Go Book Reviews 2001-2003

Go Book Reviews 2001-- 2003

This page contains reviews of books, software and equipment that were published in The American Go E-Journal between 2001 and 2003.

1971 Honinbo Tournament, The (2/19/01)
2002 Go Yearbook (11/04/02)
The ABCs of Attack and Defense (4/21/03)
AIGO 1.3.0 (04/22/02)
Art of Capturing Stones (1/06/2003)
Attack and Defense (Elementary Go Series, Vol. 5) (2/12/01)
Beautiful Mind, A (2/11/02)
Beyond Forcing Moves (9/26/01)
Book of Go, The (04/08/02)

Breakthrough to Shodan, The (1/7/02)
Cho Hun-hyeon's Lectures on Go Techniques, V. 1 (01/22/02)
Compendium of Trick Plays, A (12/16/02)
Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races (11/03/03)
Cross-Cut Workshop (07/01/02
)
DieOrLive software (11/05/01)
EZ Go (5/7/01)
Fighting Ko (3/19/01)
First Kyu (10/1/01)
Five Hundred and One Opening Problems (11/11/02)

Five Hundred and One Opening Problems (12/23/02)
Galactic Go, Vol. 1 (02/04/2003)
Get Strong at Attacking (04/15/02)
Get Strong at Invading (5/29/01)
Get Strong at Tesuji (4/2301)
Get Strong at the Endgame (05/06/02)

The Girl Who Played Go (07/15/2003)
Go as Communication (03/31/2003)
Go Elementary Training & Dan Level Testing CD (9/10/01)
Go Elementary Training and Dan Level Testing CD (10/8/01)
Go for Beginners (4/30/01)
Go Player's Almanac, The (6/12/01)
Go Player's Almanac, The, 2001 edition (10/22/01)
Go Player's Almanac, The, 2001 edition (04/15/02)
Go World (the magazine) (6/25/01)
Gogod Database (8/20/01)
Golden Opportunities by Rin Kaiho (1/29/01)
Graded Go Problems for Beginners (Vols 1-4) (3/5/01)
Graded Go Problems For Beginners: Vols. I-IV (08/26/02)

Great Joseki Debates, The (6/4/01)
Handbook of Star Point Joseki(05/19/03)
How to Play Handicap Go(04/28/03)
In the Beginning (5/14/01)
Intermediate Level Power Builder, Vol. 1 (8/13/01)
Intermediate Level Power Builder, Vol. 1 (9/22/03)
Introduction to Go; Rules and Strategies for the Ancient Oriental Game (09/16/02)
Invincible: The Games of Shusaku (12/10/01)
Jungsuk In Our Time (8/06/01)
Kage's Secret Chronicles of Handicap Go 4/11/01
Kan-zufu
(03/04/02)
Learn to Play Go (four volumes) (5/21/01)
Learn to Play Go, Vol. I; (11/25/02)
Learn to Play Go, Volume IV: Battle Strategies (5/26/03)
Leather Pente or Go Game Set (10/16/02)
Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go (3/12/01)
Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go (02/25/02)

Life and Death, Elementary Go Series Vol. 4 (2003)
Life and Death: Intermediate Level Problems (06/17/02)
LiveOrDie Software 03/25/02
Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse (10/21/02)
Magnetic Go Set (Kiseido MG25) 3/27/01
Making Good Shape (03/24/2003)
Many Faces of Go Joseki Dictionary (Palm OS Edition) (2/26/01)
MasterGo, software (09/23/02)

Master of Go, The (7/10/01)
Monkey Jump Workshop (09/02/02)

The Nihon Ki-in Handbook Volume 4, Handicap Go (03/17/03)
The Nihon Ki-in Handbook Volume 4, Handicap Go (11/03)
One-Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems (08/19/02)
Opening Theory Made Easy (01/28/02)
Palm SGF (11/2003)
Pro-Pro Handicap Go, edited by the Nihon Ki-in (2/5/01)
Positional Judgment: High-Speed Game Analysis (03/11/02)
Purpleheart Go Board (10/20/2003)
Restless Directed by Jule Gilfillian (1/29/01)
Sabaki, How to Manage Weak Stones (2003)
Sabaki, How to Manage Weak Stones (07/28/2003)
Segoe Tesuji Dictionary(2003)
Split; a play (09/30/02)
Tesuji and Anti-Suji of Go 4/17/01
Tesuji, Elementary Go Series Vol. 3 (6/6/2003)
Tesuji Made Easy CD (8/28/01)
The Thirty-six Stratagems Applied to Go (1/20/03)
Tournament Go 1992 (11/19/01)
Treasure Chest Enigma, The (12/24/01)
Understanding How to Play Go (9/4/01)
Understanding How to Play Go (10/15/01)
Understanding How to Play Go (4/2/01)
Utilizing Outward Influence (2/04/02)
Way of Play for the 21st Century,A (11/26/01)
Word Freak, by Stefan Fatsis (09/09/02)

The 1971 Honinbo Tournament (2/19/01)
By Kaoru Iwamoto, 9-dan
(The Ishi Press 1972)
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 15K

"Presence" is a word we often attribute to a powerful personality. Presence may also imply our attendance at an event. Great events are usually sparked by strife between powerful people. A tournament battle for a prestigious title can capture both meanings of the word.

The 1971 Honinbo Tournament was rich with presence in every sense of the word. Rin Kai Ho, Honinbo, seemed invincible. Whatever challenger might rise from the Honinbo League must be truly a remarkable player to have a chance. "The 1971 Honinbo Tournament" tracks the ascent of Yoshio Ishida to his destiny. The author, Kaoru Iwamoto, feels this exceptional presence in his bones. His words transport us straight into the tournament. They give us pictures of the contestants, the conditions, the stakes and the high-voltage tensions of the games.

In my first reading of the book I drank the atmosphere, and I meticulously worked my way through a game or two. In my second reading (having improved a bit) I was able to appreciate more of the wonderful annotations Iwamoto provides. Enjoying the games makes the narrative all the more vivid.

This is a book of two great virtues: "Presence" is one, the historical chronicle. Incredibly fine go with superb annotations is the other. In my third reading, which will surely happen, because this book is one of the cornerstones of any enduring go library, I expect to feel more acutely the presence of mythic 1971 and the battle of these great warriors.
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2002 Go Yearbook
Published by Korean Baduk Association
Waller's Go Books, $40
Reviewed by Les Waller

The Korean Baduk Association (KBA), in addition to their Baduk Monthly magazine, also publish the Baduk Yearbook, which mainly consists of Korean and international tournament games over the past 12 months. It includes 24 color photographs of various Korean professional go players and the text is entirely in Korean.
The 343-page book is divided into four sections, the first covers 15 Korean professional tournaments and includes 250 games. The second section has 11 international and foreign professional tournaments and includes 101 games. The third covers four amateur tournaments and includes 16 games. The fourth is an appendix which consists of a collection of various types of interesting plays within the tournament games; a KBA handbook; a list of internet sites; an address list of Go Associations around the world; brief descriptions of title holders from Korea, Japan, and China.
The prior year's yearbooks would take a game and spread it over a couple of diagrams. This year all the games within the book are placed in one diagram each. If anyone has taken a game and tried to put it into sgf format or play it on a board, then they know how difficult it can be looking for a numbered stone in a game with over 200 moves. There are only about 12 pages of advertising in the entire book and they are mostly confined to the front pages along with the color photos of the players, which are nicely done.
This book is probably better for senior ranking players than it is for lower kyu players. I'll spend more time going over the commented games I receive from this newsletter than I will all these yearbooks I have sitting on my shelf already.

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The ABCs of Attack and Defense
By Michael Redmond 9P
Published by Slate and Shell
Translated by Steven Bretherick, Edited by William Cobb and Gordon Fraser
Reviewed by Michael Turk (Australian 10k)
April 21, 2003

This book features an all-too-rare combination, an author who not only a strong player but a good teacher, too. Based on four principles - two of attack and two of defense, "ABCs" is designed for weaker middle-level kyu players. Chapter 1 illustrates four basic principles of attack and defense in relation to the sanrensei (three star points in a row) formation. Chapter 2 applies these principles to handling the two-sided two-space-high and the two-space-high and knight's move double approaches. The basic principles are clearly reinforced and some supplementary principles are also expounded. Chapter 3 demonstrates the movement of the stones in accordance with the four basic principles when black uses a pincer within 4-stone handicap games, again reinforcing the basic principles. It also briefly looks at building a moyo. The final chapter looks at 3-stone handicap games and illustrates the use of miai. And, again, the basic principles are reinforced with examples of fighting. One of the skills that I lack at my level is the ability to fight effectively or consistently, particularly against stronger players in a handicap game. This book is a sort of fighting primer. It contains examples from illustrative games and various joseki and tesuji for attack and defense. The emphasis is on understanding rather than memorization. I am looking forward to surprising my regular opponents in the Sydney Go Club and on kgs with an improved ability to fight in the next few months as the result of applying the principles contained within this book.

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AIGO 1.3.0
by A. lizuka
Shareware. Available for download at www08.u-page.so-net.ne.jp/rf6/iizuka. License US $8
Reviewed by Stephen Charest, 23k


As a beginner whose real life gives me far less time to play Go online or in person than I'd like, I searched for software that would run on my trusty Handspring Visor so that I could use the time on airplanes, in hotels, waiting for judges, and so forth. I didn't just want a game recording program, either, but something that could play at least as well as I play now (not a difficult feat for a 23k!).
AIGO seemed to fit the bill, the only actual Palm OS software I found that will play the game, even if it's at a fairly basic level.
The technical aspects of AIGO are pretty good. The software isn't huge (151k), so it doesn't take up a lot of space. The program will play 9x9, 13x13, or 19x19 games, with the player selecting whether the computer plays white or black. You can also set your own handicap level, up to 9 stones. There's also a game recording mode, where you (or you and another human) use the software to play each other. Finally, you can set the software to play itself.
The biggest advantage AIGO has is its convenience as a PalmOS system. It really is handy to be able to whip out your Palm Pilot and zip through a 13x13 game while killing time. It's much easier than doing so on a laptop. The display, especially at the 9x9 and 13x13 level is pretty good and is quite readable at night, using your PalmPilot's illumination. Display at the 19x19 level is a little small, and you must be very careful where you put your stylus to make your move (unless you're in the 2-step move mode). This is one place where the take-back (an improvement in the 1.3.0 version) comes in handy. The program will count your score on request or at the end of two passes (Japanese counting), and gives you an opportunity to cross-check its counting.
The SGF save function is handy, if a bit cumbersome. To save a game, you tap the "Save" function in the menu, which then saves the game in the "Memo Pad" function of the Palm Pilot. You must then hotsync your PalmPilot to your desktop or laptop, then rename the saved game (the name AIGO gives it is the full text of the game!) and use an SGF editor to open the game.
The real question is "How well does it play?" The answer is, well enough to break you of basic bad habits like closing up your own eyes. If you make such a silly mistake, the program (like most other players) will jump on it. On the other hand, if you're looking for a palm-sized Ing-Cup contender, this ain't it. Quite honestly, I'm not sure there ever will be one -- PalmOS does have its limitations. It isn't difficult to fool the software into letting me get away with building eyes under circumstances that a human player of 15K or higher would thrash me over. Oddly enough, the game seems to be best (or perhaps I am worst) at 9x9 games. Still, I have a winning record against it. With a 23k rating on KGS, that tells me that this program probably plays about the 20k level. (As a reference, I've read that programs such as ManyFaces or WuLu, both past winners of the Ing Computer Go Cup, play around the 15-10k level).
The program does seem to have a limited self-teaching function: it doesn't often make the same mistake twice. However, I've discovered certain patterns (again, especially in 9x9 games) which will almost always result in a pass by the computer. On the other hand, it seems to be learning how to invade open territory in areas that, when I first started using it, it would have treated as my territory.
If nothing else, AIGO is fun and a good way to pass time. It's also great if you meet someone while traveling and don't have a board handy. And for beginners like me, it's not bad to help break us of bad habits. However, like any other computer software, it still can't replace a human player. I'd like to see some joseki patterns or maybe some life or death problems to load and solve using AIGO; then it would be a much better teaching tool. Still, if you keep in mind that humans won't act as predictably as the software, AIGO is worth the eight bucks just to practice some basic functions.

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Art of Capturing Stones
by Wu Dingyuan and Yu Xing
Published by Yutopian
Reviewed by Steve Fawthrop
January 06, 2003

This is a delightful book of problems. It concentrates on two themes, ishi-no-shita (under the stones) and nakade (big eyes), and offers 91 wonderful problems to get you thinking. It must be admitted that many of the shapes are unlikely to occur in a game (although very few are so artificial as to appear contrived) but that does not detract from the beauty of some of the sequences. I found myself smiling with pleasure over and over when a problem was solved. Without doubt, there is a lot to be learned from this book, but it is not for the beginner. A sound knowledge of basic tesuji is required to appreciate it. You will probably have a thrill of excitement the first time you use one if these techniques in your own games. I would recommend it for high kyu and above.

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Attack and Defense (Elementary Go Series, Vol. 5) (2/12/01)
by Ishida Akira, James Davies, 256 pages (September 1997) Kiseido Publishing Co.
Reviewed by Barry C. Willey, 12K (NNGS)

This is a valuable book is an excellent introduction to the middle game for go players who know the basics. It takes for granted that you are familiar with some basic openings and begins at that point. Focusing on the strategy and tactics of large scale fighting, the authors use the balance between territory and influence to show the reader how to best attack an opponent's stones while defending one's own framework. This book helps novice players develop workable and potent strategies utilizing influence and teaching defense against common attacks. Middle to high kyu players would easily benefit from this volume.

I first read this book when I was about 19K and found it immensely helpful. It sets out basic ideas on how to choose a successful strategy during the middle game. With those principals in mind it gives you specific tesujis or techniques to help put that strategy in play. Next it teaches a few essential defensive moves and three fundamental principals on reducing and invading frameworks. This book helps the novice player place priorities on moves during the chaos that starts to grow during the middle game and encourages players to use their creativity to find their own moves.
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A Beautiful Mind
by Sylvia Nasar
$16, Simon & Shuster
Reviewed by Chris Garlock

Any book with no less than six references to Go in the index is a must-have for the serious player. When the book in question is also the basis for a major motion picture with not one but two scenes featuring the game, it becomes required reading.
Sylvia Nasar's "A Beautiful Mind" is a riveting story of genius, madness, love, and, ultimately, the incredible fragility and strength of our very humanity.
The true story of the life of math genius John Nash is considerably more complicated than the film version now playing in a theater near you, and the book makes for rewarding post-film reading.
Of special interest to Go players, of course, are Nash's encounters with the game of Go, which began in his first year at Princeton in 1949. "There was a small clique of go players led by Ralph Fox, the genial topologist who had imported it after the war," writes Nasar. Fox got strong enough to be invited to Japan to play and invited Fukuda to play him at Princeton. Fukuda, naturally "obliterated Fox" as well as another local player by the name of Albert Einstein.
Go figures in the tale of Nash's descent into madness, as well. At one point, "he imagined he was a go board whose four sides were labeled Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and Bluefield," writes Nassar. "He was covered with white stones representing Confucious and black stones representing Muhammadans." Later, Nash "was thinking of another go board whose four sides were labeled with cars we had owned: Studebaker, Olds, Mercedes, Plymouth, Belvedere. He thought it might be possible to construct 'An elaborate oscilloscope display...a repentingness function.'"
And the game theory that won Nash the 1994 Nobel speaks as much to the game of Go as to other applications: the possibility of mutual gain rather than zero-sum games where one player's gain is another's loss. Nash's insight, writes Nasar, "was that the game would be solved when every player independently chose his best response to every other player's best strategies."

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Beyond Forcing Moves, Understanding Kikashi and Tactical Timing
By Shoichi Takagi 9D, Translated by Brian Chandler
Reviewed by David Dinhofer

In my never-ending quest for advancement to dan-level play, I stumbled upon this text. The title was a very attractive one, one that implied that, as a kyu player, I have only scratched the surface of this game's complexity. And indeed, this book makes that clear. I look at joseki and I am beginning to see that a joseki is really a fluid sequence meant to change with the "mood" of the game.

Shoichi Takagi has carefully chosen about twenty games to demonstrate the art of kikashi (making a defensive move with the best return) and sabaki(making good shape with the most efficiency in a difficult situation). As a 1-2 kyu player, I am not sure I would have considered the possible sequences and variations mapped out by Mr. Takagi. Now, on my second reading, I am beginning to make some sense of it.

Master Takagi breaks up the book into three sections; Basic Concepts, Putting the Concepts to Work, and Masterstrokes. Each section has examples that clearly demonstrate the concepts with alternate sequences that a kyu level player might make(at least, ones I probably would have made). When I learn the alternatives, I think to myself that I don't know if I will ever remember them in times of stress.

But I also can't help thinking about the alternative that I would not have thought about before. The book is well organized with good diagrams. Brian Chandler's translation is clear and to the point. Summary portions of this text have good descriptions and definitions.

I think the weaker kyu player will not learn as much as the weaker dan players. But both will gain insight into the complexity of the game. I plan on rereading this book at least once a year to understand a little better that which was completely incomprehensible the year before.
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The Book of Go
By Bill Cobb
Sterling Publishing, $14.95 128 pages
Reviewed by Terri Schurter


Bill Cobb's "The Book of Go" is an excellent introduction to Go for the rank
beginner. It comes complete with a set of stones and a reversible 9x9 and 13x13 board. Aside from the audience for which it is intended, The Game of Go is also a "must read" for anyone considering the capture game as a method of instruction, and also for collectors of Go literature.
The first half of the book is spent explaining the rules of Capture Go and offering strategies for play. Problems for Capture Go are also offered, and sample capture games are analyzed. After a thorough, clear, and interesting explanation of Capture Go the reader is introduced to full-fledged Go. Concepts such as the rule of ko, establishing connections, and life and death are clearly covered. The life and death problems are easily solved, as they should be in a beginners' book to make them accessible, and to build confidence in the reader.
Basic strategy and tactics are covered next including ladders, nets, snapbacks, and throw-in sacrifices. Go proverbs, study problems, and a list of recommended go books round things out.
Readers are left wanting more and knowing where to find it. The chapter on "Go on the Internet" points readers to the right resources including links to KGS, IGS, the American Go Association, and my own archive of E-Journal articles about online Go.
"The Book of Go" fills a glaring gap in existing Go literature; there are beginners' books such as Go for Beginners, which are fine for those who actually have someone to play with after the reading is over. However, The Game of Go is the only book I have seen that is truly aimed at the uninitiated, and offers a means to begin learning about Go without the help of an experienced player. Two Go newbies could open this book and accomplish some serious Go learning on their own.
"The Book of Go" is a strikingly well designed book that will attract attention in bookstores, where it is already available. The timing of this book is excellent since it comes quickly on the heels of the release of the hit movie "A Beautiful Mind" which has piqued the interest of the general public in Go. Bill Cobb and Sterling Publishing have pulled off a brilliant tesuji with the publication of this excellent beginners' book.
Available at http://www.sterpub.com/home/home.asp

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The Breakthrough to Shodan
by Naoki Miyamoto 9-dan
Translated by James Davies
Reviewed by Christopher Shelley

Go books in general suffer from two flaws: they are narrow in scope (many times by necessity), and they are written in a flat style, often by someone other than the purported author. The Breakthrough to Shodan has neither of these flaws. Because it was taken from a set of lectures transcribed into magazine articles, it rings with the author's voice in a lively prose. In addition, the book's scope is broad enough to appeal to any kyu level player.

"Breakthrough" is divided into sections that deal with low handicap games. Within these sections, Miyamoto describes "Strides," or principles, by which black can rid him or herself from negative attitudes. By taking the reader through five-, four-, and three-stone games, Miyamoto deals with negative attitudes and complex joseki.Miyamoto shows how dan-level players often hoodwink weaker players, even those who are strong fighters. His treatment of the Taisha Joseki exemplifies this: the Third Stride in Chapter 7 is "Know the Taisha, but don't play it." After reviewing several complex variations, demonstrating the pitfalls, he shows the reader a simple variation that stresses thickness. It is an easy variation to remember, but what makes it so important is that it works with the power of the starpoint stones.

Miyamoto does this with many popular joseki: shows how black tends to get into trouble with complications, squandering the influence of the starpoints, rather than playing perfectly serviceable joseki that compliment influence. Starpoints are about influence, and influence favors fighting. But without sensing the direction a wall made from handicap stones exerts power, fighting can degenerate into who is the best reader. (Hint: against a dan, it's rarely the kyu.) Therefore, fighting should take place, but in an arena where black has the advantage. The Breakthrough to Shodan shows the reader how to create this arena, how to see through white's false threats, and to trust the power of influence to create territory naturally, through a positive approach.Each chapter ends with two whole-board problems that test the reader's positional judgment.

The end of the book is a set of problems derived from the large-knight's extension from a starpoint, and here Miyamoto shows the techniques white has used over the years to terrify and bamboozle kyu-level players, and the correct refutations.Since the book never really moves past handicap go, it should perhaps be called The Breakthrough to One Kyu. But this is quibbling. Miyamoto's philosophy of "You don't need to be fancy to win at handicap go," shows again and again how to find attacking moves that work with thickness and take territory. This book was worth four stones to my go strength, and any kyu-level player can gain from its expansive approach and clear thought.

Available from Ishi Press: http://www.ishigames.com/intermed.htm
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Cho Hun-hyeon's Lectures on Go Techniques, Volume One
Translated by Sidney W. K. Yuan
Edited and diagrammed by Craig R. Hutchinson
Yutopian Enterprises, paperback, 220 pp. $17.50.
Reviewed by Neal L. Burstein, Ph. D.

Cho Hun-hyeon 9-Dan came to Japan to study Go at the age of ten. He won many tournaments with clean 3-0 sweeps, long dominating Korean Go. His lectures help the intermediate player to answer attacks by building secure shape and structure for the endgame. For example, the connection of two stones to form a "full" triangle after a hane is often seen in strong games. Cho shows us by example why this is essential to prevent problems later. When two stones touch on the third line, do you play up or down, extend or hane? Cho demonstrates the preferred sequence of moves that will stand to the endgame and shows why other results are inferior. The problem sets are, like joseki, fighting patterns analyzed to obtain a good result.
The book format is brilliantly designed. Each topic comprises a set of clearly numbered diagrams to illustrate weak and strong play. Each diagram is supported by a caption and brief explanation. There is no other text to confuse the reader. The brief introductory chapter illustrates connects, cuts, shapes, and hanes in detail. Problem sets comprise the bulk of the book, each answering situations that arise in play. Each problem is set on a right-hand page with a handful of stones already in correct position. The possible solutions follow two per page, clearly captioned, to show good and bad responses for each side. The diagrams save 1000 words in illustrating correct stone placement relative to those already in position. What else is Go is about?
This book is ideal for players of 10-24 kyu. Strong players might review for fundamentals missing from their game. Writers, translators, and Go book editors would do well to study and utilize the clear format.
Available at www.samarkand.net.

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A Compendium of Trick Plays
Edited by the Nihon Kiin
Yutopian Enterprises
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 12K

Don't buy this book if you think it will arm you with dozens of dazzling swindles with which to win games quickly. Buy this book if you are a student of joseki, tesuji and shape - in other words, a student of go!

If you study joseki, you'll find here many trick plays that could foil your joseki efforts if you were to face them for the first time in a real game. If you study tesuji, then you'll see plenty of them here - trick plays are all about setting up tesuji. And if you study shape, you'll see how adhering to the principles of good shape can save you from trick plays and how mindlessly reacting with "natural" moves can sometimes destroy your shape.

There's a mixture of material here: basic trick models, historical examples, theory of trick play, pop psychology, slippery places in joseki, and even some cartoons. The crown of the book is a section of 25 problems by Maeda Nobuaki 9 dan. Solving them will enhance your practical skills.

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Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races
By Richard Hunter
Published by Slate & Shell
Reviewed by Dennis Hardman
November 3, 2003

This book deals with the rather narrow (but valuable) techniques of winning localized life-and-death fights occurring between groups of stones where it is a race to see which group lives and which group dies. The book describes the basics of what actually counts as a liberty, categories of liberties (e.g., inside vs. outside), how these liberties figure in the fight, and the types of fights that can occur (Type 1, Type 2 with a Ko on the outside liberties, etc.). It provides the reader with "formulas" for evaluating a fight without having to explicitly read out every line of play. The trick is to correctly count the number and type of liberties to determine the type of fight so that one can ultimately apply the "formula". Later chapters show how the techniques are used in realistic fighting situations, and provide about 50 problems and several commented professional games to drive the concepts home. Well written and nicely laid out, I would recommend this book to players of all strengths, particularly those with a mid-kyu ranking. However, this book should be valuable to even the strongest player because, as the preface points out, "Many players, even quite strong ones, have a poor grasp of these fundamentals." http://www.slateandshell.com/

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Cross-Cut Workshop
by Richard Hunter.
Slate and Shell, $10.
Review by Barney Cohen, IGS 7k*

Caught in a cross-cut? Then extend! Or at least so goes the famous proverb. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Go is rarely that simple. After studying a large number of next move problems, Richard Hunter observed that the extension was rarely the correct solution to a cross-cut problem. His suspicions were apparently confirmed by watching advice from two professionals on Japanese TV. Consequently he undertook an extensive study of situations in which cross-cuts arose in actual play. This research led Hunter to identify nine (yes nine) basic patterns that frequently arise from cross-cuts, depending on the presence or absence of other friendly or opposing stones in the vicinity.
The results of Hunter's study, which was first published in a series of articles in the British Go Journal has now been pulled together in the form of a slim book, entitled Cross-Cut Workshop, the latest offering from Slate and Shell Press. The material in the book contains the original articles plus a dozen new problems for additional practice. The depth of presentation is suitable for Kyu-level players, although low-level Dan-level players may wish to review it.
I recommend this book highly. Hunter's approach is wonderfully didactic: He presents the nine basic patterns in two parts. For each pattern, he shows you how to handle the cut correctly and what can happen if you play incorrectly. Problems are provided along the way to test your understanding of the material. And additional problems are included at the end to reinforce the lessons.
Apart from the immediate lesson of how to handle a cross-cut, the book shows Kyu-level players the importance of being able to look at a situation and mentally work through several different patterns. It is not enough to simply come up with your next move (i.e. extend -- more of the time wrong anyway). Hunter demonstrates how you must adjust your strategy to the presence of surrounding (friendly and opposing) stones and be able to work out an entire sequence of moves before playing the first stone. Learn that lesson, and the one afternoon that you spend reading this book will be repaid many times over.

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DieOrLive software
By Lyu Shuzhi
http://www.szsoftware.com/
$29.95
Reviewed by Chris Garlock, 1d

Ask any pro how to get stronger and the first words out of his mouth invariably are "Study life and death."

The problem (pun intended) is that studying life and death (tsume-go) is hard and, let's be honest, boring. I love these elegant little problems but until a couple of weeks ago five a day on the subway each morning was all I could find the time for. Forget about cracking the book on weekends.

Now, thanks to Lyu shuzhi's 'DieOrLive' software, I'm solving more than 20 problems a day, seven days a week. DieOrLive makes life and death studying so easy, fun and addictive that it may well become the go crowd's "Minesweeper."

The tsume-go student's dilemma is whether to cudgel your brains until you solve the problem or to give it your best shot and move on. DieOrLive solves the dilemma by speeding up and easing the process of solving over 1,000 problems, grouped as basic, beginner, intermediate or advanced. You match wits against the program, which responds instantly to each move. Solve the problem successfully and you're rewarded with a "success" message; if not, you get a "failed" message.

Either way, the instant response and easy interface proves remarkably addictive. Success spurs you on to solve more problems while failure sends you back to take another crack at it. The software itself doesn't care: you can drop in at whatever level you like, re-do problems you already worked on or try out new ones.

The astonishing thing is that after just a few days I found myself instantly spotting successful sequences where it would have taken me several minutes before in a book, if I'd even had the patience to keep trying. And the proof of the pudding is that none of my opponent's groups are safe anymore. Try DieOrLive and your opponents will soon be calling you "killer" too.
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EZ Go
by Bruce & Sue Wilcox
Ki Press, 1996
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 15K

When we start playing go, reasonable mastery of the game seems very distant. One technique to determine the position of a distant point is called "triangulation." Triangulation involves taking a bearing on that distant point from two rather widely separated sites.

Bruce and Susan Wilcox have written a book based on concept as opposed to inculcation. It camps a far distance indeed from the problem books. EZ Go -- based on a series titled "Instant Go" that ran in the American Go Journal in 1977 and 1978 -- covers all the basic concepts from making shape to attacking weak groups. It offers some useful original ideas, like sector lines. It's also full of proverb-like rules of thumb.

I don't suggest that anyone start with EZ GO, but after working hard in the traditional forms, you might benefit a great deal from the concept-based, metaphor-driven approach offered here. As you read EZ Go, the material covered in traditional books may gain an extra level of meaning. Likewise, EZ Go's concepts will resonate more strongly. That's the benefit of triangulation.
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Fighting Ko
by Jin Jiang
(Yutopian, 1995, original Chinese version February 1987), 146pp
Reviewed by Clayton Wilkie, 1D

This is a handy pocket sized book that relies mainly on teaching by example. It amounts to a thorough survey of how ko situations can arise, how they fit into the overall logic of the game, and what the effects of avoiding them would be. Most of the book is suitable for middle to high kyu players, but the final chapter and concluding problems move up to the dan range.

Fighting Ko contains a few pages dealing with capturing races, including the best explanation I have seen of a basic principle governing them. Unfortunately, it is presented with no special emphasis, right along with the less satisfying rules of thumb you have probably seen elsewhere. Further, this section should logically lead to a discussion of capturing races involving ko, but the only related topic, on approach move kos and the like, precedes the capturing races.

What the book does not provide are hints on how to find ko threats, and how to play so that when a ko arises, you do not find yourself devoid of ko threats. There are only a few examples of effective ko threats in the book. Study of this book should help a wide range of players to recognize ko possibilities in their games, but it will not help you fight them.
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First Kyu
By Dr. Sung-Hwa Hong
Good Move Press/Samarkand
Reviewed by Chris Garlock

One of the best go books has a scant handful of diagrams and very little on tactics or strategy.

"First Kyu," the novel by the late Dr. Sung-Hwa Hong, is the story of Young-Wook Kwon, a young Korean student who abandons his career and family in pursuit of the life of a professional go player. Anyone who's been even lightly bitten by the go bug will be entranced by this slim yet substantial novel, packed with fascinating details of the rocky road to professional.

Dr. Hong's premature death recently at just 51 robs us of not only a charming man and strong go player, but of a great teacher, as well, for "First Kyu" is much more than just the tale of one go player's trials and tribulations. The novel, which clearly has a strong autobiographical flavor, explores the conflicts between duty and dreams, and the difference between desire and determination.

Of most interest to go players, of course, is the window "First Kyu" provides into the game as a way of life that does not yet exist in this country. In Korea, in addition to the select group of players who earn a living as professional players, it is also possible to eke out a life as a club pro or as a gambler in go games called "bagneki" where players and spectators wager large sums based on the margin of victory.

The lure of the easier way, then, is another theme in "First Kyu," as Wook must choose between gambling and the purity and rigor of studying the masters in the quest to become a professional. Of course, it is in this study that we, along with Wook, learn the real lessons of go and life. Give up a little to gain big. Slow down, beware of speed. Greed for a win takes the win away.

"Every book will reveal its truth if read one hundred times." This Confucius quote refers to Wook's review of collections of master games, but it applies to "First Kyu" as well. Just 98 more times and I can write a better review.
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Five Hundred and One Opening Problems
Mastering the Basics Vol. 1
By Richard Bozulich and Rob van Zeijst
Kiseido Publishing Company; 2002; 256 pages
Reviewed by Peter Shotwell

Cognitive Psychologists say that the clearest measurable difference between novices and expert Go players is that experts turn visual patterns into verbal principles, and novices do not. This is most obvious in the opening, where 'intuition' must be used to find what is important.
Each of the 501 problems are introduced with one of 25 different principles, such as: 'Take profit while attacking your opponent's weak stones!'; 'Push back the border of your opponent's territory while expanding your own!'; and 'Rob your opponent's stones of their base, then attack them!'
The book is meant for all levels of players. The problems are taken from amateur and professional games, so that all kinds of opening shapes are considered.
It is easy to agree with the authors, who advise, 'If you have to find the same kind of move in similar patterns over and over again, spotting that move in a game will become second nature.'
Richard Bozulich is a 5-dan amateur and editor of Go World. Rob van Zeijst is the legendary Dutchman who has beaten 6- and 7-dan Korean pros.

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Five Hundred and One Opening Problems
By Richard Bozulich
in collaboration with Rob van Zeijst (Kiseido)
Reviewed by Barney Cohen, IGS 4k*

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." Touchstone, As You Like It, Act 5, Scene 1.

In "Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go," Kageyama Toshiro advises us to practice the fundamentals if we want to get stronger. In the same way that ceaseless practice enables professional baseball players to field ground balls effortlessly, go players should practice Go fundamentals until it becomes second nature for them to spot certain key moves, punish their opponents' overplays, and instantly kill commonly occurring corner patterns. Practice, practice, and more practice. And in go, that means spending time doing mental gymnastics, working one's way through problem books of all descriptions.

For Kyu-level players like myself, Richard Bozulich's new series: "Mastering the Basics," is indispensable. The second book in the series: "Volume I: Five Hundred and One Opening Problems has just been published." (Volume II: One Thousand and One Life and Death Problems was released earlier this year and was reviewed in the August 19th issue of the E-Journal). The current book is designed to develop your intuition and feel for the opening, consisting of little more than page after page of opening problems. In a brief introduction, co-author Rob van Zeijst explains the importance of playing urgent moves before big moves. He also suggests how to properly evaluate opening moves that either strengthen your own stones or weaken your opponent's. These basic ideas are illustrated and reinforced over 250 pages of problems compiled by Richard Bozulich based on positions he's collected from professional and high-level amateur games.

The book's central thesis is that by correctly applying a rudimentary set of basic go principles one can fairly easily identify the most important point to play in the opening, which later will tilt the game in your favor once the serious fighting begins. Many players simply love to fight and the temptation for us is to launch full-steam ahead into premature invasions or other such maneuvers just to initiate> confrontation. This superb book encourages us to practice careful consideration and calm, qualities that all strong players certainly possess.

Consistent with an emphasis on the simple and powerful, the book's layout is elegantly straightforward, with four new problems on each right-sided page and the solutions on the back of that page, which means you never have to go hunting in the back of the book for a solution. There's also a helpful hint beneath each problem; I suppose the authors must have grappled with where to place these hints - either underneath the problems or in the solutions. My personal preference would have been to have them under the solutions and my strong recommendation is that the reader cover up the hint when attempting a problem the first time.

None of the problems are devoted to the first dozen or so moves in the game, so if you're looking for basic opening lessons check out Janice Kim's books or "Get Strong at Go Volume 1: Get Strong At The Opening," before delving into this book.

While the positions that arise in my own games rarely resemble anything remotely like the positions that show up in professional games, this book does a terrific job of hammering away at some very fundamental concepts of opening strategy that will definitely serve kyu-level players well as they look for the right move in their own games. I am sure Kageyama Toshiro would approve.
- available at http://www.kiseido.com/

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Galactic Go, Vol. 1
by Sangit Chatterjee and Yang Huiren
Published by Yutopian
Reviewed by Steve Fawthrop
Feburary 04, 2003

The aim of Galactic Go isn't clear. The title certainly gives no indication -- what exactly is "Galactic Go"?

From my reading, it appears that Galactic Go is an effort to explain middle game fighting in 3-stone handicap games. The chapters, however, are organized according to the opening joseki moves, and not according to middle game principles. Since it also contains long sections on obscure joseki which would be more at home in a joseki dictionary, perhaps the intent is to explain the choice of joseki in a 3-stone game. I couldn't tell.

But that's not the biggest problem. Galactic Go is rife with errors. Diagrams are missing stones and labels, text sometimes does not correspond to the diagram, and, at times, the explanatory text is simply confusing.

For example, one diagram declares failure for black because a ladder does not work when, if fact, black gets a good position by a simple geta capture. In one chapter, the diagrams switch back and forth between a joseki and its mirror image, making the sequence hard to follow. In another, the text alternates between two different threads without explanation or transition.

Diagram explanations are sometimes far too spartan. There are long series of diagrams in which the text essentially adds no more than "Black did this. White did .that. What should Black do next?" It makes for dry reading. Moreover, several interesting moves are passed over completely.

When moves are examined in the text, the level of detail varies so widely that it is hard to know what level the book is aiming for -- I would guess about 7 kyu to 2 dan.

I was left with the impression that Galactic Go was put together quickly without much planning and analysis. The mistakes I found make it hard to trust the remainder and so call into question the validity of the book as a whole.

The authors say there will be three more volumes in the series. I hope that more effort is put into the remaining three.

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Get Strong at Attacking
Published by Kiseido
Reviewed by Peter Shotwell

At first glance, Kiseido's 'Get Strong' series looks like other problem books that are based around simple principles. For example, Vol. 10, 'Get Strong at Attacking,' shows how one theme, 'Attack from Strength,' is usually used in the middle game, but in a handicap game, it is correct for Black to attack early on. Another principle is that to attack by capping or using knight's moves should mean 'Do Not Try to Kill.'
The series is unique, however, because after doing some of the problems, one begins to feel there is a reason for the order they are presented in, and trying to figure this out seems to lead to a deeper and more-lasting level of personal understanding. Is this perhaps because the Right-Brain -- the original source of Go's appeal -- is more used since there are few words to explain that order until you supply them?

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Get Strong at Invading
by Richard Bozulich
Kiseido Publishing Company, $15 US. 150p.
Recommended: 20k-2d interested in a random assortment of invasion sequences.
Reviewed by: Paul Thibodeau

"Get Strong at Invading" is one of the early volumes ('95) in the 'Get Strong at Go Series', and it shows.

The back cover 'guarantees' it will increase a weak kyu's invading ability by as much as 6 stones, but will also 'fill in the gaps' for a 'strong dan'. It is divided into three sections, Invasions on the Side (65 problems mainly covering 3 and 4 point extensions between two stones, Invading Corner Enclosures (84 problems), and Invading Large Territories (not actually about invading large territories, but reducing large frameworks (moyos).

The last section is the best, running 46 pages for 22 problems. The first two sections have a variety of useful patterns, but generally the treatment is poorly organized and scant, and this is where the book really suffers. A kyu player will learn more, and learn it properly, by studying "Attack and Defense" by Ishida and Davies, while a dan player can't do better than "Enclosure Josekis" by Takemiya and "Reducing Territorial Frameworks" by Fujisawa.
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Get Strong at Tesuji
Richard Bozulich, $15, Kiseido.
Reviewed by David Goldberg, 7k

The next best thing to having a personal teacher is a problem book. After I try a problem, I can flip to the answer and get immediate feedback. As a relative beginner there are a couple "theory" books that have helped my game (Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go, Opening Theory Made Easy), but it is mainly the drill of problem books that have raised the level of my play.

"Graded Go Problems for Beginners" were my favorite problem books when I first started playing. I could find a volume that was hard enough so that I learned something, but not so hard as to be frustrating. If, like me, you found those books useful, I strongly recommend "Get Strong at Tesuji". Similar to the Graded series, it's simply a list of 534 problems and their solutions. If you are comfortable with problems at the level of Graded Volume III then you should find Get Strong at Tesuji useful, too.

Unlike Graded, it has some problems that simply ask for the best move, and don't tell you what you're supposed to do (kill stones, live, connect two groups, etc). I found this to be an especially nice feature. It also rates the difficulty of each problem, although I didn't make much use of the ratings. If you like drilling yourself with problems, I highly recommend Get Strong at Tesuji.
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Get Strong at the Endgame
by Richard Bozulich
Kiseido Publishing Company, 1997, 200 pp., $15 U.S.
Reviewed by Paul Thibodeau


Get Strong at the Endgame is one of the best books in the 'Get Strong At' series. It contains a total of 291 endgame problems, followed by an appendix comparing a 3d amateur's and a 6D professional's playing of the same full-board endgame position against a pro 7-dan. The amateur loses by one point, the pro wins by 7, a pretty big swing of eight points. The book begins with 42 problems to test your endgame skill, thirty-six on 11x11 and six on 9x9, almost all from Kano Yoshinori's 'Endgame Dictionary'. The author recommends writing down the moves and final score of each problem without looking at the solution, proceeding directly to the tesuji and calculation problems, and then returning and redoing the test to compare your answers. While this method will show you what a big improvement the book makes in your endgame, most may simply want to work through the solutions the first time, without losing any advantage. The 120 tesuji problems illustrate various local situations where you can reduce the opponent's territory anywhere from one point to total devastation compared with ordinary looking endgame moves. The 101 calculation problems give you practice in knowing how many points an endgame move is worth, in sente or gote. The final section contains twenty-eight 11x11 'practical endgame problems', again composed by Kano. These help put all the skills together in complicated endgame situations. This book is nicely crafted and well thought out, with good explanations, suffering only a little from the series' general problem of a lack of instructional material. It does a good job of noting the different value of sente and gote moves, for example, but one could still miss the forest for the trees without caveats like that from Ogawa and Davies: 'A player who could not count at all, but understood the difference between sente and gote, would have the advantage over an opponent suffering from the reverse affliction.' Nevertheless, 'Get Strong at the Endgame' is well done enough as a problem book that in my opinion it would be fine as a challenging first endgame book for players stronger than 4 kyu. Players at the low dan level will find it just about right. Players less than 5 kyu will probably get more from Ogawa and Davies' excellent Elementary Go Series book: 'The Endgame'. Learn these skills, and you will be amazed at how many times you find yourself coming from behind and winning the game.

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The Girl Who Played Go
by Shan Sa
translated from the French by Adriana Hunter
280 pp.
published by Chatto and Windus of London, a division of Random House
Reviewed by Roy Laird
July 15, 2003

In The Square of The Thousand Winds, a Chinese girl plays go. Serious go, toppling opponent after opponent. The time is the early 1930's and the Japanese are invading. Hearing that "terrorists" from the Chinese Resistance meet at the Square to plot their next moves, a Japanese soldier visits the square in disguise, to spy on them. Instead he falls into a game with the girl who plays go. They meet at the square day after day to continue this strangely compelling game. Meanwhile, we watch their lives converge toward a startling climax.

The award-winning author seems to know her Asian history and literature, and even fills us in with footnotes when the characters participate in major historical events, or discuss history. Attention to detail is so "granular" that the Chinese girl depicted on the cover is even holding authentic Chinese stones! (Chinese stones are flat on one side.) The writing is sprinkled with thoughtful little gems, but seems mostly halting and disjointed, and the occasional intrusion in the translation of Britishisms like "chivvying" is a bit jarring. Most of the chapters are only a few paragraphs long -- just when we're beginning to immerse ourselves in a scene, it's over. Nonetheless, as often happens with good books, I am left with vivid memories and images, and thoughtful questions about the meaning of war. You have to admire the author's ambition. Through these gradually intertwining lives, one Chinese, one Japanese, she seeks to illuminate a dark era of occupation, torture and violent death, and to some degree she succeeds.

As a go player, I was happy to see the game presented as in a compelling, dramatic way. The Japanese lieutenant goes to the Square on a mission for his country and the Emperor, but finds himself hopelessly seduced by go. He confesses to his Captain, who shows his understanding by quoting the Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi: "When you lose a horse, you never know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing." In the end, the game becomes the means by which two minds meet in a profound, life-altering way.

This novel takes its place in a growing lexicon of "go stories". The ongoing, periodically adjourned game that progresses through most of the book invites comparison with Kawabata's "The Master of Go," which won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. After the degrading portrayal of women in Sung-hwa Hong's tough, dark "First Kyu", it's nice to see a woman who is not just the central character, but clearly the master of a her fate -- and a strong go player to boot!

Most of all, "The Girl Who Played Go" brings to mind the classic film "The Go Masters", a historic Chinese-Japanese film that has been called "an Asian 'Gone With the Wind.' " Unfortunately, "The Go Masters" is not commercially available at the present time, but if you go to ftp://ftp.hikago.flirble.org/pub/Misc/ with a high-speed modem, you can download a 300 MB .avi file and view this incredible masterpiece

I ordered my copy of "The Girl Who Played Go" from amazon.com at for about $20, it makes a good read, and a great gift.

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Go as Communication
by Yasuda Yasutoshi 9-dan
Slate & Shell
Reviewed by Simon Goss
March 31, 2003

"Am I the only one who feels that people, children and adults alike, look tired?" So writes Yasuda Yasutoshi 9-dan in the preface to Go as Communication. Yasuda's attention had been caught by a news report of the suicide of a bullied school child, and he had become "... obsessed by the notion that I had to do something about the social problem in addition to simply popularizing Go." The first part of Go as Communication describes Yasuda's visits to kindergartens, schools, homes for the mentally disabled, day care centres for the elderly and a school for the deaf. Almost all those he writes about have some kind of difficulty communicating with others. Many are, to a greater or lesser extent, socially excluded as a result. In the second part of the book, Yasuda gives advice on how to teach go to children of different ages in large groups, and how to teach it in the other kinds of institution he has visited. Part three gives a brief account of similar work that has been done in the Netherlands, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and the USA. Yasuda is well known as the inventor of Capture Go, and what he says about it came as a bit of a surprise to me at first. I had always been led to believe that Yasuda's main aim was to popularise go, and that beginning with Capture Go was basically a technique to lead people to it gently. Nothing could be further from the truth. "Popularizing Go" is a phrase that is used occasionally in the book, but it isn't the objective. Yasuda states his objective in terms such as "help change society" and "do something about the social problem". He teaches Capture Go as a game in its own right. He recognizes that a few people will move on to regular go, but doesn't get excited about it. If most people stick with Capture Go and enjoy it, that's fine with him. Indeed, he explains that some of the mentally handicapped people he meets will probably never understand even the capture rule, but will anyway enjoy and benefit from the even simpler game of just placing go stones on intersections, and that's just fine too. Will this book do anything for you? Well, if you want to improve at tesuji or joseki, definitely not. It contains a basic explanation of the capture rule, but if you're any stronger than 36-kyu it will teach you nothing at all about the game. If you want to teach go to bright people who are able and willing to give you ten minutes of their attention, it may not help you much either. If you want to teach go to large groups of people with low or mixed abilities and/or motivation, then it will certainly give you food for thought and may even help you. But the people I'd really like to see reading this book aren't go players at all, but school teachers and care workers. If you can think of a person like that to whom you could give a copy of this book, I think you'd be doing them, and go, a huge service. (A longer version of this review originally appeared in the British Go Journal, #129, Winter 2002)

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Go Elementary Training & Dan Level Testing
A CD-ROM edited by Yu Bin and produced by Jiang Jujo
People's Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 14K (9/10/01)

Interactive learning produces superior results when compared with static (i.e. "book") learning. If you don't have a teacher, or even if you do, this CD may hasten your acquisition of go skill. The problems range from the 17 kyu level to amateur 5 dan level.

The user interface of this program is annoyingly amateurish, but the organization of material is excellent. The program offers two formats.

"Promotion" consists of 150 steps of 20 problems each. You get ten tactical problems, five corner pattern (joseki) problems, and five whole board problems. 90 points (18 correct answers) are required to advance from one step to the next.

It's possible to cheat yourself with brute force iterations until the solution is found. Not good. But if you play straight through and fail to reach 90points, you start over from scratch. This kind of iteration is good. It drums the patterns into your brain.

"Test Your Level" lets you declare your strength (Beginner, Middle or High) and then choose from the three problem categories provided in "promotion."

Go Elementary Training & Dan Level Testing is a terrific tool that can be played a bit every day. Working an interactive element into your study regimen will pay off in many ways.
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Go Elementary Training and Dan Level Testing
by Yu Bin 9 dan and Jiang Jujo 9 Dan
Reviewed by David Dinhofer (10/8/01)

It has been hard for me to find a book or program that fits my particular style of learning go. I particularly enjoyed the books by Phil Straus and Yi-lun Yang. I have liked the books by Jim Davies but I found that even with these excellent texts I have not moved ahead very much in the tournament circuit.

Then I saw "Elementary Go" listed on the Samarkand web site and immediately liked the idea of a program that could both rate and teach me. Of course, I was also attracted to the "Up to 5 Dan" in theadvertisement. The price was also reasonable.

I had no trouble installing it into my Toshiba (4005CDT) laptop, a refurbished Satellite running Windows98 on a K6-2 processor at 350 MHz with 32 Megs of RAM and an active matrix display. I had tried to install it into my CTX desktop computer but there was a conflict with the video drivers that I was unable to fix without changing the settings on my display which I didn't want to do. So my Toshiba became my default computer for "Elementary Go," which came in particularly handy because when I first got the program, I was traveling a lot on business.

I first tested myself and found "Go Elementary Training" to be extremely accurate, ranking me between 3k and 1D, which mimics my tournament play. The program breaks down teaching and testing into three sections; life and death problems, joseki problems, and whole board problems. Your score is based on 5 points per problem with partial scores given on the whole board problems.

There are a few glitches. Occasionally, if there are two solutions because of miai, the program will only allow one solution. It occasionally locks up or doesn't allow a move. Fortunately, only the current session is lost. You also have to put up with a annoying voice telling you, "Better luck next time," when you screw up and the usual, "Congratulations," when you pass the next level.

Each time you finish a promotion level, you must log in again. This is time-consuming and tedious.

Recently, I installed WindowMe on my portable computer and found that there is a problem installing Go Elementary Training into WindowsMe. I was able to run the program fine on my Toshiba Satellite with both Windows98 and Windows98 Second Edition. When I brought this to Janice Kim's attention (I had purchased this product from Samarkand), she was extremely helpful and checked into it. She found that it could be loaded if it was run directly from the disc. Of course, this has but a big damper on my usage since I have no intention of reloading the old system software onto my portable again. Janice has since come up with a patch for WindowsMe.

The good news is that if you can get it up and running on your computer, you are likely to see a big difference in your play. I have moved up on IGS from 7k to 6k with a solid winning streak continuing. Some of this is very likely due to the cumulative effects of all of my efforts but nothing else has made as big a difference.

This program is clearly not for everyone. There is no commentary but it is easy to go through large numbers of problems in a relatively short period of time. I would call it the generic version of go teaching. All in all, Elementary Go is an excellent way to examine and learn lots of materials with little fanfare. I am hoping that Jujo will come out with an updated version in the near future.
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Go for Beginners
by Kaoru Iwamoto
Published by Pantheon Books, 1977 [$12]
Reviewed by Matthew Burke, 15k

I taught myself and several of my friends how to play Go from this book, and I suspect many other people can say the same. The book's clarity and thoroughness indicate why Iwamoto was so successful at promoting Go in the West.

Go for Beginners is divided into two parts. The first part explains the rules of go. Rather than simply listing the rules and giving examples, Iwamoto walks us through a 9x9 game, presenting rules as necessary. I remember finding this to be a most compelling way of drawing me into the game. After leading the reader through playing and scoring, Iwamoto steps back and fleshes out the details of liberties, ko, seki, and other important concepts in the second chapter.

The second part of the book presents an overview of techniques including life and death, ladders, and extensions. The book ends with good advice on how to improve and two example professional games.
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The Go Player's Almanac
edited by Richard Bozulich
Published by Ishi Press; $30
Reviewed by Steven Robert Allen, 1K

People are attracted to go for many reasons. It's fun. It's excellent mental aerobics. It's also an ideal springboard for philosophical speculation about life and the cosmos.
A particularly seductive aspect of the game is its extraordinary culture and past. One of the most exciting things about go is that its millennia-long history is filled with colorful stories and equally colorful personalities.

The Go Player's Almanac, unique among go books in English, provides a detailed look at the game's culture and history. The book contains no lessons, no theory, no advice for improving go-playing skills. What it does provide are well-written essays and reference sections covering the history, philosophy, culture and personalities which make go so fascinating to so many people.

The book covers go history from ancient times to the present. It also contains biographies of all the most significant players, living and dead. One of the book's finest features is its extensive glossary of go terms. Another nice feature is its survey of go equipment, the collection of which is a fetishized pastime in itself. If that isn't enough, The Go Player's Almanac also describes: the manner in which players become professionals, the tournament system in different countries, the various rule sets, why go computer programs are so difficult to create, and more.

Every serious go player will eventually want to have this book. Though The Go Player's Almanac is currently out of print, it's available at several Internet vendors of go equipment. An updated edition is rumored to be in the works.
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The Go Player's Almanac, 2001 edition
Kiseido, Edited by Richard Bozulich
June 2001, $30, Paperback 378pp
Reviewed by Robert Jasiek

Everybody calling himself a serious player should already have this reference work so the following discusses only the differences to the 1992 edition. The chapter on Mathematical Go is omitted, otherwise prior chapters have either tiny changes or considerable updates.

Noteworthy revisions concern:

  • A Brief History of Modern Go: A short summary of the recent international development has been added. There are also a few black and white pictures of famous players.
  • Who's Who in the World of Go: Sincere extensions for China and Korea and a list for Taiwan are offered.
  • Tournament Go: Considerable amendments concern international, Korean, and Chinese go. European and American tournaments are skipped.
  • Go Records now include some entertaining komi and rules-related statistics.
  • A Dictionary of Go Terms: some new entries of Japanese and a few English terms including - not for completeness but more for fun - molasses ko.

The book includes some new chapters:

  • Go in the Classics: A discussion of the difficulty of pursuing the origin of go seems to kill the myth of a 3000 or 4000 year-old game, states rather secure sources, and partly can't resist the temptation of minor speculation.
  • Some Senryu of Go: Some popular sayings.
  • Go in Europe in the 17th Century, Go in the West in the 18th Century, Speculations on the Origins of Go: These three chapters are quite interesting, although older versions previously appeared in GoWorld.
  • Go and Art: Besides a few colored pictures the text should be the more important part.
  • The Last Problem is a tiny anecdote.

What is missing? Obviously, this work is broad rather than deep so one cannot reasonably expect extensive details. However, some omissions are noteworthy: Western go, Korean and Chinese go terms, the actual life of a professional, teaching, and scientific go. Also it is hard to understand why some prior parts have been omitted.

Nevertheless, the new chapters and the revisions make the new edition useful for players who felt the earlier one was incomplete. The new edition of the Almanac is not flawless but it's certainly an improvement.
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The Go Player's Almanac (2001)
Kiseido, Edited by Richard Bozulich
June 2001, $30, Paperback 378pp
Reviewed by Peter Shotwell

Despite its $30 price, every Go player should have the 2001 edition of "The Go Player's Almanac" This most extraordinary compendium of Go information is largely unavailable elsewhere in English.
John Power tells the stories behind the explosions of modern Chinese and Korean Go and the Who's Who and tournament sections record these recent changes. Julie Lamont has a long, intriguing and profusely illustrated overview of the role of go in the Eastern arts. In addition, there are major revisions and lengthenings of several old Go World articles - by myself on the origins of Go in China, and by Jaap Blom on descriptions and the consequent intellectual influences of go in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the best articles from the original Almanac, published in 1992, are also included and the only flaw is that the treatise on computer Go could not be updated before press time.

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Go World (the magazine)
Published quarterly by Kiseido ($28 for 5 issues)
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 15K

Imagine the excitement of unearthing buried treasure - gold doubloons, jeweled goblets, silver daggers. I've discovered buried Go treasure; not precious metals but a wealth of wisdom in every issue of the magazine Go World.

Go World (subscriptions available at www.kiseido.com) is truly a hoard of goodies. Number 91, hot off the press, features an article on Takemiya ("A Player with Heart"), a column by Michael Redmond on the opening, annotated games from current title matches - complete with reports on the players, four special sections for kyu players, and an article on Go in the West in the 81th Century.

The buried treasure is found in back issues, many of which are in stock. At the Kiseido site I marvel at the cover graphics. The covers are historical art involving Go. All are interesting and some are of striking beauty.

Back issues of Go World contain an informal course of study for kyu players seeking to improve. The 5x5 endgame studies, for example, are ideal for demonstrating specific techniques. In the back numbers I also found the best illustrations of sabaki I've run across, problem solutions that tell you how to refute moves that most books leave to the student, little quizzes on joseki and endgame counting, a compilation of the favorite tsume-go problems of Japanese pros, and many other jewels. Of course, the annotated games are superb; the background material invaluable. No matter what your rank, you'll find good things in Go World.
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Gogod Database
Reviewed by Charles Matthews

Game collections aren't really a novelty. Student pros in Japan used to be sent away to play through the games of Shusaku, the dead master taking the weight off the shoulders of the living.

In the PC era, you can collect up game files in the standard SGF format, click through them, or even get a screensaver to do that work for you. Going further and applying the computer's power as research assistant is the object of the Gogod Database bundle under review. It comprises around 12,000 games from the whole historic and geographical range of high-level go, including a high proportion of the most interesting and significant records around. It also comes with a number of software tools on the CD-ROM.

I have spent the most time using Go Library, which is a versatile program for searching the collection to match data or positions. This would afford practical help with study for any dan player.

There is also John Fairbairn's massive index to names of players from all eras, providing fascinating historical background to the games, and a special tool for finding instantly variations in the avalanche opening. I have spent most time using Go Library, which is a versatile program for searching the collection to match data or positions. This would afford practical help with study for any dan player. It's a tidy single screen, written in Delphi, with all commands self-explanatory icons or buttons. One can enter a pattern stone by stone on one board, have the machine match all occurrences in a period of years (say 1980-1989), and in a range of moves (say the first 50 of a game) and then play through the corresponding games on a second board. This allows easy tracking of full scale opening patterns. To look at corner openings in context, one uses the very useful 'rotations' facility: enter a pattern once, and the search will apply the 16-pass examination of games to check for its occurrence in all symmetric places, and with either colour. Searches may be saved for later use. I have applied this tool for studies of fuseki, joseki and middlegame techniques around corner enclosures, as well as to select games of particular players.

Ordering: the database is currently available exclusively from Gogod.

tmark@gogod.demon.co.uk, dollar price $55 including charges.
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Golden Opportunities
by Rin Kaiho (1/29/01)
(Yutopian, 1996)
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 15K

Life, like go, presents many opportunities for success, yet all too often our eyes fail to see the gold. In "Golden Opportunities," Rin Kaiho, 9 dan and raconteur, serves up a fascinating stew of go tactics and historical anecdotes. Rin doesn't lecture; he dramatizes in stories that provide a setting in which to envision go positions as theatre. The stories draw from both east and west. They aid the student's memory. A basic principle in each story foreshadows the correct go action. Aimed at the mid-kyu player in need of fresh perspective to advance but sure to be a joy for players of any strength, this book has great practical value. It mixes well with dry problem collections and joseki texts. It illustrates obvious moves that are really failed tries, develops the cognitive collisions that lead to enlightenment, and examines all the key variations. Get "Golden Opportunities" for fun and profit.
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Graded Go Problems for Beginners (Vols 1-4)
Nihon Kiin, 1990
Reviewed by Jean G. DeMaiffe, 7K

Graded Go Problems for Beginners is a four-volume set of books that takes the reader from an absolute novice to "Advanced" play (defined as 15-kyu or stronger). The books are compilations of go problems, divided up by level of difficulty and by subject matter. For instance, Volume One has lots of problems on how to capture one or more stones and how to avoid being captured. The "Level Two" problems in Volume One include ladders, snapbacks, ko, and how to play in the opening and in endgame. Each succeeding volume continues to explore these main themes. Some of the problems in the third and fourth volumes will challenge American players stronger than 15-kyu (myself included), probably because, unlike Asian go students, our study of go has been almost entirely self-directed and without any structure. This four-volume set provides a excellent grounding in the basics of go at an early stage and can't help but prove helpful to any double-digit (and at least one single-digit) player willing to take the time to study them. They are also excellent teaching tools for go kids.
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Graded Go Problems For Beginners: Vols. I-IV
Kano Yoshinori Pro 9d
Kiseido Publishing
Reviewed by Marc Willhite, 10k

One often hears a more experienced player telling newer and intermediate level players that there are "leaks in their game." This could refer to the opening, middle game, ending, tesuji, invasions, or any other area of Go play. What they mean is that there are fundamental concepts that these less experienced players have not yet fully grasped, and until they do, it will be a long and difficult road to improvement.
Any regular Go player knows the game can be very bewildering when you first discover it and attempt to learn. As you gain experience and your game improves, especially when the "trial and error" approach is taken, studying Go problems becomes an amazing way to plug the leaks in your game and leap to new heights of understanding.
I consider "Graded Go Problems For Beginners" essential to every Go player's library because the books will indeed help plug these leaks. Volume I is aimed at those who have just learned the rules of Go. Large diagrams with simple positions help the beginner learn the techniques of capturing and defending stones, connecting and separating stones, life and death, basic opening problems, and more.
As you make your way into the more challenging concepts presented in the later volumes, you will see a noticeable improvement in your play. The life and death problems alone should keep any persistent reader busy and, at times, frustrated. Probably the most rewarding thing about working your way through the problems is going back to an easier volume only to find the material is now a permanent part of your Go vocabulary. The claim that these books will "thoroughly drill the reader in the fundamentals of the game . . . thus laying a solid foundation for his future progress" could not be more exact.
"Graded Go Problems For Beginners" will benefit all kyu-level players. Get these books and start solving!
$15 each plus s/h at http://www.kiseido.com/

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The Great Joseki Debates
by Honda Kunihisa, 9-Dan
Translated by Jim Davies and David Thayer; Ishi Press, 1992
Reviewed by David Dinhofer

It is hard to find joseki books that aren't dry and mechanical. The sheer number of variations on the subject make it difficult to make it interesting. Honda Kunihisa has managed to make the joseki interesting and lighthearted with his style and approach.

In this reprint of several articles from Go World, Honda Kunihisa, approaches each joseki problem as if there are three scholars presenting a different strategy and makes us think about which we would chose. He does this in a comical way as if the each of the scholars feels he has the only answer. Then he goes on to explain why one of the three is the best choice based on the whole board outlook.

Kunihisa reiterates the same warning in each discussion: "Since josekis work effectively in a certain direction, it is necessary to examine the positions along the adjacent sides and in the adjacent corners when choosing a joseki for a particular opening." I'm sure he repeated this warning to emphasize its importance. This is one of the things that I found so helpful in the two joseki books by Yi-lun Yang and Phil Straus. Honda Kunihisa gives only as much follow up as is necessary for even mid level players.

I found this book easy to read and wound up wanting even more problems. I expect that even low Dan level players will find this an interesting review as well as kyu level players.
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Handbook of Star Point Joseki
Edited by the Nihon Kiin
Yutopian Enterprises
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 12k
May 19, 2003

A wonderful resource for any player, this very thorough dictionary of star point joseki is invaluable for the beginner starting to think beyond the simple handicap joseki we first learn. Aggressive and tricky tries by White are analyzed to reveal White's goals and Black's best responses. A generous helping of diagrams shows the underlying reasons for plays, without confusing the reader with too many moves. For one to improve at go, understanding the 'why" is more important than memorizing the "what." Two aspects of the book are especially good. The many double approaches against the star point (when black plays elsewhere) are systematically discussed, and a section called "supplemental joseki" provides other perspectives into each major division of joseki. Kudos to Yutopian for publishing this gem, and to Craig Hutchinson (editor and layout master) and Robert Terry (translator).

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How to Play Handicap Go
by Yuan Zhou
Slate & Shell
Reviewed by Bob Barber, 1k
April 28, 2003

The main thrust of this book is teaching how to play White in a handicap game, but the analysis is so thorough (60 diagrams per game!) that Black learns as well. Beautifully designed, with two diagrams per page, some show only one move, allowing clear explanation. Think AGA 5 dans are pretty savvy? Here we see them lose their way taking three stones. Often, the reader gets a chance to play like an 8 dan and find the next move. Eight of the games show Yuan Zhou giving from three to seven stones as he exposes the mistakes of dan-level players (though 3d Haskell Small wins praise for "a good job of keeping White busy.") The final game, by two hapless kyu players, is fine example of how NOT to play as White. I am pleased to report that in a recent rematch, after reading this book, White was not bamboozled.

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In the Beginning
by Ikuro Ishigure
Kiseido, 151 pp.
Reviewed by Jason Baghboudarian, 10k

As in many creation stories, we have darkness, and then light. So it is from the very first stone of a game of go. Ishigure takes us on an exploration of these beginnings, my favorite time of the game.

Because of its open and abstract qualities, the opening is by its very nature difficult to teach with authority, simply because there is none. There are many approaches to the opening, the basic structure and strategies of which have evolved over time. I find it fascinating, and a tribute to the flexibility of the game itself, that for as many thousands of years as go has been played, there have been significant new developments in opening style in just the past hundred years alone.

In addressing the opening, Ishigure is giving us a philospohy of the game as a whole. He handles the subject matter with skill. He shows us how to build solid bases from which to attack and pincer. We see different shimari and kakari, but instead of an emphasis on joseki, Ishigure stays true to the nature of this time in the game by focusing on a broader context. We are shown the values of different areas, relative to position. There are problems throughout the text, and in their own section as well.. All of this leads us through nine concepts which will help guide us through developing our own style of opening. These are principles of balance, on which every rank of player needs to act.

Reading this book has given me more insight into the state of mind required to play go well. This of course brings more appreciation of the game; and also of the cultures which have embraced it.
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Intermediate Level Power Builder, Vol. 1
By Wang RuNan
Published by Yutopian Enterprises, 1997
$14.00
Reviewed by Barry C. Willey, 12k KGS

Aimed at the mid kyu player, this book does a wonderful job at covering basic concepts, strategies and techniques. The first volume of this series in progress covers basic joseki and fuseki in openings, but in a method that integrates a global view. The author also spends a chapter discussing "oba" or big points and how they arise in openings.
Starting with a survey of common openings, such as the Chinese, three and four point openings, various strategy and tactics are discussed in the context of these openings. Next the author spends several chapters on the best ways to invade them.

One of the best aspects of this book is the method of presentation. The author uses a lesson format in which he asks a question and the students give their answers. The best solution is explained and then the weak point in the student's answer is examined. I found that very helpful when comparing my thoughts with the explanations in the book. It should also be noted that many of the games on which comments are made are taken from various professional games. I hope that Yutopian plans on publishing the next installment in this series soon.
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Intermediate Level Power Builder, Vol. 1
by Wang RuNan, 8 dan
Reviewed by Ethan Baldridge
September 22, 2003

This slender volume from Yutopian Enterprises is aimed at 19-13th kyu
players. It mainly teaches about opening and fuseki issues, and how to use and deal with a moyo built on star points. The problems are enjoyable to solve and presented in an interesting style where three imaginary students make suggestions and comments on the likely courses of action. I thought this was an interesting way to teach, although I'm not sure whether it affected my retention at all.

The last chapters of the book deal with invading, and the final chapter is dedicated entirely to joseki from a 3-3 point invasion where a 4-4 stone has already been placed. I felt this was a great help as it showed me how to play for side influence when the corner isn't as important.

I would recommend this book for any mid-level kyu player who wants a quick strengthening of their game.

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An Introduction to Go; Rules and Strategies for the Ancient Oriental Game
By James Davies & Richard Bozulich
The Ishi Press, Inc. Tokyo, 1989
Reviewed by Phommasone Christopher Inthiraj

This small hand-guide is what started it all for me. Or rather, I should say a small little manga series from Japan is what got me into Go. However, it was this book that really taught me how to play. I enjoyed reading this book very much, and as a beginner, it appealed to me very much. The greatest thing about this book is that it's geared towards beginners and amateurs alike. It teaches many 'Go'-only terms, as well as giving examples of every rule and aspect of Go. Not only that, it also has several example games that demonstrate these elements as well as a section on the 'you'll probably never see these' special-shape rules. As a beginner, I didn't really need to look at it, but I'm sure it will come in handy later on.
Another great thing about this book is the size. It is very small, and fits in pockets, purses, jackets, etc. It's the best pocket-guide Go book I have come across and I used this almost all the time as I was getting down the rules.
The book's only drawback is that is does not go very deeply into much of anything. It shows just enough of a rule or aspect to let you know what it is, gives a few examples, and moves on. It makes up for this drawback by putting in a few example games which are quite nice to observe and try out on your own, however. You can learn Go with this book, but do not expect to learn a plethora of different shapes and possible moves.
This is a book for beginners and novices, small enough to fit your pocket and carry around for your all-purpose Go needs. I especially recommend it if you need a pocket guide to refer to while on the move.

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Invincible: The Games of Shusaku
Compiled, edited and translated by John Power
Kiseido Publishing Company, 442 pp; $35
Reviewed by Steve Dowell, 6k

"Invincible" is a massive book with about 120 games. 80 are full commentaries with detailed analysis. The games here are magnificent struggles with large scale fighting being the norm. However Shusaku demonstrates his mastery of the positional features of the game and in every game he demonstrates his superb positional judgment.

The book contains thousands of lessons and is a great way to see the 3-4 point in action. These games are timeless and playing through them is like listening to great classical music or seeing a great artist in action before your very eyes. Invincible's lessons are supplemented by the history it presents along with every game and with a well-written introductory chapter (about 25 pages) documenting the history leading up to and including Shusaku's career.

If you love great games you will love this book. This book is well suited to anyone who is able to learn from professional games, although weaker players may find this book a struggle. Invincible is great at teaching through exciting struggles but its real strength is teaching and fostering a love for go and its culture.

Order from Samarkand at www.samarkand.net or Kiseido at www.kiseido.com
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Jungsuk In Our Time: Somok (3-4 point Jungsuk)
Seo Bong-Soo (9P) & Jung Dong-Sik (5P)
Translated by Nam Chuhyunk (1P)
Published by Hankuk Kiwon ,Korean Baduk Association. 351 pp.
Reviewed by Michael Turk, 10k

Jungsuk is the Korean word for joseki. This book provides a well-commented treatment of 3-4 joseki in a form that is readable by middle strength and stronger kyus. The book is rich in information and I expect that it will also provide useful information for stronger players. All conference attendees at the recent 1st International Baduk Conference (Baduk is the Korean word for Go) received a copy from Chiyung Nam when they visited the Hankuk Kiwon. Until recently the English-language go literature has been dominated by translations of Japanese works, but recently works of Chinese and Korean authors have become available, a welcome trend that I hope continues.

Jungsuk claims to be the first Korean book on baduk translated into English, but I believe that Jeong Soo-Hyun's and Janice Kim's superb "Learn to Play Go" series lays true claim to that honour.

The book is structured around 113 "Primary Patterns". These represent the major variations of the commonly used 3-4 joseki as practiced in Korea today. Many of these are presented within a 'whole board' context and the emphasis is on current or modern variations. Secondary sequences related to these primary patterns are used to explore well-commented interesting variations. Most variations are extended into 'after joseki' and 'unreasonable play', 'modern play' and 'old variations are mentioned.

The authors encourage their readers to "learn ... and then forget" their joseki and to consider joseki choices within the game context. They use korean terms sparingly (sunsoo for sente etc) and provide a glossary at the back for terms that Western readers may not be familiar with. The book is beautifully bound with a high quality cover, it is well printed and well laid out with very readable diagrams and clear explanations.
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Kage's Secret Chronicles of Handicap Go
T. Kageyama, 7-dan
Translated by James Davies
Ishi Press
Reviewed by Terry Fung, 1k NNGS

What can one learn from studying low-handicap games between two professionals and a professional against a strong amateur? The list could be pretty long, including corner joseki, whole board fuseki, direction of play, middle game technique, sente and gote, honte moves and overplays. But the most important thing that I learned from this book is how professionals deal with over-aggressive moves and unreasonable challenges. This book helps weak players like me to build up confidence when playing against stronger players. It should be a great book for players between AGA 9k to 2d.

The book includes nine fully-commented real handicap games from 2 to 5 stones. While the two professionals were playing against each other, they engaged in lively and entertaining conversations. When one professional plays against an amateur, both professionals comment after the actual game and they often have different ideas about an identical position. Last but not least, this book has a feature that I enjoyed very much: there are about 7 to 8 questions per game to test your strength, and you can only find the answers after flipping to the next page.
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Kan-zufu
Published in Japan under the auspices of Maeda, 9p
Reviewed by Douglas M. Auclair

The Kan-zufu is a classic Chinese book of life and death problems used to school Go students seeking professional rank. It has the original Chinese introductory text and a translation into Japanese. Following that are the problems: two to a page with hints in Japanese, and the answers to those problems immediately on the reverse side.
Of all my problem books, this is the one I turn to most often. Sometimes I get the solution in a flash, sometimes it takes weeks of struggle to find the answer. I never turn the page, though, until I'm sure I'm correct. Nothing beats the feeling of my solution being vindicated. However, on rare occasions, I receive a shock that my solution was wrong; obviously wrong as the answer shows (usually my attempt reversed the order of correct play, giving the opponent the vital point). At any rate, when I study the problems, I feel a sense of wonder and gravity, as if I'm participating with the Go sages in their study.
As the Kan-zufu text is in Japanese, some readers may be put off. I found, on the other hand, the hints a little too helpful exposing the theme of the problem at hand. Readers of the American Go Journal may recall an article by Janice Kim, 1P, which mentioned an encounter over this book on her daily commute, how she would study a problem, sometimes for days. This echoes the story in The Treasure Chest Enigma by Nakayama Noriyuki, 7p, of Suzuki's sensei scolding an insei: "Don't get a stone from the bowl until you know where to play!" I've found studying the Kan-zufu has given me an edge killing or saving a group against my peers on the go board.
Although not currently listed by any of the vendors, I've found that they are often willing to find ways to procure a copy of rare books.

 

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Learn to Play Go (four volumes)
by Janice Kim and Jeong Soo-Hyun
Published by Good Move Press; $17.95 (vol. 1); $14.95 (vol.2-4)
Reviewed by Steven Robert Allen, 1k

Experienced go players sometimes deride this series, suggesting it's overly simple. With go books, though, as with go itself, simplicity is very often a virtue. Containing large diagrams, witty asides, and plenty of interesting go history and trivia, this series is perfect for those who are new to the game. Later volumes contain information that even mid-level players will find useful.

The first volume starts at the very beginning by explaining the rules and outlining some rudimentary strategies. In the back, a paper board with stones is included. (This is somewhat difficult to play with because the pieces are so small.)

The second volume, "The Way of the Moving Horse," goes a couple steps beyond the most basic strategies. The third volume, "Dragon Style," contains some go aphorisms and a few analyzed sample games. The fourth volume, "Battle Strategies," contains more "advanced" strategies.

Of all the books out there, these seem to me to be the very best for introducing beginners to go. Volume one, in particular, makes a perfect gift for someone approaching the game for the first time. The series will eventually include nine volumes. The fifth volume, The Palace of Memory, is expected shortly.
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Learn to Play Go, Vol. I (2nd ed.)
A Master's Guide to the Ultimate Game
by Janice Kim 1P and Jeong Soo-hyun 9P
Good Move Press, 176 pages $17.95
Reviewed by Steven E. Polley

This book, part of a four part series is a nearly perfect book for the new player of go. Written in a simple, straight-forward manner, with illustrations for almost every concept discussed, the book allows the student to learn at his on pace, and is ideal for a quick review of any rule or concept. Regardless of the facet of the game being presented, the authors first give the simplest examples, and then build each chapter with increasingly advanced ideas- so that each aspect of go is completely discussed in an easy to understand, step by step approach.

The book is divided into two parts, covering fundamentals and basic techniques. Part I consists of eight chapters dealing with topics such as capturing, connecting, life and death, and ko. Part I also contains, in chapter 8, the score of an actual 19x19 game that the reader can follow, with excellent annotations, move by move. After the reader has learned "the basics," Part II, in six chapters, cleverly builds on that foundation with topics such as: capturing techniques, connecting techniques, capturing races, and ko fighting.

In addition to this excellent introduction to Go, Learn to Play Go, Vol. I also has two extra features that make it an outstanding book for the novice player. The first is that each chapter is followed by a section called "Try it Yourself" which amounts to a section of problems that test the ideas presented in the preceding chapter. The second is ten "extra sections", with from one to three pages, that are dispersed throughout the text, and give the reader more of a "feel" for the game. For example, one section explains go etiquette, another go strength, i.e. the rating system. One gives information about go on the Internet, and still another introduces the reader to some of the more famous players of the game. Another unique feature of this volume is that each copy comes complete with a reversible 19x19, 13x13 and 9x9 board, so that the reader can start playing immediately. The 'stones" are paper and can be difficult to use, but still a nice addition to the book, which is highly recommended for anyone from 30 to roughly 25 kyu.

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Learn to Play Go, Volume IV: Battle Strategies
By Janice Kim and Soo-Hyun Jeong,
Published by Samarkand
Reviewed by Lawrence Ku, 11k
May 26, 2003

This was the first English go book my parents bought for me, so I have a special feeling for it. In comparison with other go books, "Learn to Play" uses large pictures to demonstrate many variations and provides explanations of many go terms that will be very useful for a beginner. When I received this book, I was 21 kyu and it gave me a systematic view of attacking techniques, helping me a lot in my own attacking skills even though I could not fully understand all of the material in part 1, which covers middle game techniques such as invasion and reduction, battle strategies, how to attack, and how to take care of your stones or how to make good shape. While the second part of the book, which covers life and death and ko fighting, was a bit too easy for me I recently re-read "Learn to Play" and found Part 1 still very useful.

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Leather Go Set
Viking Trader, $55-$75
Reviewed by Andy Kelly

While reading The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata last summer, I became interested in the game and started looking for an affordable entry-level set. I ended up buying a leather one from Viking Trader, which I got for less than retail on eBay.
The board is made of soft suede leather that is about 20"X 20" (the edges are rounded and irregular), and the playing grid, burned into the surface, is 13.5"X 13.5". The stones are black and white glass roughly 2 cm in diameter. It comes with two leather pouches for the stones and a larger leather bag that can hold the set.
Although these are not the traditional materials for a Go set, this one captures the idea that textures are important. The contrast between the warmth of the leather and the cold smoothness of the glass makes playing on this board a much richer experience than using the wooden boards and plastic pieces of other low-end sets. The pieces are also heavy enough so that removing captured stones doesn't scatter the remaining ones. It's marketed as a Pente set for the SCA and Ren Faire folk, but for me, all of this leather gives it an appealing cowboyishness, a Wild West meets Far East feel (think Shanghai Noon or Red Sun, but better).
My only complaint is that the hoshi (handicap) points aren't on the board. I was surprised to see how much I had come to depend on them for orientation, even though I had only been playing for a short time. I ended up drawing them on with a brown Sharpie.
Despite the one drawback, I have been extremely happy with the set and recommend it to anyone who is just starting out or looking to upgrade without dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Available at http://www.thevikingtrader.net/penteset.htm

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Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go
by Toshiro Kageyama, 7P
Translated by James Davies, 1978
Published by Kiseido, 1996 [$15]
Reviewed by Tom Boone, 9K

Anyone 12k or stronger can benefit from this book. Kageyama, a professional teacher and lecturer on Japanese television, observed four levels, starting around 12K, where his amateur students seemed to hit roadblocks. His book prescribes the same remedy at each level. Review the fundamental principles until practice and experience give you the confidence to make sound moves without hesitating. Repeat as needed.

For example, you'll have a much easier time finding the best move if you know at a glance whether or not the ladder works. You won't have to look for alternatives to an obvious move, even though it seems wholly uninspired, if you can see how effectively it settles an urgent area. "Lessons" holds up well under repeated browsing. It comes in particularly handy when you're looking for something to help you warm up for the next tournament.
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Life and Death, Elementary Go Series Vol. 4
By James Davies,
Published by Kiseido Publishing Company
157 pages, $13.00
Reviewed by Lawrence Ku, AGA 11k

This book is one of the Elementary Go series published by Kiseido. I don't know why this book is Vol. 4, as I think it should be Vol. 2 since I'd prefer to read it right after Vol. 1 'In the Beginning'. If you want to study life and death, this book is a great one to start with. It begins with the simplest 'three-space' shapes and gradually moves to four-space, five-space, and more complicated shape such as, L+1, J and carpenter's square. Not only does the book discuss the life and death of those different shapes, but also teaches you how to make eyes, what are false eyes, how to attack, defend, and throw-in. Divided into 36 sections, there are a few problems to help you practice the new techniques at the end of each section. I read this book when I was 16k and found that while two-thirds of the material was easy, the rest was very challenging. "Life and Death" is excellent for both beginner and mid-level kyu players.

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Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go
by Toshiro Kageyama
Kiseido K28
Reviewed by Rodrigo Alonso Perez

The Japanese word for "fundamentals" is kiso. Luckily for go trivia, part of the kanji for kiso is a slight variation of the character for igo, with the particle ishi (stone) added at the bottom.  This "founding stone" reflects nicely the idea of fundamentals in any activity; from karate to cooking and from baseball to Go. A fundamental is a basic rule for performance, distilled from the experience of generations, whose dismissal leads to poor results. Kageyama's book follows the fundamentals of good exposition; full of witty remarks about life and the competitive go scene, it stays focused on its basic purpose: To convince readers of ANY rank that faithfulness to Go fundamentals can only enhance their enjoyment of the game. Instead of endless sequences of joseki, Kageyama teaches how to profit from correct joseki study. He clarifies the essence of thickness, sente and good shape and finds time to enlighten us with wisdom regarding tesuji, life and death problems and yose guidelines. As a final gift, he explains how to beat a Meijin.  I can only make mine the author's advice: "If you want to get stronger, read this book."

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Life and Death: Intermediate Level Problems
by Maeda Nobuaki, 9 Dan.
Reviewed by James Bonomo
Slate & Shell; $14.00
http://www.slateandshell.com/


As the back of this little book says, Maeda was known as "the god of life and death Go problems". These problems, like many of Slate & Shell's offerings, were originally published in Go Review, the first serious Go magazine in English. It's good to have them widely available again.
The book follows the format of the magazine articles, which is both a strength and a weakness. Each of the magazine articles presented ten life and death problems of increasing difficulty. In a magazine, this allowed most players to cruise through the problems until they reached their level. And indeed, a wide range of readers would find challenging problems in the book. There is a problem in simply reproducing these cycles of ten, though. A reader might quickly run through the start of each cycle, but then become stuck on a hard problem. Repeating this cycle eleven times, for the 110 problems here, could become frustrating.
The problems in each cycle cover a reasonable range of difficulty. I'm an AGA 1 kyu who enjoys life and death problems. The first five or so in each set seemed very easy to me, often being obvious; but, by the last one or two, I had to think longer than would have been reasonable in a game. The book claims a range from about 7 kyu to 2 dan, which doesn't seem far off except for the very easiest problems.
Physically, the soft-cover book is small and perfect-bound. It is well edited. I only found two noticeable mistakes: Problem 19 should say White , not Black, to play and kill, but few would be confused; Problem 41 more seriously omits the edge of the board on the right hand side, which may confuse some. The book is small enough to be carried in my briefcase or a large pocket, providing a source of short problems to read in my odd free minutes. While certainly not my favorite life and death book, I will reread it several times.

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LiveOrDie Software
By Lyu Shuzhi
http://www.szsoftware.com
Review by Bull Hudson

I just received my first Go Journal, the Fall 2001/Winter 2002 issue and find it well put together, very much informative and enjoyable reading. Having recently started playing Go, anything and everything I can find to help my game is welcome.
From the start, the term "Life and Death" stood out. Each Go book I read would stress the need to master Life and Death problems. In the first couple months at our local Go club the murmur through the onlookers was, "You need to learn Life and Death." Yes, I said, I will do that, and went on the search for solving this Life and Death situation.
In the months that followed it seemed that solving this problem of making Life was eluding me. I was though making lots of Death, and it was mostly my own. Playing on the Internet I could feel the kibitzers running from their monitors screaming, "He doesn't know Life and Death!" At this point the best thing I thought I could do would be to travel to some remote place on this planet,dig a deep pit and bury my game.
But now perhaps not all was lost, as in hand I had my new American Go Journal and I was off to read it poolside in hopes of finding some bits of wisdom. The front cover read, "PRO SLAYER" in bold red letters with a picture of Jie Li 7 dan. Wow, to be that good.
Poolside I read, reclining in a lounge chair, basking in the Arizona sun. I thumbed through it looking at the game review with mouth-watering anticipation. Then I came to Go Review, Resources for Go players. Here I find DieOrLive software. I read the review and almost jumped out of my lounge chair to run inside to buy it. Had I finally found the solution to my Life and Death ailment?
I was re-reading the review when I noticed the wasp. It's on my lounge chair with its angry-looking wasp eyes. It's big. It's yellow. And it's looking at me.
Interesting how the small things in life can bring such fear. I think to myself, "I'll move and you can have the lounge chair." Bad escape move on my part. The wasp tries to attach. I do a knights move, Go Journal in hand extending. The swish of pages in the air. The wasp moves and gets good aji but I leap from my lounge chair with a tesuji and build a bigger moyo.
"Swoosh, swoosh" the Go Journal cuts the air. The wasp hanes but the Go Journal cuts the air again. Then suddenly "Yose." The wasp now does a little zig-zag in front of me, really pissed, then goes for a kikashi. I answer, but with one of those plays that you think will be the end of you. "Swoosh" goes the Journal and it slips from my hand, 64 pages whirling through the air at high speed right at the wasp. What would happen now, with my only defense gone? Luckily, my move turned out to be the death-dealing tesuji.
The Journal's journey through air and across the pool deck left it torn and tattered. Figuring this must be a Life and Death lesson, I went in to buy the DieOrLive software. It is everything Garlock promised, and I can feel I'm getting stronger at reading these problems. This is the solution to the aliment that I was having, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about Life and Death.
Thanks, American Go Journal for your saving pages. In more ways than one.

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Magnetic Go Set (Kiseido MG25)
Retailed by Kiseido (www.kiseido.com)
$130 (MG20 is $100)
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 15 K

At 36 x 34 cm, this magnetic set is large enough to play a comfortable game on, yet still small enough to use for study. The metal of the board wraps around at the center seam. It's possible to gently fold the board closed and have stones on the tenth line maintain their grip when I put the board away on a shelf (standing upright on its 1.9 cm edge). The designer knew that games and study are sometimes interrupted while the table is put to a more pragmatic use, like dinner.

The playing surface features a wood-grain print in light yellow-tan, like Katsura. My first reaction as the set was opened: "How can magnets stick to wood?"
The plastic stones measure 1.7 cm in diameter. Their magnets are glued snugly into a recess in the base, so that nothing but smooth plastic ever touches the board's surface. Unlike with my first magnetic set (a rather small artifact), the surface of MG25 remains unscratched.

The bowls are black plastic. They're shallow and broad, which makes them a bit unwieldy to screw open and closed. Getting the knack of it took me a few days.

The set has a nice carrying case, and the bowls are wide so they pack well into the case, which must reflect the dimensions of the folded board. (I made a cork template to hold the bowls more firmly during travel. Otherwise they bump around.)

This high-quality set is worth the expense for its combination of utility and elegance. Kiseido also offers MG20 (32 x 30 cm), which I am guessing is the MG25's little brother. I'm sure they'll be glad to tell you if you contact them.
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MasterGo software
Distributed by Slate & Shell
$100 from http://www.slateandshell.COM
Reviewed by Chris Garlock

Every so often something comes along that changes everything. The internal combustion engine. The personal computer. The 4-slice toaster.
The arrival of MasterGo fuseki software is a huge breakthrough in Go technology: properly used, it could single-handedly raise the level of amateur Go-playing throughout the world.
MasterGo is a deceptively simple piece of software, basically a database of professional Go games. But what a database! The current release has over 12,000 games, with plans to add thousands more each month.
The games span the breadth of Go history from Shusaku's famous Castle Games to the post-war New Fuseki on up to recent modern masters. If MasterGo simply made such a broad collection easily available it would be useful. But the genius of the software, developed by Chuck Robbins, is that the entire game database is instantly searchable using a powerful search engine created by Peter Danzeglocke.
What this means is that you can now have a professional Go player in your computer. Instead of wondering where move 16 should have been, you can instantly find out where a professional would play. When you search the position in MasterGo, you'll not only see where most professionals would play, but you can then look at the actual pro games in which the position occurred and see how the play developed. You can search by player and color and date, enabling you to find, say, all of Rin Kaiho's games on White against Kato Masao.
The implications are staggering. Little wonder that pro 9-dan Michael Redmond has endorsed MasterGo, saying that he uses it to prepare for tournaments. I have already used MasterGo to explore my favorite openings in greater depth and plan to import my own collection of amateur tournament games so that I can prepare for common patterns.
While the speed and depth of MasterGo are dazzling, the user interface could still use some tweaking. A great deal of effort has obviously been expended to simplify a huge, complex program, but navigating through MasterGo is not yet effortlessly intuitive. The brief manual is worth a quick read, providing helpful guidance on optimal use of MasterGo's powerful features, or go to http://www.mastergo.org and check out the FAQ section.
Also included in MasterGo is a joseki dictionary, which, in conjunction with the fuseki search abilities, makes it possible to evaluate josekis based on real-game positions. The only thing missing is a similarly extensive and powerful life-and-death utility and then MasterGo could truly claim to be the Go world's killer app.

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Monkey Jump Workshop
by Richard Hunter
Slate & Shell
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 12K

We all recall our first encounter with the monkey jump. An overplay! Well, an annoyance. Errr, looks like big trouble. How the blue blazes can he get away with a move like that?
So, in some book or on some Web site, we find a short piece on the Monkey Jump. Armed with our new-found knowledge we await our nemesis and make The Magic Reply. As our opponent's stone slips through the defense and ravages our territory, we make a note to revisit the mystery. It seems the Monkey Jump must be handled differently in different contexts.
Richard Hunter has produced a masterful text on the Monkey Jump, its variations, its point valuations, its sente/gote considerations - and even such things as when the one-point jump may be superior or when the Monkey Jump can be safely ignored. This book contains a ton of MJ problems and 19 game records illustrating the MJ in real life. Get it. Arm yourself with knowledge. Don't be made a monkey of in the future!
Available at: http://www.slateandshell.com

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The Nihon Ki-in Handbook Volume 4, Handicap Go
Nihon Kiin Editor Fujisawa Kazunari, Translated by Robert J. Terry
Published by Yutopian
Reviewed by Michael Turk, Australian 10k
March 17, 2003

What a find for us weak/middle kyu players! If you are weaker than 9 kyu and you play in a club dominated by strong kyu players and dan-level players, you probably spend most of your time playing handicap games. If this is so, this book will be very useful for you. Although it is called a "Dictionary" it does not provide simply brief catalogue of handicap joseki and tesuji like many of the other dictionaries - it actually explains fundamental principles of handicap play in terms that weaker players can understand. The book is written from Black's perspective. Each handicap level - from nine stones down to two is covered. Most diagrams have only seven or eight moves. Each diagram has comments on the key concepts illustrated. The nice thing is that one can actually develop an instinct for the shape of the stones and how they move. The book is designed for you to see what moves are possible and the reasons for their choice - with a consistent strategy in mind. It not only shows the 'good' variations, it also shows some 'weaker' variations and explains the difference. I suspect that the book is written for players in the 15-10k AGA range. I am sure that study and application of the principles within the book, (with the view of understanding rather than memorization) will result in you becoming a stronger player.

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The Nihon Ki-in Handbook Series, Volume 4: Handicap Go Nihon Ki-in Editor: Fujisawa Kazunari
Translated by Robert Terry 
Edited by Craig Hutchinson 
Yutopian Enterprises, 2001 
Reviewed by Bob Felice

Handicap Go analyzes typical White openings in 3 to 9 stone handicap go. The book shows Black's best responses, but there is much here for White, too. Many of the patterns covered were new to me, and I will want to try them when I give stones in a handicap game. Each handicap is accorded a full chapter, which begins with a series of diagrams showing the principal patterns the chapter will cover. I hope future editions of the book will add a cross-reference to the diagrams, so the reader can jump directly to the proper page to study a particular pattern. Each chapter starts with an overview entitled "Guidelines for x Stone Games." These overviews summarize the key concepts for this type of handicap game. The overviews are brief, averaging only about half a page, and leave me hungry for more. I feel the overviews are one of the book's strengths, since this material is accessible to players of all levels. Handicap Go is not a book for beginners. Single digit Kyus and Dans will find many patterns to study. But some of the presented sequences are long, or complicated (or both!) Weaker players will occasionally find themselves lost after reading the chapter overview.

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Palm OS Edition of the Many Faces of Go Joseki Dictionary
Version 1.04
Joseki Library by David Fotland
Palm Programming by Bob Felice
Reviewed by Kirby Huget, 8K

PDAs have become popular among Go enthusiasts to record and review games. A new application can now put an extensive joseki dictionary in the palm of your hand.
The Palm OS Edition of the Many Faces of Go Joseki Dictionary contains a library with more than 50,000 moves in standard corner sequences. Moves can be played in any corner. Joseki and trick plays are displayed along with responses to bad moves. It is ideal for study at all levels. A single stylus stroke allows pass and retraction for easy navigation through the library while a "tutor" mode hides hints to test the user. This is a wonderful tool that can be carried and used almost anywhere. Developers Fotland and Felice are quick to point out that their program is a study aid, not a cheating device. They have included a "beep" accompanying each move to remind users to disable the program during tournament play.

The program can be used on any handheld device running Palm OS 2.0 or greater (Palm, IBM Workpad, Handspring, Sony CLIE) and is approximately 79k bytes. There are a couple of limitations worth noting. Once a corner is chosen, all subsequent plays are made in that corner. Additionally, if the first move is a pass, only the top left corner joseki are displayed.

A free trial version can be downloaded at www.smart-games.com. The trail version enables only 5-5 joseki and disables some navigation features. Registration is $20.00 and well worth the investment. Registration unlocks all dictionary functions and entitles the user to free future maintenance releases.
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Magister Ludi, The Glass Bead Game
by Herman Hesse
Published 1943 (Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946)
Reviewed by Bill Phillips

Go players are quick to see patterns on the board and then to explore how those patterns are similar to and different from other patterns. In his novel "Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game", Herman Hesse tells the history of a future culture which has created a refined and isolated academic community of game players. Their calling in life is to explore the patterns in every art and science. The parallel and harmonious patterns in mathematical proofs, Bach Fugues, historical weavings and every other human endeavor are then linked, documented and annotated in a set of Mega-patterns - The Glass Bead Games.
Isolated in their monastery like academic communities the players have been elevated to a high cultural status. The novel is the "historical" story of one of the foremost practitioners of the Game. After exploring his young life where he becomes one of the masters of the game, it follows his career as one of the leaders of the community the Magister Ludi and finally with his struggle regarding the separation of the community from the world and the separation rest of the world from the joys and beauty of the Game.
Although there is no direct evidence that Hesse played Go, he did have a familiarity with Japan so it seems likely he was aware of the game. The Glass Bead Game can be considered an extension of the path that Haskell Small took when he showed us a way to combine the visual beauty of the game with the audio beauty of a piano piece.
While this book is not about Go per se it is about that larger quest that we all share when we strive to find common patterns in the world. Enjoy!

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Making Good Shape
By Rob van Zeijst and Richard Bozulich
Kiseido Publishing Company
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 12k
March 24, 2003

This new book is the missing piece of the puzzle. Yes, empty triangles are bad and dumplings are horrible, and never get split apart - but isn't all that rather obvious? After reading endless game comments stating that "Black makes good shape" or "White has bad shape," but never why, finally I am given rules and many examples concerning shape-thought. Following the section on theory and practice come 245 problems to pound the concepts into one's skull. Reasons and alternatives are provided with the answers. This is real teaching. The problems are a delight to work out. I set them up on a board and try various lines until I understand how to handle the situation. Many of the problems were encountered in other books, but never were explanations so lucid and valuable. The final section contains two games buttressed with very thorough commentary. Again, the "whys" are emphasized. This is terrific study material.

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The Master of Go
by Yasunari Kawabata
Published by Vintage Books; $12
Reviewed by Steven Robert Allen, 1K

A game of go is much like a story. It has tension, drama and conflict. If you win, the story has a happy ending, if you lose, a sad one. This inherent drama is one reason the prize-winning novelist Yasunari Kawabata was able to take a particularly momentous game of go and transform it into one of the greatest Japanese novels of the 20th century.

"The Master of Go" is a fictional account of fact. As a budding writer, Kawabata was commissioned by a newspaper to report on the 1938 retirement match between Shusai (the last hereditary Honinbo) and Kitani Minoru (given the fictitious name Otak‚ in the novel). Because of Shusai's failing health, the game extended over six months, and was played in over a dozen different sessions at various locations around Japan. After the war, Kawabata transformed his newspaper accounts into this extraordinary novel, eventually winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968.

The game itself plays a central role in the book. Game records are sprinkled throughout along with detailed analyses of the match. Yet this novel is much more than just an elaborate game record. The Master of Go, like much post-war Japanese literature, maps the rough and difficult terrain between traditional Japanese society, represented by the Master (Shusai), and contemporary westernized society, represented by Otak‚. As such, the book is as much about Japan's defeat in World War II and the waning of traditional Japanese culture and values as it is about the match. It's a sad but intensely beautiful story, filled from start to finish with tragedy and pathos.

The Master of Go holds a special place in the hearts of go players not only because it focuses on the game we love, but because it incorporates that game into a work of the highest literary art. Every go player should read this book. Most, if they are serious about the game, will read it many times.
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One Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems
Mastering the Basics Series, Volume 2
Compiled and Edited by Richard Bozulich
Kiseido Publishing Company, $15
Reviewed by Patrick Bridges

Kiseido's first published book in the new "Mastering the Basics" is a book of life and death problems, consisting of 1001 life and death problems, primarily taken from the Nihon-Kiin's book"1,2,3 de Tokeru
Tsume-go 1000 Dai".
The book is divided into three sections, the first containing 400 "one-move problems" evenly split between black to play and black to kill. The second and third sections are 300 three-move problems and 301 five-move problems, again split evenly between black to play and black to kill, with the extra (1001st) problem being a five-move black to kill problem. Problems range in difficulty from
simple nakade shapes to moderately difficult shapes. The book is laid out like the "Get Strong At Tesuji", with the odd pages containing 8 or 9 life and death problems and the overleaf even-number page containing the correct answers. Refutations of incorrect answers are generally not given and figuring out the refutation of your incorrect answers can be good exercise all by itself.
I'm really enjoying this book. Life-and-death, reading, and concentration are areas I've been trying to improve lately, and this book seems to be helping. The problems are mixed up nicely, with easier and more challenging problems scattered throughout. Even some of the one-move problems can be relatively challenging. While the correct answer is indeed one move with a relatively simple continuation, the challenge can come in seeing the 5-move sequence that refutes the incorrect answer which leapt to mind.
The book is most useful for low-kyu and dan level players who want more practice with life-and-death and reading, for example after having completed at least the first three of the Graded Go Problems for Beginners series. For less experienced players, the graded Go problem books would probably be a better time investment, though this book would still be useful.

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Opening Theory Made Easy
by Otake Hideo 9P
Ishi Press; $12 U.S.
Reviewed by Marc Willhite

I traded chess for go in May of this year. I played in my first tournament here in Colorado the first weekend of November and managed to score three out of four points, which put me in the 10-12 kyu range.
Although this elementary masterpiece is "officially" out-of-print, I was able to track down a copy from the British Go Association website [http://66.39.78.200/bgabooks/bgaprices.html].
Presented in three loosely assembled sections with the headings, "Fuseki Fundamentals," "Good Shape," and "Strategy," Otake brings his twenty principles to life with very basic, easy-to-read diagrams and commentary that is clear and understandable for the beginner. His discussions on extensions and pincers as well as dealing with invasions gave me insights I'd been searching for since I started playing the game. He not only explains which moves are fundamentally sound, but why.
You'll be introduced to concepts such as "family feuds," "pushing the cart from behind," and also shown the power of a ponnuki and building "box-like" moyos. Otake's main objective is for the reader to commit these principles to memory like proverbs so they become second nature and are ready to use when you encounter similar situations in your own games.
What's more, there is a sharp wit lurking deep in many passages which makes the book a real pleasure to read.
If your experience with this book is anything like mine, you'll be playing the opening with a new sense of understanding and confidence, keys to playing a better game of go.

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Palm SGF
http:://www.palmgo.com
Reviewed by Zeke Tamayo

The sole reason I purchased this program was because it is fully SGF based and is the only reader I've found with that ability. I've also used PilotGOne, Pilot Go, and AIGO. Palm SGF's major advantage is that it can read SGF files from my SD memory card rather than from the "Notepad" application. The drawback is that a 3rd party utility is required to copy SGF files to the SD card, as the basic "hotsync" application refuses to copy SGF files to my Tungsten|T. However, this is a minor issue compared with cut and pasting the entire SGF file to notepad on the palm desktop in order to put the file onto my palm pilot.

There are a few issues with the interface on Palm SGF. The graphics allow you to change the board color, stone color, and blink speed but the comments field is unruly. You cannot view the whole field at once, and the only way to scroll the field is to click a small arrow with your stylus. The website says "jog dial" support can move the comment field, but this is on the Sony Clie and there isn't any equivalent on the Tungsten.

The file chooser is fairly good. There are no problems getting to a file, and you can see basic info about the file (event, filename, date, and players). The only thing I think could be improved is a way to sort the files. They don't really seem to have any sorting at all and folders are as likely to appear at the top of the list as they are somewhere in the middle of the list.

By far, the best function has been the "play through" one. If you load an SGF file (a pro game or tsume go set perhaps) you can play the next move. In other words, if black to play, you can search around until you make the correct choice and white's next move will be shown. This is wonderful for Tsume go!

Overall, Palm SGF is a significant improvement on older PDF go programs and has become my primary reviewing utility.

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Positional Judgment: High-Speed Game Analysis
by Cho Chikun
Ishi Press, 1989, 179 pp.
Reviewed by Paul Thibodeau

"Game analysis is the process of estimating fairly accurately the relative territorial prospects of each player at key stages throughout the game, including a correct interpretation of the weak and strong positions," says Cho Chikun, pretty much summing up the theme of this book.
The book's first section covers how to count definite territory, moyos, and thickness, followed by six practice problems. Here the reader develops a good sense of how to accurately judge territorial prospects, "based on the minimum area that cannot be further reduced". These are visually outlined with x's throughout the book, a great aid to learning these skills. The second section applies them.
Chapter 3 contains ten diverse illustrations of how an accurate whole board judgment leads to a correct winning strategy, followed by eight multiple-choice problems that clearly exemplify the direct role of territorial estimation in forming strategy. The final chapter contains two of Cho's games illustrating his analysis. The first I found to be a particularly good example.
This book doesn't have the smooth and polished feel of Cho's "The 3-3 Point: Modern Opening Theory." More a collection of study material, I had to put the book down frequently and come back to it, but half the problem may have been false expectations. Except for one paragraph on pp. 113-114 suggesting comparing territories directly to quickly assess who is ahead, (this territory is about double that, those two are about the same, so I am ahead), one will search in vain for any mention of 'high-speed' analysis, the main reason I got the book.
This method is actually given better coverage in the first chapter 'Territory and Power' of Davies' and Akira's Elementary Go Series book: 'Attack and Defense'. If one comes to the book expecting it to be an extension of that discussion, (even better, reading that section first before beginning the book), he or she will probably get settled in much more quickly.
That said, estimating territory is so fundamental to sound analysis that this book will significantly increase the strength of almost any player who doesn't already incorporate estimations in their analysis.
Most of the examples are at the amateur dan level, so stronger players -- 1 kyu or above -- will get the most out of it. Players less than 4 kyu may benefit more from 'Attack and Defense'.
Available from Kiseido Publishing Company, $15; http://www.usgo.org/resources/books.html

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Pro-Pro Handicap Go, edited by the Nihon Ki-in (2/5/01)
(Yutopian, 1997)
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 15K

How does a strong professional play if given three, four or five stones by another pro and asked to demonstrate victory with clear, straightforward moves? How much could you learn given access to the pros' thoughts as their game unfolded?

Three complete and deeply annotated games are the heart of Pro-Pro Handicap Go. Eight additional games carry through to about move 50. The book is visually striking. The main diagrams take up most of the 7" by 8" pages, and no diagram gives more than a few moves.

If you're like me and take handis more often than you give them, or if you want to glimpse professional thinking on the white side - this text is great. Unless you're stronger than 9-dans like Ishida Yoshio, Takemiya Masaki and Cho Chikun, you'll learn something. The book has many bonuses. Try forecasting key moves. Learn skillful plays from the pros in sidebar diagrams. Enjoy photographs of 22 well-known professionals. Get stronger!
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Purpleheart Go Board
Made by Carol Dufour
Reviewed by David Bogie
October 20, 2003

I first noticed Carol Dufour's woodworking on eBay about six months ago because his go boards kept showing up in my searches. They were unusual, made of oak and butternut. When he offered a truly unique go board made of purpleheart, I ordered it immediately for $200, including protective packaging and shipping from Canada. Purpleheart, Leguminosae Peltogyne, grows in South America and is not endangered. The wood is incredibly dense and is difficult to work, quickly dulling edged tools. The breathtaking purple calls to the wood artist. You have seen it in wood sculptures, pool cues, marquetry, flooring, and in custom tools for the discriminating woodworker. Carol is an expert cabinetmaker; his knowledge and skill are evident. Eleven sticks were machined and planed, carefully aligned and matched for color and grain, and pressure-clamped to form the slab. As the wood ages, movement will be balanced by the opposing orientation of the grain. The grid looks silk-screened but was hand-applied using a gabarit, or drawing gauge. Several undercoats of varnish ensured the ink could not bleed. The lines are a bit thick but laser-straight. My board is 1-5/8" thick, the feet make it a nice 2-1/2", and it weighs a hefty 30 pounds. The board plays beautifully with a pleasant sound and plenty of eye appeal. The striking purple color contrasts sharply with warm shell while complimenting cold slate creating a unique visual treat.

Visit Carol Dufour's site at http://www.boardgamego.com


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Movie: "Restless" DIRECTED BY Jule Gilfillian (1/29/01)
Arrow Features; 98 minutes
Reviewed by Roy Laird

Leah is adrift, restless. Landing in Beijing after a string of flights from failed romances, she falls in with other expatriates. A chance encounter with a young weiqi master she saw on TV leads to . . . well, let's stop there and not spoil it. Let's just say that a few twists and subplots later, we learn what Dorothy . . . er, Leah is really looking for. (Hint: There's no place like it.)

Along the way, we see weiqi on TV, on the street, in a club, at home. On TV, Master Sun (played by Asian Jimmy Smits clone Geng Li) teaches how to "attack from a distance." With an inevitability that Sidney Sheldon would love, the insight Leah gains enables her to turn the tables on the cad who jilted her, and jilt him right back. Catherine Kellner plays Leah with Sarah Jessica Parker-like insouciance.

Restless is the first English-language film made in modern Beijing, and the first US-China cooperative filmmaking venture. Don't look for any scathing indictments here, just a basically lighthearted look at some young people falling in and out of love in China while trying to "find" themselves. Watch for a nice subplot about Leah's Asian-American friend, a hunky bimbo delivering his grandfather's ashes who gets more than he bargained for in return.

It's a pleasure to see weiqi in an attractive setting, even without so much as a brief reference to the actual nature of the game. (An uninformed viewer could leave with the impression that weiqi is a "variation of chess," as The New York Times mistakenly reported.) Pi, the recent cult hit in which the monomaniacal main man discovers the secret of the universe on the go board, gave the game a lot of visibility, but didn't leave people wanting to learn more about it. Restless, on the other hand, is a film you can recommend to your friends on its merits, and after they see it they may well ask you some interesting questions about weiqi.

If you're looking for a truly great film about weiqi, turn to The Go Masters, the first (and thus far only) joint venture between the Japanese and Chinese film industries. If you can find this out-of-print 1982 sprawling saga of World War II and the Japanese invasion of China, you are in for a once-in-a lifetime treat. Think of it as Go With the Wind. If you find a copy, let me know.
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Sabaki: How to Manage Weak Stones
Yang Yi-Lun
Compiled and Edited by John C. Stephenson
Reviewed by Barney Cohen, 4k* IGS

This slim little book is based on material presented by Mr. Yang during a recent "Yang workshop" in New Jersey. It is available via the Wings Across Calm Water Go Club web site. The book consists of two parts, the first illustrating important concepts and techniques necessary for creating sabaki (a flexible, light position) and the second a review of essential sabaki guidelines followed by sample problems and solutions.

This is an extremely slim volume for such a huge subject. Nevertheless, it should prove a useful addition to many player's go library. With so many books on various aspects of go now available, it is truly astonishing that this is the first book ever to be devoted solely to the subject of making sabaki (at least in English). Not only does this book provide the reader with a clear analytical framework for assessing sabaki situations, it introduces a number of important concepts not well discussed elsewhere. Even with this book, there is still a huge hole in the literature for one of the major publishers of go books to develop a much larger treatment on the topic with many more examples and practice problems. In the meantime, this seminal volume should enjoy a wide readership. The last time that John Stephenson transcribed material from one of Mr. Yang's lectures, (How to Destroy and Preserve, 2000), it rapidly disappeared from print. This book is even better and more useful than the last.

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Sabaki, How to Manage Weak Stones
By Yi-Lun Yang, 7P
Lecture notes compiled and edited by John C. Stephenson
Published by Wings Across Calm Water Go Club
Reviewed by Kenneth Berg
July 28, 2003

A prolific teacher, author, and regular attendee of the US Go Congress, Mr. Yang is well known to the American go scene. “Sabaki” is based on lectures given by Mr. Yang during one of the annual 4-day intensive workshops held each June by the Wings Across Calm Water Go Club. For those familiar with Mr. Yang’s other excellent works (such as the Whole Board Thinking in Joseki series and his Ingenious Life and Death Puzzle series), this little tome will get right to the heart of the topic. In section 1, Mr. Yang begins by discussing the importance of managing weak stones. He presents the reader with a series of questions to help evaluate weak stones and decide which course of action is appropriate. The following 78 diagrams and explanations illustrate the principles of sabaki in real-game context, with examples of good, bad, and “insufficient” play to show when to run, live quickly, or sacrifice. The remainder of the book covers practice problems, beginning with six sabaki guidelines, followed by 12 “black to play” half-board problems. While sabaki is important to all levels, this material presented will be most accessible to mid-kyu through dan level players. Higher kyu players can benefit if they approach the book as a tool to help improve their overall judgment relative to handling of weak stones, rather than getting bogged down in some of the more intricate sequences. “Sabaki” is available as a limited numbered first printing for $12.75 per copy plus $2.25 per order. Orders can be placed online using PayPal / creditcard from the Wings Across Calm Water Go Club website at: http://www.wingsgoclub.org/ , by going to the section on books. Checks can also be sent directly to John C. Stephenson, 446 Lincoln Ave., Wyckoff, NJ, 07481.

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Segoe Tesuji Dictionary
reviewed by Dr. Fumitaka Hayashi

Although more and more English-language go books are published each year, the numbers of English language go texts still pale in comparison to the numbers of such texts in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.

One classic text which is not available in English is the Segoe Tesuji Dictionary. Written by Segoe Kensaku, and co-written by Go Seigen (who was a student of Segoe at the beginning of his career), it is currently published in three volumes. The Segoe Tesuji Dictionary is arranged like a tsumego collection. There are 25 sections spread over the three volumes, each dealing with a particular type of tesuji (such as hane, oki, oiotoshi, etc.) that is critical in the solution of the problems presented. Each problem is accompanied by a short text (in Japanese of course) that briefly describes the problem and a hint about the correct solution. Each diagram shows the problem arranged on one-half of a go board. The correct solutions are located in the second half of each book, and again each solution is accompanied by a short paragraph of explanation. The problems are categorized as 'A', 'B', or 'C', denoting the difficulty of the problem. 'A' problems often have solutions that span multiple diagrams. To facilitate reading the questions and the answers, the book has not only one, but two bookmark ribbons that are frequently bound into the spine of Japanese books.

My own Japanese reading ability is limited, but I have no problem deciphering the meaning of much of the text. The format of this book is such that it is possible to learn from the problems themselves without necessarily being able to read the text. A few minutes of browsing should familiarize the reader with the kanji for 'white first' and 'black first'. Each section face page includes two diagrams demonstrating the type of tesuji highlighted in the section, so you don't have to know how to read Japanese to know the contents of each section. These factors make the Segoe Tesuji Dictionary somewhat more useful to non-Japanese readers compared to another standard Japanese tesuji reference, the Fujisawa Tesuji Dictionary. In the Fusijsawa Dictionary, much of the content is in the form of explanatory text accompanying the diagrams. Not understanding the text seems to me to lose more of the content of the Fujisawa work compared to the Segoe work.
I highly recommend the Segoe Tesuji Dictionary, even if you do not read any Japanese. ISBN numbers: Vol.1 4-416-70300-7; Vol.2 4-416-70301-5; Vol.3 4-416-70302-3

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"Split"
A play by Michael Weller
Reviewed by Beverly Leffers

The ads for the play "Split" promise that "The breakup of the 'perfect couple' stuns and unsettles their immediate circle of friends. Toss in one overly complicated Japanese game, a couple of married swingers and a few obscure frog references and what you have is a serious comedy about life's salad."
As it turns out, this play was originally presented 20 years ago as two separate one-act plays, which are now being shown together. One play, which has become Act I, involves the repercussions of the breakup on the circle of friends. The other, which is now Act II, is a two-person play showing the married couple and their relationship shortly before the breakup.
Unfortunately, the two segments are insufficiently tied together. Furthermore, there seems to be little purpose in the reverse chronology. Act II, before the breakup, is by far the stronger of the two; perhaps it comes second so that the audience leaves happy.
Go plays a small part in the production. In Act I, a friend of the splitting couple says, with a roll of her eyes, that her husband is learning how to play Go. Sure enough, the husband later tries to recruit someone else to the game by showing a position and quoting a Go aphorism which may or may not have been a real one. The other couple turns out to be the promised "married swingers" and Go reappears in the story when the couple, in a private discussion in their home, over a Go game, they get into an argument about the swinging. The argument ends when the woman actually sits on the game, an act that, in my experience, would inflame an argument, not end it. All in all, the play is amusing but not great.
"Split" appears through 10/20 at New York City's Lion Theatre in the new Theatre Row Studios at 410- 412 W. 42nd Street. (btw.9th and 10th)
http://www.brokenwatch.org/split.htm

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Tesuji and Anti-Suji of Go
By Sakata Eio
Published by Yutopian; $17.50
Reviewed by Mike LePore e-mail: mike_lepore@timeinc.com

Weaker players often think of tesuji as the killing moves stronger players make against them. Yet often tesuji (strongest local moves) result in no killing at all and can have profound whole-board relevance. Sakata Eio's book, while loaded with death, shows that implementing a tesuji can also mean getting to live in sente, or giving up stones in return for unconquerable influence, or turning an awful situation into a slightly less awful situation.

There are three reasons this book is a valuable learning tool. First, each of the more than 60 problems is accompanied by not only the correct solution but also by the incorrect solutions (anti-suji), as well as detailed explanations. Second, some problems arise from joseki or deviations from joseki and, where applicable, Sakata shows how the problem developed. Third, in many cases the problems build off each other. A certain problem may be almost identical to a prior problem with, say, an extra stone. Sakata shows how such subtle differences on the board can dramatically affect one's ability to employ a tesuji.

The presentation style of the book gives the reader more than just an ability to recognize a tesuji in a contrived example. One learns to recognize the rationale behind the tesuji and not simply the tesuji itself; a rationale that can be applied to much more than just the 60 examples in Sakata's great book.
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Tesuji, Elementary Go Series Vol. 3
by James Davies,
Published by Kiseido
Reviewed by Lawrence Ku, 11k
June 6, 2003

One of the Kiseido's "Elementary Go" series, "Tesuji" is divided into 16 chapters, each consisting of several sections focusing on one tesuji or technique. At the end of each section, there are several questions to answer and at the end of each chapter there are review questions on the whole. The final chapter poses a series of challenging problems, all with answers and some with more than one variation. The book is very easy to follow, with clear diagrams covering more than 50 tesuji. While some are fairly easy, some are very challenging. I read this book when I was 14k, and there are chapters where I can answer all of their questions, but there are a few chapters where I only can answer half of the questions. "Tesuji" will improve your strength by at least one to two stones if you are a low or middle kyu player, although players of all strengths will benefit from reading it. Available at http://www.kiseido.com/

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Tesuji Made Easy CD
Copyright 2000, Jiang Han, distributed by Yutopian Enterprises; $50
Minimum Requirements: 486 or higher, Windows 3.1 or higher, approx. 5 Meg HD space
Reviewed by Paul Thibodeau

Tesuji Made Easy is computer software with a huge collection of go problems (2440), illustrating a diverse range of technique in subcategories such as ko, shape, sacrifice, reducing or extending liberties, and sabaki, under six main themes: Life (425), Death (618), Attack (259), Defense (325), Capturing Races (217), and Endgame (596).

About 30-40% of the problems are from classic texts, mainly "Guan-Zhi-Pu". They are graded from 1 to 5 stars in difficulty, with most between 3 and 5 stars, too difficult for low kyu players. You set the number of guesses you allow yourself for a problem, and your rank is then adjusted depending on whether or not you solve it. The quantity and quality of illustrated variations vary greatly. For some problems there are few or none.

The shortcomings of the program itself are extensive. By far the most serious is the inability to place stones to explore variations. No analysis is possible, if the move is not in the database a 'Lost!' dialog box appears and the problem resets. You can't take back or undo a move, or reset a problem. You need to switch to another problem and come back.

The program is slow, taking several seconds to switch between problems on a 486-100 with Windows 98. If you change problems while the program is illustrating a variation it will hang. A distracting red square appears on the star-point to allow cursor key entry, and almost always covers one of the stones in the problem. It can be moved but not taken off the board altogether. The 'number of guesses' option is off by one (if you put 2, you will get 1).

The grading feature doesn't function properly. After solving only one or two problems the software will promote you. It keeps promoting you for resolving the same problem, which you may easily find yourself doing if you look at problems more than once. If you want to restart the ranking you need to edit the score file, which causes runtime errors. Each problem is identified by either 'have solved', 'not solved', or 'wrong answer', but are misidentified even when the program is first installed. A DOS-era style program window that won't fit at 640x480 resolution and won't fill to 800x600, a unique Pokemon-like picture associated with each rank that can't be removed, and corny sound events round out the amateurish presentation. There are also some errors in the variations. In a subvariation of Problem 1, 'Capturing Stones/Destroy Opponent's Eye Shape', Black puts his whole group into atari instead of starting a ko, while in Problem 5 of 'Endgame Moves/Invade', White appears to needlessly connect after blocking the monkey jump.

The bottom line is that this program really seems to still be in beta. Nevertheless, if all you want is for it to display a Go problem and the correct solution, you will probably be happy, anything else and it will be disappointing. Beginners less than 10 kyu will definitely want to give this one a wide berth, picking up books like Tesuji, Life and Death, Attack and Defense, and Endgame from the Elementary Go Series to cover the same ground at a challenging level for about the same price. High kyu and dan players may be willing to tolerate the program's shortcomings to have access to such a large number of classic problems, but will have to resign themselves to setting up many problems on the board.
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The Thirty-six Stratagems Applied to Go
Ma Xiaochun, 9P
Yutopian Enterprises, $16
Reviewed by Andrew Cseh
January 20, 2003

Ma's interesting book explores the resemblance between warfare and go tactics and strategies, based on the ancient Sanshiliu Ji [The Thirty-six Stratagems]. The stratagems, structured in six sets of six schemes each, are illustrated in the same number of brilliantly selected and commented games. Briefly explaining the meaning of the military stratagem, Ma continues by presenting a selected game that illustrates a similar go tactic, accompanied of course by thorough strategic and tactical analysis and explanation. Although the traditional maxims of go cover the tactics and strategies of the game, this book succeeds in bringing a completely unique and new approach that might be closer to our thinking and is one of the most entertaining go books I have read. In addition to learning a lot, it's also a real pleasure to read.

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Tournament Go 1992
compiled and translated by John Power
Power Publications
Reviewed by Danny Dowell, 10k

This book stunningly presents 50 games from top Japanese title matches and top international competition. All the analysis and variations in these books are by top professionals.

Unlike the dry commentary sometimes found in other books, "Tournament Go" book brings the games to life with descriptions by both the players and high-ranking observers. This book spreads out the game and includes many variations, doing full justice to the games.

Matches include: Cho Chikun's incredible fight-back for a three game deficit, Kobayashi Koichi and Otake's struggle in the Meijin, and a fierce clash between Shuko and Kobayashi Koichi in the Oza. "Tournament Go" also contains Lee Chang-ho's defeat of Rin Kaiho to become the first teenage world champion. All players above beginner will find this book useful but stronger players will find more even "gems" in this magnificent book.
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The Treasure Chest Enigma
by Nakayama Noriyuki, privately published by Nakayama Noriyuki, Japan, 1984. (ASIN 487 187 1029)
by Bob McGuigan (4-dan)

This classic is a treasure chest of stories, game commentaries and problems by the well-known Japanese pro (5-Dan at the time of publication, now 6-Dan), prolific writer of go books for himself and for many famous professionals, and peripatetic teacher.

John Power and Richard Dolen translated the material in this book from the original Japanese. There are seven essays regaling us with stories of historic episodes in Japanese go, tidbits of go culture, and the life of Japanese professional players. For example, there is the story of a life-and-death problem that perplexed strong professionals but was easily solved by an amateur 9-kyu player. Then there is the essay on how one can become stronger by learning how to resign at the right time. The book is graced by the inclusion of haiku poems which Mr. Nakayama's father, a noted haiku poet, wrote when shown the essays.

There are also three very detailed commentaries on fascinating professional games, in which we can share the atmosphere in which the game took place as well as the character of the players. Finally, the book concludes with 20 wonderful whole-board problems with solutions, including several of Mr. Nakayama's trademark long ladder problems and finishing with one by the great Dosaku (or perhaps his disciple Inseki, Meijin) in which Black captures 72 stones but can't make two eyes. This is not an instructional book, but you will probably read it more times than any other go book in your library. Reading and savoring it will immensely increase your pleasure in playing go. Many of us thank our lucky stars that we could buy a copy from Mr. Nakayama himself at a go congress, or from Ishi Press, which sold them for a while.

Currently, availability is limited, since the book is out of print. Yutopian www.yutopian.com advertises copies for sale at $60.00. The website http://rarebooksinjapan.com/index.html lists a copy for sale autographed by the author, for $50.00 (look under the heading Japanalia 5: Books about Japan (in English)). Finally, Amazon.com will look for a used copy, quoting a price estimate of $27.50. Speaking for myself, the book is cheap at twice these prices.
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Understanding How to Play Go
by Yuan Zhou
Slate & Shell
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 13K (4/2/01)

Often I play over a recorded game between strong players, but the thoughts of the masters are not terribly accessible to a go apprentice like me. I want one of the players to magically appear and explain some of the mysteries to me.

The folks at Slate & Shell must understand my dream. A main goal of theirs is publishing good material to help kyu level players improve. Yuan Zhou's excellent book is subtitled "an AGA 7-dan explains some of his games." His annotations of the seven games in this book are both copious and accessible.

Zhou describes the thoughts behind both strategy and tactics. He tells why the big points are big points. He points out the trick moves. He makes it clear when and why he varies from conventional lines of play. Really nice are the many sidebar diagrams that show alternative ways of playing or the consequences of blindly following reflex moves.

Playing through these games has helped me a lot. Even if I knew a concept, the author's clear manner of expression reinforced the lesson. I imagine the revelation of Zhou's thought processes would be interesting to dan as well as kyu players.
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Utilizing Outward Influence
by Jin Jiang and Zhao Zheng
Yutopian Enterprises
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 13K

The first time I approached this book, I knocked at the gate of learning and was turned away. A year later, after reading a column called "A Taste for Thicknesss" in some old Go Worlds, I realized how painfully sketchy was my understanding of this fundamental way of thinking. Returning to Utilizing Outward Influence was a logical step.
This time the book, which admittedly is not written in as lucid a style as I might wish, began to slowly yield its secrets. Chapter 1 is entitled "The Basic Concept of Outward Influence." It sort of plows the ground. The problems in Chapter 2 plant the seeds of understanding. They show the fruit of contrasting approaches to specific situations where outward influence can be developed or exploited. See the right way, then the wrong ways, and let the differences sink in. I am not yet ready for the advanced problems, which claim to be dan level. The elementary problems are hard enough for me.
Chapter 3 says that good players seize control of the center. It deals with whole board thinking in the use of influence. By beating my head repeatedly against the examples, I am gaining a bit of happy knowledge. If you too are happy after struggling hard to gain new knowledge, then this may be a good book for you.
Available at yutopian.com for $14.00 + $1.50 s/h.

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A Way of Play for the 21st Century
by Go Siegen
Whole Board Press
Reviewed by Lon Atkins, 13k

Diagrams -- large, clear, easy-to-read diagrams -- occupy two-thirds of the page surface within this book. The text is also clear and easily read. With too many go books I find myself paging back and forth, wading through digressions embedded within a discussion of technique, and left with cryptic evaluations of alternative lines of play. Go Siegen (and the translator and the layout artist) have done an excellent job of avoiding these traps.

The material comes from Go Siegen's study group over the years 1994-1997. The master takes as his starting point standard joseki, then he infuses them with new ideas and best play as he sees it for both sides. He examines everything from the whole board perspective (so you see at least four joseki unfolding). This way of thinking is absolutely vital to his analysis. As a beginner, I am hungry for teaching that relates the whole board to the lesson at hand. Go Siegen provides that nourishment.

Perhaps most valuable are the many diagrams detailing alternative lines of play. The author not only shows the plays, he talks about their rationale and why white or black rejected them. Learning from mistakes is as old a school as exists. Comparing in diagram form the right way and the wrong way(s) is highly educational.

A Way of Play for the 21st Century repays careful study with many fresh insights.
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Word Freak
By Stefan Fatsis
Reviewed by Chris Garlock

"If you put too much stress on winning and losing you won't last. You'll burn out. You can only make the best play you can make at any time. That's all you can control."
It's not a big surprise that one of the best books ever written about a board game is written by a sports writer. The surprise is that the board game is Scrabble and that Go players may find a lot to learn about their fascination with their own game in "Word Freak" by Stefan Fatsis, now out in paperback.
Competitive Scrabble bears about as much resemblance to the game played in millions of American living rooms as Othello goes to Go. For one thing, like Go, competitive Scrabble is strictly a one-on-one game. For another, unlike most casual "living room" games of Scrabble, tournament play involves extensive word knowledge and a grasp of both tactics and strategy.
When Wall Street Journal sports writer Stefan Fatsis set out to become a competitive Scrabble player, he had no idea he was about to enter an arcane, obsessive subculture, much like those of us who innocently picked up a Go stone for some now-forgotten reason and who can now be found puzzling over obscure variations in the Avalanche joseki.
Fatsis starts out playing for fun in New York City's Washington Square Park, but soon moves onto the local club scene and from there it's a short but irreversible step to the tournament scene. Intending to write a book from the start, Fatsis finds his journalistic objectivity quickly overwhelmed, first by his competitive desire to graduate from the "blue-hair" division, and then by his growing appreciation for a challenging and captivating game.
Anyone who's studied josekis will nod in grim recognition as Fatsis grapples with memorizing the "twos, threes and fours," -- the thousands of two-, three and four-letter words that all serious Scrabble players know cold, only to realize that the fives, sixes and sevens -- like 30-move josekis -- are a key to improving.
A terrific writer and spellbinding storyteller, Fatsis' tale of his journey into the "heartbreak, triumph, genius and obsession in the world of competitive Scrabble players" is impossible to put down as we follow his ups and downs, learn the fascinating history of a truly American game (invented during the Depression by an out-of-work New York City architect) and meet the bizarre but lovable characters who inhabit a strange but compelling world that Go players will find all-too-familiar.
"Word Freak" won't make you want to switch board games, but it may help you find inspiration on those days when, like Stefan Fatsis, frustrated with yet another tough day on the board, you ask yourself "What was I trying to prove?"
- published by Houghton Mifflin, available at bookstores everywhere.

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Copyright © 2004 American Go Association
Email the AGA at aga@usgo.org
Email the Journal Team at journal@usgo.org
Last updated on October 5, 2004