How Can Strong Go Players Remember Their Games?

Let’s say you have just played a Go match and would like to review it. However, after putting several stones on the board, you are not sure if the game really went that way. If you didn’t write your game down, you’ve got a serious problem, because it will be hard for you to show that game to your teacher and improve from the review. So, how to memorize more?

If you attended any live Go tournaments, you could have realized that the stronger players remember all moves from their just finished games (you can notice it when they review their games).
And if you spent some time at any of the top Go academies, you could have realized that the memorizing can go even further, e.g. on Monday review sessions, some students are able to show the teacher five of their games, which they played with time limit 10min + 3x20s byo-yomi on Sunday’s tournament.

From the article Go Game – the Most Basic Information you might know that in average a single match consists of 200-250 moves.

How is it possible that on the following day the players are able to remember 1000 moves in a correct order, while having only 20 seconds for memorizing each move and the memorizing happens only by the way (the goal of each player is to win their games, not to memorize them)?

Memorize stories

From the book titled “Deep work” written by Cal Newport, where the author mentions some scientific studies over human brains, we can understand that our brains aren’t very good at remembering abstractions, but they are great at remembering stories.

He explains that it’s not so difficult to memorize an order of a lot of various digits or cards in a short time, but he recommends to prepare your mind for each kind of memorization tests beforehand.

Example of preparation:
On the start you imagine that each of possible abstractions is a real thing. And you memorize these connections.
Then you imagine that the order, in which you will see the abstractions to memorize, are various places. And you memorize these places one after another.

But during the test of memorizing you imagine the real thing (which you connected earlier with the abstraction you should memorize now) in the place from your memorized order.

This way you will be memorizing stories (instead of abstractions), which you should be able to remember much better.

Find sense in every move of your Go match

The memorizing in Go seems to work in a similar way. Strong players don’t memorize only black and white stones. They see sense in every move they play, so they know why they played their moves in certain spots and what was happening in the game at that time.

A player thinks in a way “I play here to attack this group”, “Opponent plays here to create a weakness in my shape”, “I play there to have a continuation in a vital point”.

For strong players each game is an interesting story, in which they are the main heroes, thus it’s not so difficult for them to memorize such games.

The difficulty increases significantly if a player doesn’t see sense in some moves (e.g. if a player doesn’t know the reason why they or their opponent played somewhere).

And if you don’t have a big experience in playing Go and you can’t remember your games yet, start to think about a sense of every move you want to play before actually playing it. You will not only memorize a bigger part of your games, you will also win much more often.