The Game of Go, by Matthew Macfadyen. Carlton; 1998.

This is an introductory go book. It's quite good; it's not as much to my taste as some other recent introductory books, but other people may disagree. It's only published in the U.K.; you can buy it stand-alone or as part of a "go pack" which also includes a "sturdy thick card board and plastic stones". (I haven't seen the pack.)

It starts off by introducing "atari go", a.k.a. "the capturing game". This is a simplified version of go where the goal is to be the first person to capture one (or more) of your opponent's stones. Starting with when teaching go seems quite popular these days; it's not the way I like to do things, but I've heard enough good things about it that I'm sure it works fine. This is the first book I've seen using it; I'd be curious how it works in a book. (One way it affects the book is that simple tactics (ladders, nets) get introduced right at the beginning.)

It then briefly introduces "the territory game", where you're only allowed one string of stones and want to enclose as much space as possible. It then tells you that real go is a combination of these two, and dives right into a sample game.

The sample game is my first problem with the book: I think that's a perfectly appropriate thing to put here, but the sample game that they present isn't particularly appropriate. As the comments in the book say, "The standard of play here is extremely high, so do not worry if the details seem mysterious to you at first." But why not present a somewhat more straightforward first game? Yes, you probably want the game to be complicated enough that the reader will profit from looking at it again later once she has some games under her belt, but I think this game goes a bit too far.

After the sample game, the book introduces ko, gives the rules in full, and gives some nice sample problems, completing the first section of the book.

The second section consists of chapters on life and death, the full-sized board, invasions, attack and defence, tactical tricks, an advanced game, challenge problems, and the culture of go. Some of these I like (e.g. the life and death section); some of them I don't like too much (e.g. "the full-sized board" seems kind of disjointed, and I'm not sure that the advice in it is the most useful; on the other hand, I'm not sure exactly what to say to help a beginner make sense of a 19x19 board). This section is, I think, at a higher level than similar sections in most other beginners' books; too much so for my tastes. On the other hand, the contents are at least different than those of other beginners' books; it's better to have a variety of books available than to have lots of books which all have basically the same contents.

There's a web page for the book.

I've written the above review without skimming other beginners' books to refresh my memory of what they contain; this review will probably change after the next time I do that. I'd be very curious to hear from people who have learned the game from this book; while it doesn't seem quite right for my mental picture of a novice to the game, that may be more a flaw with my mental picture of a novice!

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:56:36 PDT 2003