Books about handicap play do not seem to be the readers' favourites. Nevertheless, recently quite a few have appeared. Such courage can only be admired. Does Galactic Go meet the interested players' desire? It claims to be for 4k-4d. This is right but I would say by EGF rather than AGA standard because difficult joseki sequences are introduced and discussion provides little reasoning. Joseki. One could also call this planned series of books an introduction to joseki. The contents is sorted like in a joseki dictionary; every game has another joseki. Volume 1 presents 3-4 joseki and sincerely encourages the surprised student to start study of complex joseki like Taisha. The first volume discusses opening and middle game of 20 3-stone fixed handicap games. So naturally joseki are treated to some extent, although one might not have expected such from a book about handicap games. You are taught that handicap games are lost in different ways. One way is joseki mistakes. A little strange is the firm belief that a 3-4 as the first white move has to be answered locally. Of course, this view has the advantage that one gets to see as many as 20 joseki plus some variations throughout the book.
Every diagram has its accompanying text but forget about it! Except for rare useful remarks, the most read like "White plays at 3 and then Black answers at 4. What is White's answer?" You see the style: It is a problem and answer diagram book in a typical Asian teaching by example manner. Not exciting. At least you are taught some technique. Also the book title is not so exciting after all: A few cases of "galactic style" are pointed out when a centre moyo is formed by black. However, this is by far not a consistent topic in the book. Joseki and a title hiding ordinary technique - is this just a boring book?
That would also not do it justice. There is more in Galactic Go. However, you need to be careful to notice it. The central topic is handicap games and there we find the contents' key: Diagram after diagram as every game progresses more and more black mistakes are displayed, whether small or big. The lesson is that there are several ways to lose a handicap game: many small mistakes, a few big blunders, lacking insight, tactical reading errors, psychological weakness, considering no alternative, etc. Move by move black plays suboptimally and only a great amount of mistakes in total lead to a lost game because 3 stones handicap are shown to be such a big advantage that it takes much careless and flawed play to lose. You knew this? Maybe. However, the thorough and lengthy elaboration of all the details leading to a loss lets us become aware of our weaker play compared to the white professional opponent every move. So the book's moral is that only if black constantly tries hard to avoid mistakes, he can win. This fundamental insight makes the book worth reading despite its otherwise many useless, not scarcely badly edited comments and missing reasons.
Date: 18 Feb 2002