This book, the third in Kiseido's Mastering the Basics series (which also contains Five Hundred and One Opening Problems and One Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems), is the first book in English that is devoted to shape. Like the earlier books in this series, the heart of the book is its problems (245, in this instance); unlike them, however, it has 62 pages of expository material at the beginning and a couple of briefly-commented pro grames at the end.
The expository section is divided into two parts. The first gives an introduction to important shape-related concepts: dumplings, heavy stones, thickness, etc., as well as one kinds of (bad) shape, the empty triangle. The second part gives kinds of good shape (the ponnuki, the mouth shape, etc.) as well as a few relevant tesujis (increasing the sacrifice). I didn't find any of the material here to be particularly new to me, but some of the examples were quite interesting: they made moves that I hadn't thought of and rejected sequences that seemed fine to me, because of shape/efficiency considerations that aren't always foremost in my mind. It's an interesting middle ground: books on life-and-death or tesujis, while dealing with similarly small-scale situations, have a much more concrete goal in mind, whereas books on higher-level concepts (the opening, for example) have a broader goal that causes them to skip over this sort of detail. So it's nice to see a book that is about the more amorphous sort of small stuff.
I had a hard time with the problems, though. The first hundred or so weren't so bad: they were frequently fairly direct applications of the earlier part of the book, and were typically concrete enough that I could think productively about them and frequently solve them. But, soon after that, I stopped being able to concentrate on the problems: maybe my brain had had enough of this sort of problems, maybe they weren't direct enough applications of the earlier part of the book, maybe they were too hard for me, maybe this sort of small-scale yet amorphous problem is too new to me. This isn't a criticism of the book: it's not surprising that the problems in the first book in English on shape take some getting used to. But don't expect the problems to be as smooth sailing as the problems in the earlier books in the series were.
The commented games didn't add much to the book for me; maybe I would have gotten more out of them if I were less tired from the problems, but they do seem like a bit of an afterthought, especially the second one.
Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:55:22 PDT 2003