Learning from the Masters, ed. William Cobb. Two volumes. Slate & Shell; 1999, 2003.

This is a series of books subtitled "kyu level commentaries on professional games"; two volumes have been published so far. The format is a 44 page pamphlet small enough to fit into my jeans pocket. Each book contains 5 game commentaries, taken from Go Review; in the first volume, additional explanatory comments are added by the editor.

I didn't think the first volume was a very good fit for its intended audience; my reaction was that the commentaries were too short, at too high a level, and containing too many throwaway tactical comments on individual moves. The second volume is somewhat better: there are more comments giving basic information about the flow of the game: e.g. information about which groups are strong and what their direction of play is, which I certainly had difficult seeing as a beginner. (And still have difficulty seeing...) But it still lapses at times into tactical commentary at an excessively high level: my basic reaction to the second game (a seven-stone pro-amateur game), for example, was that if I could read as well as a pro, I could probably beat a pro at seven stones, which is neither surprising nor useful to know.

And I still feel that the basic format isn't particularly suited to kyu-level commentaries. Commentaries by their very nature will try to explain the key turning points in the game, which frequently require going into a level of depth that's hard for a kyu-level player to get much out of. But if you're cramming 5 games into 44 small pages, there just isn't much room for explanation at a more basic level.

david carlton <carlton@bactrian.org>

Last modified: Sun Nov 2 18:51:06 PST 2003