Learn to Play Go, Vol. 1: A Master's Guide to the Ultimate Game, by Jeong Soo-hyun and Janice Kim. Good Move Press; 1994.

This is the first book in a series of introductory go books. The other books in the series are:

They're well-written and attractively designed. They are a much more gentle introduction to the game than any other books available; I suspect that people who feel a bit nervous about learning the game or people who don't have many go-playing friends to help them learn would particularly benefit from the pacing of the books in the series. (And I'd recommend that anybody starting to learn the game give them a look.) They're larger than most go books, they have lots of space on the pages so you don't feel overwhelmed, and they have indices. The books are available in some bookstores that don't carry other go books.

This first volume is an introduction to the game. It's divided into two parts. The first part, Fundamentals, explains the rules and their most basic consequences. The second part, Basic Techniques, outlines some simple techniques, such as nets, bamboo joints, and simple life and death. There are historical and cultural notes interspersed throughout the book; there are also appendices containing sample openings and infoabout go clubs and go books, and it even comes with a cardboard go board (9x9, 13x13, and 19x19) with cardboard stones that you can punch out. I wouldn't mind if there had been a few more sample games to make the discussion more concrete; however, that lack is greatly mitigated by the fact that there are fairly simple exercises at the end of each chapter to make sure you understand what's going on.

If you're looking for a book to give to somebody to introduce them to go, this would probably be a good choice. It's as gentle an introduction as there is, it covers enough material to provide a reasonable introduction, and while I wouldn't want to play very much with the board that's included, a cardboard board is better than no board at all. (There are only 128 stones of each color, which might be a problem for a 19x19 game; hard to say.) The main down side is that it's also the most expensive of the introductory go books: it's about $20; I don't think that the price is unreasonable, given the size and quality of the book and the fact that it includes a go board, but it is a consideration. And there are other introductory go books with their own virtues; look here for more comments on their relative virtues.

A brief glance didn't reveal much of a significant difference between the first and the second editions of this book.

Steven van Dijk says:

Being without a board recently and having this book within reach, I actually tried to play a game on the cardboard board. On 9x9 it is fine, although a little awkward. On 13x13 or 19x19 it becomes almost impossible. The squares on the 13x13 are smaller than those on the 9x9, so the cardboard "stones" start to overlap. It is not possible to put them next to each other anymore. On a full board it becomes very difficult to play, let alone to recognize patterns.

I would recommend anyone this book to start learning Go from, and the sequels as well...but don't buy the book because of the provided cardboard board.

Patrick Bridges (NNGS 7k*) says:

I looked at this not long after I learned how to play from Go for Beginners. It teaches the basic rules well, the formatting is nice, and it's easy to read and follow; a very clearly written book. If someone wants a casual intro to the game, it's fine. However, it doesn't do much besides the basic rules, nets, and ladders, which would leave me a little frustrated. When accompanied by volume 2, however, the two books are a good start at the game, giving not only the basic rules but some simple advice on how stones work together.

cover pic

david carlton <carlton@bactrian.org>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:56:15 PDT 2003