Also, before I dive into another go post, someone has created an Alexandra Quick TV Tropes page. Awesome. Beware the time sink that is TV Tropes... almost as bad as go!
You can become better at go mostly by playing lots of games, but it's definitely a game where teaching tools are invaluable. There are a ton of go books out there, though many of the best remain untranslated into English. Sadly, every Barnes & Noble I have visited has no actual go books on its shelves, though there is usually a shelf full of chess books. Well, another win for Amazon.
The Learn to Play Go series, by Janice Kim and Jeong Soo-hyun, is quite good, a series of five books designed to take a total beginner into the beginner-intermediate ranks. The first book teaches the basics to someone who is completely new to the game. The second book teaches basic tactics and the beginnings of strategy. The third book elaborates on the second. The fourth and fifth book start introducing you to some of the higher-level concepts like fuseki, joseki, sente, and gote.
Another nice feature of these books is that they are available as SmartGo books. This is pretty nifty and a genuinely innovate use of digital technology: reading game commentaries can be difficult in print books, with all the moves annotated in a single diagram, but a digital book lets you actually see the game progress, with play-by-play commentary and even options for exploring alternate moves. I have never before been tempted to get an iPad, but now I actually have a use for one.
So anyway, I've mostly been playing Many Faces of Go, and am still hovering around 12-kyu. However, I've read online that while playing against a computer is good for practicing (especially when you are a lower-level player like me), it's not good to get too used to a computer opponent. They always make the same kinds of mistakes and thus you can fall into bad habits. The latest version of MFOG uses a Monte Carlo algorithm, which supposedly makes it a much stronger player and a less predictable one, but I really do need to man up and take on human opponents.
So, MFOG says I am now 12 kyu, but online I was still ranked at about 18-kyu. I had a nice game tonight with another 18-kyu player. I beat him pretty soundly, so either I got lucky or the MFOG estimate isn't too far off.
I definitely did have one stroke of luck when my opponent made a critical mistake in the middle game. Experienced players will no doubt notice that we got bogged down in a territorial fight before the larger board framework was settled. That's what happens when n00b players decide "Screw strategy, Mama said knock you out!"
I was white. All the stones in the lower left were the result of an invasion where black had already taken the lower left corner and the left side. The white group on the left is safe, but when I overextended into the center, black cut me off and I was in peril of losing that entire group. Move 95 was black's mistake; had he played at 'a' instead, all of those white stones would have been dead. I took 'a' with move 96 and thus made two eyes, making life.
(Could I have made a second eye with that little extension at the bottom? Only if my opponent made another mistake; if he played correctly, I'd have had a "false eye" which he could kill with a snapback move.)
Here is the final board position. Note that my opponent did almost the same thing I did, extending an invasion into the top, but when I cut him off, he was not able to save his group.
I won by almost 70 points. I shouldn't feel so pleased, since it's the games you lose that make you improve. But at least my online rank is moving down so soon I will be facing opponents who will beat me as readily as MFOG does.