Go Magic Courses Reviewed by a Go Teacher

Hi! I’m Marco Henkel from Germany. As a Go teacher myself (in schools and at the local go club), I was very intrigued by the idea of Go Magic. Youtube videos or explanation websites always have felt a bit lacking as an effective learning experience for Go, as they don‘t really take into account what pace a learner needs to learn new concepts and let them sink in with repetition and a step by step approach that build on each another. Go Magic tries to not only change the approach to teaching different concepts, but also attempts to build courses that follow an educational step by step basis for the learner.

A quick word about me: I have been teaching Go at a local club, in university, on local events and in schools for several years. I am currently playing at 5k EGF (2k OGS) and love tackling the more challenging aspects around me like figuring out how to support local artists, so Go fits right in. 😉

I have not been paid to write this article, nor have I been asked by Go Magic to write these. After going through all the courses, I honestly believe that what I found on this website is exciting enough to warrant the time of a Go teacher and learner, as the content provided does somewhat replace a lot of the teaching to be done for a new learner.

For a learner, I would recommend to finish the courses in the following order, as it provides a nice progression with clearly explained concepts (bolded courses I consider essential):

  1. [30k] Go Rules Express Course
  2. [25k–20k] Fundamentals of Go on 13×13
  3. [20k–15k] Deeper into the game of Go on 19×19
  4. [20k–10k] Typical Mistakes that wouldn’t let us get better
  5. [20k–5k] Common 3-3 Invasions in Actual Games
  6. [15k–5k] The Main Principles of a Glorious Opening
  7. [Any] The Magic of Go – Complete Edition
  8. [15k–1k] How NOT to lose 30 points in the endgame
  9. [10k–5d] The Fury of Jowa and the Blood-Vomiting game
  10. [8k–5d] The Art of Attachments
  11. [5k–5d] Probing Moves: From Standard to Impossible

Go Rules Express Course

Aimed at: Complete Beginners

The first free course! Most people probably already checked it out or didn‘t bother if they didn‘t need a rules refresher. It does a great job going over the basic rules and offers some easily understandable metaphors and comparisons.

It goes over the Go set, the concept of atari, ko and some bonus content. You’ll finish the whole course in about 30 minutes and the inclusion of the atari, double atari and ko quizzes are extremely useful to let players test out the new rules they learned. Thankfully, there is a whole lot of Go rules explanations available in English, so I don‘t think this course is “needed”, but I think I am still leaning towards letting new players try this instead of the combination of videos and atari test problems I gave them before, because it‘s very neatly structured and deliberately paced enough to let new concepts sink in.

This is probably one of the best introduction to the rules of Go I found so far on the internet. Other videos and introduction sites do a good job reaching similar results in my opinion, though. The course is well structured, adds a factor for light entertainment to keep learners engaged and offers some quizzes after every lecture to allow learners to repeat and remember the newly learned concepts. The only thing I would add, and where this opinion piece might be of help, is that the fascination of Go is a lot more than just the basic rules. It is a game that connects us to 3.000 years of human history, something we as humans strived to improve on for countless generations, iterating and passing down our knowledge. It is also a good tool to train our own minds, so much so, that in other countries it might even be a plus to have high Go experience on a Go application. Go is far, far more than just the sum of its rules, and I found it very effective to share that fascination with every new enthusiast and let that spark of inspiration sink in.

The Fundamentals of Go on 13×13

Aimed at: Beginners who want to get their first tools of understanding the game after learning the rules.

This is the second free course (Discount code on the Go Magic Discord) and the first big highlight I found on this site. It takes around 2 hours to go through all the video content and quizzes and is easily one of the most thorough and deliberately explained overviews of the first strategic go concepts for new players that I have seen anywhere. It is not so much “How to play 13×13 Go” as it is “How to play Go presented on a 13×13 board”.

Even if it might seem like basics, this course is actually incredibly dense for a new player. It goes over the first moves on the board, Go stages, when to attack or defend, techniques such as snapbacks, nets, the importance of cuts and connections and life and death. There is a lot more here, but this course really shows how the concept of implementing interactive quizzes after learning concepts can be made intuitive, fun and very, very effective. It ends with an easy and understandable explanation of a whole 13×13 game, which is a really neat touch as it allows players to really feel like they are much closer to playing properly.

I was rather impressed with how this course was set up and how much value it offers for beginners. It might be a little too dense for some new players offering 1,5 hours of pure tactics/techniques deliberations, so you should feel free to break it up a little, go 1-2 lectures per day and allow the concepts to sink in, as it is understandable that it is a lot to take in. Please don‘t feel like you need to watch 2 hours of a course just to have some first fun. I mentioned that there are plenty of comparable courses to the Go rules one in English, but I don‘t think there is anything in this quality, conciseness and effectiveness for the first strategic concepts as this course. Incredibly well done. This was the course that convinced me that I’ll recommend this site to new players and that Go Magic will become an important platform for learners and teachers in the future.

Deeper into the Game of Go on 19×19

Aimed at: Players who just recently started to move to 19×19 boards or planning to do that soon, probably around 20 to max 15k.

It is a very good and massive course, that I highly recommend. The title of this course is a bit awkwardly chosen, however, as its not “deeper” into 19×19, but introduces the first beginner concepts for your first steps on a 19×19 board. If that is where you are currently, then this course is perfect for you, offering all important concepts so the 19×19 board won‘t look as intimidating anymore in around 4 hours of very entertaining and polished content.

The content of this course is honestly too much to describe here, but Vadim and the Go Magic crew did a great job squeezing every bit of relevant concepts in here that you need for 19×19, including basic Opening strategies such the advantages of playing and approaching corners or the importance of territory and influence. Then it also goes into fighting concepts, life and death, ko, false eyes, shapes to avoid/punish, initiative and a very instructive game review. There is no individual highlight here, the whole course is just well structured and thought out to provide a ton of help and value.

Similarly to the other intro courses, this one has a plethora of content and concepts to learn and great quizzes that show the strength of this platform, which can even make 4 hours of content entertaining and breaks it up in easily digestible parts with well placed quizzes. This course again shows the strength of Go Magic as a platform, making even 4 hours worth of content less intimidating and allowing to learn it at your own pace without feeling overwhelmed. This is a great course for its intended purpose. My only criticism is the strength level mentioned in the course description as even 15k seems almost a bit of a stretch. However, it is a must watch course, if you are currently starting 19×19 or plan to.

Typical Mistakes that Wouldn‘t Let Us Get Better

Aimed at: Players having learned basic strategies, optimal for around 20-15k, up to 10k.

This course is a very nice extension of the advanced beginner techniques in “Fundamentals of Go (on 13×13)” and “Deeper into the Game of Go on 19×19”. After learning basic techniques, most players do fall prey to some behaviours that are easy to correct if you are aware of them and this course points those out in about an hour worth of content.

The course has an easier first part and slightly more advanced content in the second part. The first part sensitizes for topics such as not playing all Ataris, wrong Tesujis and how the edge of the board affects fights. The latter part focusses on the different effects of Shoulder vs Knee hits, when (not) to play endgame and defending your moyo. While there are obviously many other topics that could be included, it is a nice collection of increasingly more intricate concepts that will definitely improve your go game in the range of 20-10k.

Compared to the very exhaustive intro courses, this does seem a bit lighter in content, but the 6 lectures are well chosen that any 20-12k is almost guaranteed to find several concepts and hints that will improve their game, while the Quizzes give a first idea of how to properly use these new techniques. It definitely is a very valuable insight, even if I might have preferred a few more in-depth quiz situations. A nice way to cap this off would be another 20 minute 15k game review to put those review points into action, allowing players to see the concepts in the context of how these situations developed over time in a single match. As such it might be recommended to do a first game review with a stronger player at this point.

Overall, it is still a good course that you’ll get value out of as a 20k and can return to while increasing your strength to review the concepts again when you are a bit stronger and start to understand why these mistakes are affecting your game.

Common 3-3 Invasions in Actual Games

Aimed at: Intermediate players up to 15-5k learning corner variations

I enjoyed Yeonwoo Cho’s teaching style and enjoy having the video, but overall it is a bit weaker than the other content on Go Magic, because its not as well realized with the quiz structure, doesn‘t seem as exhaustive as the other courses, and seems a bit random with its focus, which isn‘t much of a problem for DDK or Low SDK, though. It feels a bit like a test version of a more in depth course.

The course has 3 short lectures, so you’ll finish it in about 30 minutes. It goes over some common variations of 3 situations that you will encounter (see pictures below). The best lecture part is easily the reinforced corner as it goes over three different variations and explains very well how the different variations offer different options after the invasion. The other two videos are a lot more basic though, and only offer an introductory view on those situations, which is more useful if you don‘t know any 3-3 invasion at all yet.

I very much enjoyed the reinforced corner lecture as it gave me a bit more context that I was missing before, while the other two were too simple for my level, explaining concepts such as the strength of a wall. While I will definitely practice the variations and got value out of it, I think the course overall is too inconsistent, with some content that is fit for 15k, while another is for 5k. The quizzes have some corner variations to test, but aren‘t as effective in teaching the merits as there aren‘t enough quiz examples to get a feel for the differences. I think the course strength level is off the mark as well. I would judge it to be most useful around the 15k to 10k, potentially up to 5k mark, so 15-5k seems apt. Good, but it feels more like a normal Go lecture. The course clearly showed the beginnings of the platform where the strengths of the platform haven‘t been fully utilized yet and how much more effective content built around Go Magic (like the other courses) can be compared to traditional Go video lectures.

The Main Principles of a Glorious Opening

Aimed at: 15-5k

This course is giving you basic tools to understand the more nebulous concepts of the opening in 2,5 hours. Why is one better than another, how do I give it a bit more of a structure or how do I push the game into planned chaos. The opening is my favourite part of the game, and the course does a great job of showing different ideas how to approach this stage of a match.

It will show you a few openings, their advantages and playstyles, the importance of direction, big/urgent moves or how to toss it all aside and play Tenuki. The course also goes over the difference between classic openings and AI moves, which is very instructive. Aside from the knowledge gained, the biggest benefit you might gain is the motivation and inspiration to feel comfortable with new ideas in the opening, which is an achievement in itself. This is also the first course with the interactive puzzle feature, which is absolutely 100% the way to go for this type of content and improves the usefulness of the course further.

As with all the other beginner courses Vadim did, the content was top notch. This course would have helped me tremendously to shorten the time learning these concepts at around 10k and the interactive quizzes within the videos are a very, very smart way to keep the learner engaged, making it much easier to follow the content. If someone already researched opening strategy at around 5k, there isn‘t much new information here, but I know a 7k who I will recommend this course and he will still gain a lot from it, even if it‘s just to … let go and experiment. I would have preferred 1-2 more interactive quizzes per lecture, but other than that there isn‘t anything I would change about the course. It is very good overview of first opening strategy concepts that might very well push your understanding of Go up a rank or two and the interactive Quizzes are starting to show how these courses might actually be the new way to learn Go.

The Magic of Go — Complete Edition

Aimed at: Anyone? Strength doesn‘t really matter, one can still enjoy and be entranced by these at any level

This course is showing curiosities and Go rule fringe cases, which are rather fascinating. The videos and the actual content is a bit shorter than the other courses at around 1 hour + 30 minutes of Tsumego. A big part of this course is available for free as trials or as Youtube videos, which I think is actually the perfect use for this type of content. The paid course contains 4 more lectures and of course Quizzes for all of them.

From Molasses Ko to Hanezeki or Moonshine life, the course contains 11 oddities, most of which I never heard about before. The actual content itself is relatively short, some around 3-4 minutes (with the more exciting ones being around 10 minutes) per topic and then expanded on with some additional Tsumego solving that carries on through the course. Many quizzes relate to the oddities, which was neat as I haven‘t solved Tsumego like these before.

I think this course cemented for me that the Go Magic concept works best for more focussed content that aims to teach and help players improve. It was smart to reuse the Youtube lessons and add more content and it is certainly interesting, but the content isn‘t as valuable to a learner as the other courses are. The difficulty of the Quizzes are all over the place, from solving it in 2 seconds to “I will never be able to solve this” and there isn‘t really any learning effect for most of the videos as these situations will never happen. It seems very obvious that the content began as a Youtube series with the content structure built for that platform, as opposed to Go Magic. I enjoyed the curiosities, but more focused videos on a certain strength level or topic work much better for the Go Magic course format.

How NOT to Lose 30 Points in the Endgame

Aimed at: 15-1k (it is positioned as up to 5k, but I know plenty of 2-3k players who still struggle with these concepts)

In this 2 to 2,5 hour course, you get an overview over the most important concepts to judge endgame positions properly and the typical mistakes many players fall into.

The course starts with the basics of Endgame, how to calculate values, judge positions and how underappreciated Sente is for many players in that phase of the game. The second part of the course goes through common endgame positions in reverse order, understanding moves on the first, second and then third line, which really feels like a good step by step progression to teach these. Even for me at being 5k (which this course is ranked at), this is a massively hepful input that would skyrocket my ranking if understood completely. The course is rounded out with a set of endgame flashcards that you can print out to memorize the value of the most common board situations, so you won‘t need to waste valuable byoyomi time in tight games.

This is an absolutely fantastic course. I honestly couldn‘t be more happy with it. The structure is perfect for the platform, the interactive quizzes and Vadim‘s enthusiasm are keeping even endgame-lazy learners like me engaged, the normal quizzes do a great job of reinforcing the learned knowledge and the flashcards are a fantastic bonus to keep learning outside of the course and inspired me to look at a side of the game I ignored too much before.

Bravo. Endgame is not my favourite part of Go, but that might be because I didn‘t understand enough about it, so it always felt unsatisfactory. This course was perfect for me and I am looking forward to letting it all sink in in the coming weeks. This is one of my favourite courses on Gomagic for its completeness, great use of interactivity and immediate learning potential.

The Fury of Jowa and the Blood-Vomiting game

Aimed at: 10k-5d

This 2 hour course focuses on the historical aspects of the game of Go, while Vadim invites you to accompany him onto a journey into the Japan of 200 years ago and the schemes of one of the greatest Go players of all time: Honinbo Jowa.

Starting with some background on the history and claim to fame of Jowa, the course introduces you vividly to the life and aspirations he held that will eventually also lead to his dramatic downfall. The most in depth part of the course is the multipart analysis of a match he had during his Meijin years against Akaboshi Intetsu, the so called Blood Vomiting game.

While I think this type of historical course suits Vadim incredibly well, as his enthusiasm is easily graspable by the viewer, I don‘t think it suits Go Magic as a platform equally. If you are the type to get swept away by ancient tales, then you will definitely have a great time. However, there isn‘t a whole lot of insight to be gained from this course compared to the other courses and it feels more like a relaxed (and very entertaining) study break, listening to some tales of days past. The interactive quizzes are still good, but the normal Quizzes only focus on historical questions, rather than Go problems, making it even less relevant as a teaching course. As this is the first historical course, I am intrigued by the different idea, but hope that Vadim and the Gomagic crew keep experimenting with the value of this type of content. It is fun and entertaining and very enjoyable for a good study break, but probably the least impactful course on the site so far as far as learning goes.

The Art of Attachments

Aimed at: 8k to 5d

This course contains 5 hours of content on attachments for defense, offense, probes, anything you could possibly think of. It is a vast area that you will need to review multiple times.

The only thing the course doesn‘t cover is endgame, otherwise you will find a sheer endless amount of suggestions, inspirations and practical examples for the opening, attacking, invading, defending, ladder breakers, ko threats and much, much, much more. It is also accompanied by perfectly fitting quizzes that reinforce the introduced concepts.

This is a fantastic course and the best Go content I ever watched/read/consumed full stop. It is the reason I signed up for Go Magic and I wasn‘t disappointed in the slightest. It covers almost every topic, and it is structured naturally so you gradually develop a better understanding after it started with easier concepts. It also contains practical tips and examples that you can immediately use right after finishing the course. I cannot recommend this course highly enough and it shows how much more value Go Magic as a platform can give compared to “just” reading a book on the topic, now that the video creation/planning is also suiting the strengths of the platform. The missing English dub might be slightly confusing for some, but I wasn‘t bothered by it. This massive course is the shining crown jewel of Go Magic. You might not be ready for it yet if your strength is much lower, but I have never seen such a well rounded package to improve the play strength for my level (5k). This course easily was worth the money I spent on the site and basically the equivalent of a much more expensive Go camp.

Probing Moves: From Standard to Impossible

Aimed at: 5k to 5d

This 2 hour course by Alexander Dinerchtein on probing moves is among the shorter ones on the platform, but don‘t let that deceive you. The density, inspirational and concrete value of this input is immeasurable for my level (5k) and I highly suspect there to be many valuable examples in here for higher ranked players as well.

The course is split in 2 parts. The first one is directed more at SDK players, explaining probing moves on common corner enclosures, which immediately after watching this course will be a new weapon in your repertoire to experiment and hone your skills with. The second part is looking at many examples of probing moves in real games and explaining their purpose and impact, such as allowing you to retain sente or gain more points in endgame. This part blew my mind wide open to some techniques I am just barely starting to understand and will take me many months of reviewing the content to grasp.

While both parts of the course are incredibly valuable, the first part only explained how the probing moves work, but not really in which situation they should be applied. As there are also different probing moves for the same corner enclosure, that type of guidance is very much needed for a first time learner. Other than that, this was an incredibly mind blowing insight and showed me a part of the game I only heard about, but never understood even the basics of.

The interactive quizzes and endgame quizzes are by now seamlessly integrated in the course format and continue to be very important learning support. Fantastic course that hugely inspired me and allows me to look at Go and board positions in a completely new way. I am far from using it properly and will end up making many mistakes, but I am seriously amazed and baffled that in just 2 hours, this course managed to turn my view on my own playstyle completely upside down. Highly inspirational.

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  1. That’s a great review! Thank you, Marco, for it.
    I totally agree with your opinion for the 6 courses I have taken by this time, and indeed GoMagic team did a great job and made an excellent Go product worth recommending to everyone.