A loosely translated abridged paraphrased version of the section “A Few Pointers for Doing Life and Death Drills 进行死活训练的几点提示” from the book Korean Baduk Classic Life and Death Drills.
No matter what your level is, there are several principles which you should follow regarding life and death problems training:
In general, amateurs should spend 1/2 hour to 1 hour per day on life and death problems. If you intend to study go intensively, you need to train at least 2 hours per day (perhaps over two sessions to avoid fatigue). Drilling life and death problems allows you to practice basic skills which you will use to refine into your own techniques and methods in your own game. Regardless of your level, the foundation of your go skills is defined by your ability to analyze life and death problems.
As problem difficulty and people’s solving ability vary across a wide range, the number of problems to be done each day is not important. Rather, you need to focus on the time spent on drilling life and death problems. The key is to derive the answer based on your own effort and not worry about whether it is right or wrong. After careful consideration to arrive at your final answer, check the model answer along with the variations and failures to see what you might have missed. Don’t look at the answers without completing your final analysis as it will cut your efforts to strengthen your skills in half. As with any other subject, mastery is achieved by drilling yourself to analyze and think over the questions, rather than by rote memorization of the model answers.
3. The Purpose of Life and Death Problems
The purpose is to be able to apply the skills you learn in your own games, or else doing life and death problems has no meaning. Which is why a good go book doesn’t tell you the status of the problems nor would it line up problems according to difficulty levels. You should apply yourself as in a real game. Determine for yourself whether a position leads to unconditional life, conditional life, unconditional death, etc. Drilling problems without hints to the answer will build up your feeling for shapes and calculation ability which will quicken the development of your go strength. As in real games, no one will tell you the difficulty of the position you are facing. You just have to try to figure out what to do as best you can. Just think about the joy of reading out a real life position and being able to kill an interesting group or to save a big dragon. This is the result you are aiming for when drilling life and death problems.