Monkey Jump Workshop, by Richard Hunter. Slate & Shell; 2002.

This book is all about the monkey jump. This tesuji occurs (or at least has the potential to occur) in pretty much every go game that reaches the end game; it's worth a lot of points; and there are quite a lot of subtleties in how it unfolds depending on the surrounding stones. The goal of this book is to explain the tesuji and many of those subtleties.

The first 40 or so pages provide a nice overview of the monkey jump. They give the basic pattern, and show how the situation typically changes when the position being invaded is a bit stronger or weaker than normal. They also show situations where one could play the monkey jump but other tesujis are more valuable, move on to some more complicated examples (depending on more subtle features of the surrounding stones), and give a few examples taken from professional games. These latter are particularly interesting because you can see the timing of the various moves in the standard sequences: it's usually presented all as one sequence, but in practice pros take some time out to play sente moves elsewhere on the board during the middle of the monkey jump.

After this comes almost 80 pages of problems. Many of the problems are endgame problems, which is where I usually think of the monkey jump as occurring; some of them, however, are life-and-death problems where the monkey jump could occur. Finally, the book ends with 19 game records.

I liked the first 40 pages of the book quite a bit. They did a good job of laying out the basics of the monkey jump, with clear explanations of the differences between positions and score calculations. And they went far enough to make it clear that there's no substitute for reading out the position to see how the details of the surrounding position affects the monkey jump, without boring you with too many examples of subtly-different positions.

I didn't, however, have the energy to do many of the problems. I have no reason to think that they're not good, and the explanations seemed much more detailed than is the norm for problems; perhaps the need for such detailed explanations is a symptom of the fact that, to solve them, you need to read out quite a lot of different continuations (at least until you have a much better feel for the subtleties of the monkey jump than I do). And doing that takes energy which I simply didn't have. I expect those who do have that energy will find the problems rewarding.

I'm not so sure about the game records that end the book, however. They are presented with no commentary and with too many moves on each diagram to make it possible to read them without a go board in front of you. Since I usually read go books while taking the bus, this made the game records useless for me; and, given the frequency with which the monkey jump occurs in games, I would have omitted this section if I were writing the book.

The material is taken from many sources; lots of it is from articles in the British Go Journal, some of it is from Go World, and some of it is new to the book. At times the seams are visible (e.g. in the chapter "Ignoring the Monkey Jump"), but not so much as to really hurt the reader.

I'm quite glad the book exists: as more and more go books are written in English, the major topics get covered, but niches like this are still ripe for the plucking. (And the book is full of examples where discussions of the monkey jump in other sources are incorrect.) Having said that, it's not for everybody: if you want to learn more about the monkey jump, then read this book, but there are a lot of more general books out there that I'd recommend to most people.

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:58:11 PDT 2003