Cross-Cut Workshop, by Richard Hunter. Slate & Shell; 2001.

This short (70 pages) book is all about the cross-cut. We all know the proverb: "after the cross-cut, extend"; the book is the result of the author's noticing that that didn't seem to be the case in many problems and games that he encountered, and his deciding to investigate further. The material was originally published in the British Go Journal.

The first chapter presents some somewhat more refined proverbs about extending and the cross-cut. But don't get too excited about these new proverbs: the last of the proverbs is "play atari if there are other stones around", and there are almost always other stones around. The author therefore breaks up typical responses to the cross-cut into nine basic patterns. He presents these in two chapters, with a chapter of review problems following each half and another chapter of review problems covering all nine patterns at the end.

When I first started doing the problems I was kind of disappointed. I'd read the appropriate chapter a couple of times, but the patterns still hadn't really stuck in my head. I therefore tried to do the problems by pattern-matching, looking for features in the surrounding stones in one of the basic patterns that matched the surrounding stones in the problem. Unfortunately, this didn't work very well. My initial reaction was to get annoyed at the book: it didn't tell me how to do the problems! But after thinking about it for a bit, I decided that this was more a reflection of the fact that go is hard: there may be some situations in the game where there are simple rules that lead you to play correctly, but when dealing with cross-cuts you (at least initially) just have to read things out after each possible continuation and use your judgment. And many of the continuations require a fair bit of reading to see what's ultimately going to happen.

So after I started using the book as a crutch less and reading out the continuations in the problems more, I got better at the problems and was less annoyed with them. (Which isn't to say that I had a particularly good track record at solving the problems: they're hard, and I didn't feel like spending ages on each one.) And having these patterns in my head when trying to read out cross-cuts is, I think, going to be pretty useful in my future games: some of them were continuations that I'd frequently considered before in the past, but others of them are continuations that I really didn't usually consider. So I expect that I'll start getting a bit better at reading out cross-cuts as I encounter them more in games after reading this book. (And I also expect that I'll start to get more of a subconscious feel as to when to use which pattern.)

The upshot is a book that's pretty good at what it does, I think. You certainly won't be a master of the cross-cut after reading it, but that's too much to expect from a go book and you'll probably read out some better continuations than you had been before. Whether or not you're interested in a book with such a narrow focus is another matter: there are, of course, a lot of more general go books to look at first! However, I for one am glad that this book exists, simply because it doesn't overlap other books available in English at all. The curse of reading lots of go books is that, nine times out of ten, new books fall into categories of which I already have other examples, but this book is a new category: positional discussion (like joseki books or tesuji books) rather than theoretical discussion, but discussion of positions that aren't covered in other books. My to-read stack currently has yet another joseki book on it; but why would I want to see a presentation of joseki that are slightly different from those in several other books that I own and most of which I'll never encounter in a game, when I could instead see a discussion of the cross-cut, which isn't covered in any other books and which I'll run into multiple times in every game I play? So there seems to be a real gap in the English-language literature on analysis of local positions that aren't joseki but that also aren't quite tesuji. (Or perhaps they are joseki in the sense of "fixed stones", but they might not be in corners and they might not occur in the opening, so aren't covered in traditional joseki books.) I'm glad that the small presses that are flourishing recently are devoting their time to books like this one.

(August 2001)

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:58:08 PDT 2003