was totally wrong, go back and see it again. Hope it's going well!