The First Book of Go, by Milton N. Bradley. Self-published; 1993.

This is an introductory go book. It is divided into two parts; the first part, Essentials, starts with a sample 7x7 game and then goes on to explain the rules (and some basic facts, such as two eyes making life) in more depth. The second part, Good to Know, contains some elementary tactics and strategy, teaching you about fighting (including some words about when to do it and about ko fights), some elementary opening strategy, some elementary endgame strategy, and some general advice. It also has appendices containing a densely commented 9x9 sample game, a glossary, a history, info on ratings, clubs, and equipment, and some review questions and answers.

It's a pretty good introduction. I don't recommend it as highly as I recommend some other books, but I recommend it a lot more than many of the books that are out there, and I don't think that you'd be badly served by it. My main complaint is a sort of vague one, that the author gives you a lot of information, trying to tell you about lots of basic concepts or to justify some statements more thoroughly than is usual in beginners' books, and I think that that sometimes ends up being a bit of a muddle, with concepts presented too early and being justified in somewhat too high-level a fashion. For example, in the chapter on the opening in Part 1, there's a section on joseki which doesn't give any concrete examples and which first claims that they're "fully comporable to a complete Chess Opening" but then notes that the joseki in different corner influence each other so some joseki are more or less feasable in some circumstances, without giving any concrete examples of this. And this discussion occurs before he's even finished presenting the rules; I'm not sure that the discussion should be anywhere in a beginners' book, at least without more examples, but it could certainly wait until further on. Similarly, in Part 1 we also have the statement that "From a wall of (n) stones based on the third line, a safe extension skips exactly (n+1) points", and a vague discussion of moyos without even beginning to give the proper context; this too should not be presented before we're done with the rules, if it should be in the book at all.

The book gives rules with more precision than is traditional in beginners' books, and the rules that it gives are the AGA rules. I think that this is a bad idea: the bit about giving stones when you pass and making sure that white is the last person to pass is completely unimportant and would only confuse beginners, and beginners aren't going to run into superko situations any time soon. (To his credit, the author doesn't make a big deal about superko.) Of course, I'm not sure that this should be considered a fault of the book: how can we fault somebody for presenting the official rules of his national go association? Perhaps this is more of a problem with the AGA rules themselves.

The book is self-published. It's a bit less attractive than other books because of that (it's printed in a typewriter-style font, and the coil spine is annoying), but those are only minor problems, and these things happen when you aren't a major publisher. More annoying is the amount and variety of emphasis used: words are emphasized using capital letters, italics, boldface, underlining, large print, and combinations of these, often to excess: for example, I happen right now to be looking at a page on which about a third of the text is emphasized in one way or another, and one line on that page is in capital letters, boldface, and italics simultaneously. This page is abnormally busy, but I often felt that I was being shouted at when reading the book.

This book was available from the author (his e-mail address is <>, by the way), but he apparently doesn't have any copies left. Yutopian has published a book by the same author called Go for Kids, which is related to this book but not a second edition. For comments about the relative merits of different beginners' books, look here.

Elliott Pitilon (a beginner) says:

I have found the Bradley book to be a bit more readable than Iwamoto (despite the emphasis that he uses which you didn't particularly care for.)

I think the books are very complementary, and work well as a set.

What I like about the Bradley book is his practical instruction and little theorems regarding geta, shimari, bamboo joints, extensions, and knight's moves. For new players like myself, I think it works well as a learning tool, along with the caveat that the application is not universal and is merely a guide.

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:48:52 PDT 2003