American Go E-Journal

NEW IN PRINT 2011: A Mixed Bag

Wednesday August 24, 2011

by Roy Laird
During this year’s annual visit to the vendor room at the U.S. Go Congress, I added four new titles to my collection. I’m interested in pretty much anything John Fairbairn has to say, so I was excited to see that his ongoing partnership with Slate and Shell has produced two in which he focuses on a single important game played by Shusai , the last hereditary head of the Honinbo school. Old Fuseki vs. New Fuseki describes Shusai’s 1933 encounter with Go Seigen , while The Meijin’s Retirement Game covers the 1938 contest immortalized in Kawabata’s The Master of Go. Shusai’s opponent in that game was of course Kitani Minoru, who along with Go is credited with the creation of the revolutionary “New Fuseki.”  Fairbairn goes far beyond mere game analysis to tell the story of how these games came to be so important, placing them fully in the social and historical context of the time. There are “Timelines” outlining the lives of all three principals, and Old v. New contains an extended essay on the birth of “Hypermodern Openings.” Like Fairbairn’s other works, these books strengthen our appreciation for the deep sociocultural well we dip into each time we reach for a stone.

Another productive collaboration is that between S&S and Yuan Zhou. In addition to instructional material – my personal favorite is his small but powerful booklet, “How Not To Play Go” – he shares insights gained from a lifetime of studying the games of important players in his “Master Play” series. In five previous books, he has analyzed the style of seven top players through detailed discussion of two exemplary games – Go Seigen, Takemiya , Cho Chikun, Kitani, Kato, Lee Chang-ho  and Seo Bong-soo. In this year’s Master Play: The Playing Styles of Seven Top Pros, he takes a similar look at Sakata, Takagawa, Fujisawa Shuko, Rin Kaiho, Nei Wei-ping, Ma Xiao-chun and Cho hun-hyun. They say the best way to improve is to study pro games, and here we have a collection of games by some of the strongest players of our time.

Michael Redmond is also working with S&S to produce a new series of books for Western players on the opening. I saw a preliminary proof of Volume One, which will focus on the san-ren-sei opening. In the introduction, Michael says he intends this as “a textbook as well as a game collection.” Considering the Opening: San-Ren-Sei should appear in print before the end of the year.

On a more practical level, I found that I had somehow missed Volume 7 of Kiseido’s “Mastering the Basics” series, Attacking and Defending Moyos. This is the third book in English on the subject. Keshi and Uchikomi (2002; out of print) is organized as a dictionary, showing twenty standard reduction patterns and eighteen common invasion techniques. Reducing Territorial Frameworks (1986) focuses mostly on the “keshi” side of things.  Invading and Reducing Moyos co-authors Richard Bozulich and Rob Van Ziejst take a unique look at the subject by spelling out thirteen general principles, then illustrating these points through extended analysis of six carefully chosen games. The book ends with 151 problems.

Two problem-oriented series continued to grow this year, each serving a different purpose. Korean pro Cho hye-hyon was the youngest female, at eleven, to ever earn Korea professional credentials. In 2010 she became the world’s fourth female 9P. Her blog of challenging problems became so popular that last year she turned it into a book, Creative Life and Death; now she followed up with Volume Two. These books feature extended analysis of dan-level problems. At the other extreme, Oromedia’s Speed Baduk workbook series is now up to twelve volumes. Each book contains hundreds of problems breaking go down to its most basic elements, such as “hane at the 1-2 point.” Dozens of problems illustrate each point.  The workbooks themselves contain no answers – answer books are available separately for each three-volume unit. I also decided to pass up the 21st Century Dictionary of Basic Joseki,Takao Shinji’s update/rewrite of Ishida’s Joseki Dictionary, although I’m sure it contains valuable new material. I have Ishida, much of which is unchanged in the new edition, as well as Kiseido’s Dictionary of Modern Fuseki: The Korean Style. I also subscribe to Go World, where I see more discussion of modern openings than I can ever understand. If I didn’t have a joseki dictionary, though, this is the one I would get. Volume Two, completing the series, will appear early next year.

The long- rumored and anticipated Kiseido art book featuring ukiyo-e with go themes from the Pinckard collection, Japanese Prints and the World of Go, has finally appeared – and I’m sorry to report that it is a big disappointment. Unlike the rich, glossy covers of Go World, the prints seem faded and blurry. William Pinckard’s accompanying commentary in English and Japanese, on the other hand, is richly enlightening. Pinckard was a great scholar of go – click here to read his remarkable essay comparing go to the other ancient classic games, chess and backgammon. If you ever visited the Kiseido website’s “Art Gallery”, from which much of this material was drawn, you know how thoroughly Pinckard researched his acquisitions. I was looking forward to a beautiful book that could live on our coffee table – and I still am.