Steve Fawthrop / Reviews

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Several years ago I wrote a few reviews for go books. For a long time they were on my personal web pages and I forgot about them. Occasionally someone would find them and ask me about them so I decided to move them to here. This hopefully will serve two purposes: more access for others and more incentive for me to add to the list of reviews.

For now I have just copied the review with no change or order to them. If the number increase to the point where it needs some organization then I will reformat the page. Please do not change this page. If you want to add comment use the discussion utility.

Table of contents

The Art of Capturing Stones

by Wu Dingyuan and Yu Xing. Published by Yutopian, 1996
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 wonder 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.
This book is highly recommended for high kyu and dan players.
(This review was written 19th September, 2002 and published in the AGA E-journal.)

Galactic Go, vol. 1

by Sangit Chatterjee and Yang Huiren. Published by Yutopian, 2000
This book has so many problems it is hard to come up with a good recommendation, although it must be admitted that, without those problems, it would fill a good niche in the literature. The biggest problem is the numerous errors throughout the book, the most common being missing stones and labels on the boards and text which does not correspond to the diagram or is confusing. One diagram declared failure for black because a ladder does not work when, if fact, he gets a good position by a simple geta capture. In one chapter the diagrams keep switching between a joseki and its mirror image, thus making it hard to follow. In another, the text keeps switching between two separate threads without explanation, again making it hard to follow.
It is not clear exactly what the aim of this book is. The title certainly gives no indication (what exactly is Galactic Go?). I would guess that it is an effort to explain middle game fighting in 3-stone handicap games, but there are long sections on obscure joseki which belong more in Ishida. The ordering of the chapters is sequenced according to the opening joseki moves, not according to middle game principles, so perhaps I am wrong. Long series of diagrams saying nothing much more that "Black did this, White did that, what should Black so next" lead to dry reading. Moreover, several interesting moves are passed over completely, while the level of the moves looked at in detail varies so widely it is hard to know what level it is aimed at -- I would guess about 7k - 2d.
All-in all, I was left with the impression of a book which was put together quickly without a lot of planning and analysis. The mistakes I found make it hard to trust the remainder and so dilute the validity of the book. The authors claim that this is volume one of four. I hope that more effort is put into the remaining three.
This book is probably aimed at single digit kyus and low dan players but it is not recommended.
(This review was written 23th September, 2002 and published in the AGA E-journal.)


Published by The Nihon Kiin, 2000
This is an excellent book which I thoroughly recommend. It is ideal for anyone who has reached the mid-kyu level. Being an encyclopedia it is more of a reference book than a study guide but it can server that purpose also. All standard opening sequences are given and explained briefly but adequately to allow the reader to get a good feel for the significance of fuseki moves.
I would not, however, recommend it as the first fuseki book you read, unless you are on a limited budget and only plan to buy one. Try reading "In the Beginning" (for up to about 7k) or "Opening Theory Made Easy" first, then tackle this one.
This book is recommended for mid- and high-kyu players.
(This review was written 10th October, 2002.)

Dramatic Moments on the Go Board

by Abe Yoshiteru. Published by Yutopian, 1996
This book might perhaps be more appropriately entitled "Embarrassing Games for Pros", but as it was written by a professional that might be a little too much to expect. It is an easy and enjoyable book to read, the sort that you might keep on a bedside table for light reading.
Most of it consists of two-page examples of a blunder or an oversight in a professional game. The first page presents the situation and you can try to find the solution before turning the page to find what the pro did and what he should have done. I read it more as an entertainment without trying to solve the problems but it could be used as a study book if you are so inclined. I found it amusing to see, in more than one game, a reference to white playing a certain way because of the large komi. This book is a translation of a Japanese text originally written in 1973 so the large komi referred to it 5.5. Now, of course, komi is 6.5.
If you are on a limited budget then you can pass on this and not miss anything but if you enjoy reading go books for entertainment in addition to study then it is worth buying. It is suitable for all levels.
(This review was written 7th June, 2003.)

"Get Strong At Go " & "Mastering the Basics"

by Richard Bozulich. Published by Yutopian, 1995-?
These two series, the second still in progress, cover essentially the same thing. Although the formats are somewhat different they are are basically nothing more than glorified problem books. Some of the books in the series contain additional descriptive chapters but anyone buying will be doing so because of the problems. For anyone who needs a good problem book to work on for a specific topic they are recommended. I rate the "Mastering the Basics" series higher only because they tend to contain more problems and therefore give better value for money. Unless you are a book collector you do not need both.
The one thing I have against these books is that they are not easily used for classification study like the much earlier "Elementary Go Series". These books tend to jump around from one topic to another which, in itself is not bad because that is how things come at you over the board, but that does not make it easy to use if you want to master a particular pattern.
I found very little in these books which surprised me and the majority of the problems I could solve at a glance. However, anyone below about 3d will find useful study material and they will be a wealth of study for any mid- to high-kyu player. Low kyu players might want to hold off until they have finished the "Graded Go Problems for Beginners" series. Refer to my page on how to study Go problems.
These books are suitable for mid-kyu and above. They are recommended if you like problem books.
(This review was written 11th June, 2003.)

Fighting ko (ko type)

by Jin Jiang. Published by Yutopian, 1995
This is not an easy book but it is well worth the effort for anyone who has reached the high kyu level. I would not recommend it for anyone weaker than 5 kyu, maybe even 3 kyu. It is a well-organized presentation of the various types of kos and covers everything which anyone but the strongest of amateur might need. The problem section is not for the feint-hearted -- is contains some of the toughest problems I have seen and anyone who can solve them all within a reasonable time is a high dan player at least. It is a small book (4.25in x 6.75 in, 146 pages) and so is suitable for study in small doses while traveling. The only thing I would have liked to see more of is examples of whole board thinking before initiating a ko fight. There are examples of this but, given the high level required to master the book, this seems like it would add a lot of value. All-in-all I recommend this book highly for the serious student of Go, but it is not light reading.
Highly recommended for high-kyu and dan players.
(This review was written 14th June, 2003.)

200 Endgame Problems

by Shirae Haruhiko. Published by Slate & Shell, 2003
A useful survey of endgame problems which will be good reading for any kyu player. The overall level varies but I would say that it is aimed at single-digit kyus. Dan players will find little to challenge them until a few of the problems at the end. As a 5 dan I found only one or two which I could not solve on sight. The big advantage to this book is that it on a topic which is sparsely covered by Go book in English and so for that reason alone is recommended. Study this book and be able to solve all the problems and you will probably add 20 points to your yose play. You will definitely end up as a dan-level endgame player.
(This review was written 10th April, 2006.)

Beauty and the Beast

by Shen Guosun. Published by Yutopian, 1996
I first read this book soon after it was published and enjoyed it thoroughly. Not having read it for several years I recently decided to read it again. This time I found it difficult to read. I finished it, but it took me longer than usual. While it has a lot of interesting positions in it I am not sure it is a book from which it is easy to learn. I get the impression that it was written to promote the skills of the young Chinese players of the time (it was written in the '80s) and each game concentrates on a single position and how the player involved was able to come up with a wonderful sequence and win the game. What irritated me was that claim that all these moves were based on "Go Theory", but it never actually made it clear what "Go Theory" is. Each chapter has a title like "The Master of Deployment Never Faces Combat". To me these sounded a little stilted and I asked Roy Schmidt, the translator, about it. Apparently they come from the titles in some ancient Chinese text. This doesn't make it any easier to read, however. I don't think this is a book you will want to use for study, but it if worth a reading to see what top players are capable of. I would rate it as being at dan level at a minimum, although kyu players will probably enjoy seeing the games.
(This review was written 7th May, 2006.)

Steve Fawthrop / Reviews last edited by on April 12, 2008 - 04:10
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