An Encyclopedia of Go Principles


An Encyclopedia of Go Principles by Richard Bozulich was first published in 2015.

An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
By: Richard Bozulich
Publisher: Kiseido, 2015
ISBN13 978-4-906574-79-7
273 pp.

Table of contents

Table of Contents

to be added

Sample Material

to be added


Review by Robert Jasiek

General Specification

  • Title: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
  • Authors: Richard Bozulich
  • Publisher: Kiseido
  • Edition: 2015
  • Language: English
  • Price: EUR 25
  • Contents: principles
  • ISBN: 978-4-906574-79-7
  • Printing: almost good
  • Layout: almost good
  • Editing: almost good
  • Pages: 273
  • Size: 148mm x 210mm
  • Diagrams per Page on Average: 3
  • Method of Teaching: principles, examples
  • Read when EGF: 10k - 3k
  • Subjective Rank Improvement: o
  • Subjective Topic Coverage: o
  • Subjective Aims' Achievement: -


The book contains 112 principles counting from 1 to 100; in a few cases, a few principles are grouped and distinguished by a letter. Each of the principles also serves as a subheading for its, if any, usually very short explanation (infrequently better than the principle itself) and circa 2 examples. Besides, there is a tiny number of additional principles mentioned in the text but without study.

Much of the text accompanying the examples I consider boring or superfluous but this might be caused due to my perspective as a player too strong for the book. As is typical for Bozulich's books, most examples have simplified positions; the reader does not see the richness of possible positions. A few handicap examples contribute to this impression. Only a few unspecified professional positions offer more positional variation. The critic sees the author's laziness while the optimist perceives possibly eased learning of the basics.

The layout is slightly inefficient but, compared to the layout rip-off of The Basic Principles of the Opening and the Middle Game, the author has greatly improved matters. For example, showing up to three 19x19 positions on a page works well to reduce the sizes of large white spaces. The small average number of moves per diagram eases reading but there sometimes are too few moves so that one must not be impressed by the book's number of pages. On the other hand, I must have done something right in my books when now Bozulich adopts a number - subnumber style for the numbering of diagrams (he uses the same major number for the diagrams illustrating its principle) and distinguishes diagram references in the text by italics. In my opinion, this layout style eases reading.

The principles are grouped in chapters about: opening; extensions; moyos; thickness; defending and attacking weak groups; shape; shortage of liberties; pressing, pushing and crawling; attack; sabaki; ko; ladders; tactics; miscellaneous. The latter includes more principles about ko. In conclusion, the structure of the book indicates some laziness. There appear to have been last minute additions and subnumbering for the sake of finishing the book quickly and getting exactly 100 as the largest number of a principle.

The book suggests the idea that go theory can be represented as principles. Such a view is somewhat simplistic because go theory also consists of terms, concepts, methods, values and other aspects. Nevertheless, a book that claims to be an "encyclopedia" of "all the strategic and tactical principles of go" (backcover text) might be my dream book in which I would want to read every day forever. In the later 1990s, I suggested that go book authors should make more use of principles. It took years before the author of this book started to use principles prominently; finally, he provides a book concentrating on principles. In this review, I shall find out whether my dream has been fulfilled.

Limits of the Correctness of the Contents

When Bozulich takes his time and studies variations, his study is correct. The more the contents approaches his regular topics and contents in his earlier books, the more convincing his variations and study become. He has a firm knowledge of the related parts of go theory.

However, in quite a few other examples, laziness or gaps of knowledge shine through. Readers of the intended readership would hardly notice such because it is beyond their own understanding. Bozulich's major recurring mistake is to show something very convincingly for one player because that player's moves are correct while part of the opponent's moves are wrong. With much more careful study and invested time for writing, the author should have discovered most such cases by himself. Seemingly convincing applications of a principle can be a fake when the opponent's better replies would inhibit the easy demonstration. How can an author avoid the problem? He must study more examples to find more suitable ones or his discussion of the used examples must involve a much greater number of side aspects and decisions.

Besides, the author makes a relatively small number of other mistakes in go theory caused by his gap of knowledge of professional go theory and his insufficient study of available go theory by amateur experts or other go book authors. For example, he makes a mistake in positional judgement (although elsewhere in the book his other positional judgement is right) or a mistake in rules application on the strategic level.

These shortcomings and the missing generality of part of the principles mentioned further below restrict the strongest reader level to 3 kyu and the rank improvement to 'o'; otherwise, the sheer number of useful principles would have resulted in a '+'. The flaws in the contents, however, mean that the reader's learning potential is limited and he needs to unlearn too much when later becoming stronger than 3 kyu.

The Principles

The Principles in the book are short. While this eases their learning, it also means that very many principles are weaker or much weaker than other existing principles elsewhere in the literature or oral knowledge of strong players.

Principles can be classified roughly by their estimated fraction of correct versus incorrect application to practically occurring positions. Here, let me introduce these classes according to the roughly estimated fraction of correctness:

10% = special case guideline, useful together with other special cases

50% = joke (correct and incorrect application are equally frequent)

55% = proverb (only slightly better than a joke; outdated principle)

60% = weak principle

75% = intermediate principle

90% = strong principle

99% = very strong principle

100% = truth

W = weaker than another existing, more often correct principle

S = principle for a special shape only

Now I roughly assess the principles of the book by their numbers:

001 55% W

002 75% W

003 55% W

004 55% W "Establish a position inside your opponent's sphere of influence."

005 50% W S

006A 75% W S

006B 75% W S

006C 75% W S

007 75% W S

008 75% W S

009 75% W

010 60% W

011 90% W S

012 55% W

013 75% W

014 75% W

015 10% W S

016A 10% W S

016B 10% W S

017 10% W S

018 10% W S

019 60% W

020 60% W

021 99% W "Be willing to transfer a moyo from one part of the board to another."

022 75% W S

023 75% W

024A 60% W

024B 10% W

024C 60% W

025 50% W S

026 50% W S

027 75% W

027A 75% W

027B 60% W "Attack your opponent's weak stones."

028A 60% W

028B 60% W

028C 50% W

029 90% W S

030 99% W S

031 75% W S

032 75% W

033 50% W S

034 50% W S

035 50% W S

036 55% W S

037 55% W S

038 60% W S

039 75% W

040 50% W

041 50% W

042 10% W

043 10% W S

044 10% W S

045 50% W S

046 60% W

047 10% W

048 60% W

049 10% W S

050 50% W

051 50% W S

052 90% "Abandon junk stones." [Until the endgame.]

053 75% W "Don't make territory in an area where one of your flanks is open."

054 55% W

055 90%

056 60% W

057 90%

058 10% S

059 55% W S

060 55% W S

061 75% W

062 10% W S

063 50% W S

064 60% W S

065 50% W

066 10% W S

067 10% W S

068 55% W

069 10% W S

070 55% W

071 55% W

072 10% W S

073 10% W S

074 10% W S "The comb formation is alive."

075 10% W S

076 10% W S

077 10% W S

078 10% W S

079 10% W S

080 50% W S

081 55% W S

082 90% W

083 60% W

084 55% W

085A 75% W S

085B 75% W S

085C 75% W S

085D 75% W S

086 10% W S

087 50% W "If you lose four corners, resign."

088 55% W

089 60% W

090 55% W

091 90% W S

092 55% W

093 99% W

094 90% W

095 90% W S

096 75% W

097 75% W

098 90% W

099 10% W S

100 10% W S

Summary: There are these numbers of principles:

108 W

004 without W

057 S

055 without S

027 10%

016 50%

017 55%

015 60%

024 75%

010 90%

003 99%

000 100%

060 10% ~ 55% special case, joke or proverb

052 60% ~ 99% real principles

Some of the 10% W S "principles", such as the life status of a particular shape at a particular place of the board, are 100% truths but, as special shape cases, do not deserve the principle tag.

It is ok for a book for kyu players to teach first guidelines, such as "Don't approach thickness.", when they are just starting to learn what is thickness at all. For a book, however, claiming to teach principles, be an encyclopedia of principles and not to teach proverbs, 52 real principles of 112 so called principles is too little. Besides, the average quality of the real principles is too low.

Learning the principles of the book as a player 3 kyu or weaker means having to unlearn most of them in order to improve as a 2 kyu or stronger. It is no coincidence that a principle of the book is occasionally not applied in a different part of the book.

The author should have recognised the "jokes" and omitted them. The 10% and 55% "principles" contain useful hints but most should have been called "shape knowledge" or "proverbs". 60% and 75% principles can be useful as a start but the book should have clarified clearly that such principles serve as guidelines for suitable contexts and must not be confused with the power of very strong principles or truths.

The claim that the book had "all the strategic and tactical principles of go" appears at four different places and so is made intentionally. The claim is false! I have written down several hundred real principles in the 60% ~ 100% range, know many more and would not make a false claim to have written down, or know, ALL the principles of go theory. An Encyclopedia of Go Principles has only 52 real principles, that is, a small fraction of all. "Encyclopedia" in the title is an exaggeration.


While the book is useful to some extent, it is very far from what it claims to be. Inappropriate parts of the contents should be replaced by more careful study. The book, which might be called "The Best of Richard Bozulich's Go Theory", can be seen as a summary of Bozulich's earlier work but it is not the general overview on go theory that the excessive use of "principles" suggests. Readers should be aware that, later, they need to unlearn much contents and replace it by more generally applicable, much more often correct go theory. Take the principles of the book as hints not to be applied without critical thinking.

An Encyclopedia of Go Principles last edited by on April 25, 2016 - 12:13
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