Come Up to Shodan, by Rin Kaiho. Slate & Shell; 2001.

This pamphlet (40 pages) presents commentary by Rin Kaiho of three amateur games played in the Nihon Kiin ranking tournament. The first game is between a 3k and a 4k, the second is between two 1k's, and the third is between two 1d's. The commentary was taken from Go Review.

One of the issues I've been coming to terms with when reading collections of commented games recently is: do I only want to read games between top pros, or do I also want to read games between more fallible players? Certainly I want to do some of the former: if I want to play the best moves, I should see other people play the best moves. But the benefits and drawbacks of the latter aren't so clear: maybe seeing bad moves will cause me to play bad moves, but maybe reading commentary on bad moves will help me avoid bad moves. Reading this book is making me appreciate commented games played by less-than-stellar players more; it reminds me of some of the more useful aspects of having pros comment on games that I've played with other amateurs.

Most game commentaries spend a lot of time going through local sequences showing why a certain move is a good idea and why other possible moves are a bad idea; frankly, I often find this frustrating. Of course I realize that, when playing go, I should try to read out multiple continuations as much as possible and as far as possible. But, having said that, there are limits to my reading ability, and it's not very frequent that my reading ability improves by having multiple alternate sequences presented to me in game commentaries. Instead, if I want to improve my reading ability then I'm going to read problem books or books about local positions or something like that.

What I do want pointed out to me is areas where my strategic judgment is off, where I'm missing the big picture. Amateur games at the level of those in the book are full of such mistakes, and fortunately this book spends much more time talking about strategic blunders (or strategic decisions that the players got right) rather than tactical blunders (which I'm sure the games are also full of). After each figure, the book gives one or more general principles that are relevant to the current situation; this makes it easy to focus on the big issues at hand rather than to get bogged down in the details of the position.

In addition, the strategic blunders presented in the games in this book often resonated with me. In the first game, we see "never force your opponent to take a point that gives him a better position"; I do that all the time. Or "think in terms of purposeful sequences": what that means is that the player actually played in an important area, but if the player had first made a play in another nearby area then the other player's response would have naturally led to the play that the first player actually made. (In the terminology of Attack and Defense, the player should have played an inducing move first.) Thus, the first player would have ended up with all of the benefits of the move (s)he actually made together with the benefits of having played somewhere else as well. I'm not very good at looking for inducing moves, so it really helps me to see examples of them in game situations.

Of course, the specific mistakes that occurred aren't always ones I would have made: I might well have missed the inducing move mentioned above, but I wouldn't have forced my opponent to take a good position with the specific move that happened in that game. And furthermore, I don't honestly think that it's too likely that, in games in the future, I'll spend lots of time consciously looking for inducing moves to play, and (to give another example) it's all well and good to say "don't make moves that have bad aji", but if I knew how bad the aji was of some of my moves, I wouldn't play them in the first place! So I don't expect the knowledge in this book to directly transfer over to my play.

But I suspect that the commentaries in this book would be a very good guide for what to look for if you're reviewing your game. When you're playing a game, you get caught up in the action, and you don't have the skill to predict the likely consequences of your actions. But after the game is over, you can look for areas where your opponent did well, and try to figure out what went wrong: and the general principles in this book would give a good laundry list of possible strategic mistakes that you might have made that led to your subsequent downfall. In other words, you can see more in hindsight than you can at the time, and this book provides lenses that could serve well to focus your hindsight.

Also, some of the principles presented in the book were ones that I actually hadn't heard before. For example, I don't recall seeing "avoid making a single large territory" before, or "when attacked, jump out once and then make eye shape", and I'll try to keep them in mind in my games in the future. And I very much like the fact that the last piece of advice was "the secret to getting stronger is not the impossible dream of a completely mistake free game, but just to make your mistakes smaller with study and experience".

Normally, I'm against pamphlets, but this is a good one. There's a lot of material in these 40 pages; if it were a full-length book, it would be five times as long but I suspect that that would be more likely to dilute the impact of the ideas fivefold than to increase their potency fivefold.

(August 2001)

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:57:54 PDT 2003