The Book of Go, by William Cobb. Sterling; 2002.

This is an introductory go book. Its main feature is that it uses the capture game as its way to introduce go. This is a simplified version of go where the winner is the first person to capture a stone, and is increasingly popular among go teachers. I've never used it myself, but its proponents seem to do well with it.

I'd been dubious about using it as a way to write an introductory go book, however, and The Game of Go didn't change my mind in that regard. It works much better in this book, however. More than a third of the book (not counting the problems at the end, almost half of the book) is devoted to the capture game, which it calls "first-capture go". This allows the book to develop first-capture go thoroughly, showing what you can learn from it as you play it more.

Specifically, it shows how the ideas of territory and life-and-death turn up naturally in first-capture go. For those of you who are already familiar with regular go, this is how first-capture go is related to it: it turns out that first-capture go is a lot like regular go, but two spaces makes life (as opposed to two eyes), and when counting territory (assuming the game doesn't end early) you have to subtract two points from each region.

Because the book spends so much time on these concepts when discussing first-capture go, its discussion of the full-fledged game goes at a much faster clip than you might expect. Rather than take a couple of chapters to introduce the details, perhaps with the help of a sample game, this book just lists the differences between the full-fledged game and first-capture go. This no-nonsense attitude continues through the rest of the book, which contains chapters on Connections, Life and Death, Basic Strategy, Basic Tactics, Go Proverbs, and Study Problems. (As well as chapters on go books and go on the internet.) The explanation in those later chapters is of the same high quality as it is earlier in the book; but the examples and the problems at the end of each chapter aren't particularly simple.

All in all, I think this is quite a good book for the right person, and it certainly fills a niche that other existing books don't. This could be a good book for you if you're learning go with a friend, and want to spend more time learning by playing than learning from a book; you want the book to be there to help get you going and to consolidate your knowledge and push you a bit further every so often. If, however, you're the sort of person who wants to spend a fair amount of time reading before diving into the game, and who wants a book that will give you a good idea of how go works before you start playing any stones, there are other beginners' books that I would recommend instead.

It comes with a cardboard go set (9x9 and 13x13), and some thin plastic stones; it's not great, but it can get you started, and the stones are a lot more useable than those that come with Learn to Play Go. It has a double-wire binding, which makes the pages lie flat but also means you have to be more careful turning the pages.

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:48:38 PDT 2003