Sub-page of TacticalReading

WinDigo: Hello, my name is Evgeni Chasnovski (Yevhenii Chasnovskyi in European Go Database). I am a go-player from Ukraine, 3 kyu at KGS for the moment of writing this (24 August 2015). This page is a review of the book "Tactical Reading" by Robert Jasiek.
I really like to solve problems. Despite of having a lot of problem solving experience I was very interested to read "Tactical Reading" because I haven’t seen any book devoted to this highly specialized topic.
In short, my impression can be described as follows: I knew most of the material of this book but, nevertheless, reading it significantly helped to improve my game. Read on for more detailed impressions.

In the beginning, I'd like to deviate a little bit from the topic and express some general thoughts. As far as I know, there are two large approaches to learning: from practice to theory (let it be "Eastern" approach), and from theory to practice (let it be "Western" approach). The first approach at its extreme form means understanding the rules of the game and a lot of playing games and solving problems without prior theoretical knowledge. It is believed that all the knowledge player should get from his/her own experience. The second, "Western" approach means that the theory is explained first (why in the beginning it is better to occupy corners, why empty triangle is bad shape, etc.), which is consolidated with practice by, again, a lot of games and problems. The method of material presentation by Robert Jasiek is a shining example of the second approach. Personally, I am a supporter of the "Western" variant of learning and prefer theory before practice, so I really enjoyed reading "Tactical Reading".

This book tells about the theory and practice of reading sequences for achieving certain fixed pre-established aim. Basically, it teaches how to correctly create (establish some aim) and solve (read sequences) go problems during the game. At first glance this seems superfluous because all players played their games and were able to plan their actions with a certain amount of success. It is very likely that they are even able to solve problems and find the right answers. Nevertheless, this book is useful for almost all players for the following reasons:

  • For a relatively new player material of the book teaches the methodology of correct and effective reading that will help to avoid the emergence of bad habits at a very early stage of person's development as a player;
  • For an experienced player (the one who thinks can successfully solve problems), this book is a perfect motivational material. One of the main ideas of the book expressed by the phrase "Verify each non-obvious status by reading", which implicitly motivates to avoid laziness when it comes to the determining the life and death or connection status of the group, etc.. Also the book contains very useful tips on how to simplify the process of reading with the use of clear principles and techniques;
  • For an advanced player, this book can be useful for structuring material about reading in order to more effectively teach beginners the subject.

I wrote "for almost all players" because for the very beginners, who have just learned the rules, this book is, in my opinion, a bit difficult to understand. For them I can suggest to ask a more experienced player to teach the basics of reading.

I’d like to mention about an interesting point about the subject of this book which is the following "paradox". If one has difficulties with reading that are not eliminated by solving a large number of problems, understanding the theory and algorithms about the difficult topic is usually hard (otherwise most likely there are no problems). I think in "Tactical Reading" is used the most appropriate way to solve this "paradox": the theory and algorithms are explained several times from different angles and with varying complexity, each time supported with the detailed description of their use by examples.

The overall structure of the book is quite simple. It consists of the following parts:

  1. Introduction, which briefly and clearly describes the core of this book, with some examples;
  2. The theoretical part, which describes all the theoretical material about what is reading, how it should be done and how it can be used with simplifications;
  3. The practical part, which consists of five blocks of problems on practically useful topics with a very thorough analysis of possible variants. Problems’ level varies, but mostly they are not hard and are presented as illustrations of the application of described techniques.

I would also like to give two lists of subjective critical and positive features of this book.

Critical features:

  • There is not much material about my problem in this topic, which is "visualization of sequences" in my head, but I guess all that could be said about this subject is presented;
  • It is written about the order of selection of the next move that it’s better first to explore "the most promising moves", but there is almost no material about how to find them (maybe because it is just trained with practice). In this topic I was also surprised by the complete absence of mentioning the fact that the "likelihood of success” of the move is not fixed and may change during the reading process (for example, using a variant of the proverb "Your opponent's good move is your good move");
  • The language is quite difficult and "scientific" but it is partly compensated by a lot of diagrams. The level of English I would define as somewhere between intermediate and upper-intermediate.

Positive features:

  • Very carefully analyzed examples and solutions to problems. This helps to understand the material presented in the book greatly;
  • Impressive list of options to simplify the reading process, which in practice was useful to me more than once;
  • I learned a useful technique «test reading», which can be used to quickly determine the status of the group or connection, etc.;
  • Presence of classified techniques (such as "throw-in", "snapback") with description, which ones need to be applied in solving a particular problem.

To sum up, I want to say that after reading and deliberate application of acquired knowledge in practice, I really saw progress in my game. Despite me knowing most of the material, this is an interesting case, when I actually understood what I knew. As a bonus I get a structured knowledge about reading. I also became a well-motivated to actually read sequences during the game. I highly recommend this book to all players who already have some game or problem solving experience.

P.S.: If there are any troubles with language in this review, sorry about that, English is not my native language :).

TacticalReading/ReviewByEvgeni last edited by WinDigo on August 24, 2015 - 10:25
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