Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races

When browsing through the book in a shop, one can easily underestimate it considerably. However, after having read it, one can be somewhat disappointed because the author could have done more. The table of contents is not really useful because it does not list all subchapters. Counting pages can be as difficult as counting liberties: Subtract empty and advertisement pages, add pages with Roman numbers, etc. 231 is the result while the book ends with a 238. Basically, the editing is convincing except for one spelling mistake and excessive usage of "clearly", even when the reader wonders why. If you are surprised about the broad range of ranks - counting liberties is not only for beginners but also strong dan players will learn a lot unless they should have done the same research as the author.

Functionally the book consists of three parts: A classification of semeais, tactics in semeais, and additions. The first of these is the book's core but consumes only a third. The second fills a sixth but is more useful than your ordinary tesuji book because it is discussed when to choose or not to choose a particular kind of tesuji or other type of object like making an eye. The additions (problems, intercludes, entertaining professional games, the L-group) might have been omitted and it would have hurt the book only a little. The saved space should have been spent on further theory. Problems are useful but those in the book, although sometimes really instructive, do not practice the discussed theory systematically and efficiently. The reader needs to invent his own set of applied problems if he is interested in gaining a firm experience for all the new knowledge. A mistake should not remain hidden: An outcome of a position is described as "analogous to bent four in the corner, which is defined as dead if it is left standing at the end of the game". At another place of the book, the author shows that he knows better and that current Japanese rules do not have a definition particular for bent four.

After all those sceptical words, would you want to buy the book? There is more to criticise - the price. Although the time of too cheap go books has passed and more expensive books can be found, this book is everything else than cheap. One can take the view that every research deserves its price and here twice the actual price or that the book was issued too quickly and the author should have finished his good work, if necessary, in a second volume. In practice, ask yourself - am I too proud to learn something new about liberties or should I be grateful for the time the author saves me by having already done quite some research?

The book classifies semeais according to whether they include kos. Then for each main case, six basic types of semeais are introduced depending on numbers of eyes, their sizes, numbers of internal and external liberties. The case of no kos is analysed so well that each type of semeai gets its general rules how to count liberties and who wins the fights. Excellent! However, it should be noted that in the book, "semeai" means one black group next to one white group. There is no generalization for more difficult topologies. The ko section concentrates on one involved ko; positions with several kos are mostly neglected. In that section, general rules are not given but only indicated. The further you read it, the less specific the contents becomes. In the more difficult basic types with a ko, one example asks the reader to generalize a case and invent the rules by himself and to generalize even more by anticipating all subcases at once. The ko section then ends with a tiny paragraph without even an example for the last basic type. One cannot help but suspect some laziness of the author. This restricts the topic coverage rating to a "o"; otherwise it might have become the first "+" ever for a strategy or tactics book. On the other hand, that the rank improvement rating is not a "++" is explained by the sheer size of the demanding contents; the reader should read the book two or three times! It contains summaries of important knowledge. Unfortunately, they are not very useful - quite some of the most important knowledge is omitted there. So the reader should take out paper and pencil to complete the work. Maybe the author was afraid of plagiarism, but rather he has created superfluous doubts for potential buyers.

The perfectionist would like to see more: relation to non-standard ko fights, classification of more complicated semeais, proofs for the strategic rules and clear definitions for many fundamental terms like "inside liberty", "approach move", "weak eye". Honestly, such requires the insight of a rules researcher. The author has preferred to speak in practical terms. E.g., he still says "liberty" when he means "approach liberty" rather than "physical liberty". Only the basic types of semeais get their abstract numbers, but why not? Needless to say, also basic eyes are explained.

Robert Jasiek <>

Date: 18 Aug 2005