Review: Guo Juan’s Internet Go School

Learning baduk is difficult, that is why it is vital to train efficiently! My own regime has evolved with both time and experience. I started with books – Kageyama’s Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go and Ishida’s Attack and Defense, for example – and later incorporated problem sets, such as the Level Up! series and Graded Go Problems. I also watched many games and lectures on YouTube. For a time I worked with a teacher but that proved both too expensive and time intensive to continue. Lately, I have been training with Guo Juan’s Internet Go School (IGS).

IGS’ combination of lectures and problem sets is a one-two punch. Conceived and designed by Guo Juan (5P), the Internet Go School uses spaced repetition to instruct students. I would describe this as a very effective flash card system: Students rate problems from “easy” to “hard” or “forgotten” and, in turn, these ratings dictate when that problem will reappear in your learning queue. Although this is strictly anecdotal, I find that this way of combining instruction and practice quite effective. Guo Juan recommends that students watch the lectures before attempting their accompanying problem sets, but there is no forcing mechanism for this, which contributes to the flexibility of IGS.

I find the spaced repetition especially good at teaching joseki, a practical area that I have struggled with in previous training. Other players, I am sure, will find there are a range of lectures and problems suited to their needs – these cover everything from elementary play to professional game reviews. Again, the flexibility of IGS enables students to pick and choose their subjects.

Guo Juan devised IGS as a means of reaching avid but geographically removed students. I think it is a good model and I hope other professional players will emulate it. While some would argue that such competition would drive down prices and increase offerings, I think that the Internet Go School is already competitive in both respects. I’ve already remarked on the breadth of material available, so I’ll keep to price here. Compared to paying for individual or even group tutoring, IGS is a bargain at €49 for a year’s access to the training system and €99 to access Guo Juan’s complete lectures. Students have access to a 30 day trial on the training system with €5 loaded onto their account for lectures, which cost €1 apiece unless one chooses the €99/year option. For €149/year students get complete access to Guo Juan’s library of lectures and problems. Again, I think when this is compared to the cost of books and other training materials, the cost is quite reasonable.

Some players might have difficulty understanding Guo Juan because her accent is rather thick, but I have no such difficulty. Her instruction is clear and precise, and the lectures always have examples presented on a digital goban. The SGFs for these lectures are downloadable but those for the problem sets are not.

Becoming a stronger player requires considerable effort and, at some level, we must always embrace the suck. Guo Juan’s training system, however, goes a long way towards reducing the ‘friction’ associated with studying by combining lecture with practical examples. In terms of price, content, and flexibility I have been completely satisfied with the Internet Go School, and I heartily recommend it to players of all abilities who are looking to gain strength. Just remember to play baduk every day and I am confident we can all reach shodan and beyond!