What Is Your Least Favorite Go Book

    Keywords: Books & Publications

MortenPahle -- Yes, I know it's a good book, but it is the book I still dislike the most, mostly because of the dreadful introduction to endgame theory which takes too long and is at a level intended for players who already master the endgame. If you ever want to read [ext] 'The Endgame' in the elementary Go Series, do yourself a favour an skip the introduction until you are dan-level ;^)

Deacon John I do not think it is a good book at all. Even the problems are not instructive. I read it long ago, perhaps 20 years, when I knew very little about the endgame, and, even at that time it seemed to say nothing that was not completely obvious.

Jhyn I am of the same opinion. To be fair the "Endgame tesuji" part is good but at least half the book is a big mess. Compare with the excellent Get Strong at the endgame.


DaveSigaty: Another vital book is Life and Death, by James Davies. I have owned it for about 25 years and from time to time I feel guilty enough about my poor study habits to dip into it. However, in all that time I have never been able to read it through. Either the delivery is too dry for me (it must be the book's fault, right?) or I just get too depressed about the simple shapes that I still don't remember properly! :-)


DieterVerhofstadt: 38 Basic Joseki, however noble its intentions may have been, sends the Go player on the doubtful path of pattern copying. All about Thickness, by Ishida Yoshio, treats the subject somewhat "lightly" . And however refreshing some of the ideas in EzGo may be, it gives a strange feeling when the author speaks of himself as "the leading Go-theorist" and "the father of Computer Go".

Petri: "the father of Computer Go" is somewhat justified claim. He is one of the authors if first program to play sensibly. Being part of research program in seventies that had a goal of producing a go playing program. His first commercial program Nemesis was pretty much based on that project - and mistakes made on it. There were 2 programs before wilcox - Reitman? project but they were clearly inferior.


AlainWettach: Nie Weiping on Go is a book I wouldn't advise to buy. It is written in a propagandist style which disturbed me. I never managed to read this book until the end.

Rich : I agree about Nie Weiping on Go; the propagandist style is really to be expected - he is a political figure - and doesn't really stray outside the first (introductory) chapter. The rest of the book I found extremely interesting and useful. I'm yet to find a least favourite book.


Kungfu : A comment on the above; I found Nie Weiping on Go, for the games and comments presented alone, as a fascinating and enlightening book. When I replayed some of the games and memorized them I definitely gained a few stones. My least favourite books are "The Game of Go" which is poorly bound (in the re-issue) and contains several glaring errors. I also don't like go and gomoku and "five great games" (featuring chess, go, shogi, etc). I think Go deserves a book of it's own :)


Neal: My least favorite go book would have to be Go and Go Moku by Edward Lasker. Talk about an unclear book. This book begins to uncover a new and interesting topic, then it leads you into a complicated pattern which is useless in an everyday game. The diagrams are hard to follow and his methods of explanation are even more so. Hopefully it's clear that I don't recommend it.

TakeNGive: I guess it filled a niche in its time; but I agree, Go and Go Moku is annoyingly unclear. I have to wonder: how much more popular would Go be today, if Bozulich and Davies had been around to ghost-write this for Lasker? (Their slim volume, An Introduction to Go, remains my favorite book to give to new players.)

JJarmoc: I'd have to agree entirely. This was the first go book I bought. Ack, it was utterly unreadable. The multi-page diagrams where you find yourself flipping back three pages to look at the diagram that goes with what you're reading was especially annoying. Avoid this book.

TimBrent: It should be remembered that at the time of publication in 1934, Go and Go Moku was one of no more than two English language Go books in print (the other being 1908's The Game of Go by Arthur Smith). Lasker's writing is typical of most game books of its era, for example Aron Nimzovitch's My System (chess). I wonder if this was originally in German, then translated, as were some of Lasker's other books.


RiffRaff: One of the first Go books I ever read (after Go For Beginners by Iwamoto Kaoru) was the first edition of Basic Techniques Of Go. People who think the second edition is dense and difficult to understand should have seen the original version, with more Japanese terms than you can shake a stick at. "If White doesn't like the idea of the Black Hasami at 4 in Dia. 27, instead of playing Suberi with 3 at a, he might try to immediately extend to 3 as in this diagram. But in this case, Black will play the Kosumi-Tsuke with 4 and after the Tachi of White 5, Black's result is good." Who on earth were they trying to kid about this being a good follow-up to Go For Beginners?

jfc: amen brother! That was my second book too. Talk about being useless to a beginner! Later on I got The Second Book of Go along with Graded Go problems for Beginners. Those books together resulted in a huge improvement in my playing skill.

BobMcGuigan: I learned the "rules" from Arthur Smith's book. The next book I looked at, while still definitely a beginner, was Basic Techniques. I found it very helpful. At the time I had no contact with more experienced players. The book definitely opened my eyes to the potential of the game. Looking back, after reading upwards of 100 go books, I have to say that Basic Techniques was perhaps the most influential. However, I can see why it would be difficult for many people. It is rather densely written.


Alex Weldon: I haven't read all that many, but of those that I've read, by far the worst was Positional Judgment High-Speed Game Analysis by Cho Chikun. Good player though he is, he doesn't seem to have much of a clue about how to write a book about Go.

The basic idea of the book seems to be that it's important to count the score frequently. Good advice. And he spends a chapter getting across the idea that the way to count territory is to assume that all potential endgame plays that can be made against it, will be made against it. As for moyos, assume that they will be reduced, not invaded, since invasion will presumably give you profit elsewhere to compensate. The rest of that chapter has a few examples for you to count for yourself and assess who is winning, and by how much. Fine. That chapter is actually quite good.

The rest of the book is terrible, though. It's just a bunch of problems. If they all related to the idea of counting the score and making decisions based on that, it would be fine. Some of them do. A couple in particular deal with how deeply to reduce/invade a large moyo, after assessing both players' prospects. Fine. But some have nothing to do with the topic of the book; one, entitled "A hasty defence can cause an upset," just illustrates that one point successfully defends territory in the corner, while the other, seemingly sensible move, allows the territory to be destroyed. The whole board situation doesn't enter into it in the slightest.

The book concludes with two commented games (throwing modesty to the wind, Cho chooses two of his own, both of which he won, and unabashedly says things like "Black 117 is a typical Cho clincher") that have nothing to do with the topic of the book, except for the fact that a couple of times in each, he mentions that "at this point, I estimated the score."

Your mileage may vary, of course... I've seen at least one comment on this site indicating that someone liked this book.

Charles Yes, typical enough book from Japan; Dieter talks about it on the What Is Your Favorite Go Book page. Big name author, some interesting pro game material, not meant as a serious textbook on the topic. There's a Korean book on the subject that seems to be better, but there's little chance it would be translated now.

Alex Weldon: Well, living in Korea, I've been studying both the game of baduk and the Korean language. I'm not dan level yet (getting closer every month, though), nor am I fluent in Korean (also getting closer every month, since my girlfriend doesn't speak English), but one of the things I've considered as something to do in the future (when I am both dan level and speak fluently) is to try to convince the Korean publishing companies to let me translate the best Korean baduk books and have them publish them in English for the international market. Let me know the name of this book (if you know it), and I'll mark it down somewhere as a potential candidate.[1]

We're getting off the topic of the page here, but does anyone have any idea what the odds of success for this plan are? Have many Korean books been translated into English? Do you think Hanguk Kiwon has any interest in producing English versions of the books, or are they just going to leave the English-speaking world market to the Japanese?

It seems to me that most of the English Go books you see are out of Japan, but given Korean dominance of the world scene, it seems to me that people would be interested in reading books by Korean authors if translations were available.

Andrew Grant Quote: "Cho chooses two of his own, both of which he won, and unabashedly says things like "Black 117 is a typical Cho clincher")". Unquote.

I don't think Cho would have written something so immodest. I doubt that Cho contributed much to this book at all - it's not good enough. Most Go books are ghost written, anyway. Some are not, but in general, the more successful the "author" credited on the cover, the less likely it is that they had any real input into the book. It's no coincidence that authors like Nakayama Noriyuki or the late Kageyama Toshiro wrote tremendously good books but never got even close to winning any major titles. They wrote their own stuff, and even though they were mediocre professionals, that meant their books were good.

Alex Weldon: Alright, if Cho didn't write it himself, I'll strike that complaint... I still didn't find it a very useful book throughout, although, as I said, there were a few redeeming pages here and there.

Dieter: I think it is a coincidence. Or rather, little can be said. Ghost writers may be mediocre professionals or top amateurs themselves. Would that make them less capable of writing good books ? Kageyama's "Lessons ..." is great, rather for its wit than for its usefulness (I know many disagree). Last but not least, if a book were poor for Cho's standards, why would he agree to assign his name to it ? By the way, I found "positional judgment" a very useful book.

Charles No real contradiction here: most books are written to be useful to players 2 kyu to 2 dan.

Andrew Grant "Last but not least, if a book were poor for Cho's standards, why would he agree to assign his name to it ?"

Money, that's why. After all, why should Cho care what people think of "his" books? It's not as if his strength was in doubt. He proves his strength every time he wins another title. In fact, many top professionals have assigned their names to books written by ghost writers. It's common practice. In many cases the professional's only input is to check out the diagrams to make sure that they make sense. But publishers love to have a top professional's name to put on the cover of their latest book, and are willing to pay the pro handsomely for that alone.

Charles I suppose Cho, being a celebrity, is fair game for all sorts of comments. I'd be more comfortable with the remark that even middle-ranking pros can earn more per hour by teaching than by writing books.

BobMcGuigan: Nakayama 6p wrote many books for other pros. For example he wrote at least 10 books for Kajiwara. As he became famous he was allowed to have his name on the cover of the book (in smaller type). Probably publishers realized that his name was a mark of quality that resulted in larger sales. He has also written books for Kato, Takemiya, Kobayashi Koichi, and Cho Chikun. In Japan the ghost writer is not often acknowledged on the title page but is listed unobtrusively in the inside if you know where to look. There are good amateur ghost writers, too, such as Kobori Keiji who ghost wrote Takagawa's "San Ren Sei no Iryoku" (translated and published in English as The Power of the Star Point). I think the quality of the final book depends on the skill of the principal author, the ghost writer if any, and the willingness of the pro to collaborate fully in the production.


Bildstein: Fighting Ko is my least favourite. I find the diagrams very hard to follow and the general flow lacking in direction. The name is also a bit of a misnomer, because there are sections about how to win capturing races that have nothing to do with ko. I have questions about ko, but this book didn't answer them for me.


Calvin: I actually like most of the books listed here as "least favorite", with the exception of Lasker's and Smith's books, which I agree are inferior to what is available today; however, I'm not sure they should count, because they are so old. Master Go in Ten Days is a waste of money, because it tries to cover too much and dosen't have a specific audience. Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races is probably my vote, because it's a very dry presentation of a very tedious topic in Go. I just can't seem to categorize capturing races in my brain the way Hunter does---there's something wrong with the organization---it seems zoological rather than mathematical. It's too bad I don't know of any better book on the subject. I'd rather just have a problem book on capturing races, even if it's not in English. Any suggestions?


LoP: "Utilizing Outward Influence" . It has many serious mistakes in the diagrams, the printing is bad, the examples are confusing and unstructured.


Tirian My vote is for "Kage's Secret Chronicles of Handicap Go". It's listed among the elementary books, but is just nine dan level games that hardly focus on the handicap elements of the game at all. And of those nine games, six of them are between equally-ranked players! I learned more about playing Black in handicap games from the ten pages in "The Second Book of Go" than this mess.


DrStraw: If you want to talk about a bad book, try The World of Ki by John Goodell. I forget when it was written (I'll take a look sometime when I am at home) but I think it was about 40 or 50 years ago. At the time I am sure it filled a need, but it is so badly done. He was from Minneapolis and I found my copy in a used book store in that city. Not sure how widely it was distributed. I seem to remember reading that he died quite recently and was surprised that he was one of the original go players in the area - I never heard of him when I lived there. Anyway, unless you collect go books this is one to avoid.


Deacon John I think that The Theory and Practice of GO is the worst Go book that ever appeared in print in English. It is translated from a German book written by O. Korscheltin in 1880. It is perhaps the first book on Go that was available in the English language. I read it cover to cover 40+ years ago, and I agree with [ext] David Carlton's review except that I do not think that it was a good book when it first came out.

Aside from the poor coverage of the game, the writing style was one of the most difficult to decode, the most stilted, and most pedantic (in a bad way) that I have ever come across in any book. This would not be so bad if the author had anything interesting to say, but, he did not. There is very little in this book that a beginner does not learn just from playing their first few hundred games. The only thing that was potentially useful were a few joseki patterns that were not otherwise available in English. However no explanation of them was given that contributed anything to one's understanding. Neither was the variation given the main line. It was even clear to me, a relative beginner at the time, that taking them seriously would harm my game more than help it.

This book is far worse than Go and Go Moku by Edward Lasker. In fact, that book did help my game a little when I read it 30+ years ago. At least Edward Lasker, a world class mathematician, had put some thought into the game, and, in the context of the writing style of his day, he was a good writer. It did not hurt me to work through his complex example. I even learned a bunch of stuff from it. But, remember, there was very little else available at that time.


[1] Charles It's by Han Ch'eol-kyun, and it's number 11 in the Hanguk Kiwon main series.


What Is Your Least Favorite Go Book last edited by Jhyn on October 15, 2013 - 00:39
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