After playing Go for a couple of years, I’ve been able to understand where focus lies in this game at the many different levels. You could say that this is the only true defining difference between the stronger and the weaker player other than just reading/experience, more often than not because of not knowing what to focus on rather than choosing wrong. It’s as if when you first start the game, your focus is at the lowest denomination: a single piece. That one piece is you, and its death would represent the death of everything that you are in the game. You’ll do whatever you can do to save it. Doesn’t seem to work out so well when another piece is put to the test, and another. Same goes for trying to kill the opponent’s piece. The stone is the focus.
Soon enough, you get used to the larger formation of pieces, or groups. When you reach single digit kyu ranking, a stone is silly. Who cares about a stone? In fact, who cares about five stones? Not when a group of twenty stones is on the line. Focus becomes shifted one deeper. The game is no longer about how someone could capitalize on destroying stones, but threatening stones together. This is where the true concentration on the importance of life and death materializes. Most will spend years in this focus: is this group safe? Can I kill that group? The battles are put aside for the war. The mind games have yet to come, however.
What is the next stage of focus? What could possibly be more important than the life and death of huge groups of stones (and territory, of course)? Well, the answer to this lies in the derivative. If you’re a math junkie, you could equate this with focusing on the rate of the rate of change rather than the rate of change. Perhaps if you like finances, you know about stock options. Instead of investing/speculation on values of stocks, you’re investing/speculating on values of instruments that are hinged on the change in the values of stocks. Instead of focusing on threatening groups, you will be focusing on threatening to threaten groups. A lot can be accomplished by threatening to kill a group and not even try to kill it directly, so it becomes a war of being able to threaten a group!
This is the mind game. At what point are you in danger of being threatened with death? How about threatening the opponent with death? You are no longer dealing with attacking stones or attacking groups, but threatening to attack.
Are there further stages of focus? Do they ever end?