Go Problems for Kyu Level Players, by William S. Cobb. Slate & Shell; 1999.

This is a series of small (44 pages that are small enough to fit in my jeans pockets) pamphlets. They are, as the title says, problem books directed for kyu-level players: specifically, the back of the books recommends them for beginners up to about 7-8 kyu. The problems are taken from the Nihon Kiin's magazine's The Future of Go and Go Club. There have been three volumes published so far.

Here are my comments on the individual volumes. I'm an AGA 1kyu, so I'm not in the target range for these volumes, but I'll try to guess their suitability for others.

The first volume is Life and Death. It contains 20 problems; they're broken up into groups of four giving an introductory, lower-level kyu, medium-level kyu, and upper-level kyu problem on a certain theme (e.g. snapback, one eye beats no eye). The first problem introduces the basic pattern, and then they give harder and harder variants.

I'm extremely fond of this volume. It seems to me to be very well constructed, with the groups of four starting and progressing at a nice pace. I could solve pretty much all of the problems in it immediately; my guess is that it would work well for people in the claimed strength range, serving as an introduction to beginners and a pleasant review for people at the stronger end.

The second volume is called Uplifting Exercises. It contains 57 problems on various themes. Some of them are traditional (e.g. capturing a group), some of them should be traditional but are under-represented in English language go publications (e.g. endgame problems), and some are more amorphous (shape problems, or judging who is ahead). There are many more problems than in volume 1, so the tradeoff is that there's frequently only one answer diagram per problem.

This volume is also very nice. The problems in it average a bit harder than those in volume 1, but not overly so. The main exception to that, for me, was the endgame problems: I could solve most of the problems instantly, but the endgame problems required much more thought from me, and I got some of them wrong. (I'm not an expert on the endgame, but I think that those problems really were more difficult than other problems.) Some of the more amorphous problems required a bit of extra thought as well: I'm much more used to life-and-death or tesuji problems than other sorts of problems. At any rate, I recommend this volume as well, for people more or less in the claimed range (and perhaps a bit stronger).

The third volume is Whole Board Opening Problems. This consists of thirteen whole board opening problems; 5 of them have you chose the next move from a list, while the other 8 don't give you such a list (though they do sometimes focus your attention on a certain area of the board).

This volume is much harder than the other ones. (Admittedly, my opening isn't very good for a 1 kyu, but it's good enough for me to be sure of that.) There aren't any problems that are routine enough suitable for beginners: an opening problem for beginners should be solvable by knowing to extend from the front of a shimari rather than the side, to stay away from thickness, which side to pincer on, standard extensions in certain situations, and so forth, with comparatively little judgment necessary, and none of these problems were that simple. Having said that, I liked this volume as well, and thought it had a good choice of problems: but I'd change the recommendations, perhaps to range from 12 kyu to 1 kyu?

The fourth volume is Whole Board Problems. It consists of 21 whole-board problems, which are typically from the late opening. It's even harder than volume 3; I would actually put it at around the strong kyu or weak dan level.

I recommend all the volumes, if you fall within the right range. They're short, but they're also cheap. I wouldn't necessarily order them on their own, but if you're ordering another book from Slate & Shell and you fall within the suggested range, definitely consider throwing one or more of these volumes onto your order.

david carlton <carlton@bactrian.org>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:58:24 PDT 2003